Sometimes, when you’re the sequel to one of the greatest fighting games of all time, you need no introduction and you’re allowed to have repeat praise heaped on your shoulders.
We previously reviewed the PlayStation 2 version of Soulcalibur II in 4Q2010, yet here we are again talking about it in glowing terms for the GameCube version. There isn’t much new to say other than this port is just as beautiful as the PS2 version.
With the addition of Link to the cast for this version, the game is even better. Link fits right in with the proceedings and manages to unbalance the game heavily in his favor. He’s the perfect addition, to be honest.
With a killer soundtrack, beautiful graphics that hold up after 20 years, a deep storyline and superior gameplay to almost everything available on the market at the time, Soulcalibur II is a worthy successor in every way to one of the greatest fighting games ever made.
There comes a time in every Mario Kart fan’s life when you have to make a choice of whether you still love the series or if you don’t. I assume this, of course, because I have no idea if anyone still plays Mario Kart or not. I assume they do, and I just don’t know it. The series hit that fabled peak of questionability for me when Mario Kart Wii was released. GI wasn’t using a rating scale when we reviewed it (editor’s note: This was reviewed in 3Q2008), but suffice to say it would not have received a good score. Mario Kart had a lot of work to redeem itself for me, a longtime lover of the series who started in 1992. The latest original entry, Mario Kart 8, has made significant effort to polish the series again. Mario Kart, at its core, has always been about arcade racing. There’s nothing realistic about playing as various Mario and other general Nintendo characters while romping through various Mushroom Kingdom locales. It’s always been about the Mario charm expanded to fit within a palatable driving scheme that makes anyone a champion go-kart enthusiast. Mario Kart 8 does not shirk on this charm. If it’s a memorable Mario character, they’re probably in this game. And, in a nod to the appeal of Nintendo crossover and nostalgia, there are new additions from outside the portly mustachioed plumber’s usual suspects: You can now play as Animal Crossing’s Isabelle and The Legend of Zelda’s Link. While they don’t necessarily contribute anything new to the series, their presence is enough to elicit excitement because it means Nintendo is finally opening Mario Kart up to the general roster. There is much to mine from, and if you’re questioning any of this, look at the lead Smash Bros. has taken in this field. Mario Kart has always been the sort of series that takes its history seriously. Entries after Mario Kart: Double Dash have begun referencing the previous tracks of yore, sometimes with varied results. Mario Kart 8 manages to gather a lot of stellar new tracks and some old that aren’t favorites but will suffice as entries. A lot of the older tracks are from more recent entries but make no mistake — they are there for the purpose of drawing you in to remind you of the good times and then send you on your merry way to try the new tracks. Tugging at my heart strings with a modern SNES Rainbow Road remake will get you everywhere, though there are caveats to these remakes. While the tracks are great graphically, the music is hit or miss. When I say I want a Rainbow Road throwback, I also want the original music to go with it. It doesn’t need a musical overhaul because the original music was brilliant. I’m not sure why Nintendo thought it needed to have the sound remade, but it wasn’t a particularly great decision. Other remastered stage choices, including Grumble Volcano and Music Park, are fine. And a lot of the new tracks are great; Dragon Driftway and Excitebike Arena are definite standouts. Graphically, the game looks amazing. It’s the best-looking Mario Kart produced yet. All the characters look life-like, and the stages are incredibly detailed. Even the water particle effects look amazing. There are times when there’s a brief lull in action that I can soak up the surroundings, and I’m impressed by the Wii U’s understated capability. Mario Kart 8 shows what the system could potentially do. It’s a testament also to just how good Mario Kart looks in the modern era. Now, here’s where we may have some issues. I’m not fond of the AI rubberbanding, and I haven’t been a fan of it since the Mario Kart 64 days. We are a quarter of a century grown up and past that, and we’re still having issues with last-minute victories by the AI. This is a known issue at this point, yet it rears its ugly head still. Also, while a lot of the new tracks are cool — Excitebike Arena among the best of the bunch — there are some that do absolutely nothing for me. Track selection is important, and this entry has dullards. Big Blue, for whatever reason, keeps showing up in modern catchall Nintendo games, and it’s here, too. I’m not impressed with the track at all, and they could have come up with something else. Also, while I love the Animal Crossing track, it needs something else than the series’ cute motif and catchy music. It’s your basic, run of the mill drive around in a loop track, but it needs something else to give it some pop. Same thing goes for the Hyrule track. It’s basic, too. What makes this worse is that the tracks are part of the DLC bundle for the game. If you’re asking me to spend hard-earned money on extras, the extras need to be super special. I’m not getting that with those two tracks, specifically. Thankfully, there are other extras to be had that kind of make up for those. Overall, this is a solid entry in the Mario Kart sphere of influence. This is the best entry in years, and it deserves some high praise for a lot of the things that it gets right. There’s always room for improvement, but the racing king continues to show why it’s the arcade racing champ and why it continues to rule the road of go-karting.
Growing up as a gamer, there was always a series I could count on to provide a lot of enjoyment: Mario Kart. High quality, fun racing ensued as did a familiarity with the system that made up racing in the Mushroom Kingdom. But as time has marched on, there are dark clouds over the kingdom and it’s not necessarily Bowser’s fault for the foolishness for once; it’s Nintendo’s greed.
Mario Kart in mobile form has always been a safe bet for the Nintendo racing fan. Being able to race with your favorite Mario characters and take it on the go? Where do I sign up? But Mario Kart Tour, the latest mobile property for the gaming giant, is not a fun tour … er, trip. It’s Mario Kart for the SNES dumbed and watered down with gatcha elements tacked on for good measure.
Mario Kart Tour takes the usual Mario Kart formula and adds things like gatcha pulls to unlock special characters, karts and gliders, usually in the high-end category, as well as level up your established roster. The gatcha pulls are obnoxious because it’s dependent on luck of the draw using real money to fund the pulls. The real money — that you’re pulling out of your wallet — is spent in the form of rubies, which allow you to pull from pipes possibly containing the high-end items in batches of one pull for five rubies or 10 pulls for 45 rubies. Though the rubies are moderately priced, it’s the fact that you must buy the rubies or complete sometimes ridiculous challenges to get rubies that makes it beyond the pale.
And, just as infuriatingly, there’s the character/kart/glider system that’s tied to the stages chosen for each tour. Each level has three or four specific characters that are favored on this track. Usually, the characters that are favored are the flavor of the tour; that is, a character or variation created especially for the specific tour. As always, they are high-end and exceedingly hard to acquire. Because this is tied into the pipe pulls, it’s also a cash grab designed to pull in the most dedicated who have the most money and time to spend fiddling around with a mobile game. These “whales,” as they are called in online circles, keep this cash grab going and endorse this continued behavior from Nintendo, which, in all honesty, is atrocious.
In addition to the tool-like single-player mode, there is the multiplayer mode from hell. I wish I could somehow convey the trash-like qualities of multiplayer in words, but I’m at a loss without getting an FCC fine for profanity. The multiplayer plays like garbage and ignores any sort of mechanics that Tour attempts to create in the single-player campaign. It is utter chaos in every match and those lucky enough to do well have to be doing that with sheer luck. It can’t be from actual skill and good mechanics, because Tour is missing the mark in both areas.
The mechanics, lacking in skill and refinement, are a serious problem. Now, I’m cognizant of the fact that this is a mobile game, so we’re not talking precision like a main entry would have. However, this is rough even for a mobile game. Often, drifting is difficult and ultra mini-turbos are next to impossible. Given that I’ve mastered the drifting feature in Mario Kart with every entry starting from the Nintendo 64 days, I shouldn’t have this much trouble maintaining a drift. The combo system, while interesting and a great feature, is not refined as well as it should be. There should be a meter that shows me the length of time between combo actions and how much time I have left if you’re going to tell me that I have a time limit on those actions. Sometimes, combos drop inexplicably, ruining a run at a challenge that requires a certain number.
Equally problematic are the weapons system and the AI level. I tend to race comfortably on 100cc, but I will race on 150cc and 200cc (with a purchased Gold Pass) if I’m working on improving scores in the bi-weekly ranked cups. In the months since I’ve begun playing, I’ve noticed the aggression of the computer-controlled karts steadily creeping up, which is a problem. It’s mostly noticeable on the weekly favored track, which quickly gets infuriating when you’re trying to maintain a ranking and the computer is hell bent on keeping you from achieving this goal. The weapons system plays a large part in this because it’s nearly impossible sometimes to receive your character’s specific weapon or a frenzy or even a useful frenzy despite your character more than likely being a high level.
Also lowering Tour’s fun factor is the character system. As in other games in the series, there are a variety of characters from the Mushroom Kingdom and Nintendo in general that can be and have been added to the roster. The sheer variety is great but the need to unlock and pay for these varieties is the problem. It’s greedy as hell that you have to buy rubies to possibly unlock a character to do well in the featured tour track or magically come up with the ways to earn them, which are far and few in between. Basically, Nintendo wants you to spend money and they’re not afraid to pimp out Mario Kart to achieve this goal, so they’ll nickel and dime you constantly.
And I hope you love a lot of the tracks already pulled into Tour because track variety is lacking. There are a lot of not-fun tracks that seem to be repeated quite often. That decreases the enjoyment of racing because you know you aren’t going to want to mess around with a cup that has an obnoxious track (I’m glaring at you, 3DS Rainbow Road).
Visually, Tour is fine. It looks like Mario Kart and has all the elements of the racing god we’ve come to know and love. As a matter of fact, the game looks like a better version of the Wii U’s Mario Kart 8, just below Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch. Those oft-repeated tracks are gorgeous recreations of old faithful favorites from the SNES, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Advance titles with a few new cities of the world tracks thrown in the mix. In the beginning there were a lot of different city tracks, but because of the pandemic, work on the tour has been kept to already established tracks from the series that can quickly be converted for use in Tour.
Musically, Mario Kart is known as having a banger soundtrack for every game. Tour doesn’t slouch in that department with the new tracks, but it does mess up with some of the older tracks. I’m not quite sure how a game can get one part of the soundtrack right but mess up the other parts, but Tour somehow manages to do it. Any of the new tracks that were created for Tour are excellent. The menu themes are excellent, as well, with new tunes mixed in with remixed favorites from previous games. But then you get to an older track, let’s say Koopa Troopa Beach from the SNES. It does not sound the same as the original version at all. The pitch sounds off by a few notes, as if someone recreated it for Tour and kind of, sort of remembered the way the original sounded. Rainbow Road from the SNES has the same problem. It sort of resembles the original tunes but also … not really. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get from tour to tour, so I don’t necessarily get my hopes up in terms of music quality when I see an older track announced.
All my problems with Mario Kart Tour are fixable, but that’s up to Nintendo to work on and decide if it’s worth it this far in. With increasing frequency, however, I find myself saying this might be the part of the Tour that’s my last stop.
When it comes to the Naruto video game franchise, complicated concepts have never been part of the equation. There’s nothing remotely hard about any of the games under the banner and almost all are known for their pick up and play ability. So, it stands to reason that the Naruto: Clash of Ninja series is easy to start and get into it, and that reasoning is correct. Clash of Ninja 2 continues the accessibility that the series is known for.
Naruto is a great long-running starter series if you’re just getting into anime. The basic premise of the anime is the basis of Clash of Ninja as well: A strong-willed boy from a world of ninjas strives to be the best he can be and one day become the leader of his village. Because of a devastating attack on his village the night he was born, Naruto is orphaned and ostracized by his fellow villagers while hosting a creature known as the Nine-tailed Fox. He graduates from his village’s academy and is placed on a team featuring his crush Sakura and his rival Sasuke while learning teamwork and the ways of ninjutsu. Clash of Ninja 2 follows the first half of the series, with Naruto working with his teammates through the Chunin (first level) exams that the ninja academy graduates face.
Clash of Ninja 2 does an admirable telling the beginning part of the story of Naruto, story-wise. Because the beginning of Naruto is simple to understand and follow, the punch of characters and additions aren’t overwhelming, and it’s easy to keep up with the action and character motivation. Everyone is recognizable from the anime and it’s easy enough to actually follow the story and learn more about the anime without the filler that the series is known for.
Graphically, Clash of Ninja looks just like the anime, which is a bonus in its favor. The game is gorgeous and bright, and it accomplishes the goal of making you feel like you’re playing the anime instead of a game. Likewise, the music and voice acting are great and feel and sound like they were pulled directly from the anime’s soundtrack.
Moving around within Clash of Ninja 2 is a solid experience. It’s easy to pull off moves and combos, and counters are easy to understand and get the hang of with a little practice. My only problem is that everyone seems to play the same way, so there’s not much variety in the movesets. The character you choose is merely cosmetic with the movesets and mechanics not changing from character to character. Other than that, the ability to jump right in and get to work is a welcome and refreshing change of pace in a category of gaming known for its sometimes-challenging mechanics.
Even though there have been more games released in the Clash of Ninja series and other Naruto fighting games added to its lengthy repertoire, Clash of Ninja 2 is just where you need to start if you’re wanting to get into fighting games and have a love for anime or Naruto. With a wealth of modes, great visuals and facilitated ability to ease into gameplay, this is one well-regarded ninja.
People were apparently wild about ninjas in the ’80s. Really wild. I’m guessing this because it seems to be a million and one games about ninjas that were made in the 1980s. These were all made with various degrees of success in getting the point across about the ninja experience. Out of the coterie there were two that stood out: Ninja Gaiden, a timeless classic in the way of the ninja arts; and, Wrath of the Black Manta. Note that we did not use any sort of kind tribute for the latter. There is myriad reasons for this distinction.
Wrath of the Black Manta is your standard adventure game centered on finding missing children in New York City, the apparent bastion of all evil and where the most heinous crimes take place in the video game world. A drug fiend named El Toro is hellbent on turning these children into addicts and it’s up to you and your ninja skills to make Toro get down or lay down with the War on Drugs.™
The premise is run of the mill, the controls confusing and clunky and the action extremely repetitive. The backgrounds do change from level to level and there is a lot of ground to cover. But, all you’re going to do is walk around searching warehouses for children and ganging up on informants from the cartel to get information. What should be an absolute clean sweep is a cluster because getting that information without being killed from ridiculous hits is a nightmare.
The fact that most of the action is ripped off from the infinitely better and more interesting Ninja Gaiden doesn’t help here because you’re going to die a lot from terrible jumping and those aforementioned hits from enemies. The soundtrack also does Manta no favors as it’s just barely serviceable. Even the art is ripped off from somewhere else: Word on those mean streets of NYC is that some of the art was taken straight from the book “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” when the Japanese version was ported to the U.S. I’m guessing they thought no one would notice, but it goes over with the subtlety of a ton of bricks. Speaking of a lack of subtlety, the obvious “stay away from drugs, kids, if you want to live” message and the hit-you-over-the-head irony of characters named Tiny (a in no way surprisingly large boss character who tries to stomp you to death in the first level) means you’re in for a long ride with this whether you want to or not.
The key to this battle is, if you want to play a ninja adventure just play the released at the same time Ninja Gaiden. Gaiden is far superior in every way and has more appeal in terms of story. Wrath of the Black Manta is the poor man’s Ninja Gaiden and is in no way stealthy enough in its subtlety to earn any sort of title of ninja anything.
Every so often there will be a licensed game that’s actually worth something. It will have a great soundtrack and decent controls and not be so obnoxiously unplayable that legions of older gamers remember it with a certain hatred that burns deep within their soul to be passed down through generations to come. Cool Spot, licensed from Pepsi partner 7UP, is the exception to the norm. If you’re expecting a half-baked idea of platforming solely because it’s a mascot, think again. This romp to release sentient little red dots is actually not half bad and has genre-redeeming qualities.
Cool Spot starts off innocuous enough. Spot must rescue its friends, who are trapped throughout 11 levels in cages. Why its friends are trapped, we’ll never know but it’s up to Spot to rescue them and lecture you about not drinking dark sodas. Spot’s traversal through these 11 levels is nothing short of amazing despite the rampant product placement. It’s surprisingly good, with solid controls that don’t make controlling Spot a chore, and competent simple mechanics that don’t get in the way: It’s mostly jumping and shooting magical sparks at enemies and barred gates. The life system — hilariously denoted by an ever-peeling and deteriorating picture of Spot — is more than generous and there are helper power ups galore to get through levels. The levels themselves have a lot of depth and are timed just right with enough time to explore or get the bare minimum experience in the search for Spot’s missing friend.
While Spot might be on a product placement-filled journey, it’s a lushly drawn trip. Cool Spot is no slouch when it comes to the audio-visual department. The backgrounds are drawn with Spot moving through an obviously human world at about 25 percent of the size of everything else. It isn’t big at all but the world surrounding it is and it shows in the sheer scale, though my only gripe with the game comes here: The backgrounds, while beautiful, are recycled except for a few stages. At least the first three stages are repeated and reused, just with new stage names and some recoloring in spots.
While you’re soaking up the beauty of it all, however, the soundtrack is rocking in the background. Cool Spot is one of the best soundtracks for the Super Nintendo and should be in every gamer’s library. Magnificent production values, crisp audio and nice, deep bass lines make for some interesting tracks that don’t sound like standard 16-bit audio. Tommy Tallarico, pre-Video Games Live fame, put obvious love and care into the audio and it shows. It’s one of the best soundtracks for its time.
Cool Spot has a lot to offer in the way of good ’90s platforming. If you can work around the product placement and shilling for the 7Up brand, you’ll find an uncomplicated hop-and-bop with depth and a banging soundtrack that’s surprisingly refreshing.
My love affair with Animal Crossing began in 2003, a year after the GameCube version was released in the U.S. It wasn’t enough to merely start a life with a character — known as Rubes(kitty) — in my procedurally generated town known as Tokyo; I had to collect everything in my catalogue, build my house into a mansion and catch every insect and fish just for completion sake. In the ensuing 16 years, I have played every iteration of Animal Crossing available. So, you can imagine my palpable joy when a mobile version of Animal Crossing was announced in 2016. Cue Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp in 2017, and I’m still going strong in my quest to build the perfect camp.
Pocket Camp is a spinoff of the main Animal Crossing series but retains elements of the series. Familiar tasks such as paying off your debt for your living quarters, completing requests for animals that visit or improving your finances through item sales are abundant in the Pocket Camp landscape. New to the series is the timed rotation of the animals that are in one of four locations scattered around the landscape. Four animals will be in these locations with options to talk to you and request items; whether you choose to give them the specific items they request or just chat it up for experience points is up to you. Also new are the aforementioned experience points. Each animal has a meter that gauges their friendship level with you. The higher the level, the more rewards they give in exchange for items they request. The rewards are also new, usually in the form of Leaf Tickets and raw materials that are used in crafting furniture and clothes that can be used to decorate your camp site and RV.
Pocket Camp, in its most simplistic form, is a dumbed down portable Animal Crossing main game that requires inventory management and micro transactions. And it’s a satisfying way to get that quick Animal Crossing fix. Much like the main series, it’s relaxing and fun to pop in and check with the camp site to see what’s happening, pick up some gifts or get involved in festivals and events at my own leisure. Time is still measured realistically, and insects and fish are still viable at certain times, though the season requirement is not in use. Money is still practically around every corner, and it’s easier than ever to pay off the debt of upgrading your humble abode when rare bugs and fish are more plentiful this time around. It’s also quite nice to be able to buy items from other players worldwide in an item marketplace with the Market Boxes option. The economy that has developed still has some work to do, but the ability to find rare insects, fruit, shells and fish for sale from other friends and strangers is a great start.
For a longtime Animal Crossing player, the fun in Pocket Camp is immediately there but not without some caveats. After a certain point, the in-game currency of Bells ceases to be a problem. While scarce in the early going, Bells aren’t an issue once the final upgrade for the RV is obtained and paid off. I now regularly have about 1.8 million Bells on hand daily and can’t spend it fast enough on things other than crafting and a rare item inventory economy that has conveniently sprung up in my friends list. This is like the issue of Bells in the main series so while it’s not surprising, it’s still an issue that needs to be remedied with more things to do. And, the price of Leaf Tickets is a bit much. Their addition is helpful, but their pricing should be adjusted. Also, in-game currency should be allowed to be used to buy Leaf Tickets. That would give another reason to hoard money later in the game.
While it might not be a mainline game, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is still a neat and welcome addition to the Animal Crossing franchise. With its continued updates and additions, the Animal Crossing population is still growing.
Capcom’s warfighting 1940 series reminds me of the good times when arcade gaming ruled my weekends and I was fortunate to find some rare gems that later became gaming classics. During that time, I played 1942 in the arcade and on the NES and walked away from this experience with some valuable information: 1. The first game in a series may or may not guarantee future success; and, 2. The creators of some of our favorite games had to cut their teeth on low-tier games before they received the big breaks that made them what they are today. One of those games is 1942.
1942 is a vertical-scrolling shooter that takes place on the Pacific front of World War II. You take control of a P‑38 Lightning plane assigned to go to Tokyo and destroy the Imperial Air Force fleet.
Gameplay of 1942 is simple: You can move either vertically or horizontally. Consisting of 32 stages, the P‑38 will be challenged by Ki-61s, A6M Zeros, and Ki-48s with a long-range bomber known as G8N as level bosses. To give the P‑38 Lightning a fighting chance against these planes, it can do air rolls or vertical loops. If you time your attacks right, some planes will drop upgraded firepower or an escort team of two smaller fighter planes to combat the relentless assault from planes that WILL attempt to knock you out of the skies, especially if you’re just taking off from your aircraft carrier.
While I liked 1942, there are some issues that annoyed me. Timing of movements, including the vertical drops and air rolls, must be precise because of the high chance of being shot down by enemy planes. Also, you must watch for attacking planes in front and behind as the Ki-48s are masterful at getting the unsuspected into close-area shootouts, which will reduce the number of lives quickly.
The music quality of 1942 is an acquired taste as the repeated use of a snare drum made me think that Capcom phoned in a lackluster drum beat, which made me turn the volume down to continue playing. The challenge is decent since you will be on your toes to avoid enemy fire nonstop. It has strong replay value and would be a great time-killer as a nostalgia trip for arcade veterans. Also, it’s a great example for those who want to know how side-scrolling games played a major impact in the gaming world.
1942 serves not only as an icon in gaming’s hall of fame but also doubles as one of Capcom’s entries into the gaming world. It helps that 1942 was the start of looking at Capcom as an up-and-coming game company wanting to expand beyond its home of Osaka, Japan.
The P‑38, Ki-61, A6M and Ki-48 were actual war planes used heavily in the Pacific Conflict between the U.S. and Japan. The companies who built them — Lockheed Martin, Kawasaki, and Mitsubishi — are well-established in the defense industry and continue to play vital roles in various areas of aerospace technology.
1942 was Yoshiki Okamoto’s debut game for Capcom. He was also the original game designer of Konami’s Gyruss. Because of internal disputes involving pay, he was fired from Konami. After 1942’s success, Okamoto remained at Capcom where he played an important role in producing Final Fight, Street Fighter II and Biohazard/Resident Evil. He retired from game development for consoles in 2012 and is currently developing games for various mobile devices.
Judging from the standpoint of an avid Animal Crossing player and enthusiast, the concept of new games coming into my beloved franchise is not always welcome. There have been particularly good games (i.e. Wild World, the original game) and mediocre offerings (Happy Home Designer and City Folk). Amiibo Festival is a little bit of both: It’s a fun take on the Animal Crossing universe, but it needs a little bit of polish and more things to do to keep the concept of a board game based on the franchise interesting.
I’ve always referred to Animal Crossing as the series about doing nothing. Amiibo Festival takes that concept and turns it on its head. With Festival, you’re tasked with moving around a typical Animal Crossing town in the form of a large board game. The town is transformed by spaces that can be events, Stalk Market sale stops and visits from the usual assortment of guests that visit a normal town in the franchise.
What makes the game fun is the usage of all things Animal Crossing. Game time is determined by a calendar that utilizes events commonly found throughout the series, and villagers that you would encounter in town show up to help out player characters. The player characters themselves are Amiibo figurines that you purchase and input into the game. For example, GI has about 25 Amiibo, eight of which are Animal Crossing related (Digby, Celeste, Isabelle, Villager, Tom Nook, Mable, Rover and K.K. Slider) that can be used to play through a session. These characters can collect points to unlock new outfits and modes in the plaza based on game performance. The tie-in to the series benefits the otherwise-tired Mario Party formula and enhances the charm of what would probably be a tiresome exercise in board game management.
Using some of that inherent charm of Animal Crossing, Amiibo Festival plays well and looks great. There is a notable pastel sheen over everything in-game, but it still looks just like you’d expect Animal Crossing to look: Bright, colorful and smooth. Because we’re long past the janky block graphics of the original game, Amiibo Festival is closer in style to the latest game in the series, New Leaf, and it works in its favor. The soundtrack is also in line with the New Leaf era and it’s servicable. It’s not the main feature of the game, so I’m not expecting it to reach the realm of New Leaf’s great tracks, but it’s not unpleasant so it works just fine for what it’s asked to do.
My main complaint about Amiibo Festival, however, has more to do with the polish of the final product and some of the additions. It feels as though there isn’t enough to do in-game, quite honestly. While the board game is fun, it’s not enough to keep me interested long-term. The additions in the plaza — mini-games that use Animal Crossing ideas — are cute but get old quickly, and some are outright frustrating, even for a longtime player like myself.
The trivia section, for example, tests your knowledge of the series. Setting aside the fact that there shouldn’t be a time limit to answer questions that test your prowess of a series that has at least seven games, the questions are incredibly obscure most of the time and require that you have encyclopedic memory and understanding of how the series works. Most people just looking for a fun board game aren’t going to know the answers, let alone know them quickly. I have been playing Animal Crossing since the “Population growing!” days of 2003, and I had trouble with quite a few of the questions asked. There should be more to do, more interaction with the town that you play in and more of an attempt to dig deep into that well of seven games.
Amiibo Festival is a unique take on a series that has managed to endure and improve over the past 15 years with new concepts and innovation. If there is some consolation prize for staying on this board, it’s knowing that while it could use some polish and fleshing out, Amiibo Festival is a good roll of the dice and gamble that paid off for the Animal Crossing franchise.
The best thing I can possibly say about Balloon Fight is that it’s innovative for its concepts at the time. Other than that, this isn’t a game I’d recommend to anyone beyond the age of 10 and even that’s pushing it.
The premise is simple: You play as the “Balloon Fighter,” who is tasked with staying alive and defeating enemies in increasingly difficult stages. Two balloons are attached to the Fighter and to the enemies, and the Fighter must pop their balloons while avoiding his own being popped and other obstacles such as a large piranha, water and lightning strikes. The Balloon Fighter is fairly stout and sturdy, seeing as though he can take a lot of bumping and pushing, but if he loses his balloons, it’s a lost life. There are bonus games and a different mode, Balloon Trip, that takes the Fighter through an obstacle course to improve your rank and score.
This is all fine and well, but the controls turn what should be a fun and simple game into a nightmare and a chore to actually control. The Fighter flaps his arms to stay afloat and even with both balloons still present, this is extra hard to do and maintain. More often than not, I don’t lose balloons because an enemy popped them; it’s because I landed in the water, was eaten by the large fish or steered myself unwittingly into the lightning I was desperately trying to avoid. Precision flying this is not. To get a sense of what it’s like to control the Fighter, imagine if the horrible Ice Climbers were flying instead of jumping terribly up a mountain.
And while the game is barely playable, the soundtrack also manages to squeak by in presentation. It is a sad day when I declare that a soundtrack from Metroid sound director Hip Tanaka is irredeemable. There is nothing that makes me want to listen to this, and nearly everything that Tanaka has created gets high marks from me. The songs aren’t memorable, there are few songs there anyway, and the lack of varied sound effects is disconcerting. Add the soundtrack woes to an underwhelming graphical palette and the game overall is a mess.
Despite the pedigree of folks who worked on the game (i.e. Shigeru Miyamoto as producer, Metroid designer/director Yoshio Sakamoto and Tanaka), Balloon Fight couldn’t be further away from the quality of Nintendo classics I want to play. Balloon Fight is representative of an older era of games that required a Herculean amount of patience, which I am not prepared to give in this day and age where better games are available.