Tag: SMR

My 2017 Spring Break obsession

While a lot of people took off on exotic vacations for this often beloved week off in the middle of the semester, or did not have a week off this week at all from what I’ve gathered from a few of my friends, I’ve had a bit more of a subdued break so far overall.  Between some work business I’ve had to make sure I’m around to do, some exams I have coming up right after vacation ends (always a good time) and helping my family at home while my Dad is off his feet, it has definitely been more of a stay-cation for me this year.

Now that’s not to say I’m complaining about it, after all just having the extra time for rest-and-relaxation has been more than enough for me considering how stressful my school load has been between four classes and being a newspaper editor. Plus I got to see my Alma Mater’s spring play, Shrek the Musical, so that’s always fun.

At the same time, having the time off has given me the chance to try out a game that I’ve honestly been considering trying for some time:

img_5022

Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links, another honestly stellar mobile game to add to my collection next to Nintendo’s ventures of Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem: Heroes. I used to watch the card game-based anime as a kid and I was pretty into that, but my interest in the game never extended much further than that – I tried learning how to play the game as a kid but it never really went anywhere. When I saw a YouTube gamer I follow start uploading content on Duel Links, however, I found myself almost instantly hooked.  The layout of the game is great and intuitive, the music is exciting and the free-to-play model doesn’t get in the way of advancing in the game itself (which is always a god send in the mobile market)… Add onto that the strategy-based thinking that Yu-Gi-Oh lends itself to when you understand how the game works and you’ve got a very appealing package for me.

Fun fact, I was actually planning on making a blog post around Saturday when I first downloaded the game to make a joke about how I probably didn’t need the extra distraction in my life because of how much work stuff I have to do in my aforementioned classes and on the paper. Then I got so busy actually playing the game and having a good time that I wound up using just about all of my free time playing it rather than doing things like writing for this blog.

Okay that might be overexaggerating a little, since my time has also been split between my family, homework and hangouts with my friends from high school… But honestly it’s not that much of an overexaggeration. This game is seriously like an addiction for me, and I’d be close to saying I have a problem if it weren’t for the fact that my other stuff is still getting done either way.

Will I be posting a lot of Duel Links content here?  Maybe, maybe not.  I haven’t honestly decided whether or not this game is something I’d like to share my thoughts on like I have with Pokémon or Fire Emblem or whether this is more of a personal pleasure to do on my free time. This might just be one of the only big things I say about it, since if anything I might occasionally post about a new deck I’m particularly proud of or a new event that swings in, but otherwise it might not be the most apparent thing around here.

Though speaking of big decks I’m looking forward to building, I figure I should at least tease this out for any fans of the game or show as something I’m currently building up cards around:

img_5029

That’s right, this is happening. And man is it going to feel satisfying when it does.

Duel Links may have been taking on all my free time, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been ignoring my other current mobile love interest, Fire Emblem. I’m rather behind in posting about what’s been going on, and I’ve come to accept the fact that I won’t always be on top of the ball in that department thanks to life, but I figure I should at least show off this photo collage to prove I at least planned on doing something with these events.  It’s the thought that counts, right?

Quick-fire Fire Emblem thoughts:

  • The game’s first large-scale Voter Gauntlet took place at the beginning of March. It consisted of eight heroes in a tournament tree where players could pick their favorite, complete missions to earn flags and use said flags to boost the hero’s score so they’ll win in their match-ups.  It was honestly a pretty engaging event, as I know I got pretty into it at least, and the end result was surprising all things considered.  While it seemed like Ephraim would win easily, being the only lance user in a tournament that housed six sword users and a staff user, in the end popularity beat out nostalgia and found Lucina as the champion.  Personally, I followed Eirika for the first two rounds until she got beaten by Lucina and then joined the ultimately winning party, so I got a good amount of rewards from the whole experience.
  • Six new heroes were introduced to the game from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade.  Karel, Ninian, Rebecca, Jaffar, Priscilla and Lucius have made their way into the cast of characters available to summon.  Blazing Blade is a game I haven’t played still, but a few of the units are still interesting to me, enough so that I’ve been looking to summon them with the extra slurry of orbs that have been released through various events throughout the month.  In particular, the singing manakete Ninian seems like she would be fun to use, Jaffar has a close relationship with one of my favorite units, Nino, so I’d love to have them together, and Priscilla is appealing just because my assistant on the Daily Titan has the same name and she’s amazing.  Unfortunately, while all these characters seem fun, random chance hasn’t exactly blessed me considering I’m up to a 4.75% chance to summon the focus heroes and still haven’t with the event ending tomorrow.
  • A new system has been added to have units inherit skills from other units.  In essence, you tribute one unit with a skill you want for a unit you want to see that skill on, then you can unlock and use that skill with the inheriting character.  So far I’ve only had the chance to give my five star Eirika a battle activating skill that boosts damage based on her high resistance stat, but I’ve gotten my ass handed to me by vantage inheriting Takumis enough to know the true horrifying potential of this system.  Seriously, screw vantage Takumi, it’s like the world found a way to make an overpowered unit even stronger and it is the most annoying thing.
  • Minerva’s brother Michalis got his own Grand Hero Battle, which wouldn’t necessarily be big news in general except for the fact that Minerva is one of the main units I use so it felt significant in some small way. That’s about all I have to say for him, however.

Don’t know what it is about 2017 that’s made it so mobile-centric for me… But I guess I can’t complain. It’s certainly taken my mind off the Switch and the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Seriously I’ve had some time to try the game out with my friend who has a Switch and it has made me consider spending that extra cash that much more.  Not enough to do it quite yet, but the temptation is undoubtedly strong.

Hope everyone else is having as nice a Spring Break (or potentially lackthereof I suppose, in which case I apologize for the pseudo-gloating in this post) as I am so far, and look forward to some pretty interesting journalism-related stuff likely to be coming down the pipeline in the next couple of days!

Advertisements
A promising amount of staying power

A promising amount of staying power

Just about two weeks after the game’s initial launch, Fire Emblem Heroes has received a new set of downloadable content that, despite being small, gives me some hope that this mobile game will keep itself in the hands of fans for some time to come;

img_4841

Yes that’s right, new heroes have arrived.  Two heroes from games that haven’t had characters in the mobile title yet, I might add.  Eirika and Ephraim have arrived from The Sacred Stones, meanwhile Seliph and Julia have arrived from Genealogy of the Holy War.

While no other characters from those two games have been added yet (unfortunately), the fact that new heroes are being added this soon after the game’s launch is a good sign compared to certain other titles I’ve seen handle this kind of system in less than impressive ways.  In fact, the model of launching just a few heroes at a time in this manner might be a little frustrating for players like me who want more of their favorites to arrive in droves, but it makes sense as a strategy to consistently space out content in a game where there’s plenty of potential content just waiting to be unleashed.

It isn’t just the four new characters to summon that give me hope for Fire Emblem Heroes, either.  There have also been new Paralogue story maps added to the game, much in the same fashion of extra missions appearing in main series Fire Emblem titles.

img_4843

The Paralogue boast its own bit of branching story from the main story mode with three maps that each award an orb for completion.  With three difficulty levels on each of these maps too, all together they give players nine more orbs for their collections.  With this, anyone can be at least a solid halfway to another full summoning session.

Nine orbs alone may not seem like a lot, but considering these extra orbs were added in just two weeks after launch, there’s plenty of promise that many Prologues will be added in the near future.  Between this, the two daily orbs and whatever extra orb rewards are given through quests, summoning heroes after burning through the 135 main story reward orbs should still be a rather attainable goal.

Speaking of quests, that’s another reason why this small update shows promise in extending the shelf life of Fire Emblem Heroes.

img_4845

New quests were added specifically pertaining to the Family Bonds Summoning Event, and though some of the goals are a long shot to complete (such as the ones that require the special focus heroes to be used), they are just another example of how goods will continue to be dispersed to players over time.

I’ve been enjoying Fire Emblem Heroes way more than I ever expected the past few weeks. Super Mario Run, while a really fun game (for reasons I’ve discussed previously that I still stand by), feels a little constrained by its smaller maps and limited main story content.  I still go back to it, but even when I first started playing I didn’t find myself returning as religiously throughout the day as I do now with Fire Emblem.

Of course, part of what makes the game so fun is having a few close friends just as invested as I am, giving us things to talk about throughout the day.  Whether it be about someone’s terrible summons or the daily event that just arrived, it’s interesting to see the different ways we’re all experiencing it.

To make a long story short, as I write this sentence I’m playing out a few maps to earn some new orbs so I can build up to summoning again.  The game is just that addictive and I look forward to every moment I’m playing it.

And I say that not only because Sacred Stones heroes have officially shown up.

img_4844

I’m still holding out for Neimi, game.

My thoughts on the 2017 Fire Emblem Direct

My thoughts on the 2017 Fire Emblem Direct

While I’m a day late and a dollar short on this one, there was a Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct held yesterday that I missed because I was hosting some of my friends for a small get together.  However, given that I’ve talked a lot about how much I love Fire Emblem in the past, I figure I should still go back and talk about what the Direct had to offer, at least briefly, now that I’ve had the chance to sit down and watch it.

If you haven’t seen the Direct yet either and want to watch it alongside me, you can check out the full video here.  It’s only about 20 minutes long and showcases four games, so I promise it won’t take too much time out of your life.

Unless you decide to write long-winded posts about it like I do.  Because then it’s going to take up a lot more of your time. That, I can assure you.


Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

3DS_FireEmblemEchoesShadowsofValentia_logo_02.jpg
Image courtesy of gamingrespawn.com

The Direct starts off right away with what I can only call the cinematic trailer for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.  The game, as is then elaborated on after, is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, which was a Japan-exclusive title from the early 1990s.

A lot about the art style in regards to character portraits and things like the overworked map in the gameplay footage that was shown reminds me a lot of some of the earlier GameBoy Advanced Fire Emblem titles like The Sacred Stones (which, fun fact, is the first FE game I’ve ever played thanks to the ambassador program for the 3DS, and thus the one that got me into the series).  However, the in-battle style looks like it’s going to have the same impressive 3D polish that Fire Emblem Awakening had and that Fire Emblem Fates more or less perfected.

There are also apparently some unique elements to Gaiden that have been recreated for Echoes, such as free roaming fights and dungeon crawling.  Both of which sound like amazing inclusions that I honestly can’t wait to see executed for myself.

The game has been given a set release date of May 19, 2017 for the 3DS, and boy am I now excited for it.  To be honest, the anticipation that’s building after watching just this first part of the Direct really does make me want to go back and play more Fire Emblem.  In my early-games-of-the-series catalogue, I’ve so far only played The Sacred Stones and Shadow Dragon, a remake of the original first Fire Emblem game.  I’ll look forward to adding Gaiden to that list with this remake.

Oh, and there are Amiibo, and considering I have an on-again off-again problem with collecting those dumb amazing little figurines, I just might see my collection grow again.


Fire Emblem for the Nintendo Switch

FireEmblemDirect_19012017-600x346.png
Image courtesy of gameaxis.com

Next up was the announcement of a brand new Fire Emblem title being produced for the Switch, set to come out at some point in 2018.  As the narrator announced, making my job here that much easier, the new game (with a currently working title) is the first in the series to return to consoles since the games featuring Ike: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn.  The decision to do this is interesting, and honestly makes a lot of sense.

Fire Emblem is a game that seems to do best when it’s a mobile experience, when you can pick up your fight wherever you want while waiting for whatever it is you might be waiting for.  The Switch gives the game a chance to have the best possible graphics Nintendo has produced thus far while also keeping the idea of mobile gaming alive, and to be completely honest it’s a clear showcase of one of the reasons I believe the Switch is going to do quite well over it’s lifetime.

That was all we got on the new game in the series unfortunately, but considering we’re still at least a year out it’s understandable.  Just the fact that a new one has already been confirmed so soon after Fates graced the gaming market is nice really, as it means the series is continuing to go strong.  As I’ve said before, we can always use more Fire Emblem.


Fire Emblem Warriors

fire-emblem-warriors

Image courtesy of technobuffalo.com

Speaking of more Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem Warriors was the next subject of the Direct.  There was a small teaser for the game in the Nintendo Switch presentation earlier this month, but this time we got to see a trailer with some gameplay.

The opening did the same cool orbs-with-swords that led into the Fire Emblem crest.  This time, after the mysterious figure – revealed to be Chrom, the royal Prince/Exalt of Ylisse from Awakening – takes the Falchion, he proceeds to just demolish mobs of soldiers all at once in a few fell swipes of the blade.

But that was about it, we then got the same vague Fall 2017 release date.

However, they did reveal that the game is actually going to be dropped on the 3DS concurrently with the Switch version of the game. That alone makes this game infinitely better in my eyes.  Part of the reason I didn’t get Hyrule Warriors was because I didn’t have a Wii U when it was released, and by the time the 3DS port came out I was too busy doing other things to devote my time to the game.

I’m very excited to try this game, honestly.  I’ve never played a Warriors game before, and this seems like it could be a perfect entry point for me.  I just hope that the developers go back and pull some more older characters that I might know for the roster of playable heroes rather than mostly sticking in the modern games like Awakening and Fates.  I love those games, don’t get me wrong, but I’d also love to do something like play Neimi from The Sacred Stones, probably my favorite archer girl ever.

Considering the treatment that was given for the character roster in Hyrule Warriors, I’m sure that kind of possibility isn’t too farfetched.


Fire Emblem Heroes

fire-emblem-heroes-800x420
Image courtesy of slashgear.com

Fire Emblem Heroes, the first mobile smartphone game in the series, had it’s opening shown during this Direct as well.  The cinematic, as usual, was beautiful, and featured a bunch of new characters we haven’t yet seen before apparently summoning heroes from other Fire Emblem titles (though all it showed was Awakening and Fates) to fight one another.

Not a bad way to start a reveal, I’d say.

Rather than just making a mobile game for the sake of a mobile game, however, Fire Emblem Heroes touts its own brand new story, which makes the game that much more enticing.  It might just be a rough skeleton to encase the idea of making old characters fight in a mobile format, but just the fact that the extra effort was put in makes me more happy to look forward to the title’s release in .

Though the cinematic opening only showed Awakening and Fates-based heroes, there was also a screen depicting heroes from all across Fire Emblem’s history, so even if Warriors doesn’t have a hugely nostalgic cast, this game certainly will.  Though the game itself doesn’t look incredibly complex, the art style is rather adorable overall between the pixel art-based world and the occasionally appearing fully-rendered character art depicting their attacks.  I can see myself getting pulled into it at least.

On top of that, the narrator promises the gameplay will be as “intense” as expected in a Fire Emblem game, which either bodes well … Or not so well depending on how it’s handled.  Not sure having a mobile phone game with stages it takes me twenty years to beat because of BS enemy placement or terrain issues would be all that fun, no matter what the subject matter may be.  But hey, at least the weapon triangle still exists.

Then of course comes the real mobile game edge to Fire Emblem Heroes: Microtransactions.  I have a mixed history with this style of setting up a game.  On the one hand, if handled well, I quite enjoy a system using Microtransactions.  If I can manage through the game reasonably without being absolutely required to use them, that’s A-OK by me.  Even better would be if I love the game so much that I feel I should pay the developers something for their work, even if the game initially comes free.  However, if the Microtransactions are used as a significant roadblock, forcing the game to elongate itself because of how long you have to wait between getting the in-game currency if you don’t pay for it… I’ll likely get warded off quickly.

Seriously Fire Emblem Heroes, I hope you take a page from Pokémon Shuffle‘s book.  If you ask me, that game has a pretty perfect system in place for how they’re used.  The fact that the summoning stones used as in-game currency simply summon characters for you to use I doubt the same system would be possible… But it’s the idea that counts.  If anything the game will probably be more like Marvel’s Contest of Champions with a battle style that I believe I’ll enjoy far better, so I get the impression it will have some staying power.

I don’t know, I can see the problems potentially there, but because the heroes you receive don’t permanently die and force you to wait to summon more, I don’t think it’ll be a huge problem.  Waiting a period to revive is far more manageable if you ask me.

Especially since there’s grinding.  After playing through Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, I thank Naga every time there’s a chance for grinding in a Fire Emblem game.

The end slate for this game says that Heroes will drop on February 2nd for Google Play, and gives a vague ‘soon’ for iPhone and iPad.  Just as long as ‘soon’ is sooner rather than later I’ll be happy.  It’ll be nice to have  some Fire Emblem to tide me over before Echoes.

Plus, if I enjoy it the way I have and continue to enjoy Super Mario Run, then I’ll happily continue to finance Nintendo’s trek into the Mobile gaming world.


That was all we got in the Fire Emblem Direct, but honestly I can’t complain.  Having a more compact game-focused Direct felt much better than the big Nintendo Switch Direct, which had to spread it’s time among a billion different games.  Also, I have to say, the narrator for this Direct had a wonderful voice.  I feel like I could listen to him tell me about new games forever…  Er, anyway.  Everything on the horizon for Fire Emblem looks amazing, and I’m hyped to be a part of all of it.

Hell, I already am a part of it.  I just went and took part in the Fire Emblem Heroes’ “Choose your Legends” event, where you can pick any character from any game in the series to vote on as a character you want to show up in the game.

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 12.52.35 PM.png

Naturally I chose Neimi, because I seriously have so many fond memories of mowing down enemies with her mighty bow.  Though looking through the list really brought up a ton of fond memories for various characters… You would’ve been my second choice, Amelia.

If there’s any game on this list you’re particularly excited for, let me know in the comments below!  Writing a post like this feels like building up to Pokémon Sun and Moon all over again, and it’s good to get back into that mindset if you ask me.

With college starting up again next week, having a distraction to help keep myself sane during long nights of work is never a bad thing.

Saying Sayonara to 2016


As the holiday season and the year 2016 come to a close (very conveniently at the same time in this case), I feel like I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on some things.  As I mentioned in my last post about Carrie Fisher’s passing, the general attitude seems to be that 2016 can’t end soon enough.  Globally, the world is a bit of a mess.  In the United States, the incredibly divisive presidential election we just completed left everything feeling a little bit fractured and not-so-unified.  In the world of popular culture lots of people who were well-known and highly adored by the general public passed away.

It’s understandable why people feel the year was so bad, and admittedly there’s some of that I’ve gotten bogged in too over the last couple months.  However, for me personally, the year really hasn’t been all that awful.  In fact, it’s been a fairly great year all things considered.

One thing I always find interesting as a gamer is reflecting on what games “defined my year,” as it were.  Granted I didn’t necessarily diversify my interests a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of things I played.

Toward the beginning of the year, I was still riding some of my Wii U hype.  I just got my system as a present last Hanukah, in fact, so games like Super Mario Maker were still huge time sucks, moreso than they are now.

super_mario_maker_logo-svg
Image provided by Wikimedia Commons

Another thing that I’d gotten for Hanukah in 2015 also continued to take up my time, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes.

the_legend_of_zelda-_tri_force_heroes_logo
Image provided by Wikimedia Commons

While the game wasn’t a traditional Zelda game like we’d all been waiting for in the relatively soon-to-be-announced Breath of the Wild, it was still a blast to play.  The game had some awesome multiplayer functionality both with friends and with strangers, and to this day I don’t think I’m over how hilarious it is to spam the cheerleader pom-pom Link emoji.

On top of that, you could literally dress Link up as a cheerleader and it was one of the most viable costumes in that game.  Not sure I ever thought I’d be so gung-ho to get Link to cross dress in all honesty, but I was.

Also earlier on in the year, while I was still getting into the swing of the Spring semester, I remember binging every Shantae game that’s been released thus far.

shantae_vc
Image provided by WayForward

Not only did I play the original Shantae for the Game Boy, I played Shantae: Risky’s Revenge and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.  I fell in love with the series fast thanks to the lovable characters, the quirky and fun writing, the beautiful animation style and of course the music (composed by Jake Kaufman, who also produced the music for another one of my favorite games in the same general style: Shovel Knight).  I literally played through all three in a row and loved every minute of it, even if none of the games were necessarily all that beefy.

I do know that I can thank MowtenDoo for really sparking my interest in the series thanks to his indescribably wonderful rendition of one of the game’s songs, “The Nightmare Woods (Run Run Rottytops!)” in a way that’s truly unforgettable and continues to be one of my favorite videos on YouTube.  Seriously, I listened to this way too many times this year I’m sure.  But it was worth it.

Doing a little bit of research, it looks like the latest installment in the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, has been released just recently, but it apparently slipped under my radar somehow.  I’m wholeheartedly Ret-2-Go with that game as soon as I can pick it up, as there are a few too many games in 2016 that I unfortunately missed despite wanting to play them.  Didn’t have quite as much time to devote to these things as I would have liked.

Next on the list of my year’s rundown is the first in what I would consider my ‘return of old gaming loves’ trilogy.  That, of course, was Fire Emblem Fates.  All three together technically, but Birthright was undoubtedly my personal favorite.

img_3014

There’s a few things I’ll never forget just leading up to the games being released.  First, I’ll never forget the hunt my friends and I went on trying to find some of the special edition three-in-one game cartridges for Fates that was a resounding failure but had some great moments.  Like getting literally laughed at by a guy in a Game Stop one time.  That was awesome.

I’ll also never forget getting the first game, Birthright, as it was actually a gift that was given to me by the editors of the News section on the Daily Titan, Micah and Brianna, as thanks for being their assistant for the Fall 2015 semester.  Seriously, check it out, I still have the note here:

img_4660

It was really awesome, especially considering it apparently took a lot of work to build up to the reveal, including using my friend Kaleb as a spy to figure out which version of the game I wanted more.

Fire Emblem took up a huge chunk of my life from there on out, as I went on to play all three versions.  In a row.  In hindsight, admittedly not the best idea, but I’m really into the games so it was the decision I made at the time.  Birthright was incredible, rose-colored glasses or not, Conquest literally made my just about cry on multiple occasions from how unnecessarily difficult it got to be at times (Seriously, screw the port level.  If I never play that game again, the port level is to blame) and Revelations was… Admittedly underwhelming.

I meant to talk about it on here a little bit, but beyond just being burnt out on the games by the time I hit the third, there were a few things that really sort of killed the experience for me unfortunately.  First, I padded it out too much for myself.  I tried to grind all the characters up to have a ton of diverse skills rather than planning ahead what I would’ve wanted, and it wound up being far more effort than I was honestly willing to put in.  Second, they killed off my favorite character in what was literally the worst possible way in my opinion.  I have a huge, huge rant still built up about it because the moment was so caustic for me, but this isn’t really the time or the place, so perhaps I’ll still come back to it later.  Third, there was another game coming on the horizon that left me rushing to finish, which took away a lot of my enjoyment toward the latter half of the storyline.  Who knows, maybe if I go back to it now I’ll have a better time, but for now Birthright will continue to be the high point of my memories for Fire Emblem Fates.

The second game in my personal trilogy was Monster Hunter Generations.

unnamed

I talked about it on here a bit, so I don’t think I need to go into too much detail, but this game sucked away quite a bit of my time as well.  Though I’ve only been playing Monster Hunter since the last major release, Monster Hunter 4U, it has quickly become one of my favorite franchises.

The seemingly near infinite levels of customization thanks to a wide range of monsters and a progression-based-on-skill system is something almost totally unique to Monster Hunter in my gaming experience, and it ticks boxes like crazy for me.  There are very few games that I get super in depth about building sets and doing hours of research into said sets and also things like lore, but Monster Hunter is definitely one of them.  It’s also one of the favorite games of my friend Juan, so we always have a good time going on extravagant hunts as a super powered duo, Hunting Horn and Charge Blade in hands.

Granted, I’ll admit that the game wasn’t quite as invigorating as MH4U for me, since that was the game where I truly had a skill curve to learn and overcome so I could truly become a master, but Generations was still a blast to play through and through.

Last, but certainly not least, comes what must be an obvious entry on this list.  Hell, there’s only one game that really defined not only the latter half of my year, but also most of what I’ve built my blogging experience on so far.

And that game is, of course, Pokémon Sun and Moon.  Because technically they go together even if they’re two separate games.  Because Pokémon works like that.

Images provided by Serebii.net

Really I’ve said more than enough about these games in many, many posts over the last year, so I don’t think I need to waste too much time on it right now.  Not only were the games beautiful and fun experiences in themselves, surpassing what I consider to be some of my favorite and some of the best constructed games in the series thus far, they reinvigorated the love of competitive Pokémon breeding that I fostered in Alpha Sapphire and got me back into the Pokémon YouTube communities I followed around the same time.

I have been and will continue to do some breeding in the games, especially once the Pokébank opens in January, and I’ve considered doing more competitive battling in 2017.  There’s an official battle competition coming up pretty soon that I’m pretty sure I’ll be entering, so I’m sure there will be plenty more posts in the future on the subject as well.

Beyond those massive entries that took up my time, there are a few other games that permeated my year’s experiences.  The 20th Anniversary of Pokémon for me included the continued playing of Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon Picross on my 3DS, which were my puzzle game obsessions that I’ve only recently seemed to kick.

Images provided by Serebii.net (here and here)

The summer was undoubtedly defined by Niantic’s Pokémon GO, the game which really felt the most universally unifying during the sub-par situations of the year surrounding it.

img_3878

My whole family was playing the game together and I still remember wandering El Camino College hatching eggs after my summer classes there.  Though I wound up a little disillusioned with the game, and still haven’t jumped in to catch the start of the Generation 2 Pokédex, I still can’t imagine Pokémon GO won’t hold a place in history in some way or another.

Also hitting the mobile gaming scene this year was Super Mario Run.

img_4584

I gave my thoughts on the game in depth a little while ago, and as a small follow-up I will say that having spent money on the full game has made the experience even better for me.  I’ve gotten really into collecting all the colored coins in single player on long road trips and I have a pretty well developed town so far.  As a first jump into the mobile scene for Nintendo, I can personally say that Super Mario Run has been a success, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

I also replayed quite a few older Steam games that I adore but haven’t touched in some time this year.

My friend Samantha and I played Terraria for a long stretch of time together, progressively getting better and better as we learned and built more complicated structures and items together.  The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ate up huge chunks of my time in brief intervals throughout the year, as it’s always an addictive rogue-like experience that I’ll never get tired of.  The same could be said for FTL, which I can only describe as a real-time rogue-like spaceship command and battle simulator.  For anyone who hasn’t heard of the game it can be hard to explain, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time.

My 2016 was defined by more than just the video games I played, however.  It marked the end of my first year at college. It also included my first semester as an editor for a college paper, one which I feel went really well considering all the crazy things that happened politically while I was in charge of the News page.

img_3932

2016 was where I really feel like I got into the rhythm of driving and being able to get myself places.  It was also the first year where I got to vote for a serious election – despite how divisive it might have been as far as an election went.

img_4405

However, because of my time as a journalist, I felt like this was the first time I really got to apply what I was doing and learning to a real-world event.  Literally the more I learned, the more prepared I felt to vote in November.

On top of that, I feel like I really learned a lot just in general.  Two semesters and a summer intersession at college had me taking classes all over the proverbial spectrum at two different schools: Cal State Fullerton and El Camino College.  Not only was the subject matter of the things I learned interesting, I also got to explore more places at the same time, which I also enjoy doing.

I got my first few relatively well-paying jobs in 2016 between being an editor on the Daily Titan and working for Boom: A Journal of California.  Thanks to that, I’ve felt more independent than I ever really have before.

In 2016, I went to New York for the first time in I honestly don’t know how long.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I used to have a lot of family living out there, but now most of my close relatives live here in California, so I rarely ever get to go out to the East Coast anywhere that isn’t Florida.  The trip was amazing and so much fun, and I really felt like I got close to a lot of my friends and colleagues in the newsroom that went with me.

While I was there, not only did I get to visit the Nintendo store inNew York (an experience you can read more about in one of my earliest posts):

img_3248

I also got to relive a part of my Dad’s childhood by finding his old high school.

So, all and all, I’d say that trip was probably one of the most memorable parts of the year for me.

I got to visit SpaceX for the first time this year, and though I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside, it was still a phenomenal place to see.  Seriously, some of the stuff they have going on in there is incredible.

img_3641

In my opinion, I really started to come out of my shell a little bit more in 2016, and that helped me meet and interact with some people who I can really see myself continuing to talk to for a long time to come.  Both those in and out of the newsroom.

2016 was also the first year I’ve let my beard grow out.  It started as a No Shave November thing we did for the Daily Titan, but in the end I wound up getting such a positive reception that I kept the hair grown out.

Seriously, what a difference a little bit of hair will make.  I look totally different from one picture to the other, if you ask me.  Probably helps that I had more hair on top of my head to cover my forehead in the first picture too… But that’s another story.

Finally, 2016 was where I really got into blogging.  Yeah, seems like a silly thing to cap this whole list off with, but you are literally reading this on my blog.  I started this blog back on February 18, a day after my birthday, thanks to some school assignments I had to do.  My Communications 233 class required us to have a blog that we posted 20 things on of any subject we chose.  Naturally, I chose to make this a blog about video games and about my journalism experience.

Though it started as an assignment, one that I literally had to come up with ways to finish by coming up with admittedly silly things to post, I’ve come to really love doing this.  Writing is a passion of mine, and getting the chance to write more often has been wonderful.  It’s also been a way to voice my opinions and thoughts on various subjects, which I don’t tend to do in a largely public forum like this very often.  I may be a relatively small blog still, but I feel like I’ve found somewhat of a rhythm thanks to Pokémon Sun and Moon, and I’m looking forward to writing more on whatever comes up in 2017. As goofy as it might be to say it, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to try and write more next year, so I hope you all stick around to see whatever it is I come up with to write about.

Really, from the bottom of my heart thank you to everyone who’s following my blog, everyone who’s read anything I’ve wrote and to all my family and friends who have helped me explore, encouraged my writing ambitions, and worked to make sure I put my best foot forward.  If you have any of your own favorite memories from 2016, or if you just want to send a good riddance sendoff to the year, feel free to share them down in the comments below.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and here’s to 2017 being a happier time overall than 2016 seems to have been!

My first run at Super Mario Run

My first run at Super Mario Run

Even more than a month later, I’m still deeply enthralled in the world of Pokémon Sun and Moon.  In fact, I’ve just seriously begun doing some competitive breeding, so I’ll probably be posting about some teams I’m building as I get them together.

However, something else has been released recently that I felt was worth taking the time to look at.

If my post title and featured image aren’t enough to have given it away, welcome to my mini review/first impressions post for Super Mario Run (To be abbreviated SMR from here on out).

img_4584
Super Mario Run’s title card

Now, to preface this just a little bit, I’ve only played through the currently available free-to-play content portion of SMR.  That means I’ve done World 1-1 to World 1-3, and I’ve done enough online play to have my castle reach level 4.

However, while I’ve only played through the stuff available before hitting the paywall as of writing this, I will say that the game is well worth the (admittedly rather steep for a mobile game) $10 required to access the six Worlds.  I say that for three reasons:

1) Game Feel

First, the game exudes that high level of polish most Nintendo games are known for despite being on a new platform.

img_4574
Super Mario Run’s hub world

After a brief control tutorial, the game drops you off at Toad Town and Peach’s Castle, both in their apparently natural state: Demolished by everyone’s favorite resident Big Bad Boss, Bowser.  From this screen you can look at your collectibles, mess with your friend’s list, notifications, receive gifts, connect to a Nintendo account so you can make you player icon a Mii and access other similar mobile game mechanics.  However, the three most important parts of the game come at the bottom of the screen with the Tour, Rally and Build sections.

img_4580
An early portion of World 1-2: Wall-Kicking It Underground

Selecting Tour allows you to access what is essentially the main story levels in SMR, revealing just what the game is.  Nintendo’s first mobile game is a 2D endless runner game similar to titles like Bit Trip Runner and the Sonic Storybook Series (Though the Sonic games are in 3D and are generally less than enjoyable… In my opinion, at least).

The game uses the New Super Mario Bros. graphical engine that’s gotten more than enough love since it brought Mario side scrolling games back in 2006, and it uses those graphics rather well if you ask me.  Though the ability to translate a 2D side scroller into an endless runner may seem obvious, the execution of such an idea seems like it would be very easy to get wrong.

However, I would argue SMR gets the endless runner formula right by pretty flawlessly combining a classic, beloved look with new mechanics meant to emphasize a style-based form of gameplay and a substantially intriguing amount of challenge even in early levels.

Granted, any semblance of a story is next to nonexistent past the generic “Save Princess Peach from Bowser” series mainstay… But for a mobile title like this, the lack of a story is fine, and the fact that it even has that could probably be considered a plus.  Luckily, the other portions of the game make up for this.

img_4562
Selecting your opponent in a Toad Rally

The second main part of the game comes from the Toad Rally mode, which is SMR’s multiplayer aspect.  Part of the destruction of Toad Town and Peach’s capture involved all the Toads living in the now destroyed city running away.  In order to rebuild the castle and the town, Mario needs to gather Toads, and to do this you have to participate in rally runs against other SMR players.

Using Rally tickets that you gather through various means (such as completing challenges in the single player game or through micro transactions), you can choose an opponent to Run against.  Toad Rally has you racing against the opponent you’ve chosen across a set, repeating map to collect as many coins and gather as much Toad support as possible.  Collecting coins is an obvious task to complete: Just run, jump, defeat foes and wall-kick to get as many as possible.

To gather Toad support, however, requires you to utilize SMR’s main new feature and arguably its main selling point: The style system.  While you can perform all of Mario’s usual jumping techniques, the nature of a free runner changes how the side scroller operates.  Instead of having to jump to cross all barriers and to defeat every Goomba and Koopa, Mario does an acrobatic flip over each of the small creatures and tiny gaps/barriers he comes across.  The act of his instant mobility over these obstacles is automatic, but nets you no benefits.  However, if you tap the screen in a timely manner, you do more fancy tricks and flips that defeat enemies and earn you style points.

Not only do these actions often get you more coins, they build up your Toad support and your style meter, which can eventually activate coin rushes.

img_4587
A Coin Rush brought about by filling your style meter

These rushes do essentially what they sound like they would do.  More coins will spawn for the duration of the meter’s charge, enemies will net you more coins and you’ll build up more hype from the little mushroom men that are cheering you on.  These coin rushes perform a similar function to the classic Star power-up you can find hidden sometimes in-game, though the Star also attracts coins within a large vicinity in front of you, ensuring you get them all.

img_4586
A coin rush brought about by collecting a Star power-up

Seriously, if you played and enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. 2 for it’s coin-centric gimmicks, you’ll probably love how satisfying coin collection is in SMR.

You can keep the meter charged even while it’s depleting by performing more tricks during the rush, though Mario speeds up during that period so it can be harder to keep up a chain like you normally could.  There’s a huge collection of tricks that Mario can perform to make this task easier, and there are even some tricks exclusive to other playable characters like Luigi, Yoshi and Princess Toadstool herself.

img_4585
Performing a stylistic ledge climb during a Toad Rally while racing a ghost player opponent

Although you pick opponents for your Toad Rally matches based on real players, you actually play against a ghost of their performance on the same level that you Run on.  Therefore, although you don’t have to literally be connected to anyone in order to get in on the multiplayer fun of SMR, you still compete against the performances of other fans of the game.  You still have to beat their coin collection scores as they do the same things you do, every coin rush and death included.

Deaths, I might add, are a very interesting thing to observe in SMR.  The game synthesizes elements from different Mario titles together, showing a progression in style throughout the last few years of Nintendo’s history with the franchise that has really blossomed into something neat.  When a player dies, you get an indication on your play area for where they died similar to the red X indicators in Super Mario Maker.  A dead player will then be lifted back into the playing field with a bubble, one of the chief elements common to every New Super Mario Bros. game with multiplayer capabilities.  Deaths will take coins away and bubble travel will bring you backwards through a stage, causing you to fall behind in a Toad Rally.

In single player Runs, deaths will cause the same things to happen, however the bubble can be used strategically.  If you miss one of the special coins on a stage (something I’ll get into in a moment), you can activate one of your limited bubbles at any time to go backwards and give yourself another chance to catch what you missed – unless it happened to be time-based, of course.

img_4563
The results screen for a Toad Rally

Once a Toad Rally is over, your coins are tallied up alongside your opponent’s coins to see who has collected the most.  The amount of Toad support you got throughout the round adds extra coins to your score.  Whoever Toadette decides to elect the winner gets more Toads to join them in Toad Town, which in essence acts like the experience points in SMR.  However, be warned, if you lose a match against another player not only have you wasted a Rally ticket, you also lose Toads to your opponent.

It’s a tough break in the SMR world, for sure.

img_4565
Leveling up in Super Mario Run

Like I said, Toads are your experience points in SMR.  The more you collect, the more you level up.  The more you level up, the closer you get to repairing Peach’s castle and returning Toad Town to its former glory.

img_4564
Rebuilding Peach’s Castle after Bowser’s shenanigans

That brings me to the third major part of the game: Toad Town customization.  Though not an endless running game mode, the build menu allows you  to spend all the thousands of coins you’ll be collecting throughout your endless runs.  Most of the things you can buy are aesthetic.  Toad houses, flowers, garden pieces and so on.   However, you can also buy useful set pieces like bonus mini game houses, which you can access every eight hours or so to have a chance at getting more Rally Tickets and coins.

img_4573
All the collectibles you could ever ask for

The more Toads you collect through Toad Rally, the more decorations will be available to you.  There are five colored Toads available to collect: Red, Blue, Green, Purple and Yellow.  Collecting each color will allow you to unlock different things, however I believe Red is the only color available when you haven’t purchased the full game.

At least, that’s the only color I’ve been able to find.

Eventually, collecting each color will allow you to access Rainbow Bridges, which I can only assume will unlock new areas to decorate… But again, I haven’t been able to get more than the Red Toads.

Though seemingly a bit shallow as far as a reward for all the work collecting coins and Toads goes, the building portion of the game does add a nice element of personalization to the game, and the tiny hub world is honestly a really relaxing place to let your phone sit when you’re doing other things.  Toads will also wander around the area and do things like roll around on the grass, so it’s hard not to find the little fungi adorable.

2) Longevity

The second reason SMR is worth the buy: Although it’s clearly built to be in more bite-sized bits, SMR seems to have enough content to warrant the price tag without fitting the bill of a far more expensive console title.

Like I said, only 3 levels are available pre-purchase: World 1-1, 1-2 and 1-3.  The levels mimic exactly what everyone has come to expect from a classic Mario game, one aboveground level, one underground level and one sky-high mushroom level.

The first three levels in Super Mario Run

The levels aren’t exactly very long.  Or at least, the nature of their existence – in which you’re constantly moving – makes it feel like the levels are a lot shorter than they might otherwise be if you had total control over Mario.

However, each level has enough replay value to ensure you won’t blow through the three level trial quicker than you can say “King Koopa.”  Beyond the obvious multiplayer aspect of high scores that you can compare with your friends, each level has a certain collectible that will keep you coming back over… And over… And over again.

Colored Coins for the first three levels in Super Mario Run

Every level in SMR has five collectible Pink Coins when you first play through it.  Chances are you won’t collect all five on your first time through, since many of them are hidden, sometimes hard to reach based on timing or touch strength or down a fork in the road that you can only access both ends of if you utilize your bubbles well.  So, on average, I would say that collecting each Pink Coin in each level would require at least two Runs, as they’re mostly in obvious places.

But once you collect all five Pink Coins, you then unlock a new version of the same map with five Purple Coins.  Purple Coins are, naturally, harder to find than the pink ones are.  More often than not the layout of certain obstacles and coin collections in the level will be far trickier during a Purple Coin run, forcing you to have to do things like check coin boxes to collect every coin (which is admittedly a much harder task than normal in this gameplay style).

Once you collect all five Purple Coins, you then unlock an even harder Black Coin Run of the level, which takes difficulty to a whole other level compared to the earlier versions.  In Black Coin Runs, coins will be hidden better and obstacle layouts will typically require precision playing and planning ahead to collect all five.

img_4577
A particularly tricky Black Star to collect in World 1-3

For example, in the screenshot above, to collect the Black Coin you need to not only stay on the yellow mushroom to ensure you’ll fall in the right area, you also need to make sure you time your jumps on enemies correctly so you don’t fall to your doom instead of soaring to victory (Oh, and I have to say, Paratroopas are my least favorite enemy as far as precision jumping goes.  Most of the time you need to land in exactly the right place and tap with just the right amount of strength to make sure you don’t lose a mushroom power-up or fall to your doom.  It’s annoying to say the least).

Also, did I mention there’s a Paratroopa earlier in the level that if you happened to hit will send a shell forward ahead of you that just so happens to knock out the first flying Paratroopa on this screen, thus ending your chances of getting this particular coin?  Yeah, it’s a pain.  Hence pre-planning and multiple runs through each level.  With extra space below the playing field left blank, Nintendo also set up a way to make sure your finger doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay or obscure anything in front of Mario.  It’s a small but very greatly appreciated detail.

I could complain all day about how annoying the Black Coin Run on World 1-3 is, but to be honest it isn’t so much annoying in an unfair sense as it is in a truly difficult sense.  When you fail, it’s because you didn’t perform an action perfectly.  Every element is laid out exactly how it needs to be laid out, and the complexity is enough to make the level interesting to play and frustrating enough to want to conquer.  And that’s only for World 1-3!  I can’t imagine the creative level designs that show up in World 6, those have got to be ridiculous.

Oh, and by the way, there is a reward for collecting all five colored coins in a given level for all of your Completionists out there (Yeah, I can’t consciously steal the word without sourcing it out… I already used Big Bad Bosses in my post, after all).

img_4569-1
Rally Tickets – a worthy prize and reminder of Super Mario Run’s multiplayer emphasis

That’s right, you can get six Rally Tickets per level if you play your cards right, enjoy a challenge and find precision gameplay fun.  Luckily, I fit all three of those criteria and found the challenge fun, even if it did get fairly frustrating.

To top all of this fun, challenging and rewarding gameplay off… SMR has some kick-ass earworms music.  Every track is the classic Mario song you would expect to hear that’s been amped up with techno vibes, really emphasizing the constant action of the gameplay.  The menu and hub world music has also been remixed.  Combine all of that with the tried and true Mario sound effects and you’ve got an audio experience that will keep you humming along hours after you finished your last Run.

3) Nintendo.  Mobile Games.  Winning.

The third reason SMR is worth the buy… Should be obvious. Come on now, this is our first mobile game released by Nintendo (if you don’t count Pokémon GO).  That’s definitely the kind of thing worth supporting if for no other reason than to ensure Nintendo continues to create worthy mobile gaming content.

Like I’ve reiterated throughout this not-so-little review, I’ve only completed the basic free-to-play content in SMR.  I spent maybe an hour and a half (two hours if I’m being generous) learning how the game works, collecting all 45 available colored coins and participating in a few Toad Rallies.  While this may not seem like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, the fact that all that time was spent on three main story levels and four multiplayer level-ups is honestly pretty impressive considering the game is obviously meant to get harder and longer the further you get in past the ‘tutorial’ levels.

Nintendo’s impressive levels of game design and polish shine through with this title just as much as it would in any main series console Mario game.  The amount of care is clear in every little detail – after all, look at how much I pulled out of just two hours or so of play.  As a company, Nintendo has become an expert at taking their assets and improving upon them over and over again through every installment of their franchises.  Super Mario Run is no different.  Despite seemingly being a rehash of various old elements covering a slightly new skeleton, the game really feels like its own unique entity.

Also, the game can be played with one hand.  Shigeru Miyamoto proved as much in a promotional video with Buzzfeed.  Makes it a perfect game to play while breeding Pokémon at the same time.  Or you know, while doing other things, like schoolwork.  And regular work.

For the challenge, for the music, for the tried and true gameplay with a unique style of mechanics, for the fun multiplayer aspects and ultimately to encourage more great content in the future, I would highly recommend not only downloading the game, but shelling out $10 to get everything currently available.

I know I will be.

img_4568