Splatoon 2 And Its Splatfests

Team Cake is a lie

I’ve just finished a couple of hours’ play on this evenings’ Splatfest: Cake vs Ice Cream. I had an absolute blast and plan on picking up the game on the back of this very strong demo showing. I was initially put off by the motion controls, which I’m told are the best way to play the game and the only way to be competitive, but I found to be a tiresome chore. Switching (zing!) to traditional stick controls made the game click much more easily with me, however, and I thoroughly enjoyed the frantic painting and gunning gameplay. Highly recommended for those who are bored of grey and brown shooting games.

There’s a great introduction to Splatoon’s Splatfest events up on Kotaku UK right now that makes for lovely weekend reading.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Master Trials – My Thoughts

Quite a title

I’m back! Apologies; real life has gotten severely in the way of writing these past few weeks, and this time I don’t just mean “drinking” when I say real life. Hopefully going to be able to get back into some sort of schedule from now, so expect my usual level of content production to resume hence (he says).

Anyway, I’ve been playing a lot of the first DLC pack for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, entitled The Master Trials. I have been itching for new BoTW content, and this package has come along at just the right time. I’ve finished the bulk of the content, and I’m now ready to divulge some thoughts (best taken with the usual grain of fanboy salt, you must understand).

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The main draw of the DLC pack is The Trial of the Sword, so named because completing it powers up the Master Sword, doubling its attack power, and also improves its durability (thank the heavens). The Trial of the Sword consist of three groups of trials, each ramping up in difficulty, and Link begins each cluster naked and unarmed; the objective being to carefully acquire gear and nurture it so it takes you through to the later levels. Whilst each stage features a set of enemies to defeat, the trial plays much more like a giant puzzle; you figure out attack routes, make use of sneaking opportunities, and use the environment to get ahead in any way you can. It’s both incredibly challenging and highly rewarding, in such a balance as to be expected from this development team.

The high difficulty level is clear from the beginning, and, like much of BoTW, is not scared to give you a few kidney shots as you swing wildly at it. The three sections allow you to save in between them, but if you happen to die during a section you are cast unceremoniously back to your previous save. This happened to me regularly, although the mechanics of the game are built so well that frustration quickly turned to admiration and determination to overcome. Finishing the Trial of the Sword took around 5 hours; a drop in the ocean in comparison to the main game, but a satisfying chunk nonetheless.

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The rest of the DLC consists of a number of armour pieces and masks to locate, providing a mindless distraction for an hour or two, and the much hyped Master Mode; a super-hard version of the main game, with its own save file, specifically for those after a real challenge. Master Mode ramps up the level, intelligence and aggressiveness of the enemies in the main game, to the point at which a battle against a simple Bokoblin becomes an epic struggle for survival that will leave you panting for breath and wild-eyed. This is likely to be a hugely worthwhile time investment for some, and a ridiculous addition never to be touched by others. It’s a worthwhile inclusion, however it could easily have been an option in the base game.

Finally; the Hero’s Path, which displays your journey over the world map for the previous 200 hours of gameplay, is an interesting addition, and great for showing you parts of the map yet to be discovered. I was surprised to find that there were huge areas I’d never been, despite feeling like I’d done pretty much everything. I look forward to several hours’ more adventuring, looking for more of the great content this game has to offer.

Well worth a look then for fans of the game, and a good deal too; considering that the price of the expansion pass includes this, and The Champion’s Ballad, an even meatier expansion due at the end of the year. The best Zelda just keeps getting better.

Atari Returning With A New Console?

Wood you believe it

As Gamesbeat reveal here, it would seem venerable games company Atari are getting involved in hardware once again. According to Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, the new console is based on “PC technology”, inciting rumours that the box will be some sort of emulation player similar in fashion to the NES Classic  Mini, which sold very well last year, but on which production has ceased, seemingly due to Nintendo oddness protocols.

My Most Anticipated Game Shown At E3 2017 Is Actually DLC

Expanding the legend

Note: minor spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild follow.

With E3 firmly in its refractory period, it’s time to take stock and assess where our money is going to go over the next year or so. Whilst the conferences were fairly mild in terms of hype-inducing announcements, there were still a good many titles of interest showcased. I’m incredibly excited about Sea of Thieves, Destiny 2, Super Mario Odyssey and Ashen, to name a few, but this year the E3-shown game I’m most enthusiastic about isn’t even a game proper; it’s two DLC packs; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC 1 and 2, to be precise.

I felt there was potential for a modern classic here; within two hours, I knew that to be the case.

Breath of the Wild really is something quite special. The game arrived along with the Nintendo Switch console on March 3rd 2017, sending shock waves throughout the industry. Prior to launch, my own speculation was rife; sure, it’ll probably be good but nothing on Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, my anxious internal monologue went. However, as I slid the cartridge into the Switch (following the customary tasting), and began to play, I felt there was potential for a modern classic here; within two hours, I knew that to be the case.

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Breath of the Wild is an adventure that holds both gaming past and future in equally high regard. It’s impressive architecture, graphics and wide-open world provide the modern slant; perfectly vast without being overbearing, full of quality-of-life nuances and with buckets of added activities. In sweet juxtaposition with this is the tried-and-true good versus evil narrative that the series has always delivered so well, with the focus yet again on the gradual building up of ones’ arsenal of abilities before taking on the bad guy. The painstaking manner the developers have gone about polishing and presenting all this, is nothing short of superb; the game oozes quality, and received the review scores to match (if you care about such things).

Breath of the Wild is an adventure that holds both gaming past and future in equally high regard.

An oft-discussed and much lauded aspect of BotW’s gameplay is the brilliant Shrine puzzles. The first DLC pack, The Master Trials, looks set to deliver more of these in abundance, with a long questline of Shrines to go through to power up a certain well-known piece of equipment in the main game. With new armour to collect, the addition of a hard mode, and other bits and bobs such as new map features, the package should look very tempting to fans. Just getting more of this stunning game is enough for me; I’m ready and willing to drop yet another 40-odd hours in to it, no problem.

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The second DLC pack looks to be an even meatier package. Entitled The Champion’s Ballad, details currently are scarce, but the pack appears to be a story sequence set before the events of the main game, possibly at the time of The Great Calamity. The four Champions who were such focal points of BotW return and look to take centre stage, alongside Zelda herself. Could we be playing as a character other than Link in this DLC? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure; more story for this game can only be a good thing. I won’t even discuss the four new Amiibo that are set to release alongside it; that is not a rabbit hole that would be sensible to tumble down, despite my yearning heart/wallet.

Famously, Nintendo are often late to the party when it comes to what are widely considered to be industry standards. DLC was a concept mostly absent from their systems until late in the 3DS and WiiU lifespans, and whilst some may scoff at the concept (and Nintendo’s typically hefty price tags), with packages like the two discussed for BotW, I’m hopeful that consumers are getting their monies’ worth (although let’s not mention the crap pre-order bonus for BotW’s season pass, shall we). I, for one, am happy to spend my hard earned on a game such as Zelda; a majestic labour of love, that took ages to come out because the developers gave a shit about its quality, and its place in series legacy. Here is a work of art that will truly stand the test of time; for me, a season pass is but a small price to pay to squeeze even more player experience out of it. Link’s adventures in Hyrule are only just getting started.

E3 2017: Nintendo Direct Reaction

Ninten-do

After the fairly disappointing showcases by Microsoft and Sony, I had faith that Father Nintendo would save the day with some stellar announcements and gameplay trailers. But was that the case?

You bet it was.

Ignoring my obvious bias for just a second, I feel that Nintendo objectively did a better job of giving the fans what they want; we got a damn Metroid Prime 4 announcement for chrissakes (link). The short presentation rattled through a number of quality upcoming titles, all of them on Switch. Here are your games blogger guys’ thoughts:

I was cheering within five seconds of the Direct opening; Rocket League on Switch! The game is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s hybrid console; it can be played for five minutes or five hours, the customisation options lend themselves to Nintendo’s franchises, and it should be great for taking round a mates’ house with a few beers à la Mario Kart. Additionally, the game supports cross play with PC and Xbox One; this is great to see from Nintendo, who are often accused of old-fashioned business ethics. Very exciting news and I’ll be sure to pick it up despite already owning the Xbox One version.

They threw the fans another tasty morsel in announcing that a main series Pokemon is in development for the Switch. This is a fairly obvious one, but again venerable Nintendo shows wisdom in appeasing the sweaty-palmed Pokémaniacs, like yours truly. Do not look at me like that.

A couple of nice looking titles were nestled in amongst the big announcements; Kirby and Yoshi games were both confirmed to be in development for Switch. Kirby (link) looked the more impressive of the two, with bold bright colours popping out on the Switch nicely. Both are slated as 2018 releases.

E3 has been very light on the JRPGs this year, so it was nice to get a trailer for Xenoblade 2 (link). Whilst I need to see more before I commit to purchase, it’s good to see some deep, hardcore RPG’s beginning to emerge for Switch. The system is perfect for a lengthy RPG adventure; I’ll be checking this out for sure when it launches later this year.

Speaking of lengthy adventures, we got a good look at the two pieces of DLC content coming for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one in a couple of weeks and the oher at the end of the year. The DLC looks like it’ll be adding plenty to do, and the second, more substantial, pack looks like it might be a prequel of sorts. Very exciting. Expect reviews of these as the are released on this here blog.

Rounding out the show was an extended trailer for the bonkers-looking Super Mario Odyssey (link), showing the kind of bold, bright platforming you’d expect but with the insanity ramped up to 11. The main mechanic appears to be use of Mario’s hat, Cappy, in a variety of ways; as a weapon, a platform device, and also to possess enemies and take control of them (!). We even saw a huge T-Rex being controlled by the tiny hat sitting on top of its head. The game looks fantastic and is guaranteed to sell an absolute shitload when it comes out this October.

Fan service aplenty, then, but what I find most interesting about Nintendo is that even in these days of shareholder-appeasement, they appear to be continuously taking risks with their main franchises and challenging the preconception that they release the same game over and over. We can see this in Super Mario Odyssey, and also in Breath of the Wild; main series entries that are a great deal removed from their roots, feeling fresh but manage to maintain their sense of charm and continuity at the same time. This is great for Nintendo fans, and appears to be working, with Switch consoles still selling very well, especially in Japan.

Ok, I’ve stopped gushing. That’s it for my E3 conference coverage for this year, but I’ll be posting a more general piece covering the other conferences and my overall thoughts later this week. Also, i’ll be getting back to regular updates, and should have a retro review up by the end of this week or early next. Ta-ra!

It’s Pokemon Direct Eve

Written in the stars?

With the news that Nintendo will be airing a Pokemon direct tomorrow 6/6/17, IGN are running a hype-inducing feature looking at some of the possibilities.

Please please let it be number one. I would settle for number four, also. Both would be mind-melting!