What does "game of the decade" mean to me?

It’s the year 2013 and a small child is still browsing Youtube before the first adpocalypse. Gaming makes people money, Minecraft is the king of the platform, and the kid still wants to be an animator. I took to watching more “adult” content creators. Most notably the now famed Juan Oritz, some call him Johnny, about to begin his indie game marathon. Something his fanbase had widely requested of him. Especially in the wake of the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter.

I had never played most of the games he looked at. I did enjoy me some Minecraft, but it’s Minecraft in 2013. Of course, I played Minecraft. He looked at some of the most popular indies at the time, and some more hidden gems. Among these games was Bastion. I enjoyed his review and wanted to play the game. I didn’t have a PC that could run the Steam client, so I was screwed.

The thumbnail to the review in specific. Explicit credit to Johnny for the image.

Cut to 2019 a drastic shift in landscape. Among this, all is my change in hobby. As I became a writer for IndieGamerTeam. I wanted to build a block of reviews that I’d post one after another. I was inspired by the “Steven Bomb” format, but I digress. I was going to review Castle Crashers, but I ran into some issues with it. By that I mean I don’t have friends I can regularly hang out with… even to this day. So I needed to find something to replace it quickly.

I had long since started on my little block of reviews. I was in the middle of writing a review on Crypt of the Necrodancer. When I was inspired to go back and look at Johnny’s indie marathon. His videos still give me nostalgia, and I was suffering some writers block. He especially inspired the way that I write my reviews now. When I feel stuck, I go visit some of his content. Even with more recent stuff.

I got to the Bastion review of his. It was a fine piece of content from so long ago. It’s been long enough since I’ve watched any of the marathon that it all felt semi-fresh to me. I remembered some jokes, but not much explicitly popped out at me. Bastion felt completely new, I know I had watched it. I even found my old comments from an abandoned account down below the video. Bastion happened to be on sale for just over a dollar.

Used this image in my Bastion review for IGT. Still like these screenshots.

It wasn’t what I’d consider an “indie all-star”, the types of games I was looking for, but something tugged at me. So I bought it with gold points and gave it a shot. Not too familiar with American made RPGs, but I was open to it. I was absolutely floored by the title. Everything about it entranced me, made me wonder why I had never played it. How I completely forgot about it.

The ambient soundtrack, the visuals, the story and everything else you could think of. I loved it all. The game has it’s downer moments, every title does, but they were so few and far between. It’s not often I play games multiple times. Let alone the three I’ve revisited Bastion. I don’t think I can top my original review, but I also think I can say a lot more about it.

Bastion is a weird game to choose for a favorite. Not just Game of the Year either. If I could’ve chosen Bastion for it, I would’ve. I have a bad habit of ignoring my favorite games of the year until a few years later. I cheated with Spyro, and Mario Odyssey last year. Blaster Master Zero 2 is definitely fitting for my GOTY prize, but it doesn’t hold me as tightly as Bastion.

My friends were floored when I told them my thoughts. This game beats Smash, Mario Kart DS, Sonic 3, Mega Man 5, and many other titles I love as, not just my Game of the Decade but, my favorite game of all time. That’s a hefty title for an indie, any indie, especially as someone so into AAA games.

I think those who have started following me through my journey writing expect to find a die-hard indie supporter. I’ll advocate them from here evermore, but I wasn’t someone who looked to play indies. No indie had previously grabbed my attention. Only Minecraft, before being bought by Microsoft, which is still near and dear to my heart. But never something I would be content with only ever playing it again.

If you’ve not read my extensive catalog at IGT you may do so here.

Bastion isn’t close to what I would consider a “perfect” game. What is the “perfect game” in my opinion? Well, in my opinion, it doesn’t exist, but for what I’ve played, Super Mario World and Minecraft come incredibly close. Game of the decade is hard because everyone expects these big blockbusters. Someone to answer Skyrim! or Mario Galaxy 2!

There is a lot of hype to the title. Yet the title is entirely held within opinion. Your game of the decade, or favorite game of all time, is simply your choice. I think we should reevaluate things like GOTY. Because they’ve too often become about review scores and public opinion. Not about the personal aspect. Review scores have their place. Yet I’m not sure so many should be putting that emphasis on it.

I’ve spent an incredibly long time telling you all a story that doesn’t really matter. Oh wow, the kid was inspired by some grand content creator to look at game, what’s it matter? I think you should make more decisions like GOTY based on what you enjoyed most. If you have to break the norm? Break it. Nobody will care that much in the long haul. If they do, they probably still fight as Stormtroopers in the console war.

These decisions and awards should be more personal. Of course for things like The Video Game Awards they can’t be. Big shows make sense to have public and private voting. I absolutely don’t wish to imply otherwise. Especially TGA with its boisterous industry announcements.

Don’t let people tell you what is qualified for GOTY. Don’t let public opinion tell you that “the game doesn’t deserve GOTY”. If you have found a Bastion of your own, savor it. Special gems like that don’t come around very often. Maybe if you can think of a game that fits you like Bastion did my story, go try it. Who knows what you’ll think?

You can watch Johnny’s video at this link. Definitely still worth it.
My review of Bastion is up for all of you to read right here.

Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope

Shovel Knight is an NES tribute that was kickstarted to major success in 2014. It was so successful that Yacht Club Games even developed three other campaigns and a multiplayer battle mode. I have a soft spot for NES platformers, but I admit they have a lot of problems. The NES is known for rock-hard titles with quite a few unfair gameplay sections. How does a modern indie stack up in gameplay? Let’s find out. Shovel Knight was originally just named ‘Shovel Knight’, but it was renamed to ‘Shovel of Hope’ as part of the ‘Treasure Trove’. Which is all 4 campaigns in one. A couple of them not even sold separately. With the release of King of Cards, and Showdown I figured I’d take a look at the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, and see what it’s worth!

I took this screenshot accidentally, and needed another pic to pad out this review with.

You are the Shovel Knight, a retired knight grieving the loss of your beloved. After the evil Enchantress assembles a team of knights looking to take over the world it becomes your job to stop them! You must steel thy shovel’ and put a stop to the Order of No Quarter. One of my favorite things about Shovel Knight is its focus on the story. The game allows you to explore towns with NPCs that have wonderful dialogue. The boss interactions also give you a lot of context to the history of the world, and the relationship Shovel Knight has with these other knights. Most of them anyway.

Nobody played an NES platformer for its story. I doubt anyone thought more in-depth than “Why didn’t Dr. Wily just build his own robots?”, or “Is Mario killing the Toads?”. Shovel Knight has a focus on story that doesn’t overpower its gameplay, or stretch itself too far, whilst also being genuinely thought-provoking. It would have been a really nice surprise had I not known all of the details going in.

Pretty sure i have dreams like these too. Just that I’m the idiot falling with the stubby blue dressed man catching me.

Shovel Knight’s gameplay feels most similar to the NES ‘Ducktales’. You can pogo off enemies, swing your shovel to hit them, and destroy blocks in the ground. All to collect gold which you can either lose with death, or keep. Shovel Knight has a wide variety of relics, special moves you must buy from Chester once you find him in a level, or after you’ve beaten it in the first town. Most of the relics are one-note, but a couple you’ll use a lot.

Relics aren’t the only thing Shovel Knight offers in terms of upgrades. You can by upgraded special moves for your shovel, and different sets of armor to wear. I didn’t really find myself using any of the armor, or shovel upgrades. The option for them was nice to have, but I felt I scraped by just fine with the Phase Locket.

One of my biggest pet peeves in gaming today is developers using “8-bit throwback” as an excuse to be lazy, and cut corners. Shovel Knight is never lazy with its sprite-work, or music. It feels distinctly retro, with a modern twist. Everything is fluid, well thought out, and well-executed. Shovel Knight uses colors, animation techniques, and soundfonts impossible on an NES. I can’t applaud it more for that.

This stage can be burnt at stake, by Specter Knight himself.

The game completely does away with the concept of a game over. Instead having a trade-off system. Every level has a few checkpoints, but every checkpoint can be destroyed for gold. If you destroy a checkpoint, it becomes inactive unless you re-enter the level. When you die, you lose some of your gold with the option to collect it back if you can get to it without dying. If you die before you get to that gold, it is gone forever.

Game over’s are a completely irrelevant holdover from the arcade. I can understand the need for money, but even as far as the SNES they were useless. Many ‘big’ series are only just beginning to ditch them. Such as Mario, 3D Sonic, and Bomberman. Gamers becoming ‘content’ with a garbage system, just because it’s usually there is crazy. “You won’t have to deal with game overs if you’re good”. Well, what about those with disabilities? What about those without much time to invest? What about small children interested in playing a game they’ve seen online, or someone else play?

World map is surprisingly lacking in extra stuff to do.

Shovel Knight falls into a lot of the trappings of the NES era. Most notably with extreme knockback. Shovel Knight certainly is no Belmont, but he does go flying when you’re hit in the air. He drops like a rock in that case too. Considering Shovel Knight’s more modern game design, it was really awkward having the controls feel somewhat stiff. Like they were taken straight from the NES. In fact, I can probably list some NES controls I prefer.

If a title is going to pay homage to the NES. It is best if that title completely avoids the pitfalls. Gaming has evolved so much in all of these years, sticking to outdated technique is absolutely absurd. Huge knockback, screen flashing for explosions, and gotcha moments are never a good thing. Seeing them somewhat frequently in Shovel Knight was disappointing with how much progress it made.

This was my favorite boss in the game.

I really don’t see how some people call this “the best indie ever”. I enjoyed my time with Shovel of Hope, but it’s not even my favorite Shovel Knight campaign. Shovel of Hope is a wonderful little time, but it fell into too many trappings for me to want to sit and play for hours. The second half of the game dragged along, even with it’s shining moments. I liked Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope!

Banjo-Kazooie – The Series of Smash Bros.

The N64 historically bloomed dozens of genres that have become staples of gaming today. A transitioning period with many duds, but just as many gems. One company consistently crowned king of the N64 is Rareware. Rare popped out some of the most acclaimed games in history on this platform. Banjo, and Rare’s other characters, are considered as important to the N64 as Nintendo’s first parties themselves. These games are historic, they are important, and they are beloved.

I wanted to make sure I got to Banjo-Kazooie very early on. I want to make a bigger effort to connect with classic games. You must understand I’m experiencing these titles from a lense after they’ve left a legacy. Whereas I need to grasp the fact that nobody is going to get it right with the first shot.

Banjo-Kazooie is the world’s first collect-a-thon platformer. Banjo builds heavily off of the framework of Super Mario 64 while taking extreme measures to differentiate itself. While Mario only hunts stars and red coins, Banjo has quite the number of treasures to find. All of which incredibly important.

You gain new abilities after finding Bottles the mole in different levels. Most of the time said abilities come with an item to use them. Sometimes it’s limited time power-ups like the wading boots. The most important moves have different collectibles attached to them. Such as the eggs, allowing Kazooie to shoot eggs at enemies, assuming you’ve got the ammo to spare.

This system, in particular, has had a very notable impact on gaming today. Collect-a-thons may not be as widespread as they were in the ’90s, but these item management systems still exist in today’s 3D platformers. Banjo-Kazooie does this a lot.

Not every collectible has to do with special abilities. Banjo does have his own version of coins and stars. The musical note is the average collectible, one hundred in every stage, but it’s become iconic in its own right. The main collectible on your adventure is the jiggy. Easily the most recognizable symbol from this game. Perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols from this era of gaming. You can also collect honeycomb pieces. After getting six Banjo gains an extra hit point.

Banjo is much slower than Mario on his own. Yet is in no way lacking in ways to traverse the many worlds. From flying with Kazooie and red feathers to a backflip of incredible height, it never really felt like a slog. Mario is a lot more agile, but Banjo certainly has a bigger arsenal.

The witch-doctor Mumbo Jumbo has a presence in most of the games levels. If you collect his mumbo tokens he will reward you with some transformations. A bee, a crocodile, and a couple more neat forms. An interesting concept on paper, but each transformation feels very one-note. They don’t really do much outside of the one or two jiggies per transformation. You can’t even take them into other levels.

Mad Monster Mansion might be my favorite level.

Banjo-Kazooie is the first 3D title to truly incorporate the hub world. Super Mario 64 featured Princess Peach’s Castle. A decent little hub for your adventure, but what’s in it? Some nooks and cranny’s that are hard to jump up? Yoshi on top of the castle? Peach’s Castle is but a prototype to Gruntilda’s Lair. A labyrinth twice as big as any world with many secrets, and interconnected portions. While it doesn’t feature any notes it contains ten jiggies of its own.

Enough with the water-cooler talk. Banjo-Kazooie is an N64, and N64 games usually suffer from various degrees of jank. The camera often gave me trouble but wasn’t awful to control. It took some getting used to, and quite a bit of guesswork, but I was usually able to fumble my way around. It never got stuck on anything at least. I can’t stand the swimming or flying controls in Banjo-Kazooie. I never enjoyed levels taking heavy advantage of these mechanics. I never really mastered them, but they never gave me a reason to keep messing with them either.

Banjo-Kazooie has some of the most inventive levels I have ever seen. Beautiful environments that feel fun to explore and, even on the N64, give a sense of wonder. I’m not a fan of ice levels, or vertical climbs, but I never found myself disliking Freezeezy Peak or Click Clock Wood. I don’t know how to properly explain what I felt traversing the landscape. They truly threw their best at this.

Perhaps the only thing given more attention than the worlds are the characters that inhabit them. From Guntilda’s rhyming mayhem, to Kazooie’s abrasive personality. The world of Banjo-Kazooie feels lived in, and natural. Such a surprising feeling from an N64 game. You will meet specific characters in one world, who crop up again later on. An especially nice treat considering how wonderfully written this game is.

Banjo-Kazooie goes for a country-style of presentation. It wants to feel natural, quirky, but exhilarating. It’s music and sound design reflects this. With Masahiro Sakurai even going as far as to call Grant Kirkhope a “country music artist”. I’m never letting that go. Banjo-Kazooie has this homey feel to it. Like it easily could’ve come out of something Nintendo themselves made. Fitting considering Rare is responsible for the Donkey Kong series as it stands.

All of that in an early N64 title. A miracle by proxy of how rocky this period in gaming was. Nintendo laid a very stable foundation, but Rare perfected that craft. Rare took the cake, decorated it, and ate it too. This game is not without its flaws. Every cake will have a not so smooth edge of frosting. That doesn’t ruin the taste though.

With all of that laid down how is Banjo represented in Smash? Requested since the first Smash was released. Banjo was a character originally chosen for Melee. He wasn’t included due to rights issues as the Microsoft buyout occurred. Of course that all changed with the Fighter’s Pass. Where Banjo was revealed to be the third DLC fighter included. Back again amongst Nintendo, amongst Donkey Kong, where he should be.

Welcome home, pal.

Banjo in Smash feels like he’s ripped straight from the game. The eggs, the wonderwing, the shock pad recover, and it all feels special. This character is beloved by the team. Clear that they wanted to do their best by him. They poured everything into him. A wonderful treat to fans of the series. It’s reassuring to know that he’s home. Don’t worry, he’s not leaving any time soon.

I like Banjo-Kazooie a lot. It had a few sections that got on my nerves. Quite a lot of jank that annoyed me, at times even felt unfair. Yet I never wanted to quit. I always wanted to go back, to finish what I started. That’s “rare” for me with retro titles. I highly recommend Banjo-Kazooie if you have Game Pass. It’s cryptic at times, but what 90’s title wasn’t? Banjo-Kazooie charted the course for the future, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ice Climber – The Series of Smash Bros.

Ice Climber’s legacy is one where it lives in it own shadow. Ice Climber was among the first few black box NES titles. Between virtual console, classic machines miniaturized, and friends houses I’ve always had decent access to Ice Climber. I never really viewed it as more than a twenty minute diversion.

Ice Climber is deceivingly simple, but incredibly ambitious. A goal of only climbing to the top of the stage while getting the highest score possible. Very easy to grasp how to accomplish your goal. Yet the game includes complete simultaneous co-op play. Something rarely seen on the NES.

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I played with Indie Gamer Team member Xinthus!

Ice Climber has some of the worst jumping controls on the NES. It’s like some weird precursor to the Belmont strut, but you can jump as high as Mega Man in water. Having to break through each layer with these controls was tedious and annoying.

Ice Climber is far surpassed by its stars Nana and Popo, with their place as mainstays of the Super Smash Bros. roster. I don’t really understand why the decision was made to include these two themselves.

Many could be all-stars were considered for the role the Ice Climbers fill in Melee. Urban Champion, Takamaru, and Balloon Fighter come to my mind first. I feel like these games leave a longer legacy than Ice Climber. Yet the Ice Climbers are basically household names.

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There isn’t a big reason to go back to Ice Climber. It’s a short experience with awful controls. Yet it really finds an interesting balance with that multiplayer. I can’t bring myself to hate this game. Perhaps it’s the presentation, or the charm of such a “prototype” experience. Because this multiplayer really does feel like they released a multiplayer prototype with a slapped on single-player mode.

I think Ice Climber is remembered only faintly. Sort of like the ghost town of a legacy title. Ice Climber itself is barely remembered, whilst it’s characters live on in fame for eternity. I really find it interesting how Ice Climber basically became an outlier of gaming as a whole. Barely remembered for it’s flaws or it’s strengths, Ice Climber floats around in a void few other games will ever get the displeasure of experiencing.

Super Mario Galaxy – The Series of Smash Bros.

The Super Mario series needs no introduction. After 30 years of busting blocks, and stomping turtles, Mario has become a household name. This status shows in full force in Super Smash Bros. The Super Mario series has nine characters to its name. Which made choosing a game to play very hard. I could knock out a good chunk of them with one title. There’s basically no way around doing that. So I decided to choose the game that best represented them all around. Super Mario Galaxy.

Super Mario Galaxy is probably a game you need me to tell you nothing about. I’ll discuss it a little bit anyway. The third 3D Platformer of the franchise, Mario Galaxy shifted the way the series was going entirely. Super Mario 64, and Sunshine, were open-world sandboxes. The games locked off a lot, and guided you thoroughly, but there wasn’t a direct point A to point B formula. Many loved this change, just as many hated, I stand somewhere in the middle.

Super Mario Galaxy takes full advantage of the Wii’s unique controls. Being one of the rare games to use a Wii Mote and Nunchuck combo. I couldn’t imagine playing the game without an analog stick. Controls were fluid, responsive, and fun. Nintendo brought their A-game with this adventure.

Mario isn’t just restrained to Peach’s Castle or even the planet. He now roams the galaxy using Rosalina’s Comet Observatory starship. A decent hub world in my opinion. Sometimes traversing it was a bit confusing, but as time went on that issue faded. The new starry stage allowed Nintendo to try out a bunch of new toys.

Mario is now equipped with a spin move, performed by flicking the Wii Mote, an interesting maneuver that serves as an attack and a second jump. Galaxy still uses the health bars of 64, and Sunshine, which can be refilled by collecting coins. Star Bits also serve as a second collectible. You can feed them to hungry Luma’s, a new species that takes center stage, and earn extra lives. You can also shoot Star Bits to stun enemies, and dig coins out of the ground.

Super Mario Galaxy features items that are very similar to the 2D game’s power-ups. Including the iconic Fire Flower and Invincibility Star. Galaxy includes multiple new forms. Bee Mario can fly for a short time, Boo Mario can turn invisible, Ice Mario can skate around on water, and Flying Mario can… eat ten thousand Big Mac’s without becoming a diabetic, obviously.

Mario Galaxy features a whole host of boss fights. A couple of them were annoying, but most of them were an absolute treat. Every time I would come across a new boss I’d get excited. Patterns were a bit too easy to decipher, but I can’t fault the game for it. I’d take something like this over the Koopalings any day of the week. Even over the Broodals 10 times out of 10.

Super Mario Galaxy takes full advantage of it’s setting. Every new galaxy feels different from the last. A couple feel reminiscent of past galaxies, but never like a copy and paste. It made my play-through that much better. It’s a beautiful game, and I’m not sure how to properly illustrate that.

The music is almost as good as the graphics. Koji Kondo really outdoes himself with this soundtrack. He is THE guy for Mario music, since the beginning, the man has created dozens of recognizable themes. The music for this game has been in my head for years, and will probably continue to be for more.

The pointer controls took a long time to get used to. Collecting Star Bits was hard at first, but come the end of my journey, it was second nature. The game felt very short, but back in the day, I had bought it for $20 as a Nintendo Select. You can pick it up for super cheap now. The oddest thing to me is how bad some galaxies were. I absolutely couldn’t enjoy Dusty Dune Galaxy for some reason. The entire thing was a slog. Some of the others don’t stick out in my head, at least.

I loved Super Mario Galaxy. It was absolutely worth the time investment I put into it for this review. It’s incredibly linear, but uses that to its advantage. A beautiful experience with wonderful level design, music, and controls. I can’t recommend this game anymore to the three people who haven’t played it yet.

So how well does Smash represent the Mario series? The Super Mario series has some of the most representation in the game. Multiple stages, over a hundred music tracks, and probably just as many spirits as music tracks. Mario is Nintendo’s golden boy, and Smash only hammers in that point.

Mario himself doesn’t take much from this game. As part of the original 12 his moveset was mostly created for Smash. It features a lot of new additions from the years. Brawl skipped out from giving him updates from Galaxy. That’s pretty fair all things considered. Mario is the archetype people think of when they think “Smash fighter”. He’s in a league of his own in the series.

Does this move have a use other than gimping opponents with poor recoveries who go high?

Peach also doesn’t really take anything from this game. She primarily takes from Super Mario Bros. 2. Her only playable appearance at the time of Melee. Peach hasn’t changed a lot since Melee, but she certainly is a standout among the roster. I don’t have much to say, she doesn’t really do a lot in the Mario series itself.

If anything Bowser in Super Mario Galaxy is inspired by the Bowser of Smash. Bowser’s character was solidified in the Gamecube era with the help of Mario spinoffs, and Melee. Except for his size for some reason. Guess the Mario series just haven’t got their proportions down yet.

Rosalina & Luma first appear in Super Mario Galaxy. Their moveset is entirely based upon this game. From the Launch Star recovery to the spin down-special. Rosalina & Luma are an archetype usually referred to as the “puppet fighter”, where one player controls two fighters, Rosalina & Luma are unique even among Smash’s two puppet fighters. Her design is a complete love letter to this game. Her inclusion in Smash solidified her place as a Mario mainstay.

Bowser Jr doesn’t really do a lot in Galaxy. He really just hovers in his ship in boss fighters. Good thing that he only sticks in his clown-car in Smash. I feel like this character was a huge missed opportunity, but there’s not much else I can really say otherwise. He’s unique as the only character to have no alternate colors. Instead, he has seven alternate costumes for each of the Koopalings. An interesting concept, but I would not have done it the same way.

Piranha Plant is very prominent in Super Mario Galaxy. He doesn’t take anything from this game explicitly in Smash, but he’s constantly around regardless. He’s a unique type of character in Smash. Having many traps he can set, but also being reliant on an aggressive play-style. He was Ultimate’s first DLC character. If he is setting a precedent of the future to come, we’ll find out soon.

Screenshots sourced from: Moby Games

Amiibo Defeated – The End of an Era?

With the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Nintendo gave us a small set of figurines inspired by the Skylanders craze. Toy’s to life was in full swing when Amiibo launched into headstrong, but Nintendo wasn’t backing down, they had Mario, Link, Kirby, and Pikachu! Nintendo couldn’t fail, could they? Nintendo promised the world with Amiibo. One for every Smash 4 character, including DLC fighters.

When Amiibo first launched, it was the shiny toy that everyone wanted, it had multiple rare figures. That original wave of 12 still inspired nostalgia in many. Many still remember the characters they picked up close to launch, or opened for Christmas that year. My first Amiibo were Link and Fox. I wasn’t a fan of Zelda, and I’d never played a Starfox game. I’m still not sure why out of all 12 in front of me I chose those two. I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

Dozens of characters for the first year, or so were rarities. Marth, Wii Fit Trainer, and Villager are remembered as a trinity. Little Mac and Pit were wave 2’s special collectibles. After that, they introduced store exclusive Amiibo with Meta Knight and Lucario. Amiibo lost a lot of steam with Wave 3, but they reignited the fire fast. With the launch of the Super Mario Series, and more notably the Gold Mario Amiibo, they rekindled a dying flame.

I remember literally camping outside of Walmart for this guy, and the rest of the wave. Didn’t get Mario Party 10 though. Still don’t own Mario Party 10.

All good things must come to an end. How is Amiibo doing just over five years later? We’ve gotten multiple waves for games outside of Smash Bros. Ultimate seemed to reignite a spark within the community. Amiibo figures for beloved gaming icons like Simon Belmont, Ridley, and the promise of Banjo has recaptured many who thought they were done. Amiibo output has slowed down considerably with the launch of the Switch.

As a long-time collector of Amiibo, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I don’t want to see these things go away. They’re cheap well-made and an easy way to get merch for games that otherwise don’t have a lot. You can’t just go buy a plush of Simon Belmont, or Bayonetta. Yet I can walk into Best Buy and buy a Little Mac, Simon, and Bayonetta figure on a whim.

The concept of Toy’s to Life isn’t appealing to everyone. Most adults scoffed at the idea. I happened to be the perfect bullseye for Lego Dimensions and Amiibo. I happened to be someone those particular brands were able to easily ensnare. Yet there is something special about Amiibo, and I know exactly what that specialty is.

Year 3 had a lot of potential. Minecraft, Angry Birds, Marvel. They might’ve actually captured the kids they failed to within the first 2.

Amiibo, especially those in the Smash line, can represent one’s love of gaming. At a cheap price, for a wonderful figure. They work with the games too! Smash allows you to train up a CPU partner, and Mario Kart gives you exclusive mii costumes. They give us figures of well-established characters that people love. The game functionality is little more than a bonus to most.

Many who would otherwise never hop on Toy’s to Life got Amiibo. Because Amiibo IS Nintendo, it is their childhood, is their passion. They don’t care about training a partner, or getting to put on a Sonic mask in Mario Kart. They care about Richter Belmont, about King K Rool, about Captain Falcon! Characters who rarely, or would never, get merchandise otherwise. That’s why Amiibo is so important. They don’t need to work with the games to matter.

That’s why I’m so glad Nintendo has continued with Ultimate, and promised us the Fighter’s Pass. Figures of Terry Bogard, the Hero of Dragon Quest, BANJO FOR GOODNESS SAKE! I hope they continue afterward. Not just because of my love for Smash, or my hope that my favorites will get in. Because I know that they’d produce quality figures for a character that dozens love! I don’t care if it’s the Doom Slayer, or Jill Valentine, or even The TF2 Scout. They’d never get physical representation otherwise.

Nintendo has struck gold with this particular idea. With time that gold has slowly started fading. It’s started losing its shine, and it’s value with it. I hope this article has given people who’ve disregarded Amiibo something to think about. Because the way I look at, Amiibo are so much bigger than the bonuses you get in game. Because Amiibo are a way to see a part of ourselves.

Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age – The Series of Smash Bros.

Spoilers ahead! Continue if you dare.

The Dragon Quest series is one of gamings longest lasting. In Japan, DQ is a cultural phenomenon celebrated with its own miniature holiday to its name. After the success of Dragon Quest 3 Square-Enix put in place a rule of only releasing main series Dragon Quest games on weekends. A rule not broken for 30 years, Dragon Quest 11 S was the first time since DQ3 we’ve seen a game released on a weekday.

Many in the west are familiar with Dragon Quest. Yet it still has slid under the radar for thousands of gamers in America, and other English speaking territories. I personally was aware of DQ because of the Wii’s Fortune Street, a crossover title where the Super Mario and Dragon Quest series fight over the stock market, yet never had much drive to pick up a game. For many, this changed the reveal of Hero in Super Smash Bros. Which spurred on both my purchase of this game and this series of articles in of itself.

Dragon Quest 11 is yet another entry into the prominent JRPG phenomena. The Dragon Quest series hasn’t changed much over the decades, but fans tout this entry as the most modernized yet. You as the fabled Luminary must travel across the world, and get to Yggdrasil to save the planet from the Lord of Shadows. Dragon Quest 11 has a simple plot, but don’t let that discourage you.

I felt like I knew every twist, and turn miles before they happened. Sometimes the game dropped particular hints about where the story was headed. Yet a lot of the time it just stuck to tropes of romanticism. The game throws a huge twist at the beginning, where you are being touted as The Darkspawn instead of a savior. Yet every little bit after that was easy to predict.

For what Dragon Quest 11 lacks in a unique plot, it has in character interactions. The game quickly hooked me on to the main characters it wanted me to care about. I became invested in how things would go, even if I knew where they were going. I completely forgave the games simplistic plot, if only because the games wonderful script sunk its claws deep into me.

The game is completely voice acted, and most cutscenes are in engine. Whenever I find out something has voice acting, I usually just assume it’ll be bad. Talent in games typically struggle with capturing the emotion the script calls for. It’s become sort of an infamy in gaming. Yet the voice acting here only served to positively impact the experience. There are a few duds, but mostly side characters. Even those side characters are more annoying because of their personality, than voice. It was a pleasant surprise.

The beginning townsfolk, oh how simplistic they were!

I went into DQ11 expecting some grand gameplay twist. A huge gimmick that I’d either love or hate. However, what I found surprised me entirely. The game plays exactly as one “exaggerates” an RPG does. On the surface there was no big hook. The first two hours were weird because I wasn’t sure if I was missing something. “Could this be it?” I asked myself again, and again.

That’s all ignoring the fact that Dragon Quest 11 is the JRPG perfected. Menu navigation, item systems, battle pace, boss build up. It all feels like THE JRPG. Like there couldn’t possibly be something better than this. It truly feels like the pique of JRPGs.

Battles are very simplistic on the surface. You choose your party line-up, and then go pick between whatever attack, item, or spell you wish to use. Battles were fast, fluent, and often over very quickly. However, there are a lot of different things you can do. In battles, you can switch between your equipment at any time with the cost of your turn. I never did it, but it was always nice to have the option. As a trade-off, each character has their own item/equipment bags. If you want to use an item in battle, that character must have the item in their bag.

The battle system was my favorite aspect of the game.

An interesting system I don’t see in RPGs often is optional CPU control. The game allows you to direct your party members AI with specific orders, or to just control them outright. You can have them do things like conserve MP, focus on healing, or go for the weakest enemy first. Usually, games that try this system have some awful AI. Yet 80% of my gameplay used AI-controlled party members. Very rarely did I think “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU, IDIOT, HE’S ONLY TAKEN FIVE DAMAGE WHY DID YOU CAST FULLHEAL!?”… or something of the like.

I do mean to imply that Dragon Quest 11 is very formulaic, yet not that it has no depth. You will find most of DQ11’s depth within the Fun Sized Forge. A little minigame allowing you to create pieces of equipment using materials you gather, or buy. As you level up, your abilities within the forge increase. Giving the incentive to keep going back.

If you do poorly on an item within the forge, the game will dub it a failure. Yet you do get that item. It was perplexing to me at first, but there’s a good reason. When you “succeed” at making an item you can create one of three variants. A +1, +2, or +3. These give significant boosts to all stats on the equipment, and will also award you perfectionist pearls. Allowing you to try and reforge more items. If you try to reforge a +1, you can’t get rid of that level. If you fail, it simply remains a +1. You do lose those perfectionist pearls though.

Didn’t use the Fun Sized Forge at all until the end of the road… Literally at the final dungeon.

The other big pool for you to dive into is the skill tree. Experienced RPG fans are no stranger to the skill tree, and DQ11’s certainly isn’t the worst I’ve experienced. I think that you deal with too little, for too long. Yet I didn’t find any “useless” skills, or skills obviously worth ignoring.

The Skill Tree in DQ11 is based much more on you building a character as a kit. A permanent decision you’d have to make in most RPGs. Yet a lot of people regret the decisions made in early game when they can’t switch them later. DQ11 lets you erase a tree, and get the skill points back for a relatively cheap payment of gold. I did end up course-correcting quite a bit on my journey.

My endgame Luminary stat tree. Sorry for the spoilers here!

There’s a decent bit of side content in DQ11 as well. Casino’s, lengthy sidequests, and even an option to play the game entirely in 2D. I never found myself getting too deep into these modes. Yet when the game forced me into the casino, I usually enjoyed myself.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dragon Quest 11. For those who don’t like the “average” JRPG formula I don’t think they’d even want to bat an eye at it. Fans of JRPGs who haven’t played this game should IMMEDIATELY. The formulaic story can be a turn-off, but it’s something I had a very easy time overlooking. The Hero’s inclusion in Smash has lead me to a wonderful game, and a series I shall surely be checking out more of.

Does Smash Ultimate represent the Hero well? Smash features tons of content from the DQ Series. Eight music tracks, a spirit board, Yggdrasil’s Alter as a stage, and multiple other heroes of the series as costumes. Hero at first appears to be rather simple, but the command wheel with multiple spells set him far above the crowd.

Many think his spells “over-powered”, or “too easy to abuse”. Hero is random, he is silly, but above all else, fun. The Dragon Quest series is The JRPG so throwing those mechanics into a fighting game to represent DQ makes a lot of sense. Smash has always been silly. I welcome Hero, and his move-set, with open arms. I think without a doubt he is well represented.

I played Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition on Switch

What is “The Series of Smash Bros.”?

With the release of Smash 4 I, making myself a challenge, decided to try at least one game for every character in the game. I didn’t stick much to it at the time. I was a lot younger. More interested in some of the recent stuff. For some reason, I also just really didn’t want to touch Metroid. Since then I’ve played most of the games that I figured I would’ve back then. I had an idea for Indie Gamer Team. I called it “What Once was Indie” in which I would’ve reviewed an AAA, one bought up by a major studio, and reviewed it. Giving an opinion of the game, and then why I thought it was important that game got singled out among indies.

I thought up The Series of Smash Bros. when I wanted to review a couple of the games I had played to fit the challenge. I didn’t feel right to only review about eight games with that moniker so, after discussing it a bit with a few journalist friends, I reworked the concept.

I will be reviewing one game I believe best represents every fighter in the series. No corners cut, no echo exemption, I’m going grand with this idea. However, that doesn’t mean one review per fighter. Most reviews will be for one specific fighter, but I will lump specific fighters together with a game. For example Super Mario Galaxy with Mario, Peach, Bowser, Rosalina & Luma, Bowser Jr, and Piranha Plant. Figuring out the game list took easily the most time I’ve currently put into this project. I’ve selected my list and intend to follow through with every game on it.

These will be simple reviews of each title, with at least one paragraph dedicated to the fighter(s) in question. It seems like a simple formula, but it will take a lot of time. I’m not currently promising any order, or what game I’m tackling at the time. However, you’ll probably be able to get some hints based on my twitter.

I hope you all really enjoy this concept. It took up quite a bit of time thinking up. I also want to specifically thank Jonathan Faust for helping me so much with the list of games. I hope to see you reading the review, and then we can settle it in Smash!

Nintendo Switch Online and why it’s so awful

Nintendo Switch Online was announced very early. Before the console even came out we were promised a paid online where we would get some bonuses. They promised discounts and some old games. Not many really cared about the NES games on offer themselves. The biggest anyone gave a thought to, Nintendo trying a Netflix model, was intriguing enough on its own. The promise of SNES in the future hooked them even further.

The future is now, as they say, and we have been sitting with SNES games for quite a comfortable while now. Which is basically all Nintendo Switch Online offers. Look at Xbox Live Gold, or PS+. Many have said the same thing before, “NSO just has these dumb S/NES games,” and give the same tired arguments as to why the service is bad.

Xbox Live Gold offers free games every month. PS+ offers exclusive discounts, and some free stuff too. Nintendo Switch Online offers the most basic of basics. You get access to cloud saves, and the S/NES Online apps. Very similar to what PS+ nets you. In fact, one of PS+’s big hits is the cloud saving. Xbox Live Gold, and PlayStation + are offered for $60 a year. Nintendo Switch Online is $20 a year.

The first thing many will point to as a criticism is the lackluster online itself. They throw Smash, and Mario Kart 8 as examples as to why it isn’t worth it. Just because the games have bad online multiplayer. To each their own, I suppose. The Switch does have games with awful online multiplayer, but it also has a lot with great online. Splatoon 2 is the shining example, everyone, points at. I don’t think it’s fair to compare NSO to the other two services in this way, but that’s not the most important thing here. People are right to ask a question, but I believe they are asking the wrong question.

Why does NSO “suck” so much compared to the other two? Well, what is always the thing you hear for Games with Gold? With each new set of sales on PS+? “Our monthly games with gold,” “this months sale”. I believe the biggest problem with NSO is its irregular intervals of updates. Which is so mind-boggling, up until SNES games were added, because they had monthly game additions.

The games weren’t always exciting, and many ignored them. The importance was seeing them there. Seeing that this service was being upheld, being supported. Without regular updates, people feel like they’re being ignored. People feel like the service isn’t worth its value, even if all was get are bimonthly titles available on the Wii U eShop for years, people would be more accepting of it.

People wait every month to look at Games with Gold. They get hyped up, they know they probably won’t care about what’s new, and they desperately wait to try out whatever is new. The games offered with Gold are usually over 2 years old. It frequents about a decade and a half. That’s a very long time, especially in gaming. Games with Gold usually gives them a chance to replay a classic or try something new. That’s an absolute perfect ideology, dare I say a “gold standard” because it’s a constant cycle. Every month, 2 or 3 games forever, rinse and repeat.

Nintendo stayed away from paid online for so long that they had no choice in the outcome. They weren’t going to make everyone happy, it’s impossible to, there were going to be people with an unswaying opinion before even trying the service. Those who thought it awful because it is paid, but reluctantly adopt it for online play, and those who think it is the best in the industry because it is Nintendo. It is on us to form a deeper opinion after using it, and if we don’t use it, think long and hard about why.

Nintendo has stuck themselves in a corner where they are no longer giving us new games each month. Leaving many starving for new games on the service. For a decently long while too. It doesn’t help that NSO, as of this time, is missing important classics such as the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Earthbound, and Mario RPG. Fans of these legacy titles, and those wishing to try them out for the first time, are dying to know when they’ll get their hands on them.

The Switch Online catalog, in particular, is very smart. It introduces a new generation to a whole host of classic titles they’d otherwise never play. Not every kid will be interested in the originals. People like me are rare, but they are out there. People who want to play these games desperately, without emulation. Or those without the means to emulate. If Nintendo could capitalize on this potential the service, with lots of time and revision, could become the best. I doubt that day will come however.

Kids have had little room to experiment with retro titles in the past. When they have, they’ve had the NES. The audience this retro stuff has gripped is the adult 30+ range. The type who grew up on NES and SNES titles. Many kids have tried Mario, Zelda, and Kirby. I’d bet a few younger Smash fans gave Metroid, and Kid Icarus ago. Not much further.

SNES games, especially provided for cheap, are important as an offer to the younger generations. NES games are stiff and slow. SNES games are fluid and flashy. Much more like the modern indies, they are familiar with. They’ll enjoy SNES games in the exact opposite way adults enjoy indies. Indies remind adults of the classics, the classics remind kids of the indie.

All of that said while ignoring the poor state of cloud saving on the Switch. You get to back up a surprising amount of data. Reinstating cloud saves is super simple as well. The first couple of times I had to I found myself pleased with the experience all around. The issue is Nintendo is locking some games out of the cloud save service. Most notably Splatoon 2, and Pokemon titles.

I completely understand why. It prevents item cloning and potential online cheating. I don’t think these features would be abused too often. Of course, they would be, since the door would be wide open, but not to the extent Nintendo worries about. Multiple cloning bugs exist in the 3DS Pokemon games, and those seemed to do well off! This clause in the cloud saves stings to a lot of people. Especially when they lose every bit of saved data, as I did. I haven’t even returned to Splatoon for this reason.

Many are dissatisfied with NSO, I’m one of them, but it truly is up to us to decide what is better. The best way to vote is with your wallet. So the issue comes back around, “is this worth it?” Are these described issues bad enough to stop you from enjoying the service? I don’t think so myself, I absolutely my time with the Switch. I think everyone should be open to criticizing it. The question you should ask yourself is “is it worth trading good cloud saves, for games from 20 years ago?” “Is this service worth it with how little it offers me in return?” As long as you keep those questions on your mind, you will be making the best decision, because it is an informed decision.