Friday, 12 July 2019

Hopping Around the Spiral With CTR: Nitro-Fueled

As I said in the last post, my family had a PS1 [or more accurately the PSone] and one of the games we had for it was Crash Team Racing. We hadn’t ever got any of the other Crash games before it, so this was my first taste of the Crash Bandicoot series. The Gamecube hadn’t released at this point, so CTR is the first kart racer – and very possibly the first racing game ever – I had played.

Despite never mastering it, I enjoyed playing it up until the point the PSone and everything with it was sold on, which I think was only a few years after it was first bought to swap to the PS2 Slim. I still remembered my time with it, and even though I played many a Mario Kart and other racing games, I still wanted another chance to play it. That would come with the PSP, and the backward compatibility it introduced for select PS1 games. CTR would be among them, and I was playing it once again. I was still terrible at mastering it, though. But I enjoyed zipping through the tracks even if I wasn’t making any progress in Adventure.

CTR followed me to the PSV, where it would be forgotten to start with, but then in 2016 started to see more play time. I even took another run through Adventure – even if I still didn’t get very far. The game had followed me from young times to present day, and then came the Crash Bandicoot trilogy remake, followed by the Spyro trilogy remake, and there was talk of Crash Team Racing getting one too. I’d love for it to happen, I kept thinking, but I doubt it will.

Oh, how I am happy to be proven wrong. Nitro-Fueled is a love letter to the series, and is a solid remake. There’s plenty to be getting stuck into, as not only are all the original tracks and characters here, but even those from the second racer – Nitro Kart. The adventure mode is still the same as ever, though, as it doesn’t include all that extra stuff. Not even a second adventure mode to make use of it. But… this is a remake and not a new game, so it is to be expected.

At first, I just jumped into some singular races to get back into the feel for the controls, then onto the adventure where I took up my old faithful racer – N.Gin. I’ve no idea why he was the one I stuck with most, but the weird scientist just stuck out as a favourite. Of course, that’ll be changing with the Grand Prix content, since there’s one character in particular that I’ve got a lock on wanting to get. It’ll be weird to see Spyro driving a kart, but well worth it.

But the Grand Prix itself offers the usual fare of completing challenges with varying difficulty levels to earn points to go up in tiers, and I’m fond of that system. The grind for points to unlock things rather than the challenges being the unlock keys is something I’m not a fan of. I don’t mind grinding for things, but I’d much rather do it in my own time rather than feel forced into it. Some of the challenges have proven to be fun to aim for, and they do at least get you to venture to parts of the game you might not have tried. The in-game store it also a grind – and a very hefty one – if you aren’t one for playing online. As such, I’m just not interested in looking beyond a quick browse, since the store also rotates new things in every day, so there’s no point trying to aim for something unless you’re near to it anyway.

The game itself is great fun, though, with my favourite thing at the minute being 1v1 capture the flag. It’s a mode where you need to be aware of what the opposing driver is doing, since if they have your flag, you need to stop them before they get to deliver it to their base. But there’s also an extra reason, since if your flag has been taken from its base, you can’t deliver the opposing flag to it until your own has returned. Everything else is just as fun, if a little too chaotic at times during races where a single item can put you back within the pack and into a world of trouble. But if you can pull back a win from that storm, it really is a satisfying experience.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Powering Off The Line With Excite Truck

Back in 2006, I was an eleven-year-old looking for a new video game console to get for Christmas. I was looking through the Argos catalogues and seeing what sort of games I could get for each system. Being completely unknowledgeable about the inner details of video game systems, I’d settled on the original Xbox. Yup, even though the Xbox 360 had released the previous year, I was going to put the soon to be discontinued last generation machine on my list instead. From memory, it was purely down to seeing that it had a Spyro game on it, as well as a Crash racing game.

But then my dad bought the Official Nintendo Magazine, and I was introduced to my first proper understanding of the video game industry. I’d had a Game Boy, then a GBC and a GBA after that, though those were mainly for Pokémon games. We’d had a PS1, where I’d first encountered both Spyro and the first Crash racing game, and a PS2, that held many memories of various games both good and bad. There was also the Gamecube, in which I had recognition of a variety of Nintendo brands thanks to Super Smash Bros. And it was the console that kickstarted my love of Sonic the Hedgehog. But I’d never had the understanding of who owned what and the distinctions between various platforms.

But with ONM, I finally started to gain the understanding that would draw me to the likes of Neoseeker and CVG. And of course the ONM Forums. But it was that first magazine that made me aware of something new. Something that would give me hundreds of hours of delight and plenty of new experiences. The Wii. And within that Nintendo magazine was a lot of information about it, along with a game called Excite Truck.

I was already a fan of racing games, having Mario Kart: Double Dash on the GCN, as well as playing a few Burnout games (and The Italian Job game that I cannot remember a single thing about, except it featured Minis). So to see this racing game, and one that looked like it offered another interesting take on racing, was one I wanted to play. I immediately changed my mind on that console of choice, recognising that the original Xbox wasn’t somewhere I wanted to go. It was to stay with Nintendo, and the brand that I’d already got plenty of recognition with even if I had failed to see it.

After seeing the game pushed from launch in Europe to January, then to February, I finally had it to experience. I loved it. The steering took a bit of getting used to, as it was very twitchy and the slightest motion would have the vehicle start turning in that direction, but the game had tutorials to get through that allowed me to get used to it. After that, it was onto the full game.

What I liked about it most was that winning was not the end goal. Sure, it certainly helped to have a 50-point boost to the ending total, but if you were skilled enough, then you could reach and even exceed that total even if you were last. The tracks themselves are based on six locations, with 20 tracks in total. That number also includes a Super Excite difficulty exclusive track, which is a great one to race on. Points accumulate through actions such as air-time, drifting, tricks, and smashing into the other trucks, and you also have the boost gauge which adds another factor into all that. You don’t want to overheat your truck, after all.

I enjoyed the music, though it can start blending together after a while. I enjoyed the car selection, with plenty to unlock that offered a few stats that affected how each would control. But mostly I just enjoyed powering around the courses doing stunts and silly stuff. It would take me a long age to get all those S-Ranks – particularly on that Super Excite exclusive track. But no matter what I kept coming back to it. Even when Mario Kart Wii released more than a year later. There was a charm to the game that I always wanted to experience. Sure, it doesn’t look particularly impressive graphically these days, but it is still super fun to play.

Monday, 1 July 2019

July '19 Monthly Update

E3 arrived and proved to be a great week as always, even if it felt lacking in a few areas. Rather than list the individual posts made, just take a look inside the E3 2019 label. Of course, there was also news from the Pokémon Direct relating to Sword and Shield, which wouldn't be in that E3 label. As for videos, I showed off some more custom races in Forza Horizon 4, along with a showcase of the LEGO Speed Champions expansion of the game. Between those were two GTA Online videos that took a look at some of my older custom races.

Now, July's event. It's racing themed. Should come as no surprise considering what was uploaded in June. These racing games aren't going to be my usual fare of uploads, though. No Forzas, no GTAs, and no Mario Karts. Everything seen here will be something not featured on the channel before. Most of it will also be older than ten years, and all will have some sort of story attached to them that will be told here on this site. The post and video should arrive at the same time, so you can read then watch or watch then read.

Aside from that, I'm also gearing up to finally releasing something to my Wattpad account, which I'm also in the process of cleaning up a bit. Most of the content on there is a bit difficult to read owing to my near non-existent use of line breaks. If there were indentations, I suspect it would be easier to view, but line breaks make things just that bit easier overall. As for what the upload concerns, I'm not saying just yet, but a post will come here not relating to the racing event that details my plans for that story, since it's one I've been saying I will get on with.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Post-E3 2019

This E3 has been one of few truly great reveals for me. I’m happy to have seen gameplay of some of my favourite things from the show floor, and there were some things that looked pretty great. EA’s livestreams gave us a look at Jedi: Fallen Order gameplay, and it looks like a modern day Force Unleashed in terms of combat options and visuals, and using Kashyyyk as the place to show off allowed them to show off a previously seen location in a new era.

All good then, as did the look at Battlefield V’s latest content and the new pack for The Sims 4, which offers a tropical location to visit along with the usual new careers and extras. Most of that Saturday was taken up with the Nintendo Championships for me, and… it almost lost me. The Splatoon 2 Championship was the best part, with some intense battles all the way through. Showing off Super Mario Maker 2 here proved enjoyable, and the challenges offered allowed variety. But the Smash Championship was where I almost quit.

For a tournament as serious as this, you need a definitive way of marking who is winning at all times, and with something as chaotic as Smash can get, it needs to be something easy. Stock battles were used for the rest of the Championship, but the bizarre idea not to use stock matches for the seeding round completely lost me and made it hard to follow, and left me with little clue what exactly had happened even after the results came in. Having some items on, I don’t mind, but the way the seeding round played out was just bad. Use Stamina Smash if you want something different, anything that allows an easy way to follow!

Microsoft’s briefing on the Sunday revealed not only LEGO Speed Champions as the next Forza Horizon 4 DLC [which is now out, I’ve been playing, and I love it], but also revealed the next proper LEGO game as Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. All nine films, completely rebuilt, with new features obviously coming. From previews released after the trailer dropped, we learnt about some of those features, like how the game is taking a Starlink approach to the galaxy, with planet-to-planet travel and multiple sectors to explore that are reached through hyperspace travel. Plenty of things are being reworked as well, such as combat and the camera. Very ambitious, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Ubisoft revealed Watch Dogs 3, and it was the only real highlight of that conference for me, but what a reveal it was. I’ve already talked about it in the conference’s coverage post, but it was an amazing reveal. It they can pull that off, then it will be one of the greatest games. Nintendo on the Tuesday was the best of the bunch for me, what with Animal Crossing finally seeing a reveal and gameplay on the Treehouse. And that gameplay revealed that while the location and a few mechanics might be different, it is still Animal Crossing at heart.

Plenty of other things were shown on the Treehouse streams across the three days, but Pokémon Sword and Shield started it off, and the games are looking great. Not the best they can be, but I’ll still enjoy exploring this new region and delighting in the wonders it offers. From the Pokémon Direct trailer, we already know that while the map offers a detailed look at the full region, it is still missing plenty of in-depth details about the locations themselves. And it is those details I am interested in seeing. The battles are looking to be at a decent speed this time, with the gameplay showing a few wild battles where the action begins quicker than Sun and Moon managed.

This E3 might not have had a massive amount of surprises, but what it did offer was fun to see. With new consoles set to be hitting next year, Sony should be returning with an action-packed show, and Microsoft can finally lift the lid on more of its projects set for the Scarlett. Nintendo is still seeing success with the Switch, but is it possible even Nintendo might have something new to show? We’ll certainly be finding out this time next June.