Sunday, 18 March 2018

Elemental Heroes - A Preview of the Elements [Network]

Before bringing the next preview of the book, I thought I’d go over some of the elements within it. And what better place to start than with those elements. The idea with them is much the same as magical attacks within games like Kingdom Hearts or Skyrim, but I wanted to expand the range considerably. The basic ones like fire, water, and electric are there, but then you get ones that don’t seem like they would be much use, such as gravity and wind. I’ve worked in as much as I could with all of them – looking for both world uses and mobility uses. They are ever growing with new things always being added to them. While some of them won’t get much use within this story, you can guarantee that they will get time to shine in future stories.
As for the world itself, I’m looking at the construction-based games. The ones where you can build cities and individual houses. The easiest comparison to make would be The Sims series, along with SimCity. However, the idea has been given a bit of an addition in the form of health for individual pieces of those buildings, kind of like Fortnite or Dragon Quest Builders. This comes into play quite a bit with one major area of the story. There’s also the simulation zones and rooms, which put into real terms the idea of virtual reality. As seen in the preview last month, zones build a place within the parameters set, such as an office or a small plaza. Rooms are more like the virtual reality we know, but here a person is literally transported to another world as a copy that they have full control of.

The main talking point of the novel is the characters and theming. I’m not going deep into this, as the story explores these things and would ruin one of the largest parts of it. The police force – as seen from the preview last month – is split into two divisions. The main force which makes up the bulk of the entire force, and the elemental division. This elemental division has Gary Storm as a Primary Commander, though there is a Secondary Commander as well. These two head the elemental division along with numerous technicians and researchers. The Primary Elemental Unit had already been formed prior to this first episode, and is led by Terrance. The PEU also includes Robin, Heather, Ira, and Martha. The Secondary Elemental Unit is formed with Kieron taking leadership, Brandon and Emma by his side. The elemental division is different from the main force in that there are only two units. The main force has four people to a unit, with multiple units within both primary and secondary categories.
The city of focus is Ballart [Ba-lart] within the region of Gigalish. Ballart isn’t the capital or the largest city, but it does house the largest police force station. The central area of the city features several plaza areas. One of these holds the abandoned building that came known by the name of the Infected Caverns. As stated above, health of individual pieces of buildings is a factor that comes into play, and it is within this place that happens. Another place within the city is near its outer ring – dubbed the dry lands. There’s a story about why the place got the name, and it has to do with a certain crowd of people trying to avoid paying for their power and damaging the system.
As for the story, it’s a simple tale of good and evil, but with a bit of moral questioning. I’m not going into it all as you can read it, but the preview that will come later focuses on one of these questions. And that is the running of the force. It’s one of the major themes within the story that starts with the second episode. The main force sees the elemental division as redundant – or at least the fact they have their own units as redundant. It runs through most of the eight episodes, and needs to be read to fully feel the impact of it. You’ll get an understanding of it upon reading the preview, I’m sure.

All of these elements I’m talking about – including the influences – are coming together nicely to bring a story that will have a clear beginning and end while still leaving the way for more to be explored in the future. It might seem like there’s too much of an emphasis on all the influences, but I’m hoping the previews I’m posting prove that isn’t the case. The next time I come back with a post about Elemental Heroes, it will be the second preview. There’s other things that I haven’t talked about, as I want you all to experience them yourselves when reading.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Nintendo Direct 8-March-2018 [Gaming]

Yesterday is was announced that a new Nintendo Direct would run for half an hour at 22:00 GMT today. What a wild ride that was. There were quite a few ports, but one of them was a big one. Yes, Super Smash Bros. is coming to the Switch, and the Inklings will be playable. That's all that was shown, but we know it's coming, and coming this year.

The main splotlight was for Mario Tennis Aces, where more content was shown for it. Fifteen characters - including a chain-chomp for some reason - the mechanics of the game, along with a simple mode which will turn the game into a more focused tennis game. And motion controls for a more casual play. It's coming on 22-June, and before release an online tournament will happen, allowing a play of the game for all who're interested. Keeping with Mario related games, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker comes to Switch with some new Odyssey related levels. It's also hitting the 3DS. Another Mario and Luigi game is getting a 3DS remake - this time Bowser's Inside Story, with the added mode of Bowser Jr.'s Journey. This one is set for 2019, so it's a while off yet. And speaking of Luigi, he's getting a bit more love in the form of the Gamecube Luigi's Mansion getting a 3DS remake. WarioWare Gold brings the largest amount of microgames to the 3DS, and looks set to expand on previous games in the series.

The rest of the 3DS highlights included Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers and Detective Pikachu, with the other Switch highlights bringing more news on Kirby Star Allies, Okami HD coming in the summer, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido also coming to Switch, Octopath Traveller getting two new character reveals. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and Dark Souls: Remastered, were also shown. The latter of which is getting amiibo support. Undertale is coming, along with Little Nightmares. South Park: The Fractured But Whole gets a port, but not The Stick of Truth. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition gets a release date of 18-May, and ARMS is getting a three-day Global Testpunch to those who haven't played yet to trial the game out. Splatoon 2 gets both free content and paid-DLC. The free stuff includes more outfits and stages, along with a new Rank X for competitive modes, but it's the paid-DLC that's more interesting. A new story campaign is coming, that follows the adventures of an Octoling. Yup, that thing fans have been asking for since the original game is happening, as the Octoling can also represent you in online matches. And the last thing to touch upon is CRASH BANDICOOT IS COMING TO THE SWITCH! Yup, the N.Sane Trilogy is making an appearance on the Switch, bringing the original three games to Nintendo consoles for the first time. I'd prefer Spyro, but considering that trilogy hasn't been announced yet, I can wait a year.

The Direct did well in hyping people up, and it looks as though Smash Bros. reveals are still going to be as interesting as ever. The news on Kirby Star Allies was good, as was the stuff on Mario Tennis Aces. As you probably saw above, I am all for Crash Bandicoot on Switch. The new content to Splatoon might get me playing again, and I might even give the Octoling expansion an a-okay to play. I doubt my 3DS will get much use this year, but I might bring it out again for Detective Pikachu. Everything else isn't really on my radar, though I do recall saying I might check Hyrule Warriors on Switch.
As a showcase of news, the Direct did what it had to do. If this is the last before E3 [aside from maybe a Pokémon Direct] then it has set the scene for this half of the year well. The obvious thing now is for Smash Bros. to get a larger reveal at E3, along with the obvious games that were missing here - such as Yoshi and The World Ends With You. Mario Odyssey DLC that was rumoured can also wait for E3.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Future of Mario Kart - Refresh of the Grand Prix [Gaming]

Mario Kart as a series has had numerous features. Double Dash introduced numerous features that haven’t returned in any other game, such as two racers per kart and the All-Cup Tour. Missions from MKDS returned in the form of online challenges in MKWii, but haven’t returned since. The latest features appear to be mainstays of the series, and considering gliders, underwater racing, and anti-gravity affect how the tracks work, removing such features would only be limiting returning tracks that use such features. The on thing that has stayed the same is the way the Grand Prix mode works. Aside from SNES and GBA games, it has always been 16 tracks, with 16 reworked retro tracks having been added since MKDS for a total of 32. Within this post will be two ways to rework the Grand Prix mode to give it a bit of a refresh.

The first is changing the way tracks are displayed, and borrows heavily from a little known infamous Wii game called Wheelspin. The idea behind how tracks were displayed in that game was simple. It was a triangle set-up, with ten tracks per triangle. With the next Mario Kart, the same principle could be applied – four cups with ten tracks within each. There would also be a bit of choice in how you approached the tracks within a cup. The first four tracks would be unlocked from the start. Completing two tracks that make up the lower points of the smaller triangle unlocks the track that makes the top point. On the below image, that would mean completing Mario Kart Stadium and Water Park would unlock Shy Guy Falls. In terms of actual points tallying, each track would only be able to be completed once when that cup is started. Once all ten tracks are completed the total points are tallied and a record of that is displayed on screen. The cup can then be restarted, but all tracks would remain unlocked to try in any order. This increases the amount of tracks in the base game by eight, giving four more retro tracks to choose from. If you’ve read the previous entry in this series, you’ll know that the list of tracks that haven’t returned is running low for some of the games. As such, for this revised Grand Prix mode, that rule is out. After all, as was already stated, only one track is available for use in the N64 game, and similar stories are happening for both the GCN and DS within two games.
For the second way to rework the Grand Prix mode – remove the cups altogether. Think of it this way – there’s a map that features all the tracks. The four classes act as the cups, which work as seasons as you start on the first track and end on the last with the other 30 randomised in order. Mirror mode is available on all classes and acts as an extra challenge. Just as with the other idea, the progress per challenge is saved, so there’s no rush to get through it all at once. Having the classes take the form of the cups fixes a problem with recent games – which is that anything below 150cc has become redundant to most players. Yes, forcing them to go through the lower speed classes might not be the best thing, but it serves as a way to bring progression back into the series. With Mario Kart 7, characters were unlocked only in 150cc cups, and with Mario Kart 8 it didn’t even matter which speed class you raced in as a character unlocked after every cup win. However, 8 Deluxe had all characters unlocked from the start, so progression isn’t so much about the characters any more. Unless they were actually able to be kept as a surprise. With the way this is set out, it allows for two multiplayer modes. Free-mode – where tracks are freely available to choose – or set limit mode. This allows customisation of a season to play from three tracks to the full 32, but they will always be bookended by the first and last tracks of the roster. As for any download content, within Grand Prix mode they are separate on first run, but after will be mixed in with the regular roster. For multiplayer they are available from the start.

Now, I don’t mind the current format, but I do know that a refresh allows for new ideas to be brought in and give a fresh take on the current formula. Mario Kart has always expanded its feature set in other ways, but hasn’t ever touched the way tracks are presented aside from adding more. These are just two ideas for doing so, but I’ve seen plenty asking for it to go the Crash Team Racing or Diddy Kong Racing route of having open-ended maps to explore with themed areas. I feel Mario Kart should stay away from that and leave it for another Nintendo racing IP to tackle. Next time, I’ll be talking about other features. Whether expanding on current ones or bringing in a few new.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Nintendo Switch - The First Year [Gaming]

October 2016 gave us a first look at Switch, after months upon months of ‘NX’ rumours all trying to give an account of just what this new console of Nintendo’s would be. One thing most agreed on was the hybrid nature of the system. That was certainly the case with it’s showing, with a trailer that’s probably still sat at the top of most entertaining console reveal of all time list ten years from now. Huge exaggeration, sure, but the fact is this trailer hit home the message of the Switch – Play Anywhere, Anytime, With Anyone. It also gave hints at the games we’d be playing, such as Mario Zelda, Skyrim!, and a number of others. Come January, we got the details of the system and an outline of the games. Cue March 3rd, when the console launched.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hit hard, becoming an instant hit with many people – including those who were casual fans and even those who had never played a Legend of Zelda game before. In fact, such was the popularity of the game, it was easy to forget the other games that launched alongside it. Just Dance, FAST RMX, Snipperclips, Shovel Knight, Skylanders, Bomberman, among a few others helped make sure it wasn’t just the Breath of the Wild machine. Plenty of releases the days and weeks after also made sure of that. If you’ve read my thoughts on the release month, you’ll know much of what I’m about to say. I instantly preordered Breath of the Wild with the Switch as soon as it became available, and upon release, I eagerly set it up and set to playing. It was pulling me in with how open it was, allowing exploration how the player wants to do it. I explored, and explored, and then got on with the main quest. FAST RMX was the second game I bought, giving a lot of skill to the racing genre as you control the super-fast vehicles around a number of tracks. I enjoyed what I played of it, though as soon as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe came around, it was pretty much forgotten. Snipperclips was the third game, a week later, with a second set of Joy-Con. It’s been fun to solve the puzzles solo, but that sort of game needs two players. These co-op puzzlers are more about the experience than the puzzles themselves. It’s why Human Fall Flat is such a popular one. Snipperclips also features a competitive mode for up to four players, expanding the range of things to play around on with friends.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at the end of April brought the game from Wii U with a few small changes and a rather big one in the form of a completely revamped battle mode. Even with the near 300 hours put into the Wii U version, having one of the best Mario Kart games in a portable form has certainly kept me playing. A fact that is true for a number of these games.
Released on the same day as Mario Kart was Puyo Puyo Tetris, with Minecraft on Switch following from that in May, as well as Ultra Street Fighter 2 and Disgaea 5 Complete. June also saw a few releases, such as Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and Mighty Gunvolt Burst, but it was day 16 of June that gave the big release.
ARMS had been getting focus in the E3 Treehouse stream before it’s release, and that certainly seemed to have helped in terms of exposure. After all, a tournament featuring professional players is definitely a way to create hype – especially if the game in question releases the day after. At first, I found the game had minor flaws that affected enjoyment, but with patches, nearly everything has been sorted out. Improvements to the game also meant there was new content to enjoy – even if such updates have come to an end. The fighting was fast and fun, though just like most arena fighters, my interest dropped to occasional plays pretty quick. There’s just something to the more technical fighters that can never hold my interest, it seems. Despite that, it certainly is a great game that fans of the genre can enjoy. Even if it did get overshadowed by Nintendo’s next big release.

July saw the release of Splatoon 2, and again it shook the world into a frenzy. A solo mode that expanded on the first, a new wave-based multiplayer mode, and the multiplayer modes brought back from the first allowed this to be as good as the 2015 game. New subs and specials replaced the original roster, making sure the tactics of play changed. A special four-hour Splatfest Testfire appeared on the eShop a week before release to hype everyone up. Content updates are going strong – the same with Splafests – with numerous returning stages from the first game having been added, and even more new competitive modes to be added. This time around there has been a music update, adding even more battle themes to the game, and I honestly think Splatoon 2 has the best music of the two. I’ve been loving the game, sticking with my trusty Splattershot Jr.’s for the multiplayer, and having actually finished the solo campaign in the second game where the firsts didn’t really interest me as much. It’s definitely one to play, though for me has been side-lined by other games both on and away from the Switch.
I’m a fan of minigolf, and the games are no exception. I remember Planet Minigolf on the PS3, and to hear that ZEN Studios were to be releasing a new minigolf game on Switch was great news for me. Infinite Minigolf was great to play, but had a flaw in its controls that was soon corrected in a patch. Since then it has been a lot more playable, and with new themes added to the game, it has expanded quite a bit since release.
I’m not much of a fan of the classic Sonic games, with Sonic 2 being the only one I’ve really enjoyed, but Sonic Mania looked to expand on that game, so I was in. The drop dash was easy to forget about, but the flow of the game was great. The special stages are the only ones I really enjoy from the entire series, bringing a Sonic R feel to them that makes me wish for another game in that style.
While I haven’t played it, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle seemed weird at first, which is why it was probably a good thing the rumours flying around got us used to the idea. Ubisoft saw success with it, and this is probably the first of many crossovers and third-party handling of Nintendo IP in a line of them.

Pokkén Tournament DX and Fire Emblem Warriors released to favourable reviews, but my next game didn’t come along until the beginning of October with Stardew Valley. It had released on other platforms in 2016, but with knowledge that it was coming to the Switch, I held off. Just like with Sonic Mania, I wanted the game on a handheld as I felt it fit the spirit of the game better. A farming simulation going back to the old versions of Harvest Moon, it felt like a great game to play for a bit at a time and then find you’ve lost hours to it. While it has been good, I find myself not returning to it due to the art style and controls feeling slightly off.
Super Mario Odyssey. The Switch’s next hype game. Since Zelda had taken the focus of E3 in 2016, E3 2017 was jumping in the air without a care with that wonderfully crafted vocal song accompanying the trailer of the next 3D Mario game. We’d already seen it in action from January, but the amount of content that came out of E3 for it made it one of the most hyped games and managed to make it massively popular. When it released, I loved it, and having remained free from spoilers found the ending to be such a blast. And with the new Balloon finding mode added, exploration of the worlds within the game has increased – with me finding areas I didn’t even know were around in some of them.
Back when this one originally released, I never really gave it much of a chance. Skyrim was a one play and forgot game back then, and for a while it looked as though that was to happen again. Having played it once on the Switch version’s release, it was forgot about until a month later, where I picked it back up and lost many, many hours in exploring the world and getting invested in the connections I was making with it. Sure, combat was frustrating me, but it didn’t stop me playing. I was too invested to give it up. And it continued like that until 2018.

It wasn’t until February that my first 2018 Switch purchase was made, and that was Dragon Quest Builders. I’d seen it as a novel idea, having a JRPG-like sandbox, and while the RPG elements weren’t exactly sandbox, the exploration and building definitely were. The building tools weren’t limited, and each of the four chapters were like self-contained episodes leading up to a climactic finale. Happy to say it succeeded in getting me away from Skyrim with a new world to explore. With a second game soon to be released, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the second as much as I have the first.
As for the rest of 2018, we know of Kirby Star Allies and the new Yoshi game. Kirby will be my next purchase, and from what I’ve seen of it, I’m sure I will be enjoying my first mainline Kirby title. Yoshi I’m not so sure about, but it looks enjoyable from what’s been shown. Mario Tennis Aces is set to launch soon, and expands on everything that Ultra Smash gave us. Nintendo Labo – the cardboard creative set of accessories – is to come in April, and starts off what looks to be the first in new ways to play. While I can’t say much of it, it does look to give some interesting ideas.
Nearly everything else is a mystery, but we know of a new Fire Emblem. Smash Bros. on Switch seems almost certain, and considering the numerous ports of games, it seems expected that Smash 4 will be making its way over. Just like with the other ports, new things are likely to be included. I’ve always been parading the idea of expanding the Miis and Wuhu Island, and I think the Switch is the perfect place to do that. A new Pilotwings would be great, with a Wave Race also being a sought-after return. Both of these and more could be a part of Wuhu Island game. All-in-one, a game-as-a-service, as it were, but with the objective being to not make money with each new addition. No microtransactions either. A game sold at full retail price should remain a one-price-only game. If it were free, that would be a different case, but then would Nintendo really want to expand into a social-gaming service that Sony tried with its Playstation Home?
A Party-type game is more than likely coming, Animal Crossing is surely coming – whether this year or not is a question that needs answering sooner rather than later. It could be expected that a new Mario Maker will be coming, as well as a few other WiiU ports.
And of course, the big one that I’m hoping will be the main focus of E3 this year. Pokémon on Switch. Many an idea has been asked for with this one. Open world design like Skyrim or Breath of the Wild. Full-3D Kanto remake. Revision of the battle mechanics. There’s been loads of ideas going around, including region ideas, starter ‘mon ideas, and new mechanics.

Nintendo have had a very good first year with the Switch, beating out the lifetime WiiU sales in just one year. If the second can keep that momentum going, it could be a very successful console in the future. I’ve been loving it, though now is the time to bring the features. The eShop could also do with a bit of work, and bringing more themes – and a bit of a refresh – to the home screen would be good as well.
There’s a lot to be said for a gaming machine that serves as both handheld and home console, and I’ve certainly been enjoying it as both. Here’s to many more years of Switch.