Tag Archive: Nintendo 3DS

A less perplexing puzzler than expected

With its bounty of conundrums complemented well by a cast of charming charactersall wrapped in narratives that have players guessing until the very endthe Professor Layton series has established itself as one of gaming’s premier puzzle franchises. But it seems that even the brainy Layton couldn’t figure out one last riddle: how to end a prequel.

That’s not to say that Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a bad game. In fact, it still hits many of those aforementioned franchise staples. Azran Legacy features more puzzles than any previous game in the series, and while some definitely require a lower barrier for entry than others, a few challenges will likely have even the most experienced puzzle fiend cashing in hint coins.

The game also offers a bevy of enjoyable minigames that unlock as you progress through the story, including a fashion-themed one wherein you try to put together the best-looking outfits for eight different ladies. I almost felt like Eric (our executive editor), with his love of Style Savvy! I had a lot more fun than I ever would’ve expected playing dress-up. There’s easily more content here than in any previous Layton game, and even if you do the bare minimum, you’re still looking at a solid 15-hour experience.

The cast is also just as lovable as ever. Whether it’s innocent Luke trying his best to impress his mentor or new characters like Aurora, who you’ll meet early on in the adventure, it’ll be hard for gamers of any age not to fall head over heels with the Professor and his crew. A big reason? There’s just as much effort put into the dialogue and rapport between characters as the puzzles themselves.

Azran Legacy falters in two key areas for me, though. The first is a technical issue. I’m among the few who actually likes using the 3D feature on Nintendo’s current handheld. Typically, I use it on just about every 3DS game I play. Using it during Azran Legacy, however, gave me a horrendous headache within five minutes. It might have something to do with the anime-style backgrounds and cutscenes, but I couldn’t find a slider setting or a position for the 3DS itself that didn’t make my head start pounding or cause most of the scenes come across a little fuzzy. Turning off the 3D is a small sacrifice, and an easy solution to a minor problem. Plus, the game still looks great in 2D (and this option nullified the pain!).

But something I couldn’t fix with the flick of a slider was the actual story. The plot of this particular Layton adventure is the weakest in the series. Part of this comes from the fact that it’s a prequel forced to tie up particular storylines in order to maintain the continuity established in The Curious Village. This corner that Level-5 painted themselves intoa pitfall in pretty much all prequelsleft the adventure absurdly predictable. Even the first two entries weren’t as unsurprising as this one; there, the writers still had room to maneuver narratively. Here, certain things had to happen, and I knew 20 minutes in how everything would unravel. The twist that usually comes at the end of every Layton game, therefore, was nonexistent here. Sure, the story shoehorns in some soap-opera-quality drama, but it’s so forced and so unnecessary that I could only shake my head in disappointment and power through the last dozen or so puzzles.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a valiant effort to show that there’s hope to be had for prequels, but in the end, it succumbs to all the same traps as many franchises before it, leaving it a bit bland and predictableespecially when compared to the rest of the series. This shouldn’t deter Professor Layton fans from the game, though. If you can look past the low points of the story, it’s still an exceptionally well-designed puzzler. If you’re looking for a game to simply promote more critical thinking, Professor Layton still reigns supreme.

Developer: Level-5 • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 02.28.14
With the most puzzles in series history, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy will force players to rack their brains, and the Professor and his crew are as lovable as ever. Unfortunately, the prequel limitations really put a crimp on the overall narrative.
The Good Puzzle-solving is still a lot of fun.
The Bad The story’s even more predictable than expected from this series.
The Ugly Not even Professor Layton can escape underwhelming prequels.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive that was reviewed using a retail code from Nintendo.

More than 16 million Nintendo 3DS games were sold in 2013, marking a 45-percent increase in sales over 2012, Nintendo announced today.

Nintendo also revealed that the 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS had a combined 11.5 million unit sales in the United States alone.

“Nintendo 3DS is a powerhouse with games and experiences that appeal to all kinds of players,” Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in the press release. “We’re not slowing down in 2014. With more games featuring fan-favorite franchises on the way, the best days of Nintendo 3DS are still to come.”

Earlier today, Nintendo announced that Yoshi’s New Island—the sixth installment in the Yoshi‘s platformer series—will arrive at retailers and the 3DS eShop on March 14. Bravely Default, the first 3DS release for 2014, launches February 7. A free demo is currently available for download on the 3DS eShop.

Flimsy Paper

The Paper Mario franchise is that rare video game spin-off that succeeded and then stuck around. Part of this is because it presented a unique way for us to look at one of gaming’s most cherished protagonists. Playing on the physics of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, and the rest of your expected Mario cast of characters being cardboard cut-outs of themselves added different and entertaining game play that has allowed this to flourish. But could this series’ first portable title stand strong and continue the franchise’s trend of great RPG games, or would it be lost in the wind?

Paper Mario: Sticker Star starts off like most every other Mario adventure. The Mushroom Kingdom is throwing a party, this time to celebrate the annual “Sticker Fest” where the magical “Sticker Comet” will come and grant the wishes of everyone who truly believes in its power. Bowser hears about this, crashes the party, and runs right into the Sticker Comet, shattering it into six separate pieces that enhance the abilities of all those who come into contact with them. It’s then up to Mario to once again set off and put the comet back together, all the while fighting Bowser’s army of classic baddies, from the Boomerang Bros. to Spikes.

The great thing about Sticker Star is right off the bat you can tell it maintains all the charm and personality of those that came before it. From the physical humor that plays off the 2D nature of the characters to the music and bright colors of the Mushroom Kingdom, Sticker Star doesn’t lag behind its console predecessors in any way. It really feels like a Paper Mario game. In fact, the 3D-effect only enhances the visuals further, as more depth-of-field tricks can be performed with hidden passageways or items.

These hidden passageways don’t just lead to coin filled treasure rooms, however. In reference to some classic Super Mario Bros. titles, the overworld map is broken into stages and worlds based on themes (desert, forest, water, etc.). Many of these stages, reminding me of Super Mario World, have multiple exits that will open up alternate paths to Mario’s end goal of one of the Sticker Comet fragments. This leads to Paper Mario: Sticker Star having the largest and most sprawling world the series has seen thus far.

There are some flaws with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, though, and the most glaring resides with the new combat system. Scrapping a more traditional, XP-driven system, Sticker Star relies on the item the game is named after: stickers. You must go around the world and collect as many stickers as possible in order to fill up your sticker book. Then when you enter combat, you must spend these stickers, which only have one use each, to perform vintage Mario maneuvers like jumping and swinging a hammer.

Instead of feeling innovative or entertaining, this mechanic instead made me feel like I was in my very own episode of A&E’s Hoarders, as I’d fill my sticker book to the brim and then refuse to ever use them. In fact, since there are no rewards for defeating enemies, I actually started to avoid combat altogether for fear of running out of stickers once the really difficult, scripted battles rolled around. Even the extremely powerful real-world sticker items made me fear combat, as they also took up more space in my sticker book. I ended up becoming so obsessed with organizing and maintaining my inventory of stickers that by the time I reached the first major boss, I had stopped having fun with Sticker Star.

Another irritating aspect of Sticker Star is the constant need to backtrack. Now, I understand this is a common mechanic in many RPGs, but I don’t understand how designers would think having to retreat to your central base (in this case a small town in the Mushroom Kingdom called Decalsburg) all the time or having to re-visit stages you’ve beaten several times over is fun. And Sticker Star is by far one of the worst culprits of this we’ve seen in some time, as you often have to retread the same ground literally dozens of times.

If you can overcome these two major hurdles, there’s a solid concept for a Paper Mario game buried at the core of Sticker Star. Unfortunately, the new sticker-driven combat forcibly removes a lot of the fun from what would otherwise be a stellar portable title, and since so much of the game is progressed through the combat, the experience suffers tremendously as a whole, making this a recommendation for only the most diehard of Paper Mario fans.

SUMMARY:  The plot and adventure are both more than worthy of the Paper Mario name, and the game is set in a massive, beautifully designed world for gamers to explore. Still, these aspects can’t hide the fact that the sticker fighting system is flawed and removes a lot of the fun from the RPG combat.

  • THE GOOD: Massive new world, branching paths, and references to many previous Mario games.
  • THE BAD: New combat system is nowhere near as effective as what we’ve become accustomed to from previous games in the series.
  • THE UGLY: I still miss Mallow and Geno from Super Mario RPG.

SCORE: 6.5

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive.