Tag Archive: Wii U

I had a chance to check out a couple of demos of Paper Mario: Color Splash at the Nintendo Lounge at San Diego ComicCon 2016. While I did go hands-on for a time with the game, Nintendo refused to let this particular demo be played by anyone but one of their representatives. At the very least, it does mark the first time we are seeing this footage of Mario exploring the Dark Bloo Inn, where he has to exercise some Toad spirits and battle some Sledge Bros.

Paper Mario: Color Splash is coming to the Wii U on October 7.


Let the good times barrel roll

When the decision was made for Star Fox to finally grace the Wii U, Nintendo and co-developer Platinum Games made the easy choice to stick to the series’ roots—much to the joy of fans everywhere (let’s just say that every time Fox McCloud steps out of his Arwing, you can hear the collective groan of the audience underneath the hiss of the cockpit canopy opening up). Few could have predicted just how far they’d go in wanting to remind fans of the best times the series has previously provided, however. Instead of crafting an entirely new adventure, Star Fox Zero is an interesting blend of old and new elements under the umbrella of a “re-imagining” of what is widely considered the best game in the series, Star Fox 64—a particularly uninventive move considering they already re-released that game for the 3DS (aptly titled Star Fox 64 3D) just five years ago.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the franchise, the Lylat System has been thrust into war by a former Cornerian scientist gone mad named Andross. With his incredible technical prowess, Andross has built a mostly mechanical army the likes of which has never been seen. The only ones who can stop his crazy bid for power are the ragtag heroes-for-hire pilots that comprise the Star Fox team. Equipped with state-of-the-art Arwing fighter jets and their mobile base of operations, the Great Fox, Fox McCloud and company is ready to do what’s right for the sake of the galaxy (and their bank accounts). Three console generations, and nothing has changed.

Beyond just the story, Star Fox Zero stays true to a lot of the gameplay aspects from what we played 19 years ago on the N64—all we’re missing is the struggle to find AAA-batteries for our Rumble Paks. Like Star Fox 64, Star Fox Zero is a mostly on-rails space shooter experience, with “all-range mode” sections of gameplay opening up into an arena for frantic dogfights against massive bosses and Star Fox’s evil counterpart, Star Wolf. The action is fast and heavy, harkening back to when many games still had arcade sensibilities, relying on twitch reflexes and with a single playthrough not lasting more than a few hours. Also, in true throwback fashion, it’s not about beating the game once; it’s about beating it again and again in new and fantastic ways.


Star Fox Zero parallels its inspiration by featuring branching paths that open up different worlds of varying difficulty depending on certain feats. Beating a level within a time limit, getting a high number of kills, shooting open an alternate path while on rails, or destroying bosses via not-always-obvious means are just some of the catalysts to cause the game’s path to splinter. In addition, achieving high scores on each route not only looks impressive when everything is totaled up at the end of the game, but also awards medals that can be used to unlock special features outside of the primary experience. Even after almost two decades, this remains a great way to offer up a lot of replayability for what would otherwise be considered a short game by today’s standards.

A fair amount of locations from Star Fox 64 have also been reused here—including planets like Corneria, Fortuna, and Titania—but they all see a drastic facelift. Star Fox Zero has fully fleshed out each world you explore. Lush jungles full of dangerous “bioweapons” overrun one world, while another sees shifting sands half hiding space battle wreckage. This level of detail—giving them characteristics and enemies unique to every location—shows off a personality that the planets in previous games never really had. And not every planet is a rehash. There are also some brand new ones specifically designed to offer opportunities to show off the select changes that were made to the gameplay.

And it’s in these changes where things get dicey with Star Fox Zero. New scenarios have been added where you can turn your Arwing into a chicken-walker (sort of like the AT-STs from Star Wars) and you can now move around on the ground in levels you used to only be able to fly through. Your controls change between Arwing and walker modes—and, in a testament to repurposing mechanics, the walker features a Z-targeting system similar to what’s been seen in Legend of Zelda games for years. Z-targeting makes circling, strafing, and dodging enemy fire a lot easier for the slower moving form. Because of this, there are actually times when the walker mode is not only the preferred way to combat Andross’s forces (like in narrow corridors), but also for finding those alternate paths I mentioned earlier.


Of course, there are moments where you’re forced to use the walker, and its lack of speed and maneuverability compared to the Arwing form becomes a hindrance. Those sections of the game artificially up the difficulty to frustrating levels, making you wish you could just stay in the Arwing the entire time. In fact, when the walker options don’t work, you’ll end up questioning why the transformation was added at all. Ground levels should just be left to the Landmaster.

Speaking of the Landmaster, it’s now gained a flying transformation. If you wanted me to fly in a particular stage, why not just let me stay in the Arwing? Mixing flying/ground sections in a single level—instead of just adding more dedicated levels for each, or allowing you to replay levels with different vehicles—was a curious decision. The transformations for both vehicles work, and work well for the most part; they just didn’t feel necessary. The same can be said for the one new vehicle, the Gyrowing, which adds stealth gameplay on its respective levels. While I can understand a handful of Gyrowing levels could be inserted as an attempt at a change of pace, they aren’t really something a Star Fox game needs.

The Gyrowing also features a sidekick called Direct-I, which requires players to pilot a secondary hacking drone into narrow crevices, slowing down the gameplay even more. All told, flying both the Gyrowing and Direct-I feels decidedly un-Star Fox-like and harkens back to the less than stellar adventure games of the series—even though we’re still technically in a ship—and not the fun flying action we want. Not to mention controlling Direct-I via first-person on the Wii U GamePad while the Gyrowing is left defenseless on your main TV just screams gimmicky controls.


That leads me to Star Fox Zero’s largest problem: the controls. I’m reminded of The Wonderful 101, another Nintendo and Platinum collaboration that used the Wii U GamePad entirely too much. There is nothing worse than having to take your eyes off of the TV screen to see a different perspective on the GamePad, and more than anything, I wish the ease of control was what had been brought over from Star Fox 64.

When the game is played on your TV, it’s in the traditional third-person view, with the camera positioned directly behind your ship. The Wii U GamePad offers up a first-person perspective from Fox’s cockpit. This by itself would’ve actually been pretty cool, but the problem is that the aiming reticule is then married to the motion of the GamePad, forcing you to dance around your living room like a buffoon as you try to lock on enemy ships. Worse yet, the game mandates use of the first-person view in some sections—especially in the all-range mode arenas—to get the best shots on certain enemies. There is one alternate control scheme that allows you to lessen the impact of these controls, and I ended up spending most of my time using that option. Even so, doing that doesn’t do away with the motion controls completely, and you’re still required to move around far too much to aim/shoot at bad guys while playing.

Star Fox Zero manages to capture the essence of the original Star Fox 64, and rides that nostalgia train hard. At the same time, it leaves a lot to be desired. I can’t help but feel that choosing to re-imagine an older game instead of creating a truly brand new one painted the developers into an unfriendly creative corner. Star Fox Zero is a solid game, but due to its lack of ingenuity and difficult controls, it continues the trend of one of Nintendo’s most beloved IPs just kind of middling about.


Developer: Platinum Games, Nintendo EPD • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 04.22.16
Star Fox Zero’s status as a love-letter to the past is solidified. While it does a good job channeling a lot of what was great about Star Fox 64, it fails to really build on it in new and exciting ways, and stumbles because of the Wii U Gamepad.
The Good Searching for alternate paths through the Lylat System remains addicting.
The Bad I felt like I was fighting the Wii U GamePad half the time.
The Ugly Every time Falco shouts, “Thanks for the friendly fire, Fox!” I think I should go upgrade my Internet browser.
Star Fox Zero is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.


Don’t let your guard down

Over the course of Star Fox’s history, whenever the decision is made to deviate from the space combat the series is known for, it’s often led to disaster. Even with Fox McCloud and gang being revered and lauded amongst Nintendo’s great original characters, when the Star Fox team steps out from their Arwings, it usually spells trouble for the series and a lack of fun to be had by gamers. Well, never one to be deterred, Nintendo has again tried to branch out and expand upon the Star Fox universe in the form of Star Fox Guard, and again it seems they’ve failed to create a compelling game.

Star Fox Guard sees players take on the role of a security guard at Corneria Precious Metals, Ltd. The company has been expanding exponentially to all corners of the galaxy due to war raging in the Lylat System, and so company owner Grippy Toad, uncle to famed Star Fox pilot and mechanic Slippy Toad, felt he needed more help. Players must use each security camera—conveniently equipped with a laser blaster—in every CPM facility to find and destroy the evil robots that want to disrupt the mining operations (by decimating each plant’s power core, thus bringing their metal output for the war effort to a halt). It’s not the deepest story, but you don’t really need a lot of setup when it comes to a tower defense game.

I typically enjoy the tower defense genre, having many in my collection ranging from South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! to Ninjatown. However, I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that Star Fox Guard is one of the most shallow and downright boring tower defense games I’ve ever had to play.


Every level gives you a dozen cameras to place around each CPM facility in order to destroy all of the invading robots. Your TV acts as a sort of security monitor bank, with the screen broken into 13 segments—one for each camera along the edges, and a larger one in the middle signifying which one of the 12 you’re controlling at that given moment. Using the gamepad touch screen, you can switch from camera to camera, changing which one you control to better fend off incoming threats. And right here is where the problems start.

When first looking at Star Fox Guard, the controls appear downright simple. The analog sticks move the camera you’re controlling, and every other button on the controller fires the camera’s laser. The issues arise from the fact that you can only control one camera at a time, forcing you to look down at the Wii U GamePad in order to switch between them. Instead of giving us an easier option to rotate through the cameras, forcing us to use the GamePad leads to something I always despise when Wii U games make me do it: taking my eyes off the TV screen. During more frantic moments, when a half-dozen robots are rushing the facility core, looking down at the GamePad’s display and then back up—taking a second to re-focus your attention—is valuable time wasted in a tower defense game.

This also touches on the second issue with Star Fox Guard’s gameplay, and why it fails short as a tower defense game: the cameras aren’t automated whatsoever. The best tower defense games are meant to test your ability to strategically plan both before a match starts and on the fly. Star Fox Guard only tests your twitch reflexes as you bounce from GamePad to TV and vice versa, and from camera to camera. There is a minimal amount of strategy involved, since often the default placement of the cameras is the most strategically sound, and you’re given them all before each encounter. Some of the game’s challenge missions—extra levels with unique win conditions that make up half of the included 100 levels—get away from this, allowing you to slowly build your defenses up. Unfortunately, those mission types are few and far between.

Since there are only 12 cameras, there are also very limited upgrades. As you continue to successfully defend Grippy’s metal processing plants, you’ll level up your security clearance. At certain levels, you unlock a multi-shot cam, a freeze cam, and a slow-time cam. You only unlock one of each, however—so, at most, you’ll have nine regular cameras, and then three specialized ones. It adds a little bit of strategy, but not enough to really give the game the depth it so desperately needs.


Not everything about Star Fox Guard is a complete bust, though. The game offers up some challenge with the variety of enemies it throws at you. Fifteen types of enemy will mess with your cameras, including some that steal them away or knock them offline for an extended period. If the cameras are offline or gone, obvious holes can start to appear in your defense, which the remaining 11 enemy types will take advantage of. That’s 26 types of enemies total, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, making you wish even more you could do more with the cameras.

The other nice aspect of all those enemies is Star Fox Guard’s Squad Mode. Once you beat the first 20 or so stages, you unlock the game’s online component, which allows you to put together your own robot horde and send it after a buddies’ processing plant core, or reverse the situation to defend your own personal core from their army. Successful attacks and defenses increase your online rank, while losses will knock you down the leaderboards. As you face new enemies in single player, you’ll unlock them as options for your multiplayer horde, giving you at least one reason to grind through the game’s 100 lackluster and repetitive stages.

There’s a reason why Star Fox Guard is a free pack-in game bundled with the first run of physical copies of Star Fox Zero. It’s not a broken game, but there’s really not enough to grab your attention and hold it for more than a few levels. It’s a shallow cobbling together of tower defense parts that relies too much on the Wii U GamePad, one that doesn’t do anything interesting beyond Squad Mode. If you should tire of Star Fox Zero at some point, I could see you devoting a couple hours to it just because it was there if you get the physical version. On the other hand, if you’re going the digital route with Zero, there’s little reason for you to chip in and pick up Guard along with it.


Developer: Platinum Games, Nintendo EPD • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 04.22.16

Every time Star Fox tries to do something out of its space-combat comfort zone it fails. Star Fox Guard sadly continues this tradition of games that make you go “meh” when Fox and the gang step away from their Arwing cockpits.

The Good There’s a lot to do and the online component adds some surprising replayability.
The Bad Shallow, repetitive tower defense play that relies too much on the Wii U GamePad screen.
The Ugly Slippy’s uncle is nothing but a war profiteer.
Star Fox Guard is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.


Gotta fight’em all

Whenever Nintendo develops a smash-hit franchise, it’s only a matter of time before spin-offs happen—and Pokémon is no exception to this rule. Whether it’s the Rouge-like Mystery Dungeon series, the safari-driven Pokémon Snap, or the arcade-inspired Pokémon Pinball, Pokémon has been a great resource for when it comes time to break away from its turn-based RPG roots. I think even those of us who have been playing Pokémon over the past 20 years were a little perplexed, though, when we heard of its latest mash-up: Pokkén Tournament, a mixing of Bandai Namco’s Tekken gameplay and Pokémon.

Set in the newest continent added to the Pokémon universe, Ferrum, players will choose from a roster of 14 Pokémon to fight by their side as they attempt to conquer the region’s different leagues and be crowned the Grand Master. Along the way, they’ll learn the history of the region, and come to understand why an old enemy has re-emerged and is threatening the sanctity of Ferrum’s battle tournaments.

What’s interesting about Pokkén Tournament is that it didn’t try to just throw a bunch of elements from both Tekken and Pokémon together, instead working to find the right aspects of each one to merge in hopeful harmony. And when that harmony was achieved, the basis for one of the more interesting fighters we’ve seen in some time was born.

Before the battles begin, you start by customizing your own personal trainer, choosing their gender and a handful of visual options such as shirts, hats, and more. As you fight, you’ll earn PokéGold, which can then be used to buy more lavish items including background lens flares, feather boas, or even a pirate costume. To personalize things further, you can unlock fight titles like in other games of the genre—my favorite of which is “Living Legend”, perfect for when I take on other players (or even the CPU) locally and online with my mighty Machamp. You can also earn up to five bonus items a day by placing Amiibo on the Wii U gamepad; they had to work the figurines in somehow, I suppose.

Those personal touches are always nice in any game, but the real mixing of elements comes in the core fighting gameplay of Pokkén Tournament. Taking a page out of the Pokémon games, the more you fight with a particular Pokémon, the more they level up. So even though you can switch between Pokémon on the starting roster between fights, sticking with a single character rewards you more, and makes it easier to progress through the game, as they’ll have higher stats that can then be carried over into battle. For example, by the time I finished the single player story, my Machamp was a level 95, with points distributed relatively evenly amongst four categories: attack, defense, synergy (the speed at which your synergy meter fills up; think an ultra meter in other fighting games), and strategy (the strength of your support Pokémon).


Those just-mentioned support Pokémon are an idea that adds an extra wrinkle of planning to every battle, similar to the Assist characters from Marvel vs. Capcom. There are 15 pairs of Support Pokémon, but while you’ll choose a pair before each battle, you can actually only use one of the duo each round. Each support Pokémon has a different effect: some do offensive damage, while others buff you or debuff your opponent, similar to the powers these Pokemon would have in the mainline games. This flurry of decisions can be difficult (especially with only a 10-second timer) but could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Personally, I prefer Quagsire and Magneton, mostly because Quagsire’s Mud Bomb has a nice area of effect and can do massive damage.

Besides Support Pokémon, players also get a cheerleader—the girl who introduces you to the Ferrum region. Between each round, she’ll give you advice (akin to real-life trainers in boxing or MMA), and while said advice is never really helpful, it can give you boosts to different meters depending on how you want her to coach you pre-fight. To be honest, I ended up finding her kind of annoying after only a few fights—another casualty of atrocious voice acting across the board in Pokkén Tournament—but I won’t argue with a fully-charged ultra meter to start round two, and it’s another surprising layer of choice to how you approach each fight.

The most impressive part of Pokkén Tournament’s gameplay, though, is the actual fights themselves. This doesn’t feel like some cheap re-skin of Tekken, nor is it some poorly-balanced clone. While I don’t agree with every move made, the heart of this fighter is strong. If you play other fighting games like myself, there is a bit of a learning curve, especially with the limited button re-assignment options. Like Mortal Kombat, you have to press a button to block instead of holding backward, but more unnatural was another button-instead-of-dpad-direction decision: jumping with the B button rather than up.

Once I finally got my brain retrained, I found that Pokkén Tournament might actually be a great introductory game for players new to the fighting genre. Its controls are super-simple, with no special move requiring more than a combination of a single direction and button press. Throws, counters, and ultras, meanwhile, all only require two buttons. While the move inputs may be simple, the core of gameplay is the rock-paper-scissors system not only found in many fighting games—throws beat counters, counters beat normal attacks, normal attacks beat throws—but also the Pokémon RPGs themselves. Of course, here everything is themed to the series, with moves such as Rock Throw, Ice Punch, and Seismic Toss.

When you combine all of that with the speed of the action (courtesy of devices that give players psychic links to their Pokémon according to the story), this is the first time in video game form we actually get battles close to what we see in the cartoon. In the back of every Pokémon fan’s mind, mine included, we’ve always appreciated the strategy and RPG aspects of the games, but have longed for a more visceral experience like we see on the TV show. Pokémon Stadium got us closer to that than the handheld entries, but it still never reached that fever-pitch that most competition brings because of a lack of speed and intuitiveness. Pokémon is extremely enjoyable, but you can take your time with it, often requiring dozens of hours per playthrough. Pokkén Tournament requires faster thinking and action and lasts 80 seconds, and that leads to a special kind of frantic fun that fans of Pokémon have been waiting for whether they realized it or not, and I couldn’t get enough of it, particularly when playing with my friends.

With that said, not everything in Pokkén Tournament is in perfect harmony. One major flaw I found was the “Phase” system, which dictates how battles play out and from what perspective. Each match starts in Field Phase, which sees players fight in a 3D space like the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. When you perform certain attacks on your opponents, however, everything shifts to a more traditional 2D plane called Duel Phase. The primary problem with this system, besides the jarring movement of the camera, is the moves of your Pokémon change along with the shift. It’s almost like you have to learn two different characters and be ready to alternate between them on the fly. While I’m sure the best players will be able to transition seamlessly between Phases in due time and string out massive combos, the rest of us would probably prefer learning a single set of moves and mastering those. It feels like that while trying to keep the controls simple—to perhaps draw in that Pokémon crowd that may not necessarily be fighting game fans—the developers still wanted a large moveset that could appeal to fighting game veterans. This shifting phases was the result of that odd compromise and in the end I don’t think either camp will be completely happy.


Now, most people will likely jump into single player when they start up Pokkén Tournament for the first time, but to say that mode is a grind would be like saying Charizard likes to burn things. To finish off the loose story woven through each of the game’s five leagues, I battled my way through about 150 fights (with only a handful of losses) before I could be declared Grand Master. And with a glaring lack of personality from everyone you fight (including the league leaders), the story feels horribly shallow and devoid of any character whatsoever. Only by continuously winning can you quickly shoot up the leaderboards in each single player league, filled with an ever-increasing number of dozens of combatants. You don’t have to fight through each person, but considering you only move up 10-20 spots every five battles before taking part in an eight-person tournament and then getting to fight the league leader, you can see where the grind starts to creep in.

Pokkén Tournament also features online and local versus. I played several matches online, and found no issues whatsoever with the servers. Mind you, there were probably never more than a few hundred people online at any given time during my pre-release time with the game, so hopefully the servers will hold up come release.

Local versus is another matter, though. While there were no technical issues, I found one aspect particularly irritating—and it goes back to the camera I mentioned while speaking about Phases. Because the 3D arena camera has been positioned behind each Pokemon, each player ends up needing their own personal view of the action. To accommodate this, Pokkén Tournament forces player one to use the gamepad’s screen as their main display, while player two must use whatever TV the system is connected to. It is a means to try to simulate the fight feel you have with the Pokémon RPGs, hiding what main and support Pokémon each player is selecting. One person playing on a six-inch screen, and another on a 46-inch screen always feels like the player with the better screen has a slight edge, though, and when dealing with competitive fighting games, anything that tips the balance in another player’s favor that isn’t skill-based is just asking for trouble.

My final gripe with Pokkén Tournament might’ve been my most disappointing. There are over 720 Pokémon now, yet only 14 are playable in the game (16 if you count the two special unlocks) with another 30 appearing as Support. There are 20 pure-fighting types alone in Pokémon, and Machamp is the only one on the roster. No Primeape. No Hitmonlee, Hitmonchan, or Hitmontop. No Throh, Sawk, or Hariyama. And that’s not even including Pokémon with secondary fighting characteristics, of which there are only two others on the roster—Lucario and Blaziken—out of another 24. Not to mention all the other Pokémon who could’ve easily been worked into this game, like Greninja.

One saving grace that comes with such a small roster is that at least all the Pokémon are extremely well-balanced. Clearly some time was invested to make sure that no Pokémon, no matter its natural-type advantages in the RPGs, would be so outclassed here that it became frustrating to play with any of them. Whether it’s a power-type like Machamp who specializes in up close and personal melee attacks, a speed-type like Sceptile that can pummel you with a variety of high-counting combos in no time flat, a technical-type like Gengar that relies on its specials, or a standard-type like Lucario that is even across the board, all the Pokémon work nicely in combat and it shouldn’t be long before you find a main Pokémon to specialize in, again harking back to the relatively easy to learn controls.

When I started reviewing Pokkén Tournament, I had no idea how the gameplay of Tekken and the world of Pokémon were going to find a way to reconcile, yet amazingly, they did. In fact, when elements of both fit together, it arguably produced gameplay greater than the sum of its parts. But when those elements didn’t mesh, the train wreck it created was doubly worse, and the small roster is disappointing. There were enough successes amongst the failures in this odd marriage though, and because of that, Pokkén Tournament has created a solid core to build on for potential future continuations of this spin-off series—even if this game is not quite ready to be declared a champion quite yet.


Developer: Bandai Namco Games • Publisher: Nintendo, Bandai Namco • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 03.18.16
Pokkén Tournament was a brave experiment, and it succeeds in many areas. However, it fails in some others—whether from lack of depth or outright poor design—that keeps it from reaching that upper-tier of the fighting game genre’s elite entries.
The Good Solid balancing of all the characters leads to fun and frantic fighting game action.
The Bad Small roster. Switching between phases. Single player is a grind. Having player one forced to play off the Wii U gamepad in local battles.
The Ugly “Luchachu” would’ve sounded so much better to me than “Pikachu Libre”.
Pokkén Tournament is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Party crashers

Mario Party is no longer the friendship-threatening, free-for-all party game it once was, and I think I miss those days. Mario Party 10 offers several new ideas that attempt to push the franchise forward, but now there’s a more peaceful coexistence among players on the living-room couch. Unfortunately, some of the new concepts don’t deserve a spot on the winners’ podium, and when combined with a clear lack of on-disc content, Mario Party 10 seems to kick off an awful trend for the series.

On the surface, Mario Party 10 should offer more than any Mario Party game to date, since it includes three primary options: the traditional Mario Party mode, a new 4-vs.-1 Bowser Party, and a new Amiibo Party. But once I played through each, I quickly realized that the game splits up and repeats an already limited amount of content among three different styles of play.

The Mario Party mode is the same as in Mario Party 9, with only minor tweaks. Instead of a Monopoly-style board, as in the first eight entries, (where players could go around as many times as they wanted), the boards are more like Chutes and Ladders, with a definitive beginning and end. This style does lends itself to faster games, usually concluding in 30 to 45 minutes. Though I miss the competition encouraged by older Mario Party games, I definitely do not miss the 90-minute marathons that sometimes broke out, and I find these shorter games much more digestible.

The only real difference from Mario Party 9 is that now in Mario Party mode, the Wii U GamePad allows players to keep track of Bowser, who serves as a looming threat on every board. Bowser does a lot more in his own personal mode, but here he shows up and steals stars from whoever unlocks him, which is done when the group, as a whole, lands on every face of the 1-6 die at least once. Whoever rolls the final side needed to unleash him suffers the unfortunate consequences.

While this omni-Bowser does make for an interesting new hazard, it’s really just another way to force every player to come together, like a persistent minigame. No one wants to unleash Bowser, because he can hurt the entire group depending upon how he acts.

It honestly feels like a waste of the GamePad, though. The main Mario Party mode plays out using just Wiimotes (the Pro Controller doesn’t work because of the lack of a gyroscope), and the GamePad is really nothing more than a second screen.

While the main mode doesn’t do a lot to differentiate itself from the previous game in the series, a lack of change in how Mario Party plays isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since I still found myself enjoying each board. My biggest complaint comes from the aforementioned lack of content.

Mario Party 10 offers two fewer boards than Mario Party 9—and nearly 20 fewer minigames. It’s hard to tear the minigames apart because, as always, some will resonate more with a particular player than others. I loved some and absolutely hated others, but the fact that the game offers so few compared to the last game is insulting.

If the main mode encourages players to work together, Bowser Party downright demands it. In this new mode, a fifth player joins the action by grabbing the GamePad and playing as Bowser, already out of his cage and trying to chase down the four-player caravan in a race to the finish. It’s just the latest example in the 4-versus-1 gaming craze, and if Mario Party mode was a light snack, then Bowser mode is just starving itself. Three of Mario Party mode’s five boards repeat here, mildly repurposed to allow for Bowser, who can roll four dice every turn to catch up to the other four players. And while Mario Party mode offers 60-plus minigames in Mario Party mode, Bowser Party offers a whopping seven.

That’s not a typo, folks. You want repetitive, unbalanced gameplay? Jump into Bowser Party, where you have to play the same seven minigames specifically tailored to Bowser’s abilities again and again. What’s more, each board’s minor tweaks are set so that the four normal players are always at a disadvantage. It’s called “Bowser Party” for a reason—he’s usually the only one having any fun.

At the very least, though, the limited content in the Mario Party and Bowser Party modes comes packaged in the game. The same can’t be said of Amiibo Party. Nine amiibo figurines are compatible with Mario Party 9: Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Rosalina, Peach, Yoshi, Wario, and Toad. Now, if you already have amiibo from Super Smash Bros., you can just reuse them here for Mario Party. Eight of the nine figures listed have Smash Bros. equivalents.

If you refuse to get any amiibo, however, this mode is locked away. You see, each figurine contains a Mario Party 1-8–style board themed around that character. The more compatible amiibo you have, the more you can mix and match corners of each board to create all kinds of game setups. You could have one with Toad, Mario, Luigi, and Peach corners or just a fully formed Yoshi board.

But, of course, to do this, you’d need to drop the cash to get each amiibo. Nintendo may not do a lot with DLC, but this might actually be worse, since getting all nine amiibo will cost you more than $100. The boards are cute, and longtime fans might appreciate the throwback nature of them, but that’s a lot of money for some extra game boards in a party game that’s so desperately lacking.

I mean, even if you count the minor Bowser Party variations, the game only includes eight non-amiibo boards, and nine potential amiibo boards can be unlocked by buying the figures. Also, since Bowser isn’t a normal character on the roster, if someone uses the Bowser amiibo, you can only play the seven minigames from Bowser Party—and you’re locked out of the other 60-plus in the game.

Mario Party 10 is a decent game at its core, but it sabotages itself to the point where it’s barely worth playing. Mario Party mode is still fun, even if it’s mostly the same as Mario Party 9, and it’s easily the best balanced of the game modes. Bowser Party is an interesting idea, but it needs a lot more work to make the win/loss ratio fair. But I just can’t get behind a game that has half its content locked behind the amiibo figures, not to mention fewer minigames and game boards than the previous entry in the series.

Mario Party 10 is a disappointing debut for the series on the Wii U, and I can’t help but wonder if Nintendo tried to do too much and ended up doing nothing worthwhile instead. The bottom line, though, is that all Mario Party 10 made me do was wish for the days when I got into fights with my friends after every round of mini games.

Developer: Nd Cube • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 03.20.15
A lack of content and a failure to properly execute on some of the new ideas had me longing for the days when Mario Party games would result in brawls in my living room.
The Good The new game boards are fun and certainly keep players on their toes the first few times around.
The Bad Relying on amiibo to boost the game’s diversity; poor balance to the new Bowser mode; lack of overall content.
The Ugly What would happen if the next Mario Party tried a different style of board game—like Settlers of Catan?
Mario Party 10 is a Wii U exclusive. A retail copy and several Amiibo were provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.

Taste the rainbow

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is the long-awaited follow-up to the offbeat Canvas Curse, which helped sell players on the concept of the Nintendo DS. Like its predecessor, Rainbow Curse begins when a massive portal opens in the skies above Dream Land. Without warning, the otherworldly gateway sucks all the color out of Kirby’s home and uses it to bring life to seven new worlds, themed after the spectrum of a rainbow. Of course, it’s up to Kirby—with a little help from his new friend, Elline, a paintbrush fairy from the other side of the dimensional opening—to conquer these seven worlds, restore the color, and save Dream Land.

Players take on the role of Elline and use the Wii U GamePad’s stylus to act as the paintbrush fairy, drawing paths for Kirby to follow in order to lead him to each respective stage’s goal. You’d think eliminating the buttons would oversimplify the gameplay, but I believe the experience might actually be more difficult in the beginning for seasoned players—it takes some time getting used to the idea that you’re not controlling the game’s main character. Instead, you’re just kind of guiding him along.

Even simple maneuvers, like turning Kirby around, can’t be done with a press on the D-pad. You have to draw a whole new path, and therein lies part of the brilliant challenge of Rainbow Curse: Right from the get-go, it challenges your thinking when it comes to how you’d normally approach a platformer or more traditional Kirby title.

Once you start getting used to the idea of being this sort of “hand of fate” and become accustomed to the controls, the game ramps up the difficulty, introducing new ways to use what you’ve learned. At one point, for example, Kirby will split into two, and you’ll have to guide both parts of him to the end goal. Rainbow Curse also sees Kirby taking on the guise of a submarine, tank, or rocket, and Nintendo’s able to squeeze a surprising amount of depth from a singular game mechanic. I was so engrossed by each new way to use the stylus—blocking lava waterfalls, guiding Kirby through a self-destructing spaceship, and so on—that the absence of his signature copying and floating abilities never even fazed me.

Part of what helps keep each stage fresh might be the fact that the game’s only 28 stages long (seven of which are dedicated solely to boss battles), which is on the short side for Nintendo platformers nowadays, if you’re just looking at the numbers. But it still feels lengthy enough because of what feels like a natural rise in difficulty all the way to the final boss. Add in a half dozen collectibles to each level and 40 extra challenge rooms, and the replayability of each world definitely helps counter the lack of total levels overall.

Another surprising strength lies in Rainbow Curse’s art style. In today’s hyper-realistic gaming world, using clay animation is brave—even for a Nintendo franchise that typically tends toward the cartoony. But the choice works well, since the clay designs give everything in Rainbow Curse a novel texture that really helps this new dimension feel uncanny and very alive. Coupled with Kirby’s typically bright color palette, everything seems to jump off the screen.

The only real downside to Rainbow Curse? As pretty as it looks in HD, I found myself hard pressed to look up from the Wii U GamePad sans the opening and ending cutscenes. In order to more accurately and successfully draw paths for Kirby to complete his adventure, I couldn’t look at the TV and draw at the same time. This forced me to play the entire game on the GamePad—not the worst experience in the world, but I think the dual-screen gimmick would’ve been better served if I’d been able to look at the TV once in a while. The only reason to play on the big screen at all is if you’re in co-op, where a second player controls a Waddle Dee with a Wiimote.

It should also be mentioned that Kirby and the Rainbow Curse features amiibo support, and while this is entirely optional, I found this element tacked on and uninspired. So, if you don’t own a Kirby, King Dedede, or Meta Knight amiibo, I can promise you that you aren’t missing much. All amiibo support does is grant players a single stat boost for one stage, once per day. King Dedede gives a health boost, Meta Knight increases your attack, and Kirby grants unlimited Star Dash special attacks. I found the effort of looking for an amiibo figure far more exhaustive than just playing the game normally.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a fine successor to Canvas Curse—it’s on par or better in many ways and should provide a potent challenge for even the most experienced platform player. It’ll also keep you on your toes as it constantly adds new elements over the course of the game’s seven worlds. And, of course, it does all that in a charming, colorful fashion that can only be decidedly described as staying true to what Kirby’s all about.

Developer: HAL Laboratory • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 02.20.15
Bright, colorful worlds brought to life by a unique art style, coupled with challenging, diverse gameplay highlights yet another successful Kirby spin-off that is as good or better in many ways than its predecessor.
The Good The stylus-based controls are simple to learn but difficult to master.
The Bad Never looking at the HD graphics besides the opening and ending cutscenes in order to see where you’re drawing on the GamePad.
The Ugly HAL Laboratory has officially run out of naming ideas. The game has seven levels, so they call the world “Seventopia”? Really?
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a Wii U exclusive. A retail copy was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.

A magnificent mash-up

Whenever players first hear about a videogame mashup, there are typically two distinct reactions. Some will freak out as their eyeballs gush tears of joy in a manner befitting an anime character and their mind explodes due to the onslaught of unbelievable awesomeness. Others have a more subdued reaction: their face plastered with a look of puzzlement as the world around them slowly shatters due to the immense confusion with which they’re suddenly burdened.

When I first heard about Hyrule Warriors, I admit I fell into the latter category. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Legend of Zelda. I even like Dynasty Warriors, to be honest. But mixing the two together? Please don’t tell Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé, but my body was simply not ready. My state of corporeal preparedness aside, the day has come where Hyrule Warriors now sits in my Wii U.

What surprised me right away about Hyrule Warriors was the story. On the surface, sure, we’ve heard it all before. A hero named Link must once again save Hyrule from an unfathomable evil. But this time, he must do it across time and space, visiting Legend of Zelda realms from the past (Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword specifically) to prevent the four fragments of an eternal evil from reuniting.

Though it sounds simple enough, the story finds a way to stay true to the classic Legend of Zelda formulapaying proper homage when necessarywhile also adding its own wrinkles on how characters came to be and how they aid Link on his quest. Everything’s familiar enough to give welcome pangs of nostalgia, but not quite so unoriginal as to feel brainlessly derivative or lacking in value of its own.

The narrative was also far longer than I expected. The main campaign lasts 18 missions, each about 30 to 40 minutes, and the story takes unexpected twists and turns, thrusting you into the shoes of heroes besides Link to take advantage of the Dynasty Warriors gameplay elements. The only part of the story that disappointed me? The fact that Koei Tecmo couldn’t find a way to work with Nintendo and make this adventure fall somewhere in the convoluted Zelda canon.

If the story makes brilliant use of its Zelda source material, the gameplay is where the Dynasty Warriors part of this mashup comes through. Droves of Bokoblins, Stalfos, and other classic Zelda enemies fill the screen as you hack and slash your way through literally thousands of them during each mission while trying to capture castles, keeps, or forts, and rout the dark forces.

However, it seems like the the development team’s efforts went into trying to fit all those enemies onscreen at once, because the levels that you fight through are some of the most generic, bland locales ever to exist in Hyrule. At least you get something for flaying as many baddies as possible, since Link and the other playable heroes and villains can level up by grinding through those seemingly endless hordes, earning better weapons and crafting materials that provide stat boosts to each character.

To give the gameplay a Legend of Zelda twist, however, each new level often contains a classic dungeon itemsuch as the boomerang, bow and arrow, hookshot, or bomb—which are then used to vanquish familiar bosses like King Dodongo or Gohma.

Unfortunately, even the addition of these classic items can’t prevent the gameplay from getting a bit tedious, even for the most devoted of Zelda fans, since the game quickly devolves into the mindless abuse of a single button. The lack of enemy difficulty is only trumped by the pitiful ally AI that always seems to find a way to get into trouble with these simpleton minions. Even the boss battles quickly become tiresome and simple, with no single creature proving to be a true threat—except when you’re surrounded by the never-ending waves of underlings that often come to their aid.

Fortunately, there’s a lot more waiting to be discovered just beneath Hyrule Warriors’ surface if you can tolerate the somewhat monotonous gameplay. After beating the story, you unlock Hero Mode (an ultra-hard difficulty for all the levels), as well as the ability to go back and replay any level with any hero in Free Play mode. Each level also has hidden gold skulltulas—with a grand total of 100 in the gamethat unlock special art and items as you find more.

The biggest replayability factor, however, might be Adventure mode, which opens up on a 8-bit world map from the original NES Legend of Zelda. Here, you can take on an assortment of challenges, such as killing a certain amount of enemies within a specific time limit, fighting all the bosses in quick succession, or even just answering a quiz based on the game. Each completed challenge unlocks more and more of the map and will sometimes reward you with new items that can be taken back into Story mode. You can also level up the heroes you don’t play with as often, since some sections require specific characters to earn an “A” completion ranking.

Overall, Nintendo and Koei Tecmo did a great job putting a unique spin on one of gaming’s crown-jewel franchises. It’s a mashup that most of us didn’t really want, but we should be happy now that we have it. If you love hack-n-slash games or are just a Legend of Zelda aficionado, then there’s more than enough in Hyrule Warriors to satisfy both those needs.

Developer: Team Ninja, Omega Force • Publisher: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 09.26.14
If hack-n-slash games are your jamor you can tolerate them but really just love The Legend of Zelda in all its iterations—then Hyrule Warriors is a more-than-worthy warmup for Link on the Wii U.
The Good A unique take on the Legend of Zelda formula that will appeal to fans of the franchise.
The Bad The hack-n-slash gameplay can get repetitive; bosses feel like pushovers.
The Ugly Darunia’s victory dance makes me never want to play with him ever again.
Hyrule Warriors is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.

Ray Carsillo discusses upcoming titles for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, including Super Smash Bros., Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 with Nintendo of America Assistant PR Manager Krysta Yang at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con.

In today’s Super Smash Bros. oriented Nintendo Direct, game director Masahiro Sakurai announced two separate release windows for the 3DS and Wii U versions of Nintendo’s flagship fighter.

The 3DS version of Smash Bros. will see a summer 2014 release, but in a shocking turn, the Wii U version won’t hit store shelves until Winter 2014.

While this could potentially promote consumers to buy both versions of the game and help keep Nintendo from directly competing with itself, it also looks bad for the Wii U, which desperately needs a potential system selling game like this to hit sooner rather later.

Aside from the release dates, specific game modes and new characters were also detailed during the 39-minute video presentation.

Little Mac is the latest addition to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and for 3DS’ ever growing roster, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed during today’s Nintendo Direct presentation.

Little Mac, of course, is best known as the main protagonist in all three Punch-Out!! games, first debuting in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!  for NES in October 1987 (originally just called Punch-Out!! in Japan).

The diminutive fighter is portrayed as the stereotypical underdog, overcoming all the odds caused by his smaller stature to become champion of the world. His reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros., which is embedded below, pokes fun at this, also showing that a lot of fight can come in even the tiniest of packages.

Not surprisingly, his powers revolve mostly around him being able to perform a flurry of fast punches. He also has a charge meter that, after absorbing enough damage, allows him to unleash a devastating uppercut to his opponents. The trailer also shows off his Final Smash ability, which sees Little Mac become anything but little, as well as a new stage based around a boxing ring, (obviously tailored to Mac).

The only disappointing thing probably about this latest Smash Bros. announcement is that Nintendo still hasn’t provided a solid release date for the series’ fourth full entry.