Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

One of the Switch’s launch games was a timed exclusive of the next hotly anticipated DLC expansion for Shovel Knight: the new Specter of Torment campaign. While I did get constant development update emails because I was a Kickstarter backer, I decided to ignore them for the most part, and went into this one almost completely blind.

To set up the story: Shovel Knight is right up there on my list of favourite games of all time. I loved it to pieces when it launched in 2014 and have played it routinely every few months since then. The first expansion was Plague of Shadows, which released in September of 2015. It added a entirely new story that ran parallel to the original, and Plague Knight had a completely different play style, making the game feel totally fresh even though it was mostly the same, save a few small new areas and a new final boss. Although it was a masterful expansion, it was still just that: an expansion.

Knowing basically nothing about it pre-release, I assumed that Specter of Torment would follow roughly the same rules: play through the same stages with a handful of new rooms and the same old bosses, enjoy a few revised challenge stages to test Specter Knight’s unique abilities, and then a showdown with a new final boss. But I was wrong. I was oh-so wrong.

Continue reading

Unfortunate headgear

One of the best features of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is how it allows you to approach nearly any situation in any way you like.

For example: the super dramatic scene where Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal, which I completely ruined by making him wear a goofy rubber fish hat.

Okay, that’s a terrible example, but I thought it was funny.

Also it would have been better for you, the reader, if the camera had been a little closer to Link, so as you could actually see the goofy rubber fish hat. Alas.

Laugh when I feel pain

Upon tallying up the writings I have in the works and notes on other things that I want to write, it looks like starting this Sunday, I’m going to have a new article written every second week through to the end of May!

“Who cares?” you ask.

And then I go and sulk in a corner and wonder why I even bother to keep doing this.

Hey look a food post

I’ve been eating these Clif bars lately, in an attempt to improve my snacking habits by buying organic (or in this case, 70% organic) snacks. I don’t know if that actually means this junk is healthier, but at least I can tell myself I’m doing something good for my body. I also use the term “snack” very loosely, as a Clif bar is quite often my entire lunch on a work day.

Pictured beside this text is the Peanut Butter Crunch variety of Clif bar, and it is awful. It tastes nothing like peanut butter, and has more of a crisp to it than an actual crunch. Just a big disappointment on every front. In fact, it’s pretty much just gross. I hate it and am never buying these again.

The Chocolate Chip bar, though? Delectable. Those, I think, are going to be the gold standard for other Clif bars to measure up to. Though they’ll probably be the only ones I buy anyway, because they and the PB flavour are the only ones I see in boxes. I’ll be damned if I’m going to start buying these friggin’ things individually.

I think that next time I’m going to try Larabar, though. Those “food made from food” commercials have gotten to me and I’m willing to give ’em a go at least once.

A Thing I Dislike

Switch can post screenshots to Facebook and Twitter, but since it lacks an actual internet browser, I can’t upload those screenshots directly to WordPress.

Wii U can do that! Why can’t you, Switch? Come on!

Wot Ryan Thinks: Nintendo Switch

So! A whole long weekend devoted mostly to my shiny new Nintendo Swtich. I did some other things that did not involve Switch, but those are… less noteworthy. As such, I will now yammer endlessly about how much I like my new games machine.

That’s actually point number one: it’s just a games machine. Like, it doesn’t do anything else. I’m sure that in time it will get an internet browser, but it’s literally just for games now. And I’m generally okay with that. I have seventeen million other machines that do internet. I won’t lie that I briefly found myself wishing that it had a Netflix app. But then I remembered that I could just hit a  button on my TV remote to bring up Netflix, and all without interrupting my game. So maybe it’s actually for the best? I don’t know. It’s fine for me personally, but I’m sure that in this day and age, most people would question a piece of technology that only does one thing.

Actually, you can take screenshots and share them to Facebook and/or Twitter. So that’s something. But Miiverse is dead and it seems like you can’t capture video so… what’s the point?

Now, hardware. I don’t know jack about the guts of Switch, or any other computer machine, for that matter. And that’s mostly because I don’t really care. As long as it plays Zelda, I couldn’t care less how many megaflops and jiggabytes it does. What does matter, is that oh my land, that screen looks nice. Being accustomed to the 3DS and Wii U gamepad’s less than ideal screens, the Switch’s screen is a revelation. It’s so sharp and vibrant! Like having a tiny version of my television right in my hands! Sure, my phone has a fairly nice screen, too, but it’s a well-known fact that all phone games are trash.

My favourite thing about Switch though, are the Joy-Cons. I’m still not crazy about the name, but I love the little things. At first touch, I thought they would be unwieldy and cause the worst thumb cramps, but it became apparent after about an hour that Joy-Cons are the video game controller future that I want to live in. I always loved the arm freedom that the Wii remote and nunchuk allowed, and as the Joy-Cons aren’t tethered together, that vision has finally reached its true form. The fact of the matter is that I don’t love Joy-Cons because of their design or buttons or whatever. I love them because I can move my arms independently and freely as I play. I can sit however I feel comfortable, and place my arms wherever I like. It’s perfect! The only downside is that there isn’t a d-pad, which is a pretty huge bummer, as someone who really likes 2D games.

Oh, and also a spare set of Joy-Cons costs a whopping $100 Canadian dollars. YIKES.

The Joy-Cons also work much better than expected in sideways mode. I didn’t believe that they would feel right at all when held that way, but a couple hours of Snipperclips helped to win me over. I’m still not sold that they’ll be great for action games, but for slower-paced little games like that, they’re A-Okay.

So you may have heard that Switch is portable and stuff. Mine is probably going to sit in the dock 98% of the time, but it’s nice to know that if the need arises, I can just pick it up and take it to the toilet with me. I also bought a travel case for the odd time I might take it to work for lunchtime play, but at least for now, my 3DS will remain my portable system. I took Switch on a car ride, which is not advisable if you’re playing a motion-controlled game, because the car’s movement will affect the accelerometers or whatever. Made solving a motion puzzle in Breath of the Wild way harder than it should have been.

Overall, I guess the Switch hardware is cool. While I’m not intending to bring it too many places, I love that it’s got two controllers built in, so that you can get a little multiplayer going anywhere at anytime. Also I really like those controllers. What it really boils down to, if I’m being honest, is that it’s the new Nintendo machine, and I’m always going to buy the new Nintendo machine.

And now the important question: what about the games? I’ve played four of the dozen-or-so launch games, and obviously I’ve put most of my time into Zelda. That’s a huge, wonderful game, and it deserves its own write-up. So let’s briefly look at the other three.

Snipperclips, which I already mentioned, is in my opinion the best launch game to sell the Switch’s unique capabilities. You can play this at home by yourself, but it’s best played with a friend or three, so get ready to bust out those sideways Joy-Cons! This is a cute little puzzle game where every player controls a little paper character, and you have to cut each other up into shapes that can be used to solve a variety of different puzzles. Maybe you have to fit all the characters into an outline, or maybe you simply have to dunk a basketball. One puzzle that my group found particularly taxing had us slowly rolling an egg up a staircase of cutouts that changed as our characters were clipped. It’s tough to describe, but it was one heck of a trial.

1-2-Switch is Nintendo’s big proof-of-concept game for the Joy-Cons, and I really didn’t expect much from it. Then I played it, and had an absolute blast. There are quite a few mini-games on here, and we didn’t play them all, but it seems to be about a 30/70 split between stinkers and good ones. I was surprised that one of my favourite games ended up being “Runway,” in which you strut around and pose like a fashion model. I found it strange that the room’s preferred game was “Eating Contest” because only one person can play at a time, but it was a lot of fun to try to reach for the top score. While it’s a lot of fun and I’m typically of the mind that games have value, I still think that the asking price of $65 Canadabux is a lot for this one.

And lastly, we have my second-most anticipated Switch game, FAST RMX. A high-speed racing game that essentially fills the hole in my heart where F-Zero used to be. Basically no-frills racing, where the only gimmicks are a boost gauge, and the ability to switch colours to take advantage of boosts and jumps on the tracks. So there’s a little bit of strategy involved beyond simply “go real fast.” It seems to be generally the same as Wii U’s FAST Racing NEO, but with more tracks and vehicles. I guess maybe it looks a little better? It’s hard to tell when everything is moving so quickly. Anyway, this proves a great opportunity, because now that I can bring it everywhere and always have two controllers on hand, maybe now I’ll finally be able to get someone to play with me. I mean, there’s online play, but local multiplayer is always more fun.

I also bought Shovel Knight again, which is a little frivolous, but it does have a few extra bells and whistles to justify yet another purchase. Firstly, the new Spectre of Torment campaign won’t be available on any other systems for a month or so, so the early access is nice. There’s also new amiibo functionality in the “Fairy of Shovelry” which doesn’t actually seem to do much besides being adorable and hilarious. And let’s be honest here, I’ll keep buying Shovel Knight forever. It’s my favourite game, why not?

In conclusion, I’m pleased as punch with Switch. So far, it’s mostly just been for Zelda, so in theory I could have just bought the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild and called it a day. But there won’t be a Wii U version of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or Splatoon 2 or Super Mario Odyssey or Runner 3 (Holy spit! Runner 3! YESSS!). Plus, I’m very curious about the Switch-exclusive multiplayer version of Stardew Valley. They haven’t said a lick about what that even means yet, but I’m certainly excited about it. It’ll be interesting to see how this all rolls out. Word of mouth has been very good for Switch so far, but only time will tell. There is a very solid lineup of games for 2017 already, so hopefully that momentum keeps up and people continue to appreciate the machine. I doubt it could end up any worse than the Wii U, at least.

Merry Switchmas!

It’s finally here! The most exciting quinquennial (give or take) occasion: The launch of a new Nintendo Games Machine! Happy Switch Day, everyone!

Betcha didn’t know that word. Quinquennial.

This post was written in advance, because quite frankly I’m going to be upset about and try to avoid having to do anything that’s not Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the next few weeks. Expect few posts in the coming weeks, but maybe some vague impressions on the Switch and/or Zelda over the weekend. Maybe.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – February 2017

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to do these introductory blurbs for the Monthend posts. I guess they’re more traditional than anything at this point.

Anyway, thank Zeus that February is finally over. Two more days to Switch!

~ Game Over ~

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4) – This may be my new jam. Like back in the day when I got really into Silent Hill and then Resident Evil DS, and beat them like a hundred times each. That’s what’s happening here. I’ve beaten it three times now. Currently working on hard mode and DLC.

Drakengard 3 (PS3) – Cleared branches A, B, and C. Played some of the DLC chapters, and got stuck on the intensely hard final boss of branch D.

Citadale (WiiU) – A slightly above-par Castlevania clone that is packed with just enough little annoyances that it comes out looking shoddier than it should. I intend to review it in full.

The Perplexing Orb (WiiU) – Booted it up because I thought it would be good for this article, but then I ended up really enjoying it. Kind of a cheap Monkey Ball wannabe.

Ninja Senki DX (PS4) – Free PS+ game. Lured me in by looking like a Game Boy Color game, but I only got to level 4 before I said “Eff it, I hate this” and deleted it.

Continue reading