Review: Monster Hunter World

After more than 140 hours gathering, slaying elder dragons and being wined and dined by the finest felyne chefs in Astera I still feel like I’ve got hundreds more ahead of me.

Monster Hunter has enjoyed a wealth of changes with each subsequent entry into the series.  Never before, however, has the franchise been gifted such a massive amount of tweaks and adjustments that make everything from combining items, managing your resources, and crafting gear feel better than ever before.  These “quality of life” improvements make the overall feel of the game far more appealing to veterans of the franchise, and simply more enjoyable.  I never have to worry if my item pouch is full, or curse myself if I forget to eat prior to loading up a quest because the game is doing these extra micro managements for me.

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Astera is a tad larger than Moga Village

 

Adjustments to armor and weapons have been made as well.  Armor is no longer split into Blademaster and Gunner sets but rather between Alpha and Beta sets.  Alpha sets include more skills and skill points from the get go, whilst Beta sets are more limited but offer a wide range of customization you can take advantage of later in the game.

All 14 weapons have been adjusted in some way, whether it’s changes to attack animations, new additions such as ammo types, or new moves altogether. Monster Hunter Generations introduced “hunting styles” to change how people play, but this change feels much more organic in how it’s implemented.  Each weapon feels new while still retaining the core aspects that drew players to them in the first place. A fully equipped training grounds is also a great addition to familiarize yourself with every new addition.

World is no slouch in the content department either.  For the first time, a fully voiced story mode has been included.  This is the first time Monster Hunter has told such a poignant and thoughtful story.  They examine what it means to be a hunter, and their steps to understand the new world around them. The voice acting is great and I’m hopeful we see this as a regular trend moving forward.

Quests are plentiful, and a new addition called Bounties, similar to expeditions in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, are a great way to find new challenges and greater rewards than that of standard quests from the guild. Bounties also reward you with resource points just for playing and completing specified requests, giving players a resource system that is interconnected and seamless in its efforts to both encourage players to grind and accept challenges they may not otherwise be motivated to complete.

Event quests are back and are updated on a weekly basis. Collaborations with other popular franchises such as Mega Man and Horizon: Zero Dawn follow in the footsteps of the previous Nintendo themed content from the 3DS titles. All of this DLC is still free just as it has been throughout the franchises’ history.

 

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You could make a time lapse of the sunsets and sunrises in Astera. Seriously.

 

One specific direction that is very new to world is the way in which players actually hunt a monster.  Enter a quest and you’ll be tasked with tracking down monsters using your scout fly companions.  Discover tracks, examine mucus and follow the trail of your flies to hunt down each beast.  Gone are the days of awkwardly hurling paintballs at monsters and hoping they don’t run out at the worst time. Environmental factors such as paratoads, vines, and flash bugs offer an extra layer to Monster Hunter’s combat system, and make each area feel distinct and alive as a result.

The lifeblood of the series has always been the monsters themselves, and Monster Hunter: World introduces an strong variety of new predators to slay. Although bird wyverns such as Kulu-Ya-Ku and Pukei-Pukei are reminiscent of monsters from past games, their feathers are as colorful as their personalities, and are fantastic additions. Some of my favorite new monsters include the swift Odogaron, whose weapons and armor have some of the best designs I’ve seen yet. Nergigante, the new flagship monster, is just as aggressive and fun as I’d hoped, and his equipment doesn’t disappoint either.  Monster behaviors and designs are obviously done with much care and it makes every fight fun. With Deviljho lurking in a future patch, the amount of monsters to hunt is impressive to say the least.

The music direction of this entry is reminiscent of its past while also quite different.  Each area is accompanied by new themes that act as the perfect ambiance to your environment. While some of these themes may not sound quite as grandiose as some themes before them, they rank with some of the best scores produced in the series.

If there is one thing that Monster Hunter: World misses the mark on, it’s the changes to it’s online mode.  Previous games have had 4 player lobbies that were explicitly marked with goals for the hunters to work toward.  One lobby might be for a high rank Rathalos for example, and the sub-goal may be to consistently cut it’s tail off for specific parts. Players could label them as they saw fit and hunters of similar goals and ranks would join lobbies and work together.  Monster Hunter: World changes this and discourages players from even attempting this, but unintentionally.  Players can now send up an S.O.S. flare during a hunt.  This is designed so that hunters who are having trouble with a quest can ask for aid. Players can access a menu where they can search for flares and aid those i need.

gathering hub

The Gathering Hub is great, why not encourage players to use it?

The problem is twofold.  First, the game never teaches players to use the lobby system to find players that have similar hunting goals in mind.  You can still set up a lobby marked with specific monster goals, but only if you go out of your way to figure out how. The game only encourages the use of the flare.  It cuts the wait time in half for finding partners, but it’s also a luck of the draw.  You won’t know their hunter ranks or what their equipment is, and there won’t be any expressed objective either.  The other issue is that the lobby system has now expanded to 16 players.  While this may allow larger portions of communities or groups of friends play at the same time, quests are still locked at a maximum capacity of 4.  So there will be an odd man out or a fragmentation of whatever objective the original lobby maker created.  Previous titles also had players respawn back at the gathering hub while playing in online lobbies, but World takes you back to the village every time. This is not to say the game is worse off or implements online play poorly, but it doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction for what has previously been such a smooth online infrastructure.

I’ll concede it may just come down to my personal preferences, but I’m nonetheless baffled at how the old lobby system was subverted by an effort to add an interesting new feature to pair players together who need help.

While it’s a bit counter-intuitive, the new online system luckily doesn’t deter friends from logging on and hunting as a group.  You can still easily invite friends via an invite button on the menu, as well as create squads so that finding each other is easier. It’s still fun, and that’s what matters.

Overall, even with my gripes with the online, Monster Hunter: World is easily the best title in the series to date and I believe it will be recognized as one of the best games of 2018.  It’s massive amount of small improvements combined with phenomenal new monsters and brand new features make it ideal for veterans looking for a refreshing take on the almost 14-year-old franchise and a fantastic starting point for new players. It’s earned it’s record breaking sales numbers and every accolade awarded to it thus far.  Now if only Capcom could announce the exact release date for the Deviljho DLC.

Score: 9.5/10

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GP Santa Clara Tournament Report: Modern Abzan *23rd*

I’m going to try to keep this as concise as I can since a 14 round GP with Abzan isn’t the most interesting thing to read by any means.  Going into the tournament I chose Abzan for two reasons.  Firstly, lingering souls is a very strong card against Death’s Shadow and is just strong in general.  Secondly I’ve been playing the B/G/x archetype for several years and it was a comfort pick.  For reference, our standard player was on Esper God Pharaoh’s Gift and our legacy player was on BUG Delver. Here’s the list I played:

garbage

I know some card choices may seem strange so:

3x Grim Flayer: This card can be awful in some matchups (burn, eldrazi tron, company decks, etc) but it does exactly what I want Dark Confidant to do in Jund: get me cards I want to see.  Didn’t have room for a 4th. The card ended up being fantastic every time it dealt damage. I’d play it again.

2x Siege Rhino: This is the worst card in the deck and I don’t think it’s close.  However, In this version of Abzan I wanted to have some sort of top end that can get damage through.  Also it beats Worship, which is almost relevant. This card in my opinion is unplayable and wouldn’t play it again.

1x Twilight Mire: This was from a last minute decision to remove the 4th Blooming marsh and it paid off immensely.  Coming into play untapped with no life loss is broken.

2x Tireless Tracker: This card is insane and I hate that it’s good.  It let’s you play an even more grindy game than before.  It’s slow, but so is the deck.  I boarded them out against most aggressive decks.

1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: Gideon is absolute trash and unless I lose my next 5 mirror matches in a row I won’t play it again. He was meant to be a clock against tron and control decks that just ends up being too slow.  I played with a 14 card sideboard for this tournament essentially.

1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor: Sorin’s my pet card that I use to break midrange mirrors.  He ultimates very quickly and he has insane synergy with lingering souls to gain you dumb amounts of life.

1x Stirring Wildwood.  I don’t know why I thought this card was even remotely playable but I’m not good at building decks.  This should be a 3rd Shambling Vent or a 2nd forest.

Round 1 vs Mill

Our opponents came all the way from Italy which was pretty neat.  What wasn’t neat was playing against Mill at Comp REL.  The matchup isn’t bad by any means, but you can get archive trapped out of the game sometimes and it’s annoying in general.

Game 1 I beat him down with Tarmogoyfs and stripped his hand of cards he needed.  Wasn’t very close.

Game 2 I kept a very slow hand and got milled out.  Nice meme.

Game 3 I kept a very suspect hand that needed one more land to be great.  However, the match was over after we resolved mulligans as my teammates had already won their games.  Unless he milled me early, I had no 3rd land in my next 6 or so cards.

Team is now 1-0

Round 2 vs U/R Through the Breach

There isn’t much to say about this round but I actually put my opponent on storm until I saw Cryptic command from a Thoughtseize later in the game and then I realized I needed to be scared of Emrakul.

Game 1: He died to threats he couldn’t interact with.

Game 2: He had more staying power but his can trips never found him anything.

Personal: 1-0-1

Team: 2-0

Round 3 vs Grixis Shadow

My opponent was actually a really cool guy.  His standard teammate told us that he just started playing constructed and my legacy teammate literally was teaching their legacy player how to get Craterhoof into play in elves where it wasn’t intuitive.  He was literally playing 3 games of magic at once a few times.

Game 1: I’m able to snag a snapcaster with Inquisition and he discards some of my threats as well until I can get some lingering souls and other threats out to kill him. This is a very good matchup in general for me and one I was prepared for.

Game 1: Opponent struggles to keep threats on the table as I deploy mine.  Tarmogoyf hits hard.  Shoutouts to him for being such a good humored person.

Personal 2-0-1

Team: 3-0

Round 4 vs UWR Control

No not the Geist version.  This was my game to lose since I constantly trash talk this deck.  I think it’s durdle city and I cannot fathom how pooping out a singleton Torrential Gearhulk with Nahiri is stronger than just playing U/R Breach or the UWR Nahiri deck that feel out of favor a while back.

Game 1: His draws are very well equipped to beat all of my threats and I scoop with no cards left in the interest of finishing the match time.  HOWEVER, I made an egregious error in trying to take back a play.  He got gearhulk from nahiri ultimate and I forgot that it gained haste.  Opponent said “take 5?” and I said OK.  I said that forgetting I had a path to exile in hand and then in a panic tried to do it before damage.  I shook my head and said “No I said damage resolves and I’m at 5” and I path’d it on endstep.  I should have, in hindsight, called a judge on myself, or my opponent should have called one on me, as that is never ok at this level of competition.

Game 2: Tireless tracker is a dumb card when they get you 3 or more clues and your grim flayers have found you every threat you could want.  I made another really loose mistake and tried to attack with a tracker after my flayers had been blown up by an engineered explosives, which my opponent pointed out to me.  Oops. I’m more than confident I would have won that game, but my teammates had won theirs already and the match was over

Personal: 2-0-2

Team: 4-0

Round 5 vs Eldrazi

Games 1 and 2 I got completely stomped and it wasn’t even close.  I made a huge error by not holding Liliana in my hand for a threat and instead developed her pitching Damnation.  Nice. Top deck reality smasher ended me.

This is already a bad matchup and I played path to exile almost specifically for this, but It ended up not getting me there.

Personal: 2-1-2

Team: 5-0

Round 6 vs Coralhelm Company

Luckily this is a matchup I have a ton of experience in and was prepared for.  I don’t think it’s a great matchup but when you play a deck that’s a pile of removal it never feels unwinnable.

Game 1: Tarmogoyf beats a very slow hand from my opponent.

Game 2: He companies like a god and spell quellers my answers.

Game 3: I can’t remember if this was in game 3 or 1, but I was able to maelstrom pulse 2 birds when he was on 1 land and fatal push his 3 drop.  Opponents mana was bad in this game either way and lingering souls is a good card.

Personal: 3-1-2

Team: 6-0

Round 7 vs Storm

My opponent had the most energy I’ve ever seen in my life and was jamming out to stuff on his headphones. He was very animated until I started playing and he got quiet very fast.  If you can’t interact with Tarmogoyf you probably will lose.  Abzan really has no excuse to lose against storm unless you draw terribly.  I 2-0’d this one quickly.

Unfortunately my teammates lost xd.

Personal: 4-1-2

Team: 6-1

Round 8 vs Reid Duke on Jund Shadow

OH BOY THE BIG ONE.  Anyone who I talk to about magic knows I’m a huge Reid Duke fanboy and I had been joking ALL DAY about the possibility of running into the Peach Garden Oath team consisting of some of the best players in the world.  And here we are.  My teammates let me know this was my fault.

I knew Reid was on Jund Shadow splaying lingering souls from observing a match of his a few rounds prior to this one, and I’ve played various mirrors over the years so I was prepared but not confident. I just wanted to give him a good match.

Game 1: Oh boy time to give him a great game I think to myself.  Then I mulligan to 5 and just hope I can prove I’m not trash. He beats me pretty soundly but it wasn’t a stomp like I had imagined. Lingering souls tokens quickly finish the game for him.

Game 2: I’m able to draw an insane amount of removal and Reid takes a ton of damage just through his own cards, making my threats a priority to kill no matter what I play. Sorin Vampire gets me there.

Game 3: Reid keeps a hand of shockland, street wraith, street wraith, thoughtseize you on his first turn and I’m on the draw.  I fight back as best as I can but at one point, either I wasn’t paying attention to his traverses or what but the turn I felt I had the game he deploys 3 threats in one turn as my Sorin is about to ult.  I’m able to clear a few of them and I know if I can ult Sorin I don’t think I can lose.  Reid draws his card for turn and I see Owen Turtenwald go wide-eyed and start cheering while making this face:

pogchamp.jpg

 

Reid had drawn a fatal push to clear the way for his Death’s Shadow to kill my sorin in one hit.  And I promptly drew blanks as he drew more threats.  I thanked Reid for great games and he agreed to answer a few of my questions about B/G/x.  I asked him if he thought Bloodbraid Elf was getting unbanned next month and he chuckled and told me he’s really not the person to ask about that, but he did feel it would be unbanned in the next 2 years.  Ok. During the match Reid thoughtseizes me and sees path to exile in my hand.  For those who don’t know, Reid is not a fan of path in this archetype whatsoever. In every article he writes about Abzan he reiterates that it’s unecessary and counter intuitive to the resource denial plan. So when I revealed my hand after telling him at the beginning that I was a fan and appreciated his articles, it was incredibly embarrassing.

Basically I told him I felt the eldrazi matchup suffered a lot without it, and he agreed with me.  He told me he just hates it as early interaction against company decks where mana dorks are so prevalent.  So basically he wants to beat company, I want to beat eldrazi.

Personal: 4-2-2

Team: 6-2 and live for Day 2

Day 2

Day 2 we were a bit nervous as the standings had us sandwiched between 2 teams that we really didn’t want to play against

uhoh

Luckily we dodged them but we constantly saw pro teams, hall of famers, and pro tour regulars on either side of us the next few rounds, which was pretty surreal.

Round 9 vs Storm

This storm player was very meticulous and seemed to SCRY EVERYTHING TO THE TOP holy moly.

Game 1: I get dumpstered by insane tempo and couldn’t win quick enough.

Game 2: I brought in the spicy anti empty the warrens package of zealous persecution and flaying tendrills.  Ironically I drew maelstrom pulse to kill 12 goblins and kill him.

Game 3: I get there with threats that can’t be interacted with.  Storm’s a good matchup.

Personal: 5-2-2

Team: 7-2

Round 10 vs Burn

Every time I think I have a read on what an opponent is playing based on their mannerisms I get memed.  This guy was fairly quiet and reserved, and then his turn 1 is lava spike you.  Magic is hard. Context: I hate losing to burn, and Kitchen finks hasn’t left my sideboard for several years. Apparently this guy also is a regular on the SCG tour.

Game 1: Opponent seemingly keeps a terrible hand that can’t be beaten by my draws

Game 2: I curve into finks and other lifegain shenanigans and as I win game 2 I find out both my teammates have lost their games.

Personal 6-2-2

Team: 7-3

Round 11 vs Dredge

I didn’t actually know people still played this after Grave-troll got banned again.

Game 1: He keeps a slow hand and I Tarmogoyf is a good card

Game 2: He crushes me and I die on turn 3.

Game 3: Almost identical to what happened in game 2.  This matchup is pretty atrocious and very difficult without either graveyard hate or removal with an exile clause. Our team lost as well.

Personal 6-3-2

Team: 7-4

Round 12 vs Burn

OH BOY good thing I stubbornly always prepare to never lose to this deck.

Game 1: He’s creature heavy and I’m able to turn the corner quickly after he runs out of cards.

Game 2: I get the most disgusting lifegain curve: triple escalate Collective Brutality to kill your Goblin Guide, drain you, and take your burn spell, Kitchen Finks, Sorin, finks in that order.

Personal: 7-3-2

Team: 8-4

Round 13 vs U/R Breach

Oh no not again. Thankfully my opponent was incredibly nice and it was actually a pleasure to play someone so late in the tournament who was this relaxed.

Game 1: He can’t take my threats off the table and his cantrips don’t get him to his combo

Game 2 and 3: Kind of a blur but I remember him having insane amounts of tempo that awkward mana on my end can’t handle.  I do remember making a sequencing mistake where I could have avoided a remand by playing a 2 drop and replaying it with a land I had topdecked but instead tried to keep forcing out Lily to keep him down a few cards. Flet bad to lose this one.

Teammates were able to get us there.

Personal: 7-4-2

Team: 9-4

Round 14 (Final Round) vs Tribal Zoo

My opponent in game one fetches for two shocklands that typically aren’t seen in the same deck, looks at my face and asks if I’m confused.  I’m not, I just haven’t played against this in literally 3 or 4 years.

Game 1: I stabilize at 6 life and My threats end him as my removal gets me through his creatures.

Game 2: Triple 1 drop is way too fast for me to do anything about. Tribal flames for 5 is a great meme.

Game 3: Oh boy I find out I’m the deciding match and there’s potential money on the line.

My hand is actually insane and I snap keep 7 with all the removal I could want.  Interestingly my opponent has thoughtseize to make it less great, but we’re still ok. My opponent is taking damage from his own cards constantly, so I know any threat I draw is going to be really hard for him to beat.  I manage to get kitchen finks and 4 lingering souls tokens to put me in a position where my next swing is 100% lethal.  Opponent sighs, draws, and WINDMILL SLAMS PYROCLASM?????????????? I think pyroclasm is terrible against abzan and I never would recommend anyone bring it in no matter how badly you hate lingering souls.  My opponent casts it leaving me with kitchen finks persisted and he has a swiftspear.  Sorin comes down and makes me a guy so I can try to end the game.  Opponent then draws his card, and his teammate shakes my teammates hand as they concede and we end our tournament at 10-4 for 23rd place. The cutoff for prize money was 24th.

Personal 8-4-2

Team: 10-4

Overall the tournament was a ton of fun and I hope wizards does more team events.

As far as Abzan goes, I think the deck is ok but it can be way too slow for it’s own good.  I don’t know how I dodged  regular Tron, Valakut, and affinity all weekend but I won’t complain.  Death’s shadow likely is just a better verison of what I’m doing.  I don’t think I’ll be playing this going forward as I’m hoping Bloodbraid is unbanned next month. (UPDATE FEB 12: WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO)

TL;DR Abzan is medium and team events are a blast.

 

Nintendo Direct 9/13 Thoughts and Impressions

Nintendo used their Direct today to showcase their upcoming Switch and 3DS titles aimed at releases throughout the rest of the year and early next year.  While some were duped into thinking there might be Smash Bros. info, I myself was baited by a troll retweet from a beloved game developer that there may be some Bayonetta news.  Either way, the Direct delivered quite a bit and left some to be desired in other aspects.  I won’t be going over everything, as there was a lot of information mentioned that was already known, but I will touch on all the bigger announcements.

Nintendo 3DS

  1. Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon: Nintendo reconfirmed that the new entry will focus on Necrozma’s interactions with Solgaleo and Lunala, whilst having numerous new additions to the game to keep it fresh and interesting.  The biggest announcement is probably the New 2DS XL Pokeball edition that launches prior to the games on November 3.pokemonds
  2. Kirby Battle Royale: Kirby is getting a neat new game packed with multiple mini-games along with a single player and online multiplayer mode on January 19. This is in addition to the mainline switch title that was announced at E3.
  3. Mario Party: The Top 100I don’t like or enjoy Mario Party in the slightest, but it’s difficult to ignore the nostalgia from I get from the original N64 titles. Nintendo’s bringing back the top 100 mini-games across every single Mario Party game, and it’s sure to delight fans of the series.  Everyone can party to their heart’s content on November 10.
  4. Orange and White New 2DS XL: We may never know why both colors of the new system didn’t release simultaneously, but Nintendo is finally giving North America the system some fans were hoping to get originally.   This 2DS XL lands in stores on October 6.

Nintendo also announced details about a 3DS Minecraft port, a port of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, several different Atlus RPGs and new Yokai Watch 2 content. I think it’s a healthy way to round out the system announcements aside from reminding us about games like Metroid: Samus Returns and other titles that we already are aware of and are so close to releasing.

Nintendo Switch

Switch software was clearly the biggest winner from the Direct and had quite a few surprises.

  1. Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Alongside a new trailer, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is also getting an awesome themed Pro Controller as well as a special edition that comes with a soundtrack, steel book case and 220-page artbook.  The trailer also did a much better job at coherently explaining the battle system and introducing the world than any of the Gamescom demos I watched. I think the price is a bit hefty at $99.99 but it’s cool that the hardcore fans have a cool edition of the game if they so choose. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 arrives on December 1. xenoblade2
  2. Fire Emblem Warriors Lyn Announcement: I never thought anyone could instantly defeat Persona 5, Nier: Automata, and Breath of the Wild for my game of the year contender but announcing my favorite Fire Emblem character is a pretty good way to do it.  In all seriousness the game will hopefully be a bit more diverse in roster and hopefully won’t be “Fire Emblem Warriors: Awakening and Fates Edition featuring Marth.” Nintendo let us know that not only are the conscious of fan demand, they devoted a whole minute and a half to letting us know about one character roughly 5 weeks prior to the game’s launch. This Warriors title is still set for October 20.lyn (1)
  3. Arena of Valor: A MOBA is being developed for the Switch.  I don’t really know what to say other than it look’s strikingly similar to League of Legends and will be an eShop exclusive this holiday.
  4. Doom and Wolfenstein 2: Doom for the Nintendo Switch will be a part of the holiday lineup while Wolfenstein 2 will release sometime next year and not in October as it will on PS4 and Xbox One.  I do still think this is quite important as everyone loves to point out how Nintendo systems lack “hardcore” titles.  The fact that Wolfenstein 2 is making it onto the platform hopefully will encourage developers to release and develop their larger AAA titles for Switch as well.
  5. Breath of the Wild Championship Amiibos: We finally got information about what they actually do and when we get our hands on them! In addition to getting special equipment and items, the amiibo will unlock special divine beast helmets relative to the beast they protect.  These amiibo release on November 10, and hopefully the second part of the DLC will launch alongside them.Switch_ZeldaBotW_amiibo-Urbosa_helm
  6. Project Octopath Traveler: In what I think was one of the cooler surprises this Direct, Square Enix is developing a peculiar new RPG for the Switch.  As the title alludes to, there are 8 protagonists each with special talents that let them perform special actions.  As we see in the trailer, one character has the ability to challenge anyone to battle, while another character can lure other characters to other locations.  The game is being helmed by the producers of Bravely Default and sports what the devlopers are calling “HD-2D,” which I think looks fantastic visually.  Theres a demo of the game available for download right now, and I’ll be posting my impressions of it soon. 
  7. Kirby Star Allies: The Kirby title announced at E3 finally has a title! Though not slated until Next Spring, fans get to look forward to making enemies allies and teaming up with 3 other friends for 4 player co-op.  The game definitely seems like it could be one of the more interesting local multiplayer Switch titles.
  8. Super Mario Odyssey: With roughly six weeks until launch, Nintendo showed off several new worlds and even a few story details in a new trailer of what’s shaping up to be the biggest Mario title since Galaxy 2.  I’ll let the trailer speak for itself, but this is game is surely a game of the year contender and anyone who misses the days of Super Mario Sunshine, Mario 64, or Mario Galaxy needs to make sure this is on their radar.  I’m pretty eager to run around the different worlds in a sombrero when the game launches on October 27. A Mario Odyssey Switch bundle with red joy cons, a carrying case and a digital copy of the game will also be releasing alongside the game. I also wrote about my hands-on time with the game at E3 which you can check out here.  

Just as it did in the 3DS segment Nintendo reminded us that there are a plethora of other titles releasing soon as well as several exclusive to the eshop.

I wouldn’t expect another Nintendo Direct for quite some time unless there’s more information to be talked about prior to the holidays, but it was definitely a solid Direct overall in my opinion, even if I’m only looking forward to a handful of what was talked about personally.

E3 2017 Recap Part 1: Hands-On Impressions

As someone who has been following the games industry for well over 10 years and got to attend E3 for the first time ever, describing the show in a few words would be impossible.  I think I’m more equipped to describe what I saw played, and what I played myself, in many words and enough detail to give you guys a better idea at what to expect come release date.

I want to preface my impressions by clarifying that part one is all “hands-on,” meaning that I played the game myself, with a controller in my hand at a demo station.  Part two will be “Eyes-On,” which refers to a live demo I viewed behind closed doors and watched a developer of the game play in real time.

Hands-On: Super Mario Odyssey

Let’s start with what I feel was far and away my game of show.  The demo units inside the Nintendo booth featured a level where you got to explore New Donk City as well as a desert level.  Having witnessed almost everyone before me in line play around in the city, I tried the desert for a change of pace.  Fans of previous Mario adventures such as Galaxy and Sunshine should feel right at home as soon as they pick up a controller.  All of Mario’s signature jumps have returned including the triple jump, turnaround jump, side jump, and crouch leap.  Mario can also throw his hat Cappy via a simple button press or a flick of a joy-con.  Immediately upon exploring it was apparent that the level was expansive and didn’t just feature ways to advance and reach a goalpost.  Small shops and hidden alleyways are home to NPCs that give you clues as well as stores that let Mario obtain fancy tuxedo outfits and the like.

mario e3

Platforming is as solid as ever, and this time around Mario has the new ability to capture certain enemies by throwing his hat at them.  At one point I faced an obstacle that required me to jump onto moving platforms that rotated on a cadence.  I happened to throw my hat and hit a bullet bill, allowing me to capture it and fly above the platforms and reach the other side with ease.  It may seem like it cheapens the platforming experience, but it felt like a refreshing way to use my environment and enemies to my advantage.  Another point in the level featured hidden pathways and collectibles.  By inhabiting one of the stone golems nearby, I could tap a button to put on the sunglasses the golem was wearing in order to see the hidden paths that lie ahead.  These instances were both completely optional, I never had to utilize Mario’s new power, but they were definitely a welcome inclusion and made it feel distinctive from Mario’s past adventures.

One of the most interesting new features was when I discovered an 8-bit warp pipe that transformed me into the pixelated Mario we’re all familiar with.  The game briefly transitioned into a 2D sidescroller that had me jumping and avoiding enemies in order to reach the top of a building, where Mario then assumed his regular form.  It was a brief aside in an already expansive and secret-filled level, but it was also a seamless integration of Mario’s history that felt like a fun way to incorporate 2D platforming in a 3D game.  I can’t wait to see what other mechanics lie within other levels in the full game.

mario e3 2

I think many people, myself included, had mixed feelings of Mario exploring a city with humans.  I’m glad to say that when viewed live, none of that detracts from the overall experience.  Pauline (who fans may remember from the original Donkey Kong games) makes a return as the mayor of New Donk City, and the inhabitants are lively and will serve to aid Mario in several different ways.

New moon-shaped star pieces and other collectibles were also present in the demo, though it isn’t clear how they tie into the story just yet.  It seemed as though there were several per level, and may be similar to items such as star coins from the past.  Overall, Super Mario Odyssey played great, looked phenomenal, and most importantly was fun to play.  My time with the game was brief at just 10 minutes, but it was enough to convince me that this is a title I cannot miss.  Had Zelda not released the same year as Mario Odyssey, I’d expect it to be a heavy game of the year contender, and for some it will be.

Hands-On: Marvel VS Capcom Infinite

MvCI was the game I was most excited to play on the show floor, but I left my demo session with mixed feelings.  It should be immediately noted that this game does not feel like Marvel 3.  I would describe it as an interesting medium between Marvel 2 and Tatsunoko VS Capcom.  The game features 4 buttons, light punch, heavy punch, light kick, heavy kick and buttons for your infinity stone and tag-in.

Although the game has no assist attacks like previous titles the tag-ins in this game makes up for it, especially with all of the options you have at your disposal.  Likewise, Infinity Stones feel very core to the overall gameplay and may have the potential to give characters a boost in areas they’re lacking, be it a projectile game or mobility.  Speaking of mobility, air-dashing was noticably absent from many characters.  Players like myself will definitely need to rely on other tactics in order to close the distance between you and your opponent.  I opted to try out Strider, Ryu, Captain Marvel, and Zero whom was the only one with an air-dash.

The returning characters I tried felt very similar, and my opponent obliterated me with Spencer combos I had seen in Marvel 3.  I’m hopeful that there’s more tricks up these characters’ sleeves as I’m very much a novice when it comes to Marvel, so I’m sure there were things I missed.  As much as I would like to go into detail about input lag, frame data, ground bounces, and other hardcore jargon I’m simply not qualified to do so. The main reason I left my play session with mixed feelings was because the game failed to really wow me.  I enjoyed it and had fun, but that was it.  Overall MvCI still feels like a VS game and I’m looking forward to picking the game up come September.

Hands-On: Dragon Ball Fighter Z

Dragonball Fighter Z is already the incredibly fun and exciting fighting game that I hope Marvel Infinite ends up being.  I am by no means a Dragonball fan.  All of my interest left in the franchise stems from nostalgic memories from my childhood.  Dragon Ball Fighter Z nevertheless manages to captivate my nostalgia in an endless fury of explosions, ki blasts, and incredibly flash combos.

The demo features Super Saiyan 2 Teen Gohan, Goku, Vegeta, Majin Buu, Perfect Cell, and Frieza in his final form.  Luckily, I was on the demo unit in the corner with the least supervision, so I got to sneak in an extra game and try out every character as the game is 3 versus 3.

Visually the game is easily on par with the 2.5D artwork of Guilty Gear Xrd.  It’s incredible how phenomenal the game looks this early on in development.  DBFZ does its very best to be as flashy as possible while being as accessible as possible.  Long combo strings can be executed with one button and ki blasts can be executed rapidly with another.  Special moves are executed similar to street fighter’s “hadouken” input or reverse hadouken inputs.  All characters were able to dash, fly, teleport and pummel the crap out of each other pretty effortlessly.  Granted, those who try to execute a game plan will be rewarded while players relying on single button combos will struggle to win consistently.

I can easily see this game bringing in novices to the genre in addition to bringing in fans of the series with its accessibility, especially with how well it replicates the over-the-top action of the anime in glorious visuals.  I still am shocked by just how much I enjoyed my time with this game.  I can only hope that a switch version becomes a reality as it would be fantastic to enjoy this in portable form.

Hands-On: Shantae Pirate Queen’s Quest DLC

Shantae: Half Genie Hero is due to get it’s first bit of DLC very soon, and Wayforward was kind enough to have the Nintendo Switch version available to try out for fans and backers alike.  This DLC features Shantae’s nemesis, Risky Boots, who is playable for the first time.

Risky feels very unique compared to Shantae.  She brandishes a sword, and wields a gun with different types of ammo that you can toggle through via the shoulder button.  Some explode on impact while others fire in multiple directions when you shoot it.  Risky also has a grapple hook that she fires directly above her.  You can’t change the angle, but it’s still very useful for ascending to platforms.

Because Risky isn’t a genie like Shantae, she cannot transform into any animal forms to advance.  Instead, Risky must fire her gun at targets that reveal platforms.  These platforms appear for a short amount of time, where you must navigate Risky across before they disappear.

The levels are the same locales that players will remember from the main game, but Risky felt distinctive enough to bring something new to a game that was already great to begin with.

Wayforward obviously took their time with this DLC as it looks great and is animated incredibly well.  Fans of this game have a lot to look forward to, and backers get it for free!

Hands-On: Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom

I still remember how excited I was for the original Ni No Kuni.  It promised to be Studio Ghibli inspired world that I could explore and experience an incredible narrative.  But no matter how fantastic the characters were, no matter how visually pleasing the game was and despite having a story that was compelling, the entire game was completely marred by the atrocious combat .  It kept me disengaged and I stopped caring about completing the game and exploring more of what it had to offer.

ni no kuni 2

I’m elated to say that Ni No Kuni 2 completely ditches everything about the combat from the previous title and has switched to a real time action style in the vein of the “Tales-Of” series.  Gone are the days of training familiars and seeing the main characters in the background. The protagonist is now playable and offers a slew of ways to dispatch enemies that are both interesting and fun.

Ni No Kuni 2’s demo stations offered a look at two different fights from two different parts of the game.  I opted for the arena trial that tasked our main character Evan to defeat a beast-like monster in order to continue on his quest.  There was clearly very little context provided so as not to spoil anything from the main game, so I can’t say much more in regards to the story.  What I can explain in detail, however, is the combat.

ni no kuni

As previously mentioned, Ni No Kuni 2 has adopted an action style combat system where you execute attacks in real time.  You have light and heavy attacks, which when pushed in succession offers quick multi hit combos to take down foes.  Evan also is adept in magic, and can blast enemies from a distance.  There is also a guard button, a dodge roll button, and holding R2 brings up a subset menu that allows you to push any of the face buttons to perform strong special moves.  One of these moves (R2+Square) had Evan unleash a fury of slashes with his sword, while another (R2+Triangle) performed a healing spell.  I didnt notice any sort of drawback to spamming these moves, whether it be a meter or another resource that drains from these commands wasn’t clear from my time with the game.  I imagine there was something I missed here, but I couldn’t tell what exactly that was.

The best news is combat is simple yet enjoyable.  I was easily able to conceptualize what I wanted my character to do and execute it with little trouble.  The controls were responsive and I always felt like it was my timing that was off or a mistake on my part if I got hit.  One thing of note is that hitstun seemed to be absent while fighting.  I definitely took a few hits but my character did not seem to flinch if they were light.  At one point I was knocked down for several moments, but that was what made me realize I hadn’t flinched before that.

Another layer to the combat in this title is the supporting spirits called Higgledies.  These will let you apply buffs to your party including healing, attack boosts, defense boosts and shield barriers.

Overall I walked away excited to dive back into a world coated in the art style of a studio I adore.  The story this time around promises to be more mature and from a more adult perspective.  JRPG fans truly have a gem on the way this winter.

Ascent from Ash: A first timer’s Dark Souls Retrospective

The Dark Souls franchise has the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, of being known for the promise of death.  I was originally alienated by the claim that I would enjoy myself while dying repeatedly and foolishly made the assumption that this franchise was not for me.

It was not until becoming enthralled in developer From Software’s Bloodborne that I was sold on venturing into the world of Dark Souls 3.  Four full playthroughs and nearly 100 hours split between 3 different characters and I can confidently say it is one of my favorite gaming experiences.  With the upcoming Ashes of Ariandel DLC just over a month away, I thought I’d take a look as to why exactly Dark Souls is such a unique entity and how I went from feeling alienated by it’s motif of death to allured.

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“Ashen one, be sure to bring me more souls”

Difficulty

As I mentioned, Dark Souls loves to tout it’s “You Will Die” moniker, sometimes to the point where you ask yourself just how that could be fun.  Death serves several purposes in the game, but I think the most compelling purpose is how it teaches the player.  Similar to Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3’s difficulty is designed to teach the player how to approach the game.  Players who take a hack and slash approach to groups of enemies will likely find themselves being punished by a quickly diminishing stamina bar, as well as a trap or two and a death screen for their hastiness.  Rather than get frustrated at my unsuccessful attempts to progress, I found the game telling me in an abstract yet effective way that it takes a creative use of resources to overcome obstacles.

If I see a mob, perhaps I can lure enemies out with a firebomb.  If a heavily armored enemy blocks my path, a ranged approach might be the best option.  While some of these may sound like common sense, environmental hazards and other obstacles add complexity, and your strategy has to adapt with it.  This lead to each encounter being meaningful, as even the weakest of enemies have the potential to kill you if you make too big of a mistake.  In some cases, I just needed to “git gud” as the Dark Souls social media accounts encourage.

This is…Hyrule?

Dark Souls 3 contains nearly 20 interconnected locations in which the player will traverse.  Though each contains a disgusting amount of horrors who will all try to bar your way, each area made me question just what was going on.  As a huge Legend of Zelda fan, I immediately recalled different dungeons and other ventures from my time in Hyrule.  But I never found myself quite as enthralled or inquisitive toward what Hyrule showed me.  Towns in Hyrule were often lively, characters would interact with me, and the music was unforgettable.  But for me, Hyrule never made me question what was going on.  I found the lack of narrative and the absence of answers to be just as interactive, if not more so as when I first met Princess Zelda.  What does it mean to rekindle the flame? What happened to make Irithyll, a striking castle town, barren of life?  Each question answered gradually fleshes out the lore that is so intricately hidden within conversations, secret areas, and NPC encounters.  It’s what motivated me to press on, I had to know what was around the next corner and how it all ended.

 

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“Prithee be careful…”

You are not alone

As enthralling as I found the world of Dark Souls 3 to be, it wouldn’t be what it is without invaders.  While connected online, other players from various covenants will have the opportunity to invade your world.  For finding and killing you, they’re awarded special covenant items as well as souls.  In addition to the most heinous enemies you’ll encounter, you also have the change of another player lying in wait to ruin your day.  Frustrating as the feature might be to some, some of my most memorable moments were when my friend and I would face off 2v2 against members from the Aldritch Faithful whilst dodging giants and 10 foot tall rats.  I found this to serve a dual purpose of both alleviating the feeling that you are entirely alone in your quest to rekindle the flame as well as provide exciting diversions from the main story.

Success

Among everything else that made Dark Souls 3 so engrossing for me was the immense feeling of satisfaction you get from overcoming the games’ toughest obstacles.  You are rewarded for perseverance, you are rewarded for experimentation, you are rewarded for exploration and you are rewarded for finally toppling the boss who you thought you couldn’t possibly best.  Hidden endings, awesome gear, and fantastic weaponry are fun payoffs as well.

Dark Souls 3 entranced me in ways that I never expected it could.  I would recommend the series to those looking for a challenge and have an affinity for medieval fantasy settings.  I’m looking forward to more gear, new areas, and even more deaths when Ashes of Ariandel releases in October.

Thrill of The Hunt

All of the games we love have some meaning behind them.  These meanings are developed through the moments we experience that stick with us, the characters we can’t forget, and the worlds we want to explore continuously.

Monster Hunter harmonizes all three of these concepts into an entity that cannot be replicated.  Its been going strong in Japan for years, and now its popularity is reaching more people all around the world.

Because Monster Hunter X just released in Japan, I thought I would reflect on what Monster Hunter means to me.

Monster Hunter means being pitted against foes that dwarf you in size while trembling with excitement at the thought of taking them down in style.

Monster Hunter means having strange feelings of adoration for a beast that you’re bent on slaying .  It’s hard not to be in awe over the incredible design of the monsters you encounter.  You can’t quite explain it-even if you love them, you’re still fine with taking them down anyways.  Over and over again.

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Majestic Ferocity.  Video Screengrab by me

Monster Hunter means playing online and staying up with your friends until 3 in the morning trying to obtain that final Elder Dragon Gem that you need to complete your new weapon.  Your dreams later that night may involve obtaining extra materials that you will realize you don’t have when you wake up.

Monster Hunter means randomly meeting other fans of the series and instantly discussing our favorite weapons and monsters.

Monster Hunter means being serenaded by phenomenal music during every hunt.

Monster Hunter means creating your own story through memorable hunts and unbelievable moments.  There’s very little narrative in the series, and that’s OK.  The hunt, the living environments, the topples, mounts, and the KOs in between all craft memories that motivate you to hunt again and again.  Monster Hunter’s story is the player’s experiences, making no two hunter’s stories exactly alike.

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Prime hunting grounds.  Video Screengrab by me.

Monster Hunter means developing superhuman patience.  You’re very aware of the 2% drop rate of the material you’re looking for, but you’ll keep trying anyways.

Monster Hunter means wondering why that felyne will somehow only steal your mega potions.

felyne

The face of evil.  Video screengrab by me.

 

Monster Hunter means being rewarded for your perfect positioning and mechanical ability.  Knowing your prey is only half the battle.  Hunting them effectively will lead to moments like this:

Above all, Monster Hunter means having fun.  Whether it’s playing online with friends, crafting a fashionable armor set, or finally defeating that elder dragon, every one of these aspects is a blast.  Hopefully we’ll be able to start creating memories with Monster Hunter X like Japan in the near future.

Thank You for Playing

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  To go with the theme of the holiday, I want to share something that I was grateful for today.  Nintendo President Satoru Iwata unfortunately passed away earlier this year, but recently, the Gaming Historian YouTube channel released a video chronicling his life.  There is a lot regarding Iwata that I was previously unaware of, and I learned a lot.  Check out the video below.  It’s long, but very detailed and worth watching.

It’s inspiring to see just how much Mr. Iwata’s legacy affects people.  I think I can speak for more than just myself when I say that today, among our family, friends and other things, I am thankful for all of his hard work in shaping not only Nintendo, but the industry as a whole during his lifetime.

My Top 6 Nintendo Direct Announcements

After a lengthy hiatus, Nintendo streamed a new Nintendo Direct, the first since the passing of President Satoru Iwata earlier this year.  This time, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime and Director of Product Marketing Bill Trinen were on camera sharing the newest information with fans.

The announcements were exciting as well as disappointing in some regards.  I’m going to focus on what I found most interesting rather than go through every piece of information.

  1. The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess HD

Nintendo kicked off the Direct with a game that is extremely dear to me.  Twilight Princess released on the Wii and the GameCube nine years ago, but that game was an experience I’ll never forget.  It’s unfortunate we’ll have to wait until March 4, but I’m more than happy to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise with one of my favorite titles.

2.  Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow on 3DS Virtual Console

Nintendo seems to be using one of their old automatic money printing techniques as they announced that we’ll all be able to return to the 8-bit Kanto region on Feb. 27.  Not only can we play the games on the 3DS, but we can trade Pokemon and battle via wireless communication.

3. Star Fox Zero Delayed until April.

We previously had heard about the delay last month, and now we have a release date.  We did get some cool new footage of the transforming Arwings and Landmasters and a closer look at how the game will use the Wii U game pad.

4. Linkle

I’m not a Dynasty warriors fan, nor can I say that I am I interested in Hyrule Warriors.  However, it is noteworthy that Nintendo showcased a brand new character for the 3DS installment of Hyrule warriors named Linkle.  All we really know is that she wields dual crossbows and is a Hylian warrior in every sense of the word.  With an awesome design to complement her robust fighting style, I definitely would not mind seeing Linkle in some non spin-off titles in the future.

5. Fire Emblem Fates

We finally learned how Fire Emblem Fates will be distributed in North America!  The game will release in two different versions, Conquest and Birthright.  Both are unique games that tell different sides of a related story. There will be a third version titled Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations which “reveals” even more details of the story and will be available digitally.  We also get an awesome special edition that contains both versions with a few extra goodies.

6. Cloud is in Super Smash Bros

Trends right after Cloud's announcement.

Trends right after Cloud’s announcement.

I’m not really a Final Fantasy fan, and this announcement felt like it came out of nowhere.  Nevertheless, it was earth shattering news for a ton of Smash fans.  I don’t know how a character who’s only been on Nintendo platforms a couple of times got in, but it’s definitely a lucrative move.  I think James Chen said it best on twitter when he tweeted that Smash has become a playable celebration of games, and I agree that this inclusion furthers that sentiment.

So there you have it, all the Nintendo Direct news that I’m most excited about.  Nintendo fans have a solid amount of games to look forward to, and I didn’t even cover the new Splatoon content, new Pokken trailer or the new Dragon Quest that’s on its way. What are you most looking forward to?

Fun Stats about Game Consoles

Companies love to tout console sales, and the NPD gives us data on a monthly basis.  But a few days ago our friends at the Pew Research Center released some interesting demographics about console owners.

I found the following to be the most interesting:

  • More women own consoles than men — cool!
  • Roughly 40% of Americans own consoles — not bad!
  • Only 35% of high school students own consoles — they should go buy some more.
  • Only 37% of Americans with a completed degree own consoles, making me fear for my gaming time after I graduate.

Check out the information on the right.  Do any of these statistics surprise you?

Advertising Games for Dummies

Game advertising is strange.  Gaming enthusiasts aren’t persuaded to buy their games through the commercials they see alone, at least not anymore.  We have press conferences, conventions, and websites, to name a few.  By the time TV ads air, it has been years after we’ve been obsessing over trailers, live streams, and media coverage.

It’s rare to view interesting or memorable TV spots for the games we’re so excited about.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Instead, we can remind developers that it just takes a little creativity to make an entertaining and memorable commercial for their games.

Let’s look at one of the greatest ad campaigns for gaming I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing first.  In 2011, a marketing prodigy at Electronic Arts began the “Your Mom Hates Dead Space” commercial series.  The premise was very simple: bring in mothers to view the current trailer for their newest video game Dead Space 2, and film their reactions.  Priceless and unfiltered, these moms did exactly as EA hoped.  They provided a hilarious look at a purposely violent and bloody horror game.  There is no fast food or product placement here folks.

This approach is so much more appealing compared to a heavily cut trailer with quotes from reviewers popping up everywhere.  This is because EA is focusing on both grabbing your attention and entertaining you, regardless as to whether you’re familiar with the game or not.

The Monster Hunter Tri advertising campaign is another great example.  In 2012, Capcom released the next installment of their incredibly successful Monster Hunter series in Japan for North America.  But how do you sell something that’s big in Japan in a place where it wasn’t popular yet?  Meet Ironbeard.

Ironbeard in all his glory. YouTube screengrab by me

Ironbeard in all his…bearded glory?                      YouTube screengrab by me

You sell your game by getting an awesome guy to dress up as a hunter from the game with a giant sword on his back, the flagship monster from the game in the back of his truck and send him to mall parking lots and fast food drive-thrus preaching the word of Monster Hunter to the world.  It’s so bizarre, yet simultaneously comedic, that you cannot possibly forget about Monster Hunter.  I had the honor of meeting Capcom’s marketing man at Wonder Con this past year and told him how much I enjoyed these commercials.  He laughed and replied, “Could you tell that to a few CEO’s I know?”

Last but not least, I’d like to present a gem from Nintendo themselves.  Nintendo has had a reputation for being very family friendly, but they break this image every so often.  One instance was when the original Smash Bros released and Nintendo cooked up this ad.  It isn’t long before a walk through a meadow gets old and Mario and Pikachu are never friends again, huh?  This is humorous and lighthearted enough to get Nintendo fans interested while still being memorable and worthy of the Smash Bros. legacy.

So come on game companies!  You’ve already proven your creativity!  Let’s see more of these in the future.