Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Impressions: Yoshi's Crafted World, Daemon X Machina, and Tetris99

Not only did last week's Nintendo Direct come with a bunch of announcements, but it also brought us two new game demos and a surprise free game! Here are my impressions of each:

Yoshi’s Crafted World Demo
Having had such a good time playing through Good Feel’s other craft-based platformers, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World, we downloaded and played the Crafted World demo the moment it became available.
  • The attention to detail put into the papercraft style of this game is pretty remarkable. I like that passing along the backsides of cardboard structures revealed labels, barcodes, and stamps from the boxes that were presumably used to build these things.
  • This Yoshi game very prominently features Yoshi’s dog, Poochy. The only thing cuter than Mario’s pet is a pet of that pet. I approve!
  • The level design is more three-dimensional than previous Yoshi games. While this has some interesting gameplay implications, I found that it did make it a little harder to aim eggs and determine which items were in the same plane as Yoshi versus the background or foreground.
  • Like I’ve come to expect with the early parts of other Yoshi games, the challenge comes from finding secrets/collectibles in this level. Some of the later levels shown in the preview at the end of the demo, however, appear to offer more robust platforming challenges, however.
My wife and I ended up playing through the demo several times, so it’s a safe bet that we’ll be getting the full game. (I’m already on the lookout for pre-order bonuses.)

Daemon X Machina Demo
I was pretty excited to try this one since I’ve enjoyed other mecha games in the past. Unfortunately, this one did not demo well for me.
  • I was surprised to find that the mech has nearly unlimited flight capabilities right off the bat (in most games, mechs can briefly boost into the air and full flight is unlocked later if at all). The transition between air and ground combat felt a little awkward to me, with the air movement feeling kind of sluggish. Thus, I preferred to keep my mech on the ground whenever possible. Even on land, the controls felt a little off.
  • The simple geometric shapes and high-contrast colors are a good way of giving the game a distinct look while also working around the hardware limitations of the Switch. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.
  • There is far more dialog (with voice acting) than I expected in this game. It seemed to be of reasonably good quality and could prove to be interesting in the full game, but for a demo, I have a hard time getting invested in story/characters and would prefer to get right to the action.
  • Mechs can be customized with different parts and weapons. I think much of the appeal of the game will come from configuring your ideal robot. Yet within the demo, I found it difficult to discern what each weapon and upgrade did, so I ended up sticking to the default loadout.
  • The levels in the demo are structured as central hubs, such as a small city, that must be cleared of existing enemies or defending from incoming enemies. I generally prefer mech games in which the mission structure involves making forward progress (i.e. fighting my way from Point A to Point B). I’m hoping the full game offers more varied level structure, because I could see what’s shown in the demo getting repetitive.
  • The demo is quite long, I spent over an hour with it and still haven’t played the last mission that it offers.
Overall, I came away from Daemon X Machina with mixed feelings. I think there’s still potential for a compelling mecha action game here (something I’ve been wanting), but the demo just didn’t grab me. I’ll be keeping an eye on reviews and may end up playing through the demo a second time to see if my feelings change.

Tetris 99
Unlike the other two downloads that coincided with this Direct, Tetris99 is a full game that was released for free to subscribers of the Nintendo Online service. This game's release also marks Nintendo's entry into the trendy Battle Royale genre.
  • The basic gameplay is classic Tetris, it looks and feels as sharp as ever but doesn't add much to the puzzle mechanics.
  • Tetris99's twist is the aforementioned Battle Royale aspect. Each round features 99 players all trying to clear lines and launch garbage blocks at their rivals to clutter their boards.
  • Apparently, there's a way to specifically target individual rival players with the garbage blocks, but I was struggling simply to stay alive, so I wasn't able to figure it out during my initial session.
  • Since I'm not much of a competetive gamer, the defining feature of this game for me was the excellent techno cover of the Tetris theme that plays as you compete. The longer your survive, the more the music builds in intensity which really adds to the sense of tension.
Tetris99 was a really pleasant surprise! I don't think I'll be putting a lot of time into it, but it's a nice thing to have on the Switch for when I'm in the mood for a quick game.

Note: Images from Nintendo.co.uk

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Nintendo Direct Highlights

While I always have several games queued up to play next, I still can’t help myself from keeping an eye on the upcoming release calendar, especially where Nintendo is concerned. Nintendo has a knack for making announcements fun to watch and last night’s Nintendo Direct was jam-packed with interesting-looking titles! Here’s some of my highlights from the presentation:
  • Mario Maker 2 – Having loved the original Wii U game, I can only imagine that a Mario Maker title with more features and on a system with a larger install base would be even better. I was happy to see that this new game will include elements from Mario 2 and Mario 3D World. I’m already imagining new levels featuring Cat Mario and radish-throwing battles.
  • Box Boy & Girl – I missed the original Box Boy series of puzzle platformers on 3DS but this new co-op focused entry for Switch looks like a great place to jump on for some husband/wife gaming sessions.
  • Captain Toad Expansion – Speaking of husband/wife gaming, we had a great time with Captain Toad on the Wii U, so I’m glad to see that it’s getting some love on the Switch with an upcoming expansion. Unfortunately, the new content appears to be Switch-exclusive and I have no intention of buying the base game again just to play the expansion material. If the new content ends up getting a standalone release, I’m definitely on board.
  • Blood Stained Ritual of the Night – Considering that last year’s Bloodstained Curse of the Moon was one of my favorite games of 2018, I was of course excited to see more of the upcoming game. While I’m partial to the 2D style of the previous game, as opposed to the cluttered polygonal look of this one, Ritual of the Night’s level design looks really interesting.
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 – I’ve been hesitant to get into these games since the building genre tends not to appeal to me. However, I’ve been hearing so many good things about Dragon Quest’s take on the genre that I may just have to give it a go, especially since the new game has a co-op mode.
  • Dragon Quest 11 – I’m really glad I held off on getting the PC version of this game because the Switch version looks fantastic. It features the 2D mode from the 3DS version as well as the HD 3D visuals of the PC/console version, has orchestrated music, dual language voice acting, and will apparently feature some expanded content as well! This version of DQ11 looks like it will be well worth the wait.
  • Rune Factory 4 and 5 – I’ve never played any of the Rune Factory games but it looks like the series will have strong Switch support with a remake of Rune Factory 4 and a new 5th entry as well. I’m not usually into farming games, but the inclusion of RPG elements could end up pulling me in (similar to Ever Oasis).
  • Oninaki – A new game from Tokyo RPG Factory (of I Am Setsuna fame) was announced. It looks more stylized and original than the studio’s previous work, so I may give this one a look.
  • Starlink Expansion – Starlink is getting an all-StarFox themed expansion campaign. I’ve been meaning to pick up the base game (I love me some aerial dogfighting) but have been waiting for the digital version to go on sale since I’m not really into toys-to-life stuff. The Arwing statue does look kind of cool though…
  • Fire Emblem Three Houses - This was the flagship game of the Direct and it deserved it. The production values and world-building look elevated beyond anything we’ve seen the Fire Emblem series so far. The game seems to further emphasize the relationship-building elements of Awakening and Fates, however I’m a little concerned how this will be handled since the player character is a teacher and most of the other characters are students. That concern aside, it’s a brand-new Fire Emblem on Switch, so I likely will have pre-ordered it by the time anyone ends up reading this.
  • Astral Chain – My wife and I both initially mistook this new action game from Platinum as a Xenoblade game. The cyberpunk setting reminded me a lot of the anime Psycho Pass. Bayonetta didn’t grab me and I missed the Nier games, but Astral Chain looks like it has the potential to finally get me into Platinum games.
  • Link’s Awakening remake – The Gameboy Zelda games are not among my favorite entries in the series, but this chibi 3D remake looks incredible. If the remake upgrades the mechanics to the same level it does for the visuals, I may revisit Link’s surreal island adventure after all.

After the Direct, Nintendo released downloadable demos for Yoshi’s Crafted World and Daemon X Machina. They also dropped a surprise free game, Tetris 99! I’ll have impressions of each of these available in my next post.

Based on all these announcements, it sounds like my wallet will be getting much lighter in the coming months! I’m curious to know what other folks are excited about from this Direct, so be sure to let me know in the comments or on Twitter!