I've been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp more than I should for more than a week now, and the good news is that it's better than I expected. The bad news is that I have yet another Nintendo game that I'm going to be compelled to check daily!

Unlike the other mobile games that Nintendo has released thus far, Pocket Camp does feel like a stripped down version of the mainline games, although it has enough small differences to make it feel like a separate thing. Fishing, catching bugs, and collecting seashells and fruit has a simpler, touch-based interface that works perfectly well. You'll also be using the touchscreen for walking around, arranging your furniture (using the same intuitive interface that debuted in Happy Home Designer), and talking to your animal friends. The game is focused on building up relationships with animals via fulfilling their requests (e.g. give them three oranges) and crafting furniture. The two activities are intertwined as building relationships with animals will earn you more materials for crafting furniture, and crafting furniture will let you invite animals to your campsite. The flow of the game is also finely tuned. The animals visit four main areas (riverside, beach, orchard, and island). More often than not you need items from one area in order to fulfill a request from an animal in a different area, so there's a compelling loop of visiting and revisiting areas as you fulfill requests.

In Pocket Camp you have an RV to personalize instead of a house, and you also have a campsite, which is an outdoor area that you can decorate and invite animals to visit. The campsite has two spaces for "amenities", bigger structures much like the town amenities from New Leaf. You can also buy clothes (including socks and shoes from Kicks the skunk) and furniture, although you only have a few options to choose from compared to the main games' wide selection.

You gain levels as you build your relationships, and increasing your level lets you meet more and more animals. The main series has more than 450 animals, so it's going to be a good long while before all of them are added to the game. Currently it seems like animals appear at the same level for all players, and each unlocks specific pieces of furniture. The downside to this is that currently everyone's campsites look pretty similar with the same group of animals and a lot of the same furniture, but that shouldn't last long as people get to higher levels and have a much wider catalog of items to choose to craft.

Pocket Camp is free to play, and so far it seems pretty fair. You can pay real money to buy leaf tickets, which can be used to speed up the time it takes to craft a new item, take the place of materials you may be missing, or visit the quarry which nets you coins. Materials and coins can be earned by fulfilling animals' requests, so not spending real money will mean you'll be doing a lot more grinding fulfilling requests, but the series has always been about grinding routine tasks anyway. There are also a series of daily and long-term "goals" you can accomplish (such as catch 100 bugs) that will also earn you rewards, including leaf tickets.

Pocket Camp had a lot of server issues when it launched, and a week later I'm still seeing server communication problems fairly regularly. I'm sure those will get ironed out, though. Pocket Camp is definitely not as addictive as New Leaf, but it has the same charm and lovable animal characters and relaxing mindless gameplay. The developers have done a great job making it feel perfectly at home on smartphones, and it looks great and controls smoothly. Now that I've accomplished a lot of the short-term tasks (such as recruiting both of the limited-time characters, Tom Nook and K. K. Slider) I can see myself playing this a minimal amount each day, although they just released a special holiday set of furniture, which may eat up more time than I'd intended. Pocket Camp works perfectly well as an intro to the obsession-inducing Animal Crossing series, but for longtime fans it's also an enjoyable game in its own right, helped in no small part by its convenience of being available on smartphones. It's unknown if Pocket Camp will tie into the next entry in the mainline series at all, but we're a bit overdue for a new proper Animal Crossing game, and this game certainly whets the appetite for something more innovative and substantial.

fShare
0

I'm not hugely into fighting games in general, but I was interested in Arms on Switch since it was one of the few first-party launch-window releases that was an entirely new IP. The game has a bright neon aesthetic that feels very similar to Splatoon, although it does have its own identity.

I watched a fair amount of footage of the game before it was released, but it was hard to get a sense of the game's depth. The game is pretty easy to pick up and play, but it definitely takes time to gain proficiency. Like many fighting games Arms relies on punches, dodges, blocks, and grabs, but as with other fighting games it takes time to get used to the mechanics and the timing of the actions and how to best react to a given situation.

Each character has her/his own special abilities, and there's a wide variety of arms to choose from. You can equip a different arm for the left or right, and although each fighter comes with three unique arms your fighters can use the other fighters' arms after you earn them in a punching targets minigame. I spent most of my time playing as Spring Man (a balanced fighter), Ribbon Girl (who can jump four times compared to the usual two), and Helix (who can stretch its body to avoid attacks). Some arms seem much more useful than others (slow ones in particular seem hard to use), but I suspect that with the default arms at least that the game has been pretty well-balanced. The game doesn't fully explain the unique mechanics of the individual fighters and arms, but there are resources online to help fill in those gaps.

The game has a standard single-player mode in which you battle a series of fighters with the useful addition that you can suspend your progress at any time and resume later. The multiplayer mode puts you in a room and shuffles the participants between various modes that include standard 1 vs. 1 fights as well as a basketball mode (which focuses on grabs), a volleyball mode, 2 vs. 2 fights, and 3 vs 1 co-op fights. Like Splatoon the game has been rolling out free new content, including three new characters so far, the addition of badges (in-game achievements), and a new Splatfest-like mode called Party Crash. The various extra modes are entertaining enough, but the core game has enough depth and variety that I much prefer just playing standard 1 vs. 1 fights.

After playing Arms for a significant amount I've definitely improved, although I'm still a long way away from being truly adept. Arms feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the glut of 2-D fighter series, and even without the additional content the game is packed with personality, fun, and challenge. I'm generally attracted to new IP so it's not too surprising that this is my favorite Switch game yet. Although Arms isn't as immediately satisfying as a nostalgic favorite like the Smash Bros. series, I'll definitely be picking it up again whenever the next Party Crash event rolls around.

Get fully armed with these Arms links:
- Official site
- Review at NintendoLife
- Wiki at armswiki.org

fShare
0


I'd enjoyed Tomodachi Life more than I'd expected when I played it earlier this year. The game isn't that deep, but I enjoyed the quirky humor and it was fun to check in on my Miis to see what they were doing and intervene in their love lives if needed. It looked like Miitopia, also for 3DS, was like Tomodachi Life but with RPG mechanics and a story, so I was interested in checking it out.

I was hoping the game would have the same level of absurdity and surrealism as Tomodachi Life, but the laughs are definitely fewer and further between in Miitopia. You can cast Miis to specific roles, such as your main party (warrior, mage, cleric, etc. as well as more-unique classes such as pop star and cat) as well as NPCs. The game makes it easy to import Miis from your 3DS's Mii Maker, Tomodachi Life save file, or QR codes from software such as Miitomo, or pick from user-submitted Miis.

The game is a super-simplified RPG, which is actually fine by me as it makes things much more streamlined. Towns are completely linear and in 2D seen in profile (like Zelda II: The Legend of Link), and you can only move left and right. You don't actually explore dungeons but instead select points on a map and then at the occasional forks decide if you want to take the left or right path. Battles are simplified and you only have to worry about controlling one character, but the AI does a completely competent job with the other characters in your party. Even shopping for new equipment (weapons and armor) is simplified. The game just presents you with the option to upgrade to the next highest piece of equipment, which always has a higher attack or defense stat than what you currently have.

The game has a typical RPG loop where you buy equipment, explore an area, encounter battles, and then return to an inn in order to buy more equipment. Miitopia adds a couple of more-unique mechanics. For one, you choose which characters you want to room together in the inn, and developing characters' relationships gives you important bonuses during battle (for example, a Mii may warn another Mii about an attack, giving him/her a chance to dodge it). The game allows same-sex pairings, which is great to see and feels like a step forward. You can also control your characters' stat growth via food, which you derive from defeated enemies. As with Tomodachi Life, characters will have their preferences of what foods they like, although they can't be predicted so you'll have to discover their likes through blind trial and error. It's pretty obvious what stats you should focus on for which characters (e.g. increasing magic for the mage), but it makes growing your characters a bit more active.

Occasionally your Miis will act out a little skit as they travel, which are generally amusing. The visuals are pretty simple and plain, but anything more complex would look out of place next to the Miis. The music is pretty standard RPG fare, as is the battle progression, enemies, and plot. The game lets you fast forward through battles, which helps alleviate the boredom. There are some visual gags that were hilarious, like the flamboyant movements of the Pop Star, but even though I enjoyed seeing my Miis in a new context the game gets repetitive quickly. More of the whimsy seen in Tomodachi Life would have really helped keep my interest, but as it is I found myself having to set this aside after the first "chapter". [Minor spoiler: The game is divided into distinct sections, and at the beginning of each section you're forced to restart at level 1 with an all-new set of companions, which seemed very annoying to me.] As with many RPGs the game seems like it's fairly lengthy, but given how repetitive it is I probably won't be picking it up again anytime soon.

Check out a Mii's RPG life with these Miitopia links:
- Official site
- FAQ at GameFAQs
- Review at NintendoLife

fShare
0

I've been both eagerly anticipating and dreading the release of Fire Emblem Warriors pretty almost since the day it was announced. Eagerly anticipating because, in case you didn't notice, I'm a big Fire Emblem fan, and not only that, but I got completely sucked into Hyrule Warriors, so much so that I even played through the whole story mode again in the 3DS version, Hyrule Warriors Legends. I was initially optimistic about the game, but it seemed like every bit of into that came out about the game just served to dampen my enthusiasm.

First off, the visuals are fairly bland, both in terms of the combat and the locations. The characters are faithful interpretations of how they've appeared thus far, and it's great to see them in a completely new way, but there's not nearly as much variety in the characters or locations as in Hyrule Warriors. Part of the problem is that there are too many sword users, something the developers acknowledged as being a challenge, but even the axe users' attacks look too similar.

For long-time fans the roster was extremely disappointing as it focuses on just two of the most recent games in the series (Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates) and the first game in the series (Shadow Dragon), but this is understandable, though, since those games are the most popular. On top of that, though, a huge part of the playable cast consists of the eight royal siblings from Fates, which seems a bit much. It's fantastic that the game includes support conversations, but since the cast as a whole almost entirely consists solely of royals, there's a loss of variety in terms of the characters' interactions.

Worse than the roster, though, is that many of the characters are clones. The developers gave characters different stat distributions to make up for this, but the differences don't affect the gameplay much. In two cases three characters all share the same moveset, which seems particularly pointless. There's a distinct feeling that the game was rushed as three characters are present in the game but not playable. I can't believe these characters are being released as paid DLC since they're already in the game, but my only hope there is that there will be more DLC beyond the three updates that have been announced so far.

After playing the game it makes a bit more sense that the game focused on the royals for the sake of the story mode, but the lack of variety in the characters is still disappointing. History mode is an improvement over Hyrule Warriors' adventure mode, but unlike Hyrule Warriors you can use whoever you want in most of the missions which makes things much less of a challenge. Also, there are far less unlockables: basically the unlockables are just the alternate skins for Corrin (male) and Robin (female), more powerful weapons, and one character with a unique moveset and two clones.

It's only because I'm such a Fire Emblem fanboy that Fire Emblem Warriors is as disappointing to me as it is. The Fire Emblem additions to the Warriors series, namely characters you can switch to on the fly and command, a "Pair Up" mechanic whereby characters can support another character to raise his/her stats, the rock-paper-scissors-like weapon triangle, and support conversations are generally worthwhile and enjoyable, and there's a good amount of Fire Emblem references for the fans. Maybe it's also partly Warriors fatigue setting in, but even though I worked my way through the story mode and a good chunk of history mode pretty quickly, I didn't feel that excited about it in general. I didn't have much motivation to finish all five of the adventure maps, and I'm skeptical that the DLC characters will be radically different from what's already in the game. I'm still holding out hope that additional DLC will be announced, but for now I merely appreciate that the game exists as hopefully it will expand the Fire Emblem audience even further. This wasn't the worst possible Fire Emblem Warriors I could imagine, but it's definitely not the best either.

Battle through these Fire Emblem Warriors links:
- Official site
- Someone made a great Google Docs reference for the game
- Review at NintendoLife

fShare
0

Yes, it's time for a review of yet another Dance Dance Revolution. I mentioned in my previous DDR review (DDR Extreme 2) that rather than play the next game in the series I might skip around a bit, and I did end up going back and checking out an early oddball game in the series, Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Mix. In North America the game was released on the original PlayStation soon after the original Dance Dance Revolution PlayStation release, although in Japan it was released a couple of years and many iterations after the original DDR arcade release.

I didn't really have high hopes for the game, but it is an interesting curiosity. Mickey and gang provide a skin for the familiar DDR core, although the bulk of the songs are fairly odd dance versions of familiar Disney tunes such as "It's a Small World" and "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah", some of which are repeated in different guises. There are only a handful of cover songs, and the rest of the tracklisting consists of the usual DDR type of techno. The game has one of the smallest tracklistings of any DDR game I've played, which is a drawback, and there aren't any unlockable songs.

In what is presumably an effort to make the game more appealing to youngsters, the game doesn't record a numerical score, and it only records your ranking in a records option that's buried in the settings, which is annoying. The game also requires you to unlock the hardest setting (of three), which you can get after beating all the songs on the medium difficulty. This is actually not trivial at all, which is good for a DDR vet like me but makes me wonder how many kids who played this actually ever unlocked it. Another little quirk about the game is that when you fail at a song, instead of taunting you like most of the other games in the series, you're presented with a visual of a letter from a Disney character telling you how many notes you had left and encouraging you to try again, haha. We're all winners here, folks!

The game features a versus mode, and this is a bit unique in that the character you choose affects the gameplay. Each character has his/her own special attacks (such as causing your opponent's steps to go more slowly or more quickly, or adding more steps), that trigger once you fill up a meter. Nothing too revolutionary, but good for a change of pace.

This was an interesting bit of DDR history, but it's definitely not going to be my go-to DDR game. I suppose kids or diehard fans of Disney will get a kick out of seeing their favorite characters, but otherwise everyone else can safely skip this one.

Check out this small world of Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Mix links:
- FAQ at GameFAQs
- Entry at Wikipedia

fShare
0