Another day, another Pokemon spin-off game. I was mildly curious about the smartphone game Pokémon: Magikarp Jump just because the premise sounded so ridiculous: train up your Magikarp to take part in jumping competitions. I decided to give it a try for the heck of it. I was expecting it to be more of a set of mini-games or something, but it's actually more of a simulation game.

The two main ways you train up your Magikarp are by collecting berries in your pond just by touching them, or doing some training. The game selects one of your available training routines which vary in the amount of jumping power (i.e. experience) they'll grant your Magikarp, but outside of deciding to train you don't actually do anything active here (or anywhere else in the game for that matter other than the pond). Competitions are a likewise hands-off affair. You can also gain experience via special helper Pokemon that show up in your pond and via random events that trigger on the way back from training. You can power-up the amount of experience you earn from all of these methods by paying in-game coins (which can be bought with real-world money). You can also use virtual and real-world currency to add decorations to your pond and other fairly useless extras. As is par for the course paying real money in this game seems like a complete waste to me, and would only really be needed if you absolutely had to barrel through the whole. The game is much better in short bursts anyway, and you make much more progress from playing a few minutes every day for several days rather than playing for an extended period of time in one sitting.

Upgrading the rate you gain experience and the eating mechanics reminded me very strongly of Cookie Clicker. which was a humorously postmodern game that I'd played and enjoyed a few years back. It seems like that game (or some other game much like it) has spawned a bunch of imitators, without the meta humor. With the colorful and chibi-esque graphics and cute premise Magikarp Jump is a more palatable one than the others I've come across, although ultimately the game is still incredibly shallow. There's a limit to the maximum level each of the Magikarp you reel in can obtain, so you have to continuously retire old Magikarp and train up new ones. Every time you retire one the rate of training your Magikarp increases, and the game keeps track of the different patterns of Magikarp you've collected for added "gotta catch 'em all" obsessiveness.

This was definitely a quick and easy smartphone game that The Pokémon Company seems happy to churn out but that Nintendo themselves would never release themselves. It looks like the developers, Select Button Inc., have put out several other quite successful smartphone games that I'm assuming are in the same vein and are why they were hired to create Magikarp Jump. While this was cute and entertaining enough for a short time, I can't imagine wanting to actually play this for the 27-odd hours that would be needed to beat all the leagues. Not a complete waste of time, but definitely one of the more mindless games I've played in a while.

Click these Pokémon: Magikarp Jump links:
- Super thorough entry on Bulbapedia
- Video of "The Magikarp Song", an awesome comedic song about our favorite useless Pokemon released to coincide with the release of Magikarp Jump
- Review at NintendoLife
- How to evolve your Magikarp into Gyarados
- And just for fun, that video of the person beating Fire Red/Leaf Green with a single Magikarp, haha.

fShare
0

I'm still working my way through the fighting game canon, so even though I'd played my first Tekken game earlier this year I decided check out an even older fighting game, the original Mortal Kombat. I had a copy of the SNES version of the game lying around so I played that even though it seems is generally looked down on as being the most inferior port as the game's infamous violence was heavily censored.

Not knowing anything about the game, I picked the character Sub-Zero randomly. Even though the controls are simpler than the Street Fighter games (which have six attack buttons compared to Mortal Kombat's four), I found it way harder to execute the special moves. I definitely don't think my controller was defective, but despite my efforts more often than not my moves didn't register correctly, which really killed a lot of my enjoyment of the game. The game in general feels slooooow, much slower and clunkier than the Street Fighter games, and it's a big drawback that the characters feel so similar. I also never really got used to having to use a separate button to block, although that's no fault of the game.

The controversial video-digitized graphics didn't bother me too much as they seem pretty cartoony nowadays (I couldn't help but be reminded of the DSiWare title Photo Dojo), although for its time I can see why parents would have been upset. Even though I'm squeamish about violence in general, the cartoony fatalities are actually the more entertaining parts of the game. Another complaint I have about the game is that the AI is pretty mediocre; it's way too easy to spam the same lame move over and over again to defeat your opponent.

I've been long overdue for playing this game and I'm glad to cross it off my list, but I didn't really get much enjoyment out of my time with it. It seems like the second game is more over the top and has more comedy in it, so I might check it out at some point.

Not too moribund Mortal Kombat links:
- Compare this video of the fatalities in the arcade version vs. this video of the ones in the SNES version
- PDF of the instruction manual
- FAQ at GameFAQs
- Entry at mortalkombat.wikia.com

fShare
0

I'd been rather intrigued by Pocket Card Jockey for several reasons, not least of which was that it was by Game Freak, best known for their Pokemon games. I'd enjoyed their previously released non-Pokemon game HarmoKnight but I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy this game, a strange mash-up of horse racing and solitaire, mostly because I'm not the biggest fan of solitaire. I became a little more interested in it after hearing how much the hosts of Nintendo Minute played it, so I decided to give it a go.

I've been playing the game off and on for a while. There are a lot of systems to contend with here, and so it definitely takes some time to learn the ins and outs of how everything works. The core game consists of races, which involves playing a few rounds of a solitaire-like game, interspersed with short sections where you have to draw lines to indicate how you want to position your horse. This is pretty solid in general, although even after playing for hours I still had a hard time getting my horse into the right position (your horse will get more energy if she/he is in her/his preferred position in relation to other horses (e.g. in front or behind) as well as if she/he is in a certain zone on the track.

The longer arc of the game is to take your trained horses and breed them to combine and strengthen their stats and abilities. This is a big part of the game, although training a new horse takes a significant amount of time, so it definitely feels like taking a step forward and several steps back whenever you have to start with a new horse. It's satisfying to gain better horses, but the whole process is pretty slow, and the mechanics don't change at all aside from some horses preferring shorter or longer races, and horses having different abilities or preferred positioning. There are special horses that pop up as options occasionally that you can pick from as well, and "winning" the game means basically training up all the special horses and winning all the top races. I ended up winning just a handful of top races and breeding just a couple of horses before I lost interest, due to the built-in "two steps back" design and the lack of variety in the core gameplay. I could see that this game would be more fun with other people to trade horses (via QR codes) with, but for now if I feel the urge to play solitaire I'll just go back to my usual mainstay, Brain Age: Concentration Training (yes, I'm still playing that game! Haha).

Train 'em all with these Pocket Card Jockey links:
- Original Nintendo Direct reveal
- Launch trailer, which includes a couple of QR codes of horses
- Entry on Miiverse
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com

fShare
0

I've been trying to get motivated enough to finally sit down and finish The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (the Wii U version). Part of what helped spur me on was the latest Power Pros podcast that looked back at the game, six months after its release. [In case you don't know, Power Pros is a solid podcast by former Nintendo Power editors.] I was definitely wary of the game even before it was released. Yes, it looks gorgeous (it really reminds me of Studio Ghibli films, which I love in general), but the open world gameplay was actually a pretty big turn-off for me. I already know that I prefer my games to be more structured without a lot of filler sidequests, and this was probably the main thing that caused me to feel fairly lukewarm about the game during my entire playthrough.

It seems churlish to be in the dissenting minority of a game that is so universally praised, but I found the game's individual parts to feel too familiar (Gorons and Zoras, check, desert area, check, Lost Woods, check, and of course the requisite stealth sections, yawn). The "go anywhere, do anything" format definitely changes things up, and it's impressive that the world is so vast. I actually played the game a ton when I first got it (like 60 hours), and a lot of that was motivated by finding all the towers and unlocking the entire map, and tracking down the "memories" (cut-scenes triggered by finding particular locations). I did most of the shrines I came across (about half of the 120), and I liked the four dungeons overall. They were very short, though, which wouldn't have been a bad thing if there were more of them. I did some of the other (optional) dungeon-esque areas, but overall I felt the game was too homogeneous. I was really disappointed that all the shrines have the same aesthetic, and that the four dungeons also share the same aesthetic. The dungeons were fun, but there was nothing reaching the heights of unique and memorable design as Ocarina's Forest Temple or Jabu-Jabu's Belly or Wind Waker's Forsaken Fortress or Twilight Princess's dungeon in the sky. Towns were pretty boring, and there wasn't enough enemy variety, and although climbing up mountains and paragliding off of them was fun for a while, it definitely gets pretty boring before you get to the end of the game.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the Zelda series in general is gaining items over the course of your adventure. In this game you get all the items at the beginning of the game, and this also makes the game feel like it lacks a strong sense of progression. Yes, you do get more powerful weapons as you defeat more powerful enemies, but a lot of the time the weapons are basically just the same as lower-ranked weapons but with more attack power or durability.

I liked the game well enough overall, but after beating it I feel like for me it winds up in the middle of the pack in terms of Zelda games. I'm disappointed that after such huge acclaim for the game that subsequent games are going to be heavily based on it, but it may be that Nintendo improves on the design and alleviates the overall lack of variety and innovation I felt during my playthrough. I'm curious about how the DLC turns out, but unless it sounds like something really different I doubt I'm going to get back into this game again. I have dipped into replaying more games in the series, but I'm not in a big hurry to finish any of them, given all the other great games that are being released seemingly every week. The curse of too many games!

Climb every one of these The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild links:
- Official site. Includes details on the DLC, videos, concept art, and wallpapers.
- Walkthrough at zeldadungeon.net, with an interactive map
- Write-up at Lofi-Gaming, which offers the perspective of someone who never finished the other 3D Zelda games
- There's no shortage of articles about the game. Here's a random one that takes a look at things that happen when you play the game as naked Link.
- Cool speed run
- Entry on Metacritic. Apparently the game set the record for the most perfect scores for a single game.
- Review on NintendoLife

fShare
0


Another year, another abandoned Shin Megami Tensei game, haha. I played about halfway through Persona 3 last year, and I've been hacking away at Shin Megami Tensei IV for 3DS ever since it was released four (!!!) years ago. For this game I got about two thirds of the way through before I had to give up on it out of complete boredom, which I guess is a bit better. :p

I got the game originally because there was a Club Nintendo (R.I.P.) bonus if you bought it and Fire Emblem Awakening, in anticipation of the crossover of the two series which was unnamed at the time but eventually was released as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE after a lot of delays. I've played bits of earlier games in the series, but although I played through all of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers I've realized that they're all extremely similar. You could say that of many RPG series, I suppose, but I don't notice it nearly as much as these games. This game uses the 3-D dungeon exploration of its predecessor (called Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne in the US) and the Persona series, and the demon designs, setting, negotiation mechanics (whereby you can recruit demons), and press turn systems are the same as in many of the other games.

This game includes full voice acting, which is great, and it also lets you pass demon skills to your character when your demons level up. It also lets you choose skills to pass onto your fused demons. This helps a bit in making you a little more attached to them, but my main complaint about the series is still that since you're only ever using your demons for a few level ups and always looking to fuse them into more powerful demons there's not enough to make them feel really unique or make you care much about them. Aside from this, everything, even the story, felt overly familiar. The first few hours were pretty fun, but after the extended prologue the game settles into a very slow grind of battling, fusing demons, and running around to get to the next quest, with a regular drip of boss battles to break things up.

Aside from all the complaints that the game doesn't change things up enough, at least not for someone like me who isn't super hardcore about the series, I also have to agree with a lot of the other general complaints, namely, that the overworld map is hard to navigate and it's hard to figure out where you're supposed to go next, and that the characters and graphics are pretty bland. After playing quite a few games in the series I'm much more appreciative of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE's colorful palette, more interesting dungeon designs, and break from series conventions. Apparently the direct sequel to this game, Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse, addresses some of the issues, including making improvements to the overworld navigation, but I'm definitely going to take a pass on that. Instead, I'll probably go back to the tactics game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor first and then get back to TMS. But don't be surprised if I don't see the end of those games either. :p

Not too stagnant Shin Megami Tensei IV links:
- Entry at megamitensei.wikia.com
- Official site, includes wallpapers
- Great FAQ at GameFAQs
- Some tips for n00bs on Destructoid
- Review on NintendoLife
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Entry on Metacritic

fShare
0