There are many times being a completist can be a pain, and playing through the Dr. Mario series has definitely not been the most entertaining experience. The series seems to make an appearance on every Nintendo platform with minimal changes, and so I wasn't particularly expecting much from Dr. Mario World, its smartphone iteration, released this past July.

I'm happy to report that I've been proven wrong, and the gameplay has actually the evolved the most since, well, probably any iteration. Unlike all the previous sequels, rather than farming the game out to a minor developer, Nintendo had their main group develop the title, and it shows. The game is structured pretty much the same as any number of match 3 mobile games such as Candy Crush, with added gacha mechanics and a versus mode. The core gameplay adds a new mechanic where you use touch mechanics to move blocks anywhere that they can fit, including halves of blocks. This change makes the game much more active and satisfying, as it basically does away with the basic and fairly lame chain mechanics from the previous games. The gacha component isn't too intrusive, and you roll for doctors or assistants. The doctors' specials are unique, although I find myself only alternating between two regularly (Peach and Wendy). Even without paying it didn't take me too long to get enough free rolls to build up a flexible roster, and the game also gives out items (which you can use to get past particuarly tricky stages) pretty regularly. A lot of the assistants seem fairly redundant, but I'm used to gacha games so those mechanics don't bother me too much.

In addition to the improved core mechanics, the game has also added a lot of twists to the stages, including bricks you have to break, viruses inside bubbles that sink according to gravity, and stages that continuously add more viruses. It's been prety straightforward to get through stages, with the exception of the timed stages which seem designed to force you to pony up cash to beat. The versus mode is fast-paced and enjoyable, and the daily missions and special events (e.g. special stages or goals with rewards) add a little bit of purpose.

All in all Dr. Mario World is a solid release and well worth a download. At its core it's still a match 3 game, though, and I doubt I'll be ponying up any real cash for it, but I've been playing it semi-regularly since its release and plan on continuing to do so. Even with all its updates it's not the most innovative game in the world, but it's one of the most enjoyable of its type that I've played.

Night in The Woods got a lot of great reviews when it was released in February 2017, including one of its port to Switch a year later on NintendoLife. I keep thinking that I'm going to enjoy story-based games, but then I find that them to be sooooo slow. A lot of Night In The Woods' acclaim was that it looked at contemporary psychological issues in a realistic way, but I never really found myself that interested in the main character, Mae, or the small town she lives in. Yes, she had a lot of issues, but I couldn't relate to her apathy at all and was much more interested in her friends and the supernatural subplot. That subplot only appears in snatches, and although her friendships do get a decent amount of attention, apparently you can only focus on one of her three friends in a single playthrough, which is annoying. The core "walking sim" gameplay is very, very slow, and the interludes didn't do anything to curb my impatience. I had to really force myself to return to this game again and again in order to finish it. I was hoping the ending would feel like a big payoff, but it really, really didn't.

I suspect I'm too old to fit what I assume is the more 20-something quarter-life-crisis-experiencing target audience for this game, and it's still a mystery to me that even though I enjoy reading and I enjoy video games, I have yet to really find a story-based video game that I really loved and couldn't put down. There are games with strong stories that I have definitely enjoyed (Yono and the Celestial Elephants comes to mind), but this experience has unfortunately, left me even more wary of walking sims than before. Ho hum.

I definitely didn't need another mobile game to add to my daily rotation, but a friend of mine has been playing Marvel Contest of Champions regularly, and as a Marvel fan I thought I should check it out myself. The game was released almost five years ago (!) and, no surprises here, doesn't stray at allĀ from its free-to-play-mobile-game genre. The game is a shallow fighting game in which you roll randomly for Marvel characters and level them up, although coming from Fire Emblem Heroes and other gacha games I was initially surprised that this one doesn't have any mechanism for you to promote your character from a lower star tier to a higher one. There's the requisite stamina system (called "energy" here) and meandering and completely forgettable stories, limited-time events, and a few modes beyond those such as a versus mode (against CPU-controlled characters levelled up by other players) and guild battles. The characters have different classes (e.g. mutant, mystic, etc.), each of which is strong and weak against another class, and there's a lot of text to wade through if you want to read up on all the ins and outs of the mechanics. The gameplay is really shallow, though, so it really doesn't require any mastery, and fighting is generally mindless (although Marvel takes the game a bit too seriously and holds real-life competitions to find the best players). I've definitely made good use of the auto-battling (a feature that unlocks after a fair amount of playing the game). There are cases where the CPU's auto-battling doesn't cut it and I have to do a few manual battles during a play session, but for the most part my daily investment in the game is pretty low and I just collect my daily rewards. If I were a bigger Marvel fan I would actually care about trying to roll for my favorite characters (the pull rates seem appallingly low), but since I don't the game sits firmly in that category of smartphone games I don't really care much about but still find myself logging into daily.

I haven't dropped a dime yet (and I doubt I ever will), and I recently hit level 30 and got my first five-star character. Marvel continues to churn out new characters on a regular basis, so this game will probably continue to chug along for a good long while. I probably should play this game less than I do, but for now I'm fine with continuing to auto-battle my way through to higher levels in order to add more characters to my stable.

The NES game Double Dragon II: The Revenge has been released on the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U Virtual Console, but it wasn't until it became a freebie on Nintendo Switch Online that I gave it a playthrough. I'm not the biggest fan of beat 'em ups (the most recent one I played through was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time) on SNES, but they're great for a bit of quick and mindless co-op action.

The first Double Dragon on NES was notorious for removing the arcade version's biggest selling point, its co-op gameplay, but the developers managed to include it in the sequel. Double Dragon II has three different difficulty levels, although you'll have to beat the highest of the three to see the "true" ending. Aside from the Nintendo Switch's version ability to rewind or create save points at any time, the original version had a stage select code, which is a boon.

As with many games of the era, public opinion of Double Dragon II seems to vary based on your level of nostalgia. NintendoLife's review of the Wii release, for example, scored an 8 out of 10, whereas its review of the Wii U release earned a measly 4 out of 10. I agree with the latter, and the reviewer complains about the quirky control scheme (one button is used to attack to the right and the other to the left) and the poorly designed and frustrating-even-with-save-points platforming mechanics. There's some variety in the fight moves (including a hurricane kick executed by pressing both buttons at once), but as with most beat 'em ups the enemies are repetitive and the action gets old pretty quickly. The game is pretty short, though, especially with the modern convenience of save states. The easiest difficulty only includes the first three levels, and so can be completed in around twenty minutes, and even the hardest difficulty (which includes one more stage and also ups the enemies' HP and attack speed) can be completed in less than an hour and a half with save states.

Overall the NES version of Double Dragon II is mindless co-op fun but doesn't particularly stand out amongst beat 'em ups, aside from fixing the egregious omission of co-op of its predecessor. It's nice to have on Nintendo Switch Online and worth a playthrough with a buddy or young kids, but otherwise not worth spending much time on.

The 3DS has been winding down over the last year, and the bulk of its last releases have been ports of well-loved properties such as Kirby's Epic Yarn and the original Luigi's Mansion. Warioware Gold was released in August of 2018, and it definitely feels like a counterpart to Rhythm Paradise Megamix (aka Rhythm Heaven Megamix). Both are "greatest hits" compilations of acclaimed mini-game collections that spanned different consoles, with some new elements sprinkled in along the way.

Having played all the previous WarioWare games, this game definitely felt overly familiar to me. The game starts off feeling pretty basic, as the first WarioWare game, on GBA, only had buttons available as controls. The micro-games from the GBA, DS, and Wii games incorporate much more variety of controls such as the touchscreen, gyroscope, and even the microphone, and are definitely make the game more fun and engaging. The cartoon intros and conclusions that bookend each series of games feature our WarioWare friends are fun breaks from the action that feature the usual mixture of idiosyncratically quirky Japanese humor. Kotaku published an in-depth look at the game, including info from the developers regarding how much effort went into remaking all those microgames (a lot) and some changes to look out for. It seems some fans were left wanting due to the lack of development time available to spend on the useless little unlockable virtual gizmos and gadgets, but I've never really spent much time unlocking those in the previous games so I didn't really miss them here.

All in all this was a nice little remake that I found more enjoyable than the Rhythm Paradise remake, but as with that game it still left me waiting for a proper new game in the series. Given the huge popularity of Nintendo Switch it may be that we'll get the next entries in both series at some point, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Dig these golden Warioware Gold links:
- Pictures of all the amiibo unlockables (paintings of characters by Wario himself)
- Review at NintendoLife- Entry at Metacritic
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com