I've been slooooowly working my way through the fighting game canon, and I was long overdue for a bout with the original Tekken by Namco for PlayStation. Apparently the series is one of the best-selling fighting game series, according to Wikipedia anyway.

I like the Street Fighter games in general, but I had really disliked the Virtua Fighter game I'd played a while back. For me Tekken fell somewhere in the middle. I like that there are only four buttons (plus movement), and in the first entry at least there doesn't seem to be an overwhelming number of moves. Like other games of the genre Tekken relies a lot on blocking and looking for openings, which I came to like in general, and there's also a lot of variety in throws. I also liked how the stages scroll infinitely left or right, which means that you don't have easy wins from ring outs like in Virtua Fighter or the SoulCalibur games. (Although the game does include the follow-up attacks when the other fighter is down which I still think is pretty pointless.)

I mostly played as King, a wrestler who wears a jaguar mask, and I learned enough of his moves to know which ones to spam at the right time, haha. The story is about as nonsensical as you'd expect, but the game seems to fall in the middle of the spectrum in terms of realism in general. There are a lot of flashy moves, but for the most part nothing as crazy as in the Street Fighter games. As a result there feels like less variety in the moves and the characters, although I'm sure if you played the game a lot the differences would become more obvious.

All in all this was a game that I didn't mind playing, although I don't see myself becoming an uber fan. I've already tried out its sequel, Tekken 2, but I'll probably just dip into that a bit more and some of the other entries in the series before finally getting to play the Pokken Tournament, the surprise Pokemon spin-off.

Wrestle through these Tekken links:
- Entry at tekken.wikia.com. Includes moves lists, such as this one for King.
- FAQs at GameFAQs
- Entry on Wikipedia

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I'm a pretty big fan of the Rhythm Heaven, aka Rhythm Paradise, series, so I was pretty excited about the announcement of Rhythm Paradise Megamix for 3DS (only released on the eShop in NA, sadly). The game is a "best of" collection, and includes the majority of mini-games from the previous three entries in the series, as well as a number of new ones. The game features the series' trademark hodgepodge of styles and types of music, and also includes a flimsy story, a first for the series, with quite a few new characters. Although in general I'm all for a good story, somehow here it just slows things down.

In general the structure of this entry seems to throw the pacing off. One of the best things about the other games was getting to play remixes of the songs at regular intervals, whereas here the remixes don't start to appear until quite a ways in. The game also somehow lacks the spark of brilliance of the previous games. Maybe it's just that the new mini-games stick too closely to the formula of the previous entries, but at times I felt like more judicious editing would have actually helped things. The mini-games start to feel a bit same-y even in the earlier parts of the game, and the game doesn't have quite the same feel of wild wackiness as the previous games, although perhaps that's just from being a long-time fan and overly familiar with most of the content.

There were quite a few mini-games I'd forgotten about, and it was nice to see localized versions of the mini-games from the original Japan-only GBA title. The game's best addition is easily its use of the bottom screen. Here the game gives you a visual indicator as to whether your button presses are happening too early, too late, or right on the beat. It's very useful, and an addition that should definitely be included in every future installment.

Overall this feels like another case where Nintendo has stuck too closely to an established formula, although this can be excused since this is a best of collection. Hopefully future installments will find some way to shake things up a bit. I played through pretty much the bare minimum to get to the final credits (and passing most mini-games on my first try), although I can see myself picking this up from time to time to earn the rest of the gold medals and maybe attempt some of the maddening Perfect medals.

Terrestrial Rhythm Paradise Megamix links:
- Entry on nintendo.com
- Page on Miiverse
- Entry on rhythmheaven.wikia.com. Includes links to the official trailer for the game and such.
- Review on NintendoLife
- Entry on Wikipedia

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I took a vacation from my usual Nintendo-centric gaming to play through Portal, a game I'd heard a lot of great things about but had never actually touched. The game was even better than I expected, and its first-person puzzle solving (with light platforming) was wholly satisfying. The core game mechanic, where you use a gun to create portals in order to progress through rooms one at a time, is huge fun. The game is superbly paced and a perfect example of how the combination of overall design, aesthetics, polish, music, writing, and voice acting can turn a fun concept into a completely memorable game. There are several fun moments and surprises along the way, including a great ending, and although some people may complain, I appreciated its brevity.

This is definitely one of the freshest games I've played in a while, and it's surprising to see that the game is almost ten years old. It's rare that a game's mechanics are so fun that I can see how playing through it again would be as much fun as playing it the first time. Fortunately there's Portal 2 to look forward to.

Dive into these Portal links:
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Entry on Steam
- Entry on Metacritic
- I played the game on Steam, but the game is also available in the compilation called The Orange Box (for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC)

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I've been working my way through the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games, although I'm still pretty baffled as to why there are so many entries in the series. The previous game I'd played was the DS entry, entitled Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, and next up was Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, released on the 3DS eShop. The game combines the mechanics of the rest of the series with something new, the path-creating gameplay of the Pipe Mania games (which I played one of a couple of years ago).

Anyway, I feel like I've had my fill of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong type of gameplay, so it's good that this entry shakes things up. The review at NintendoLife and the entry on Wikipedia go into a lot of detail on the various modes, but basically the main modes are a Tetris-like mode where you're given tiles semi-randomly, and a puzzle mode where you have a set number of pieces. Collecting all three medals in each level will take a combination of trial and error and some head-scratching, but although these main modes are enjoyable enough, they're nothing earth-shattering. The other two modes are variations that are distinctly less enjoyable, and there are a handful of pointless mini-games. The game omits the boss level fights from the previous games, but they definitely weren't missed. There's also a level editor with all the usual features (you can download the most popular levels, etc.), but I'd gotten bored of the main gameplay by then and didn't bother exploring the user-created levels much.

There's not a lot to say about the game, really. If you're a huge fan of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong or Pipe Mania games then this clearly you'll like this game, but if you're like me and are not particularly a fan of either then this will be an okay diversion and better than most of the rest of the series, but doesn't amount to much more than that. It looks like the next game in the series goes back to the tired formula of the previous games, which I'm not really looking forward to. We'll have to see how it turns out.

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I don't have much interest in sports games in general, but Nintendo fanboy that I am I feel obligated to work my way through all Nintendo games, including the fairly primitive early Game Boy efforts such as Tennis. Apparently it was one of the system's launch titles in North America, and it seems that a fair number of people have some amount of nostalgia for it.

I'd played the NES Tennis game a while back, but the Game Boy version is pretty much completely different, aside from the fact it's a video game rendition of the actual sport and it features Mario as the referee. The controls in Game Boy Tennis are much more involved. In the NES version you only had two types of shots: the A button for a regular shot and the B button for a lob. The Game Boy version multiplies each of these by three, depending on if you're holding the up button, down button, or neither while you're pressing the A or B buttons. Serves also have those three variations, and all these options make the game much more active, but also more complicated. Instead of relying on timing your hits to influence the angle of the ball, the game seems to emphasize getting your opponent to stand close or far from the net, and then hitting a far or close shot to mess him up.

All in all the game was more enjoyable than I expected, although it's sort of a toss-up (get it? haha) for me as to whether I prefer this one or the NES version. I didn't bother trying to master the higher levels of difficulty (there are four levels of difficulty total), since in those modes the ball whizzes by so fast that I assume you'd have to go through a lot of trial and error to win. I doubt I'll be playing this again anytime soon, but it wasn't a complete waste of time, even for someone like me who's not really into sports games. It's been a while since I'd played a Game Boy game, and I still haven't gotten into the Mario sports games much at all, but hopefully I'll make some more progress on both those fronts before too long.

Some fast-paced Game Boy Tennis links:
- Longplay of the highest difficulty level
- Review on NintendoLife of the 3DS eShop rerelease
- Entry on Wikipedia (although it mostly just covers the NES version)
- Entry at nindb.net

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