The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes came out more than half a year ago, but I was holding off playing it until some of my local gamer friends got it. They still haven't so in the end I just got it anyway and tried out the random matchmaking and the solo mode.

I had enjoyed the solo mode of the DSiWare remake of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, although the game got very repetitive. This game has a similar feel overall, although since it uses the Link Between Worlds game engine it inherently feels a little more fresh. The main new mechanic is "toteming" which is where you stack the three Links on top of each other. This is pretty fun, although not new enough to build a whole game around it, and even with the 3D slider up and some of the visual cues, at times it can be difficult to tell how tall some of the enemies, platforms, etc. are.

There are also a couple of new items, which is always welcome, although one is pretty much the same as a previously seen item. The levels "get the job done", but they often reuse ideas from the Four Swords games. The variety of the gameplay comes from the items, which vary depending on which stage you're in, and the costumes. You can get costumes made by collecting certain treasures from each level (one awarded after each level completed), and they give bonuses that vary in usefulness (an extra heart container, no slipping on ice, power up bombs, etc.). The costumes are a lot of fun visually, and they add just enough of a benefit and change to the gameplay that they feel central to the game experience.

As is Nintendo's MO, Tri Force Heroes doesn't include voice chat, and instead you use icons to communicate. The icons are fun and well-chosen, and in many cases you can figure out what someone is trying to tell you through this limited communication mechanism. Although I gave anonymous matchups online a try, most of the time playing with strangers was a huge pain and completely not worth it. Basically the majority of the people I was matched with were idiots who would either not know how the items worked and/or charge into enemies and kill the whole team off (since all three players share hearts). :p In reality these people are probably actually 8 years old or something and Zelda n00bs, so I shouldn't judge them too harshly. On the couple of occasions I was matched with two people who actually did know what they were doing, everything worked flawlessly and we got through the levels extremely efficiently. In those cases the fun of the game actually comes through, and if I had gotten to play with people like that the whole time my impression of the game would no doubt be much higher.

I gave up on anonymous groups pretty quickly, but fortunately the single player mode works pretty well. In Four Swords you were able to set the four Links into predetermined configurations (horizontal line, vertical line, etc.) and you could control them one at a time, but in this game you only can control the three Links one at a time and switch between them. This actually works pretty well, and in some situations it felt like it would actually be easier to get through sections by yourself than trying to coordinate amongst three people, even if you were in the same room and could voice chat. The downside is that getting through the level is much slower playing solo since you have to do everything linearly instead of being able to accomplish some tasks in parallel. Also, in the more action-oriented sections, including boss fights, the delay in switching between Links messes up some of the timing and makes things more difficult than they should be, which can be very frustrating. The game includes a skip function where you can sacrifice a continue and better rewards to skip a subsection of a level, which is definitely useful.

The game includes a fair amount of filler, most of which feels like filler. There's a Coliseum where you can challenge one or two other players and you can pick your costume and from a post-release update a "Den of Trials", but both of these seemed fairly pointless. There are also three challenges for every stage, with requirements such as not using your sword, not falling, etc. This also seemed fairly pointless, and the timed challenges in particular seem like they'd be pretty near impossible playing solo. The one feature that is worthwhile is the single-card download play. This is a great feature, although of course the other two players won't get to keep a record of the stages they've beaten. The story is pretty nonexistent, and the single town is very barebones. It feels like they had thought about including a photo challenge sidequest which would've added to the replayability.

All in all this was a decent game, and probably my favorite multiplayer in the series thus far, although that's not saying much. Nintendo has really been pushing multiplayer lately, and I'm a little concerned about how much fun the next Metroid game (Federation Force) is going to be. If my friends ever do get around to getting the game I'll be happy to dive in to some more of the challenges to get the rest of the costumes, but overall this is definitely on the average side for the series as a whole.

Try out these The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes links:
- Official site
- Page on Miiverse. There was also an art contest for the game on Miiverse.
- Review on NintendoLife
- E3 2015 reveal trailer
- Entry at zeldawiki.org
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Entry at Metacritic

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It's been more than two months now since Miitomo, Nintendo's first smartphone game/app, was released. My ancient smartphone wasn't recent enough to run it, so I've been stealing time on my partner's iPad. I only had one friend to start off with, but after they added the feature that you could add friends via email I was able to add a couple more.

The app had a well-documented and storied history, from its initial announcement, which frustrated investors and baffled the general population, to its hugely popular release, to the current point in time where it seems regular usage has declined significantly.

NintendoLife has a good run-down of the app's features, and at its core its main feature is to let you find out more about your friends by answering questions and comparing answers. This may not sound that fun, but their pitch that you'll find out things about your friends that you never knew is certainly true and, depending on how good your friends are at making jokes, can be highly entertaining.

The second main feature is buying clothes for your Mii and dressing her/him up. You can also earn special clothes through a pachinko-like mini-game, although this game in particular can be maddening since you could waste a significant amount of virtual and real currency trying to nab that one item that you really want.

The last main feature is the ability to create Miifotos, which are funny pictures featuring your and your friends' Miis. The interface is flexible and simple to use and the feature set is pretty rich. Apparently Miifotos were a big draw for people, although as with the app itself I'm sure regular usage has declined significantly.

Not being into buying virtual clothing at all, I can't see myself wanting to spend real money on this any time soon. It's hard to say what sort of features they'd add to this since I expect they're trying to keep this experience distinct and separate from their Tomodachi series. That being the case, I'm not sure that they'll add in the ability to decorate your house or not. That and features like it seem sort of inevitable, although I seriously doubt that will be enough to draw people back into using the app itself.

I always have to chuckle when I see Nintendo confound expectations so unapologetically, but I don't know how much staying power Miitomo has. Still, I'm happy to check in with it semi-regularly to read my friends' answers and earn a few MyNintendo points and I can see myself picking it up whenever I find another friend to join in on the quirky fun.

Meet these Miitomo links:
- Official site
- Current most popular Miifotos on Twitter
- Entry on iTunes
- Entry at Google Play
- Entry on Wikipedia

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Picross is a game, like Sudoku, that I find fun in short bursts but that is pretty mindless and that I lose interest in pretty quickly. In this particular case, I tried out Pokémon Picross, which was released late last year. As with Sudoku games, if you've played one Picross game you've pretty much played them all. In this particular game part of the draw is that the puzzles are all pixel renditions of familiar Pokémon, which was marginally more engaging than the usual stable of random objects. When you solve a puzzle you "capture" that Pokémon, and can use its special ability to help you in other puzzles (e.g. scan puzzle for mistakes, reveal some random squares, etc.).

Each puzzle comes with various missions (e.g. solve in less than X minutes, or use a certain Pokémon ability) that you can tackle to earn "Picrites", the in-game currency, and there are random achievements and daily challenges that will also net you some Picrites. This game is also free to play, and it's done fairly similarly to other games of this kind (e.g. pay Picrites to be able to use Pokémon you've already used or unlock new puzzles). There's a ~32 USD cap on how much you can spend, which for 300+ puzzles this doesn't seem like a great deal, although with the free elements you could probably finish the game with well under that. I personally felt like I'd seen everything the game had to offer after just a couple of hours, and I'll probably try out other Picross games (such as the recently released MyNintendo reward, which uses elements from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) before picking this one up again. Apparently I'm not the only one who found the touchscreen to be a bit unresponsive in this game, at least on the regular 3DS screen that I was using; perhaps the game plays better on a 3DS XL. Regardless, this is a game that may convert some Pokémon fans to the Picross games, but is otherwise pretty unremarkable. Onward!

Cross off these Pokémon Picross links:
- Page on official Pokémon site
- Miiverse page
- Review on NintendoLife
- FAQ on GameFAQs, includes some details on the pricing breakdown

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I think pretty much everyone was taken aback when Nintendo announced that their first free-to-play game would be a new Steel Diver game. I had enjoyed the first Steel Diver game more than I had expected, but I find it hard to believe that many people were champing at the bit to play it. Being a Nintendo completist, I tried out the free version but did spring for the premium version, and as with the first game, found this to be more worthwhile than I expected.

The game is easily described as a sort of slow-motion first-person shooter. Which is hard to imagine being much fun, but actually is more interesting than you would think. The game expands the periscope mode from the previous game, in which you turned the 3DS around physically to shoot at ships from your sub. In this game you actually move the sub around and attack subs as well as other ships. Aside from strategizing when to mask (hide your sub, which uses air) and when to surface (to replenish air), you have to really be careful about positioning yourself, aiming, and shooting, because ammo is limited and everything goes so slowly so you don't have much room for error. This ends up meaning you can strategize more, which is refreshing. The previous game's mode was sort of a slow-motion racer, and this game is a slow-motion FPS. It's interesting that Nintendo is also exploring a slow-motion fighter, with their supposedly forthcoming game, Project Giant Robot, which Miyamoto introduced at E3 2014.

i kind of like the concept of the game just because it's so wacky, but it doesn't really make for thrilling gameplay. The single player mode features two missions in the free version and seven missions in the premium version, which doesn't sound like that many, but each mission has three different difficulty levels and requirements for earning a gold medal. As with most FPSes, the single player mode mostly just serves as a warm-up to the main multiplayer mode, and having only seven ensures that the mode doesn't wear out its welcome. Playing through the single player mode will also unlock additional subs and crew members in the premium version. Crew members are analogous to the decals of the previous game, and serve as a way to tweak your stats (e.g. +1 health for -1 submerged speed). The different subs and crew members let you customize a sub to suit your style, and the premium version also makes more stages available in the multiplayer, so as a package it's worth it if you're into the game at all. The premium version also allows you to purchase additional subs for $1 each, and these subs seem to have slightly better stats overall than the other subs, but not enough to easily overwhelm other players. You can also pay extra to add crew member slots to any sub, which, again, would give those players more customization options, but wouldn't necessarily overwhelm other players

The multiplayer is basically random 4 vs 4 matches, with limited communication. Nintendo has struggled with communication in their games, always opting towards being perhaps overly protective to children. In this game communication is limited to Morse code, which fits nicely with the submarine setting, and pretty much limits you to communicating your current location to your team (e.g. "E3") and simple directives, such as "GO?" and "OK".

Another thing that Nintendo has experimented with is how to effectively use the 3DS's controls to create a FPS. This is much easier now that the New 3DS has a second control stick, but what they opted to do here was to make the controls all touchscreen based, as with the previous game. Like the previous game, using the touchscreen provides a lot of the uniqueness of the game experience, although as in other games with unique controls, it does feel that they can be overly complicating what could be more simple. I ended up opting to use a combination of buttons and touchscreen, although I'm guessing die-hard players of the game always just use the buttons as they're easier. The touchscreen controls would work fine, though, but only because the game's pace is so slow, or rather, requires deliberate actions. The multiplayer setup is similar to Splatoon (although Sub Wars preceded it), in that the teams are always shuffled after every match, ensuring that there isn't any chance of a team ganging up on someone.

Overall I didn't mind the time I spent with Steel Diver: Sub Wars, but as with the first Steel Diver game, it's not one I feel like I need to pour tons of time into. It looks like some people got really into this game, though, and have really mastered the mechanics, debate winning strategies, etc. (like in this random Miiverse post, for example). I like that Nintendo regularly defies expectations and throws curveballs like these, although in this particular case this was a game I admired more than loved. But at the same time, if I knew someone who was really into the game, it's a game that I wouldn't mind playing more of either.

Shoot these slow-motion Steel Diver: Sub Wars links:
- Official site
- Page on nintendo.com
- Miiverse page
- Review on NintendoLife
- Wiki on the game, includes an incomplete list of available subs and requirements to unlock
- Entry on Metacritic
- Info on Wikipedia

/a

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I'm still waiting for the smartphone game that makes it onto my list of best games of all time. I'd read a lot of good things about the game 10000000 (i.e. 10 Million), a game with an unwieldy title that got good press, particularly from Game Informer, who apparently named it their "Best Mobile Exclusive" title of 2012

I picked up the Android version, and it didn't take me long to realize that the game's setup is essentially the same as the game Puzzle Quest, which was a puzzle-RPG hybrid that appeared on the DS. I had played that game about six years ago and thought it wasn't bad overall, and had actually played it all the way through to the end. 10000000 has a unique take on the tired match three mechanics, where instead of moving pieces around or swapping adjacent pieces, you can slide a row or a column (which wrap around the screen). The goal of the game is to earn 10,000,000 points in one round, and this is achieved by working your way up through the levels, which feature more difficult enemies, but also a higher multiplier.

Basically I found 10000000 to be reasonably enjoyable until I realized that despite the more welcoming retro art trappings, the game requires even less strategy than Puzzle Quest. Puzzle Quest requires you to be very deliberate about your movements since in the main modes you alternate moves with the AI, but in this game just making matches of three of the type you need as quickly as possible usually accomplishes enough for you to progress, i.e. you don't really have to think about chains at all. There are missions you have to complete in order to progress to the next ranking and items you have to strategize about using, but otherwise the game is pretty mindless and the enemies don't really require any special strategies.

In short, this definitely wasn't a complete waste of time, but 10000000 wasn't a game that I felt compelled to continue, either. The match 3 genre continues to grow, and I've already put some time into the next one on my list. That one has already been a bit more of a time suck, though, but we'll have to see how it holds up over time...

Puzzle and quest through these 10000000 links:
- Official site
- Pages for Steam version and iTunes version
- Entry at Wikipedia

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