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In lieu of a review this week, I thought I'd just post about some miscellaneous merch that I've bought over the years that I highly recommend. First up is this 62x90 inch Mario blanket.


This blanket is super fuzzy and nice and warm, and is a good size, and only about $24. There's a smaller version, that's 50 x 60 inches, but it costs practically the same amount. Apparently there's also a newer version of the larger blanket with yet another different design. So many options!

Next up is this ridiculously awesome Pikachu hat.

I got this hat from Spencer's, but it's available on Amazon. Anyway, this hat speaks for itself, and is only about $20. Great for people who are too lazy to do real cosplay. ;)

The last item is this Legend of Zelda Hylian shield backpack.

This is another one that speaks for itself. It's the priciest of the three items ($46ish), and I haven't actually used it yet, but it looks pretty awesome. It's kind of big, but would be good for travelling to nerd conventions. ;)

That's it for now, There's a ton of other great merchandise out there, but I'm pretty picky when it comes to actually buying stuff and these three items proved to be irresistible. I've caved on a few other things over the years, so I'll probably end up posting about them as well at some point.

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3D Classics Excitebike was a free release for early 3DS adopters, and although I've had it for years now I hadn't really sat down and given it a whirl. I'd spent some time with the original NES game several years ago and quite enjoyed it, although even at that time I pointed out that the WiiWare follow-up, Excitebike: World Rally was superior in almost every respect.

The game is pretty much exactly the same as the original NES title, so pretty much everything I said about that game still applies. Basically the game is surprisingly fun and even though it only includes five courses (plus five variants) the gameplay is enjoyable and presents a good amount of challenge at the higher stages. This version has a couple of additions, aside from the glasses-free 3D (which isn't that noticeable and really doesn't add much to the overall experience). This version lets you save your custom-build tracks, although there's still a noticeable lack of a sharing option. The view takes advantage of the 3DS's wider screens and so is about twice as big as the original. This provides a minor benefit in that you can see obstacles further in advance, which is nice. The B mode, which adds CPU opponents, is still fun, but winning still feels a bit too random due to the density of the other riders. It's still very satisfying to trip other bikers by hitting them with your back tire, haha. The way the bike clips with the obstacles doesn't feel quite like the original (or at least how I remember it), but otherwise the port feels pretty good.

In general this is a perfectly serviceable version of an NES classic. I would've ranked this as high as the original, but there's really no excuse for not providing custom level sharing options in this day and age. The game is a nice bonus, but probably not worth paying for if you already have the original in any of its many incarnations.

Classic 3D Classics Excitebike links:
- All the links from my review of the original NES game are relevant, so you should check those out first
- Maps of all the qualifying mode courses (i.e. the easier versions)
- Review of the 3DS version at NintendoLife

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I thought I might as well continue my exploration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series since the next one up was the Game Boy title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan and it looked to be a very straightforward affair. The game includes a stage select (although using it prevents you from seeing the true ending), as well as a code to refill your life meter at any time. At only five stages the game is very short, and I breezed through it with little thought using the stage select in less than half an hour.

The game is extremely simplistic and repetitive. The game is different from the two NES games that precede it, and is a completely straightforward left-to-right beat 'em up. Once again the four turtles represent your four lives, and this time the turtles have a special attack, which allows you to throw an unlimited number of shurikens by pressing down and B. Although the turtles themselves wield different weapons, there doesn't seem to be any advantage to choosing one or the other aside from the aesthetics. The sprites are large, but the enemy variety is very limited and boss fights are mindless. Although each stage introduces some new elements, it all feels very trivial and basic. To its credit the game came out only a year and a half after the Game Boy launched, and it's definitely at a higher level than the launch titles in terms of polish.

The game won Nintendo Power's Game Boy Game of the Year award in 1990, and seems to still be regarded with fondness today. Game Boy games were often designed to be easier than their NES brethren, and so it's hard to fault how easy this game was, but I was pretty bored. Having no nostalgia for the Turtles or this game I found this to be a completely forgettable experience, but I'm glad the playthrough only took half an hour and that I can cross this off my list.

Basic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan links:
- Complete playthrough on YouTube
- Review at NintendoLife
- Review at YAGRS
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Apparently there are bonus minigames scattered across the levels. I didn't come across any of them, but this walkthrough at GameFAQs lists some of them.

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I've decided to try to catch up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, so even though I'd checked out the first release on NES just about a month ago, I thought I'd try out its sequel, also on NES, entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. The sequel is more in line with the bulk of the rest of the series, in that it's a straightforward beat 'em up with what I suppose you'd call a pseudo 3D, isometric perspective.

Anyway, the game features codes that greatly up the number of lives and also provide a stage select, so it didn't take much effort to barrel my way through most of the game. Unlike the first NES title, in this game the Turtles pretty much all have identical abilities. They're limited to just a handful of attacks: a regular attack, a hop + attack (executed by pressing the jump button and then immediately pressing the attack button), and a jump kick. There's not a whole lot of grunt enemy variety, although there are quite a few bosses and sub-bosses. The boss fights are very same-y (and, revealing the game's arcade roots, feel like they were designed to munch quarters), and although the game does introduce new hazards in pretty much every new stage, they're not enough to alleviate the tedium common to the genre and exacerbated here by the lack of enemy variety and player attacks, and the complete absence of power-ups.

All in all although I'm sure at the time players were excited to have a port of an arcade favorite, I found this to be fairly dull. I know I'm in a small minority here, but I would even rank this below the first NES game. At least that game had variety in terms of travelling around the overworld map and moving in directions other than just left to right. The games in the series that I'll be playing next are generally regarded as the pinnacle, so we'll have to see if my interest in the series improves at all.

Stroll through these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game links:
- Complete playthrough on YouTube
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Sydlexia ranked this at #11 on their list of top NES games

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I didn't have a game finished for this past week, so I thought now might as well be a good time to post my thoughts on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, especially since the first DLC, in the form of Mewtwo, is coming out in just a week and a half.

I posted my thoughts on the 3DS version right when the Wii U version came out, and I pretty much still feel the same about all my comments in that post re: the character roster. The roster is so huge that I definitely wasn't bored pouring more time into the Wii U version, although it did feel a bit like a drawback to be starting from scratch in terms of completing challenges and collecting trophies and all that. The Wii U specific Events mode was fun to work through, and a step up from Brawl in that each event comes with a challenge, although I preferred the 3DS's simpler take on Classic mode.

A fair amount of the more unique selling points of the Wii U version, namely, the 8-player battles, "Special Orders" mode, level editor, and Amiibo support (which came to 3DS when the New 3DS was released about a month and a half ago) were peripheral and didn't make much of an impact on me at all. The party mode, "Smash Tour", was actually pretty fun, though, and is one that I'm happy to come back to again; I definitely preferred it to the 3DS's Smash Run mode. I like the fast pace of Smash Tour, and although it ends up feeling pretty random it's all in good fun, and I like that you're forced to use a lot of different characters.

Another plus is that the Wii U version includes many more stages and musical tracks than the 3DS version. I forgot to mention this before, but I liked how for competitive matches instead of the barest stage ("Final Destination"), each stage has an "Omega" version that replicates Final Destination but with its own character. The online service works fine, and I only experienced lag with people who had lower bandwidth and were also running something bandwidth-intensive, like Skype.

Re: DLC, the original roster felt complete to me and had some fantastic surprises, so I'm not particularly dying to see any new characters. Mewtwo is nice to have, but I was fine with it being replaced by Lucario. It'll be interesting to see how many more characters they add. Even though I'm by no means a competitive player, it does seem annoying that they keep tweaking the characters and the overall balance, but hopefully they'll leave them be before too much longer.

I suppose I should also mention Amiibo. I found them to be pretty useless in this game, but I definitely have found myself buying more than I'd originally planned. It's great to see such high-quality figures of characters that have never been immortalized in this way before, and although I'm not obsessed enough to be affected too much with their scarcity, I do sympathize with all the fans who haven't been able to get the ones they want. I'm hoping that the big N won't actually make any of them limited and will make supply meet demand eventually, and that they'll just keep reissuing older Amiibo as games that support them come out. It's nice to have them provide minor extras in games over a long period of time instead of taking the Skylanders route, so hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more uses for them in the future.

All in all the Wii U version was a nice step up from the 3DS version, and as usual off-TV play has been a big boon. It's not clear to me how much I'll go back to playing the 3DS version (although I'll still have to pick it up to play it with my nephew), mostly because I'm paranoid about wrecking the control stick on my 3DS XL. But it's nice to have the option. On Wii U, I continued to focus my time on the newer characters, and specifically tried to gain more competence with Rosalina, Wii Fit Trainer, and Palutena. And although I've made progress, I'm definitely far from wholly mastering their movesets. I'm sure the Wii U version (as well as its predecessors) will continue to keep me plenty occupied when I have a Smash Bros. jones until the next version comes out, and that's not even taking into account all the potential for DLC characters. The poll Nintendo opened to let players vote for a character to be added should yield some fascinating results, and will keep the Smash Bros. hype train rolling through the fall and beyond.

Smashing double helping of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U links:
- Miiverse community
- Tier lists are always entertaining. The Smash wikis haven't posted one yet, but here's one based on player votes.

I posted these already on my post about the 3DS version, but here they are again because they're that useful:
- Official site, which includes all the character reveal videos
- Entry at ssbwiki.com
- Entry at supersmashbros.wikia.com

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