Like many adult gamers, my backlog is a constant source of shame and anxiety, and at the forefront of that avalanche of shame is the pile of Steam games I've accrued over the years (those darn Humble bundles are just too hard to resist). Swords and Soldiers HD was actually probably one of the first games I bought on Steam, as the WiiWare version had gotten great reviews and it was (presumably, I don't really remember) just a couple of bucks.

I'm not really into tower defense games, but the game's cartoony visuals drew me in. The game features three different factions: Vikings, Aztecs, and Chinese, and the variety of units and special powers is engaging. The game is polished and on my laptop didn't have any slowdown whatsoever, even when the screen was full of skeletons, flaming arrows, angry Vikings, and the like. The game does change things up so that some strategy is required, but for the most part it was pretty casual and mindless. The game includes special powers, such as lightning strikes, that you can activate and direct, and in general feels like it requires more active participation than the only other tower defense game I've spent a significant amount of time with, Plants vs. Zombies (which I found to be completely mind-numbing).

The polished presentation wasn't quite enough to see me to the end of the third campaign, but the three different factions do feel unique and the game was pretty entertaining overall. I can't say that I'm too interested in the sequel, which has gotten positive reviews but just looks like more of the same, though.

Defend these Swords and Soldiers HD links:
- The game has been released on many Nintendo platforms by now. Along with the aforementioned WiiWare release, it was also released on 3DS and Wii U. Apparently it's also been ported to a variety of other platforms, including iOS and Android.
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com
- Entry on Wikipedia

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This is just a quick post about a freebie that flew under the radar, Photos with Mario. The title is more of an app than a game, and although it's a free download the game's cards were originally included in $10 eShop cards that were first exclusive to Target stores but apparently eventually were made available elsewhere. Only three cards, each representing a Mario character, were released in the US (and the original "?" AR card also adds a couple of characters), although Japan got an additional three as well as a Pikmin and Animal Crossing set (with accompanying downloadable titles). In any case, you can easily download and print out your own copies of the cards here.

Overall Photos with Mario feels like a very basic extension of the AR capabilities of the 3DS pack-in title AR games. That title had a mode where you could scan in the character cards and take pictures of various Nintendo characters such as Mario, Kirby, and your Mii characters in various poses. Photos with Mario is very similar to that mode, although you can experiment with scanning two cards at once and get a couple cases where they interact with each other, and there are some additional features (you can find a complete run-down on the Mario wiki page). The characters have animations instead of static poses, but they're pretty limited, and it doesn't take long to go through everything the app and the six cards (+ the "?" card) have to offer.

All in all this is a cute little bonus for the people who bought the compatible eShop cards, but is otherwise pretty forgettable. More cards and more interactions would have made this more entertaining, but people who loved the similar mode in the original set of AR games would probably enjoy this as well.

AR with Mario with these Photos with Mario links:
- Hands-on at NintendoLife
- Official page at nintendo.com
- Official video highlighting all the features
- Handy list of all games featuring AR card compatibility on the official Nintendo site

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I've played quite a few games in the Guild series, a group of bite-size, somewhat experimental games published by Level-5 (of Professor Layton fame). Weapon Shop De Omasse was a surprise because people generally didn't expect it to be localized since it featured so much text. I'd generally enjoyed the other entries in this varied series, and it got a glowing review from NintendoLife, so I thought I'd give it a try.

The game is sometimes billed as a rhythm game, but the rhythm part is pretty small compared to the rest of the game. The conceit is that you're an apprentice in a weapon shop and instead of going on a typical RPG adventure you're responsible for supplying a small cast of adventurers (and a steady stream of NPCs) of weapon rentals and reading about their adventures. So the game is actually much more like a visual novel, than anything else (albeit with an entertaining and quirky cast). The writing is consistently entertaining, often parodying the RPG genre itself as well as modern social media (the adventurers record their posts to the Twitter-like "Grindcast"). Deciding which weapon to forge for which adventurer takes only a small amount of brain power, as does forging itself. Pretty soon you settle into the "rhythm" of the routine, and reading the adventurers' reports while working on mundane tasks like polishing returned weapons becomes very relaxing. The characters are memorable and the writing generally amusing. Although not often laugh-out-loud funny, the game is generally entertaining, and at something like 10 hours long (much less if you don't read every line) it doesn't wear out its welcome.

I think the reviewer at NintendoLife was a bit overgenerous, but I do appreciate that this is a game that tries to do something a little different from the norm (and succeeds). Not an unequivocal recommendation, but fans of games like Phoenix Wright should enjoy it.

Forge these Weapon Shop De Omasse links:
- Miiverse community
- There aren't any walkthroughs written up, but the GameFAQs board for the game has a lot of info, esp. about the postgame which includes a couple more quests for all the characters but seems to require excessive grinding

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Six games into the Art Style series, and I still have yet to encounter a dud. My sixth game was Art Style: precipice (aka Art Style: KUBOS), and it's a change of pace as it has a sort of platformer feel to it. This game precedes the game Catherine, which has a similar type of cube climbing mechanic (at least from what I can tell after playing through the opening sections of that game), by about a year and a half. In any case, in general your goal is to get your little character to ever higher floors while avoiding being crushed by falling cubes and having the floor fall out from under you. Along the way you also defuse bombs to collect your one block-clearing attack, make lines to get bonus points and health, and push and pull cubes around to try to complete the aforementioned advantageous lines.

I wasn't sure what to expect, fearing at worse a sort of tedium like I'd felt while playing Wario's Woods, but the game was (as usual) wonderfully addictive, esp. once I found out that you could actually move blocks around. Getting the ending of the main mode was wholly satisfying, and although the endless mode is entertaining, it's much less of an essential experience. The game, as I've come to expect, is polished until it gleams, but also has some moments of charm and chuckles. In short, it's a classic Art Style experience, and one I fully relished.

The geniuses at skip Ltd. game have produced a game that is every bit as enjoyable and unique as any of the others in the series. This game, like many in the series, would be ripe for multiplayer modes, and would also be a perfect fit for the glasses-free 3D of the 3DS. Also, although I'll be revisiting it for the endless mode, just one or two more modes would've pushed this up into my greatest games of all time list. In any case, this is easily one of the best games I've played in a long time, and although I only have one other DSiware game in the series left to play, I'm glad I still have the rest of the WiiWare and GBA games to look forward to. It's safe to say that my growing love for this series is only rivaled by my love for Nintendo's core series like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, and in many ways surpasses them as each game is completely distinct. I have a feeling I'm going to have to take up proselytizing for this series on a regular basis in the hopes that it gains new converts and hopefully new entries!

Surmount these Art Style: precipice links:
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entertaining (and philosophical) review at Kotaku

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Playing Pokémon Shuffle reminded me that I've had its predecessor, Pokémon Battle Trozei (aka Pokémon Link: Battle!), for a while but haven't really spent much time with it. I'd been pretty unimpressed with Pokémon Trozei, which appeared on DS, and really wasn't expecting much from the sequel. My complaint about the original game was that it was a typical match three but felt very simplistic and repetitive and had very little variation. At that time I'd said, "all in all the game could work as a 'my first puzzle game' for young pokemon fans, but hard-core puzzle-game fans should pass this one up even if they’re fans of all things pokemon."

Pokémon Battle Trozei introduces a few new elements, but ends up being even more of a snoozefest than the original. In this game you have target pokémon that appear at the top of the screen, and the first match in your chain determines the type effectiveness of your "attack" (using the by-now familiar type hierarchy of the games). You can also bring one of your captured pokémon into battle, and some have special effects that provide small benefits. The chaining system is the same as the original, and is as easy/mindless. Clearing the entire board nets you many more points, but even after playing the game for several hours it still felt like whether or not I had the right pieces to clear the box was more a matter of luck than skill. Some stages have secret requirements for unlocking extra 'mon to collect, but the requirements can be completely obscure and stupid, which was annoying to say the least. Getting an "S" rank on a stage does take multiple tries, but there are no immediate rewards for doing so.

In the end I had to give this game much lower marks than the original Trozei game, and far lower than Shuffle which I found generally enjoyable (although also mindless). There are only a handful of new mechanics, and they don't help in the least in keeping the stages from all feeling completely identical. The game doesn't even have the unique presentation of the first game, or any other hint of characterization for that matter. It's at times like these that I lament my completist tendencies as this was one that I, and the world, would have been better off without.

Match these Pokémon Battle Trozei links:
- Review at NintendoLife: Apparently there are some people who really enjoy this game. The mind boggles.
- Miiverse community
- Entry at Bulbapedia

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