As usual I'm starting off the new year focusing on games that I'm actually taking the effort to get through, so in the meantime here's a quick post about the free-to-start title Nintendo Badge Arcade on 3DS, a crane game simulation that lets you earn "badges" to decorate your 3DS's home screen with. I'd been jealous of people in Japan, since they've had the game for ages before NA and Europe, so I was psyched when it was finally released. I've been playing it daily since it was released a couple of months ago, and it soon became apparent that there's no way you could be a completionist without spending a lot of real money.

The game is definitely skewed toward you spending money, but overall it feels more or less fair, especially considering that 3DS themes cost $2 each. You can earn a free play every day or so by playing the "practice catchers", and they give out free plays fairly regularly as well. These free plays won't get you that far, though, since the game purposely puts the most desirable badges underneath other badges, requiring you to have at least 3 or 4 plays (and often a decent amount of luck) to get them. But if you have the mindset of the game being about nabbing some nice art for your home screen and just reserving your paid plays for badges you really want (in my case, $3 of real money so far), then you won't be too frustrated.

There's a nice variety in the badges, and all your favorite Nintendo characters and series are well represented (although no Fire Emblem badges yet, sadly). The game also often offers a basic theme (no music or sound effects) specifically designed to accompany badges as a bonus if you buy $2 worth of plays. The presentation is colorful and also pretty laid back with no pressure to spend real money, and the pink rabbit mascot is a nice addition to the roster of Nintendo characters. It would be nice if the badge sets cycled through a bit more regularly (there are some sets that seem to show up a lot and others that I've only seen once so far), but considering the sheer number of badge sets that's not too surprising. In any case, this was a nice free-to-start title and, while not super generous in free plays, seems fair and I'm happy to spend more real money on it in the future.

Catch some Nintendo Badge Arcade links:
- Official site
- Screenshots of someone who got every single Japanese badge (and probably spent a ton doing so!), including a pic of the highest trophy you can earn
- That same guy also posted some tips on Reddit

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Another year, and another stack of games played. Last year I'd played more console games in 2014, but this year I played more on handhelds, in part because I was travelling more. I also continued to be busy outside of gaming, so I played a lot of shorter games. Some were disposable smartphone titles (the most notable of which was 7 Little Words), but I also played a lot of 3DS eShop and DSiWare games. I played a fair amount of retro games, although they were pretty spread out amongst the various consoles and handhelds. I've completed various series in previous years, but this past year I didn't really finish any new series. I didn't really make a concerted effort to get through my neverending list of "games I should play" either, although I did get to cross off some games from that list, including the enjoyable Shantae and some of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. I also did a pretty decent job of balancing out playing sequels with playing games from new series.

I was surprised that I ended up sinking a ton of time into Pokemon Y, which I ended up blogging about for the third year in a row. I spent way too much finishing the National Pokedex, hunting for shinies, and trying to get through the Battle Maison, and although the latter proved to be frustrating, the game's ability to bring out my obsessive tendencies was noteworthy (although I'm not sure it's such a good thing for me personally!). I finally replayed Ocarina of Time in the form of its 3DS remake, which I enjoyed more the second time around. I also continued to be impressed with the Art Style series, and despite initially having little interest in Splatoon, once I got to the ranked battles I found the strength of the game's "just one more" pull to be dangerously noteworthy. Splatoon ended up impressing me so much and is so elegantly designed and so much darn multiplayer fun that it made it to my "greatest games of all time" list, and like the Smash Bros. games is one I could've easily played for much longer than I did.

Here's the summary of what my 2015 looked like gaming-wise (games listed in approximate descending order) with links to each game’s corresponding blog review:

HIGH
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)
- Splatoon (Wii U)
- Dance Dance Revolution Konamix (PS)
- Pokemon Y (3DS) (replay; previous: 2014, 2013)
- Space Invaders (Arcade) (and Space Invaders Part II (Arcade))
- Art Style: Boxlife (DSiWare)

MIDDLE
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)
- Gunman Clive (3DSWare)
- Art Style: precipice (DSiWare)
- 7 Little Words (Android)
- 100 Classic Books (DS)
- Tetris: Axis (3DS)
- Pop Island (DSiWare)
- Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix (GCN)
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)
- The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave (3DSWare)
- Teslagrad (Wii U Ware)
- Tetris DX (GBC)
- Pushmo World (Wii U Ware)
- Weapon Shop de Omasse (3DSWare)
- Zen Pinball 2 (WiiuWare)
- Streetpass Mii Plaza Games: Set 2 (3DSWare) (replay; previous: 2014)
- Just Dance (Wii)
- Quell Reflect (Android)
- Shantae (GBC)
- Wii Fit U (Wii U)
- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)
- Gunman Clive 2 (3DSWare)
- escapeVektor (3DSWare)
- Pokemon Shuffle (3DSWare)
- Dillon's Rolling Western (3DSWare)
- Yoshi's New Island (3DS)
- The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)
- 3D Classics Excitebike (3DSWare)
- We Ski (Wii)
- HarmoKnight (3DSWare)
- Art Academy: First Semester (DSiWare)
- World of Goo (PC)
- Swords and Soldiers HD (PC)
- Snapdots (DSiWare)
- Paper Airplane Chase (DSiWare)
- Flow Free: Bridges (Android)
- Red Herring (Android)

LOW
- Kung Fu (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (GB)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
- Pokémon Battle Trozei (3DSWare)

NOT RATED
- Wii U Panorama View: Rickshaw Around Kyoto, Birds in Flight (Wii U)
- Photos with Mario (3DSWare)
- Just Jumble (Android)
- Altered Beast (Arcade)
- 4 Words (Android)

Outside of games played, I also need to give a shout-out to Satoru Iwata, who sadly passed away this year. Iwata is, quite simply, one of my personal heroes, and he has been sorely missed. R.I.P. Iwata-san! On a lighter note, apparently my only non-game review this year was a post on some random Nintendo merch that I've bought over the years, haha.

This time last year I'd mentioned trying to get back to the Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton series (among others), but this year I think I'll be able to make more progress on those fronts. As with most gamers, I continue to struggle with abandoning games and leaving them half completed, but I anticipate that I'll be able to be a bit better about that this year, although all bets are off in February when the new Fire Emblem game (with three parts!) comes out. That's definitely the release I'm looking most forward to for this year so far, although the Wii U Zelda game and the reveal of Nintendo's new platform are also sure to keep things pretty interesting for 2016.

That's it for another year in review. As always, thanks as always to anyone who’s stumbled across my little patch of cyberspace and found it even mildly diverting, and welcome to another full year of video games at the Intergalactic Video Game Academy! ;)

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[Slipping in one last game before the new year!] It's been a few years since I'd played a Kirby game, and as I'd really enjoyed its predecessor, Kirby: Canvas Curse, I was looking forward to seeing how that game's concepts would have evolved in its Wii U follow-up, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.

The short answer, unfortunately, is, not much. The game uses the same mechanics of drawing paths to guide a ball-shaped Kirby with very little in the way of surprises. The clay aesthetics are nice, but underused and don't influence the game's mechanics much at all. An obvious problem with the game is that relying on the touchscreen of the Wii U's GamePad means that the player doesn't get a chance to see the game on the big screen, which seems like a big waste and a bad game choice: the game would've been a much more natural fit on the 3DS. As with most games of this type, getting through the stages doesn't take a ton of effort, but tracking down all the hidden collectibles is usually worthwhile. There are too many timed challenges embedded in the regular stages, though, which means if you fail at them you'll have to redo the level again, which is annoying.

The developers further padded the game by adding in a ton of 15-second challenges, most often presented in a series of 4 and a few as a tedious series of 12. The challenges are an okay diversion, but having it make up the other half of the game just makes the whole package feel like it was rushed and not up to HAL Laboratory's usual standards. Near the end of the game there are some glimmers of more originality, but aside from the addition of multiplayer, there really wasn't much that kept my attention with this release. I keep meaning to catch up on the Kirby games more, so I guess we'll see if any of the more-traditional games in the series offer any more surprises than this one.

Drawn out Kirby and the Rainbow Curse links:
- Official site
-
Original E3 announcement trailer
- Entry at kirby.wikia.com
- Entry at NintendoLife
- Thread at GameFAQs of people comparing Rainbow Curse to Canvas Canvas

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For my last game of 2015, I had to post about Pokemon X/Y, because I more than doubled the amount of time I'd spent on the game since the last time I posted about it (in the fall of last year), going from 150+ hours to more than 310+ hours (!!!!). The bulk of that time was spent trying to get through the post-game "marathon mode" that is presented in the form of the damn Battle Maison. I focused on the Single Battle mode, and getting through the regular Single Battle mode (20 wins in a row) was easy, but getting through the "Super" Single Battle mode has been a huge pain. I'm determined not to overload my three-'mon team with Uber Pokemon (esp. legendaries), and similarly I don't want to have to use a 6-perfect-IV team (I've gotten quite a few 'mon with 5 perfect IVs just from wonder trading (presumably people doing a lot of breeding and discarding ones that didn't have perfect IVs or the nature they wanted, etc.)), but creating a team that can take on any possible combination of opponents seems extremely difficult. I've been able to get to around #40 fairly consistently without too much trouble, but anything about #35 or more seems to require too much luck. It's been entertaining to see the different strategies the CPU throws at you, and I've adjusted my team several times (replacing Greninja, for example, who despite being ranked as Uber on Smogon kept letting me down), but eventually I've had to table this for a while, at least until I can try adjusting my team yet again. I'm guessing that the other modes are a little less luck based as you have a slightly bigger team to work with.

Despite this disappointment, while I was slogging through this pain I used the game's online features to finally finish the national Pokedex (that's some 710+ Pokemon, as limited-release event Pokemon are not required), a first for me for the series. The online features make completing the Pokedex a question of time rather than serious effort, and I was always surprised at how easy it was to trade for legendaries with Pokemon that weren't, in my opinion, really equal. In any case, it's nice to finally have the Shiny Charm. I tried using the Pokeradar to catch shinies more seriously than before, and after a fair amount of effort I finally caught a shiny Croagunk (incidentally, this is the video I found most useful for learning how to catch shinies in Pokemon X/Y (and ORAS), as the mechanics seems to have changed since the last generation). It seems like even with stepping into the right grass perfectly there's still a fairly high chance (a couple percent) that your chain will break before you get to the target of 40, but with enough persistence you should be able to. I don't have enough time to devote myself to shiny hunting as a way of life, but it was fun to be able to at least know the mechanics inside and out and cross this off my list of things to try in the Pokemon games (although I still have yet to naturally encounter a shiny in the wild).

I don't know that I would have guessed that Pokemon X/Y would have ended up being one of my most-played games ever, but I guess I've "levelled up" again in my Pokemon fandom. I'm determined to give the Battle Maison another go at some point and eventually experiment with an all-new team, and I'm also looking forward to seeing what new announcements are in store for us for 2016, which is the Pokemon series' 20th anniversary. There are still a few minor things here and there that I haven't 100% completed in Pokemon X/Y, like the Battle Chateau and the Battle Institute, so it looks like there's still a fair amount more for me to tackle when I do pick this up again. I have a feeling I'll be posting about the game in 2016 as well, which would be the fourth year in a row, but we'll just have to see.

Some pain-free Pokemon X/Y links:
- My previous two posts on the game (from 2014 and 2013) have a lot of still-relevant links
- Bulbapedia is still the best site for everything you could ever want to know about the games and the series
- Just for fun, here are pictures of some cute holiday-themed Pokemon merch that were released in Japan a few years ago.

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I'd played and enjoyed Just Dance 2, and I knew that playing its predecessor, Just Dance, would feel like a step back. I'm a completist in general, though, and felt the need to try it out. The game is, believe it or not, even more simplistic than its successor. The motion controls do feel less accurate, and the ranking system in terms of achieving a target score is more basic. In this game the goal is to top 10,000 points in each song, which gets you a gold border in the song selection screen and the summary page that's buried under the Extras menu. You also apparently get a little trophy icon in the song selection screen if you top 15,000 points, although given the issues with the controls that probably takes a fair amount of trial-and-error-based "practice". The game also doesn't have some of the tiny additions introduced in the sequel, namely a visual cue of which hand is holding the wiimote, and "gold moves" (moves that, if you hit them, net you extra points).

A lot of the issues with the choreography are as apparent here as in the sequel, namely, too much mime (e.g. shooting imaginary guns and playing air guitar, among other movements), and a lot of focus on arm movements, which makes sense, seeing as how the motion detection is achieved solely via the single wiimote. Also, quite a lot of moves in this game were reused in the sequel, which made the choreography feel overly familiar too often. I'm also still not a big fan of the visuals, either, especially since, many sequels later, Ubisoft has still not changed the style at all.

Despite all of this, although I started off feeling pretty critical, after playing through all the songs, the game's ability to conjure up a chuckle and a smile--mostly at the sheer goofiness of my own ineptitude (I shudder to imagine what I actually looked like while playing this game!)--won me over. This doesn't feel like the best entry in the series, but it was enjoyable overall nonetheless, and an interesting debut to a series that has apparently gone on to sell more than 40 million units.

Some Just Dance links:
- Page at nintendo.com
-
Page on Wikipedia

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