I've been trying to get through all the downloaded games that have been sitting on my 3DS, so I spent some more time with yet another Pokemon Rumble game, this one called Pokemon Rumble World. Although the game is a free-to-start downloadable game, it was was also given a retail release, which is a bit unusual. This one is the fourth in the series (I skipped over the Wii U release, although I've dipped into that as well), although from a few feet away it's pretty hard to tell the games apart as they're all extremely similar.

Unsurprisingly this game is most similar to its 3DS predecessor, Pokemon Rumble Blast, which I spent some time slogging through last year. Both games feature the same beat-'em-up-like mechanics which consist of collecting little toy Pokemon that you send on short stages where you have a chance of collecting other Pokemon you defeat. Each stage ends with a boss encounter, but it's basically more of the same. The stages have minimal differences and are bland, and the action is extremely repetitive and mindless. The developers have gone to a lot of effort to come up with beat-'em-up analogues for every move in the main games, although a lot of them are unwieldy or pretty useless in this context. Both games also mix things up a bit with arena "free for all" brawl challenges, in which you battle against a large group of Pokemon all at once.

Pokemon Rumble World adds in a few wrinkles, most of which are for the worse. One is that it introduces balloons which you have to buy with the in-game currency in order to visit stages that are home to particular Pokemon. You can only use a balloon after a certain amount of real-world time has elapsed, which is a familiar but annoying free-to-play mechanic. "Poke Diamonds" are the in-game currency that you have to pay real money for in order to unlock everything in the game. The download game maxes this currency at 30 real dollars and after that apparently you get a number of free diamonds a day, which seems like an extremely awkward combination of free-to-play mechanics with a regular paid game.

The game includes the Pokemon from the then-most recent generation of games (Generation VI, which included Pokemon X and Y), and also some of the mechanics introduced in those games, namely mega evolutions and the fairy type, which may get some people excited. It also introduces mission challenges which make things a little more interesting (which isn't saying much since the core game is so boring) since they add challenge that's really not seen in the rest of the game. It also puts a bit of focus on the social element, as you can earn costumes and backgrounds for your Mii and your Mii profile card. Profile cards are exchanged via StreetPass and include various stats such as play time.

All in all this is basically just a free-to-start version of Pokemon Rumble Blast, and I can't imagine anyone but the most hardcore Pokemon fan would be interested in playing both extensively. The Pokemon Rumble formula has long worn out its welcome for me, but I suppose this free-to-start iteration was released in order to attract new people to this Pokemon spin-off series. I can't say I'm particularly looking forward to playing more of these games, but I guess there are worse games in the world.

Some mindless Pokemon Rumble World links:
- Official site
- Entry at Bulbapedia, which includes passwords
- Page on Miiverse
- FAQ at GameFAQs
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Metacritic

I actually finished Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for 3DS before playing the English Training games I blogged about in my last post, but I thought two posts in a row about Fire Emblem would be a bit much. This has already been a big year for the series, and I'm still looking forward to the upcoming crossover, Fire Emblem Warriors, and planning to squeeze one or two playthroughs of the main games in this year as well.

Anyway, I'd dipped into the original Japan-only Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game in the series, so I'd already become familiar with the majority of the unique elements in Fire Emblem Shadows. Like many sequels of the era, Fire Emblem Gaiden experimented with a lot of things, including playing two separate armies simultaneously, spells that cost HP, towns with villagers you can talk to, unbreakable weapons, a world map with random encounters, and items, such as shields, that characters can equip for bonuses during battle. Like the first game, Gaiden feels very slow and primitive compared to the later games, as you can't skip the battle animations and the character hit rates are so low it means a lot of rounds you and the enemy are just missing each other (boring!). The characters' growth rates in the original game are also really low, which also adds to the feeling of slowness because levelling up your characters takes a long time.

Like their previous remakes, Shadows feels true to the original, but thankfully modernizes most everything. Although the developers didn't incorporate the series' now-standard weapon triangle (which wasn't added until the fourth game in the series), most everything else has been updated, including the story, which has been greatly expanded upon and fleshed out; the characters, who are fully voiced, a series first; towns, which you navigate in a first-person view that feels very Phoenix Wright; and dungeons, which you explore in a third-person perspective in a very Persona like manner. The game does include support conversations, which are a big draw for fans of the series, myself included, although they're very limited: most characters only have one person they support with. This means that in a single playthrough you can unlock almost all of the supports, which is actually kind of a good thing for a completist like myself. They also added "Combat Arts", which are skills that some weapons/equipment can unlock the more you use them, which helps keep things interesting.

The remake looks and sounds fantastic. It reuses the same game engine as Awakening and Fates, but the new artist and the more demure color palette, and the great battle animations, which are more dynamic than ever, you hardly notice. make else feels fresh .The game also includes Amiibo support in the form of two unique dungeons for Alm and Celica (the two game-specific Amiibo), the usual glut of DLC content for diehard fans, and a new challenging "marathon" type dungeon as a new chapter 6 available after you complete the main story.

One area the developers didn't change was the battle maps themselves, which tend to feel pretty same-y (too big and too bare). The game also still lets you bring pretty much your whole team to every battle, which is probably why the maps are big, which seems a bit unnecessary and tends to make battles drag on. I played the game on normal, which was pretty mindlessly easy for the most part, especially because the game adds in "Mila's Turnwheel", a device you pick up early on and that lets you rewind time to take back a bad move you've made. Although I appreciate how convenient this addition is, it almost makes the game too easy, although the developers mitigate this somewhat by not letting you rewind time if either of the two main characters dies. The developers have experimented with a lot of different ways to prevent players from getting too frustrated such as restrictions on mid-battle save points, etc., and although I'm still a bit conflicted about this I wouldn't mind seeing it return in a future installment.

After having played through this remake, I'm left feeling a lot like how I felt after playing Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, the DS remake of the first game in the series. While the game pales in comparison to other games in the series, it's fantastic to have an updated version of the game rather than have to struggle through the extremely slow-paced and Japanese-only original. The game has a lot of unique elements that were rarely seen in other entries of the series, if at all, and the developers did a pretty good job of breathing new life into the characters and fleshing out their personalities (although the characters and story are still on the thin side overall). This game isn't likely to be amongst my top favorite Fire Emblem games, but I'm extremely glad that the remake was created in the first place, and I'm really hoping that more remakes are in the pipeline. One can only hope!

Check out these gussied up Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia links:
- As always, serenesforest.net should be your first stop for info about the game
- Entry at nintendo.com
- Page on Miiverse
- Review at NintendoLife

When I was travelling in Europe a few years ago I was curious about video games that were published outside of the US, so I picked up cheap copies of two DS games that I otherwise would have little use. Both of them were no doubt riding the wave of the success of the first Brain Age game, and the first is called English Training, while its sequel is called Practise English. "More English Training" would probably have been a more appropriate title for the latter, as that game does pretty much everything the first game does, but adds more extras.

[As a side note, be aware that the original DS and DS Lite are region free and so a US version can play these games, but note that all the DSi and 3DS/2DS models are region-locked and US versions can't play this game. Also note that despite packaging being specific to different countries, all versions of the games give you the option of selecting your native language amongst the provided options, which are German, French, Italian, and Spanish, and in some versions of the game, Dutch. Oh, and the original version of the game was for Japanese speakers.]

I had the vague notion that playing these games might help me learn other languages, but the majority of the games are really focused on having you listen to dialogues and then transcribing them via the games' handwriting recognition, which is, of course, fairly useless for a native speaker. There are a lot of ways they take the material from the dialogues and repackage them to help drill them into you, for example: some listening comprehension questions of the dialogues, including a dictionary of words and phrases from the dialogues that you can refer back to, a "continuous play" option where you can listen to all the dialogues in a row without pause and on a loop (and also just the ones you've marked as having trouble with), etc. The dialogues themselves have a lot of variety and seem like pretty standard but useful phrases, and there are some surprises thrown in to mix things up a bit, such as some nursery rhyme songs (although I'm not sure how useful it is for a foreign speaker to know how to say "Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow", haha). The second game in particular has some more variety, such as a section that consists of many different people speaking English in different accents, including an Australian or a Japanese person speaking English (the game otherwise uses British English).

As with the Brain Age games you can take a test once a day to help chart your progress, and there's also a graph you can look at that shows you how many exercises you've completed over time. Both games have a handful of extras that are more game-like, but the second game has more of them. That game has a mini-game where you act as a pizza delivery person and have to follow directions to deliver pizzas, and one where you're given instructions on how to color a picture (for example, "color the woman's hair pink").

Although I'm not the games' target audience and it's not really too useful for me to learn one of the foreign languages, they are very well designed and seem like much better overall than the two other language games I've played, My French Coach and My Japanese Coach. Still, it's always fun to take a peek at games released outside of my region, and if any reader happens to be checking out this review, then I can definitely recommend these games based on my experience with them. Have fun! ;)

In my post about contributing to the blog A Most Agreeable Pastime, I'd mentioned that I wouldn't be cross-posting in general, but I'm afraid I'm already going to have to make an exception. I'd already posted about Nintendo's smartphone game Fire Emblem Heroes, on this blog a few weeks after it was released, and I'd enjoyed the game but hadn't been wowed by it. But what a difference a few more months make! The game has steadily grown in features and, although there have been dips in my interest, overall my enjoyment of the game has just increased as time has gone on. My blog entry at A Most Agreeable Pastime goes into exhaustive (and probably exhausting) detail, but my concluding paragraph sums up my current feelings:

    Intelligent Systems is one of my favorite developers, and contrary to my initial expectations the game is actually so much fun and addictive that I’ve added it to my list of Favorite Games of All Time. I’m skeptical that the game can continue to keep my attention for another year, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what Intelligent Systems has up their sleeves.

In the few weeks since that post was written there haven't been any major announcements of new features, so I'm in a steady state of trying to put in the minimum time required to keep up with whatever the current missions are. I'm sure when new characters I like are added my interest will be reinvigorated, but for now I'm happy to keep chugging along without having to sink too much time in the game. Which hopefully will free me up to finally finish other games I've been ignoring for far too long!

I was in the mood to play something a bit mindless, so I tried out My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for 3DS. The MyNintendo rewards have been pretty underwhelming in general, but it was nice that we got this little exclusive (although I'm disappointed we never got the two Japan-only Club Nintendo Picross games). The game is developed by Jupiter Corporation, who developed all the previous Picross games for Nintendo, including the original Mario's Picross game, all the Picross e games on 3DS, and Pokémon Picross (which I played last year).

The game is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be, which is Picross with Twilight Princess references. Along with Twilight Princess themed puzzles, the game also includes sound effects and music, including the iconic "da da da!" victory jingle (in this case, played whenever you complete a puzzle). You're given plenty of time to complete the puzzles (there's a 60-minute time limit), and various hint options, such as options for the game to tell you when you've made a mistake at the expense of a time penalty. There's also a nice feature where the game will show you in blue which columns/rows you can currently fill in. You can choose between touchscreen controls or buttons, and if you use touchscreen controls you can also use the control stick or D-pad to toggle between filling in squares or marking them with an X. One surprise was that the game includes "Mega Picross" puzzles, which have a variation of the regular Picross rules and offer a nice change of pace (apparently these are also included in Pokémon Picross, although I guess I got bored of that game before I got far enough along to encounter them).

This was a fun game and the Twilight Princess elements gave me a nice feeling of nostalgia. Nothing earth-shattering, but a good game to unwind with.