Has it really been five and a half years since I've played a proper Metroid game ? Yikes! Like many others I wasn't too keen on Metroid Prime: Federation Force for 3DS, which was released about a year ago. My aversion to it wasn't so much because it didn't feature the beloved Samus Aran, but because it was squarely multiplayer focused, much like a lot of Nintendo's recent 3DS games (e.g. Team Kirby Crash Deluxe, Steel Diver: Sub Wars and Tank Troopers, etc.).

Federation Force strongly reminded me of The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, as it is also a multiplayer-focused spin-off of a main Nintendo franchise for 3DS. I enjoyed that game overall decently well when I played it last year, but that game had an advantage over this one in that the single player version of the game works pretty well. In Federation Force the game is clearly designed to make the most of the co-op experience, so even though you can equip three drones to add to your firepower and a "MOD" that lets you do more damage when playing solo, a lot of the missions really rely on a squad, such as protecting a team member who is carrying an item, or parallelizing time-critical tasks. The game does scale up the difficulty when playing with just one other person versus playing with a full team of four, which is good, but to get all three medals for each of the 22 missions you pretty much absolutely have to have a full team of four. And not just any team of four, but one that is extremely well-coordinated. I lucked out on a few of my gaming sessions and ended up with some pretty good teams of random matchups online, but even when playing pretty efficiently, it was really clear that if any one member was just a little slow or otherwise out of sync that you would miss out on getting the highest ranking for the stage.

It's hard to fault the game for being so multiplayer focused when clearly that's its raison d'etre, but it did make it much harder for me to enjoy it. The game does make jumping into a session with other people pretty easy. I had a hard time finding people during the week, but on the weekends it seemed much easier, but that's not surprising. The game also takes a Tri Force Heroes like approach to communication in that you're limited to pre-set utterances, but this didn't detract from the experience ("Over Here", "Good Job", "Help", and "Thanks" do the job fine).

Aside from my complaints about the game being all about the multiplayer, the game itself feels pretty average overall. The graphics looked really blocky (much worse than Next Level Games' previous game, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon), and the visual design, level design, music, storyline, everything all felt bland to me. I felt the same way about Dark Moon in general, although that game got way more critical acclaim than this one. This one is much more about action than exploration, but the locales here are all the usual type (ice world, fire world, yaaaaawn). Likewise the weapons are all pretty standard (ice beam, proximity bombs, etc.) The game has MODs, which are collectibles you equip to modify various properties (e.g. make enemies stay frozen for longer). These give you a decent amount of customization, although you can only equip three at any one time and they're not very flashy. There are a few boss fights which are generally not bad, although some have some cheap one-hit KO moves. The game unlocks hard versions of every mission after you beat it, but from what the hard mode seems identical to the regular mode except presumably the enemies have more health. The game also includes "Blast Ball", a Rocket League wannabe sort of 3 vs. 3 soccer/shooter hybrid mode. I tried out the demo when it was first released, but it really didn't interest me much.

Overall the game was frustrating playing solo and oftentimes frustrating playing with random people online, but with a good team the game is actually pretty fun. If I had had a consistent group of three other people to play it with I would have enjoyed it more, but even though Tri Force Heroes was much easier to play solo, I'd actually give Federation Force the edge. I'm not that big on shooters in general, but the squad-based gameplay was a change of pace for me, and like a thirsty man in a desert, I'll take any Metroid I can get, even a spin-off game that no one asked for. The game didn't deserve nearly a fraction of all the bile directed towards it, and although I didn't mind the side trip, I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming remake of Metroid Prime II: Samus Returns, and the promised Metroid Prime 4.

Get locked and loaded with these Metroid Prime: Federation Force links:
- Entry at metroid.wikia.com. Includes screenshots of all the unlockable paint jobs.
- Page on the soon-to-be-shut-down Miiverse
- List of all the medal requirements at GameFAQs and Tips on getting medals when playing solo
- Review on NintendoLife, with a recent extended look at the game (they complain about many disconnects, but I only had that happen to me a couple of times)
- Entry on Metacritic


In my last post I'd mentioned that I'd been trying out various Dynasty Warriors games I had lying around. I had tried and failed to get into Dynasty Warriors 2 for PS2 before playing Hyrule Warriors, but I thought now would be a good time to give it another go and take a close look at the origins of what has become a big franchise (well, excepting the original Dynasty Warriors game, which was a traditional fighter).

Dynasty Warriors 2 definitely feels like a huge step back coming right off of playing Samurai Warriors 3, but it was interesting to see how all the main elements of the series were in place at the start. You're still tasked with single-handedly turning the tide of a large-scale battle, although the levels aren't really broken up into specific missions like in the other games I've played. It's easy to see why I found the game so aimless when I first tried it out, because you're not really told that you're supposed to defeat the named opponents and help our your allies. The battles often have different sections, but unlike the other games I've played the dialog is minimal and you're not constantly being bombarded by requests for help from them.

On the normal difficulty, the game is much more difficult than the others I've played in the series. The grunts you're battling against are much more powerful than in other games, and the game is much stingier about providing items, especially health-restoring items. You have to level up your character, not by accruing experience points, but by defeating higher-ranking opponents. The characters also have a much smaller set of regular attacks and special moves, and the characters themselves don't seem to have as much variety as the later games. The game does include horseback riding, although I didn't find it to be particularly useful, and you can also shoot a bow and arrow, which also seemed fairly useless. You're also given four bodyguards at the start of every battle that level up if they manage to survive to the end of the stage, but this seems like more effort than it's worth.

The game requires grinding, which is definitely annoying, but even more frustrating that that is the scarcity of save points. Apparently the original Japanese game didn't have save points at all, but in this version save points are hidden inside pots and boxes that you have to break. I suppose once you know where all the save points are you can save at strategic moments, but going into it blindly I invariably saved at a bad time or missed the save points altogether. Ugh! The game also suffers from some serious pop-in during crowded scenes, which makes some difficult sections even more frustrating than they would be otherwise. Also the more powerful enemy combatants can heal themselves and gain bonuses like higher attack and defense when you knock them down, which is annoying and pointless.

As with Samurai Warriors 3, each character has a five-stage story line, but there are only eight unique stages total (although as with the other games, different characters will see shared battles from different perspectives). You can drop into Free Mode at any time to grind and then go back to the story mode, but the game feels pretty poorly paced; in particular the third stage seems to have a huge jump in difficulty (and it looks like I'm not the only one who thought so).

Overall the game suffers in the same way that initial games in franchises often do: although the core elements of fun are there, it's clear that there's still a lot of untapped potential. I've already dipped into Dynasty Warriors 3, and already that feels like leaps and bounds more fun than this game, with everything running much more smoothly and looking much better. I'm looking forward to playing that game more, although I'll probably wait until after I've had a chance to play Fire Emblem Warriors when it comes out in October.

Check out the start of the dynasty of Dynasty Warriors 2 with these links:
- Entry at koei.wikia.com
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Positive review at IGN, to help put the game in the context of when it was released


Fire Emblem fanatic that I am, I'm highly anticipating the release of Fire Emblem Warriors this fall. I'd really enjoyed Hyrule Warriors when I'd played it a year and a half ago (not to mention gotten completely obsessed with the Adventure Mode), and to help tide me over until the release of Fire Emblem Warriors I thought I'd spend some time checking out other entries in the Dynasty Warriors series.

I usually like to play series in order, but after trying and failing to get into Dynasty Warriors 2, the first main Dynasty Warriors game, I had gone ahead and played Hyrule Warriors. I had a couple of other games in the series lying around, including one on PS3 and one on 3DS, but I ended up settling down with Samurai Warriors 3 for Wii. The game is from a spin-off series that basically seems the same as the Dynasty Warriors games except instead of recounting historic Chinese events the series focuses on Japanese history.

The game has a large cast of characters, and I randomly picked Yukimura Sanada as the character to focus on first. I didn't realize it at the time, but he's actually on the cover and is apparently the "poster boy" for the spin-off series. Although I'd spent a ton of time with Hyrule Warriors, this game took a little adjusting to. For one thing, using the Wii remote and nunchuk setup felt a bit awkward, so I ended up using the Classic controller (although the Classic controller pro would have been even better). Secondly, the button layout was different than the Zelda-style controls of HW, but the main thing I missed was the lack of Z-targeting. This makes blocking enemy attacks more difficult since you have to make sure you're lined up with them before blocking, although I suppose you could assume it's a design decision to give players more of a challenge.

The pace of the battles is very simlar to HW as you're given tasks within the larger mission (e.g. "defeat 3 enemy commanders"), although here you're also given optional tasks that will give you rewards, such as gems (used for upgrading equipment), or bonuses that will help you in the mission. One of the bigger differences to HW is that instead of three different types of "spirit attacks" (i.e. a type of special move), there's only one. This makes the combat feel less varied than in HW, but I suppose the much larger cast of characters makes up for that. The graphics aren't that great but average for Wii, but the characters feel pretty unique (at least the ones that I tried out). Moves are pleasingly flashy, and everything runs pretty smoothly, although the voice acting does feel a bit stiff.

One of the things I really liked about the game is the main story mode, where you follow a character though a 5-stage story arc and increasingly tougher stages. Sanada's last stage in particular sticks out and really captures the game's general feel of being one person fighting against an entire army. I like how the game tells the story from different angles based on which character you're using, and even on the normal difficulty that I was playing at it's clear that you can't just mash buttons and expect to easily win.

As with Hyrule Warriors the game has a Free Mode where you can play any unlocked story mode stage with any character, although this seems pretty pointless other than for grinding and casual local co-op play. There's also a mode where you can customize your own hero, but this seems basically the same as the other modes except you play the stages in chronological order rather than by an individual character's story arc (this mode had online co-op play, but the Wii's Wi-Fi features have been shut off for a while now). Rounding out the list is the Murasame Castle Mode, based on the Famicom game of the same title. I dipped into this a bit as well, although the gameplay was basically the same as the other modes, although with more supernatural elements. I'm sure people who have played the original Famicom game would appreciate all the references, so this is a mode I may have to come back to after I've played that game.

I enjoyed my time with Samurai Warriors 3, and although I didn't already have a deep connection with the characters like with the Zelda characters in Hyrule Warriors before I played it, I liked getting to know them and am looking forward to playing more of the other characters. The historic setting is less appealing than the fantasy setting of HW, but the gameplay is basically the same and still a lot of fun. I could easily have played this game more, but I don't want to burn out on playing Warriors games, before FE Warriors comes out, so I'm going to set this aside for now. Hyrule Warriors really opened me up to the Warriors series, and I'm glad I have more insight into the games in the series before playing FE Warriors. I'll definitely be continuing to check out more games in the series, so don't be surprised if you see more posts about Warriors games before too long.

Check out the Japanese Warriors in these Samurai Warriors 3 links:
- Entry at koei.wikia.com
- Entry at samurai-warriors.wikia.com
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Positive review at NintendoLife, although the game didn't get great reviews in general


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