Ridiculous Fishing (I played the Android version) is another game that I pretty much finished last year, but I put in just a bit more time to actually get to the credits. The game was recommended by a friend of mine, and when I expressed my boredom with fishing games in general he told me that this game doesn't really have much to do with fishing at all. I was happy to see that he was right. The gameplay loop (as thoroughly explained on its Wikipedia entry), consists of three phases: 1) Drop your line and avoid catching any fish on the way down (this phase gives a Frogger sort of feel) and try to get as deep as you can, 2) Reel your line in and catch as many fish as possible (while avoiding the jellyfish, which subtract from your total), and 3) Shoot the fish as they get thrown into the air, and hit as many as you can before they fall to the ground (again, taking care to avoid the jellyfish).

The gameplay loop is expertly designed and the game is pretty fun and addictive overall. The motion controls work well, and the art and sound design is also high quality. The upgrades and items you can buy with in-game currency are for the most part worthwhile. Despite the high quality all around, as with most smartphone games, the game still feels pretty shallow and only really kept my interest for a relatively short amount of time. There are three fishing spots plus an endlessly deep spot, but once I got to the bottom of the first spot my interest in continuing tailed off pretty quickly. I was curious about the ending, which comes by getting to the bottom of the third fishing spot, so I kept going, but it turned out to not be worth the time. Still, I had fun overall, and this is definitely one of the more well designed smartphone games I've played.

Have some 3-in-1 fun with these Ridiculous Fishing links:
- Official site
- Developer's site
- Review at jayisgames.com
- Tips and tricks from Destructoid

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As I mentioned in my 2016 in review post from yesterday, I'd actually already spent quite a bit of time last year playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (on 3DS). I got to a stopping point yesterday, so this first post of 2017 will be about that game. I'd posted about my first Monster Hunter game, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, about six months ago. I'm not quite sure why I got the urge to dive into the series again, but a big draw for me was definitely all the crossover DLC, including costumes of such unlikely characters as Isabelle and Resetti from the Animal Crossing series and Samus and Zero Suit Samus from the Metroid series.

I found out pretty soon, however, that most of the DLC armor I wanted were limited to hunters at a pretty high rank. This was a bummer, but once again I got sucked into the addictive game loop of hunting, gathering resources, and crafting more-powerful weapons (although I didn't spend much time with armor this time around since it seems upgrading a single set of armor is about as worthwhile as crafting new sets). This time around since I didn't have to learn all the intricacies of the game mechanics I could focus on working my way through the story mode, and I also had fun trying out different weapons. In the end I focused on the hunting horn, which was different from the sword and shield weapons I used in the previous game (and much more fun actually). This time around you also get two AI-controlled helpers (the cats that in the MH world are known as Felynes), and it was fun to manage the roster of Felynes and upgrade their gear as well.

It was kind of a bummer to go from a big screen to the 3DS, although I used the New 3DS XL so it wasn't too bad. The game is much more optimized for the 3DS than the previous game was (i.e. the on-screen text is actually readable), and it's handy to have a lot of the info and shortcut buttons on the lower screen where they're easily accessible. The game felt noticeably easier than the previous game, and I don't think it's just because I had more experience this time around. The solo missions didn't get to feel that challenging until quite a ways into the game. Once again I didn't see the point of having the multiplayer missions being the same as the solo missions, other than to give you more opportunities to get the parts you need to craft specific weapons or armor. This time around I had an easier time finding people to play with online, and this time around I didn't mind having higher-ranked players carry me along to easy wins since my focus is mostly on the single player experience anyway. And smacking huge monsters in the face somehow never gets old. ;)

This edition replaces the awkward underwater combat from the previous game with an emphasis on "mount" attacks, whereby you jump onto the monster and hack at it to cause it to topple. This changes things up a bit, although it doesn't seem like it's as huge a change as what follows in Monster Hunter Generations. MH4U also replaces the static locale of the "free play" mode to a more worthwhile mode called "Expeditions" where you can gain rare loot, which was also a nice change. I appreciated that this game had more of a story and villages to wander around in than MH3U (and I probably would've stopped playing sooner if there hadn't been any story), but it seems like Generations once again doesn't have much of a story. MH4U also shoehorns in some awkward battles where you're confined to a ship, but fortunately those don't make up a huge percentage of the overall game time.

Much as I enjoyed my time with MH4U, once again I'm happy to set it aside well before I get to the highest rank. There were still a lot of intricacies and systems to learn about and read about, but despite all the tweaks the game feels essentially very much like its predecessor, and even though I enjoyed both I can't say that I'm that motivated to run out and try Monster Hunter Generations. If I had someone to play with on a semi-regular basis I could see myself spending more time with these games, but as it is I doubt this is something I'll pick up again until at least another six months passes. Which is just as well, because they suck up a ton of time!

Speak softly and carry these giant Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate links:
- Entry at monsterhunter.wikia.com, which is an essential reference
- Nintendo Minute feature on the game
- Review at NintendoLife
- And just for fun, here's Capcom's look back at the original Monster Hunter game on PS2

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Another year, another pile o' games played. Last year I'd played more handheld games than console games, and although this year I played about the same number of games on handhelds and consoles, in terms of hours I played a ton on my 3DSes. I sunk a lot of time into a few games in particular, including two of my favorite games of the year, Hyrule Warriors on Wii U (not to mention getting sucked into its 3DS version, Hyrule Warriors Legends, and spending way too much time on that), and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest on 3DS. Both of the Fire Emblem Fates games were enjoyable, and the games really refined the new mechanics introduced in Awakening, their predecessor. I also finally got into the Monster Hunter series and put a lot of hours into Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (also on Wii U). [Spoiler alert: I've actually also put many hours into Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and that will actually be my first review of 2017.]

In between those long games, I played a lot of short games, and Threes became the first smartphone game to crack my "favorite games of all time" list. I was happy to finally finish Pikmin 2, and was pleasantly surprised that I got immediately sucked into Pikmin 3, so much so that it actually is at the top of my favorite games I played this past year. Rounding out the notable accomplishments was finishing the last Art Style DSi game, the fantastic Art Style: Zengage. I also finally finished the second Phoenix Wright game and the next Mega Man game (#3). (In both cases it took me some eight years to accomplish these feats!) Also noteworthy for this past year was the release of Nintendo's first smartphone game, Miitomo, which I enjoyed and which I continue to dip into now and then, and the free DLC added to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which I've played quite a bit of, but not quite enough to post about it yet.

Here's the summary of what my 2016 looked like gaming-wise (games listed in approximate descending order) with links to each game’s corresponding blog review:

HIGH
- Pikmin 3 (Wii U)
- Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
- Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest (3DS)
- Threes (Android)
- Art Style: Zengage (DSiWare)

MIDDLE
- Pikmin 2 (GCN)
- Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) (replay; previous 2012)
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii U)
- Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
- Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS)
- LostWinds (WiiWare)
- Persona 3 (PS2)
- Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright (3DS)
- Toki Tori 2+ (Wii U Ware)
- Nintendo Badge Arcade (3DSWare)
- DDRMAX2 Dance Dance Revolution (PS2)
- DDRMAX Dance Dance Revolution (PS2)
- Five Nights at Freddy's (Android)
- Cut the Rope Free (Android)
- Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (DS)
- BoxBoy! (3DSWare)
- SteamWorld Heist (3DSWare)
- Just Dance 2 (Wii) (replay; previous 2012)
- DuckTales (NES)
- Wii Sports Club (Wii U)
- New York Times Crosswords (DS)
- Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)
- The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)
- Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS)
- Mega Man 3 (NES)
- Dance Dance Revolution Extreme (PS2)
- Streetpass Mii Plaza Games: Set 3 (3DSWare)
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All (DS)
- Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition (3DS)
- Pokémon Picross (3DSWare)
- Steel Diver: Sub Wars (3DSWare)
- 10000000 (Android)
- Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival (Wii U)
- Soul Calibur II (GCN)
- Retro Game Challenge (DS)

LOW
- Pokémon Dream Radar (3DSWare)
- Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)
- Pokemon Rumble Blast (3DS)
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)
- Thomas Was Alone (Wii U Ware)
- Scribblenauts (DS)

NOT RATED
- Miitomo (iOS)
- Wii Street U (Wii U)

Outside of games played, this year I also posted two lists (Favorite Miscellaneous Games, Part 1 (games released 1978 through 2003) and Favorite Puzzle Games), and I also posted two playlists of some video game music I like (the first in October and the other just a few days ago).

Looking ahead, I have several games that I'm just about ready to finish off, so I'll have plenty to post in the new year. Now that I've taken a bit of a break from Fire Emblem I'm looking forward to finishing the third part, and also dipping into the DLC. I'm also looking forward to playing Pokemon Sun/Moon and finishing some other games and series that I've had on my "to play" list for far too long. Of course I'm hyped for the release of the Switch in March (and particularly hyped for the possibility of some new characters sneaking their way into Smash Bros.), although I'm still not sure how much I'm going to be into the new Zelda game. And 2017 should also see the release of Nintendo's next mobile games, for the Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing series, and it will be very interesting to see how their unique take on mobile continues.

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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I played 2048 a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it, although it seemed pretty basic and rather luck-based. At that time I'd read up on the game it was based on, called Threes. The two seemed pretty much the same in that the core gameplay is identical (pair up tiles to combine them and try to get the highest tile (and score) possible), so I didn't feel the need to rush and track down the original. But now having played both, it's clear that 2048 is an imitation of the real thing.

Threes is extremely polished and fun to play just on a visceral level. The presentation, sound effects, and background music are great, and the game shows you which tile is coming up next, which completely changes the way you approach it. I don't know how much the order of the tiles given to you is the same in both games, but the pacing of Threes seems way better. Basically tiles come in cycles of three main phases: 1 and 2 tiles (the lowest level), groups of 3 tiles, and every once in a while a higher tile that is selected from a set (e.g. 6 12 24) but is random. This pacing is clearly well tested and thought out and balanced, and the game has a really nice progression where in the first phase the board fills up quickly, but then they get cleared out in a satisfying way.

It's easy to waste hours playing Threes, and it's too bad that I recently posted my list of Favorite Puzzle Games of All Time, because somewhat to my surprise, Threes has earned a spot on my list. It's another super elegant, addicting, fun, and satisfying game, and it's currently free on Amazon's App Store, so there's no reason for puzzle fans to not pick it up and try it out.

Still-relevant links can be found on my post about 2048.

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Despite many, many attempts, it's taken me six and a half years to finally finish Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, the second Phoenix Wright game (on DS). Although I appreciate games that have more of a narrative and I'd enjoyed the colorful characters and wackiness of the first game, I just find the pace of the games to be soooooo sloooooow. If there were options to speed up the pace of the text display that would help a lot (you can fast forward through text, but only after you've endured its glacial place once). The game mechanics are still effective, but as is par for the course for games of this genre, the game's skewed logic can be maddening; there were quite a few times when I was left just blindly guessing which item I was supposed to present next. The triggers to get the next thing to happen, whether it be while investigating or in the courtroom, also oftentimes seem completely arbitrary, e.g. you'll have to revisit an area you've already been to in order to get a character to appear.

For the most part the frustrations weren't much worse than the first game, but I did wish there were a little more in the way of innovation in this sequel. The game adds a new element to the investigation portions called "Psyche Locks" which are basically the same as the courtroom mechanics in that you scrutinize a characters' claims and present contradicting evidence. These make investigations a bit more active, but otherwise there wasn't much that kept me engaged, other than some new endearing characters and some reveals of Phoenix's frenemy Miles Edgeworth's backstory and a development of the relationships between Phoenix and characters introduced in the first game.

I don't have high hopes for the third entry in the series as it seems like it will be more of the same, but I'm not dreading it either. The series may not be among my favorites, but the games I've played so far are enjoyable overall. I ended up feeling like I would enjoy Phoenix Wright more as a manga or anime series, but for now I'll stick with the games and hope that the third entry has at least some surprises in store.

Still-relevant links can be found in my post about the first game in the series.

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