I must have been in the mood for some NES gaming, because even though I had just played Ice Climber, the next game I picked up was Yoshi's Cookie. The game came during a wave of puzzle games riding on the huge success of Tetris, although many games, like its predecessor, Yoshi, were pretty forgettable.

Yoshi's Cookie has a different feel than many of the puzzle games that came before it in that pieces don't just drop down from the top. Instead pieces come from the top and the side, and your goal is to clear horizontal and vertical lines by making them all of one type. You press a button to select the row or column, and left or right to shift the pieces. In a way this makes the game feel like a predecessor of the fantastic Puzzle League, aka Tetris Attack, aka Panel de Pon series. In this game, though, the game doesn't have much depth at all. There is a combo system whereby you can have a chain reaction of pieces clearing, but there's rarely any time or opportunity to set up chains like this. Each piece type has a meter and if you fill it up you get a Yoshi head piece, which acts as a wildcard. Filling up the meter also doesn't really play into the actual strategy much, although the wildcards do help.

As with other games of its type, you can choose the round number, speed, and the type of background music. Each round is comprised of 10 stages, but other than the increasing speed, the strategy to playing the game feels exactly the same whether you're on round 1 or round 10. Clearing out the majority of the board doesn't take much effort, but clearing out the last few pieces does get to be a chore as you wait for the piece you need to drop. After beating a round you get a little animated cutscene, and after beating the highest selectable round you're given a code that lets you select rounds higher than 10. This new mode features some different and entertaining visuals, with the added wrinkle that there's a blocking piece that can only be matched with a wildcard. Other than that things still feel the same and I had zero motivation to keep playing.

I think I must be getting near to the end of the Nintendo-skinned puzzle games, of which Dr. Mario is clearly near the top (despite its high difficulty in setting up combo), although for me Tetris Attack will always be at the top of that list. This isn't a bad puzzle game, especially for its time, but playing it nowadays it's not particularly fun or memorable. The two player mode actually looks to more interesting than most, though. In that mode you get to pick which attack you want to send over to your opponent, although its possible that if you mistime it you'll end up attacking yourself. With the core mechanics being so banal, though, I doubt I'll be trying that out anytime soon.

Not too bland Yoshi's Cookie links:
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Review of the Wii Virtual Console release, at NintendoLife.
- Entry at nindb.net

I was in the mood for some old school action gaming, and so I finally got back into Ice Climber on the original NES. The game was one of the system's launch titles in North America, and it got a huge boost in attention due to the out-of-nowhere inclusion of its two characters amongst the playable roster of the classic and still hugely popular Super Smash Bros. Melee. I was also reminded that I needed to revisit the game after having played NES Remix a couple months ago, which includes challenges excerpted from the game.

I have vague memories of playing the game as a kid, and even then the controls felt stiff, especially compared to the smoothness of the controls of games that followed it, like the original Super Mario Bros.. The gameplay, which consists of jumping to break open paths, climbing, and attacking and dodging enemies, feels unique, but it doesn't take long before things feel super repetitive. The game has a number of hazards, including moving platforms, ground that pushes you in a particular direction, and icicles that fall from above, with the best of them definitely being the sunglasses and swimsuit-wearing polar bear who forces you to move higher if you spend too much time without moving upwards. There are also cute little abominable snowmen (seals in the original Japanese version) that help or hinder (depending on your current need) by filling in empty spaces in the floors. (I tend to feel a little bad about defeating them since they definitely help more than they hinder overall.)

There are a good number of elements to the game, but somehow all the different combinations of them that appear in the different levels just don't feel different enough to a modern gamer. Still, this is par for the course for this type of early game, which definitely feels like it would be more suited to an arcade than playing at home. There are 32 unique levels, and the game has a handy level select, which is nice. It's not too hard to get through any of the levels using up all the chances provided, but getting far on a single credit and earning a high score is much more of a challenge.

Despite some of the worst jumping mechanics ever, the game is a fun blast from the classic NES past. The design is great and features colorful characters and enemies and a fun bonus round with some catchy music. Getting to the top of the mountain and catching the condor's claws is always satisfying, and I can imagine that the two-player mode is also an entertaining combination of fun and frustration. The mechanics aren't as enjoyable as its peers, such as Balloon Fight or the original Mario Bros. game, so it never gets that addictive, but it's definitely still fun overall. The game has been rereleased on numerous platforms, the 3DS version has a nice bonus in the form of download play, whereby a player with the game can send a temporary copy to a friend in order to play the two player mode. Not my favorite of the classic NES games, but this was a nice trip down memory lane.

Not too rough Ice Climber links:
- Entry on Wikipedia. Apparently "in some countries of Europe, the console game was bundled with the NES, increasing the game's familiarity outside Japan." Interesting.
- NintendoLife has several reviews of the game. Here's their review of the 3DS eShop version.
- Entry at strategywiki.org
- Some footage, from Coyote12101
- Random cute fan artwork

Another bit of fluff while I continue to slowly make my way through some longer games. I picked up Personal Trainer: Math (released in EU with the unwieldy title Professor Kageyama's Maths Training: The Hundred Cell Calculation Method) more out of being a Nintendo completist than any real interest in improving my math skills. I was interested in seeing if it would provide anything like the surprisingly addictive and fun gameplay of the Brain Age games. The short answer is, nope.

The game is structured so that you have daily training and practice exercises. The daily training consists of three exercises that are set according to your level, and the game doesn't have any sort of pretest to determine what level you should start off on. You're also required to perform well enough at the same level for 5 days before progressing to the next level. Given that there are 40 exercises, this means that it would take at least 70 days to get the highest ranking (assuming that daily exercises don't repeat and that they don't introduce many exercises unavailable in the practice exercises). I can't imagine anyone wanting to devote so much time to this game, except for zealous parents who really want to drill their kids in math. The math exercises are actually not completely mindless, and I found I had to flex brain muscles I'd forgotten I had in some exercises like three digit addition and three digit subtraction.

The game features the "Hundred Cell Calculation Method" developed by some guy named Kageyama that probably has been proven to improve math skills, but I can't say how effective it is. I'm guessing the game is good for your brain the same way that the Brain Training games are, but the whole presentation is much less inviting and it's easy to get the highest medal ranking in all the exercises. Unlike the Brain Training games, which are marketed as being fun for all ages, this game seems much more geared towards people who actually want to improve their math skills. In that sense it does exactly what it says on the tin, and it's hard to fault it for not being much fun as a game. It wasn't a complete waste of time to play it, but I'm glad I can cross it off my list. I guess since I've played this and Personal Trainer: Walking that Personal Trainer: Cooking is up next, haha.

Become a Human Calculator with these Personal Trainer: Math links:
- Page at nintendo.com
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Review at IGN

I got Tomodachi Life for 3DS soon after it came out, and I've been dipping into it off and on since. I finally sat down and spent a focused amount of time with it, and I finally got to the credits. The game is sort of reminiscent of the Animal Crossing series, but with the focus being on building up relationships rather than having a life in a village. Your character doesn't really have a more important role than any of the other Mii characters you create, and much of your enjoyment of the game will be based on how much you enjoy having something for your menagerie of Mii characters to do. If you have a bunch of Miis of your waifus/husbandos or favorite celebrities or relatives, or if you like creating backstories for new Miis you've created, then the silly interactions and relationships that the Miis in Tomodachi Life have will be way more entertaining than if you just have a few Miis that you don't care that much about. I started off importing just a few random Miis, but once I imported a lot more, including Nintendo characters such as my long-time favorite Ike (and also Filsamech and Miyamoto) and Game of Thrones characters and such, my experience with the game improved a lot (e.g., will Princess Daisy choose Luigi or Waluigi? Why doesn't Link want to date Samus?, etc., etc.).

Along with the relationship building, most of the rest of the game is about collecting food, interiors (i.e. apartment designs), and clothes (including hats). The descriptions of all of these are entertaining, and the game has a hidden system where certain items are more liked by certain personality types. The clothes are like the ones in Miitomo, but the difference here is that they're cheap to buy, so you can easily try out different looks for your Miis.

The mini-games get repetitive quickly, but they're not really the focus of the experience and more just a means of earning more money. There are little skits that pop up regularly, when your Miis have surreal dreams or in the news segments that occur twice a day, that feature that particular brand of Japanese quirkiness and are generally pretty funny. You can also teach your Miis songs with your own customized lyrics, although this is a lot of work and so I didn't spend any time on that. The game encourages you to take screenshots, and this is a game that definitely feels like it was made for Miiverse, as you're sure to encounter humorous moments even in just a single play session (although again, much of the humor comes from which specific Miis you're using). The game also makes it easy to edit Mii's personality attributes (although not a Mii's looks themselves, unless the sharing settings for that specific Mii have been set to "on"). The text-to-speech used is a bit on the robotic side, but somehow ends up being endearing overall.

You can get caught up in a cycle of feeding and clothing your Miis and responding to their requests and so even though all the individual moments are pretty darn trivial, the cumulative effect is that you end up becoming involved in these little fictional lives more than you might expect. The game also became oddly poignant for me since I had imported the Mii for the much-beloved Nintendo president Satoru Iwata before he passed away (R.I.P.), and so when I returned to the game I took a greater interest in his Mii. I was happy the game matched him up with Princess Zelda, and I'm pleased to report that they've had a healthy son that the game named Carlos (haha).

I hadn't played any Sims games before, but the sense of humor in this game definitely makes it a different type of game. It does feel a bit like playing with dolls at times, but the presentation makes it enjoyable overall. It's worth noting that the game does feel behind the times, though, in that it doesn't feature same-sex relationships, something the Sims has had since its first iteration. All in all, though, this was even more mindless than the Animal Crossing games, and definitely one best played in short sessions. Still, it's a cute and quirky game and would be good for people looking for something a little more active than playing with dolls.

Cute 'n Quirky Tomodachi Life links:
- Official website
- Nintendo Direct video
- Nintendo Minute video
- Community on Miiverse
- All the info about the game you could need (and its Japanese exclusive predecessor) at tomodachi.wikia.com
- miicharacters.com is a great site for finding Mii QR codes
- Some Fire Emblem: Awakening Mii QR codes I found online
- Review at NintendoLife

I'm still making my way through a couple of games, so in lieu of a game review I thought I would write up my thoughts on the Fire Emblem anime, which was apparently released in the US around 1997 (and in Japan a year earlier). The anime is based on the first video game in the series, and so features series icon Marth, although in the anime he's called "Mars" (understandable, since this was the origin of Marth's Japanese name). The anime only made it to two 30-minute episodes, but oddly it was dubbed into English and released on VHS. You can still track down a VHS copy without too much trouble, although it's also easy to find on YouTube.

Anyway, I watched this a while ago, and after watching it I'm still mystified as to why it was released in the US at all. Most of the first Japanese animation brought to the US was sci-fi as opposed to high fantasy, so maybe companies were feeling out the market and seeing how it would fare. Or maybe it was scheduled for release before it tanked in Japan, and so it never got a chance to fill its role in being part of a bigger marketing push to make Fire Emblem popular outside of Japan. One can only wonder what the history behind the anime was, but aside from all of the anime's backstory, the quality of the anime, by a company called KSS, is actually quite high.

The episodes correspond to the first and third chapters of the game, and the anime does a nice job of filling in the backstory and bringing the barebones drama of the game to life. The English dub is done well and the voice acting is all pretty good, although as with the original game the story is pretty by the numbers. Aside from the fantasy setting there isn't anything that particularly stands out in comparison to other anime of the time, but fans of the series such as myself will get a definite kick out of seeing all of the familiar characters and settings (including the odd versions of now well-known names, like the afore-mentioned "Mars" instead of "Marth", and "Oguma" instead of "Ogma"). It's too bad the series was cancelled, but this is a fun bit of Fire Emblem history that fans will enjoy and worth watching.