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I've had Pokémon Dream Radar for ages, but hadn't really been motivated to spend much time with it. It turns out the game is basically just an excuse to let/force Pokémon fans buy rare Pokémon, in particular alternate "formes" of three of the Gen V legendaries (Tornadus, Thundurus, and Landorus) that you can transfer to your Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2 games. You can also pick up a handful of other Pokémon with their hidden abilities, some rare items to transfer, and if you have the appropriate cartridge, you can also get other legendaries with their hidden abilities after capturing Landorus, the third main legendary in the game. The game uses the 3DS's camera and gyroscope to provide an Augmented Reality (AR) experience, but the gameplay itself is pretty much just a minor, shallower variation of what we already saw in the free title Face Raiders.

I remember being astounded that the game had such a high user rating in the eShop (and I still am; it's around 4.25 stars out of 5), but I guess there are a lot more obsessive Pokémon fans than I. As it is, this was an entirely skippable experience for me, but I'll probably spend a bit more time with it when I get around to playing more of Pokémon White Version 2.

Raid these Pokémon Dream Radar links:
- Entry at Bulbapedia
- Official page at pokemon.com
- Review at NintendoLife
- Random stream of the first twenty minutes on YouTube

Persona 3 has been high on my list of games to play, even before the announcement that there was going to be a Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover. A friend of mine had raved about Its sequel, Persona 4, and I was intrigued by its Fire Emblem-like emphasis on building relationships. As is my wont, I had already dug into the roots of the series by first playing an older game, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. I've actually also played large chunks of other games in the series as well, including the first Persona game, which I found to be terribly slow, and some of the mainline games.

Anyway, Persona 3 was a new direction even within the Persona series, and it feels like there's still room for improvement. I did enjoy the interactions with NPCs, but the rigid schedule of school, extracurriculars, and dungeon crawling got to be a real drag. The story is decent but not amazing, and the game introduces new characters that you can add to your party at a good rate. There are also some memorable moments, like a beach vacation between semesters. The main dungeon crawling, though, also gets to be a real chore, and ultimately that's what made me end up stopping less than halfway through the game. Using and collecting demons, called "personas" in this game, is fun, but the main dungeon itself is incredibly bland and every one of the randomly generated floors pretty much feels the same. Palette-swapped versions of enemies show up pretty early on, which is disappointing, and battles all play out in pretty much the same way. Boss battles do require more strategizing, but it's sort of annoying that there's no way to know for sure if you're levelled up enough in time for the next battle. The contemporary high school setting is a nice change of pace from most RPGs, and since it's set in Japan it feels exotic to non-Japanese players. The music is pretty good throughout, and the accompanying art style has a nice urban vibe as well. The sleek designs for the main personas are also worth mentioning.

I've actually already played a good chunk of that Fire Emblem crossover (entitled Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE), and playing this game did prepare me for that game pretty well as the gameplay and aesthetics are very similar. I'll probably check out Persona 4 before going back to Tokyo Mirage Sessions, but overall I found Persona 3 to be a pleasant experience outside of the tedious battling, but not riveting.

Personable Persona 3 links:
- Thorough entry at megamitensei.wikia.com, although full of spoilers
- Some tips on your first playthrough at beforeiplay.com

I played the first of the three Fire Emblem Fates games when they came out earlier this year, and in a moment of weakness I started in on the second one, Conquest, even though I knew I was going to get sucked into it. It turned out the game was a bigger time suck than I had anticipated, however. I knew the game was going to be harder than Birthright, but I wasn't expecting the difference to be quite so dramatic. I had played Birthright on hard mode, which still wasn't that difficult even without grinding, but Conquest on hard mode was pretty challenging even for a long-time Fire Emblem player like myself.

I'm still a bit divided about how the game approaches this higher level of "challenge", and felt similarly to when I played more-difficult challenges in the original Advance Wars on GBA. In this game since the RNG numbers are in a fixed order from any particular quick save point, you can get through difficult sections just by working out the best manipulation of the sequence of RNG numbers through repetitive trial and error. The enemies have access to skills, abilities, and weapons that your team doesn't have, which makes them feel overpowered. I suppose that's the whole point of it being a challenge, and this level of difficulty is only tolerable because of quick save points and the ability to quickly reset. If it hadn't been my first playthrough of the game I probably would've been more accepting of it, but as it was a lot of my characters were definitely sub-optimal.

I definitely preferred this game to Birthright, though. The maps are definitely more varied, and the characters seemed more interesting, despite being mostly familiar classes from previous entries in the series. I again appreciated all the improvements that this trio of games made compared to their predecessor, Awakening, particularly in the "Tag Team" and "Pair Up" mechanics, and I played around with some entertaining little side activities that I'd skipped over in my first playthrough, such as cooking to get stat buffs.

My MVP this time around was definitely Effie, who has insane strength as well as defense. Ophelia and the two wolfs also turned out to be major players, although the children characters get little screen time in general in this game in particular since there aren't many side missions. I'm still divided about the inclusion of the Offspring Seal, which fast forwards a child character's growth significantly. Although I enjoyed the reappearance of the marriage/child mechanics, I'm not sure I'd really want to see them continue in this exact same way for the next entry in the series, but it may be that they become series staples.

It was interesting to see the story from the Nohr side, and more of the background story gets filled in than with Birthright. I'm psyched to see how Revelations is going to play out, and Fire Emblem geek that I am I've already planned out who I'm going to use that I didn't get to use in the other two games. We'll have to see how long I can hold off playing that game...

Challenging Fire Emblem Fates links:
- Official site
- As usual, Serenes Forest is one of the best FE resources online
- Entry at fireemblem.wikia.com
- Page on Miiverse
- Video interview with the creators (part 2 of 2)

Cut the Rope is a smartphone game that was really popular and soon made the jump to other platforms, including DSiWare and 3DS. I'd actually played a fair number of levels of the original game on an iPad a few years ago, but I've been playing it on an Android phone off and on for a while. I've been leery of physics-based smartphone games, since I'd played and hated Angry Birds when it came out, and at first I dismissed Cut the Rope as just being more of the same. A big part of that initial impression was due to the iPad touch controls themselves, which, not being a regular iPad user, I still find to be inconsistent and annoying.

The controls on the Android phone I was using worked perfectly well, however, and I got to quite enjoy the game. It's not completely mindless, and although there is a fair amount of trial and error with the physics, in general objects in the game behave in an understandable and believable way. Resetting a level is quick and easy, and the games introduce new mechanics at a regular rate. The aesthetics are cute and the game feels quite polished, and getting all the stars in each level feels fairly worthwhile. I got through a lot of "Season 1" of the first game (apparently there are three "seasons"), and although it's not addictive enough for me to want to blitz through all the levels in one sitting, I'm sure it's a game that I'll keep dipping into now and again. Not bad for a game that didn't even cost anything!

Chew on these Cut the Rope Free links:
- Official site
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Site dedicated to walkthroughs of the series
-Page on Amazon
- Entry on Google Play store

I was super psyched that I'd finally sat down and played through an NES game last week and with that momentum I played through another platformer that I hadn't touched in years and years, which was DuckTales on NES. I hadn't stopped to think about it, but it was an appropriate choice since apparently the game was developed by many of the same people who worked on the Mega Man games. DuckTales is another one of those game I distinctly remember playing as a kid and liking it, although I didn't really remember much about it at all except that you play as Uncle Scrooge and the game's main mechanic is using Scrooge's cane as a pogo stick to jump on enemies' heads.

The game was pretty fun, and the pogo mechanic still feels unique today, and although it doesn't include any continues or cheat codes, it offers up three difficulty settings. The easy setting is useful for learning the ins and outs of the levels, and from there the normal difficulty isn't too hard. The locales were varied, although the levels are a bit same-y as you navigate through various mazes. It's nothing too complicated and and it's on the short side, but that's probably not surprising given its target audience. The game is colorful, and the animation and sprites look great, and it controls well. As someone who also watched the cartoons some when I was a kid, it's a lot of fun to see characters from the cartoon make appearances (albeit mostly cameo roles).

Not a whole lot more needs to be said. In general the game is regarded as one of the best platformers on the NES, although without too much of the nostalgia factor I found it enjoyable, but not particularly sublime. There was a sequel on NES that sells for a lot (i.e. a couple hundred $), and the original game was remastered for modern systems by WayForward not too long ago, including Steam and Wii U. I picked up a copy a while back, so I'll have to give it a spin at some point and see how it compares. Hopefully I can keep this NES roll going a little bit longer also...

DuckTales links (a-whoo-ooh!):
- Article at retronauts.com
- Review at NintendoLife
- The game placed 10th in IGN's top NES games list from a few years ago