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I think I get attracted to games that get mediocre reviews because I'm curious to see if they're actually good and just misunderstood. Sadly, this wasn't the case for Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival for Wii U, and the game is as unmemorable and tedious as all the reviews say. The developers basically tried to translate the experience of the main series to a board game format, but it's much less engaging to read about villagers visiting you than actually having them visit you in a game. It's nice to see all the Animal Crossing characters and interact with them in this new way, but the main mode (the board game) is casual and mindless, and most of all, repetitive. Also, the games take too long: an average game is something like 1 hour and 15 minutes, and although you can choose to play a shorter timed version (the minimum being 30 minutes), a lot of the special events happen in the second half of a game and it's annoying to miss out on them. The mode lets you select one "month" and the special events vary by month, but the special events aren't that special and the board is exactly the same every time, so there's not much thought or strategy involved at all. The Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer interaction is minimal as well. If you scan in an Amiibo card with a HHD design stored on it the exterior of the house will appear on the board, but that's it, which seems like quite a missed opportunity.

The game seems to be trying to sell both the Animal Crossing Amiibo figures and the Amiibo cards. The figures are cute and must have been really overstocked because they're selling for really cheap (less than $6 each). Using an Amiibo figure rather than the default Villager characters makes little to no difference in the main board game mode. The other modes are focused on the cards, and of these I agree with the general consensus that most of them you'll play once or twice and never again, with the exception of "Desert Island Escape", which is the clear standout and a one player only game. That game requires the most thought, and unlike the main mode, having a good selection of Amiibo cards on hand will help you get through that game, and enhances the experience. In "Desert Island Escape" your character's special ability is determined by its animal species (e.g. cats have a special fishing ability, bears can collect honey more easily, etc.), and playing around with the different abilities is fun. The mode has a good number of islands to beat and three different difficulty modes, and I highly recommend that you unlock that game first since beating the islands will net you plenty of points towards unlocking the other, much less interesting minigames (a few of which are multiplayer only).

As a full-priced game ($60 for the game plus two Animal Crossing Amiibo and three cards included) this is definitely not worth getting, even for die-hard fans. I got a copy for pretty cheap, and I wasn't super disappointed since the Amiibo are cute and "Desert Island Escape" was fun, and some of the other minigames were entertaining for a few minutes as well. I'm looking forward to seeing more of "Desert Island Escape" (perhaps in a multiplayer version or a version for mobile devices?), but otherwise this game is pretty forgettable all around.

Not too tepid Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival links:
- Official site for the series
- Page on Miiverse
- Review on NintendoLife
- Random person's guide to "Desert Island Escape", includes descriptions of all the possible animals' special abilities
- Links to images of all the unlockable character outfits (earned by playing the board game mode many, many times
- Entry at animalcrossing.wikia.com
- Entry at Metacritic

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Amongst the other announcements, Nintendo announced that the sequel to HAL's eShop exclusive BoxBoy! (which was released last year) would be released in just a couple of weeks in the US. This wasn't a great surprise since it's been released in Japan already, but as it happens I was in the middle of the game and ended up finishing the main mode today.

I'm almost always happy to play a puzzle game, and the first BoxBoy! game got pretty good reviews so it was on my radar for a while. The game is purposely designed to have a very simplistic, retro aesthetic. The puzzles are generally low-key and relaxing, aided in big part by checkpoints after each part of a stage and unlimited continues and resets, although there are definitely some head-scratching moments, especially when trying to nab all of the game's optional collectable. The game's accoutrements include some basic story elements and NPCs, relaxing chiptune-like music, unlockable costumes and bonus modes, and bonus levels unlocked after beating the game. These all round out the package but don't really distract much from the core gameplay.

As for the gameplay itself, the box generating mechanics feel fresh, and it was pretty satisfying to work my way through all the stages. The main character is fairly limited in his abilities, but pretty much every world in the main game introduces new stage hazards that change things up in surprising ways and provide a satisfying amount of variety. At times the game does feel a bit clinical in the way that it seems to almost painstakingly go through every possible variation of the core game mechanics, which makes the game feel a bit belabored overall, so much so that I didn't bother playing much of the extra five worlds that unlock after beating the main game. The sequel has the main twist of allowing you to create two sets of boxes instead of one (although that mechanic also appears at the tail end of this game). I'm definitely open to checking out that game, although I won't be in a hurry to pick it up given its strong similarities to this game, including a fairly slow and gently paced nature (not a bad thing, but not super compelling either).

Check out these genial and puzzling BoxBoy! links:
- Official site. Has some pretty funny comics and some wallpapers.
- Page on Miiverse
- Interview with the creator/designer, at NintendoLife
- Review on NintendoLife
- Entry at Wikipedia

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Despite my best intentions and owning both of them, I skipped over the original Monster Hunter game and the third main entry in the series (on Wii) and instead got sucked into the game Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, which was released on Wii U and 3DS. The game is notorious for being difficult to get into, but I don't mind a challenge. I eased myself into it, and as a vegetarian I felt really bad about attacking and then carving up animals in the game, but eventually I got over it. I ended up becoming completely obsessed with defeating new monsters and planning out which weapons and armor I was going to try to shoot for next.

The game basically consists of boss fights versus the titular monsters, but there are many, many systems in play. Gathering makes up a large part of the game, whether it be from the various locales or trading and acquiring more resources from NPCs or various areas of the village. Resources can be combined, and trying to generate everything in the master combination list became its own obsession. Preparing for battle is a big part of the game (eating at the canteen gives various buffs, and you can also customize your AI-controlled helper character), and you can also save and switch various armor/weapon load outs. There's a huge number of weapons to try out although I ended up focusing on just one and switching to a second one to relieve some of the tedium of "farming" for specific material drops from specific monsters that I needed to forge better equipment.

New quests, locales, and monsters opened up at a fairly regular pace, although I did encounter periods where I had to grind for better equipment. The game is divided into village (i.e. story) quests and guild (i.e. multiplayer) quests. The guild quests can be played either solo, locally with 3DS owners, or online over Wi-Fi. I tried some multiplayer with strangers online and it was very uneven as is par for the course, but in general the people I played with were way overpowered and they pretty much soloed the monster we were hunting. While this was good for getting the materials I needed to make better equipment, it definitely didn't give me much of a sense of satisfaction. :p

As with Tri Force Heroes this was a game that I held off on diving deep into for a while, but when it became apparent that none of my friends were interested in playing it I went ahead and played it on my own. I got about a third of the way through the story quests, and although I was obsessively reading about the details of the game, the gameplay loop did get kind of repetitive and more boring since I wasn't playing with other people. Still, this is a game that is a lot of fun and one I can see myself coming back to regularly, and much more if I had more people to play with. I also sprung for a second copy of the game on 3DS, and being able to transfer my save to take the game on the go did prove useful (although I was always really worried that the transfer would mess up and I would lose my save entirely). Playing on a regular 3DS definitely felt cramped, but it worked decently well despite the text being notoriously small and hard to read.

I actually went ahead and tried out its follow-up Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on 3DS. That game streamlines a lot of things, and I'm looking forward to dressing my AI animal companion in dumb costumes, haha. Not sure when I'll dive deeper into that game, though, since it's pretty similar to this one and since I still don't have people to play it with!

Hunt and Gather these Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate links:
- Official site for the series. Currently has info on MH4U.
- Page on Miiverse
- Review on NintendoLife
- Entry at monsterhunter.wikia.com, a valuable resource
- Entry on Monster Hunter Tri at Wikipedia

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The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes came out more than half a year ago, but I was holding off playing it until some of my local gamer friends got it. They still haven't so in the end I just got it anyway and tried out the random matchmaking and the solo mode.

I had enjoyed the solo mode of the DSiWare remake of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, although the game got very repetitive. This game has a similar feel overall, although since it uses the Link Between Worlds game engine it inherently feels a little more fresh. The main new mechanic is "toteming" which is where you stack the three Links on top of each other. This is pretty fun, although not new enough to build a whole game around it, and even with the 3D slider up and some of the visual cues, at times it can be difficult to tell how tall some of the enemies, platforms, etc. are.

There are also a couple of new items, which is always welcome, although one is pretty much the same as a previously seen item. The levels "get the job done", but they often reuse ideas from the Four Swords games. The variety of the gameplay comes from the items, which vary depending on which stage you're in, and the costumes. You can get costumes made by collecting certain treasures from each level (one awarded after each level completed), and they give bonuses that vary in usefulness (an extra heart container, no slipping on ice, power up bombs, etc.). The costumes are a lot of fun visually, and they add just enough of a benefit and change to the gameplay that they feel central to the game experience.

As is Nintendo's MO, Tri Force Heroes doesn't include voice chat, and instead you use icons to communicate. The icons are fun and well-chosen, and in many cases you can figure out what someone is trying to tell you through this limited communication mechanism. Although I gave anonymous matchups online a try, most of the time playing with strangers was a huge pain and completely not worth it. Basically the majority of the people I was matched with were idiots who would either not know how the items worked and/or charge into enemies and kill the whole team off (since all three players share hearts). :p In reality these people are probably actually 8 years old or something and Zelda n00bs, so I shouldn't judge them too harshly. On the couple of occasions I was matched with two people who actually did know what they were doing, everything worked flawlessly and we got through the levels extremely efficiently. In those cases the fun of the game actually comes through, and if I had gotten to play with people like that the whole time my impression of the game would no doubt be much higher.

I gave up on anonymous groups pretty quickly, but fortunately the single player mode works pretty well. In Four Swords you were able to set the four Links into predetermined configurations (horizontal line, vertical line, etc.) and you could control them one at a time, but in this game you only can control the three Links one at a time and switch between them. This actually works pretty well, and in some situations it felt like it would actually be easier to get through sections by yourself than trying to coordinate amongst three people, even if you were in the same room and could voice chat. The downside is that getting through the level is much slower playing solo since you have to do everything linearly instead of being able to accomplish some tasks in parallel. Also, in the more action-oriented sections, including boss fights, the delay in switching between Links messes up some of the timing and makes things more difficult than they should be, which can be very frustrating. The game includes a skip function where you can sacrifice a continue and better rewards to skip a subsection of a level, which is definitely useful.

The game includes a fair amount of filler, most of which feels like filler. There's a Coliseum where you can challenge one or two other players and you can pick your costume and from a post-release update a "Den of Trials", but both of these seemed fairly pointless. There are also three challenges for every stage, with requirements such as not using your sword, not falling, etc. This also seemed fairly pointless, and the timed challenges in particular seem like they'd be pretty near impossible playing solo. The one feature that is worthwhile is the single-card download play. This is a great feature, although of course the other two players won't get to keep a record of the stages they've beaten. The story is pretty nonexistent, and the single town is very barebones. It feels like they had thought about including a photo challenge sidequest which would've added to the replayability.

All in all this was a decent game, and probably my favorite multiplayer in the series thus far, although that's not saying much. Nintendo has really been pushing multiplayer lately, and I'm a little concerned about how much fun the next Metroid game (Federation Force) is going to be. If my friends ever do get around to getting the game I'll be happy to dive in to some more of the challenges to get the rest of the costumes, but overall this is definitely on the average side for the series as a whole.

Try out these The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes links:
- Official site
- Page on Miiverse. There was also an art contest for the game on Miiverse
- Review on NintendoLife
- E3 2015 reveal trailer
- Entry at zeldawiki.org
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Entry at Metacritic

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It's been more than two months now since Miitomo, Nintendo's first smartphone game/app, was released. My ancient smartphone wasn't recent enough to run it, so I've been stealing time on my partner's iPad. I only had one friend to start off with, but after they added the feature that you could add friends via email I was able to add a couple more.

The app had a well-documented and storied history, from its initial announcement, which frustrated investors and baffled the general population, to its hugely popular release, to the current point in time where it seems regular usage has declined significantly.

NintendoLife has a good run-down of the app's features, and at its core its main feature is to let you find out more about your friends by answering questions and comparing answers. This may not sound that fun, but their pitch that you'll find out things about your friends that you never knew is certainly true and, depending on how good your friends are at making jokes, can be highly entertaining.

The second main feature is buying clothes for your Mii and dressing her/him up. You can also earn special clothes through a pachinko-like mini-game, although this game in particular can be maddening since you could waste a significant amount of virtual and real currency trying to nab that one item that you really want.

The last main feature is the ability to create Miifotos, which are funny pictures featuring your and your friends' Miis. The interface is flexible and simple to use and the feature set is pretty rich. Apparently Miifotos were a big draw for people, although as with the app itself I'm sure regular usage has declined significantly.

Not being into buying virtual clothing at all, I can't see myself wanting to spend real money on this any time soon. It's hard to say what sort of features they'd add to this since I expect they're trying to keep this experience distinct and separate from their Tomodachi series. That being the case, I'm not sure that they'll add in the ability to decorate your house or not. That and features like it seem sort of inevitable, although I seriously doubt that will be enough to draw people back into using the app itself.

I always have to chuckle when I see Nintendo confound expectations so unapologetically, but I don't know how much staying power Miitomo has. Still, I'm happy to check in with it semi-regularly to read my friends' answers and earn a few MyNintendo points and I can see myself picking it up whenever I find another friend to join in on the quirky fun.

Meet these Miitomo links:
- Official site
- Current most popular Miifotos on Twitter
- Entry on iTunes
- Entry at Google Play
- Entry on Wikipedia

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