Playing Pokémon Shuffle reminded me that I've had its predecessor, Pokémon Battle Trozei (aka Pokémon Link: Battle!), for a while but haven't really spent much time with it. I'd been pretty unimpressed with Pokémon Trozei, which appeared on DS, and really wasn't expecting much from the sequel. My complaint about the original game was that it was a typical match three but felt very simplistic and repetitive and had very little variation. At that time I'd said, "all in all the game could work as a 'my first puzzle game' for young pokemon fans, but hard-core puzzle-game fans should pass this one up even if they’re fans of all things pokemon."

Pokémon Battle Trozei introduces a few new elements, but ends up being even more of a snoozefest than the original. In this game you have target pokémon that appear at the top of the screen, and the first match in your chain determines the type effectiveness of your "attack" (using the by-now familiar type hierarchy of the games). You can also bring one of your captured pokémon into battle, and some have special effects that provide small benefits. The chaining system is the same as the original, and is as easy/mindless. Clearing the entire board nets you many more points, but even after playing the game for several hours it still felt like whether or not I had the right pieces to clear the box was more a matter of luck than skill. Some stages have secret requirements for unlocking extra 'mon to collect, but the requirements can be completely obscure and stupid, which was annoying to say the least. Getting an "S" rank on a stage does take multiple tries, but there are no immediate rewards for doing so.

In the end I had to give this game much lower marks than the original Trozei game, and far lower than Shuffle which I found generally enjoyable (although also mindless). There are only a handful of new mechanics, and they don't help in the least in keeping the stages from all feeling completely identical. The game doesn't even have the unique presentation of the first game, or any other hint of characterization for that matter. It's at times like these that I lament my completist tendencies as this was one that I, and the world, would have been better off without.

Match these Pokémon Battle Trozei links:
- Review at NintendoLife: Apparently there are some people who really enjoy this game. The mind boggles.
- Miiverse community
- Entry at Bulbapedia

I'm not RPGs that much, but NintendoLife's high praise of The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave and its colorful, very Nintendo-like presentation, convinced me to try it out (not to mention it's by Genius Sonority, the developers behind such familiar Nintendo games as Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon Shuffle).

I was more than a little bit leery of the game as I'd read that there's little to no story (or characters). This turned out to indeed be the case, and at first I was bored with catching Denpa men and tackling very straightforward dungeons. Before too long, though, I found myself being completely charmed by the cheery style and presentation, and having fun managing my little fraternity of Denpa men. Each Denpa man has different stats and abilities, and putting together your team and outfitting them to take on the next dungeon and survive the game's simple element-based system is satisfying. Firing up the hunting mode in a new area (which is necessary, as the game actually uses nearby Wi-Fi signals to generate catchable Denpa men) becomes more alluring when you start trying to track down rare abilities. The game alleviates the fairly high encounter rate by providing two options for auto battling (using special powers or just using regular physical attacks), which definitely helps move things along at a nice pace. The game has a pretty smooth difficulty curve, assuming you explore every part of the dungeon's map (even the optional parts), and it also lists what level your party should be at for each dungeon.

The game does a pretty good job of making each of the first few dungeons have a different feel, but about 2/3 of the way through the recycling of enemies and the sameness got to be a bit too much and I've decided to table it for now. I definitely enjoyed my time with the game, and although it's basic as far as RPGs go, I was surprised at how fond I became of it despite its lack of a story or characters. It's a testament to the developers' design that the polish (including the music) and charm of the game makes this a decent time-waster, and one of the better games I've played during the first six months of this year.

Catch these The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave links:
- Awesome trailer. That trailer reminds me a lot of the similarly awesome trailer for the game Muscle March.
- Entry at Wikipedia
- QR codes on official site

Zen Pinball 2 was one of the earliest games I downloaded for my Wii U, helped in part because it provided free timed trials of every table. Since I'm a Marvel fan in general, picking up the "Vengeance and Virtue" 4-table set was a fairly obvious choice, mostly because it included an X-Men table. The Ghost Rider table feels kind of basic, but the Thor and Moon Knight (whoever that is) tables are pretty fun. But I don't really know those comics and since I wasn't getting any of those other references I pretty quickly went back to the X-Men table which uses the IP quite well. The table has tons of fun nods to the long history of the X-Men, such as a mission centered around the Phoenix and "appearances" by long-time series villains such as Mystique, The Blob, and Juggernaut (and Magneto, of course).

The X-Men table is pretty complex, and activating missions range from fairly easy to fairly complicated. Although missions kick things up a notch, activating (and at times completing) them can be pretty tedious (in particular, spelling out "UNITE" over and over again by hitting the same ramp again and again gets boring fast). The graphics are very good and there's a wide range of camera angles that you can set; the ball physics work pretty well; the voice acting is quite good; and the animations make the game nicely distinct from realistic pinball games. The game has two flippers at the top of the screen as well as the bottom screen which makes the game much more of a challenge, but also helps keep things more interesting. The upper flippers are positioned in such a way that even with the variety of camera angles it's a bit difficult to find one that's completely satisfying, but that's a minor gripe.

All in all this is definitely a polished package, and although I obsessively played the X-Men table for hours on end (and strained my hands in the process), even when I learned the ins and outs of the table I still found it to be a bit tedious and I'm guessing it's probably not as fun overall as some of the others in this set. I don't know when I'll dust this off again, but I'll probably review the other individual tables separately when I get around to spending more time with them.

Unite these Zen Pinball 2 links:
- There's an in-game guide to the X-Men table, but here's a comprehensive guide from the official site
- Miiverse Community
- Review at NintendoLife
- Official site for the Marvel pinball games
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Page on official Nintendo site

In lieu of a review this week, I thought I'd just post about some miscellaneous merch that I've bought over the years that I highly recommend. First up is this 62x90 inch Mario blanket.

This blanket is super fuzzy and nice and warm, and is a good size, and only about $24. There's a smaller version, that's 50 x 60 inches, but it costs practically the same amount. Apparently there's also a newer version of the larger blanket with yet another different design. So many options!

Next up is this ridiculously awesome Pikachu hat.

I got this hat from Spencer's, but it's available on Amazon. Anyway, this hat speaks for itself, and is only about $20. Great for people who are too lazy to do real cosplay. ;)

The last item is this Legend of Zelda Hylian shield backpack.

This is another one that speaks for itself. It's the priciest of the three items ($46ish), and I haven't actually used it yet, but it looks pretty awesome. It's kind of big, but would be good for travelling to nerd conventions. ;)

That's it for now, There's a ton of other great merchandise out there, but I'm pretty picky when it comes to actually buying stuff and these three items proved to be irresistible. I've caved on a few other things over the years, so I'll probably end up posting about them as well at some point.

3D Classics Excitebike was a free release for early 3DS adopters, and although I've had it for years now I hadn't really sat down and given it a whirl. I'd spent some time with the original NES game several years ago and quite enjoyed it, although even at that time I pointed out that the WiiWare follow-up, Excitebike: World Rally was superior in almost every respect.

The game is pretty much exactly the same as the original NES title, so pretty much everything I said about that game still applies. Basically the game is surprisingly fun and even though it only includes five courses (plus five variants) the gameplay is enjoyable and presents a good amount of challenge at the higher stages. This version has a couple of additions, aside from the glasses-free 3D (which isn't that noticeable and really doesn't add much to the overall experience). This version lets you save your custom-build tracks, although there's still a noticeable lack of a sharing option. The view takes advantage of the 3DS's wider screens and so is about twice as big as the original. This provides a minor benefit in that you can see obstacles further in advance, which is nice. The B mode, which adds CPU opponents, is still fun, but winning still feels a bit too random due to the density of the other riders. It's still very satisfying to trip other bikers by hitting them with your back tire, haha. The way the bike clips with the obstacles doesn't feel quite like the original (or at least how I remember it), but otherwise the port feels pretty good.

In general this is a perfectly serviceable version of an NES classic. I would've ranked this as high as the original, but there's really no excuse for not providing custom level sharing options in this day and age. The game is a nice bonus, but probably not worth paying for if you already have the original in any of its many incarnations.

Classic 3D Classics Excitebike links:
- All the links from my review of the original NES game are relevant, so you should check those out first
- Maps of all the qualifying mode courses (i.e. the easier versions)
- Review of the 3DS version at NintendoLife