Another game revisit. I'm kind of an obsessive person in general, and I've been playing Nintendo Badge Arcade daily (with only a handful of exceptions) since it came out. I blogged about it three years ago, and at that time I'd gotten about 175 badges with about 7 completed sets. I hit a milestone a few months ago of 5000 badges (!), and so I thought it would be a good time to take another look at the game.

The game's premise is pretty simple (earn icons across Nintendo and some third-party franchises to decorate your 3DS's home screen with), and although it's set up to get you to spend money, you can still earn plenty of badges without spending any money. It's a great feature for fans of many Nintendo franchises and for people who still play their 3DS at all. A while back they opened up the game so that you would get two free chances a day, and this on top of the already daily free credit (earned by playing a "practice" game with five credits) made it so that you could accrue quite a good collection without dropping a dime. That daily free credit often (maybe once or twice a week) is actually two credits, and once or twice every two weeks you'll also earn a super bonus, which is another three free credits. So if you get lucky you could get as many six credits for free in one day. The game balances out this apparent generosity by not giving you the free credits from the practice game until after you've used up the two daily free credits. This is sub-optimal because you don't know if you should try for one of the sets that will require a full five credits, or play it safe and try for one of the sets that you can finish in two groups of three, or the like.

Anyway, the game is still a lot of fun regardless, and I've pretty much at least started every set. Although I don't actually spend as much time using the badges for decorating my 3DS home screen as I should, I've liked the game enough to drop some real money on it and collect some of the themes you get by spending $2 at a time. I breathed a sigh of relief when I'd collected all the Fire Emblem and Nintendo Remix (i.e. classic NES) badges, and I've completed a couple of other collections as well. One frustration is that some of the limited time holiday badges haven't made a reappearance since the game switched to providing two free daily credits, but although I had lost hope, they've recently brought back some catchers that had been gone for ages, namely the Monster Hunter and I think some of the Mega Man catchers. This has renewed my hope that eventually they'll bring back some of the other long-gone catchers as well. I'm a little worried about when the game finally closes its doors, as I'm definitely going to have to pony up some real money to finish off the last of a few sets I want to complete (mostly the Zelda sets, but also a few others like the Rhythm Heaven and WarioWare sets), but hopefully that won't be for a little while longer.

I last blogged about Pokemon Go more than two and a half years ago (almost a year after its initial release of July 2016), and I've gone from a measly 60 caught to a whopping 355 caught, including a complete Kanto Pokedex (the first 151 Pokemon). At that time I'd enjoyed the game and appreciated its cultural impact, but the game itself wasn't all that memorable to me. However, over time developer Niantic gradually rolled out more and more features, and now the game has a robust set of options and modes that definitely make it feel like a more complete experience.

The Wikipedia article on the game has a good run-down of all the features and when they were added. Among them the feature that wins my vote for best update was the Adventure Sync feature. Previously you had to have the app open for it to track your steps, or the pricey Pokemon Go Plus accessory. The Adventure Sync feature keeps track of your steps even when the app is closed, which makes hatching eggs and earning candies from your Pokemon buddy way easier.

I hadn't played the game much before the addition of raid battles, but they definitely have become a big draw for a lot of people. Raid battles are a way that groups can get together to take down powerful (often legendary) Pokemon. I was happy to ignore them for the most part, but I finally had to resort to getting involved with them in order to finally complete my Kanto Pokedex, which required me to battle Mewtwo in a raid. It was a tense affair, and I had to travel to two Pokestops and cross my fingers as you not only have to beat the Pokemon, but throw special raid-specific Pokeballs to catch it. Luck was on my side and I was able to catch it on my second raid, and that hour of raid experience was definitely enough for me, although, again, I can appreciate the social aspects of raids and if I had friends who were really into it I probably wouldn't mind tagging along. Raid battles have proven to be popular enough that they've even made it into the latest proper Pokemon game, so I suppose I'll be encountering them again before too long.

One of two other newer features worth mentioning are the "research" tasks, which consist of a series of quests or missions such as "Make 10 Great throws" that earn your items and in multi-part missions, special Pokemon. This helps give the game more of a purpose and was a worthwhile diversion in general. The other was the introduction of "Community Days", which is where a certain Pokemon is highlighted and appears frequently for a few hours on a weekend. That Pokemon learns a special move when it evolves during that time, and its shiny variant also becomes much more common. I didn't get into these events much and I'm not a shiny hunter in general, but I did catch a couple of shinies this way, which was a nice, cheap thrill, haha.

From my perspective Niantic's updates within the last year have been pretty ho-hum, but this would be understandable since the game continues to rake in the cash and they've probably been busy developing and releasing their Harry Potter game which has similar mechanics. I have so many mobile games to keep track of in general that once I finished my Kanto Pokedex I put Pokemon Go aside for now, but as of right now it doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing down, so it will be interesting to see how the game continues to evolve.

It should be pretty obvious to anyone who stumbles across my site that I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, so I was eagerly anticipating the release of the latest entry in the series Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The game is noteworthy for several reasons, one of which is that it was released on Nintendo's newest console, the Switch, and is the first console game in the series in some twelve years. The developers did a good job of combining mechanics from across the series' history with some brand new ones. Among the new features, the biggest addition is the huge expansion of activities available to do between battles. Although a lot of them have a similar function as in previous entries (conversations between characters, cooking to earn team bonuses, shopping for weapons, etc.), you can now navigate around the monastery, a huge 3D environment that serves as the academy in the game's world. Increasing both characters' weapon and experience levels and their support (i.e. relationship) points is centered around a very Persona-like setup in which you play the part of a professor to the academy's students. It's easy to lose hours micromanaging your team's growths, but the game has an auto option for people who don't care that much about it, and on the game's lower difficulties you probably don't need to pay that much attention to it. The activities (with perhaps the exception of a repetitive fishing mini-game) are fun for the most part, and exploring the monastery and getting to know the huge cast is good fun in and of itself.

In terms of the battles themselves the game adds in a few nice new twists, including monsters that take up four tiles instead of one and are surrounded by shields that you have to break. The rewind feature from Fire Emblem: Echoes is thankfully back, which lets you recover from fatal mistakes, and you can hire and train batallions, supporting teams who give you Fire Emblem Heroes-like support abilities such as healing or increased movement.

As with Fire Emblem: Fates, the previous entry in the series, Three Houses also has you choosing between multiple storylines. I picked the Golden Deer, and there are four distinct paths total; I'm looking forward to seeing how events play out on my subsequent playthroughs. The level of world building and the variety of characters is satisfying, and although I definitely enjoyed this installment and played it obsessively until I got to the credit, it doesn't unseat my top favorites in the series. Although the monastery and its various activities were fun in general, it does shift the balance a bit too far away from the core strengths of the series and all the mechanics get to be a little bit too much, even for a series veteran such as myself. Hopefully the next entry in the series will be as epic in terms of scale, but a little more streamlined.

There are many times being a completist can be a pain, and playing through the Dr. Mario series has definitely not been the most entertaining experience. The series seems to make an appearance on every Nintendo platform with minimal changes, and so I wasn't particularly expecting much from Dr. Mario World, its smartphone iteration, released this past July.

I'm happy to report that I've been proven wrong, and the gameplay has actually the evolved the most since, well, probably any iteration. Unlike all the previous sequels, rather than farming the game out to a minor developer, Nintendo had their main group develop the title, and it shows. The game is structured pretty much the same as any number of match 3 mobile games such as Candy Crush, with added gacha mechanics and a versus mode. The core gameplay adds a new mechanic where you use touch mechanics to move blocks anywhere that they can fit, including halves of blocks. This change makes the game much more active and satisfying, as it basically does away with the basic and fairly lame chain mechanics from the previous games. The gacha component isn't too intrusive, and you roll for doctors or assistants. The doctors' specials are unique, although I find myself only alternating between two regularly (Peach and Wendy). Even without paying it didn't take me too long to get enough free rolls to build up a flexible roster, and the game also gives out items (which you can use to get past particuarly tricky stages) pretty regularly. A lot of the assistants seem fairly redundant, but I'm used to gacha games so those mechanics don't bother me too much.

In addition to the improved core mechanics, the game has also added a lot of twists to the stages, including bricks you have to break, viruses inside bubbles that sink according to gravity, and stages that continuously add more viruses. It's been prety straightforward to get through stages, with the exception of the timed stages which seem designed to force you to pony up cash to beat. The versus mode is fast-paced and enjoyable, and the daily missions and special events (e.g. special stages or goals with rewards) add a little bit of purpose.

All in all Dr. Mario World is a solid release and well worth a download. At its core it's still a match 3 game, though, and I doubt I'll be ponying up any real cash for it, but I've been playing it semi-regularly since its release and plan on continuing to do so. Even with all its updates it's not the most innovative game in the world, but it's one of the most enjoyable of its type that I've played.

Night in The Woods got a lot of great reviews when it was released in February 2017, including one of its port to Switch a year later on NintendoLife. I keep thinking that I'm going to enjoy story-based games, but then I find that them to be sooooo slow. A lot of Night In The Woods' acclaim was that it looked at contemporary psychological issues in a realistic way, but I never really found myself that interested in the main character, Mae, or the small town she lives in. Yes, she had a lot of issues, but I couldn't relate to her apathy at all and was much more interested in her friends and the supernatural subplot. That subplot only appears in snatches, and although her friendships do get a decent amount of attention, apparently you can only focus on one of her three friends in a single playthrough, which is annoying. The core "walking sim" gameplay is very, very slow, and the interludes didn't do anything to curb my impatience. I had to really force myself to return to this game again and again in order to finish it. I was hoping the ending would feel like a big payoff, but it really, really didn't.

I suspect I'm too old to fit what I assume is the more 20-something quarter-life-crisis-experiencing target audience for this game, and it's still a mystery to me that even though I enjoy reading and I enjoy video games, I have yet to really find a story-based video game that I really loved and couldn't put down. There are games with strong stories that I have definitely enjoyed (Yono and the Celestial Elephants comes to mind), but this experience has unfortunately, left me even more wary of walking sims than before. Ho hum.