The Wii shop's closure was announced a few months ago, which was sad news. I've bought a fair number of games from it, but there are plenty that I haven't played yet, so now was a good time to finish off one of them at least. I'm a huge fan of developer Intelligent Systems, who are behind Fire Emblem (my favorite video game series of all time), as well as the Advance Wars, Paper Mario, Pushmo, and WarioWare series, amongst others, so I was looking forward to their one-off game, Eco Shooter: Plant 530

Eco Shooter is definitely not their best work, but it has solid mechanics and is pretty fun overall. The premise is that "the earth’s empty cans have been brought to life by the Cannoids, an alien race determined to destroy the planet", and basically the game is an on-rails light-gun-type shooter where all the enemies are made up of cans. The setting is a recycling plant, so the visuals are fairly drab, and although they're all made up of cans there's a decent amount of enemy variety. The game has a novel mechanic where both your ammo and your health are taken from the same reserves, and when you defeat enemies you have to "vacuum" them up to collect more energy. You have a limited amount of time that you can pause the action to vacuum before your gun overheats, and you'll need to strategically alternate between shooting and collecting energy.

The main common complaint about the game is that it's too short, and although I usually don't mind a short game, in this case I would have to agree. The mechanics are fun, but there isn't much difference between the three levels. It took me several tries to get in the groove of blasting enemies and sucking up energy and also to efficiently beat the boss character (who is pretty much the same in each stage). But once I had mastered the game mechanics, blowing through the three levels and getting the high score was pretty easy. After you beat the three levels, you unlock a "challenge" mode where you have to defeat the three levels back to back, but I found this to actually be easier than beating each stage individually. Although the levels in this mode are slightly harder versions of the standalone stages, you carry over your energy between stages, which makes the second and third stages much easier.

No doubt the developers at IntSys were limited by the constraints of WiiWare (namely the maximum file size), but I can't help feeling the game could've been so much more. It was fun to see Intsys branch out and do something completely different, but otherwise this is a game that's pretty forgettable, and there are much better alternatives available for Wii.

I'm not a huge fan of beat-'em-ups, but I do feel compelled to check out the most famous examples of the genre. I've heard Final Fight be mentioned as a classic, so I tried it out on SNES.

It seems like the game is remembered for several reasons. One is that it was one of the launch titles for the SNES, and its arcade-like graphics no doubt were impressive for the time. Another is that its popularity fueled the development of the classic fighting game Street Fighter II, which was definitely an important moment in video game history.

As for the game itself, it seems like fans of the game must be viewing the game through rose-tinted glasses, as I found it to be a typical and unremarkable example of the genre. The controls feel pretty stiff, and even though there are two characters to choose from, the movesets are pretty limited. Most of the time you'll end up spamming the jump attack since it's one of the more powerful moves. The regular punches work okay, and to avoid getting caught by attacks from both directions you can use a suplex move that will move one enemy to the other side of the screen. You also can use a super move that does more damage but costs part of your health, which is a game mechanic shared by other games that originated in the arcades and is always extremely lame. It's too easy to go from being at full health to zero, either by being repeatedly hit by enemies with no chance to recover or by being hit by one of the boss characters who do massive amounts of damage.

The game lacks the third character and additional stage of the original arcade version, but the lack of the co-op mode is what really limits the appeal of the game. The presentation and music are good, although there's not much variety in the settings or enemies. (The game is also an interesting example of censorship that was commonplace at the time.)

This definitely isn't one of the better beat-'em-ups I've played, and it's overly difficult even when using the cheat to adjust the difficulty and to up the number of lives. I might check out its sequel at some point since that game does have a co-op mode and is generally regarded as being better than the first game, but not anytime soon.

Another Dance Dance Revolution game down! After playing through DDR: Disney Mix, I thought I'd jump ahead and try some of the Wii titles. There were quite a few DDR games released on Wii, and the first of these was called Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party and was released in the fall of 2007. The game is pretty much your standard DDR with the addition of Wii controls that add left and right arm motions. The Wii remote and nunchuk controls work much better than the EyeToy controls (which were awkward and basically more trouble than they were worth in the PS2 DDR games I've played), although they're still not ideal as you have to put a lot of focus and attention on them to get the timing exactly right. The game also has "gimmick arrows", which include things like arrows you have to step on twice and arrows that, if you miss them, cause part of the screen to be hidden. These gimmicks are included to a much greater extent than in other DDR games that I can recall (except perhaps the Mario game), and some of them are a real annoyance (particularly the arrows that spin around and don't line up with the screen until right before you have to hit them, which mean that they basically require you to memorize them). The game has the option to turn off these and the hand motions, which is an important and very welcome feature.

Otherwise the game is pretty much your usual DDR. In the main mode you work your way through various venues, but the challenges are all pretty basic, such as "beat any 3 songs on basic or higher" or "get a B or higher rank and a 50 combo". Along with unlocking venues (i.e. floating stages of different shapes with various psychedelic visuals) you also unlock songs and alternate character costumes in this mode, and after you beat the main set of challenges the game unlocks a new set of challenges that are much, much more difficult.

The game features a mix of dance tracks that include cover songs, a couple by the original artist, and a bunch written for the game. The songs are all pretty good, although the fact that most are covers will turn people off (although that's par for the course for the DDR series). I was disappointed in the new art style, which has a sort of Bratz-like aesthetic, and I was disappointed that pretty much none of the series' previous dancers were included. I was also disappointed that the game doesn't display your previous high scores in the song selection screen (although that's often the case with the DDR games), and it's also too bad that the game doesn't record a separate set of scores for when you turn off the hand motions, since they are so finicky and require a lot more effort to have on.

Although it does require effort to play with the hand motion controls on, they make the game feel fresh and more like a whole body (and mind) experience. In the end I would rank this around the middle of the games in the series that I've played so far. It's not quite as appealing as the games that feature just the classic feet-only gameplay, but there's a good variety of songs and it's still quite enjoyable. The game was followed up by two games that are extremely similar, Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 and Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3, but I enjoyed this enough that I'll be playing through both of those games before moving on to the other games in the series.

Get the party started with these Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party links:
- Some screenshots at NintendoLife
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Entry at Metacritic

I've been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp more than I should for more than a week now, and the good news is that it's better than I expected. The bad news is that I have yet another Nintendo game that I'm going to be compelled to check daily!

Unlike the other mobile games that Nintendo has released thus far, Pocket Camp does feel like a stripped down version of the mainline games, although it has enough small differences to make it feel like a separate thing. Fishing, catching bugs, and collecting seashells and fruit has a simpler, touch-based interface that works perfectly well. You'll also be using the touchscreen for walking around, arranging your furniture (using the same intuitive interface that debuted in Happy Home Designer), and talking to your animal friends. The game is focused on building up relationships with animals via fulfilling their requests (e.g. give them three oranges) and crafting furniture. The two activities are intertwined as building relationships with animals will earn you more materials for crafting furniture, and crafting furniture will let you invite animals to your campsite. The flow of the game is also finely tuned. The animals visit four main areas (riverside, beach, orchard, and island). More often than not you need items from one area in order to fulfill a request from an animal in a different area, so there's a compelling loop of visiting and revisiting areas as you fulfill requests.

In Pocket Camp you have an RV to personalize instead of a house, and you also have a campsite, which is an outdoor area that you can decorate and invite animals to visit. The campsite has two spaces for "amenities", bigger structures much like the town amenities from New Leaf. You can also buy clothes (including socks and shoes from Kicks the skunk) and furniture, although you only have a few options to choose from compared to the main games' wide selection.

You gain levels as you build your relationships, and increasing your level lets you meet more and more animals. The main series has more than 450 animals, so it's going to be a good long while before all of them are added to the game. Currently it seems like animals appear at the same level for all players, and each unlocks specific pieces of furniture. The downside to this is that currently everyone's campsites look pretty similar with the same group of animals and a lot of the same furniture, but that shouldn't last long as people get to higher levels and have a much wider catalog of items to choose to craft.

Pocket Camp is free to play, and so far it seems pretty fair. You can pay real money to buy leaf tickets, which can be used to speed up the time it takes to craft a new item, take the place of materials you may be missing, or visit the quarry which nets you coins. Materials and coins can be earned by fulfilling animals' requests, so not spending real money will mean you'll be doing a lot more grinding fulfilling requests, but the series has always been about grinding routine tasks anyway. There are also a series of daily and long-term "goals" you can accomplish (such as catch 100 bugs) that will also earn you rewards, including leaf tickets.

Pocket Camp had a lot of server issues when it launched, and a week later I'm still seeing server communication problems fairly regularly. I'm sure those will get ironed out, though. Pocket Camp is definitely not as addictive as New Leaf, but it has the same charm and lovable animal characters and relaxing mindless gameplay. The developers have done a great job making it feel perfectly at home on smartphones, and it looks great and controls smoothly. Now that I've accomplished a lot of the short-term tasks (such as recruiting both of the limited-time characters, Tom Nook and K. K. Slider) I can see myself playing this a minimal amount each day, although they just released a special holiday set of furniture, which may eat up more time than I'd intended. Pocket Camp works perfectly well as an intro to the obsession-inducing Animal Crossing series, but for longtime fans it's also an enjoyable game in its own right, helped in no small part by its convenience of being available on smartphones. It's unknown if Pocket Camp will tie into the next entry in the mainline series at all, but we're a bit overdue for a new proper Animal Crossing game, and this game certainly whets the appetite for something more innovative and substantial.

I'm not hugely into fighting games in general, but I was interested in Arms on Switch since it was one of the few first-party launch-window releases that was an entirely new IP. The game has a bright neon aesthetic that feels very similar to Splatoon, although it does have its own identity.

I watched a fair amount of footage of the game before it was released, but it was hard to get a sense of the game's depth. The game is pretty easy to pick up and play, but it definitely takes time to gain proficiency. Like many fighting games Arms relies on punches, dodges, blocks, and grabs, but as with other fighting games it takes time to get used to the mechanics and the timing of the actions and how to best react to a given situation.

Each character has her/his own special abilities, and there's a wide variety of arms to choose from. You can equip a different arm for the left or right, and although each fighter comes with three unique arms your fighters can use the other fighters' arms after you earn them in a punching targets minigame. I spent most of my time playing as Spring Man (a balanced fighter), Ribbon Girl (who can jump four times compared to the usual two), and Helix (who can stretch its body to avoid attacks). Some arms seem much more useful than others (slow ones in particular seem hard to use), but I suspect that with the default arms at least that the game has been pretty well-balanced. The game doesn't fully explain the unique mechanics of the individual fighters and arms, but there are resources online to help fill in those gaps.

The game has a standard single-player mode in which you battle a series of fighters with the useful addition that you can suspend your progress at any time and resume later. The multiplayer mode puts you in a room and shuffles the participants between various modes that include standard 1 vs. 1 fights as well as a basketball mode (which focuses on grabs), a volleyball mode, 2 vs. 2 fights, and 3 vs 1 co-op fights. Like Splatoon the game has been rolling out free new content, including three new characters so far, the addition of badges (in-game achievements), and a new Splatfest-like mode called Party Crash. The various extra modes are entertaining enough, but the core game has enough depth and variety that I much prefer just playing standard 1 vs. 1 fights.

After playing Arms for a significant amount I've definitely improved, although I'm still a long way away from being truly adept. Arms feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the glut of 2-D fighter series, and even without the additional content the game is packed with personality, fun, and challenge. I'm generally attracted to new IP so it's not too surprising that this is my favorite Switch game yet. Although Arms isn't as immediately satisfying as a nostalgic favorite like the Smash Bros. series, I'll definitely be picking it up again whenever the next Party Crash event rolls around.

Get fully armed with these Arms links:
- Official site
- Review at NintendoLife
- Wiki at