I'm quite a bit behind, but before I wrapped up my thoughts on 2018 I did want to squeeze in one more review, namely, the titanic Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Switch. The game is obviously massive, featuring every single fighter from the previous games plus a number of new ones, and practically every stage and item as well.

There are some tweaks to the other modes (which of course must play second fiddle to the pure bliss of the core smashing experience), but the most notable addition is "spirits", which are featured front and center in "World of Light", this iteration's adventure mode. Spirits function much the way that stickers did in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in that they offer bonuses (e.g. immunity to fire hazards) but you're limited to a small number active at any one time. The spirits feature beloved artwork from the whole of not only Nintendo's history, but the featured 3rd parties as well, and you win a spirit via a battle with special twists. The spirit battles themselves are in general fun nods to other games, although, as you might imagine, some of the gimmicks are more frustrating than fun. The "World of Light" mode itself is huge and features tons of spirits, maps to explore, as well as more-involved "dungeons" that evoke famous environments from other games (not to mention a satisfying number of fun boss fights). Nintendo has also been presenting special limited-time events similar to Splatoon's Splatfests in which certain spirits appear more often (for example, Fire Emblem characters). Already three new Spirits have been added to the game via these events, and as long as they don't occur too often, these should be a nice way to keep drawing completists back to the game.

Classic modes also gets a nice shake-up in that each character has a unique sequence of fights to battle through. There are a couple of new tweaks to regular local versus mode, such as the addition of the ability to save custom settings and also to set up a series of bouts where you and your opponent select a team of unique fighters to use as your stock lives (rather than all the stocks being the same fighter as in a normal match).

The new characters aren't super unique, but they're worthy additions. The inclusion of "echo" fighters that are little more than costume changes seems a little unnecessary. Still, Daisy as a Peach clone is better than no Daisy at all, so I guess I should be grateful for what we did get. The game includes all the DLC from the previous title, and we have new DLC to look forward to throughout this year.

Every Smash Bros. game has a lot to live up to, and even though Ultimate was presented as more of a "deluxe" version rather than a completely new iteration, it absolutely feels like a complete and deep experience. When a new Smash Bros. game gets released I always wonder how the series can continue to grow, and with the last few really iconic video game characters like Simon Belmont and the Inklings finally joining the fray, I wouldn't mind the series taking an extended break so I can make some progress in gaining aptitude with even a fraction of the game's huge roster. Either way this is a game that's going to be in regular rotation for a very, very long time.

Smashing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate links:
- The official site has tons of info about the game, and has a videos section that includes all the Smash directs and the new fighter intro videos
- Guide to the various ways you can unlock all the characters
- Just for fun, cool GIFs of a guy recreating various victory animations from the game
- Review at NintendoLife

I gave Bit.Trip Runner a try a few years ago, but I recently played through most of its sequel, Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, on Steam. There were things I liked about the sequel, including more elaborate graphics, checkpoints, more stages and bosses, and more varied music, and branching paths within stages and some unlockable character skins and costumes. But there were a few major things that annoyed me. The main one is that, as with the original, the backgrounds are so busy and distracting that they make it difficult to see the hazards of the stage itself, which seems like very poor design. A related issue is that in this game the camera zooms in and out at various points within the stages, which really throws off the rhythm of the game; I didn't get used to the camera even after hours of playing. The last big issue I had, and which I'm sure many other players would agree with, is that each stage ends with you having to shoot your character out of a cannon to a target, and the game records a perfect for a stage only if you collect every gold bar and hit the bullseye. It's completely pointless to have have to replay an entire stage multiple times just in order to get back to the end and try to hit the bullseye. Ugh!

The "try and die" gameplay of the original wasn't as big an issue for me in this game, mostly because levels have an optional checkpoint (you can jump past it if you want to go for a higher score). The game also offers three levels of difficulty, so if you get stuck you can always drop the difficulty down if you need to. For me this sequel was a mix of pluses and minuses, but overall the gameplay wore out its welcome. Even with additional mechanics all the stages just ended up feeling too same-y, and I got bored well before the end of the game. I really don't see myself playing the third game (released this past May), but I might go back to the first one at some point, after I've gotten through some of the other Bit.Trip games.

Jogging through these Runner2 links:
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Entry at Metacritic
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com

I've been playing the Nintendo mobile title Dragalia Lost since it released a few months ago, but I'm just getting around to collecting my thoughts on it. The game has been very successful in terms of money spent, especially given the fact it's Nintendo's first mobile game that isn't based on a familiar IP. Dragalia Lost is a touch-based action RPG, but there isn't much dungeon crawling involved. Stages are pretty straightforward and for the most part easy to barrel through if your team is at the recommended level. Boss battles can be a bit more challenging, but again, aren't that difficult if your team is levelled up.

The core combat may not be that compelling, but everything else about Dragalia Lost is pretty polished and enjoyable. The character models aren't the greatest, but that's understandable given that it's a mobile title and only really noticeable during the brief victory cutscenes after completing a stage. The character designs and story are good despite being mostly typical anime fare, and in general the settings are colorful and the overall tone is light. The game supplements the basic story with a lot of additional ways to get to know the characters better, including unlockable story segments and entertaining little comics. There are numerous systems at play: levelling up heroes and unlocking skills, equipping and levelling up weapons, buffs, and dragons that you can transform into, and a castle you can manage that will grant additional buffs. Managing these systems is straightforward for the most part, though, and doesn't require much thought.

Limited time events function as side stories that introduce new characters that you can keep permanently if you use them enough during the event. The game has gacha (e.g. lottery) systems in place for their various mechanics, including new playable characters, items, and dragons. Unlike Fire Emblem Heroes, I don't feel at all compelled to try to collect any specific heroes in the game since I don't have any previous attachment to them and the game provides enough freebies to still have flexibility in putting together a team of four (not to mention I'm nowhere near maxing out the characters I already have). But it seems like the game provides enough currency to pull for or promote a decent number of high-level characters if you wanted.

The game has a pretty decent co-op system where you can either join friends or play with strangers, which is nice and unique in terms of Nintendo's mobile offerings so far. One of the things I enjoyed most about it is the music, most of which is by a well-known Japanese pop singer named Daoko. I'm not sure how many other non-music video games have featured a single artist's music so extensively, but I've definitely become a fan of her music through this game, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

Overall this is a game that I don't mind spending the minimum amount of time on in order to collect daily bonuses and participate in limited events, but I'm also glad that it didn't suck me in since a big chunk of my gaming time is already taken up by Fire Emblem Heroes and more often than not, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as well. It doesn't look like Dragalia Lost is going anywhere anytime soon, and it'll be interesting to see how it continues to develop.

Find adventure with these Dragalia Lost links:
- Official site. Includes some cute "how to play the game" comics.
- There's a lot of good info at dragalialost.gamepedia.com, including a tier list
- Pre-release Nintendo Direct about the game
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Wikipedia

I can't think of the last time I encountered a game-breaking bug, but my playthrough of Final Fantasy Adventure on Game Boy was tragically cut short about halfway through due to a bug where you can get stuck in a dungeon in between two locked doors and no key drops or item shops anywhere to be seen. This was really too bad, because up to that point I'd been enjoying this first entry in the Mana series, and it had been a while since I'd finished an OG Game Boy game. But it was not to be.

Final Fantasy Adventure has similar gameplay to the top-down Zelda games, and what it lacks in refinement and character it makes up for with some novel game mechanics. The path is pretty linear and you steadily accrue more powerful weapons and armor. Specific weapons are needed to progress past certain obstacles (for example, an axe can cut down certain trees, which open up new pathways). Switching between them is somewhat of a chore, but to be expected given the Game Boy's limited controls. Oftentimes you'll have a companion keeping you company on your adventure, and companions have unique skills, such as being able to restore your health. You accrue experience points as you defeat enemies, and there's a basic progression where you can choose how to allocate your skill points to various categories (magic vs. strength vs. defense, etc.). Nothing too earth-shattering, but novel enough for the time. The save anywhere feature is a great boon, especially given that the game is on Game Boy, but proves to be the game's downfall as it can lead to being trapped as happened to me.

The game isn't related to the mainline Final Fantasy series much at all, and shares its name no doubt simply to capitalize on that series' success (Final Fantasy Legend, which preceded it by a couple of years, included the Final Fantasy name only in its English release, but FF Adventure included Final Fantasy in both its Japanese and English names). In any case, although the game is very basic by today's standards, it includes a variety of enemies, locales, items, and spells, and a plot that throws the occasional curve ball. The inventory is far too small and you'll end up spending a lot of time going into your menu in order to throw away items, but aside from the game-breaking bug overall this was a pretty decent little early action RPG. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to finish it, but I'm probably going to go on and check out its sequel, the highly regarded Secret of Mana on SNES, rather than retread hours of this game.

Some bug-free Final Fantasy Adventure links:
- Some notes on the game-breaking bug. Basically, be sure to always keep a large stash of keys so you don't get permanently stuck like I did!
- Entry at finalfantasy.wikia.com
- Some maps at GameFAQs
- A look back at the game at gamespite.net (includes spoilers)

This is a quickie review of Astro Bears Party, a random Switch eShop game I picked up on as a reco from an acquaintance. The recommendation came with the caveat that the game is primarily a multiplayer experience and that you should only pick it up when it's on sale; it's listed at $4.49 but is often on sale for a couple of bucks.

Anyway, I picked it up somewhat on a whim, and although the game is severely limited, I found it enjoyable nonetheless. The game takes at its base the central mechanic of Super Mario Galaxy, namely, running and hovering around the surface of a planetoid sphere. This game combined that with a Snake-like mechanic where your character's path appears as a solid line that you and your opponent have to avoid. In the single player mode you collect objects and try to survive as long as possible, whereas in the multiplayer mode (of up to four players) you try to outlast your opponents. The game includes four different bears, each with slightly different stats (bear run speed, turn speed, hover speed, and hover recharge speed).

The single player mode is okay, but the multiplayer mode is actually pretty fun. It's very "bear"-bones and the overall package basically feels more like an extended mini-game than a full experience. What content there is, however, is quite polished, and it's an easy to pick up and play multiplayer experience. This would be worth firing up as a warm-up to deeper multiplayer experiences during gaming sessions with friends. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to others, but I don't regret spending a couple of bucks on it either.