Well, I guess it's been four years since I played Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and at that time I'd said, "...despite all the tweaks the game feels essentially very much like its predecessor, and even though I enjoyed both I can't say that I'm that motivated to run out and try Monster Hunter Generations. If I had someone to play with on a semi-regular basis I could see myself spending more time with these games". My recent experience playing Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on Switch basically ends with the same conclusion, but there were still some good times along the way.

MHGU originally came out on New 3DS in the summer of 2016, but I'm glad I waited to dive into it until it came to Switch. The Switch version has the main benefit of being able to play the game on a big screen which is where it belongs, although it's definitely not the prettiest game due to its handheld origins. As usual, I focused on a new to me weapon, specifically the insect glaive. (MHGU also introduced "Prowler mode", which lets you take on the role of the supporting Felyne character, but I didn't bother much with that.) The insect glaive is an odd weapon in that you shoot out a semi-sentient insect that hits a monster and extracts "essence" of different colors depending on the monster and the body part. You can combine the different colors, rather like with the hunting horn, although the combinations are much more limited (there are only a few). To get the most out of the system you have to balance extracting essences and attacking, which makes the glaive a little fiddly. It's a fast weapon and fun to use overall, though, but so far of the weapons I've tried I prefer the hunting horn for its lower stress supporting role.

Unlike the previous game, this one has the barest of stories, but it was fun to see previous villages and characters from the two previous games in the series I've played, and I'm sure it must be even more enjoyable for fans who have been playing since the series' earliest days. The game also introduces "Hunting Styles", which basically add on different styles of play. Practically speaking, for me it just gave me access to some powerful "ultimate attacks", which you can select from and are based on a meter that fills up. On top of having the advantage of this being my third game in the series, these attacks made it even easier for me to zip through most of the low rank quests. Being familiar with the series I was also able to not bother getting too bogged down in the peripheral systems, such as the farm and recruiting Felynes, although I appreciated how many features the game does have.

I enjoyed playing my third Monster Hunter game and there were just enough updates to make it worthwhile, but at its core not a lot has changed. This time around the burrowing and flying monsters were particularly annoying, but on the up-side, there weren't any required capture quests in the parts that I played, so that was a definite plus. As I said about MH4U, although I enjoyed this game overall, I would've played it more if I had someone to play with on a regular basis. As it is this is another game that I'm going to have to set aside indefinitely. It's nice to see that the series has finally established a firm foothold in the West, and Monster Hunter Rise (releasing near the end of this month) looks like a great current gen version. Again, I'm not in a rush to go out and get it right away, but it looks like it has some fun new additions (namely, monster riding, a dog companion, and a grappling hook), and I'm sure I'll pick it up eventually.

I think I may have heard of the name of the NES title "S.C.A.T." (full name S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team) as an example of a terrible video game name before it was released on Nintendo Switch Online, but I had never paid any attention to it. I can't recall ever seeing it on best of the system lists or anything like that (although apparently it's gotten uniformly favorable reviews in its previous Virtual Console releases on Wii, Wii U, and 3DS), so I basically went into it blind. It turns out the game is actually a really enjoyable shooter, with a very Contra-like feel to it. You're a soldier floating through the space and able to move in all directions, so it should feel more like something like Gradius, but the weapons, enemies, aesthetics, and co-op gameplay make it feel more like Contra to me.

The main unique feature of the game is quite inspired and still feels fresh. Each player has two drones that can either be set to continuously rotate around you, or you can press a button and have them stay fixed in place. This mechanic is really fun, and because of the level design you have to make the most of your drones, which adds a nice amount of strategy to what would otherwise be a pretty standard shoot 'em up game. Playing it in co-op, it was interesting to see that while I definitely preferred changing my drones' orientation based on the situation, my buddy preferred just letting them constantly rotate. Also, I definitely preferred the spread gun, while my buddy preferred the gun with bullets that explode on impact. (Both of us avoided the laser gun at all costs).

The game plays perfectly well on Switch Online, and the cheat codes for extra lives and a stage select, along with the Switch Online features to set checkpoints and rewind, make it a relaxing and enjoyable experience for an afternoon, although trying to get through the game as a regular playthrough would require far more memorization and concentration. Apparently in the last ten years the value of the original NES cartridge has skyrocketed and it's now worth more than 100 USD, so it's great that Switch Online is digging up these rare lost gems of the original NES and SNES systems. I'm looking forward to continuing to work my way through the various games they have to offer.

Just as I don't think anyone predicted Tetris 99, the battle royale version of Tetris (which I quite enjoyed), I don't think anyone predictedSuper Mario Bros. 35, a Nintendo Switch Online free to play release with a similar setup but is based on the original NES Super Mario Bros. game and was released as part of that game's 35th anniversary.

The setup of Super Mario Bros. 35 should feel familiar to anyone who's played Tetris 99. You're one against many (in this case, 34 instead of 98), and your job is to outlast everyone else. In an ingenious adaptation of Tetris's versus mechanics, in Super Mario Bros. 35 the enemies you defeat in your playthrough of a level gets dropped into someone else's. Like Tetris this can be a hindrance, but it can also be a benefit since you can turn around and defeat those enemies to send them back to your opponents. In this game you also have to worry about dying and running out of time, and defeating enemies earns you back some time. You also only get one life, but powerups are plentiful and by earning coins you can activate an item rouelette at anytime (assuming you have enough coins to buy one). As in Tetris 99 you also have the option to target specific opponents based on the lowest remaining time, etc., but in general I didn't bother with that.

At its best the game ends up having a similar feel as the superb Super Mario Maker 2 in terms of the mayhem caused by unexpected enemies being dumped into random stages, such as flying Cheep Cheeps or Bloopers appearing in land stages and Koopa Troopas appearing underwater. It's also a lot of fun to tear through hordes of enemies with fireballs (easily the best powerup of the game) and a Super Star. The game is a lot of fun in general in short bursts, but the main mode ends up being a drag because each player picks a stage that they've unlocked to be included in the pool of possible stages that will be chosen from, and most players only have the first couple of stages unlocked. This means you'll end up playing the same two stages over and over again. Unlocking new stages is a chore, although the special mode makes this easier. There's been a regular parade of special modes (only one active at any time), each featuring a variation of the regular mode, e.g. start off with a certain powerup or with a certain number of coins. The special modes feature subsets of all the 32 possible stages, and as in the main mode, beating a stage unlocks it for you to choose from in the future. There's also a practice mode where you can play any stage that you want.

As a long-time Super Mario Bros. vet I have a built-in advantage over young 'uns who may have never played the game before, and it's not too hard for me to be one of the last people standing. The last parts of a match get to be a big slog, though. Without a lot of players the number of enemies you can send to or receive from your opponent gets much smaller, and so when there are a few people left it takes a long time before anyone emerges as the winner. In most cases it becomes more a matter of time running out than losing from making a platforming mistake, and it seems like with a little tweaking to the game mechanics this could have been a little more polished.

The game is set to shut down on March 31 of this year, which seems like a bizarre decision on Nintendo's part, although it remains to be seen if the game will pop up again in some form in the future. Overall this was a fun little curiosity, but with the original NES Super Mario Bros. game available on pretty much every Nintendo platform and Super Mario Maker 2 providing much more variety, this isn't a game that I felt compelled to spend a ton of time on. It's easy to recommend for people with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to try out, especially if you haven't already mastered the original NES, but it's not one that I'm going to miss too much when it gets shut down.

I'm sure I'm not the only Nintendo super fan who's still carrying his 3DS around on the offhand chance I'll get a StreetPass (more realistically, to colllect the StreetPass coins you can earn, one for every 100 steps you take), but we're clearly well past the 3DS's prime. It's too bad the Switch never had an updated version of the 3DS's ingenious StreetPass functionality, where you can earn little in-game bonuses in a wide range of games that support the feature if your 3DS passes someone else's 3DS, even if you never take your systems out of your pocket. It's just as well, though, since it would've been a pain to have to think about carrying both systems around, haha.

Anyway, I recently got the second ending of Feed Mii, one of the five games that were part of Mii Plaza's final update from September 2016, four and a half years ago (!). I've written about the various add-ons to the original base Mii Plaza games as they've been released, and the most recent was the third batch of games (the second set of paid games), which included a fishing game and a zombie hack and slash. Back in the day it was a little thrill whenever you saw the green StreetPass light, and these quick play games provided a lot of variety. Nintendo really paved the way of the "few minutes a day" gameplay in games such as Animal Crossing and Nintendogs, and the StreetPass games were a perfect way of killing some time on the bus or the subway.

This third and last batch was the biggest update and consisted of a whopping five games, and you could download one of a choice of two for free. One of the options was Market Crashers, and that game is the quickest of the five to get through, both in terms of daily sessions and also in terms of 100% completing it. It's a basic stock market simulation, and I enjoyed its simplicity and also its references to all the other StreetPass minigames. On the other end of the spectrum, Ninja Launcher is a unique little game where you try to line up Miis of different heights and Slot Car Rivals is a real-time racing game that has you using one button to time boosting over certain parts of a range of tracks. Both of those games are fun, but they both require a lot of focus to do well, so they're my least played of the group.

In the middle are Feed Mii and Mii Trek. The former has you combining ingredients brought by Miis to follow or create new recipes, and the latter has you navigating a map to search for treasure. Both don't require a whole lot of attention, but like the flower shop managing game, both of them are going to take a huge amount of time to 100%. I was doing really well with getting to 100% in the original Mii Plaza games and the first batch of paid DLC, but many of the games in this and the second batch of paid DLC feel quite drawn out at times. The reign of the 3DS overlapped with the rise of smartphones, so the genre of quick play games has been completely oversaturated, no doubt contributing to my loss of interest in 100% completing the rest of the StreetPass games, particularly as getting StreetPasses themselves has become extremely rare and some games require you to have a real StreetPass rather than being able to use StreetPass coins.

All in all Mii Plaza had a great run while it lasted, and it's too bad that some of the games don't really make it possible to complete them 100% using StreetPass coins, or at least make it much more difficult. Overall I enjoyed this set more than the previous one, and I'm going to continue to carry my 3DS and work my way towards 100% completing as much as I can whenever my stash of StreetPass coins gets full, but it will continue to be bittersweet to come back to this game and recall how much fun it was in its heyday.

I really wasn't sure what to make of Ninjala when it released more than six months ago. I was a little turned off by how much is borrowed Splatoon's neon aesthetic, and there are so many free to play games that it took me a while before I sat down and gave it a deeper look. What finally enticed me to do so was the free "jala" (the game currency you buy with real money) the game gave out for milestones like 5 million downloads, and they also have "matsuri" (i.e. festival) events where you can earn a ton of tier points for completing missions. I started playing more seriously over the winter break and I have to say I'm very glad I did. The game hooked me in so much that I ended up happy to spend a few bucks of real money to get the premium paid pass for last season and this season to unlock the various par for the course cute emotes and costumes.

The game has a few things in common with Splatoon even beyond its sense of style and the way it divides clothes into "brands" and also how it lets you tweak your abilities with shinobi cards (like skill slots on gear in Splatoon). Like Splatoon the game is an arena fighter and like Splatoon there are variations of weapons that provide different abilities and special attacks. Also like in Splatoon you can focus on two objectives during the game, both of which help your team. In this case you can defeat stationary drones in order to increase the maximum level of your "gum meter" (which is necessary to increase your weapon strength), and defeat other players. In Ninjala this ability to help your team even if you're not going after KOs is nice, but that won't get you too far. You can play solo vs seven other players or teams of 4v4, and although I find the team mode to be less pressure and thus much more satisfying, the two modes require different approaches and both are enjoyable.

As for the core gameplay, there's a satisfying variety of weapons such as the standard equivalent of sword and hammer types, but also many that are more unique, like a skateboard that has unique movement controls when you ride it and also powers up the more you jump around, and a yo-yo that you can leave spinning in place that you can teleport back to in order to attack. There's a nice variety in specials attacks and ultimate attacks, and pretty much all of them are easy and fun to use. The game controls are super smooth, and a key sign of a great game is when it's fun to just run around and navigate the space. You can blow bubbles at any time and rocket yourself in any direction as a faster mode of travel, and the game also has a really satisfying mechanic of letting you transform into random environmental objects such as trash cans in order to regain health and also catch your opponents off guard. The character design is cartoony and kiddy-looking but inviting, and there's a good variety in the stages as well (with Japanese, French, and London/British aesthetics so far). There aren't really any limited time special modes (I think there's been only one since I started playing), but there really doesn't need to be because the core gameplay is so fun. Playing with friends in a private room or open team battles is simple to set up and fun, but playing with strangers is pretty much equally fun as well.

There were some complaints I was a little concerned about that I'd heard a little about before I played the game. One was that weapon skins are single use. This turned out to not be a big deal at all for me. For one, upgrading to the paid pass automatically gives you infinite uses for the weapon skins. Also, the skins are really just palette swaps. All the weapons are available from the beginning, and earning these palette swaps seems to me to just be a little extra to encourage you to experiment with different weapons when you're first starting off. The other issue I was worried about was the core battle mechanics, which has you parrying and basically randomly choosing between three options. The choices aren't actually completely random because different weapons gain super armor if you successfully parry, but then the problem is if your opponent knows that you're more likely to choose that option. I ended up not minding this too much because it gives the game a more party feel, and over the course of a match you're more or less likely to win as many of these encounters as lose them. This also encourages you to be more strategic about avoiding getting into these clashes in the first place, either by being sneaky and picking off opponents who are already at low health, or making better use of your specials and ultimates.

In case you couldn't tell, I've grown to really like Ninjala, and I have to say it's easily my favorite free to play game on Switch right now, by a good margin. It's so polished that it really feels like it could have been a first-party Nintendo release, which is high praise indeed. I'm really hoping the game continues to build up its audience, and I'm definitely planning on jumping back into it whenever the next matsuri event happens. I've also already gotten my nephew into it, and I've gotten some other friends to try it out as well, so it looks like it may end up working its way into my online game night rotations as well. I'm really pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this game, and I can see myself appreciating the game even more the more I play it and try out even more of the weapons. What are you waiting for? See you online! ;)