Nate's reviews and writings

  • The Last Story

    First Hour Review

    Last Story CoverOperation Rainfall strikes again.

    The fan campaign that convinced Nintendo of America to actually publish a hardcore Wii game this year can now celebrate its second victory. Another high profile Wii game found its way to the USA last month, though leery NOA decided to pass the risk of publishing to Xseed Games this time around.

    The Last Story is the latest game from director Hironobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu, the duo that made Final Fantasy an institution (and vice versa). It’s hard to believe a publisher would refuse to localize a game with those two names attached, but Nintendo’s no stranger to unbelievable decisions.

    I'd been waiting for this game to hit the USA for over two years. Then I had to wait even longer when my copy was put on backorder for a month after it finally launched. Here’s hoping it was worthwhile.

  • Mole Mania

    Full Review

    Mole Mania CoverLast month, I realized that I haven’t taken my 3DS outside all year. Nearly every weekday of 2011, the little black system was in my pocket and transmitting StreetPass data any time I left the house.

    Not this year. Kid Icarus Uprising is just about impossible to play on the go. I finished New Super Mario Bros. 2 in a weekend, enjoyable as it was. And the StreetPass novelty died after I went months without an exchange. It just wasn’t a worthwhile use of pocket space.

    But then something unexpected happened: a little-known Game Boy game put the 3DS back in my pocket.

  • New Super Mario Bros. 2

    First Hour Review

    new Super Mario Bros 2 CoverThe announcement of a new Mario title tends to carry some buzz. Gaming’s mascot has led enough revolutions that every new game seems to emanate with potential energy.

    But the fanfare was light when two new Mario platformers were revealed at this year’s E3. Old Jumpman may be a victim of overexposure: assuming New Super Mario Bros. U launches alongside the Wii U this holiday season, that will make five Mario platformers released in three years. The five previous Mario platformers stretched from 2007 all the way back to 1992.

    You’ll never hear me complain about too many Mario games. I loved NSMB Wii’s hilarious multiplayer, adored Galaxy 2’s imaginative splendor, and even enjoyed 3D Land’s muted creativity. But all I expect from New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the same old unassuming excellence that has come to define the word “New” on Mario’s box.

  • Penny Arcade's On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

    Full Review

    Penny Arcade Rain Slick 3 CoverA few weeks ago, I acquired Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Cthulhu Saves the World, and all three episodes of Penny Arcade Adventures for eight bucks on Steam. It seemed like a steal at the time: five brief RPG comedies for less than I spend on my daily commute.

    I dropped Breath and Cthulhu after a few hours. Zeboyd’s nutty tributes to ‘80s JRPGs had their moments, but not enough to excuse dull battles, random encounters, and big empty dungeons.

    The first two Penny Arcade games weren’t much better. My disgust for their fetch quest campaign structure smothered my fondness for the Mario RPG-style battles.

    So when I saw that Penny Arcade’s Whatever 3 was the result of a Zeboyd/Penny Arcade team-up, I braced myself for some whole new amalgam of repulsive game elements. It turned out to be a roundly enjoyable seven-hour adventure, one that almost excuses the twelve hours I slogged through the other four games in the bundle. Almost.

  • Wizorb

    Full Review

    Wizorb CoverBreakout and Arkanoid and similar paddle games never resonated with me. Maybe because their Atari heyday ended before I started playing games, or maybe because I disliked the loose shot control. Whatever the case, the genre’s most polished and inspired entries still manage only a passing fancy.

    So I’m flummoxed by my lingering affinity for Wizorb, a three-dollar, three-hour curiosity. I completed the brief game in a weekend fling and have no real desire to revisit it, yet it’s still on my mind. I do relish the lively lo-fi style and RPG window dressing, but the game is still a pretty standard brick breaker at its core.

    I’m not terribly impressed by this new appstore era, this flood of amateur developments selling for less than a vending machine lunch and rarely lasting as long. But Wizorb is one of the few $3 games that’s more filling than its price tag and play time imply. A few thoughtful little gameplay functions that address the genre’s weaknesses are what make it shine among its Breakout-clone peers and its bottom-dollar indie competition both.

  • Amazing Alex

    Full Review

    Amazing Alex CoverI was never any good at The Incredible Machine. It was one of a handful of games available in my elementary school's computer lab, and it was the only one that stumped me every time. I knew the Oregon Trail like the back of my hand, and my SimCity could withstand any disaster, but the motors and pulleys and cheese-seeking mice never quite registered for me.

    So it was with some hesitation that I downloaded Amazing Alex, the next game by the Angry Birds folks. It has all the friendly colors and streamlining of Rovio's money-printing slingshot game, but Incredible Machine's spirit clearly lives within. And I didn't think I had the Rube Goldberg skills to finish it.

    But I did. I finished all 112 stages and collected the three stars in each. And it was the most fun I've had with my smartphone yet.

  • F-Zero GX

    First Hour Review

    f Zero gx CoverThe original Super Smash Bros. was a crash course on the Nintendo properties that I ignored in the early nineties. I learned that the orange robot from Metroid was actually a woman in a suit. I learned that the green elf guy wasn’t actually named Zelda.

    I also discovered that Nintendo made a futuristic racing game called F-Zero. Although the Falcon Punch was the coolest thing in the world, I still couldn’t be persuaded to try out an F-Zero game. Cruis’n USA and Wipeout convinced me that racing games weren’t my thing.

    Racers still aren’t my game of choice, but a bargain bin find has led me to give the F-Zero series the old college try. It’s been almost ten years since the earth-shattering Nintendo/Sega tagteam effort gave birth to GX, and though Nintendo has buried the underperforming series beneath Wii-branded successes, a small but passionate fanbase still thrives. Is an hour with the game enough to place me in their ranks?

  • Contra 4

    Full Review

    Contra 4 CoverCasual observers must be baffled when they watch someone play through tough old-school games. They see the tense hands, the parched eyes, the tight scowl; they must wonder, why would anyone subject themselves to this? Is it a determination to succeed, or a desire to suffer?

    Sometimes, even the player doesn’t know. When the deaths start piling up, frustration can obscure the distinction between a worthy challenge and a cheap wringer. For some, it doesn’t matter: if the game can be beaten, they will beat it.

    I once had that unshakable tenacity, but I won’t put up with cheap traps anymore. I’m learning how to spot the dirty tricks that games use to torture players. And Contra 4 is a hell of a teacher.

  • A Boy and His Blob

    First Hour Review

    a boy and his Blob CoverI’ve been on a bit of a Wii fix lately. Perhaps all the Wii U buzz inspired me to check out B-List Wii games that initially flew under my radar. Whatever the cause, my little white waggle box had a busy month, thanks to Lost in Shadow, Link’s Crossbow Training, and FlingSmash.

    Up next, A Boy and His Blob. This 2D puzzle platformer is a modern take on the original Trouble on Blobolonia, one of many quirky NES games I remember seeing at the rental store as a kid. But I took home Super Mario Bros. 3 every single time.

    In a way, picking up the new Boy and His Blob feels like atonement for Young Nate’s disinterest in anything without “Mario” in the title. But I also wanted it because it looks adorable. Seriously, you feed the blob a jellybean and it happily forms into a ladder. I probably had an imaginary friend just like that when I was six and couldn’t reach a tree branch.

  • FlingSmash

    First Hour Review

    Flingsmash CoverI had a craving for some motion gaming the other day. Skyward Sword’s mixed bag of waggle came and went six months ago, and the surprisingly smart Wii Play Motion ran its course last summer. It was time to try something new.

    The list of Wii MotionPlus games on Wikipedia almost drove the craving away. Three years after the Wii remote finally got its necessary upgrade, a mere thirty-odd games support the device. Most have the unmistakeable stink of shovelware.

    The only one that caught my eye was FlingSmash, a sidescroller where you smack a spherical character into bricks and junk. High concept, it’s not. But it seems like a good excuse to excitedly wave my arms around like a toddler with a bubble wand and a sugar high.

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