Hades Review

Developed and Published by: Supergiant Games
Platforms: Switch (Reviewed), PC
Release Date: Out Now


They’ve done it again; and got me, too, coming back again and again. In Hades, Supergiant Games have crafted a masterful take on the roguelike that blends the brutal yet rewarding appeal of said genre with the immaculate, characterful art and music direction the developer is known for. I have never played a roguelike that encourages you on in such a way; not only are you seeking to better yourself on skill, but you’re motivated to find out more on the richly developed characters as well. If I was making a list of my top ten developers, Supergiant would probably be in there, and Hades is another example of why (again, a great idea for a list article there… I should start doing those)!


Going Rogue

The story premise, whilst deeply layered within the Greek Mythology it employs, is quite straightforward in the goal set out to you. You play as Zagreus, son of Hades – the God of the Dead – and having grown tired of your constrained life within the Underworld, you set about trying to escape to discover more about your family. This means fighting through multiple areas, including Tartarus and Asphodel, in order to reach the surface and the secrets that await you there. It’s set out in familiar roguelike format; you battle through consecutive, randomised chambers of enemies and traps, with boss fights capping each of the sections; as well as this, there are surprise interludes; this includes fountains to restore health, and a shop run by Charon, Ferryman of the Underworld. If you die, you are kicked back to your starting point of The House of Hades, where you regroup (more on that below) before setting off again, undeterred.

Controls are deceptively simple; you play from a dynamic isometric perspective – it is reminiscent of previous Supergiant games, in particular Transistor – and this means that whilst Zagreus maneuvers around a open area with a sense of depth, it is in a 2D style (see the screenshots in this review). There is more surrounding space compared to roguelikes such as Rogue Legacy or Dead Cells, which are strictly from-the-side 2D and often claustrophobic – arguably to a fault. In contrast, Hades has a bit more freedom that is delightful to operate within; the game goes a long way to balancing out this extra space by throwing a barrage of enemies at you. Still, this approach does supply slight breathing room for the player, and I found it much less daunting – and, overall, easier (though not easy) – than other roguelikes, especially once you settle into the rhythm.

The start of another quest for the surface!

You have an attack and a special that are determined by your choice of Infernal Arms – there are 6 strains of weapon, from your starting sword to a spear, bow, and more. They each handle very differently and cater to different playstyles. Finding your preferred weapon (shock, I mainly go for archery) provides a sense of personal customisation to your repeated escape campaigns, especially as you unlock different Aspects to further fine-tune your loadout. Furthermore, you have a ranged cast attack, and in terms of movement, your dash is crucial to keep up momentum and avoid the smorgasbord of threats coming your way; the frenetic pace of the action means that mastering this is very important to being successful in Hades. There is then an extra ultimate-style move named a Call that you can only get as an offering from one of the Olympian Gods.

Which is a great way to segway into the Boons themselves. Another way that Hades brings distinct personality to the familiar roguelike set-up is with the way it portrays the Greek Mythology, especially the characters within it. You see, as you progress through an escape attempt, the Olympian Gods attempt to help you out; you will come across offerings from them – Lady Artemis (my favourite character in Hades), Lord Zeus, and Lady Athena, to name three – granting you Boons that affect the nature of your abilities. This may be a refinement of one of your attacks or your dash, or perhaps a passive improvement such as increased move speed. Two examples: Lady Artemis grants perks that focus on critical hits and pinpoint damage, whilst Lord Poseidon applies wave splash damage that pushes enemies aside and away from their trajectory. Utilisation and combination of these specific effects is the source of much possibility within Hades; experimenting to see the sets that work best for you is the source of long-lasting fun.

Be wary on all sides…

That fresh feeling on each attempt is supported by other elements too. Completing each chamber gives a reward: this could be a Boon, but also could be an increase to your Max Health that run, a modifier for your current choice of weapon, or another besides. You often get a choice of path at the end of each chamber, where you can see the next rewards on offer, again putting the initiative in your hands. Enemies along the way challenge you in different ways; at one moment you’re avoiding the close-range swipes of a skeleton, the next you’re dashing your way around incoming butterflies (no, really). It ensures that whichever set-up of skills you’re going with, you feel thoroughly tested. A subsequent pace to proceedings prevents encounters from getting stale – skipping from weapon to weapon, trialing different Boons, seeing how they work together in complimentary combos… It’s so, so enjoyable.


Home Comforts

Importantly, this variety and sense of character is present whenever you go back to The House of Hades. Effectively a hub area that you visit before your next try, it is packed full of customisation, character interaction, and overriding charm. After appearing from the Styx, you’ll happen upon Hypnos and his sleepy demeanour as you approach the seat of Hades, who finds time away from judging the souls in front of him to berate you for one act or another – it’s not always the most healthy father-son relationship. Beside Hades is Cerberus, complete with petting option, and on the other is the House Contractor. The latter is the source of much longevity, as the resources you gather through your skirmishes can be exchanged here for a multitude of unlockables – some cosmetic, some very much gameplay-oriented.

Communication is important for a healthy relationship…

From here you can explore more of the House; the Wretched Broker offers further options for currency exchange, fish you catch can be swapped with the chef, and Dusa – a Gorgon Head taking care of the House – is adorable. The more you progress in your escapes, the more facilities and conversations are available here, and this creates an air of anticipation for the content awaiting you here even when your fights don’t go as planned – there is a constant sense of progression that hooks you in for that one-more-go feeling. When the character interactions are so intrinsic to the feeling of reward, it means that the game needs to pack a lot in, as that approach could quickly fall apart if you started encountering repeat dialogue and repetitive systems. This, though, is where Supergiant has shined before, and that has translated to Hades in spectacular fashion.

Seriously, it is so impressive how much content is in this game. Even where I am now – post-credits and very much in the endgame – I still get surprises pop up in conversation and gameplay, and could perhaps count on one hand the amount of times I have run into repeated dialogue in well over 50 hours. Staggering detail is within Hades and goes towards maintaining the motivation to keep trying new escapes. The Darkness you gather can additionally be put towards new permanent perks, courtesy of Nyx, that affect every run – not just the one you are on at that moment. Therefore, your proficiency constantly rises and helps you to make more progress. Beyond this, from gifting Nectar to characters, you get Keepsakes in exchange that have traits of their own. You may be able to tell by this point that there are many ways to alter your experience and tactics in Hades, and well, you’d be right!

This floating battlefield gets intense

Ultimately, the narrative and the gameplay interweave beautifully to produce a story that feels as though it is always pushing on, just as you are always pushing gradually further in your escapes. At the heart of Hades is a touching story on family, and there are even multiple side quests where Zagreus is a driving force for improving the existence of others around him. If somehow that isn’t enough, the Fates’ Prophecies act as tracking for your advancement in different departments, whether that be acquiring every Boon from each God or getting two characters to reunite. There are sections later on I’m not going into due to spoilers, too! With engrossing combat and an expansive suite of progression, Hades has plenty to hold your attention.


Super Style

Supergiant have really found their trademark style that makes their games distinctively theirs even as they hop across genres. It’s not a surprise at this point – Hades has artistic flair that takes all that which I have mentioned and presents it in a strikingly inviting manner. Stunning character artwork exudes eminent personality, even when static; and the models in motion are fluid and, as aforementioned, wonderful to control. The use of colour and stroke to make the world so vibrant allows the player to fall in with ease and start soaking the lore in. That clarity of art direction lends itself to the fast-paced roguelike genre too, as even when lots is happening on screen, it doesn’t descend into an undecipherable cacophony.

That art though

As much as visuals are a strength of Supergiant, so is audio design, and wowzas, the soundtrack is superb. Compared to the more dulcet tones of Transistor and Pyre, Hades is a slight departure in the more rock-oriented vibe. It’s as though the awesome Thrash Pack tune from Pyre has been expanded into a full soundtrack! Continuing on another Supergiant theme is the inclusion of heartfelt lyrical, voiced tracks, – this is another vinyl purchase to add to the collection… Similarly, the voice work throughout is another piece of the puzzle that gives Hades cohesive character, with the specific traits of everyone coming through as much in the speech as in the text itself, from the booming and often condescending tones of Hades to the endearingly sarcastic and witty Lady Artemis.

The energy of the audio suits the relentless nature of the game, and itself escalates to a peak as you get to the final fights. One endgame track is perhaps the pinnacle of this… Speaking of boss fights, they’re integral to the pace I have been talking about. They punctuate the different areas of the Underworld nicely, and include characters that impact the non-combat side of the game too; that is to say, referential and dynamic dialogue carries into these too. As instances where narrative and gameplay cross over, they’re exceptional examples of the strengths of Hades. Oh, and they’re very tough, so prepare yourself for that!

Tartarus, the first step on your way to the surface

As I near the end of this review, a word on the way this game evolves with playtime. The roguelike nature is one the game stays committed to, but the way that your goal changes is part of how Hades regularly shakes itself up. Just be aware that the roguelike framework won’t disappear, even if your in-game position alters. Hades does a fantastic job of keeping this going, though to make another ever-so-slight criticism, the level at which it succeeds on that does fluctuate – never to the point of dissuading me from playing, but there was one section around mid-way where the main task felt slightly more repetitive than at other times.


Final Thoughts

The idea of a new Supergiant Games release is one that excites me, and I eagerly followed the route of Hades from Early Access to the recent 1.0 launch on Switch and PC. It’s remarkable that, even still, they surprise me as they glide seemingly seamlessly from genre to genre, maintaining their high quality and distinctive style as they go. With Hades, they have dived into the roguelike genre and put a new and unique spin on it to phenomenal success, not only nailing the gameplay cycle but giving it a personable and character-fueled element; it is currently the main contender to Resident Evil 3 as my Game of the Year. Is it my favourite Supergiant game? For me personally, no – the grace and precision of Transistor just edges it. A wonderful aspect of Supergiant is that it feels as though their releases form a lineage of evidence for how the studio has developed over time. Perhaps the greatest praise I can give Hades is that it fits into that emphatic aplomb.

9.5/10

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Let’s Chat: Hopes & Dreams for Pokémon’s The Crown Tundra DLC

Another week, another Let’s Chat! Once again, with Ashley busy, I have called in support; Pokémon fan Stephen Brown joins me to discuss the recent video presentation for Part 2 of the Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, The Crown Tundra. We got new info on the features included, as well as announcements elsewhere in the Pokémon franchise! So, let’s get into it!


William Robinson: It’s time to, yet again, say hi to a new voice! Welcome, Stephen Brown – similar to the introductions for Jordan Senior, Jed Harling, and Toby Court in the previous Let’s Chat, give us a quick summary of where you currently do your gaming, and your favourite game series!

Stephen Brown: Hello and thank you for having me; I’m Stephen, and currently do all my gaming on my Nintendo Switch. However, I do have a PlayStation 5 on pre-order, so it won’t be long until I expand my gaming experience further past Nintendo. I am very well suited to this conversation, as my favourite game series is Pokémon! The very first game I ever played was Pokémon Gold for the Game Boy Colour, and since then I have been hooked with the series. I’ve always loved the fact that there are so many different Pokémon, and that when new Pokémon are revealed they become the instant favourite for someone, perhaps such as for the long-awaited Galarian Slowking we saw in this video!

WR: Thanks for that! Without further ado, then; prior to the airing of the Expansion Pass Updates today, which content were you hoping to see?

SB: I was expecting an in-depth announcement about The Crown Tundra DLC pack, similar to the trailer we got for The Isle of Armor earlier this year, opening up with Galarian Slowking to mirror the reveal of Galarian Slowbro for the latter. Then, panning shots of the area, with a sprinkling of the returning Pokémon, followed by more details on new mechanics such as the Dynamax Adventures and Galarian Star Tournament. Furthermore, I was hoping for it to end with a closer look at the new Legendary Pokémon Calyrex, hinting to their role, and then a release date. I would say we definitely got the majority of that, and more, all within this almost 11 minute video.

WR: That covers it quite well – and then there was me, with my prediction of Candice returning from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum because we have a snowy setting and the presence of Regirock, Regice, and Registeel, reminding me of Snowpoint City! Which, actually, in a way, I actually got correct with her appearance in the music video that ended the Updates! Presented by The Pokémon Company President and CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara, we opened into a new trailer for The Crown Tundra, and immediately got those landscape shots of the Wild Area free-roam setting – I am drawn to this sort of cold, atmospheric environment, and am therefore excited to explore it. You?

SB: Well, indeed, we did get to see Candice – so you were technically right! Maybe we should add Galar and Sinnoh being connected to copious piles of Pokémon fan theories that are out there! Yes, the snowy setting and variety of ancient, mysterious buildings/temples are a big appeal. I can’t wait to explore all the new areas and find hidden TMs or a Hyper Potion tucked away in some secret corner. I wonder if we’ll see the return of finding Diglett, which was part of the Isle of Armor Pack. There could be another 150 Diglett to find!

WR: Or perhaps 150 hidden Vanillites? Find the ice creams! The more mystical vibe relative to Isle of Armor intrigues me, and ties into the clear emphasis on Legendary Pokémon for The Crown Tundra. We already knew there would be new Forms of the Kanto Legendary Birds Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, but now we know that every Legendary in the series is going to be available upon this release!

SB: Oh now that would be cruel, but also so satisfying to complete; Vanillite was designed by the Art Director for Sword and Shield, James Turner, so that would be a nice Easter Egg. Yes, it seems that with the introduction of new Legendaries, Regional Forms, and the Dynamax Adventures, The Crown Tundra is going to be focused on giving players the opportunity to catch various Legendary Pokémon. I wonder if this is the role of new character Peony; some kind of Legendary Pokémon expert? I also noticed that there is a shot where the player runs up to a cliff edge and we see Galarian Articuno in the overworld flying away into the horizon. Do you think this could hint at the return of roaming Legendaries?

WR: I’m not sure… It is possible, but could also be a one-off moment. Chasing them around the area could be a fun new twist on the roaming Legendary Pokémon though, yeah! Here I shall express my concern of whether including all these Legendary Pokémon is going to act as a distraction from a lack of content elsewhere; I am not going to judge before I play, and I hope that it is not the case. There is spectacle to the returning Legendary Pokémon, which ideally are backed up by longevity in other areas and don’t seem to be covering up deficiencies, which was an issue with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. We haven’t seen much of the main narrative yet – it could be that they are holding quite a bit back still.

SB: True, it could be similar to Crystal, where you simply see Suicune at various points within the story and then battle at a certain point. However, with the Wild Areas and Pokémon appearing in the overworld, this could be a fresh take on roaming. No more tedious planning to enter the right area at the right time and then lock Pokémon into a battle with Mean Look! On the distribution of content, I think that’s a fair point to raise. It does seem as though including Legendaries is a shiny distraction for perhaps a shorter story; a reward for completing a 4 hour narrative that some will easily get through in one sitting, encouraging you to keep exploring the new area. Their inclusion could also be to make up for the lack of a National Pokédex, which still seems to be some peoples main hang up with these games (it’s been almost a year now people stop whining about it). The inclusion of Legendaries may be becoming a post game staple for Pokémon. We saw this in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, entering Ultra Space to catch them, and now we have Dynamax Adventures for Sword and Shield.

I’m really excited to try this out and team up with my friends for evenings of Dynamax Adventures

Stephen Brown

WR: Aha, another great segway into the next topic! It’s as if you’re doing it on purpose… So, yeah, Dynamax Adventures are a new addition to the Raid Battles of Sword and Shield. They make Raid Battles into more of a dungeon-crawling mode, where you go up against consecutive battles in a row to either get to an end goal or even try the Endless mode! This is going to be a way to meet many Legendary Pokémon; it seems really fun, adding extra intrigue to the Raid Battles and offering even more ways to team up for multiplayer. I’m glad they are expanding this side of the experience – and it should offer a challenge too, as you go in with rental Pokémon!

SB: Definitely, I’m really excited to try this out and team up with my friends for evenings of Dynamax Adventures, in the hopes to catch epic Legendary Pokémon! Additionally, I think only using rental Pokémon for these adventures is a really clever move on Game Freak’s part. At first I was a bit shocked that – unlike regular Dynamax Raids – we couldn’t battle with our own Pokémon (who, let’s face it, are all probably Lv100 and EV trained by this point). However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. With Legendaries from all previous games coming back, and the idea that at this point players will have at least completed the main story, using rented Pokémon will allow Dynamax Adventures to remain a challenge and feel even more satisfying when you get to the end and capture a Legendary Pokémon. You won’t be able to go in with a team of Eternatus’ or other Legendaries to quickly sweep through with relative ease. I think it will add a layer of strategy and longevity to the new mechanic and stop people falling off of the DLC within a week.

WR: Yeah, that’s a great point, it’ll add lasting challenge to the Raids, and hopefully make them more similar to how the recent Mewtwo Raid was a really tough battle. It reminds me of the Battle Factory from Pokémon Platinum, too! You were hoping for a glimpse of Calyrex, and we got that, though we don’t know much on them yet.

SB: I thought about the Battle Factory as well (Gen4 Remakes Confirmed haha). Yeah, compared to the Isle of Armor and its Legendary Pokémon Kubfu, it seems that Calyrex is less pivotal to the storyline of The Crown Tundra, sharing the spotlight with the Regional Legendary Birds and the new Regieleki and Regidrago. It’s still too early to tell how Calyrex will affect the story, but with their being on the official logo artwork, it may well be a big role. I’m excited to find out more on the mysteries that surround Calyrex; how they interact with the player and other characters in the story.

WR: In terms of the narrative, there isn’t much else we know; you have mentioned Peony, but we are going to have to wait to find out more on him. There is a bunch of more intrinsic mechanical introductions as well, including the new Ability Patches that bring out the Hidden Abilities of Pokémon. This further opens up training options, which is an area Sword and Shield have put a clear focus on, for example with the Mints to change Natures. Personally, I am very excited for the new fashion items and League Card customisation options!

SB: The introduction of Ability Patches is going to contribute to shaking up the competitive meta game. Like you said, Sword and Shield did a lot to help get more players involved with online competitive battles. With the addition of Mints, Ability Patches, and new terrain setting moves – to name three – it’s now easier than ever to build up a strong team full of your favourites. Shiny hunters are probably rejoicing at the fact they will be able to give their special Pokémon Hidden Abilities. It does make me wonder how we will get this item. Will it be purchasable through Battle Points (BPs); some new Ore based item similar to Armorite Ore; or will this be a limited item with only 3 or so in the game, making it more critical a decision? The little additions of new fashion items and League Card options are great for keeping the game fresh, trying out new styles that show off your personality! One thing we can see from the trailer is that Peony has a Dynamax band, and appears to have a pre-battle animation screen, so it’s more than likely we will have to battle him at some point. I wonder if he will have a Gigantamax Pokémon as well; maybe G-Max Melmetal to help tie in the upcoming connectivity between Pokémon HOME and Pokémon GO.

WR: BP in exchange for Ability Patches would be okay with me, as I have so much to spend from my time with Shield! I imagine that we will indeed be battling Peony, and I hope that he is challenging. Was there any other details from this part of the video which stood out to you, or should we go on to the Galarian Star Tournament?

SB: Same here, I have an abundance of BP from all my time on Sword. Let’s go onto the Galarian Star Tournament, another new mechanic coming with this DLC where we can pair up with Pokémon Trainers from the core game and the DLC in 2-on-2 battles. Do you think there will be a reward for competing, or is it mainly a fun way to develop the lore of the characters? Also – I can probably guess – who are you going to pair up with for the Star Tournament?

WR: I mean for me, that extra lore is the reward! The characters in Sword and Shield are wonderful; finding out more details on them is a fantastic prospect! Hopefully, there are various different combos of characters, with it taking quite a few goes to hear all the different dialogue. Personally, I am confident that there will be other prizes as well, for example perhaps items or awards for your Pokémon. Of the characters we have seen in the Galarian Star Tournament so far, Marnie is the one I am going to be prioritising teaming up with. Though, I am still hoping for appearances from other regions too… Do you know who you are going to pair up with?

The characters in Sword and Shield are wonderful; finding out more details on them is a fantastic prospect!

William Robinson

SB: I couldn’t agree more! I love reading the League Cards you get from the other trainers, learning about their personality and goals. Same here, I think there shall definitely be a variety of combos, which will unlock new dialogue for already established pairings. Marnie and Piers, Melony and Gordie, Bede and Opal, Hop and Leon, Leon and Raihan, Leon and Mustard, Leon and Sonia… Leon sure does get around for someone who’s constantly late and bad with directions haha! Oh! I hadn’t thought about other regions, that’s a good point, we could have something similar to Pokémon World Tournament in Black 2 and White 2; if so, that would be pretty awesome! On the other hand, I do think because it’s called the Galarian Star Tournament and not the World Star Tournament we might just be limited to those from Sword and Shield. For me, I’m most excited about teaming up with Bede or Opal and using my all Fairy team with theirs!

WR: You reckon Professor Sonia is going to be in the pairings? It’d be great, but I doubt that. Having so many options for battling characters again is one of the endearing aspects of Sword and Shield, and this is an emphasis on that. I imagine you are correct on the characters in Galar being the only ones participating, but hey, I can dream right?

SB: You’re right, I was just pointing out how many pairings you could get with just Leon and someone else – he’s a popular guy! Maybe we shall see a return of Sordward and Shielbert, the post-game antagonists with the, um, unique hairstyles? You certainly can dream, and there isn’t anything to say trainers from other regions couldn’t join the tournament; we may have even seen a hint to this in the music video that premiered at the end of the presentation. After this, we found out that The Crown Tundra comes out on October 23rd in the UK, and the 22nd in other parts of the world. We also learned that a physical copy of Sword and Shield with the DLC included will be available on 6th November. I’m curious to see how well it does in terms of sales, and if it will be enough to help boost Sword and Shield‘s overall sales positioning. It’s currently the third best selling Pokémon game, after recently overtaking the sales of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum.

WR: I’m glad; the 22nd gives a decent amount of time to play before the many releases in November, with the new consoles and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. I can now put aside time to play The Crown Tundra! I really hope it builds upon Isle of Armor; the first DLC was very enjoyable as a base platform for them to progress with new ideas. I may be disappointed if they don’t continue to innovate with The Crown Tundra. In retrospect, how did you find Isle of Armor?

SB: Don’t forget Pikmin 3 Deluxe comes out the following week! I’m glad it’s not a new Pikmin game, otherwise I would be torn on which to play. Considering that Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra were announced together as a package, it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t get anything too different from one to the other and the parties involved use the two to test the waters for future endeavors. However, I could be wrong; there is still so little we know about The Crown Tundra and the potential surprise features, such as how in Isle of Armor there was the return of Pokémon following you in the overworld. Isle of Armor was not only challenging at points, it was also packed with cool details and great humour to get you invested. As well as this, the story really helped me build up a bond with Kubfu. If I had been given them as a Mystery Gift, as with other Pokémon in previous games, I wouldn’t have battled with them as much or struggled over which form of Urshifu to choose. There were definitely some aspects that felt a bit tedious, mainly the fetch quests, but overall I really enjoyed Isle of Armor and I think that’s down to it being a DLC as apposed to a repackaged Sword and Shield with added content.

WR: For me, Pikmin 3 Deluxe isn’t a game I shall purchase, as I have played the Wii U original. There are so many other games to play – I am confident I shall be busy either way! After this, we got the news of the distribution of Ash’s Pikachu with 8 separate hats, the first of which can be downloaded now with the code P1KACHUGET! I’ll continue on past this soon, and onto the Pokémon HOME and Pokémon GO news, but a quick word on this? Excited?

SB: I actually found out that there are two Cap Pikachus now available; the second one is through the code 1CH00SEY0U, and both are available now until November 30th. Honestly, I’m not that excited as I already got all these Cap Pikachus when they did a similar distribution for Gen 7, with the exception of the new World Cap Pikachu that reflects the cap Ash wears in the latest anime. Either way, I will be getting them again because who can resist a unique, free Pikachu!

WR: Right, onto the next part of the video, where we got news of Pokémon HOME now being compatible to connect with Pokémon GO, allowing you to send over Pokémon from the mobile game. Yet, there are caveats. It is confirmed that after sending over Pokémon, there is then an allotted time you have to wait before being allowed to send over more, unless you pay with PokéCoins, which does seem unnecessary and monetary-minded. Is there a reason for this other than creating extra financial gain?

I imagine this has ruffled a few feathers for all the avid Pokémon GO players out there.

Stephen Brown

SB: The only reason I can think is to stop a flood of Pokémon ascending onto the HOME servers and overwhelming them. Remember GO is one of the most successful and longest-running Pokémon apps, with people having collections ranging in the thousands. If everyone tried to upload all of those in one sitting, I can see it causing a lot of technical issues. So, it could purely be from a logistics point of view, with the addition of money-making on the side. Who knows.

WR: But in that case, why allow it at all? Monetisation doesn’t need to be there. It appears really dodgy to me; do they really need another source of income? The aspect of how many Pokémon could be making the journey over from GO I get, but how they are implementing the restrictions is the side I do not agree with; it isn’t a pro-consumer move.

SB: It is really bizarre, especially with the changes they made when lockdown began, allowing players to keep playing from inside their quarantined homes. However, from what I hear, they have been making some strange decisions, turning some players off the app completely. Most notably, the Mega Evolution mechanic being overly tedious and complicated, all for a one-use battle boost. I think if sending over Pokémon was entirely monetary then I’d have a real issue with it. Again, as someone who’s not played the game in over a year, it doesn’t really affect me – but I imagine this has ruffled a few feathers for all the avid Pokémon GO players out there.

WR: Indeed, and now taking away the alterations they introduced so players could play at home seems badly timed, as it isn’t as though we’re all allowed back out… I shall say I am excited to finally get Melmetal, though, which is possible after sending Pokémon over to HOME from GO. I also have a certain friend who can send me them… I wonder who, aha! The Gigantamax form is awesome, appearing in a liquid metal style; with my favourite type being Steel, this is exciting for me. We were informed that the HOME/GO functionality is going to happen this year, too!

SB: Yeah, as of October, Pokémon GO will get rid of the changes they implemented… Let’s hope they decide to go back on that decision. Haha, I wonder who this friend is, I have a feeling they may have a few Meltans spare for you! Another Steel type for you to play with, and a new Gigantamax form as well! We were shown Gmax Melmetal earlier this year by accident in a Pokémon Showcase in Japan, but since then its appearance in the game has been a mystery. You couldn’t even transfer over a Melmetal and feed it Max Soup on the Isle of Armor to give it Gigantamax capabilities. I’ll be interested to see if they fix this with an update, or if we will have to find some new Max ingredient to allow Melmetal to Gigantamax, maybe Max Metal or Max Cake!

WR: The presentation was not over though, because we ended on my personal highlight, the “GOTCHA!” by BUMP OF CHICKEN music video that celebrated the history of Pokémon, with appearances from many different characters and a delightful art and music direction; BONES Animation Team were involved! It includes Jasmine, so yeah, it’s amazing.

SB: It was a brilliant and fun video celebrating the history of Pokémon, packed full of fan favourites from all the regions, and also celebrated the current generation of Pokémon with a big focus on Galar near the end half of the video. Previously, I mentioned that characters from other games might be returning, and we may have gotten a hint to this; at the end of the video, we see two billboards with Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra landscapes depicted on them. In addition, on the billboards closest to us, the Battle Subway Duo Ingo and Emmet appear on the left and on the right we see Nita, Evelyn, Dana and Morgan from the Battle Maison. Both of those locales have a focus on chain and double battles, so do we think we will see those characters appear in the Galarian Star Tournament?

WR: I’m not sure, that is possible, and would be really fun to see! Pokémon has such a wonderful history, and I hope they lean into that more and more. Seeing all the characters in that video was just delightful, and it is no surprise to me that the physical single is selling very well! It is tempting to get it…

SB: My opinion is that it would be great to see them – and possibly other characters – return in a Battle Tree-style way, and that could be a secret we don’t learn about until the release of The Crown Tundra. We know with the success of Pokémon Masters that players love seeing trainers from all regions come together to compete in customisable teams; it would be great to see that reflected in the main series games. The physical edition is tempting, I wonder if that will ever come with some great big poster with all the trainers from the video featured – that would be epic!

Pokémon has such a wonderful history, and I hope they lean into that more and more.

William Robinson

WR: Maybe with the success of “GOTCHA!”, they shall make extra merchandise around it. I really appreciate the detail and references that went into the music video. It was a fantastic way to finish this presentation – I eagerly await October 23rd! We’ve covered most of the info now, so I’ll end with this: in your opinion, is this the end of the DLC plan for Sword and Shield? I personally don’t see them doing another DLC, with focus going on to the 2021 game; perhaps you see it differently.

SB: I could see extra merchandise happening – for now, though, I’m happy about the success of the music video and all the amazing references and detailed shots that capture the heart of the Pokémon series. In my opinion, another set of DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield isn’t out of the question. If we combine the success of this DLC set and the fact that next year is Pokémon‘s 25th Anniversary, I think we could potentially get one or two more DLC packs quite early on in 2021, around February 27th, Pokémon Day. The rest of the year could be dedicated to the Pokémon Unite rollout, a summer release of Pokémon Snap 2, and then a mainline game, remake, or something else later in the year. All I know is that next year is definitely going to be packed filled with some great Pokémon content, and I can’t wait to see it!

WR: Don’t forget Pokémon Sleep, aha! February seems a bit soon for DLC in this vein, but perhaps it is dependent on how The Crown Tundra does. Either way, yes, I am excited for future Pokémon releases! This seems a fitting place and sentiment to end on, so unless you have any other comments, we’ll close out here.

SB: Ah yes, Sleep! I’m sure we will get further info on Sleep and more unique Pokémon app ideas soon. Nope, I think we’ve covered everything; hopefully we’ll now see a steady stream of short trailers as we run up to the release date of The Crown Tundra. I’m already super excited, and can’t wait to embark on another adventure!

WR: Awesome, thanks for joining me!

SB: Thank you for having me! It’s been great discussing Pokémon with you, and I hope your readers enjoy our thoughts.


Here we are, in the end segment of a Let’s Chat article once again! For official info on the Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, then you can go to this link. For more Let’s Chat articles, you can go here. I hope you have an awesome day!

Let’s Chat: How Microsoft Acquiring Bethesda Might Affect the Next Generation

As is becoming regular occurrence this year, a huge bit of gaming news was announced out of the blue on 21st September, in the form of Microsoft planning to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc. for the price of $7.5 billion (wowzas); for those unaware, ZeniMax owns the renowned games publisher Bethesda Softworks, who are behind such iconic game series as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Whilst we are currently unaware of the full extent of how this might play out – it is feasible that now future Bethesda games could be Microsoft-exclusive – it is clearly a statement of intent, especially with pre-orders for Series X/S going up just one day after this news, on the 22nd September. Could this sway people away from PlayStation 5?

Now, regular Let’s Chat co-writer Ashley Harrison is busy and going to be away for the short-term, so we have multiple new voices this time around to discuss this news: friends and fellow gamers Jordan Senior, Jed Harling, and Toby Court. Read on…


William Robinson: There’s been sudden gaming news during 2020, but still, I wasn’t expecting this from Microsoft and Bethesda! Before we get more into the details of this revelation, it might be a suitable idea for each of you to concisely introduce yourselves. Let us know where you currently do most of your gaming, and your favourite game series!

Jed Harling: Thanks for asking for my input Will. I’ve basically been on the PlayStation train since I was a youngun, but I’ve dabbled on the Wii and the Switch, and recently made the big jump to getting a PC. Though, I would still describe myself as a console gamer through and through! I really couldn’t say what my absolute favourite game series was; that’s such a tough question! But let’s just say that if you wanted to avoid a deep-dive into Metal Gear Solid lore, you shouldn’t invite me to your party.

The Metal Gear Solid series certainly has style

Toby Court: Hey! I am primarily an Xbox gamer but am finding myself playing more and more on the Switch. I think we can all agree (pre-COVID-19) that adult life can make it difficult to park yourself before a console for any lengthy amount of time! My favourite game series has to be The Legend of Zelda. Few games have impacted me as those have; I still vividly remember the first time that I plucked the Master Sword from its plinth in Ocarina of Time. Nothing gets the blood pumping like picking up a magic blue sword that turns you into an adult! That, and the fear that my parents could return home from the pub quiz at any moment and send me to bed.

There are many iconic gaming moments in the Zelda series

Jordan Senior: Gaming has been a huge part of my childhood, and has taken me through to the present. Growing up, my earliest experiences have been playing my Dad’s original PlayStation, and spending countless hours of classics like Tekken and Crash Bandicoot, so Sony’s been in my blood since I was a kid. Between my Dad, brother, and I, we’ve owned every PlayStation console – although I did rebel and get an Xbox 360. So, PlayStation has been the only console I’ve considered for the most part; however, last year I bought a Switch as there’s too many games I want to play, Breath of the Wild being one on it that I love. For me it’s all about the games, so hardware doesn’t bother me as much as other gamers. Sony and Nintendo always knock it out of the park in terms of first party games. Instead of series, my favourite game of all time is a toss up between The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Hitman: Blood Money!

Adventures and action await in The Elder Scrolls, a series highly regarded by many

WR: Awesome, great to get that intro from all of you, thanks for that! Now the formalities are done, it’s time to get into the Bethesda news proper. Firstly, were you at all predicting this happen? Microsoft has been purchasing many studios over recent years, but Bethesda is quite the acquisition.

JH: There’s no doubt that Xbox’s acquisition of Zenimax and Bethesda is a seismic move, but I can’t say that it was wholly surprising? If we park the discussion about teraflops and tech-specs regarding next generation hardware, I think there is a huge elephant in the room for Xbox. What games has it got? Purchasing studios is a response to that.

There’s no doubt that Xbox’s acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda is a seismic move

Jed Harling

JS: With Microsoft buying Bethesda, this is a great move for them and will give them a slight edge on Sony. It’s hard to predict what exactly they will do from here on out, but I have a few theories: firstly, that The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Starfield will not be exclusive to Xbox and PC, but they will perform better on Xbox consoles than PlayStation consoles. Even if PS5 sales of the games are high, Microsoft will benefit greatly as they now own Bethesda. This can also put Bethesda Game Studios themselves in a better direction; they have been on a slippery slope, especially with Fallout 76 not doing as well as expected. Secondly and alternatively, I can see new Bethesda-published games being exclusive, as it will make Microsoft a formidable foe in years to come. So, games like Dishonored, Wolfenstein and Doom will become exclusive.

TC: I think, oddly enough, this news comes as both surprising and unsurprising. Had this not happened during the current height of the console war (and a day before Xbox pre-orders are made available), I don’t think this would have been as groundbreaking. I say it’s no surprise because I feel that Bethesda has always favoured Xbox over PlayStation. My one and only argument for that is how the DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released earlier on Xbox than it was PlayStation. Though, when you think about it, that doesn’t make much of an impact. Maybe I’m biased! Regardless, I go back to my initial point; as exciting as it is because of the console war hype, I don’t think we’re going to see the ramifications anytime soon. PlayStation will draw first blood and win on initial sales; they have such a brilliant library of exclusives. That being said, there is a new The Elder Scrolls on the horizon, and everyone is asking the same question: will it be an Xbox exclusive? Answer: probably not. That would be a serious hemorrhage of money, but it does leave that tiny nibbling thought in the back of your mind of what DOES this mean? I think the likelihood is that Xbox will get certain priorities and benefits. Anything from earlier releases maybe even to minor exclusive games (Fallout: New Vegas remaster anyone?). Yet, hey, nothing stays exclusive forever (we’re looking at you Cuphead) – none of it is off the table.

WR: As we have been referencing, announcing this after a very strong PlayStation 5 showing recently, and a day before Series X/S pre-orders, has to be a statement of intent right? For me, it doesn’t actually sway me that much, because I am – relative to you three – not that much of a Bethesda fan; my plan remains to get a PlayStation 5 first, as that is where most of my friends play, and it has exclusives such as Horizon Forbidden West that are system sellers in my eyes. However, with all of the pro-consumer moves and the exclusives on the way for Series X/S, I am confident that I am going to invest into that ecosystem again – I mean, Everwild, The Gunk, Fable… The future is exciting! My question is, then, whether this Bethesda news is going to alter your purchasing plans?

Games such as GhostWire: Tokyo will still be released on PlayStation

JS: As mentioned before, it’s all about the games. As I’m becoming time poor and not having lots of disposable income, I feel like I need to be more selective over my choices. While this news will change a lot of things, I’m still sticking to the PS5! Spider-Man, Horizon, Ratchet & Clank, as well as God of War are games I would love to play, so there is more incentive there. Getting both consoles would be quite difficult for me, but I could work around this by getting the cheaper Xbox Series S. I might strategise and get the PS5 as my main console for exclusives and third-party games, and then the cheaper Xbox purely for the first-party games. The hardware is great on both sides, so either is a worthy purchase; it is mainly considering what is a priority. Whilst exclusives are a driving force, there are also other factors such as technical performance and quality of life aspects to consider. If, for example, The Elder Scrolls VI is a better experience on the Xbox, then it is clearly going to be better to get it on that platform and vice versa.

TC: I am nothing if not a Bethesda fan. I’ve poured hours of my life away to The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and I plan to again in the future. In the unlikely event that Bethesda comes out and says that all future games would be Xbox exclusives, I would go Xbox without hesitating. I don’t plan on getting either console on day one, I need time to make my decision, and will probably get one a year or so down the line. Aside from seeing how each console performs and continues to perform after its release, it will give me opportunity to see how this new partnership will pay off.

JH: Likewise with Toby, my time in Oblivion and Fallout 3 have no doubt crafted me into the washed-up freak I am today. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sure Xbox PR has been loving the industry-shake-up juice this announcement provides; I think this merger doesn’t technically finalise until the end of next year, though such a big move will have been planned and talked about behind closed doors for a while. Perhaps even why Xbox might have been pulling their punches a little recently, knowing their “one more thing” this year was actually one of the largest acquisitions gaming has ever seen? If things are kept multi-platform, and Microsoft try and hit me with the marketing line that “Bethesda games play best on Xbox”, the simple truth is that they won’t. The Elder Scrolls & Fallout are PC games through and through – they simply can’t try that route. So, we’re in danger of them starting to get into the realms of imposed differences instead. If an Xbox is able to get a better technical performance out of the games than a PS5, by all means, go for it and market that. I don’t think that’s enough to make me change systems. If all future Bethesda titles do turn console exclusive on Xbox, in a sense I’m entirely immune to that being damaging to me through having access to a PC. However, that would be such a heart-breaking blow to all PlayStation owners everywhere. It would also be monumentally contradictory to all the Xbox press releases and philosophies stating that bridging players wherever and however they play is now a high priority. Side note: notice how that ideology has only really come to the forefront since they were trailing behind this generation – I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

WR: I do reckon that Microsoft will try and keep that pro-consumer feeling going; it would indeed go against recent messaging to suddenly take Bethesda games away from PlayStation owners. I see more of a Minecraft situation here, where they make lots of money from it across platforms, but it doesn’t necessarily become a lead exclusive in the way Halo is. This news takes on different meaning depending on whether you play on PC or not, as for those such as Jed who have that option, they know that version is there. But for those who are focused on console, there is more uncertainty of whether future Bethesda releases are going to be on the machine they own or not. There are potential downsides, but I imagine Microsoft is going to play this very carefully. Let us go glass-half-full for a bit; in your ideal situation, where does this go? For example, could Microsoft actually help Bethesda with some of the issues they have had in recent years with glitches and problematic releases? Are we suddenly going to see other first-party Microsoft studios working on Bethesda intellectual properties – such as, y’know, having Obsidian Entertainment return to Fallout?

It is possible the Obsidian/Fallout partnership could happen again

TC: If all this meant was Obsidian returning to Fallout, it would be a worthy partnership in my eyes! Last year The Outer Worlds showed us just exactly what Fallout 4 was missing, and reminded us what it was about New Vegas (which Obsidian developed) that we fell in love with. If we could marry those two together again in the future I would die a happy man. Microsoft bought Obsidian back in 2018 and with the likes of New Vegas being a Bethesda IP, a sequel wasn’t possible. With Microsoft now owning both parties, they’d be fools not to develop a sequel to one of the highest rated games not just in the Fallout franchise but in the genre. Overall, I’m optimistic. I think this will help Bethesda make cleaner, tighter games. But hey, let’s face it, barring the game-breaking/crashing kind, silly glitches are what gives these games character.

With Microsoft there, they will be a fresh pair of eyes, and also new ideas can be implemented

Jordan Senior

JS: Going forward, I would like to see Microsoft help Bethesda fix their ongoing issues and make sure that their games are of a really high quality. Prior to this deal, Bethesda were their own company and relied too much on the name of their IPs. In 2020, that is not enough, and they have to make sure that their games are fluid, seamless, and most importantly playable at launch or soon after. With Microsoft there, they will be a fresh pair of eyes, and also new ideas can be implemented as they’re not relying on the same talent as before – a shake up will be a good thing. Not saying that they should ditch their core gameplay values, but instead evolve and adapt the brand and games for this new generation. What excites me about, say, Starfield, is that it is a new IP and doesn’t have the same expectation and recognition as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. They have a chance to be really experimental and implement mechanics that will feel distinct yet familiar. I want to feel like I’m playing a Bethesda game with Starfield, but don’t want it to just be Fallout in space. They can do something very special with this, and hopefully this will inject new life into Bethesda and make them a more trustworthy company again.

JH: If you’re thinking that the acquisition will mean the end of Bethesda glitches, I think you’re in for a bad time. It really depends on how much control (or meddling) Xbox is going to have. The fear is that they own it, so they can do what they want; they have all the control. Hypothetically, if Microsoft decides they want Bethesda to work on Kinect 2, then they will work on Kinect 2. Don’t assume that just because they’re big companies with similar values that everything with be fine. Look at Bungie/Activision: after their split, Bungie came out of the basement and spoke about how Activision was bullying them into business models they didn’t approve of, but were powerless to do anything. That’s all worst case scenario though, and I don’t see that happening. I’m getting hopeful! If we can get Obsidian to work on Fallout again, I think that’s really exciting. Not sure how Todd will feel about letting someone else show him up on stage with a better game (again), but I don’t see Bethesda coming out with anything more Fallout related for a very long time, bar those updates for Fallout 76. So, maybe they can bounce development off someone else in the interim. Going by Obsidian’s Twitter (see this post), I think there’s hope for this going forward. But again, this is going to be a long way down the line, with Avowed taking their attention. I’ve got to be honest, I struggled to get into The Outer Worlds on first try, but I’m excited to give it another go.

TC: I will say in rebuttal that the Kinect is dead, Xbox Series X/S offers no support for the camera or the games that required one, so fear of a Bethesda Kinect 2 Electric Boogaloo is RIDICULOUS Jed, what were you thinking?!

JH: Hypothetically, if Microsoft decides… That’s all worst case scenario though. I don’t see that happening.

WR: Yeah, with Avowed their focus, if we do see Obsidian on Fallout it may not be for years, but the possibility is there to keep us excited! Though, don’t give them ideas with Kinect and such, see what happened with Rare when they became owned by Microsoft… On the other hand, Rare is recovering now with their gameplay-focused creations of Sea of Thieves and the upcoming Everwild, showing that perhaps Microsoft has learned a lesson there. This also adds even more value to Game Pass going forward, as if the Day One availability on Game Pass for first-party games continues, this means games such as Starfield are going to be there immediately to play through that service. If Game Pass is the area Microsoft is pushing, the whole console-exclusivity idea may not be their priority. Even considering that I lean towards physical copies of games, it is evident how amazing Game Pass is.

Whether on PC (as above) or console, Game Pass is supplying a service with multiple options

JH: There’s no doubt about Game Pass’ value for money. It’s a great offering, and I’m able to play some past Xbox offerings right now on the computer.

TC: I think both Xbox Game Pass and the new features of PlayStation Plus have a lot to offer both consoles. I was having this conversation with Jed the other day; I’m slightly underwhelmed with Game Pass, but that would only be because I’m used to and aware of the games in the Xbox library – even when the games on there are impressive. When I look at the PlayStation Plus library, it looks amazing because I’ve never had access to these games, having never owned a PlayStation past the PS2. So there will no doubt be people like me on both sides that will be impressed by the other consoles’ games, and that’s nothing but a good thing.

JS: In the future, I can see streaming services such as Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Collection (a library of PS4 games available to play for Plus subscribers) be at the forefront in years to come. As concepts, I really like them, but I haven’t yet utilised the services to their full potential. What makes it enticing is the fact that you can play a bunch of games for a certain amount a month rather than individually buying games – prices will have to accommodate this though. Everything is becoming more streamlined and adopting a one size fits method, which I think is great. It won’t be a complete overhaul instantly, but I can see it becoming more commonplace than not. In all honesty, I’ve never explored Game Pass, but if I get an Xbox, I might dabble. I’m quite slow to new tech surprisingly (I still use wired headphones) but if the streaming approach is explored more, then the convenience plus quality will equal a rich and easy gaming experience!

WR: I’m right there with you Jordan on the wired headphones, aha! Your comments on how it isn’t an instant change, but is certainly going in that service direction, are apt; you can see how the industry is gradually going that way, similar to how streaming services are emerging as progressively prominent for TV and films. You could say that Microsoft are a key part of pushing that and making the rest of the industry go with them; without Game Pass, would a PlayStation Plus Collection have happened? I am not so sure, it seems a response to Game Pass – which is great for gamers as there are options on either side. Healthy competing! As mentioned previously, if Microsoft keeps adding well-known names to connect to Game Pass – be it Halo or now Bethesda – then that push is going to get stronger and stronger. We have covered quite a lot here, so I may close us out now. Has been fun getting new voices in here! Any closing comments from each of you before we go?

I think overall the prospect of Bethesda and Microsoft’s partnership should be exciting no matter which console you play on.

Toby Court

JS: To close off, I think it’s a great time to be a gamer in 2020, despite challenging times. New gamers will not have an alienating time getting into the medium, as it seems more accessible now then ever before. I can’t wait for the next generation of console gaming and to see its development in the future!

TC: It’s true everything seems to be going to a premium streaming service nowadays, all you see online and on TV are adverts for some new collective service. And in respect to gaming, a solely digital console being pushed more as a viable option could see the death of physical games at some point in the near future. Thank you for having me Will! Been interesting hearing everyone’s points, and I think overall the prospect of Bethesda and Microsoft’s partnership should be exciting no matter which console you play on.

The Series X/S offering is getting increasingly cohesive

JH: Yeah, just as a closing comment, it is strange to see that Will seems to be swayed so much by the prospect of Game Pass, given your dedication to physical media. I’m looking forward to being able to play more and more games that have not been accessible to me in the future, but I am aware that all of these digital libraries are, at best, temporary. I guess we just can not afford to be complacent.

WR: It is an internal debate for me; I have such a connection to collecting physical games, but I can see how much value Microsoft are putting into Game Pass – including now acquiring Bethesda – and trying to recognise it, even if I am not sure whether or not to dive in. What it may do is, similar to how you say, get me to try games that otherwise I may not have because they are there and so efficiently accessible, in which case the Series S could be a fun machine for experimenting with that library. The physical side is my priority, so my head and heart are clashing slightly here. So, I am gonna go and see if I can make a decision, aha! Thanks for joining me everyone; until next time!


These guest editions of Let’s Chat may become more frequent, especially in the immediate future with Ashley busy. He will be back, though! You can click here for previous entries in the Let’s Chat series.

Resident Evil Resistance Review

Developed by: NeoBards Entertainment
Published by: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Out Now


Via purchase of the phenomenal Resident Evil 3, you additionally gain access to Resident Evil Resistance, a 4-against-1 multiplayer game. In this, a group of Survivors attempt to escape from an Umbrella Corporation experiment – meanwhile, a villainous Mastermind sets up all manner of monstrosities and traps to run down the clock and stop them. I debated whether or not to integrate my thoughts on Resistance solely within my review for Resident Evil 3, but as Capcom saw fit to split them into two games, it does define them as separate entities that should be discussed likewise with separate verdicts. However, because Resistance is simultaneously intrinsically tied to Resident Evil 3, with the same engine and how you need that game to even play it, I am publishing my two reviews at the same time and linking to this one with a fancy new WordPress block in my review for Resident Evil 3. How exciting! New features! Be impressed?!


Do I Know You?

Whilst developed by a different team – NeoBards Entertainment – to that of Resident Evil 3, Resistance uses the same RE Engine, which originated for the remake of Resident Evil 2 and was then utilised for Resident Evil 3. So, it does have a similar feel, especially when playing as a Survivor; the refined inventory and third-person over-the-shoulder movement are present here and remain a delight to control. Motion is fluid, direction change is responsive, and aiming is precise. Resistance has new ideas too, and introduces characters with their own traits and gameplay quirks to shake the situation up, which I shall get onto more in a moment.

Where Resistance really deviates is in the role of the 5th player, the Mastermind. In this position, you control many aspects of the map, starting with the initial set-up of where enemies and items are placed; from there, using cameras around the map as your viewpoints, you can select which infected and traps to add in, and where they are positioned. If you have ever played the multiplayer of ZombiU – or another dual perspective tower defense game – it is very reminiscent of that.

Mr. X makes a return from Resident Evil 2

There is a story of sorts, though don’t expect much narrative progression past the initial set-up. A group of six characters – Valerie Harmon (Alex Ryan), January Van Sant (Melanie Minichino), Tyrone Henry (John Eric Bentley), Samuel Jordan (Clayton Froning), Martin Sandwich (Nicolas Roye), and Becca Woollett (Tara Sands) – have all in one way or another been taken away from their lives by Umbrella, and are now being subjected to horrors in order to gain data on the infection the villainous Corporation is manufacturing. Jill Valentine (Nicole Tompkins) has also become available as a playable character since launch, a welcome addition bringing gravitas of a well-known Resident Evil series regular to the roster.

Now, the new characters are very much the classic horror movie tropes; Natalie is the more studied and reserved girl, January is the rebellious spirit, Tyrone is the respectable friendly type, Samuel is the sporty guy, Martin is the less confident yet smart one, and Becca is the country girl who knows her around a gun after all those days at the ranch! After initially being worried about how hollow the group might be – and don’t get me wrong, they’re not masterworks of character development – they’re actually a really fun set of personas who each have their own personalities, evident through expressive voice lines as they embody that B-movie charm. Side note: if you are after a subversion on this, go watch Cabin in the Woods!

Don’t mess with a country girl!

The stereotypical nature of this group extends to their unique Personal and Passive Skills; the former is a mapped action you can choose when to use, and the latter is always active in the background. You also have a Fever Skill that is powerful but takes a while to recharge, similar to the Ultimate move in games such as Overwatch. To focus on one character as an example: January has Passive Skills to use Disruptor Rounds that are especially damaging to cameras and to hack the prices of Armory items; a Personal Skill to put specific cameras out of action; and then a Fever Skill to impair all cameras and interfere opposition Skills. Fret not, Mastermind players, you get customisation as well; the five playable characters even have their own specific Bioweapon. This ranges from Resident Evil 3 villain Nicholai Ginovaef (Neil Newbon/Mark Hill) bringing in Nemesis (David Cockman), to nostalgic returns such as Alex Wesker (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) and the botanical Yateveo she can set upon the Survivors.


One Way Out

Similar variety cannot be praised upon the selection of game modes. After the initial tutorial, you are left with either Practice or jumping into online. As the former doesn’t grant progression, there is little reason to play, outside of getting a hint of the potential a PvE version of Resistance has. Seriously, with these vibrant characters and the way the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 have improved the gameplay mechanics to impressive degrees, a version of, say, the Raid Mode from the Revelations games could have been very successful. Alas, we’re left with only an online PvP. After choosing to play with randoms in Quick Match or with friends in Custom, you select to either be a Survivor, the Mastermind, or alternatively let the game figure that out for you. As far as modes go, that’s it. It is really disappointing that the game feels so empty – even if this was a multiplayer mode within Resident Evil 3, you’d hope for more spins on the base formula, so as a standalone game, it’s even more pressing an issue.

Maps are new designs, not exact replicas from Resident Evil 3

In my time with Resistance, I personally gravitated towards the Survivor portion, and is where I found most of my enjoyment. From this viewpoint, you start out in the safety of the Armory area where you can purchase supplies with Umbrella Points, before entering the first Mastermind-controlled space. To get past this, you must successfully retrieve three puzzle parts placed and defended around the map before gathering at the gateway to the second portion; the more players that are there when progressing, the more time added on to the impending timer. Then there is another Armory for you to kit yourself out, before searching for a Security Guard zombie holding a key to access three terminals that open up the way to the third and final part. After another opportunity to make purchases, you then try to destroy three bio-cores and make your final dash for the finish line.

You may find that an unusually specific description; there is a reason. It’s because that is essentially always the set-up. There is no mix-up of even the puzzle task going at the end and vice-versa – there are subtle differences depending on how the Mastermind operates and organises placements, but mostly the structure stays static. As with the lack of modes, it makes the game feel very restrictive, and frankly, that it needed more development time. It’s almost as though it is a fleshed-out tech demo instead of a full, finished product. After a few games, this can create a stale impression as you resign yourself to how each instance might play out.

A familiar Mastermind character for players of Resident Evil 2 is an optional choice

Even so, there is fun to find here, though it is very case-specific. Each character has a separate Rank that is increased through gameplay, and this has a key effect on how the subsequent game shall play out – especially for the Mastermind. See, the Skills unlocked on the Mastermind side have noticeably more impact on how tough a scenario they can provide. When in a group with 3 other Survivors, those with more experience can help those with less, but as the Mastermind is alone, the options available to them completely tilt how proficient they may be. For example, if there are a team of Survivors against a Mastermind who is playing for the first time, it is very likely that it is going to be hard for the Mastermind to significantly halt progress with the initial spawns and abilities available to them.

It works (or rather doesn’t) the other way too; if the Survivors are all quite new to the game and are set against a Mastermind of – to throw a number out there – Rank 100+, it might be almost impossible for them to make it far. There is the whole “get good” opinion, but it doesn’t cut it – it shouldn’t take multiple 5-15ish minute games to arrive at a point where you have more of a reliable expectation of enjoying the game. It’s especially daunting when in your first games as the Mastermind; in the Ready Up screen, your Rank 1 against higher levels of the Survivors can immediately set out a sense of how easy escape may or may not be.

Healing items apply to fellow Survivors too

This isn’t to say there isn’t a sweet spot though, and when the experience of the 5 players coincides, Resistance can find a momentum where it captures some of the thrilling tension that makes Resident Evil 3 such a masterpiece. Playing as the Survivors, fighting through enemies as the timer ticks down, reviving teammates, avoiding sudden spawns of zombies… it can work to enthralling effect; and there can be an excitement to keeping them pushed back just enough as the Mastermind, too. Resistance has the ingredients required to strike that tension, but it just does not happen at a frequent enough rate to sustain a one-more-go appeal.


Escaping in Style

That inconsistency opens up opportunity for the surrounding framework of Resistance to be rewarding enough to encourage bearing with it – but again, it is lacking here and only exacerbates the issue. Every time you Rank up you get additional Result Points added on to those you earn in-game; I found myself getting roughly 1000-10000 on each go. Compare that to the expensive pricing of the Shop, where Equipment Chests start at 3000, but Cosmetic Chests are 50000! Let’s be serious, the Cosmetic Chests and the awesome outfits that you can get from them are the main appeal. Not only that, but you only get one item from a Cosmetic Chest, which could be an outfit, sure, but also could be a much less impressive weapon skin or dialogue line. When it can take around an hour to organically earn a Chest, the satisfaction isn’t where it could be.

You’ll find yourself in tight spots

Therefore, I found that the imbalance that is so prevalent in gameplay was reflected in the Shop! It’s actually counter-productive, as being more generous with in-game rewards would provide driving motivation to keep playing through the matches that aren’t clicking as much. Instead, Resistance just makes the idea of earning enough to purchase a Cosmetic Chest seem overly time-consuming. Further to this, it causes cynical thoughts too, when the option to purchase RP Boosters – which increase how many Reward Points you get – with real money is there. For me personally, I am not going to go that route, so the end result is that I am turned off from playing Resistance at all. There are Daily and Weekly Missions that earn you Reward Points and Cosmetic Chests, but they’re not enough to fix the problem. It’s such a contrast to the store in Resident Evil 3, where you earn currency solely through gameplay to unlock items that are specifically listed, not hidden in Chests.


Final Thoughts

By being so intentionally separate from Resident Evil 3, Resistance invites more expectation upon itself. As an idea, the central dual perspective is one with potential, a potential that every now and then is sparked into fulfillment; all too often, though, a lack of balance in multiple areas prevents this from happening. The presentation is there – the RE Engine is again impressive, and the new characters surprised me with how endearing they were, but the core of the game just is not there to back it all up. Taken as a bonus multiplayer mode to Resident Evil 3, it’s a fun experiment that can pass the time, but as a game itself, it needed more work. Can I go back to Resident Evil 3 now?

6/10

Rating: 6 out of 10.

10 Hours With… Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Y’know, on occasions, games just don’t click with you. Earlier this year, the latest entry in the Animal Crossing franchise, subtitled New Horizons, was launched to enthusiastic praise and stratospheric sales, providing enjoyment to many that was especially poignant during the beginning phases of the COVID-19 lockdown. Whilst I wouldn’t say Animal Crossing is my favourite franchise, I’ve put many hours in across DS, Wii, and 3DS, but for some reason I just did not forge a connection with the Nintendo Switch-exclusive New Horizons. However, I did put around 10 hours in, enough to give an opinion on my experience, but not necessarily to justify a score. In this case, the 10 Hours With… article series that has been dormant on this site since early 2018 (!) is an apt way to put down my thoughts.


Home Away From Home

Initially, for context that applies later on, a run-through of my history with the series. My first game was Wild World (the original on GameCube is admittedly a gap in my knowledge) on the DS, which broke Animal Crossing through into the mainstream. The mixture of life simulation combined with the distinctly charming world of animal residents (you’re the only human… what sort of dystopia is this?) was so inviting, subsequently keeping you playing whether it be to upgrade your house or to complete your collections of bugs, fish, fossils, and more. The young, unaware me then traded Wild World in… Why, me? WHY? Ahem… My next game was Let’s Go To The City on Wii, again one I played regularly; I often visited my town daily and the new features such as being able to visit a City centre introduced new shops and characters, which is actually an area in which I found New Horizons to be lacking.

The DS and Wii entries are probably the ones I have put the most time into, each having their own strengths, be it the portability on the DS or the improved visuals on Wii. Following on from these, the 3DS entry New Leaf arrived. In certain areas, it was a step up from the games prior, bringing back convenience of portability and combining that with a visual jump from the DS as well as more in-depth customisation. Though, even then, the very similar core gameplay began to cause me fatigue for the series; I stopped playing much sooner than on DS and Wii. Until New Horizons this year, New Leaf served as the most recent main series entry, whilst Wii U got a bizarre stop-gap board-game in amiibo Festival, and then there were additional spin-offs: the decoration-focused Happy Home Designer on 3DS, and the mobile game Pocket Camp as Nintendo started bringing their IP to new platforms. So, the anticipation for a new main series entry on Switch, where the portability and home console advantages were set to meet, was high.

Everything is fine…

Leading on from this, now we get to New Horizons (only took me several paragraphs). There criticisms I have of the game, but in many ways it does deliver on expectations; visually it is remarkably crisp and vibrant, the soundtrack is soothing, and it has multiple quality-of-life improvements to streamline the gameplay. This time, instead of setting up an inland town, Tom Nook brings you to an island, where you and a handful of other residents – but, y’know, mainly you – set about kitting out the place from the humble beginnings of your tent. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, though; whilst Tom Nook may have a disarmingly pleasant demeanour this time around, he’s still very much after your Bells.

As I say, there have been many refinements to the core mechanics of Animal Crossing in New Horizons. These range from smaller changes, such as more storage space and an equipment selection wheel, to more prominent alterations such as finally being able to cross natural waterways, either with a pole vault or by making a bridge. There have also been extensive revamps on how much you can shape your island – you can unlock the ability to sculpt it square by square how you see fit, adjusting water, hillsides… essentially any part! This side of New Horizons has a vibe of the freedom and utter control in the Creative Mode of Minecraft, especially now you can place furniture outside your home! If you also consider the custom outfit and floor designs, New Horizons has more creative leeway than any previous Animal Crossing before it.

You know what, though, and this may sound strange, but that may be part of why I struggled to get into New Horizons. There are so many positive tweaks, solving issues that irked in previous games, but all this, and the new wrapping of the island getaway, disguise that there isn’t actually much deviation in the central goal. Once again, you are working to pay off the amounts Tom Nook asks of you for each house expansion, which means gathering and selling fruit, seashells, and other items. You can spend time away from that decorating or collecting, again, similar to before. The presentation is refreshing, but the gameplay itself is not quite so, with many of the same characters and targets involved. The Switch has hosted many a series revolution, from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but in this case I found that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was disappointing in that regard. I’m very appreciative that it goes for evolution not revolution, but for me personally, I was really hoping for more of a shake-up beyond the literal Bells and whistles.


Do It Yourself (Because Tom Nook Ain’t Gonna)

Let me express that I don’t take pleasure from the disappointment; I was cautiously optimistic about New Horizons, but my concerns of it being a newly packaged edition of a similar experience were founded. In my 10-ish hours of playing, the game ran me through tutorials that were all-too-familiar; on the other hand, there is one new feature that is a marked departure for the gameplay side of Animal Crossing, in the form of the crafting system, which again brought Minecraft to mind. You can now gather materials by, for example, chopping down trees and picking up stones, and then take them to a workbench – either near Tom Nook, or one you have built yourself – to craft equipment and furniture. It’s a noticeable focus early on, and I am glad that it is there to slightly mix up the gameplay.

You can now disrupt nature in all kinds of new ways!

Therefore, if there are particular items you are after, you can attempt to collect the various materials needed; there is initial novelty in this, with endearing animations of Tom Nook and co. applauding you for, well, doing their work for them, I guess? Yet, I quite quickly got tired of it, and found myself drawn to speeding up the process by buying the equipment outright from shops when I could. It gets to the point where Tom Nook asks you to collect the materials required to set up three houses with the correct furniture for new island-goers, and the idea of gradually going through the lists and getting each item wasn’t one that particularly sparked excitement in me. Not to mention that Tom Nook is committing fraud, as this happens because he *mistakenly* sells these houses to people as if they are already built, then asks you to build them for him! The audacity.

I imagine that if there was end reward for this type of task that wasn’t so similar to past games, I would not mind as much. But bringing in new villagers isn’t – in the scope of the series – an innovation, so making the way to do it more complex just felt a roundabout way of doing the same activities. This is an issue elsewhere; as much as Blathers is awesome, a celebration of him arriving and setting up a museum isn’t that thrilling when there have been museums in these games before. I enjoy meeting characters again, but there is such a reliance on them, with not that many new faces so far. Where this is done better is the villagers that can move onto your island, as the way different islands get different residents encourages that feeling of your game being unique. Furthermore, the dialogue is frequently hilarious – the localisation is impressive in the inherent wit and sense of personality.

Villagers are wonderfully quirky

At this point, the awareness that I may have sounded quite grumpy at times in this post is hitting me, but I shall put emphasis on how I suspect the problems I have with New Horizons are due to my own taste in games and experience with the series – not necessarily the fault of the game itself. Firstly, the way New Horizons leans towards the more open, limitless creative potential of your island isn’t a direction that directly appeals to me; I prefer to play within set rules. For comparison, I am more drawn to the design vision of New Super Mario Bros. U than I am the creative blank canvas of Super Mario Maker. Secondly, the sheer amount of Animal Crossing I have played over the years has led to the appeal of the repeated set-up wearing off, and said set-up is mostly unchanged in New Horizons.

If you are a fan of detailed customisation and/or are new to the series, it’s a game that could offer you hours upon hours of fun. Which, clearly, it has this year, going by how well it has done critically and commercially. Multiplayer should be mentioned too. I tried out the functionality of visiting a friend to walk around their island – which was much more organised than mine – and it worked well. There are wisely barriers in place to decide who can do what when they arrive on your island, and the connectivity was proficient, so I have no complaints. Just wandering around a new island has a certain positive energy to it!

To reiterate, let me again say how glad I am that people found joy in Animal Crossing: New Horizons this year. During such turbulent times, for a game to be there as a delightful source of entertainment is incredibly valuable. I’m disappointed I personally wasn’t able to click with the game as much as others, but we don’t all have the same opinions on every game, and that is part of why it is so fun to read alternate takes! I am glad I gave New Horizons 10 hours, but in the end it isn’t a game I envisage myself soon going back to.


Did you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons? If so, feel free to put your personal opinion on the game in the comments below! This article series is suited to games where I start them and have thoughts to put down on this site, yet have hours and hours left until I can finish them and be in the position to review them with a score (see: Persona 5). Until next time – have a great day!

Gaming Photo Album: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

So, it’s time to finish my three Gaming Photo Album posts for Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, ending – shock – with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, which – perhaps controversially – is my favourite of this trio. In my opinion, within this trilogy, it has the best action set pieces; the one at sea around halfway/two-thirds in is a particular thrill ride! I am aware that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the game many favour, though, so I’ll quickly get onto the photos I took whilst playing before too many people tell me I am wrong in the comments, aha!


London


Enclosed


To the Shore


Plane Crash


Desert


Riding to the Finale


Well, there are some snaps from my time with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception! Bear in mind that, say, during the ending sequence, I’m more preoccupied with the story than taking photos – this is quite a natural showcase of how I use the Photo Mode here and there. I’ll have to consider which game I put into this feature next; watch this space (and feel free to make suggestions)!

Spellbreak Review

Developed and Published by: Proletariat
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Out Now


Am I accidentally getting into Battle Royale games? If I am, it’s partly due to my friends. After their suggestions, I have recently played Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and now Spellbreak, a new take on the genre that brings fresh ideas to the table. Whilst it undeniably relies on certain traits of previous Battle Royale games, there is a physics-based, magical spin that does serve to set it apart. So, how does Spellbreak stack up against PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and so on? Well, read on…


I Call It Magic

Upon first entering the game, an aspect that struck me was the art style and accompanying slightly melodramatic, grand notes of the audio. This may be a random connection, but it stirred memories of the rousing Spider-Man 2 theme but with a fantasy, medieval edge. Spellbreak is set in Primdal, a world of mages and mystery, and visually has a vibrant sheen not far removed from Fortnite but with a bit more detail and intrigue to it. The aesthetic is reminiscent of Western animation – proportions are quite realistic, but they maintain clear segments of colour interspersed with signs and symbols to add that extra sense of lore.

To me, the style resides somewhere in that space from Fortnite to Apex Legends. Furthermore, the different types of magic flying around in-game creates a palette of colour spattering the surroundings, complimented by reverberating sounds of impact to keep the tension raised. As clarification before going any further; I played the Switch and PlayStation 4 versions of the game. The PS4 version is unsurprisingly more technically proficient; there are crisper lines and the game runs smoother, compared to the Switch edition which is a bit more blurry and can suffer slowdown when there is a lot happening on screen at once. It isn’t awful though, just a tad behind the PS4. It certainly isn’t enough to, ahem, break the spell.

The mix-ups of elemental attacks create some energetic scenes

Let’s get into that, then. Spellbreak starts, wisely, with a tutorial to get you accustomed to the basics of the controls. You play as a mage, and choose one of six different specialisms: Frostborn (Ice), Stoneshaper (Stone), Toxicologist (Acid), Tempest (Wind), Pyromancer (Fire), and Conduit (Lightning). The option you settle on decides your primary Gauntlet on the right side of your HUD; this, logically, takes up one of your arms, leaving space for a secondary Gauntlet on your other arm if/when you find one within the world map in-game. As you play, you start to get more accustomed to how each one works, and find combos that work for you as a player.

Each Gauntlet has two attacks, with varying effects and cooldown rates which at launch are impressively well-balanced, with no one Gauntlet being overpowered. Combined with your Rune, another pick-up item that can give you varying effects such as invisibility, dashes, and the ability to see enemies through walls, it creates a menu of actions at the bottom of your screen that reminded of the real-time combat in JRPGs such as Xenoblade Chronicles (see below). As far as I know, this is a new mash-up within the Battle Royale space, and is perhaps the defining element of Spellbreak.

Using the Ice Gauntlet, which can be held to zoom in for a sniper shot

The tutorial is actually really well put together, explaining all of this plus various other gameplay mechanics. To sum up other elements of the HUD: you find Scrolls in the world that improve one of your three custom Talents that have subtle effects on your character; Potions and Armour to bolster your ability to take hits; Belts to increase your capacity to carry Armour; Boots to up your Run Speed; and Amulets to increase your Mana supply. When you do enter the scary world of the Battle Royale proper with up to 49 others, finding these items and sufficiently preparing yourself for encounters with opposing players is – as with other Battle Royales – crucial. However, I will say that because of the added depth of the range of HUD options here, it does result in a more complex set of mechanics – particularly because of the mix of elemental Gauntlets.


Mix ‘n’ Match

This is because the game, and those Gauntlets, have a very clever, interweaving physics system based on their differing properties – a system that isn’t just about combat, but traversal too. Each of them are singularly fun; to take the Ice Gauntlet as an example, the trails of Ice it creates can be skated on for increased speed and mobility (Frozone in The Incredibles anyone?), and the Wind Gauntlet can spring you into the air for an improvised vantage point. The initial phase of Spellbreak where you are experimenting with these different Gauntlets is brilliant, as you discover how they all work and affect the space around you.

Whilst your character runs and crouches as you may expect, the jump has a hover function that allows you to float, further tying into the Mage idea and supplying a vertical dimension to the gameplay; skating on ice and then transitioning into a speedy hover over a gap is joyous, almost making you forget you need to keep an eye out for other players! There’s a decent skating game hidden in here, you know. Where Spellbreak really excels, though, is in the detail of how the Gauntlets interact with each other, whether it be with other members of your up-to-3-person Squad or the Mages you fight.

So, say your opponent puts up a wall of fire with the Fire Gauntlet, but you have the Ice Gauntlet; a shot from the Ice Gauntlet can cut through the fire with the Ice dousing a safe path. In the other direction, though, the fire melts your ice path quicker, limiting your skating. Moreso, if a player with the Thunder Gauntlet strikes that water, they can create a new barrier of electrified water! Another case: The Toxic Gauntlet can cause a cloud of poisonous gas, but then the Ice Gauntlet can freeze that, and another element – perhaps the Stone Gauntlet – can smash that gas away to clear the space.

Ice and fire meet again

These are just a few of the examples of this wonderful physics system that delivers surprise moments. It reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the way physics played such a part in that game, especially as the art styles aren’t that far apart – and also the hood and cape you can wear reminded me of the one Link can wear in Breath of the Wild, aha! Developer/Publisher Proletariat could have had the Gauntlets work individually and left it at that, but instead they have gone beyond and thought about the way they act in contact with one another, emphatically adding to the enjoyment of playing.


Safely Inside

On the other hand, not all of Spellbreak is so praiseworthy. The gameplay systems may have a new twist, but the world they are encased in has an admittedly generic Battle Royale infrastructure. It’s all-too-familiar for players who have experienced Fortnite, Apex Legends, et al: you land in a set map (this time without even the illusion of any vehicle dropping you in) with up to 2 others on your team. From there, you collect the aforementioned resources to kit yourself out, whilst being wary of other players around you. Then the “Storm” closes in, shrinking the circle of play smaller and smaller and closing the remaining players up until eventually only one Squad or player is left victorious. Put that way, it sounds very unoriginal, and well, it is, but as I say, those gameplay quirks are where the appeal lies.

Side note: I find it kind of amusing how each game has to find their own terms for their games: so, in this case, you don’t go down, you are “disrupted”, and you you don’t bleed out, you are “exiled”. One day we are going to run out of words! The first and currently only map, the Hollow Lands, is your typical fantasy world, with a dystopian tone again making me compare it to Breath of the Wild. It’s lots of green and brown punctuated by crumbling castles, but there are some welcome contrasts, whether they be an intricate maze or a misty, swampy section. We aren’t savvy to a lot of the lore of Primdal or the Hollow Lands yet, but the destroyed sites you encounter – including one that seems to have been a Colosseum or auditorium – do pique my intrigue. Narrative content is on the way for the future – the “Chapters” menu is currently grayed out – and I may do a further article at a later date to see how these affect the game.

Going back to the set-up of the game, I will note that as the game progresses and the circle – sorry, the “Storm” – gets smaller, the more the distinctive magical actions make their mark, as you’re naturally forced into deploying them once hiding becomes less of an option. Not that I’m hiding… Erm… next point! Early on, when you’re on the Battle Royale collecting merry-go-round, it’s a very similar cycle to other games of this type, but when you encounter others, that’s when the game really comes alive. Desperately maneuvering around as spells fly past your face, with ice, fire, acid, and more suddenly appearing around you, is a frantic and utterly fun form of chaos that legitimately gets the heart pumping, especially when you get down to the final few players. Staying on the move is so important in this game to make yourself harder to hit and to remain aware of those around you.

In-air fights are a regular occurrence

I tried playing Spellbreak with friends and without, and had engaging experiences with each approach. With friends you can discuss strategy on the go, but in a way it is also easier to get distracted and give away your position, aha; I am very appreciative of Proletariat incorporating cross-play, making the process of putting together a group of friends more efficient. When playing by myself in Solo it brought out that lone wolf determination, and then when in Squads with unknown people, there ended up being in-game camaraderie despite no voice chat! The inclusion of the pinging system that was so well done in Apex Legends – so, again, this isn’t a new idea – is helpful for co-operating without dialogue, too, letting you point out where you are headed, items you have found, and opponents you spot.


Running the Gauntlet

Free-to-play games such as Spellbreak can be made or broken by their progression systems and the way that the dreaded real-money payments are integrated. If we start with just the in-game side: each Gauntlet has a separate Class Rank, which as it improves unlocks new ways to optimise it – take the Ice Gauntlet, which is the one I have used the most. As that has gone up in Rank, I have acquired the possibility of it being able to temporarily highlight players I target, making them easier to keep track of. Being able to commit to one Gauntlet and feel as though you are mastering it is very satisfying! Similarly, there are separate “Mastery” stat tracking menus for each class, allowing you to see your record with each playstyle. As well as this, you have an overall Mage Rank that you get progression on whichever Gauntlet you are using, and the increase of this is the main in-game way to earn Gold for the Shop.

Okay, so the monetisation. It’s not great… The frequency at which you earn the Gold isn’t necessarily the problem, but the amount you earn, 50 each time? When items range from around 400-1200 in the shop? By Level 10 I had around 450, which gave me the option to purchase one item, but if I did that then I would be back to around 0 and even further away from those more expensive items. When you”re in the scenario of only being able to afford a “bored” emote, you know the system has gone awry!

It just seems as though for items in the Shop, realistically, they’re set up for you to pay real money for them. Spellbreak is free-to-play, so not as egregious as, say, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, but it still isn’t an ideal situation for the player. To counteract this, the item unlocks in-game are decent, with fun designs for your Badge, Card, and more, solely from your level going up. Therefore, if you ignore the Shop, you’ll still get a decent variety to customise yourself from. I also have hopes that as they add new features, they open up new ways to earn Gold to make the Shop more viable for those not spending real money.

There are multiple ways to stylise your character

In terms of those prospects for the future, there is that aforementioned story-based content on the way which sounds promising, and there have already been updates, such as the addition of a Solo mode that I touched on earlier for those who would prefer to go it alone. It’s awesome to see how aware the game is of the community – take the very active Discord server as an example, where players are constantly teaming up. I’m very confident that this game has legs, and in my mind there are opportunities for ideas such as new elements being introduced to shake up the meta. A dedicated Water Gauntlet, perhaps? For now, though- as with Fall Guys – I can only review the game they have presented to us at launch, so my score is based on that, not what might happen.


Final Thoughts

For a game I tried out with friends as a potential way for us to spend some fun time together, I was pleasantly surprised with Spellbreak. Within the generic trappings of Battle Royale conventions it employs, it manages to create an identity for itself through inviting presentation and, most of all, the smart Gauntlet system and clashing of elements. This is a fantastic base from which Proletariat can work from, and I am especially excited to see how the story side of the game evolves into the future. Spellbreak may not do much to redefine the Battle Royale, but it does have enough new ideas to carve out a place in that genre in which to shine.

7.5/10

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Gaming Photo Album: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

It’s been a while since I posted an entry in this feature series, so it is time to amend that! As the most recent one I did was for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, first up I am going to display photos from the sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves! There are plenty of opportunities for stylish photos in this game, as you’ll see below! To be clear, these are taken whilst playing Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection on PlayStation 4.


Lost in Snow


Variation of Atmosphere


Action


Explorer


Be Careful Where You Step


There you go, there are some of the images I captured over my time with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Next up shall be my photos from Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception!

Beyond the Hashtag: Pokémon Masters EX Update Pairs Style & Substance

Let’s get it out of the way: yes, the online hashtag for Pokémon Masters EX was a misjudgment (don’t make me write it down). However, if that is the main takeaway from this substantial update, it would be a great shame, as developers DeNA have brought a lot to the table here in terms of new content and mechanical refinements. It’s a fantastic way to mark the one year Anniversary of the game, and so for those who perhaps don’t know much about the update, and for those who do and would like to know my thoughts, I’m going to run through what has changed and how that affects the overall package. To read more of my thoughts on the game prior to this, then you can click here for my post on why Pokémon Masters is my favourite mobile game ever!

Firstly, whilst there are clear improvements to the game, it’s important to say that DeNA have not made drastic changes to the core 3-on-3 gameplay of Pokémon Masters that has been there since launch. You’re still choosing combinations of Sync Pairs to make a team to go into battle; much of the alterations have been to the surrounding framework of the game. This is to say that, if you were particularly fond of or against the gameplay of Pokémon Masters before this, the update won’t necessarily do much to alter that. However, if you perhaps thought that the game had potential not realised, this could be the time to jump back in.

Throughout this article, as I am going in-depth into some of the changes, I have included more videos than I do in some other articles to try and give you glimpses into the update. So, if intrigued, I recommend viewing them as you go along for extra clarity!

Right; one of the major changes is one that actually happened in the days leading up to the Anniversary, and whilst it may not be the change most prominent in the marketing, it is a very crucial one that directly affects how you play the game: the addition of Stamina. Every time you play certain matches (not all), it takes up part of your Stamina – this goes up to 999, and generally is taken in increments of 20 for each entry. Adding this in may seem at first to be a way to limit gameplay in the cynical way seen in many mobile games, and I am not going to say I am entirely in favour of a system that does have monetary transactions behind it. You get Stamina when you log in each day, and I have found I have plentiful amounts – but if you do run out, that is when the option to buy more intrudes.

On the other hand, I shall express my personal finding, which is that the addition of Stamina also has the opposite effect. See, arriving in tandem with it are Skip Tickets. These can be used to play out a battle instantly and automatically, sending you directly to the results screen. Your resources of Stamina are still used, but it allows you to cycle through the same battle multiple times at a faster pace. This gets you to rewards faster – and if this sounds as though it is short-cutting gameplay, then do not fret, as in order to be able to use a Skip Ticket on a battle you have to have not only completed it, but have finished with all 3 of your Sync Pairs not fainting; perhaps, you might say that you have to master (aha) the stage. In a way, the presence of Stamina provides a form of balance, making you more cautious about when and where you use your Stamina and Skip Tickets. The monetisation side is there, though, and again I shall emphasise that I do not welcome that.

An example of the new Stamina and Skip Ticket system in action is the recent New World Dilemma event that focused on Cynthia and Cyrus; by battling, you earned a currency that could be exchanged for rewards from a Prize Box (similar to the way the Scouts work for Sync Pairs), including unlocking further parts of the story. In this situation, the time investment of playing the same battle repeatedly to earn the currency is reduced significantly when you use Skip Tickets. It is a scenario that motivated me to play more of the game, because I knew that by using more of my Stamina and Skip Tickets I could get the prizes I am after without spending money.

With that context, now onto the additions for the Anniversary day itself. The reason why the game has EX added onto the name now – and that subsequent hashtag happened – is the new 6 EX Sync Pairs; previously, Sync Pairs each had a star rating from 1 to 5, but now particular pairs can go to the new 6 EX and get new outfits with that. The first Sync Pairs to get 6 EX are the following Kanto trainers and their Pokémon: 6 EX Sygna Suit Leaf & Venusaur, Red & Charizard, and Blue & Blastoise, all being capable of Mega Evolution (only Mega Charizard X for this, not Mega Charizard Y). New Sync Moves, with more power and new animations, arrive with them. The visual spectacle is fantastic, and I hope more new 6 EX and/or Sygna Suit designs continue to be rolled out in the future. I mean, we recently got to witness Sygna Suit Cynthia & Kommo-O. That hair! Seeing these new appearances and lore continues the way that Pokémon Masters excels at building on the Pokémon franchise.

Furthermore, to continue the Kanto theme, a brand new feature – one that gets a comparable screen space to the Main Story in the Explore menu – is the Champion Stadium. This is an area where you face the Indigo Elite Four and Champion: Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha, Lance, and Blue. From battle to battle, you are required to use different Sync Pairs. Careful consideration of the type dynamics is crucial, especially on the Hard difficulty; on Normal, I found working through the battles relatively straightforward, but on Hard preparing the right team is a puzzle in of itself. It’s great to see the challenge being supplied for players, as well as rewards for different skill levels. This is a mode that is going to be added to, with the appearances of the Pokémon League from different regions, an exciting prospect that provides longevity for the future.

Perhaps less prominent in the marketing is another new feature, Type Skills. These are new abilities that can be activated when your team of Sync Pairs is made up of Pairs of the same type, another new way to tailor your approach. It coincides with the way that DeNA have altered the Training Area, too. As well as the options that were there previously, such as the Level-Up area, there are new battles for getting items for unlocking Level Caps – which now go up to 125 – and the Type Skill of Sync Pairs. The Training Area is comprehensive, and a reliable way to get the items you need for your next personal target without needing to spend money on the game. Be prepared though, as these aren’t easy to complete!

At the moment, there are multiple ongoing events in Pokémon Masters EX, including the latest one, the Grass-, Fire-, and Water-Type Egg Event where you can hatch Kanto starters Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. As well as this, the Training with Legends event offers up resources you can trade for other items, in a similar vein to the New World Dilemma event – it’s a Skip Ticket candidate! How about the immediate future, you ask? On September 9th, the new Family Ties story event arrives, revolving around characters from Alola: Lillie, Lusamine, and Gladion. The idea of them having to improve their co-operation as a team of Sync Pairs works wonderfully with their stories in Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon. My prediction is that there shall soon be news of 6 EX Sygna Suit Lillie & Clefairy to go with this, considering the event and their appearance in the new cinematic trailer for Pokémon Masters EX (see the video near the end of this post).

The variety of new features and refinements have an impressive balance of style and substance; there are the visual wows of the new outfits and Sync Moves, as well as an under-riding improvement to the game on a mechanical level with the Stamina/Skip Ticket system and other new features such as Type Skills. If one side or the other was not present, this could have been an underwhelming update, but as a combo it produces a cohesive overhaul that maintains the core appeal of the game. Key to success is that they keep up this frequency and quality of update; going on recent evidence, that is going to happen!

For me, there are no glaring weaknesses in the game or a particular area that needs more focus. As far as I am concerned, DeNA should put their attention on that which they are getting right, without falling into the trap of drifting towards the realm where some mobile games feel as though they are pressuring you into spending money.

I am confident that there is a bright future for Pokémon Masters EX, as the people behind it seem to be aware of why the game works so well. Playing with the Pokémon continuity is so fun – the game consistently makes me smile. DeNA seem to be leaning into this with the way the Champion Stadium is set up, the increasing frequency of 6 EX Sygna Suit designs, and the story content; the recent New World Dilemma and Summer Superstars events contained new lore on characters and new Sygna Suit and Seasonal designs. It’s great to see a developer responding to feedback in this way – consider me very excited about future possibilities.

There is so much potential for the avenues Pokémon Masters EX can go. The gameplay is reliably enjoyable, and the pace at which the game is adding to the foundations that have been built is very impressive. New updates have a distinct creativity and energy that have me excited to log into the game each day. The game, and the Anniversary update, are in my opinion a clear success!

Do you play Pokémon Masters? What do you make of the changes and additions? Who would you be most excited to see a Sygna Suit for? Whoever thought up the idea of creating costumes inspired by Pokémon is a genius. As for me, I’m going back to that 6 EX Sygna Suit Leaf Sync Pair Scout!

Seriously, though. That hashtag. How does that even happen?

Let’s Chat: 3D Mario Games are Coming to Switch, but Where is Galaxy 2?!

Nintendo suddenly released a Direct today for the 35th Anniversary of Mario, and, well… there’s exciting announcements and confusing decisions, as is often the case with Nintendo news! Ashley Harrison and I discussed it in the immediate aftermath, so read on for our thoughts. I do mean immediate; as you’ll see, we’re literally finding out updates and getting our orders in as this goes, keeping us on our toes!


William Robinson: Okay, so Ash, I was minding my own business and then Nintendo decided to just out of the blue drop the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Direct. Where were you when it happened, haha?

Ashley Harrison: Hopefully, like everyone, I was sat on the sofa at home playing Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, completely oblivious to the bombshell Nintendo were about to drop. Thankfully I usually always have Twitter open, so as soon as I saw the Tweet from the verified Nintendo UK account, I quit out of the round instantly and started watching the Direct.

WR: I thought there would be Mario news at some point, but not this sudden or soon! Took me by surprise, so much so that I wasn’t even sure of my expectations going in.

AH: It seems like such a huge announcement to shadow-drop with zero buildup, but thinking about it logically then I guess it makes sense. Thanks to VGC leaking the info months ago about these games coming to Switch as part of a 35th Anniversary Collection, we probably should’ve guessed it’d drop today on the actual 35th Anniversary itself.

WR: It makes sense when you put it that way! Other than a collection, were there any other hopes you had beforehand? You know me, I was hoping for Captain Toad representation, and we got that!

AH: My one big hope was something that was sadly conspicuous in its absence – Super Mario Galaxy 2. Whilst obviously there was no mention of Galaxy 2 being included as part of the leaks, I was really hoping to see it there in some form because in my opinion, it’s the pinnacle of the Mario series as a whole, so I’d love to play through it again in HD.

WR: That’s a point we’re going to get to, be sure of that! As the announcement of the collection was at the end, though, let’s slow down and go through those initial announcements. The first reveal was of Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., which plays Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and a Mario version of the Game & Watch Ball game! This is a neat product, even if I reckon I won’t personally be getting it. Out on November 13th, it could be a great Christmas idea.

It’s a Game… AND a Watch?!

AH: It’s definitely something I’m going to keep my eye on and see if I can work it into my monthly budget. I’ve never owned a Game & Watch before to be straight up honest with you, so this definitely looks a great one to start with. As you say, there’s 3 games included as well as the fact it also doubles as a clock like all Game & Watch devices do, so really now it just comes down to the price point. It’s a gorgeous looking console too, the colour scheme goes so well together.

WR: I can tell the clock feature is the one swaying you to the purchase there! I have a Zelda Game & Watch, but as I say I may pass on this – depends on the price too, though. I agree the aesthetic is awesome, as a timepiece it is one I can see becoming very rare in the future. Next up was an announcement I am SO happy about; Super Mario 3D World is going to be on Switch on 21st February 2021! Which means more Captain Toad content on Switch! A great day.

AH: Can never have enough clocks that function as something else if you ask me, haha! Imagine someone asking you for the time whilst you’re stood at the bus stop, and rather than pulling out your phone like they’d expect, you pull out that bad boy. Honestly, you’re going to hate me for this, but I’m really not a fan of 3D World. The mesh between the 3D style, but 2D linearity and having a timer to complete the level really put me off both 3D Land and 3D World, so it’s a miss for me. Seeing Captain Toad is cool though!

Yet another Wii U game is going to find a new audience

WR: That’s fine, you’re allowed to be wrong. It isn’t Galaxy level for me, but it’s close, and the Captain Toad levels are fantastic, forming the basis for the solo spin-off Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Also the jazz soundtrack is immense! It’s nice to have it on Switch, as it felt missing from the group of games that have been crossing over from the Wii U. The added bonus of DLC is intriguing too; there wasn’t much indication about it, but with a name such as Bowser’s Fury, I’m excited! Maybe a DLC of Captain Toad facing off against Bowser? Maybe?

AH: It’s crazy to me just how obsolete of a system now Nintendo have made the Wii U, basically every single one of its top games has been ported to the Switch, and honestly I don’t blame them in the slightest. Think there’s only Xenoblade Chronicles X that needs to make the generational jump and that’s it, Wii U is a completely dead system. I’m interested in what the DLC side-story will be too, even if I’m not actually interested in the game. It seems something of a common trend now across Nintendo remasters that they have new side-stories, haha!

WR: Xenoblade Chronicles X is so great, I really hope it goes to Switch; my favourite Xenoblade game yet. Oh, also, I am hearing that there is online multiplayer for 3D World, a nice bonus!

AH: 3D World has online multiplayer though? That’s actually dope that. Given how integral multiplayer is into the game, it’d be crazy not to in my opinion; genuinely surprised it wasn’t an option in the Wii U version.

We don’t yet have much info about the new expansion

WR: Next up was, well, perhaps inevitable; it’s happened, we have a Battle Royale game for Mario now in the form of Super Mario Bros. 35, which reminds me of Tetris 99 in the layout and idea. In this, you are playing Super Mario Bros. on your screen, with the other 34 players pictured around you, and the relative success of each player can impact the others. It’s out on October 1st, in a digital-only format and only for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers – and strangely is disappearing on March 31st 2021?

AH: It’s such a dumb decision that I really can’t understand. It’s such a cool concept for a game, it makes zero sense for it to be available only for like half a year. Can you honestly work your head around it?

WR: No, not really. Unless they at some time announce that it is extended? There are quite a few odd decisions in this Direct, though! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Mario has a Battle Royale… is any series safe?

Are you able to out-platform the rest?

AH: Honestly I’d much rather play this Battle Royale than most of the others already out there. At least Super Mario Bros. 35 doesn’t just look like a carbon copy of every other Battle Royale available already (shoutout to Fall Guys, that game is cool as hell too) and is based purely on skill more than anything else. If they’re going to extend it though, why announce a set end date? Maybe after Super Mario Bros. 35 is done with the first Mario game come March, it’ll move onto Super Mario Bros. 2?

WR: We were actually going to talk about Fall Guys before this Direct happened (that’s on the way, though)! Yeah, I am confident it is going to be well-made, even if I doubt I’ll play much of it. The following announcement was probably my least favourite of the Direct – Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, 16th October. It’s essentially Augmented Reality (AR) Mario Kart, where you buy the physical toy karts to drive around through your Switch. So, the camera on the toy picks up the environment and makes that the background, with the arches you place around the room forming the track. This got me excited about making our own tracks, but that’s an idea I’d prefer in the traditional Mario Kart framework… I imagine this is going to be clumsy in terms of driving.

-at this point in the conversation, pre-orders for Super Mario 3D All-Stars went live on the Nintendo Official UK Store and we proceed to frantically get our orders in in time-

There is so much possibility for creativity with AR Mario Kart

AH: AR Mario Kart was your least favourite reveal of the Direct? Damn. Honestly it was my favourite behind only the 35th Anniversary collection. It looks genuinely incredible and whilst it’s obviously marketed towards those who have a larger room to be able to play it in properly, I’m 100% sold on the idea of being able to make my own custom tracks and the like from my house! Wonder if I can make my Axolotl tank a tunnel you have to drive through somehow?

WR: Don’t get me wrong, the concept is awesome, and replicating F1 tracks would be great fun, but the actual gameplay in AR just seems it wouldn’t feel as great as other Mario Kart games. Give me Mario Kart Maker please. Also: Ash, the Game & Watch just went up and is £44.99, thoughts on the price? You going for it?

AH: At £44.99, honestly I think I’ll pass, as cool as the device itself is. It’s a steep investment to be able to play 2 games I already own multiple times over, as do I assume most Nintendo fans.

WR: Similar for me; I don’t particularly collect Game & Watch devices, and I need to stop buying stuff… though there is just so much cool stuff in the world to buy! Ah, such a dilemma. Last on Mario Kart: have you planned a house track yet?

The toys themselves, with one of the arches in the background

AH: Yeah, I need to stop buying stuff too haha, supposed to be moving out by Christmas and I’ve just ordered that, Tony Hawk comes out tomorrow, then there’s Cyberpunk 2077 and Watch Dogs Legion, and Xbox Series X in November. Jeez. As for a house track, I’m not gonna lie, I started brainstorming one as soon as it was revealed. It’s going to be a bit hard though, because the toys definitely look like something my Greyhound would chase around and try to attack for the hell of it…

WR: The next section went through upcoming Mario-themed events from now to the date of March 2021. There’s a new event on September 9th for Mario Kart Tour on mobile, and lots of tempting Mario merchandise (speaking of buying… ) from plushes to T-shirts. Also, a nostalgic course is being added to Super Mario Maker 2, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is getting a Super Mario series online tourney. Oh wait, not done yet (breathes): January 2021 has a Splatfest for inky third-person shooter Splatoon 2 with teams for Super Mushroom and Super Star (Team Mushroom!), AND there are Mario Splatfest T-shirts and keychains. Animal Crossing is going to get Super Mario furniture. Then they went through other products out there; Super Mario Monopoly, Super Mario LEGO, the Super Mario LEGO NES, Super Mario Kinder Joy. BLIMEY. I did it! Which of those stand out for you?

AH: Honestly, it’s the Animal Crossing crossover, and Monopoly for me realistically in terms of what I’d be able to afford. I’d kill for that LEGO NES, but it’s so damn expensive sadly. Honestly, the rest of the stuff I really couldn’t care about.

There are some really sophisticated designs

WR: I just thought I should at least mention it all in passing. There are some merch items I am possibly going to get – the pink T-shirt design is great! Not enough Captain Toad merchandise though. Then, before the final reveal, they informed us that Super Mario All-Stars is releasing on SNES Online today, which is a nice touch, though perhaps overshadowed by the next announcement…

AH: I never got to play the Wii re-release of Super Mario All-Stars when that got released, so I’m actually looking forward to playing it once I’m finished with this article. Honestly any excuse to play Super Mario Bros. 3 is a great one to me, and with the All-Stars version having graphical upgrades and the like over the already-available NES version, that’s as much of an excuse as I need. I do feel sorry for the placement of this within the Direct though, like you said, it was completely over-shadowed by the next collection announcement…

WR: Let’s get to it then: the not-well-kept secret of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a combination pack of the following 3D Mario games: Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 – oh, wait, no, the last one is inexplicably not there. Um, what? Even so, these three games being available together in HD on 18th September is such an awesome announcement, especially given how Nintendo may have been able to make more money selling them separately (as with 3D World). This seems really pro-consumer – except from Galaxy 2 not being there.

A line-up of classic games!

AH: I really can’t understand the absence of Mario Galaxy 2, but either way, I’ve gotten my preorder in ready for it to release in a couple of weeks. Very much looking forward to playing through Sunshine and Galaxy again, although I’m interested to see how both actually play. Whilst Super Mario 64 is more of a traditional platformer, Sunshine relied very much upon the GameCube’s analog triggers to operate the FLUDD, and Mario Galaxy obviously has a decent amount of usage of motion controls. The Joy-Con do have gyroscopes built-in, but they’re not anywhere near as responsive as the Wii Remote was, so I’m hoping it’s possible to play the game in handheld mode, which is my preferred method of playing on my Switch. The lack of analog triggers is a huge omission from a gameplay perspective for Sunshine though, so I hope the game isn’t too affected on Switch as a result and Nintendo have found a way to work around this.

WR: I am hearing that co-op play on Galaxy requires Joy-Cons, so if you have a Switch Lite then that may be tricky. It’s a valid point about the triggers; I wonder if there is any compensation for that… I am slightly concerned about whether I have to play Galaxy on the TV for the controls to feel at their best, as flicking the Joy-Con detached in handheld may be awkward. These are concerns, but to focus on the positives, they’re amazing games being brought to HD; I am especially excited to replay Galaxy and Galaxy 2 – oh, no. Yes, I am being salty, but no, I shall not stop. Galaxy 2 exists! It exists… right?

AH: People play local co-op nowadays? That’s news to me, haha. If it requires motion controls though and you only have a Switch Lite anyway… Y I K E S. Galaxy 2 does still exist though, yeah, and it’s still the best Mario game yet. Give us Mario Galaxy 2 on Switch ASAP Nintendo, you cowards!

Just the one, though

WR: Why do you imagine it isn’t there? Could it be future DLC? I am baffled.

AH: My only hope is that it isn’t ready to be released and Nintendo didn’t want to miss the 35th Anniversary by delaying the game, so instead it’ll be released next year, either as DLC or a solo physical release. I’ll buy it either way.

WR: Maybe COVID-19 delayed it somehow? Also, with the resolution for Sunshine and Galaxy being 1080p docked instead of 720p handheld, I guess that is going to push us towards playing docked. Ideally it’d work with the Pro Controller.

AH: I really need to get around to investing in a Pro Controller honestly, I really wish Nintendo would bundle them with the console itself. But yeah, I’m definitely thinking it’s a COVID-19 related delay, we’ve seen a lot already this year and I think we’re still gonna see more yet. I hate to be the guy who complains about resolution but I’ll mostly always take the best looking way to play a game. I mean, I bought a 4K monitor solely to play The Last of Us Part II, haha. I just really, really hope all 3 games run at 60FPS more than anything.

The HD sheen is noticeable; Galaxy in particular seems visually polished

WR: The idea of Galaxy in 1080p HD in 60FPS, official from Nintendo, is so exciting! Of the 3, Sunshine is the one I did not finish on GameCube; I enjoyed it, but for some reason never finished the story. Time to amend that! Is Galaxy your most anticipated of the three?

AH: Galaxy is the one I’m most looking forward to playing through once again, yeah, but I don’t know if I’d call it my most anticipated one. That’d go to Sunshine because it’s the only one of the three I haven’t played before, although I have seen a ton of speed runs of the game, so I’m looking forward to being able to play through it for myself for the first time.

WR: It seems we are in a similar position then. I may not actually play much of 64, it is the other two I am most intrigued to go back to. By the way, the listings for the two separate Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit packs (Mario and Luigi) have appeared… they are £99.99 each. Ouch.

AH: A hundred quid each? Nintendo have to be joking right? I wouldn’t for a second even consider paying that much for them. Basically need to spend £200 to be able to use them, then the £200/£280 cost of a Switch. That actually takes the piss.

Super Mario Sunshine is back!

WR: I repeat: Ouch. Yeah, especially as a gift for younger gamers, that’s a high price barrier. So is the house track idea, well, off track now?

AH: Well, well, WELL off the track now, yeah. Stuff that, way too expensive. Or, to get a Mario joke in there, it’s so far off the track Lakitu just appeared.

WR: Aha! Nice. As a whole, this Direct was great, but I have gotta say that for me, the lack of Galaxy 2 really stings. If Galaxy 2 was included, then this’d be superb, but it just leaves a gap for me. As a presentation of Mario content, though, there’s lots there for us fans.

AH: It’s a Nintendo Direct where I actually want to play every game that was revealed; that’s crazy to me.

WR: I’d like to play them all, and another game not in the Direct…

There are a variety of level types in Super Mario Sunshine to enjoy

AH: Hmm, what’s that other game? The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD? Hey, Nintendo, give us that next year, you cowards.

WR: Oh Ash, that’s a whole other debate, haha! Maybe then people can realise they are wrong when they criticise Skyward Sword. At this point, do you reckon we are going to get a non-specific Nintendo Direct this year? Going by recent evidence, it seems as though they are splitting up the announcements.

AH: Next Let’s Chat: Why Skyward Sword is the best Zelda game. Honestly, given everything that’s happened this year, I’d be surprised if we got a general Nintendo Direct in 2020 at all. I honestly think that’s not going to happen until next year, and you know what? I’m okay with that. If only because it gives me an excuse to skip Directs if I know there’s gonna be nothing that interests me.

WR: Woah, not going that far. It’s not Twilight Princess. I reckon maybe one late on, perhaps December, but I can also see the wait being until 2021. We are probably going to get those Mini ones, which are nice updates; with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, though, Nintendo has a safe seller for 2020. To reiterate: this is out on September 18th! 14 days away! As if it is so close!

We’re nearly there… you’ll soon be able to play Super Mario 64 on your Switch!

AH: Honestly that’s the most surprising thing of all of the Direct to me – just how close it is to release. Is this the closest Nintendo have ever announced a major series game before its release? I’d be willing to bet that it is. Might have to take a couple of weeks off work and use up some holiday hours that I’ve been accumulating.

WR: That there sounds as though it could be an awesome plan! Get that Gusty Garden Galaxy going (woah alliteration). I had to remind myself how close it was, usually when I order Nintendo games there are months (or years) to go.

AH: MATE. Gusty Garden Galaxy’s OST. My God. It’s so good. I’m so glad there’s a music player included for all 3 games in 3D All-Stars, I’m gonna be using that feature so much.

WR: Right? I have used the one in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate so much too. The Galaxy games have such amazing music. We’ve been asking for so long, and we’re getting these games! With this and the recent release of Paper Mario: The Origami King back in July, it’s a great year for Mario. I reckon an Odyssey sequel ain’t far off either…

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is packaged with a handy music player

AH: If it isn’t that far off, please change nothing Nintendo, Odyssey was incredible. But please, for the love of all that’s holy, give us more Kingdoms with less Moons in each this time around.

WR: Were there any announcements – other than you-know-which – particularly missing for you from the Direct, or are you satisfied?

AH: I’ve got one that I know you’ll agree with because we’ve spoken about it before. Mario Strikers HD when Nintendo? I’m begging you.

WR: Oh, that’s such a great pick, why that series has been gone for so long… one day, right? Also, can I just say how much Nintendo has power over us with the use of one word: limited. The frantic pre-ordering because of how the stock is restricted for the physical edition of Super Mario 3D All-Stars is ridiculous, and yes I am aware we fell for it too.

AH: I was always going to be a day one buyer of the game, so was always going to pre-order anyway. But for Nintendo to make it purposely limited, even the digital version? It’s absolutely disgusting from Nintendo, and there’s no reason for it. If it were a small, unproven test game that was a limited retail release and left up digitally forever then I’d understand it. However, Mario games are pretty much always in the UK charts in a decent position, no matter how long it’s been since they released. I mean, look at Mario Kart DS/Wii, those were always number 1 on their respective console sales tables, and also held decent positions in the general sales chart. I’d imagine the same happens elsewhere, but I’m not gonna say for certain as I’ve never seen enough data from other regions to back that up. I’m seeing a good amount of people saying the same on social media, but imagine if like Activision or someone pulled this, and not Nintendo. There’d be WAY more uproar than there currently is. Nintendo absolutely need to be called out on this practice.

WR: It’s probably going to end up near Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey on the best-selling games list. I get the criticism, and Nintendo has done this strategy before. It creates demand, but isn’t the most consumer-friendly way to go about it and actually causes stress from trying to make sure you successfully get your order through. Fear of Missing Out right? The digital restriction is an extra step they’ve taken here that really isn’t necessary or justified.

AH: Six months is a really short time for it to be available, too. I understand why games with licensed soundtracks, etc. get pulled from stores after a while, but even those are up for a decent amount of time before being pulled!

WR: Still, we’re gonna buy and play this game, but bear in mind how we do recognise the issues around the methods of distribution Nintendo is using. As for Mario Kart, I guess we’re gonna have to go to Japan and try those ones you can drive on the road?

Do you know where to find Galaxy 2?

AH: Honestly, dream holiday that. I’ve not been go-karting since I was like 10 on holiday in Scarborough, so to do it in actual real life Mario Karts on the road in Japan? Sign me up for that, no questions asked.

WR: That seems a positive, hopeful note to end on. Unless you have any other particular thoughts, we’ll wrap it up there. I was not expecting this drop of news today!

AH: Other than repeating that I want Mario Strikers HD, I’ve nothing more to say. I think we’ve covered everything now.

WR: Then my last note shall be: this was a day of more Captain Toad. Rejoice! See ya, Ash!

AH: In a bit!


There you have it: our reaction to the Direct. You can let us know your thoughts below; do you have any concerns about the way Nintendo is handling these releases? Are you excited to play these updated games? Also, for more from Ashley and I you can go through our other Let’s Chat articles here, including a review of Super Mario Odyssey! Until next time!