REVIEW: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate

t’s been a couple of weeks since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of the most anticipated games for the Switch this year. Is it living up to the hype? Let’s dive in.

RUNDOWN

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, at its core, is the same Smash we’ve all come to love. Up to eight players can take control of an enormous roster of video game all-stars to go head-to-head in frantic battles that range from item tossing scrambles to one-on-one death matches. With 74 different characters to choose from, including Nintendo’s greats and a few outsiders, and more stages than ever, the fight to knock your buddies out of the ring has never been so massive. Coupled with some unique single player options, Ultimate can keep you busy for days; for us, it certainly has!

LOOK

Ultimate may be the best looking Smash game, both in terms of graphics and art direction. Since Melee, the series has always seemed to attempt to capture the spirit of each character in their appearances while uniting them under a more mature, battle-ready aesthetic. Melee did this solidly, Brawl may have gone too far with its realism in places, For Wii U and 3DS dialed it back to a more cartoon inspired look, and Ultimate seems to hit the sweet spot between them all. Every character looks stunning and each of them represents their origin series to a T; we especially enjoy the more retro-inspired designs, particularly with Mega Man, Ryu, Ken, and the Belmonts. This also goes for the stages, which look clean and exciting whether you’re playing them on their Normal, Battlefield, or Omega forms—even if lesser stages like PAC-LAND and Hanenbow make their return amongst the greats.

The only place where the look feels a bit off is in the game’s adventure mode, World of Light. While beautifully illustrated, the map doesn’t feel particularly inspired by anything from Nintendo or otherwise other than maybe Brawl’s “Subspace Emissary.” We’ll get back to this point in a bit.

FEEL

With so many characters to choose from, chances are that there’s someone for everyone to play in Ultimate, even for newcomers. Since the game features every character that’s ever been in the series and then some, there’s also a great chance that veterans will be able to get right back into duking it out with their main once they’re unlocked.

Mechanics like directional air dodging, short hop attacks, and perfect shielding add a welcome layer of depth to the Smash formula, especially given their simple execution. Whether you’re a wavedashing, hitbox targeting master from Melee or a newbie who just got their first taste of the series with For Wii U and 3DS, this game feels like a nice middle ground for players of all skill levels to learn quickly and master gradually. Of course, players can just as easily ignore all this and have a great time throwing bombs and blasting each other with Final Smashes for a more “party game” experience.

All this being said, the controls are not perfect out of the box. Veterans may find Ultimate’s controls sticky at first compared to other entries in the series. We spent a good few hours wondering why jumping and tilt attacks felt so off before realizing that the control stick sensitivity can be adjusted in the Options menu. This option comes highly recommended; though it may not be the perfect incarnation of Smash’s control layout, this change can do the job for longtime fans who feel weighed down playing Ultimate.

 

VARIETY

Ultimate has modes on modes on modes. We’ve already touched on how many characters there are, and there’s a unique Classic mode path for every single one of them. We loved how these paths were inspired by their characters or abilities (Mitch lost it over Ness’ path, which mirrored the walk home at the end of EarthBound), and with a variety of unique bosses like Giga Bowser, Ganon, and even Monster Hunter’s Rathalos, Ultimate makes it easy to keep playing until everyone is unlocked.

There’s plenty of ways to play both alone and with friends here. As always, the traditional Smash mode is great for up to eight players to fight however they please, and the addition Tourneys, Squad Strike, and Special Smash add plenty of replayability. The Mob Smash modes and Training are also nice options to test your skills against computer players if you’re playing alone.

World of Light and the Spirit Board are interesting additions with about as many positives as negatives. On one hand, we are excited to have another chance to play an Adventure mode in Smash. World of Light offers unique challenges based on different video game properties through the inclusion of Spirits, which act as status buffs for characters; You might face off against a Little Mac with a Piston Hondo spirit and have to find a way to counter his huge size and punches, or run into Sonic with a Rayman spirit and be challenged to an Assist trophy fueled battle to the death. With the Spirit Board offering timed matches for new spirits, there’s plenty of opportunities to customize your fighter to face the slew of opponents that World of Light has to offer.

On the other hand, World of Light doesn’t feel quite as inspired as past Smash Adventure modes. Melee gave players the chance to platform and battle through Nintendo inspired worlds; the Subspace Emissary, while not perfect, had a serviceable plot, challenges based around using certain characters, and passable platforming stages. These modes felt like they showed what could be done with Smash outside of battles. World of Light, despite its unique array of challenges and lovely world map, is ultimately a slew of Smash battles one after the other, with success largely based on the player’s skill with what characters they’ve managed to unlock and Spirits that can negate the effects of each challenge. Don’t get us wrong: We’re so pleased to have another Adventure mode, but we can’t help but feel there’s some missed opportunities here.

Finally, Online play is back and ranges in its capabilities. At this point, it’s hard to expect Nintendo to provide top notch online play with any game, but it’s difficult to accept with Smash games when they’re so dependent on moment-to-moment action. Granted, we have been having a great time with little issue playing in Battle Arenas against one another and friends, but connectivity continues to waver in Quickplay. We also wish that some of the unique local Smash modes could have made their way online, like Smashdown or Strike Squad, though it’s understandable why these weren’t implemented.

CHALLENGE

One thing we love about Ultimate is it’s variety of options for setting your own difficulty. Classic Mode uses a system where players can set their own difficult at the beginning that will rise with skilled play or fall with each death. Earned gold can be used to keep playing on a lower difficulty or a Classic ticket can be used to maintain your difficulty after one death. It’s helpful that the penalty for dying in Classic is light, as the real challenge comes from unlocking every character; for us, we ended up beating every Classic route to unlock everyone, though there are other ways to go about it.
As we’ve said, World of Light gives players infinite continues on their quest and a variety of challenge levels throughout. Here, the only barriers to completion are the strength of your Spirits and your own ability to work with the characters you have. Luckily, many battles can be returned to later after you’ve powered up a little, making it all a bit more manageable.

With all of this, Milestones return, offering in-game achievements for completing certain challenges. These offer a wide range of challenges to complete, though we tended to forget that they were there until we stumbled upon one.

ULTIMATELY…

Here’s the bottom line: This game exists. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has flaws, just like every game in the series before it. It has points that we aren’t the biggest fans of and have even been frustrated by when playing for this review. But the team behind Ultimate was able to craft both one of the best entries in the franchise and a truly outstanding tribute to Nintendo and gaming history here. We’re going to be playing this for months, both for pleasure and to cover all the DLC, and we can’t wait.

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more Smash talk, check out our article on 10 Echo Fighters That Could Have Been! Or, if you’re into fighting games, take a look at our Soul Calibur VI review ♦

 

t’s been a couple of weeks since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of the most anticipated games for the Switch this year. Is it living up to the hype? Let’s dive in.

RUNDOWN

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, at its core, is the same Smash we’ve all come to love. Up to eight players can take control of an enormous roster of video game all-stars to go head-to-head in frantic battles that range from item tossing scrambles to one-on-one death matches. With 74 different characters to choose from, including Nintendo’s greats and a few outsiders, and more stages than ever, the fight to knock your buddies out of the ring has never been so massive. Coupled with some unique single player options, Ultimate can keep you busy for days; for us, it certainly has!

LOOK

Ultimate may be the best looking Smash game, both in terms of graphics and art direction. Since Melee, the series has always seemed to attempt to capture the spirit of each character in their appearances while uniting them under a more mature, battle-ready aesthetic. Melee did this solidly, Brawl may have gone too far with its realism in places, For Wii U and 3DS dialed it back to a more cartoon inspired look, and Ultimate seems to hit the sweet spot between them all. Every character looks stunning and each of them represents their origin series to a T; we especially enjoy the more retro-inspired designs, particularly with Mega Man, Ryu, Ken, and the Belmonts. This also goes for the stages, which look clean and exciting whether you’re playing them on their Normal, Battlefield, or Omega forms—even if lesser stages like PAC-LAND and Hanenbow make their return amongst the greats.

The only place where the look feels a bit off is in the game’s adventure mode, World of Light. While beautifully illustrated, the map doesn’t feel particularly inspired by anything from Nintendo or otherwise other than maybe Brawl’s “Subspace Emissary.” We’ll get back to this point in a bit.

FEEL

With so many characters to choose from, chances are that there’s someone for everyone to play in Ultimate, even for newcomers. Since the game features every character that’s ever been in the series and then some, there’s also a great chance that veterans will be able to get right back into duking it out with their main once they’re unlocked.

Mechanics like directional air dodging, short hop attacks, and perfect shielding add a welcome layer of depth to the Smash formula, especially given their simple execution. Whether you’re a wavedashing, hitbox targeting master from Melee or a newbie who just got their first taste of the series with For Wii U and 3DS, this game feels like a nice middle ground for players of all skill levels to learn quickly and master gradually. Of course, players can just as easily ignore all this and have a great time throwing bombs and blasting each other with Final Smashes for a more “party game” experience.

All this being said, the controls are not perfect out of the box. Veterans may find Ultimate’s controls sticky at first compared to other entries in the series. We spent a good few hours wondering why jumping and tilt attacks felt so off before realizing that the control stick sensitivity can be adjusted in the Options menu. This option comes highly recommended; though it may not be the perfect incarnation of Smash’s control layout, this change can do the job for longtime fans who feel weighed down playing Ultimate.

VARIETY

Ultimate has modes on modes on modes. We’ve already touched on how many characters there are, and there’s a unique Classic mode path for every single one of them. We loved how these paths were inspired by their characters or abilities (Mitch lost it over Ness’ path, which mirrored the walk home at the end of EarthBound), and with a variety of unique bosses like Giga Bowser, Ganon, and even Monster Hunter’s Rathalos, Ultimate makes it easy to keep playing until everyone is unlocked.

There’s plenty of ways to play both alone and with friends here. As always, the traditional Smash mode is great for up to eight players to fight however they please, and the addition Tourneys, Squad Strike, and Special Smash add plenty of replayability. The Mob Smash modes and Training are also nice options to test your skills against computer players if you’re playing alone.

World of Light and the Spirit Board are interesting additions with about as many positives as negatives. On one hand, we are excited to have another chance to play an Adventure mode in Smash. World of Light offers unique challenges based on different video game properties through the inclusion of Spirits, which act as status buffs for characters; You might face off against a Little Mac with a Piston Hondo spirit and have to find a way to counter his huge size and punches, or run into Sonic with a Rayman spirit and be challenged to an Assist trophy fueled battle to the death. With the Spirit Board offering timed matches for new spirits, there’s plenty of opportunities to customize your fighter to face the slew of opponents that World of Light has to offer.

On the other hand, World of Light doesn’t feel quite as inspired as past Smash Adventure modes. Melee gave players the chance to platform and battle through Nintendo inspired worlds; the Subspace Emissary, while not perfect, had a serviceable plot, challenges based around using certain characters, and passable platforming stages. These modes felt like they showed what could be done with Smash outside of battles. World of Light, despite its unique array of challenges and lovely world map, is ultimately a slew of Smash battles one after the other, with success largely based on the player’s skill with what characters they’ve managed to unlock and Spirits that can negate the effects of each challenge. Don’t get us wrong: We’re so pleased to have another Adventure mode, but we can’t help but feel there’s some missed opportunities here.

Finally, Online play is back and ranges in its capabilities. At this point, it’s hard to expect Nintendo to provide top notch online play with any game, but it’s difficult to accept with Smash games when they’re so dependent on moment-to-moment action. Granted, we have been having a great time with little issue playing in Battle Arenas against one another and friends, but connectivity continues to waver in Quickplay. We also wish that some of the unique local Smash modes could have made their way online, like Smashdown or Strike Squad, though it’s understandable why these weren’t implemented.

CHALLENGE

One thing we love about Ultimate is it’s variety of options for setting your own difficulty. Classic Mode uses a system where players can set their own difficult at the beginning that will rise with skilled play or fall with each death. Earned gold can be used to keep playing on a lower difficulty or a Classic ticket can be used to maintain your difficulty after one death. It’s helpful that the penalty for dying in Classic is light, as the real challenge comes from unlocking every character; for us, we ended up beating every Classic route to unlock everyone, though there are other ways to go about it.
As we’ve said, World of Light gives players infinite continues on their quest and a variety of challenge levels throughout. Here, the only barriers to completion are the strength of your Spirits and your own ability to work with the characters you have. Luckily, many battles can be returned to later after you’ve powered up a little, making it all a bit more manageable.

With all of this, Milestones return, offering in-game achievements for completing certain challenges. These offer a wide range of challenges to complete, though we tended to forget that they were there until we stumbled upon one.

ULTIMATELY…

Here’s the bottom line: This game exists. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has flaws, just like every game in the series before it. It has points that we aren’t the biggest fans of and have even been frustrated by when playing for this review. But the team behind Ultimate was able to craft both one of the best entries in the franchise and a truly outstanding tribute to Nintendo and gaming history here. We’re going to be playing this for months, both for pleasure and to cover all the DLC, and we can’t wait.

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more Smash talk, check out our article on 10 Echo Fighters That Could Have Been! Or, if you’re into fighting games, take a look at our Soul Calibur VI review ♦

10 Echo Fighters That Could Have Been On The Eve Of Smash Ultimate’s Release

uper Smash Bros. Ultimate revived the kind of hype and speculation that I went crazy for back when Smash Dojo was raging for Brawl. From the initial “Everyone Is Here” announcement to the baffling addition of Piranha Plant to the roster to How The Grinch Stole Smash Bros., we’ve about seen all we can see prior to the game’s release tomorrow. With the announcement that none of the DLC characters would be Echo Fighters, I thought it would be cool to think of the clones that could have been!

MS. PAC MAN for PAC MAN

I know what you’re thinking: “Mitch, you dingnut, Ms. Pac should just be a costume!” But we’re not here for that kind of dismissal, my friends. Of all the characters that didn’t get to be an Echo Fighter, I’m surprised that Ms. Pac didn’t receive much speculation or consideration from anyone. I think she would’ve been a fun and easy way to showcase more Namco properties and, just like her game, she could have been faster than her male counterpart.

ZACK FAIR for CLOUD

This is a case where I’m actually surprised an Echo Fighter wasn’t made right off the bat. I would think Zack Fair would’ve been an easy Echo of Cloud given their similar appearances and use of the Buster Sword. I’d imagine Zack would have some reflavored Limit Breaks and perhaps trade some speed for power.

PROTO MAN for MEGA MAN

If he weren’t included in Mega Man’s Final Smash, I would say a retro style Proto Man would have made a great addition to the roster. Increased power on Proto’s buster shots, an extended slide, or a lighter weight could have been ways to relate him back to the Mega Man series and differentiate him from the Blue Bomber. It would also have been interesting to see how the developers could have played with Proto Man’s shield as an Echo Fighter.

LINKLE for SHEIK

“Really, Mitch? Not for Link?” Here me out, friends! In Hyrule Warriors, Linkle’s primary weapons were her boots and her crossbow. With Sheik’s focus on quick, acrobatic kicks and melee attacks, Linkle would be much more suited to be her Echo Fighter. Couple that with reflavoring the needles and explosions as crossbow attacks, and you would have had one awesome new melee combatant from the Zelda universe.

BLACK SHADOW for CAPTAIN FALCON

It’s a little sad that we haven’t seen much love for F-Zero from Nintendo for the past few years. Now that Ganondorf has been further separated from his initial spot as Captain Falcon’s clone, it would have been really cool to see Black Shadow join the fight as another F-Zero representative and villain. Plus, how awesome would it have been to Falcon Punch Black Shadow into oblivion like in the anime?

NINTEN for NESS

This is where I’m going to start getting into true dream territory with this list. Ninten, the protagonist of MOTHER/Earthbound Beginnings, would have been an awesome surprise Echo Fighter given the title’s release on the E-Shop a few years back. PK Flash could become PK Brainshock, the bat could be aluminum or plastic, and PK Starstorm could become PK Beam, with Ana and Lloyd joining in for the attack. But hey, maybe all this is my Starmen.net days talking.

CELICA for ROBIN

Even if I agree that Smash has maybe one too many Fire Emblem characters in it, the fanboy in me REALLY wanted Celica as a character or Echo Fighter for Robin. Swapping Nosferatu for Seraphim or Recover and Elwind for Excalibur would have made for great nods to the series’ past. Throw in Alm in Chrom’s place for her Final Smash and you would have a true set of “Echoes” in Smash Ultimate.

DAN HIBIKI for RYU

Hear me out. Please. I know we got Ken, and that was more than expected for Ryu’s Echo Fighter. But, can you imagine the uproar and confusion Nintendo would have caused if Ryu’s Echo Fighter had been Dan? What if he had a Pichu effect where all his punches caused damage to himself? What if his Final Smash was garbage? You’d give him a shot and you know it.

DOC LOUIS for LITTLE MAC

This would’ve been another great opportunity for a troll character choice. Imagine Doc Louis joining the battle with his old school gloves, leopard print zip up, and a chocolate bar fueled “Giga Doc” Final Smash. Maybe he wouldn’t be as fast or powerful as Little Mac, but all of the boxer’s moves had to come from Doc’s training, so that Echo would sort of make sense.

HOENN TRAINER for POKÉMON TRAINER

Finally, I just wanted to include this idea for the fun of it. Of all the Trainers that could have served as Echo Fighters for the Kanto’s Pokemon Trainer, I think Hoenn’s would have worked the best. Somehow, I could see Treeko standing in for Ivysaur, Marshtomp for Squirtle, and Blaziken for Charizard with the least amount of moveset alteration compared to other starter lineups in the series. Ah well, it’s not like Pokémon doesn’t have enough representation already!

We are too excited for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release tomorrow! Let us know if there’s anyone you wish would have made the roster and keep an eye out for more Smash Bros. coverage from Massiv soon! ♦

uper Smash Bros. Ultimate revived the kind of hype and speculation that I went crazy for back when Smash Dojo was raging for Brawl. From the initial “Everyone Is Here” announcement to the baffling addition of Piranha Plant to the roster to How The Grinch Stole Smash Bros., we’ve about seen all we can see prior to the game’s release tomorrow. With the announcement that none of the DLC characters would be Echo Fighters, I thought it would be cool to think of the clones that could have been!

 

MS. PAC MAN
for PAC MAN

I know what you’re thinking: “Mitch, you dingnut, Ms. Pac should just be a costume!” But we’re not here for that kind of dismissal, my friends. Of all the characters that didn’t get to be an Echo Fighter, I’m surprised that Ms. Pac didn’t receive much speculation or consideration from anyone. I think she would’ve been a fun and easy way to showcase more Namco properties and, just like her game, she could have been faster than her male counterpart.

ZACK FAIR
for CLOUD

This is a case where I’m actually surprised an Echo Fighter wasn’t made right off the bat. I would think Zack Fair would’ve been an easy Echo of Cloud given their similar appearances and use of the Buster Sword. I’d imagine Zack would have some reflavored Limit Breaks and perhaps trade some speed for power.

PROTO MAN for
MEGA MAN

If he weren’t included in Mega Man’s Final Smash, I would say a retro style Proto Man would have made a great addition to the roster. Increased power on Proto’s buster shots, an extended slide, or a lighter weight could have been ways to relate him back to the Mega Man series and differentiate him from the Blue Bomber. It would also have been interesting to see how the developers could have played with Proto Man’s shield as an Echo Fighter.

LINKLE for
SHEIK

“Really, Mitch? Not for Link?” Here me out, friends! In Hyrule Warriors, Linkle’s primary weapons were her boots and her crossbow. With Sheik’s focus on quick, acrobatic kicks and melee attacks, Linkle would be much more suited to be her Echo Fighter. Couple that with reflavoring the needles and explosions as crossbow attacks, and you would have had one awesome new melee combatant from the Zelda universe.

BLACK SHADOW for
CAPTAIN FALCON

It’s a little sad that we haven’t seen much love for F-Zero from Nintendo for the past few years. Now that Ganondorf has been further separated from his initial spot as Captain Falcon’s clone, it would have been really cool to see Black Shadow join the fight as another F-Zero representative and villain. Plus, how awesome would it have been to Falcon Punch Black Shadow into oblivion like in the anime?

NINTEN
for NESS

This is where I’m going to start getting into true dream territory with this list. Ninten, the protagonist of MOTHER/Earthbound Beginnings, would have been an awesome surprise Echo Fighter given the title’s release on the E-Shop a few years back. PK Flash could become PK Brainshock, the bat could be aluminum or plastic, and PK Starstorm could become PK Beam, with Ana and Lloyd joining in for the attack. But hey, maybe all this is my Starmen.net days talking.

CELICA
for ROBIN

Even if I agree that Smash has maybe one too many Fire Emblem characters in it, the fanboy in me REALLY wanted Celica as a character or Echo Fighter for Robin. Swapping Nosferatu for Seraphim or Recover and Elwind for Excalibur would have made for great nods to the series’ past. Throw in Alm in Chrom’s place for her Final Smash and you would have a true set of “Echoes” in Smash Ultimate.

DAN HIBIKI
for RYU

Hear me out. Please. I know we got Ken, and that was more than expected for Ryu’s Echo Fighter. But, can you imagine the uproar and confusion Nintendo would have caused if Ryu’s Echo Fighter had been Dan? What if he had a Pichu effect where all his punches caused damage to himself? What if his Final Smash was garbage? You’d give him a shot and you know it.

DOC LOUIS for
LITTLE MAC

This would’ve been another great opportunity for a troll character choice. Imagine Doc Louis joining the battle with his old school gloves, leopard print zip up, and a chocolate bar fueled “Giga Doc” Final Smash. Maybe he wouldn’t be as fast or powerful as Little Mac, but all of the boxer’s moves had to come from Doc’s training, so that Echo would sort of make sense.

HOENN TRAINER for POKÉMON TRAINER

Finally, I just wanted to include this idea for the fun of it. Of all the Trainers that could have served as Echo Fighters for the Kanto’s Pokemon Trainer, I think Hoenn’s would have worked the best. Somehow, I could see Treeko standing in for Ivysaur, Marshtomp for Squirtle, and Blaziken for Charizard with the least amount of moveset alteration compared to other starter lineups in the series. Ah well, it’s not like Pokémon doesn’t have enough representation already!

We are too excited for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release tomorrow! Let us know if there’s anyone you wish would have made the roster and keep an eye out for more Smash Bros. coverage from Massiv soon! ♦

 

What Your Super Mario Party Character Says About You

ario Party: Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve definitely been pulled into a game at some point. I finally had the chance to sit down with Cam to play some Super Mario Party and it got me thinking about all the different friends and people that have stolen my Stars and beat me at mini-games over the years. Here’s what I can definitively say about your personality based on who you play in Super Mario Party!

 

MARIO
You’re probably nine years old or younger. If you aren’t, you definitely play Mario Party single-player because your friends make fun of you. Your favorite book is probably something you read in high school English because you don’t like reading.

LUIGI
You win Mario Party three times out of four. You are the youngest sibling in your family. You enjoy laughing at people that lose. You will steal coins and Stars from your friend in a two-player game. Low key argues on GameFAQs.

PEACH
You’re a man…or a mom.

 

 

DAISY
Someone beat you to playing Peach.

 

 

WARIO
You stream on Twitch to 10 people. You are most likely to order pizza for yourself and share with no one. Despite this, you probably care the least about winning at Mario Party, but probably still won the Coin Star.

WALUIGI
You think you’re really funny because you enjoy “meme culture”. There is a 100% chance that you will share this article or leave a comment saying “accurate”. You are still bitter that Waluigi is not in Smash but almost exclusively for the attention. You ask for breadsticks when a Wario player orders pizza.

YOSHI
You are a bitter 20-something man who thinks video games have artistic merit. You are probably someone who either speedruns or 100% games. You have to play Mario Party at a friend’s house because you haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the GameCube. If you are none of these things, you are someone’s girlfriend.

DONKEY KONG
You’ve given up on taking anything seriously. You almost never get Stars, but will win because you won every bonus star. You are the person most likely to scream in excitement or agony at the game. You consume cake and/or alcohol as a meal.

ROSALINA
Everyone is glad that you were able to make it to hang out, for once. You enjoy wearing nice clothes just because. You have a job where you can buy other game consoles, but you buy exclusively Nintendo products. You probably live alone.

BOWSER
You’re 11 years old, you’re at a birthday party, and you wanted to play as the bad guy. You like to go on 9Gag. You spend your allowance on plastic. You probably hit people when you lose.

BOWSER JR.
You also play as Bowser Jr. in Smash. You keep expecting people to be surprised that you picked Bowser Jr., but nobody cares. Your dream is going to Nintendo World. You’ve never taken an amiibo out of its box and you’ve never beaten Super Mario Sunshine.

GOOMBA
You’re a super quirky cool cat kid who wants to live on the wild side tonight!!!

 

BOO
You like Apple products. You let people talk over you. You have the worst laugh, but one of the better personalities of your friends. You haven’t played a Mario game since you were 13 but your friends really wanted to play.

KOOPA
I don’t know. You’re probably a 4-year old sibling of the person who owns the Switch. You’ll give up in 20 minutes.

 

HAMMER BRO
You enjoy going out for coffee for the aesthetic, but you also like Frappes. When something new pops up in the game, you have to comment on it. Nobody knows how you’re getting good grades and it’s insufferable. Your favorite food is Mac and Cheese (or some comparable pasta).

SHY GUY
You make up words because you don’t know how to communicate feelings to others. You think it’s cool to like Rick and Morty. Did you really bring a granola bar in case you got hungry?

POM POM
You’re a computer  player.

MONTY MOLE
This is your fifth round of Mario Party in a row and you’ve run out of characters to choose. You own stuffed animals. You don’t understand math or taxes, because you’re either too young or never really got good at either. You want it to snow all year then want sun when it’s here for more than two weeks.

DRY BONES
Congratulations on being a special guest on the Wario player’s Twitch stream! You use your hobbies as substitute for personality, but are still the most likable player. You have trouble saying no to people. If you’re young, you are the target of the Bowser player’s punches.

DIDDY KONG
You’re in this game?!

 

 

 

Now that I’ve correctly guessed your personality, you should check out Cam’s review of Super Mario Party! Or, if you’re looking for a lengthier read, take a look at my essay Name Everyone. ♦

ario Party: Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve definitely been pulled into a game at some point. I finally had the chance to sit down with Cam to play some Super Mario Party and it got me thinking about all the different friends and people that have stolen my Stars and beat me at mini-games over the years. Here’s what I can definitively say about your personality based on who you play in Super Mario Party!


MARIO

You’re probably nine years old or younger. If you aren’t, you definitely play Mario Party single-player because your friends make fun of you. Your favorite book is probably something you read in high school English because you don’t like reading.


LUIGI

You win Mario Party three times out of four. You are the youngest sibling in your family. You enjoy laughing at people that lose. You will steal coins and Stars from your friend in a two-player game. Low key argues on GameFAQs.


PEACH

You’re a man…or a mom.


DAISY

Someone beat you to playing Peach.


WARIO

You stream on Twitch to 10 people. You are most likely to order pizza for yourself and share with no one. Despite this, you probably care the least about winning at Mario Party, but probably still won the Coin Star.


WALUIGI

You think you’re really funny because you enjoy “meme culture”. There is a 100% chance that you will share this article or leave a comment saying “accurate”. You are still bitter that Waluigi is not in Smash but almost exclusively for the attention. You ask for breadsticks when a Wario player orders pizza.


YOSHI

You are a bitter 20-something man who thinks video games have artistic merit. You are probably someone who either speedruns or 100% games. You have to play Mario Party at a friend’s house because you haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the GameCube. If you are none of these things, you are someone’s girlfriend.

DONKEY KONG

You’ve given up on taking anything seriously. You almost never get Stars, but will win because you won every bonus star. You are the person most likely to scream in excitement or agony at the game. You consume cake and/or alcohol as a meal.

ROSALINA

Everyone is glad that you were able to make it to hang out, for once. You enjoy wearing nice clothes just because. You have a job where you can buy other game consoles, but you buy exclusively Nintendo products. You probably live alone.

BOWSER

You’re 11 years old, you’re at a birthday party, and you wanted to play as the bad guy. You like to go on 9Gag. You spend your allowance on plastic. You probably hit people when you lose.

BOWSER JR.

You also play as Bowser Jr. in Smash. You keep expecting people to be surprised that you picked Bowser Jr., but nobody cares. Your dream is going to Nintendo World. You’ve never taken an amiibo out of its box and you’ve never beaten Super Mario Sunshine.

GOOMBA

You’re a super quirky cool cat kid who wants to live on the wild side tonight!!!

BOO

You like Apple products. You let people talk over you. You have the worst laugh, but one of the better personalities of your friends. You haven’t played a Mario game since you were 13 but your friends really wanted to play.

KOOPA

I don’t know. You’re probably a 4-year old sibling of the person who owns the Switch. You’ll give up in 20 minutes.


HAMMER BRO

You enjoy going out for coffee for the aesthetic, but you also like Frappes. When something new pops up in the game, you have to comment on it. Nobody knows how you’re getting good grades and it’s insufferable. Your favorite food is Mac and Cheese (or some comparable pasta).

SHY GUY

You make up words because you don’t know how to communicate feelings to others. You think it’s cool to like Rick and Morty. Did you really bring a granola bar in case you got hungry?

POM POM

You’re a computer  player.

MONTY MOLE

This is your fifth round of Mario Party in a row and you’ve run out of characters to choose. You own stuffed animals. You don’t understand math or taxes, because you’re either too young or never really got good at either. You want it to snow all year then want sun when it’s here for more than two weeks.

DRY BONES

Congratulations on being a special guest on the Wario player’s Twitch stream! You use your hobbies as substitute for personality, but are still the most likable player. You have trouble saying no to people. If you’re young, you are the target of the Bowser player’s punches.

DIDDY KONG

You’re in this game?!

Now that I’ve correctly guessed your personality, you should check out Cam’s review of Super Mario Party! Or, if you’re looking for a lengthier read, take a look at my essay Name Everyone. ♦

 

Early Pontifications on deltarune and UNDERTALE

was just finishing up listening through all of Dan Olsen’s old Christmas playthrough of UNDERTALE for Folding Ideas on my night shift at work when I heard about deltarune. At first, I was kind of confused. I never expected Toby Fox to follow up UNDERTALE directly, so seeing that this next big project recycles assets and ideas from that game caught me off guard (I know about his comments, I’ll get to those next). Since I just finished my first playthrough of the game last night, I haven’t had much of a chance to deliberate on what I think of all that it is. Still, given the already sizable number of think pieces and fan theories out on this first chapter, I thought I’d throw my own two cents in.

 

For the sake of (relative) brevity, I’m going to refrain from making too many predictions on what the next chapters of deltarune may become to focus solely on what this chapter has to offer in terms of content. I am also not looking to forge any connections to UNDERTALE outside of what we know from Toby and see in the game; in other words, I’m not here to tell you that W.D. Gaster or Chara is behind this story or that this is some secret prequel or sequel. What interests me about this game is how it is a direct commentary on a game that is itself a commentary on games (wrap your head around that one!). While UNDERTALE is a game about video games, deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE.

There are two essential pieces of UNDERTALE’s mechanical and narrative structure that allows its themes to resonate so strongly with players: it successfully blurs the lines between in-game and real life experiences and inverts staples of RPGs to connect with the player on an emotional level. Dan Olsen analyzed the game’s use of teleport fantasy and extrinsic rewards better than I ever could, but I want to emphasize his point that UNDERTALE treats its world as one that the player enters and becomes a part of, allowing its Fight and Mercy mechanics to genuinely play off of their moral compass; choice is so important to this game because every choice is based in the player’s desire to do good or harm, and those choices are treated as real and lasting in-game. Also of note is UNDERTALE’s acknowledgment of the possibility of its own fandom: the game’s use of fourth wall breaks and plays on internet meme culture invite players to develop a fondness for its world while still judging those who feel the need to engage it obsessively to the point of a Genocide run (see hbomberguy’s analysis for an awesome dissection of this idea).

deltarune, in contrast, seems to do everything in
its power to remind the player that it is a game and constantly uses mechanics and assets from UNDERTALE and RPGs in general to keep them at arm’s length. Many have already addressed just how far this game goes on an aesthetic level to set itself in opposition to its counterpart: the title is a lowercase anagram of UNDERTALE, the install screen and license ask players to “accept everything that will happen,” and the title bar of the program constantly changes its name, as if to draw attention to the fact that it’s just another window running on the player’s computer. The use of assets, names, and characters from UNDERTALE seem less like an attempt to reconnect with players than elements that draw attention to themselves as recycled ideas. Toriel, Asgore, Alphys, Undyne, and Sans are no longer new friends to protect; they’re just characters from that other game we liked, only different. This is not a world where the player holds the power to make choices; this isn’t even a world. deltarune is a program, an RPG, a game “intended for those who have completed UNDERTALE”—and it never allows you to be unaware of this.

deltarune truly begins its dissection of UNDERTALE with the character creation screen, which works in complete opposition to the latter’s “Name the fallen human” screen. UNDERTALE’s naming screen initially appears to be in line with what’s expected from RPGs only to invert player expectations later on with the reveal that their chosen name is that of the game’s villain (often referred to as Chara), a human that spurs Asriel’s actions in a Pacifist run and the player’s destructive avatar and partner in a Genocide run. The simplicity of the naming screen is an essential part of the name’s impact later on in the game adds depth to what is otherwise a typical aesthetic choice in RPGs. With this in mind, it is initially surprising that deltarune appears to give players the ability to customize their character’s appearance, likes, and dislikes. Just when the player is invested in the character they’ve created, the game throws the entire intro out the window, with none of their choices affecting the game that follows. This is a clear reversal of expectations that preys on the player’s previous experience with UNDERTALE. Players familiar with UNDERTALE expect choices to have consequences and for mysterious set ups that lead to game-changing payoffs aimed straight for their heart, which deltarune denies from the very beginning. It’s unnerving, to say the least.

As deltarune progresses, it becomes apparent how hard the game clings to RPG and fantasy tropes without question or commentary. Waking up in Toriel’s house feels reminiscent of Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, and EarthBound, the Light and Dark prophecy feels like something out of any Square Enix title, and the party makeup of a silent swordsman, a hot-blooded fighter, and an empathetic spellcaster feels all too familiar. Most importantly, this game utilizes the Fight and Mercy mechanics from UNDERTALE, but with the added mechanics and third person battle screen, it feels remarkably less personal to make these choices. Should you fight? Should you have mercy on these creatures? Is there a difference anymore?

These questions and seemingly deliberate opposing narrative choices come to a head when you realize that this first chapter doesn’t seem to care all that much about Kris, the player avatar. Kris lacks both the vacancy of blank slate silent protagonists for players to insert themselves into their role, like Frisk, Ness, or a Pokemon trainer, as well as the agency of other named RPG protagonists, like Crono or Cloud Strife. Instead, they are a social outcast (even to the player, as there is likely some wariness to the fact that they resemble Chara) whose only clear goal is to act as the key to get them and Susie back home. You could replace Kris with a key or stone to the Light World and the plot would remain relatively the same. This is not Kris’ story, or the players story. It’s Susie’s.

Unlike Kris and the player, Susie has agency in spades, driving the action forward and flipping sides all the way until the end of the adventure. Susie has so much agency in this plot that she can’t even be controlled for most of the game. She is the one who forges a connection to the Dark World, both through opposition with Ralsei and friendship with Lancer, and eventually grows to be a kinder monster through her actions. Everything that happens to Kris and the player is the result of Susie, essentially making her the protagonist. And, as the program warned you from the beginning, you just have to accept it.

I could digress on deltarune’s details for much longer, but I want to get to this question: Why does this all matter in relation to UNDERTALE? To address this, I want to reference a quote from Sans in UNDERTALE that encompasses much of what that game is about. If the player kills Papyrus in their run, Sans ends his judgement before Asgore by asking them an important question: “If you have some sort of special power… Isn’t it your responsibility to do the right thing?” The special power, of course, refers to the player’s “determination” to finish the game and their ability to save and replay events, which is hugely important in a game where the choice to kill or have mercy on monsters can alter events entirely. And because this is treated as diegetic and the player is treated as a force and not a spectator, the act of killing anyone is actually destructive to the game world and, in turn, the player.

Ultimately, deltarune asks a contradictory but relevant question: If your actions have no impact on the game world and if neither you or Kris has agency in the story, are you still responsible to do the “right thing”? Is there even a “right thing” when the game imposes no penalty or change for doing the “wrong thing”? This reflects deeply back on UNDERTALE, as the saving feature in deltarune now emphasizes “power” over determination, something that Chara explicitly discusses in the Genocide ending: Is there power in being able to kill or have mercy without consequence? Is that power good, evil, or dependent on the player? This in turn continues the commentary on RPGs and video games as a whole, where we as players have undoubtedly slayed countless monsters mindlessly and have still come out as heroes in the end or, alternatively, decided to do a Mercy run on deltarune solely because it’s what we learned from UNDERTALE. deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE insofar as it asks us to reflect on the latter’s themes and what we’ve been taught about video games and choice from it.

 

This, to me, is what this chapter is about, and it would be interesting to see this theme develop further in later chapters. I can’t say for sure what will come in the future of deltarune, but judging by the ending of this chapter, it seems that we have no way to control the path that Kris is being led down other than playing the game how we believe we should. ♦

was just finishing up listening through all of Dan Olsen’s old Christmas playthrough of UNDERTALE for Folding Ideas on my night shift at work when I heard about deltarune. At first, I was kind of confused. I never expected Toby Fox to follow up UNDERTALE directly, so seeing that this next big project recycles assets and ideas from that game caught me off guard (I know about his comments, I’ll get to those next). Since I just finished my first playthrough of the game last night, I haven’t had much of a chance to deliberate on what I think of all that it is. Still, given the already sizable number of think pieces and fan theories out on this first chapter, I thought I’d throw my own two cents in.

For the sake of (relative) brevity, I’m going to refrain from making too many predictions on what the next chapters of deltarune may become to focus solely on what this chapter has to offer in terms of content. I am also not looking to forge any connections to UNDERTALE outside of what we know from Toby and see in the game; in other words, I’m not here to tell you that W.D. Gaster or Chara is behind this story or that this is some secret prequel or sequel. What interests me about this game is how it is a direct commentary on a game that is itself a commentary on games (wrap your head around that one!). While UNDERTALE is a game about video games, deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE.

There are two essential pieces of UNDERTALE’s mechanical and narrative structure that allows its themes to resonate so strongly with players: it successfully blurs the lines between in-game and real life experiences and inverts staples of RPGs to connect with the player on an emotional level. Dan Olsen analyzed the game’s use of teleport fantasy and extrinsic rewards better than I ever could, but I want to emphasize his point that UNDERTALE treats its world as one that the player enters and becomes a part of, allowing its Fight and Mercy mechanics to genuinely play off of their moral compass; choice is so important to this game because every choice is based in the player’s desire to do good or harm, and those choices are treated as real and lasting in-game. Also of note is UNDERTALE’s acknowledgment of the possibility of its own fandom: the game’s use of fourth wall breaks and plays on internet meme culture invite players to develop a fondness for its world while still judging those who feel the need to engage it obsessively to the point of a Genocide run (see hbomberguy’s analysis for an awesome dissection of this idea).

deltarune, in contrast, seems to do everything in its power to remind the player that it is a game and constantly uses mechanics and assets from UNDERTALE and RPGs in general to keep them at arm’s length. Many have already addressed just how far this game goes on an aesthetic level to set itself in opposition to its counterpart: the title is a lowercase anagram of UNDERTALE, the install screen and license ask players to “accept everything that will happen,” and the title bar of the program constantly changes its name, as if to draw attention to the fact that it’s just another window running on the player’s computer. The use of assets, names, and characters from UNDERTALE seem less like an attempt to reconnect with players than elements that draw attention to themselves as recycled ideas. Toriel, Asgore, Alphys, Undyne, and Sans are no longer new friends to protect; they’re just characters from that other game we liked, only different. This is not a world where the player holds the power to make choices; this isn’t even a world. deltarune is a program, an RPG, a game “intended for those who have completed UNDERTALE”—and it never allows you to be unaware of this.

deltarune truly begins its dissection of UNDERTALE with the character creation screen, which works in complete opposition to the latter’s “Name the fallen human” screen. UNDERTALE’s naming screen initially appears to be in line with what’s expected from RPGs only to invert player expectations later on with the reveal that their chosen name is that of the game’s villain (often referred to as Chara), a human that spurs Asriel’s actions in a Pacifist run and the player’s destructive avatar and partner in a Genocide run. The simplicity of the naming screen is an essential part of the name’s impact later on in the game adds depth to what is otherwise a typical aesthetic choice in RPGs. With this in mind, it is initially surprising that deltarune appears to give players the ability to customize their character’s appearance, likes, and dislikes. Just when the player is invested in the character they’ve created, the game throws the entire intro out the window, with none of their choices affecting the game that follows. This is a clear reversal of expectations that preys on the player’s previous experience with UNDERTALE. Players familiar with UNDERTALE expect choices to have consequences and for mysterious set ups that lead to game-changing payoffs aimed straight for their heart, which deltarune denies from the very beginning. It’s unnerving, to say the least.

As deltarune progresses, it becomes apparent how hard the game clings to RPG and fantasy tropes without question or commentary. Waking up in Toriel’s house feels reminiscent of Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, and EarthBound, the Light and Dark prophecy feels like something out of any Square Enix title, and the party makeup of a silent swordsman, a hot-blooded fighter, and an empathetic spellcaster feels all too familiar. Most importantly, this game utilizes the Fight and Mercy mechanics from UNDERTALE, but with the added mechanics and third person battle screen, it feels remarkably less personal to make these choices. Should you fight? Should you have mercy on these creatures? Is there a difference anymore?

These questions and seemingly deliberate opposing narrative choices come to a head when you realize that this first chapter doesn’t seem to care all that much about Kris, the player avatar. Kris lacks both the vacancy of blank slate silent protagonists for players to insert themselves into their role, like Frisk, Ness, or a Pokemon trainer, as well as the agency of other named RPG protagonists, like Crono or Cloud Strife. Instead, they are a social outcast (even to the player, as there is likely some wariness to the fact that they resemble Chara) whose only clear goal is to act as the key to get them and Susie back home. You could replace Kris with a key or stone to the Light World and the plot would remain relatively the same. This is not Kris’ story, or the players story. It’s Susie’s.

Unlike Kris and the player, Susie has agency in spades, driving the action forward and flipping sides all the way until the end of the adventure. Susie has so much agency in this plot that she can’t even be controlled for most of the game. She is the one who forges a connection to the Dark World, both through opposition with Ralsei and friendship with Lancer, and eventually grows to be a kinder monster through her actions. Everything that happens to Kris and the player is the result of Susie, essentially making her the protagonist. And, as the program warned you from the beginning, you just have to accept it.

I could digress on deltarune’s details for much longer, but I want to get to this question: Why does this all matter in relation to UNDERTALE? To address this, I want to reference a quote from Sans in UNDERTALE that encompasses much of what that game is about. If the player kills Papyrus in their run, Sans ends his judgement before Asgore by asking them an important question: “If you have some sort of special power… Isn’t it your responsibility to do the right thing?” The special power, of course, refers to the player’s “determination” to finish the game and their ability to save and replay events, which is hugely important in a game where the choice to kill or have mercy on monsters can alter events entirely. And because this is treated as diegetic and the player is treated as a force and not a spectator, the act of killing anyone is actually destructive to the game world and, in turn, the player.

Ultimately, deltarune asks a contradictory but relevant question: If your actions have no impact on the game world and if neither you or Kris has agency in the story, are you still responsible to do the “right thing”? Is there even a “right thing” when the game imposes no penalty or change for doing the “wrong thing”? This reflects deeply back on UNDERTALE, as the saving feature in deltarune now emphasizes “power” over determination, something that Chara explicitly discusses in the Genocide ending: Is there power in being able to kill or have mercy without consequence? Is that power good, evil, or dependent on the player? This in turn continues the commentary on RPGs and video games as a whole, where we as players have undoubtedly slayed countless monsters mindlessly and have still come out as heroes in the end or, alternatively, decided to do a Mercy run on deltarune solely because it’s what we learned from UNDERTALE. deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE insofar as it asks us to reflect on the latter’s themes and what we’ve been taught about video games and choice from it.

This, to me, is what this chapter is about, and it would be interesting to see this theme develop further in later chapters. I can’t say for sure what will come in the future of deltarune, but judging by the ending of this chapter, it seems that we have no way to control the path that Kris is being led down other than playing the game how we believe we should. ♦

 

REVIEW: Soul Calibur VI [NO SPOILERS]

oul Calibur: A series that has stayed near and dear to me for years. It’s the goofiest, silliest version of all fighting games and I love it. This is the only series that has managed to have characters from Star Wars to Spawn to The Legend of Zelda. I’ve enjoyed the series since it’s second installment, and it has continued to reign as my favorite fighting game for being a loveable fantasy mess. After six years, we finally have our hands on the sixth installment and I am beyond excited. Here’s why you should be too.

 

Control

From top to bottom, Soul Calibur VI has a ton of different play options for any fighting game fan. The mechanics feel more accessible than ever but still require some comboing skill. There’s a wide variety of characters to suit different play styles and move mapping makes it easy for players to set up their preferred button layout.

In my opinion, the mechanics of Soul Calibur have always been for those who love fighting games but aren’t looking for the intensity that comes with games like Street Fighter. Loving this series is easier than ever with faster and more responsive controls in this entry. There is an emphasis on dodging and quick maneuvering this time around. Grabs are easier to break out of and deflect (THANK YOU), and special, flashy attacks have become much easier to accomplish by using trigger buttons. Be careful with those special attacks, though: There is extra attack opening implemented to balance the easier access.

 

Graphics

I’ll say this regarding the fighters: The armor and weapon design, as always, are fantastic. The faces, on the other hand, continue to be uncomfortable to look at, but I think there’s some charm in that. This goes for some other parts of the game, too. As an example, the stages continue to look looming and beautiful, but the menu design feels like something out the last console gen. In all honesty, though, I can’t help but have a soft spot for these flaws, and the game beneath them more than makes up for it.

 

Story and Modes 

The game also has two different story modes: One that follows a selected character from the roster and another that follows a player-created character. Both of these modes are similar to how story worked in Soul Calibur 3 onward but with some nice new twists. These stories take place at the beginning of the series, taking place sometime between Soul Edge, Soul Calibur, and Soul Calibur 2. The writing is nothing to go crazy over, but hey, it’s a fighting game and it does it’s job.

I especially enjoyed the player-created character storyline here. The game gives you many opportunities for customization throughout your journey, from your choice of weapon to following a good or evil path. I ended up creating a character named Colin Mochrie who looks just like the Improv God, and seeing his actions take root in the world of Soul Calibur couldn’t have been more entertaining or satisfying. Truthfully, I can’t say whether the story would be fun if you were trying to take it seriously, but it sure was a fun trip with Mr. Mochrie.

Aside from the story, Soul Calibur VI also maintains its standard versus battle modes both locally and online. The online works well. The amount I played I didn’t have any connectivity issues and it didn’t appear there were any exploits that other players were overusing.

 

Verdict

Overall, Soul Calibur VI is a welcomed addition to the franchise, offering improvements on everything I’ve come to love about the series. Fans and newcomers alike will enjoy this entry and it’s a good addition to any PS4 library. With DLC on the way including 2B from Nier: Automata, I hope that this game is destined to get even more to love in the future. ♦

 

oul Calibur: A series that has stayed near and dear to me for years. It’s the goofiest, silliest version of all fighting games and I love it. This is the only series that has managed to have characters from Star Wars to Spawn to The Legend of Zelda. I’ve enjoyed the series since it’s second installment, and it has continued to reign as my favorite fighting game for being a loveable fantasy mess. After six years, we finally have our hands on the sixth installment and I am beyond excited. Here’s why you should be too.

 

Control

From top to bottom, Soul Calibur VI has a ton of different play options for any fighting game fan. The mechanics feel more accessible than ever but still require some comboing skill. There’s a wide variety of characters to suit different play styles and move mapping makes it easy for players to set up their preferred button layout.

In my opinion, the mechanics of Soul Calibur have always been for those who love fighting games but aren’t looking for the intensity that comes with games like Street Fighter. Loving this series is easier than ever with faster and more responsive controls in this entry. There is an emphasis on dodging and quick maneuvering this time around. Grabs are easier to break out of and deflect (THANK YOU), and special, flashy attacks have become much easier to accomplish by using trigger buttons. Be careful with those special attacks, though: There is extra attack opening implemented to balance the easier access.

 

Graphics

I’ll say this regarding the fighters: The armor and weapon design, as always, are fantastic. The faces, on the other hand, continue to be uncomfortable to look at, but I think there’s some charm in that. This goes for some other parts of the game, too. As an example, the stages continue to look looming and beautiful, but the menu design feels like something out the last console gen. In all honesty, though, I can’t help but have a soft spot for these flaws, and the game beneath them more than makes up for it.

 

Story and Modes

The game also has two different story modes: One that follows a selected character from the roster and another that follows a player-created character. Both of these modes are similar to how story worked in Soul Calibur 3 onward but with some nice new twists. These stories take place at the beginning of the series, taking place sometime between Soul Edge, Soul Calibur, and Soul Calibur 2. The writing is nothing to go crazy over, but hey, it’s a fighting game and it does it’s job.

I especially enjoyed the player-created character storyline here. The game gives you many opportunities for customization throughout your journey, from your choice of weapon to following a good or evil path. I ended up creating a character named Colin Mochrie who looks just like the Improv God, and seeing his actions take root in the world of Soul Calibur couldn’t have been more entertaining or satisfying. Truthfully, I can’t say whether the story would be fun if you were trying to take it seriously, but it sure was a fun trip with Mr. Mochrie.

Aside from the story, Soul Calibur VI also maintains its standard versus battle modes both locally and online. The online works well. The amount I played I didn’t have any connectivity issues and it didn’t appear there were any exploits that other players were overusing.

 

Verdict

Overall, Soul Calibur VI is a welcomed addition to the franchise, offering improvements on everything I’ve come to love about the series. Fans and newcomers alike will enjoy this entry and it’s a good addition to any PS4 library. With DLC on the way including 2B from Nier: Automata, I hope that this game is destined to get even more to love in the future. ♦

 

REVIEW: Super Mario Party

n many ways, Super Mario Party is as much a return to form for the series as it is a break in convention. This particular Mario Party is good, clean fun that we enjoyed despite some noticeable shortcomings. Most of the freshness comes into play with a variety of new modes that are firsts. Some modes follow traditional mini-game formats, while others have completely new and different styles (in the same vein of the pick-up and play essence of the series).

There are six modes: Mario Party, Partner Party, Soundstage, Mariothon, Toad’s Rec Room, and Challenge Road (with bonus sections: Sticker Collector and Decorator). Let’s dive into each:

Mario Party

Your standard board based Party, and good news: there’s no party bus! This mode takes us back to an all out, four-person free for all bloodbath. Stars are cheaper now (ringing in at only ten coins). Which makes the game surprisingly more frustrating.

The game boards are solid this time around. Despite there being only three to start (four in total). Though there’s nothin new to see here, the return to form is appreciated.

Partner Party

An interesting new team mode. It works similarly to the standard Party, except that two players work together to collect shared coins and try to buy stars on a streamlined board. This is a cool edition, and gives the standard formula a nice twist with more cooperative play both in mini-games and on the board.

The need for co-op and communication while on the board is one of the most interesting parts of this mode. Who knew how fun working together to collect coins and developing strategies to thwart your rivals plans would be?

Soundstage

Probably the most interesting new addition. In this mode, you and four friends play through a series of motion controlled rhythm challenges (similar to Rhythm Heaven). For having come out of nowhere, we really loved how smooth and fun it was to play. A much appreciated break from the standard mini-games.

Mariothon

A series of mini-games featuring some kind of measured progression (like racing or shooting). There is a circuit length and all members earn points based on how well they did individually. For example, one mini-game has players racing tricycles. You try to get to the finish line as fast as possible while a timer ticks next to your name. At the end of the race all players get some point compensation based on their personal score.

With the margins being so narrow, the competition is closer than ever. Another new and cool addition to the series. We only wish for more than 12 mini-games in the cycle.

Toads Rec Room

Play special mini-games while utilizing two Switch consoles. It does what it does well, but ultimately lacks content, making it feel a bit shallow. That being said, it is fun to move the Switch around physically in space and watch how the games can change while interacting with another console. This mode highlights how much interaction the Switch is capable of, and we hope to see this idea expanded upon in the future.

River Survival

Yet another fun, new addition. This four player co-op mode forces players to work together by rowing down the river in a raft and playing co-op mini-games. Make no mistake. You are supposed to work together. But, that is not how this mode goes.

It’s a bloodier fight then the standard Mario Party. There was more screaming, cursing, anger and threats in this mode than in any other version. Each player has equal pull over the raft and this mode has the nerve to split the track, guaranteeing absolute chaos. Not once will everyone be willing to work together. This is truly what Mario Party is all about.

Challenge Road

This one takes a while to unlock. However, when you do you’ll find a very fun-paced heavy mini-game mode with some added progression and bosses. It feels like we’ve seen these types of modes before, but this is extremely refined and great for when you want a break from stars.

Online

This is the biggest disappointment. When they announced there would be online, we couldn’t have been more excited to get some Mario Party goodness cross-country and over the mic. However, in actuality, the only mode you can play online is Mariothon, which is arguably the most lackluster mode in the game. Here’s to hoping they’ll add online support for standard party mode, or anything else.

Overall, this is a good fun Mario Party with a lot to offer. It’s hands down the best entry in the series since Gamecube or N64. The mini-games are a blast and there’s a solid mix of motion controls, puzzles, and skill games. It takes full advantage of the Switches portability and allows for quick Mario Party goodness wherever you are. Super Mario Party is a must for your Switch catalog and your party (as long as your party is all in one place).

Have you been enjoying Super Mario Party? What’s your favorite mode? ♦

In many ways, Super Mario Party is as much a return to form for the series as it is a break in convention. This particular Mario Party is good, clean fun that we enjoyed despite some noticeable shortcomings. Most of the freshness comes into play with a variety of new modes that are firsts. Some modes follow traditional mini-game formats, while others have completely new and different styles (in the same vein of the pick-up and play essence of the series).

There are six modes: Mario Party, Partner Party, Soundstage, Mariothon, Toad’s Rec Room, and Challenge Road (with bonus sections: Sticker Collector and Decorator). Let’s dive into each:

Mario Party

Your standard board based Party, and good news: there’s no party bus! This mode takes us back to an all out, four-person free for all bloodbath. Stars are cheaper now (ringing in at only ten coins). Which makes the game surprisingly more frustrating.

The game boards are solid this time around. Despite there being only three to start (four in total). Though there’s nothin new to see here, the return to form is appreciated.

Partner Party

An interesting new team mode. It works similarly to the standard Party, except that two players work together to collect shared coins and try to buy stars on a streamlined board. This is a cool edition, and gives the standard formula a nice twist with more cooperative play both in mini-games and on the board.

The need for co-op and communication while on the board is one of the most interesting parts of this mode. Who knew how fun working together to collect coins and developing strategies to thwart your rivals plans would be?

Soundstage

Probably the most interesting new addition. In this mode, you and four friends play through a series of motion controlled rhythm challenges (similar to Rhythm Heaven). For having come out of nowhere, we really loved how smooth and fun it was to play. A much appreciated break from the standard mini-games.

Mariothon

A series of mini-games featuring some kind of measured progression (like racing or shooting). There is a circuit length and all members earn points based on how well they did individually. For example, one mini-game has players racing tricycles. You try to get to the finish line as fast as possible while a timer ticks next to your name. At the end of the race all players get some point compensation based on their personal score.

With the margins being so narrow, the competition is closer than ever. Another new and cool addition to the series. We only wish for more than 12 mini-games in the cycle.

Toads Rec Room

Play special mini-games while utilizing two Switch consoles. It does what it does well, but ultimately lacks content, making it feel a bit shallow. That being said, it is fun to move the Switch around physically in space and watch how the games can change while interacting with another console. This mode highlights how much interaction the Switch is capable of, and we hope to see this idea expanded upon in the future.

River Survival

Yet another fun, new addition. This four player co-op mode forces players to work together by rowing down the river in a raft and playing co-op mini-games. Make no mistake. You are supposed to work together. But, that is not how this mode goes.

It’s a bloodier fight then the standard Mario Party. There was more screaming, cursing, anger and threats in this mode than in any other version. Each player has equal pull over the raft and this mode has the nerve to split the track, guaranteeing absolute chaos. Not once will everyone be willing to work together. This is truly what Mario Party is all about.

Challenge Road

This one takes a while to unlock. However, when you do you’ll find a very fun-paced heavy mini-game mode with some added progression and bosses. It feels like we’ve seen these types of modes before, but this is extremely refined and great for when you want a break from stars.

Online

This is the biggest disappointment. When they announced there would be online, we couldn’t have been more excited to get some Mario Party goodness cross-country and over the mic. However, in actuality, the only mode you can play online is Mariothon, which is arguably the most lackluster mode in the game. Here’s to hoping they’ll add online support for standard party mode, or anything else.

Overall, this is a good fun Mario Party with a lot to offer. It’s hands down the best entry in the series since Gamecube or N64. The mini-games are a blast and there’s a solid mix of motion controls, puzzles, and skill games. It takes full advantage of the Switches portability and allows for quick Mario Party goodness wherever you are. Super Mario Party is a must for your Switch catalog and your party (as long as your party is all in one place).

Have you been enjoying Super Mario Party? What’s your favorite mode? ♦

4 Early Takeaways from Playing Kingdom Hearts 3

ast Saturday, New York City hosted it’s 12th annual Comic Con and not only were we able to attend but, after nearly thirteen years of waiting, I was lucky enough to get a quick 15 minute taste of Square-Enix’s upcoming much-anticipated action role-player: Kingdom Hearts 3. The demo features two worlds: Mount Olympus, which has you scaling the mountain to take on the Rock Titan, and the Toy Box, where Buzz and Woody need your help to find their friends. The game is set to release on January 25th of 2019, which sounds like an eternity for KH fans, but let me tell you: this is going to be worth the wait.

4. THIS GAME IS REALLY SMOOTH

Like, really smooth. The combat system is close to 0.2, which makes sense, but KH3 already feels much more fluid and versatile than that. Though I was initially unsure, the Keyblade swapping hotkeys have become my favorite new addition. Every Keyblade has several special combo and reaction skills. For example, I was able to use the Monsters Inc. Keyblade to gain robotic claws and channel my inner Wolverine before switching to the Tangled Keyblade, summoning Rapunzel’s tower and a ball of light. This Keyblade swap system should add a whole new layer of combo strategy where, if you’re a KH veteran like me, you can go ahead and add “creating fresh and unique play styles” to that long list of things to look forward to.

3. REACTIONS ARE BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER

Similar to Birth By Sleep and 0.2, there is a combo build-up system. There appear to be three types of combos that can be executed to create different reaction commands. The new implementation already has so many different outputs. There was a common reaction for Sora during the Rock Titan battle  called “Second Form” which changed the combo system and movement. Another reaction was the Keyblade’s special ability, and finally the attraction commands.

These commands were one of the most exciting parts of the game. They are designed so incredibly well and gave a nice break in between the standard combos. I was able to try Big Thunder Mountain, Mad Tea Cups, and the Pirate Ship, all of which were diverse yet equally inspired. However, it’s unclear on whether each one has a specific time or place they can be used in or if you’ll be able to call upon them at will. Veteran players should be familiar with this system, but it appears more refined than ever.

2. HEAVIER EMPHASIS ON PLATFORMING

There are plenty of new ways to traverse the world of KH3, from climbing walls to scaling mountains. Overall, this gave a newfound sense of freedom to controlling Sora, but I did find some unexpected rigidness in the Titan battle on Olympus. Climbing and transitioning from the ground to walls felt great, but turning left and right to dodge rocks was surprisingly sharp, sending Sora unnaturally straight in either direction. Overall, I still welcome this update and thought it suited the combat and game feel.

1. THE VISUALS

We have to talk about the visuals. They look amazing! Like every trailer and piece of gameplay we’ve seen, the worlds and environment are absolutely stunning with incredible attention to detail. Even something as small as switching Keyblades has polish. I really enjoyed how the Tangled Keyblade appeared with some light and flower petals, while gears materialized to load in the Monsters Inc. blade. Everything has a great sense of personality and I’m all for it.

I couldn’t have been happier with this demo. The kid in me, who waited through the KH2 delays and bought every subsequent game on launch, has only gotten more excited for KH3’s launch next January.

Who else has gotten to play the demo? What are your takeaways? Is there anything else you’d like to hear about? Let us know. ‘Til next. ♦

ast Saturday, New York City hosted it’s 12th annual Comic Con and not only were we able to attend but, after nearly thirteen years of waiting, I was lucky enough to get a quick 15 minute taste of Square-Enix’s upcoming much-anticipated action role-player: Kingdom Hearts 3. The demo features two worlds: Mount Olympus, which has you scaling the mountain to take on the Rock Titan, and the Toy Box, where Buzz and Woody need your help to find their friends. The game is set to release on January 25th of 2019, which sounds like an eternity for KH fans, but let me tell you: this is going to be worth the wait.

4. THIS GAME IS REALLY SMOOTH

Like, really smooth. The combat system is close to 0.2, which makes sense, but KH3 already feels much more fluid and versatile than that. Though I was initially unsure, the Keyblade swapping hotkeys have become my favorite new addition. Every Keyblade has several special combo and reaction skills. For example, I was able to use the Monsters Inc. Keyblade to gain robotic claws and channel my inner Wolverine before switching to the Tangled Keyblade, summoning Rapunzel’s tower and a ball of light. This Keyblade swap system should add a whole new layer of combo strategy where, if you’re a KH veteran like me, you can go ahead and add “creating fresh and unique play styles” to that long list of things to look forward to.

3. REACTIONS ARE BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER

Similar to Birth By Sleep and 0.2, there is a combo build-up system. There appear to be three types of combos that can be executed to create different reaction commands. The new implementation already has so many different outputs. There was a common reaction for Sora during the Rock Titan battle  called “Second Form” which changed the combo system and movement. Another reaction was the Keyblade’s special ability, and finally the attraction commands.

These commands were one of the most exciting parts of the game. They are designed so incredibly well and gave a nice break in between the standard combos. I was able to try Big Thunder Mountain, Mad Tea Cups, and the Pirate Ship, all of which were diverse yet equally inspired. However, it’s unclear on whether each one has a specific time or place they can be used in or if you’ll be able to call upon them at will. Veteran players should be familiar with this system, but it appears more refined than ever.

2. HEAVIER EMPHASIS ON PLATFORMING

There are plenty of new ways to traverse the world of KH3, from climbing walls to scaling mountains. Overall, this gave a newfound sense of freedom to controlling Sora, but I did find some unexpected rigidness in the Titan battle on Olympus. Climbing and transitioning from the ground to walls felt great, but turning left and right to dodge rocks was surprisingly sharp, sending Sora unnaturally straight in either direction. Overall, I still welcome this update and thought it suited the combat and game feel.

1. THE VISUALS

We have to talk about the visuals. They look amazing! Like every trailer and piece of gameplay we’ve seen, the worlds and environment are absolutely stunning with incredible attention to detail. Even something as small as switching Keyblades has polish. I really enjoyed how the Tangled Keyblade appeared with some light and flower petals, while gears materialized to load in the Monsters Inc. blade. Everything has a great sense of personality and I’m all for it.

I couldn’t have been happier with this demo. The kid in me, who waited through the KH2 delays and bought every subsequent game on launch, has only gotten more excited for KH3’s launch next January.

Who else has gotten to play the demo? What are your takeaways? Is there anything else you’d like to hear about? Let us know. ‘Til next. ♦

Name Everyone: A Reflection on People and Games

hat phrase may be my most common piece of advice when approaching games. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I don’t mean to be forceful or that it’s the correct way to go about any game. Still, oftentimes I find myself back at those words when I’m recommending my favorite experiences in this medium.

“Name everyone.”

Naming a cast of characters in a video game is probably trivial to a lot of people, but for every person I’ve met who doesn’t care about the naming screen, I think I’ve met an equal amount of folks who have spent upwards of an hour on it. This essay isn’t really meant to be a dissection of the mechanical or aesthetic properties of the naming screen, though. I’m writing this as more of a personal exercise and to reflect on and share my own gaming experiences, with one central question to act as my guide: Why “name everyone”?

I hope you’ll join me in reflection as you read or, at the very least, relax and enjoy the ramblings of a guy who loves games. Some spoilers ahead.

8e86271b-55b4-485e-828b-7ec0db89c585

EarthBound: Age 13

My parents were divorced before I started middle school. Going to stay with my dad in the city was enjoyable, but it did mean having a lot of free time alone; all my friends were in the suburbs and going out in the city alone wasn’t a smart idea. We lived in a loft that doubled as my dad’s house and office, though, which meant I had plenty of time to spend on open workspace computers goofing off on Newgrounds, Google Video, and, eventually, emulation sites (oops). I can’t recall exactly how I came upon it, but given my time trying my best to main Ness in Smash as a kid, I eventually found and downloaded EarthBound to play for the first time.

What surprised me most when I booted up the game for the first time was that Ness wasn’t any set character; beyond the bumping, low-fi beat and Mint flavored color palette I had chosen was a box that read “Please name him.” It’s not like I hadn’t named a character in a video game before, but I didn’t realize that this would be one of those kinds of games. I remember scrolling through all the character screens once before naming them, just to get a sense of who was who.

In my first playthrough, I felt as if I had casted the game with people I knew. The small town boy with the striped shirt and hat became a good friend of mine; the girl in the dress became my middle school crush; I gave my name to the kid with the glasses; another friend I knew from class became the foreign martial artist. The dog was my dog, my favorite food was wings (a pre-vegan favorite), and, of all things, my favorite thing was “Fight’n”—something I perhaps wished I was good at, given my scrawny body and goofy demeanor.

All of this is to say that, because of my outlook on the characters and game world, EarthBound became very personal to me. I took the ROM file back and forth between houses so I could play it at my mom’s whenever I could; despite the game’s admittedly primitive combat, frustratingly long segments and somewhat slow pacing, I couldn’t put it down. To me, EarthBound was, and still is, a game about a boy living with his mother and sibling, with their dad only reachable by phone, who grows up and discovers what makes him and his world special with the help of a small group of friends on a cross-country adventure to save the world (my apologies for the run-on). So much of this game was both what I lived, but also what I needed at that age. That made it mine.

Every time I’ve gone back to play the game, it has been hard to separate it from the way I initially imagined it, with the people I initially cast in the roles of each character along the way. EarthBound allowed me to be part of the adventure I had dreamed of with those I cared about and also helped me see the world more positively; in a weird post-divorce time, this game was a reminder that people are often more humorous, loving, and connective than they may appear to be, and that even a couple of kids can make a difference with enough support and kindness. That’s a lesson I need to keep in mind to this day.

One last note: Partway through the game, you break from your party in Threed to guide the boy with glasses to meet his father, Dr. Andonuts, for the first time in 10 years. When he gets there, the conversation is odd at first, but by the end of the game, the party will have gotten to interact with Dr. Andonuts enough to realize his brilliance and how he cares for his son. Playing this out with the boy in glasses being named “Mitch” on the weekends where I was getting to really know my own dad for the first time is up there with one of my most treasured moments in gaming.

In EarthBound, name everyone.

Nuzlocke: Age 18

This challenge is the closest I’ve came to the way Pokemon felt to play when I was six years old.

That probably sounds weird, given that the whole idea of a Nuzlocke revolves around your Pokemon essentially dying when they’re KO’d, making them unusable for the rest of the playthrough. Let me elaborate.

Pokemon Gold Version is what I consider to be the first game I ever “beat” as a kid (granted, I had a lot of help, but I digress). As a little kid coming off the first season of the anime, diving into Gold Version broke so many expectations for me; I quickly realized that Johto was not the world of the show I had watched, and that most of what I’d be finding in the wild would be completely unfamiliar. With my Totodile by my side (named ICE in all caps, of course), I set out on my first journey in gaming with all the untouched imagination and emotionality of a six-year-old. The giddiness of finding new creatures and the level to which I cared for all of them, silly names aside, was pure.

Fast forward to nowadays: I’ve played and failed at many Nuzlocke runs, including on Black, Diamond, and Red Version. Once again, for all the silliness of the names I’ve given to my Pokemon, I find myself remembering them more fondly because of the restored sense of discovery and value that this challenge gives these old games. It’s easy (and admittedly boring) for me to replay Red Version, grab Bulbasaur, catch a Butterfree in Viridian Forest, and wreck Brock for the fifth time; it’s an entirely different feeling to team up with “The Guy,” hope to find anything worthwhile on our way to Brock, get hyped when I do find a Caterpie (named Bumpadump), and feel like a tight knit team as we try to survive Brock. Furthermore, that’s why I always include “name everyone” as a rule for these runs: I haven’t ran Red Version in a couple years, and I still remember my team’s names. These are playthroughs to remember.

Man, I hope I survive Gold Version when I go back.

Darkest Dungeon: Age 21

Speaking of surviving, let’s get bleak.

There’s a very good argument for why you shouldn’t name anyone in Darkest Dungeon. I feel that content creators have already broke down the thematic implications of the unforgiving mechanics in this game quite thoroughly, and so I won’t be diving much into that area of discussion. I don’t even really plan to discuss much in the way of imagination with this example. Instead, I want to explore how the way I played Darkest Dungeon fundamentally changed once I imposed my own narrative on the game by naming every single character after people I’ve met.

There are many videos discussing the mechanics and ludonarrative of this game (check out Mark Brown or hbomberguy for some of my favorite explorations of these ideas), and there is a recurring focus on how Darkest Dungeon’s difficulty can force the player into the role of a cutthroat business manager; some of the best strategies available in the game rely on one’s willingness to exploit the expendability of characters in the game. For me, choosing to name everyone in my roster after friends and family led me to choosing strategies that, while not optimal, made the difficult risks and challenges of the game even more frightening.

During this run, the parties I decided to send out often relied just as much on how I knew the people in real life would interact in a team setting as they did on class synergy. Choices on whether to keep delving for treasure after completing the quest’s objective felt like an actual risk when I knew that doing so may jeopardize the life of someone I care about. Seeing new positive quirks that suited the person they were attached to was entertaining and seeing bad quirks service made me feel like I let them down somehow. The themes of the game’s mechanics—risk versus reward, life and death, and making the best of a bad situation—became cemented in my mind when those I love were at stake. Much like Pokemon Nuzlocke, greater personal attachment led to an alternative experience.

This choice, of course, led to some difficult moments. Few games have made me feel as torn as Darkest Dungeon has in its final battle, where, despite all the effort and turmoil I spent getting friends up to an appropriate power to take on the finale, two had to die by my own choice. In the end, no matter how many people you’ve saved or victories you’ve had, this game makes you remember how selfish you must be to see its terrible events to the end. It is one of the few experiences I’ve had in gaming where I’ve had to confront genuine helplessness in face of horribleness; we choose to voluntarily engage games like Darkest Dungeon, and in the moments that matter most, it strips us of our agency and makes us responsible for our choices. That’s easily up there in my most uncomfortable memories in gaming, especially when I had chosen loved ones as the avatars.

No matter how well you prepare, Darkest Dungeon sets you up to fail. And by naming everyone, it reminds you that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t be everyone’s hero.

Reflection

Why “name everyone?”

Stories are subjective: no matter their actual content, what we take away from them are the meanings that we have imposed on them. What makes gaming special is its interactivity as a medium, and through that interactivity we are able play out stories in completely different ways than other people. In analysis, we speak so often to the wider themes that games explore that it’s worth stepping a bit closer sometimes and considering what these experiences specifically meant to us. A game that explores friendship can come at a time when you need it most; a game from your childhood can have a renewed sense of importance in your adolescence; a game can communicate dark themes when the idealism of your high school days is falling away. In all these cases, the moment I experienced these games in were as important as the experience itself, and many games allow for the unique ability to insert the faces you see around you into them. I don’t intend to make some sweeping statement on how life and art imitate each other; I only wish to say I am grateful for the ability to have new ideas and appreciations for the people in my life because of a medium I care for so much.

Name everyone because games can be different for everyone. Name everyone because people are so often what make our lives’ moments special. Name everyone because loved ones are worth caring for, moving for, and fighting for. Or, name no one, and experience games how you choose to. That’s why they’re special.

Do you have any gaming moments that are special to you? What about the games you love made them so memorable? Let me know! ♦

“Name Everyone”: A Reflection on People and Games

That phrase may be my most common piece of advice when approaching games. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I don’t mean to be forceful or that it’s the correct way to go about any game. Still, oftentimes I find myself back at those words when I’m recommending my favorite experiences in this medium.

“Name everyone.”

Naming a cast of characters in a video game is probably trivial to a lot of people, but for every person I’ve met who doesn’t care about the naming screen, I think I’ve met an equal amount of folks who have spent upwards of an hour on it. This essay isn’t really meant to be a dissection of the mechanical or aesthetic properties of the naming screen, though. I’m writing this as more of a personal exercise and to reflect on and share my own gaming experiences, with one central question to act as my guide: Why “name everyone”?

 

I hope you’ll join me in reflection as you read or, at the very least, relax and enjoy the ramblings of a guy who loves games. Some spoilers ahead.

8e86271b-55b4-485e-828b-7ec0db89c585

EarthBound: Age 13

My parents were divorced before I started middle school. Going to stay with my dad in the city was enjoyable, but it did mean having a lot of free time alone; all my friends were in the suburbs and going out in the city alone wasn’t a smart idea. We lived in a loft that doubled as my dad’s house and office, though, which meant I had plenty of time to spend on open workspace computers goofing off on Newgrounds, Google Video, and, eventually, emulation sites (oops). I can’t recall exactly how I came upon it, but given my time trying my best to main Ness in Smash as a kid, I eventually found and downloaded EarthBound to play for the first time.

What surprised me most when I booted up the game for the first time was that Ness wasn’t any set character; beyond the bumping, low-fi beat and Mint flavored color palette I had chosen was a box that read “Please name him.” It’s not like I hadn’t named a character in a video game before, but I didn’t realize that this would be one of those kinds of games. I remember scrolling through all the character screens once before naming them, just to get a sense of who was who.

In my first playthrough, I felt as if I had casted the game with people I knew. The small town boy with the striped shirt and hat became a good friend of mine; the girl in the dress became my middle school crush; I gave my name to the kid with the glasses; another friend I knew from class became the foreign martial artist. The dog was my dog, my favorite food was wings (a pre-vegan favorite), and, of all things, my favorite thing was “Fight’n”—something I perhaps wished I was good at, given my scrawny body and goofy demeanor.

All of this is to say that, because of my outlook on the characters and game world, EarthBound became very personal to me. I took the ROM file back and forth between houses so I could play it at my mom’s whenever I could; despite the game’s admittedly primitive combat, frustratingly long segments and somewhat slow pacing, I couldn’t put it down. To me, EarthBound was, and still is, a game about a boy living with his mother and sibling, with their dad only reachable by phone, who grows up and discovers what makes him and his world special with the help of a small group of friends on a cross-country adventure to save the world (my apologies for the run-on). So much of this game was both what I lived, but also what I needed at that age. That made it mine.

Every time I’ve gone back to play the game, it has been hard to separate it from the way I initially imagined it, with the people I initially cast in the roles of each character along the way. EarthBound allowed me to be part of the adventure I had dreamed of with those I cared about and also helped me see the world more positively; in a weird post-divorce time, this game was a reminder that people are often more humorous, loving, and connective than they may appear to be, and that even a couple of kids can make a difference with enough support and kindness. That’s a lesson I need to keep in mind to this day.

One last note: Partway through the game, you break from your party in Threed to guide the boy with glasses to meet his father, Dr. Andonuts, for the first time in 10 years. When he gets there, the conversation is odd at first, but by the end of the game, the party will have gotten to interact with Dr. Andonuts enough to realize his brilliance and how he cares for his son. Playing this out with the boy in glasses being named “Mitch” on the weekends where I was getting to really know my own dad for the first time is up there with one of my most treasured moments in gaming.

 

In EarthBound, name everyone.

Nuzlocke: Age 18

This challenge is the closest I’ve came to the way Pokemon felt to play when I was six years old.

That probably sounds weird, given that the whole idea of a Nuzlocke revolves around your Pokemon essentially dying when they’re KO’d, making them unusable for the rest of the playthrough. Let me elaborate.

Pokemon Gold Version is what I consider to be the first game I ever “beat” as a kid (granted, I had a lot of help, but I digress). As a little kid coming off the first season of the anime, diving into Gold Version broke so many expectations for me; I quickly realized that Johto was not the world of the show I had watched, and that most of what I’d be finding in the wild would be completely unfamiliar. With my Totodile by my side (named ICE in all caps, of course), I set out on my first journey in gaming with all the untouched imagination and emotionality of a six-year-old. The giddiness of finding new creatures and the level to which I cared for all of them, silly names aside, was pure.

Fast forward to nowadays: I’ve played and failed at many Nuzlocke runs, including on Black, Diamond, and Red Version. Once again, for all the silliness of the names I’ve given to my Pokemon, I find myself remembering them more fondly because of the restored sense of discovery and value that this challenge gives these old games. It’s easy (and admittedly boring) for me to replay Red Version, grab Bulbasaur, catch a Butterfree in Viridian Forest, and wreck Brock for the fifth time; it’s an entirely different feeling to team up with “The Guy,” hope to find anything worthwhile on our way to Brock, get hyped when I do find a Caterpie (named Bumpadump), and feel like a tight knit team as we try to survive Brock. Furthermore, that’s why I always include “name everyone” as a rule for these runs: I haven’t ran Red Version in a couple years, and I still remember my team’s names. These are playthroughs to remember.

Man, I hope I survive Gold Version when I go back.

Darkest Dungeon: Age 21

Speaking of surviving, let’s get bleak.

There’s a very good argument for why you shouldn’t name anyone in Darkest Dungeon. I feel that content creators have already broke down the thematic implications of the unforgiving mechanics in this game quite thoroughly, and so I won’t be diving much into that area of discussion. I don’t even really plan to discuss much in the way of imagination with this example. Instead, I want to explore how the way I played Darkest Dungeon fundamentally changed once I imposed my own narrative on the game by naming every single character after people I’ve met.

There are many videos discussing the mechanics and ludonarrative of this game (check out Mark Brown or hbomberguy for some of my favorite explorations of these ideas), and there is a recurring focus on how Darkest Dungeon’s difficulty can force the player into the role of a cutthroat business manager; some of the best strategies available in the game rely on one’s willingness to exploit the expendability of characters in the game. For me, choosing to name everyone in my roster after friends and family led me to choosing strategies that, while not optimal, made the difficult risks and challenges of the game even more frightening.

During this run, the parties I decided to send out often relied just as much on how I knew the people in real life would interact in a team setting as they did on class synergy. Choices on whether to keep delving for treasure after completing the quest’s objective felt like an actual risk when I knew that doing so may jeopardize the life of someone I care about. Seeing new positive quirks that suited the person they were attached to was entertaining and seeing bad quirks service made me feel like I let them down somehow. The themes of the game’s mechanics—risk versus reward, life and death, and making the best of a bad situation—became cemented in my mind when those I love were at stake. Much like Pokemon Nuzlocke, greater personal attachment led to an alternative experience.

This choice, of course, led to some difficult moments. Few games have made me feel as torn as Darkest Dungeon has in its final battle, where, despite all the effort and turmoil I spent getting friends up to an appropriate power to take on the finale, two had to die by my own choice. In the end, no matter how many people you’ve saved or victories you’ve had, this game makes you remember how selfish you must be to see its terrible events to the end. It is one of the few experiences I’ve had in gaming where I’ve had to confront genuine helplessness in face of horribleness; we choose to voluntarily engage games like Darkest Dungeon, and in the moments that matter most, it strips us of our agency and makes us responsible for our choices. That’s easily up there in my most uncomfortable memories in gaming, especially when I had chosen loved ones as the avatars.

No matter how well you prepare, Darkest Dungeon sets you up to fail. And by naming everyone, it reminds you that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t be everyone’s hero.

Reflection

Why “name everyone?”

Stories are subjective: no matter their actual content, what we take away from them are the meanings that we have imposed on them. What makes gaming special is its interactivity as a medium, and through that interactivity we are able play out stories in completely different ways than other people. In analysis, we speak so often to the wider themes that games explore that it’s worth stepping a bit closer sometimes and considering what these experiences specifically meant to us. A game that explores friendship can come at a time when you need it most; a game from your childhood can have a renewed sense of importance in your adolescence; a game can communicate dark themes when the idealism of your high school days is falling away. In all these cases, the moment I experienced these games in were as important as the experience itself, and many games allow for the unique ability to insert the faces you see around you into them. I don’t intend to make some sweeping statement on how life and art imitate each other; I only wish to say I am grateful for the ability to have new ideas and appreciations for the people in my life because of a medium I care for so much.

Name everyone because games can be different for everyone. Name everyone because people are so often what make our lives’ moments special. Name everyone because loved ones are worth caring for, moving for, and fighting for. Or, name no one, and experience games how you choose to. That’s why they’re special.

Do you have any gaming moments that are special to you? What about the games you love made them so memorable? Let me know! ♦

Waluigi is Objectively the Worst Character in the Mario Universe

  • Sneering, sleep deprived eyes that hold despair in their depths.
  • Teeth clenched tight in a square jaw.
  • Pink, oversized nose that undoubtedly drips horrendous amounts of snot into a greasy, double pointed moustache.
  • Tall, spider like legs and arms that provides no strength or agility.
  • Probably sweating all the time.

oes this sound like the description of a character you want in anything? Let alone Mario, a gaming universe loved by generations of players (and many to come)? Of course not. But, it’s too late. This god forsaken character exists in the form of Waluigi.

Let’s dive in with Waluigi’s first appearance in Mario Tennis (2000) for N64. Waluigi was originally created in this game to be Luigi’s bitter rival and to give Wario a doubles partner. They could’ve picked from a plethora of original characters, but decided to make up this purple waste of space instead. Canonical Nintendo history tells us that Wario is Mario’s evil twin or alter ego. While it’s easy to assume that the writers and character creators would follow the alter ego archetype found in Mario and Wario, there is not one confirmation that he is, in fact, Luigi’s evil twin. I know right? Luckily, I have some theories:

The Wretch Theory

Mario and Wario felt bad for Luigi, feeling that he was left out of the spotlight, without having an evil twin. So, Mario and Wario had a rare team up, made an internet ad and found some loser who was willing to show up as a random plumber’s bitter rival/alter ego. Waluigi is that loser.

The Superfan Theory

Waluigi is obsessed with Wario, idolizing him and fueling his own hate for the Mario brothers. Wario regarded him as an annoying fan until finding himself partnerless for doubles tennis. He knew Waluigi would jump at the opportunity, but never realized he would take his new role so seriously (and permanently).

The Creep Theory

Waluigi is just some creep who showed up to play tennis and everyone else in the Mario universe is too nice to tell him no.

Each of these possible theories points to Waluigi being some kind of pathetic worm. But, regardless of this terrible introduction into the franchise, Waluigi is still a villain, right? Wrong. Waluigi is, at best, a failed villain. He’s served as the main antagonist for only one Mario game: Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix. “What dance related evil plan could possibly exist in this character’s mind?”, you ask. Obviously, he wants to collect items that allow him to hypnotize the world with his dancing.

The sheer evil of it.

The pure genius.

The unmatched overall creepiness of this plan.

You have to wonder: “How can one idiot still be so insanely popular?”. It wouldn’t be the first case of undeserved fame. Yet, as much loathing I hold for this disgrace of a character, part of me almost respects him for just how terrible he is. Voice actor Charles Martinet describes Waluigi as:

…a character who came from nothing and thinks the entire world is against him.

Could this slight, yet endearing, trait be what saves him from total deletion? Or maybe it’s the pure satisfaction you get from beating someone as Waluigi. All I know is that no one, absolutely no one, wants to lose to Waluigi. He’s the worst. 

  • Sneering, sleep deprived eyes that hold despair in their depths.

  • Teeth clenched tight in a square jaw.

  • Pink, oversized nose that undoubtedly drips horrendous amounts of snot into a greasy, double pointed moustache.

  • Tall, spider like legs and arms that provides no strength or agility.

  • Probably sweating all the time.

Does this sound like the description of a character you want in anything? Let alone Mario, a gaming universe loved by generations of players (and many to come)? Of course not. But, it’s too late. This god forsaken character exists in the form of Waluigi.

Let’s dive in with Waluigi’s first appearance in Mario Tennis (2000) for N64. Waluigi was originally created in this game to be Luigi’s bitter rival and to give Wario a doubles partner. They could’ve picked from a plethora of original characters, but decided to make up this purple waste of space instead. Canonical Nintendo history tells us that Wario is Mario’s evil twin or alter ego. While it’s easy to assume that the writers and character creators would follow the alter ego archetype found in Mario and Wario, there is not one confirmation that he is, in fact, Luigi’s evil twin. I know right? Luckily, I have some theories:

The Wretch Theory

Mario and Wario felt bad for Luigi, feeling that he was left out of the spotlight, without having an evil twin. So, Mario and Wario had a rare team up, made an internet ad and found some loser who was willing to show up as a random plumber’s bitter rival/alter ego. Waluigi is that loser.

The Superfan Theory

Waluigi is obsessed with Wario, idolizing him and fueling his own hate for the Mario brothers. Wario regarded him as an annoying fan until finding himself partnerless for doubles tennis. He knew Waluigi would jump at the opportunity, but never realized he would take his new role so seriously (and permanently).

The Creep Theory

Waluigi is just some creep who showed up to play tennis and everyone else in the Mario universe is too nice to tell him no.

Each of these possible theories points to Waluigi being some kind of pathetic worm. But, regardless of this terrible introduction into the franchise, Waluigi is still a villain, right? Wrong. Waluigi is, at best, a failed villain. He’s served as the main antagonist for only one Mario game: Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix. “What dance related evil plan could possibly exist in this character’s mind?”, you ask. Obviously, he wants to collect items that allow him to hypnotize the world with his dancing.

The sheer evil of it.

The pure genius.

The unmatched overall creepiness of this plan.

You have to wonder: “How can one idiot still be so insanely popular?”. It wouldn’t be the first case of undeserved fame. Yet, as much loathing I hold for this disgrace of a character, part of me almost respects him for just how terrible he is. Voice actor Charles Martinet describes Waluigi as:

…a character who came from nothing and thinks the entire world is against him.

 

Could this slight, yet endearing, trait be what saves him from total deletion? Or maybe it’s the pure satisfaction you get from beating someone as Waluigi. All I know is that no one, absolutely no one, wants to lose to Waluigi. He’s the worst. ♦

  • Sneering, sleep deprived eyes that hold despair in their depths.

  • Teeth clenched tight in a square jaw.

  • Pink, oversized nose that undoubtedly drips horrendous amounts of snot into a greasy, double pointed moustache.

  • Tall, spider like legs and arms that provides no strength or agility.

  • Probably sweating all the time.

Does this sound like the description of a character you want in anything? Let alone Mario, a gaming universe loved by generations of players (and many to come)? Of course not. But, it’s too late. This god forsaken character exists in the form of Waluigi.

Let’s dive in with Waluigi’s first appearance in Mario Tennis (2000) for N64. Waluigi was originally created in this game to be Luigi’s bitter rival and to give Wario a doubles partner. They could’ve picked from a plethora of original characters, but decided to make up this purple waste of space instead. Canonical Nintendo history tells us that Wario is Mario’s evil twin or alter ego. While it’s easy to assume that the writers and character creators would follow the alter ego archetype found in Mario and Wario, there is not one confirmation that he is, in fact, Luigi’s evil twin. I know right? Luckily, I have some theories:

 

The Wretch Theory

Mario and Wario felt bad for Luigi, feeling that he was left out of the spotlight, without having an evil twin. So, Mario and Wario had a rare team up, made an internet ad and found some loser who was willing to show up as a random plumber’s bitter rival/alter ego. Waluigi is that loser.

 

The Superfan Theory

Waluigi is obsessed with Wario, idolizing him and fueling his own hate for the Mario brothers. Wario regarded him as an annoying fan until finding himself partnerless for doubles tennis. He knew Waluigi would jump at the opportunity, but never realized he would take his new role so seriously (and permanently).

 

The Creep Theory

Waluigi is just some creep who showed up to play tennis and everyone else in the Mario universe is too nice to tell him no.

 

Each of these possible theories points to Waluigi being some kind of pathetic worm. But, regardless of this terrible introduction into the franchise, Waluigi is still a villain, right? Wrong. Waluigi is, at best, a failed villain. He’s served as the main antagonist for only one Mario game: Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix. “What dance related evil plan could possibly exist in this character’s mind?”, you ask. Obviously, he wants to collect items that allow him to hypnotize the world with his dancing.

The sheer evil of it.

The pure genius.

The unmatched overall creepiness of this plan.

You have to wonder: “How can one idiot still be so insanely popular?”. It wouldn’t be the first case of undeserved fame. Yet, as much loathing I hold for this disgrace of a character, part of me almost respects him for just how terrible he is. Voice actor Charles Martinet describes Waluigi as:

…a character who came from nothing and thinks the entire world is against him.

Could this slight, yet endearing, trait be what saves him from total deletion? Or maybe it’s the pure satisfaction you get from beating someone as Waluigi. All I know is that no one, absolutely no one, wants to lose to Waluigi. He’s the worst. ♦

NBA JAM ‘18-’19: A Hypothetical Tiering

his year marks the 25th anniversary of NBA JAM’s arcade release. I’m a massive NBA 2K supporter and would never deny my fondness for NBA Street, but there will always be a special place in my hippocampus for this ridiculously over the moon brand of 2-on-2 basketball. There hasn’t been a release in over 7 years, but word on the street is that a remake is in the works. In an attempt to soothe my raging enthusiasm, I went and ranked my hypothetical roster projections for this upcoming season. Hope I don’t jinx it. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: There is no science to these rankings. Talent is important, but the true metric is fun.

 

Tier 8: “REJECTED!”
Zero to little interest.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
STARTERS: Marc Gasol & Mike Conley
ALT: Jaren Jackson Jr.

In a game called NBA JAM, it’s never great when your best players don’t dunk! There’s not enough juice for me to want to give them a run, but maybe Jackson Jr. can give them a little somethin’ somethin’?

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
STARTERS: Lou Williams & Tobias Harris
ALT: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Dearest Clippers, my mama once taught me: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So…moving on.

BROOKLYN NETS
STARTERS: D’Angelo Russell & Jarrett Allen
ALT: Spencer Dinwiddie

The Nets are about as interesting in this game as they are irl. If you’re one of the 6 actual Brooklyn fans, your cap sitch should get you excited for NBA JAM 2020.

 

Tier 7: “CAN’T BUY A BUCKET!”
When you want a challenge.

DETROIT PISTONS
STARTERS: Blake Griffin & Andre Drummond
ALT: Reggie Jackson

Peak Blake and all-star Drummond would’ve been a great JAM pair 5 years ago, but Blake’s high flying days are behind him. Andre has enough skill to intrigue. I guess I don’t hate them.

SACRAMENTO KINGS
STARTERS: De’Aaron Fox & Marvin Bagley III
ALT: Buddy Hield

They don’t have much talent, but they are young. Which I guess is better than being old and talentless. I want to see these guys succeed, so this is my go-to-team for trolling.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
STARTERS: Kevin Love & Collin Sexton
ALT: Larry Nance Jr.

Just 2 Year’s removed from LeBron and Kyrie, the Cavs are left with…you know…stuff. I had a difficult time leaving JR off the squad, until I realized I didn’t care.

 

Tier 6: “FROM DOWNTOWN!”
Genuine excitement, but not to be taken seriously.

NEW YORK KNICKS
STARTERS: Kristaps Porzingis & Kevin Knox
ALT: Tim Hardaway Jr.

As a die hard Knick fan, I’m happy to see the Unicorn flourishing. He’s got all the tools in his new unbreakable body. Both Knox and THJ are capable of providing enough complimentary scoring to succeed.

CHICAGO BULLS
STARTERS: Lauri Markkanen & Jabari Parker
ALT: Zach Lavine

Immortality means a fresh pair of new ACLs for Jabari! They’ll most likely max out Lavine’s dunk rating. I wonder if he could takeoff from 3? Don’t sleep on Markkanen. He’s for real.

PHOENIX SUNS
STARTERS: Devin Booker & DeAndre Ayton
ALT: Josh Jackson

The young Suns have a bright future. Devin is a blue chipper that can score from anywhere. Ayton has the tools to dominate down low and Jackson has…cool hair.
Update: Jackson no longer has cool hair.

ORLANDO MAGIC
STARTERS: Aaron Gordon & Jonathan Isaac
ALT: Mo Bamba

This lineup makes absolutely no sense irl, but this isn’t rl, and they have enough length and bounce for Barnum and Bailey (You the REAL greatest show Orlando).

DALLAS MAVERICKS
STARTERS: Luka Doncic & Dennis Smith Jr.
ALT: DeAndre Jordan

DeAndre’s defense should make up for the children’s lack thereof and I decided to bench Barnes because, tbh, I just want to see the kids play.

ATLANTA HAWKS
STARTERS: John Collins & Trae Young
ALT: Taurean Prince

Collins has top flight bunnies and Trae has streaky range. The Hawks have just enough talent to be a fun sleeper in whatever scenario they could be considered a sleeper (which is…most.).

 

Tier 5: “IS IT THE SHOES?”
Time to take things seriously.

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
STARTERS: Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum
ALT: Jusuf Nurkic

Portland sports one of the league’s best scoring backcourts in CJ and Dame, inducing flashbacks to the old Porter/Drexler team.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
STARTERS: DeMar DeRozan & LaMarcus Aldridge
ALT: Lonnie Walker IV

San Antonio’s legendary big 3 era is officially over. Well, 4, if you count the Kawhi trade. But, don’t sleep on the Spurs. Consider the chip on DeMar’s shoulder a multiplier.

MIAMI HEAT
STARTERS: Goran Dragic & Hassan Whiteside
ALT: Edrice Adebayo

The Dragon is their multi-award winning all-star and, in a game sans fouls or goaltending, Miami’s big men have the freedom to protect the paint recklessly.

DENVER NUGGETS
STARTERS: Nikola Jokic & Jamal Murray
ALT: Gary Harris

Joker might be the best passing big man in the league. You expect more defense at his size, but he makes his teammates better. The young guards are ready to make a leap.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS
STARTERS: Kemba Walker & Nicolas Batum
ALT: Malik Monk

Sorry Kaminsky, Lamb and MKG, but I’d rather have Kemba run the break with Frenchie and young Monk.

 

Tier 4: “RAZZLE DAZZLE!”
Difficulty level: Difficult.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
STARTERS: John Wall & Bradley Beal
ALT: Otto Porter Jr.

The combination of Wall’s speed and Beal’s shooting keeps DC competitive. I decided to go with Porter’s defense and versatility over Oubre’s scoring. Dwight could be fun on here too?

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
STARTERS: Jimmy Butler & Karl-Anthony Towns
ALT: Andrew Wiggins

Another fun group that feels better suited for NBA JAM rules. Love the athleticism, but I question the toughness from Towns and Wiggins. ‘Bows will be thrown. Can they handle it?

TORONTO RAPTORS
STARTERS: Kawhi Leonard & Kyle Lowry
ALT: Jonas Valanciunas

Kawhi’s defense will be a nice upgrade over Derozan’s. But the Raptors strength is in their depth. Something they won’t be able to utilize in this game.

UTAH JAZZ
STARTERS: Donovan Mitchell & Rudy Gobert
ALT: Ricky Rubio

Spida was the true ROY imo. Pairing him with the reigning DPOY, aka The Stifle Tower, should prove formidable. Mitchell will have to carry the scoring load.

INDIANA PACERS
STARTERS: Victor Oladipo & Myles Turner
ALT: Tyreke Evans

Victor had a breakout season last year earning his first all-star nod. He’s probably the only guy in the game who could execute NBA JAM dunks irl.

 

Tier 3: “HE’S HEATING UP!”
Clear out and let him work.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
STARTERS: LeBron James & Brandon Ingram
ALT: Lonzo Ball

Showtime is back baby! King James is the NBA JAM G.O.A.T. (Since Jordan never made it into the game). His perfection will carry them to the brink, despite young Brandon and Ball’s inconsistency.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
STARTERS: James Harden & Clint Capela
ALT: Chris Paul

Cliff’s brother’s best days are behind him. But, a double alley oop between the reigning MVP and one of the leagues premiere big men would be nearly unstoppable.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
STARTERS: Giannis Antetokounmpo & Kris Middleton
ALT: Eric Bledsoe

Give the Greek the rock and let the freakishness ensue. Middleton can stroke it and if they could just get a little more consistency from Bledsoe the deer would truly be something to fear.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
STARTERS: Anthony Davis & Jrue Holiday
ALT: Julius Randle

If you’re running 2’s and need a teammate, you won’t do much better than The Brow. He’s poised for a legit MVP push, but he’s gonna need help. Can Jrue and Julius provide enough?

 

Tier 2: “HE’S ON FIRE!”
Unlimited turbo activated.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
STARTERS: Russell Westbrook & Paul George
ALT: Steven Adams

I know. Seems like a reach. But, without the burden of multiple teammates, NBA JAM Brodie is essentially Legendary Super Saiyan Brodie. Which makes PG13 Krillin? Adams is Hercule, obviously.

BOSTON CELTICS
STARTERS: Kyrie Irving & Jayson Tatum
ALT: Gordon Hayward

The Celts are loaded (when healthy). Good thing injuries aren’t a factor in this game. Uncle Drew and the gang can score at will, but their lack of rim defense could hold them back.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
STARTERS: Kevin Durant & Steph Curry
ALT: Draymond Green

This is the greatest NBA JAM team of all time. Forget about Durant and Curry both catching fire. Picture Draymond in a world where nut punching is legal! There’s just no denying it: this team is a cheat code. But, cheating is cheap and that’s no fun.

 

Tier 1: “BOOMSHAKALAKA!”
Big head mode.

PHILADELPHIA 76ers
STARTERS: Ben Simmons & Joel Embiid
ALT: Markelle Fultz

The LJ/Zo/Mugsy Hornies were the most fun team to play with growing up. Philly’s titular trio brings comparable talent and excitement. But, imagine if Fultz’ yips magically disappear. What if Joel’s injury concerns go away? Ben’s lack of outside shooting won’t matter as much in a game where you can takeoff from the arch.

This team embodies everything that makes NBA JAM so sensational. We want to see these players push defy the boundaries of human capability. Nerf the limitations. Nerf the rules. To a lot of fans these guys are heroes. In this game, they’re super. ♦

Things to Consider Before Dressing Up for New York Comic Con

ay one of your lengthy pilgrimage to New York Comic Con can be especially isolating (more so than driving in). If you start on a train in Jersey as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, your Leonardo will be sitting next to regular-person Bill on his way to the office. Regular-person Bill neither understands you, nor realizes how cool you look. Regular-person Sharon will be whispering to regular-person Becky about the weirdo “alien” three rows up. If you’re a female dressed up as Poison Ivy, regular-person Bill transforms into creepy Bill. Regular-person Sharon transforms into judgy Sharon whispering to eye-roll Becky.

Once you get into the city, you have about a mile to walk to the Jacob Javits Center. If you’re wearing a cape, you better hope it’s not windy. Your cape will turn into a murderous sentient being determined to blindfold you as you cross the street. If you’re wearing makeup, you better hope it’s not raining. If you’re wearing a mask, there’s no hope for you. Your mask will smell like your mouth no matter what you do because you’re walking a mile…with a freaking mask on. Are you wearing clothes? Any type of clothes? You better hope it’s not sunny, hot, or humid. You’ll be sweating and smelling like the post apocalyptic version of yourself. Are you showing a lot of skin? You better hope it’s not cold. The cold flatters no one.

Once you arrive, you’ll get a free bag where you can put all your free swag. This bag is massive. You can fit several bottles of wine in it. You can also fit Tyrion Lannister in the bag to help you drink all the wine. No cosplay works with a gigantic bag that has some random pop culture reference printed on it. No one remembers that episode of He-Man where he holds the giant shoulder bag. No one remembers it because it doesn’t exist. Optimus never fought Megatron while holding a giant Rainbow Dash shopping bag. It never happened.

You can’t hold or carry anything else either. How many pockets does Superman have? Flash? Wonder Woman? Harley Quinn? Psylocke? Jean Grey? Wolverine? Spider-Man? All…none. Your only hope of carrying your phone, wallet, keys, and touch-up paint is going as the 90’s version (when all character costumes were remixed to have one thousand pockets and pouches).

Do you want to crush a child’s image of his or her favorite character? Let that kid see you dressed-up while eating a hotdog or chicken and rice. You hit the gym for months so your version of Bane has dope arms and looks tight. Awesome! Post lunch, Bane’s gut is full of chicken fingers and has ketchup all over his mask. Not that intimidating. You’ve spent every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning in yoga class so you can do Chun-Li justice. Little Johnnie takes a picture with your Chun-Li. Your Chun-Li has mustard splatter on her face and stockings. Dream shattered. Little Johnnie gives up video games and becomes a doctor or something.

Dressing up does come with an added bonus. You automatically have three versions of your costume. There are multiple powered-up versions of Saiyans: Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan 2, 3, etc. All the way up to god and beyond. As the day goes on, you will do the opposite and you will depower. You and your buddy start your morning off as Super Mario & Luigi. You’ll love taking pictures of fellow cosplayers and you’ll love having your picture taken. You’ll be running around and jumping with one arm in the air, pretending to stomp on goombas. It’ll be a blast. Around lunchtime, you’ll turn into Cranky Mario & Luigi. Cranky Mario & Luigi no longer run anywhere. They hesitate to have their picture taken and only take pictures of the best cosplayers. Around 4:00 PM, everyone starts to gradually transform and, eventually, a costume theme will have developed. It’s like a virus spreading throughout the entire venue. You slowly turn into Sitting-in-a-hallway Mario & Luigi. You’ll be flanked by Sitting-in-a-hallway Han Solo & Chewbacca while Sitting-in-a-hallway Lion-O & Cheetara are napping across from you.

You know who won’t be sitting anywhere near you? Regular-person Bill, judgy Sharon and eye-roll Becky (Eye-roll Becky is the worst). While you’ll be making memories, creepy Bill will be making copies. Judgy Sharon will be ordering the same tuna melt she orders every Friday.  While you’re out contributing to the New York Comic Con atmosphere, eye-roll Becky is sitting in a meeting she’ll never think about for the rest of her life.

Sure, dressing up for New York Comic Con can be a little inconvenient and there are some minor things to think about. But dressing up for Comic Con is a lot of fun. Dressing up for Comic Con gives you an experience most people will never know. Dressing up for Comic Con makes you a part of Comic Con. Roll your eyes at that, Becky. ♦

Kingdom Hearts VR: “Magical” Series Moments Every Fan Needs

I love Kingdom Hearts. I love this series so much that Critical Mode is my default. I love it so much that I’ve bought jewel packs in KHUx. I love Kingdom Hearts so much that I could explain the plot to you before you could make another joke about it not making sense. So when I heard that Kingdom Hearts VR was happening, I wanted to rip my red shorts off and do a Trinity dance. Having played these games so many times, though, I couldn’t help but wonder what I could possibly do in a big doofy headset that I hadn’t had my fill of on a Dualshock. So I had to dig real deep. This is what I could come up with.

1. Have Donald not heal me.

This was an obvious choice. For once in my life, I want to actually see Donald’s Thundaga happen rather than hear him scream off screen as his MP drains with my hopeless HP.

2. Swim like an idiot (and sing about it!) in Atlantica

Who didn’t love running into walls and getting thrown around in all directions in KH1? Who didn’t ADORE the unwavering cringe of having all the game’s action stop to have a sing-a-long in KH2? I can’t wait to reevaluate my life choices in this world in VR.

3. Watch Goofy Die up close.

Part of the appeal of this franchise for me is how it can take me back to feeling like a kid again, which is why I’m really looking forward to watching one of my favorite Disney characters suffer a concussion so severe that it pushes Mickey and Donald over the edge into a depressed rage that results in dozens of Nobodies crushed in their wake. Oh yeah, and then Goofy doesn’t die.

4. Work summer jobs for days in Twilight Town

The best part of playing KH2, clearly, was when I popped it in my PS2 after weeks of saving my allowance and waiting in anticipation to push a cart up a hill with Roxas. I have to do that again, especially now that I have a full time job and all.

5. See my Faction to Vulpes on the Lux Leaderboards again

Having Unicornis come in second place on my phone screen is one thing. Having it blown up on an iPad is another. But man, if I don’t get to see the two factions twitch back and forth on the leaderboards before Vulpes inevitably takes the lead with double my faction’s Lux, can we even call it KH VR?

6. Stare into Johnny Depp’s weird, static eyes in Port Royal

Again, simpler times are what keeps us moving forward, and nowhere is that embodied more than in Kingdom Hearts. This is exactly why I want to go back to when I wasn’t aware of how terrible Johnny Depp is so that I can look at Jack

Sparrow’s sullen, unmoving eyes in 480p.

7. Get swarmed by bees in Twilight Town

I really thought about putting Pooh’s mini games on this list somewhere, but all I could think of was how much I wanted to bust my bumbles in Twilight Town. We all know that the best part of any game in the series was this swarm of bees, so it had to make the list.

Are there moments you would love to see in KH VR? Let me know! And remember, there’s no wAY YOU’RE TAKING KAIRI’S HEART. ♦

I love Kingdom Hearts. I love this series so much that Critical Mode is my default. I love it so much that I’ve bought jewel packs in KHUx. I love Kingdom Hearts so much that I could explain the plot to you before you could make another joke about it not making sense. So when I heard that Kingdom Hearts VR was happening, I wanted to rip my red shorts off and do a Trinity dance. Having played these games so many times, though, I couldn’t help but wonder what I could possibly do in a big doofy headset that I hadn’t had my fill of on a Dualshock. So I had to dig real deep. This is what I could come up with.

1. Have Donald not heal me.

This was an obvious choice. For once in my life, I want to actually see Donald’s Thundaga happen rather than hear him scream off screen as his MP drains with my hopeless HP.

2. Swim like an idiot (and sing about it!) in Atlantica

Who didn’t love running into walls and getting thrown around in all directions in KH1? Who didn’t ADORE the unwavering cringe of having all the game’s action stop to have a sing-a-long in KH2? I can’t wait to reevaluate my life choices in this world in VR.

3. Watch Goofy Die up close.

Part of the appeal of this franchise for me is how it can take me back to feeling like a kid again, which is why I’m really looking forward to watching one of my favorite Disney characters suffer a concussion so severe that it pushes Mickey and Donald over the edge into a depressed rage that results in dozens of Nobodies crushed in their wake. Oh yeah, and then Goofy doesn’t die.

4. Work summer jobs for days in Twilight Town

The best part of playing KH2, clearly, was when I popped it in my PS2 after weeks of saving my allowance and waiting in anticipation to push a cart up a hill with Roxas. I have to do that again, especially now that I have a full time job and all.

5. See my Faction to Vulpes on the Lux Leaderboards again

Having Unicornis come in second place on my phone screen is one thing. Having it blown up on an iPad is another. But man, if I don’t get to see the two factions twitch back and forth on the leaderboards before Vulpes inevitably takes the lead with double my faction’s Lux, can we even call it KH VR?

6. Stare into Johnny Depp’s weird, static eyes in Port Royal

Again, simpler times are what keeps us moving forward, and nowhere is that embodied more than in Kingdom Hearts. This is exactly why I want to go back to when I wasn’t aware of how terrible Johnny Depp is so that I can look at Jack

Sparrow’s sullen, unmoving eyes in 480p.

7. Get swarmed by bees in Twilight Town

I really thought about putting Pooh’s mini games on this list somewhere, but all I could think of was how much I wanted to bust my bumbles in Twilight Town. We all know that the best part of any game in the series was this swarm of bees, so it had to make the list.

Are there moments you would love to see in KH VR? Let me know! And remember, there’s no wAY YOU’RE TAKING KAIRI’S HEART.