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Metroid: Samus Returns Review

Metroid: Samus Returns Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review by Nintendo.

It surprises how in one year a franchise can go from having an uncertain future to a ray of hope. Last year, Nintendo released Metroid Prime: Federation Force to commemorate the franchise’s 30th anniversary. It bombed, bringing with it a cloud of uncertainty and worry that Metroid won’t have much of a future. That changed in E3 2017 when Nintendo announced not only a sequel to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption but also a reimagining of an old classic. Metroid: Samus Returns is a retelling of Metroid II, released for the Game Boy in 1991. Did Nintendo learn their lesson from Federation Force and delivered something that would bring the franchise from the brink of death?

Since Samus Returns is a retelling of Metroid II, the story follows exactly as the original. Chronologically, it is set after the events of Zero Mission, the Metroid Prime series, and Federation Force. In the year 20X5 of the Cosmic Calendar, the Galactic Federation dispatches a squad of elite soldiers to investigate SR388 only for them to disappear. Upon receiving info, the Federation realizes that the Metroids would continue to pose a threat to all life in the galaxy. By unanimous decision, they contact Samus Aran with one simple objective: Travel to SR388 and exterminate the Metroids once and for all.

Unlike the original Metroid II, the game delivers the plot in style. There’s impressive artwork that details the events, setting up the game with great music to back it up. I’m happy this game provides something that sets things up. But once the game begins, the story takes a backseat until later on but it won’t stop anyone from enjoying this experience.

Metroid: Samus Returns is just like the original but the gameplay has been streamlined, following later entries in the series like Super Metroid, the Prime series, and Metroid Fusion. If you’ve played any of the games then you will feel right at home. They feel familiar, refined and just so satisfying. Samus still has access to most of her skills & abilities but there are a few new ones that give her some needed leverage. You can shoot in all eight directions but you can also go into a precise aim with the L button. Useful if players wish to use precision to shoot down enemies. In addition, there’s the Melee Counter. Many enemies will rush in to deal damage to you but with the Melee Counter, you can parry the rush and follow up with a damaging blast. It’s especially useful in fights against Metroids, as they lead to a cool cinematic where Samus goes in and deliver multiple missiles at them. I find it to be extremely useful, helping the flow of the battle and at times can turn it to your favor. However, expect to use it a lot. This game is a challenging one. Samus also gets access to Aeion, an energy source that adds additional abilities to her Power Suit, such as the Scan Pulse and Lightning Armor. They do take up energy but the unique skills offer Samus various functions to help with her exploration.

I mentioned that Metroid: Samus Returns is challenging and it’s no exception. The game will put your skills to the test as you travel through eight different areas within SR388’s confines and wipe out the Metroids. Like in the original, there are Metroids and they can evolve becoming more dangerous with powerful attacks, forcing you to plan and strategize to ensure survival. Metroids are also needed in order for the player to advance further down. New to the game is a Chozo gate that shows how many Metroids that need to be eliminated before you can progress. If you played the original, you get the idea. However, unlike the original, the remake also adds a few challenging bosses. This helps add a bit of variety and it’s better than going from one area to another taking down Metroids. Samus Returns can take around 6-10 hours, depending if the player wishes to collect all the items and upgrades. Yes. It isn’t Metroid without collecting and the game has plenty. The map thankfully details where the item can be but finding it will require skill from the player. Save points are aplenty along with recharge stations for health and weapons. Elevators are used for Samus to head up or down and if that isn’t enough, there are also warp stations. Warp Stations are useful to travel to an area real fast. Load times are minimal and acceptable at best, around 8-10 seconds.

As far as the presentation, the graphics are a big improvement compared to Federation Force. Being able to play as Samus is satisfying and she controls real well. The locations, characters, enemies and bosses are really detailed and expressive. Music in the game is amazing. Some of the songs are remixes from previous Metroid games but it doesn’t matter. They are just awesome to listen to. There isn’t much in terms of negatives but I feel the game is real challenging. In fact, Samus Returns is harder than the original Metroid II but it’s a good kind of challenging. It shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the game. Metroid: Samus Returns is awesome and I am happy that the series has a chance to shine once more. The game is also compatible with Amiibo. Scanning either the Smash versions of Samus or Zero Suit Samus can net some added firepower but scanning either of the new Amiibo will unlock some additional content after completing the game such as concept art and a harder difficulty mode. I am bummed that a harder difficulty mode is locked behind a figurine but I wish that Nintendo would give those that can’t get the Amiibo an option to unlock it without having to waste money for it. Replay value is very high if you want to complete it 100% with the fastest time, just like in every Metroid game.

What else is to say regarding Samus Returns? For a remake, it is a big step up from the original, offering a challenge while providing new features that add to the experience. It follows the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to a T. It delivers in so many ways and personally, it seems that Nintendo got the message and realized they dropped the ball. Federation Force nearly brought the Metroid franchise into uncertain doubt with many say that there’s no hope. Nintendo proved them wrong and delivered a game that is awesome on all fronts. Samus Returns is an immediate recommendation and I hope Nintendo sees the demand for more Metroid. If you haven’t gotten this game, do so now! You will not regret it.

I give Metroid: Samus Returns my highest rating ever… 10 out of 10. It earns my Seal of Approval and this game is a DEFINITIVE MUST BUY!

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Hey! Pikmin Review

Hey! Pikmin Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review by Nintendo

Nintendo has a knack for providing franchises the exposure they need and they do so via consoles and handhelds. Sometimes they work and other times can lead to a franchise dying out. The results vary but when it was announced that a new Pikmin game would be coming to the Nintendo 3DS, people were curious. Pikmin has had a few successes with its three main games with a strong reception, but the idea of a spin-off game seemed questionable. Eventually Hey! Pikmin would arrive but the big question is this: Does this spin off game hold its own compared to its main series? Or will this be another case of a franchise that ended due to an unexpected flop?

The story centers on Capt. Olimar, who is returning back after completing another assignment. During his trip, his ship gets struck by an asteroid and ends up crashing on an unknown planet. He learns that in order to fix his ship and get back home, he needs to seek out an energy source called Sparklium. But he won’t do it alone. The planet that he crashed in is home to Pikmin, little plant-like creatures that Olimar can use to complete his mission. With these helpers, Olimar heads off to find what he needs to fix his ship and head home.

It’s a simple story, traditional since it’s almost the same in every Pikmin game. Sure the previous games add a little bit here and there but in Hey! Pikmin, the plot is bare bones. Sadly it also takes a backseat in favor of the game and it doesn’t be any relevant until at least you collect 30,000 Sparklium. But for a Pikmin game, what can you do?

Now since this is a Pikmin game, your job is to find Pikmin and use them to solve puzzles, defeat enemies and find treasures. Olimar can’t defend himself. He doesn’t have anything that can provide offense. All he has is a whistle and a jetpack that lets you hover for a short time. The only form of offense that you have is the Pikmin. They come in different varieties and each of them provides a different advantage for your journey. Red Pikmin is immune to fire and are strong fighters. Yellow can be thrown farther and can withstand electricity. Blue Pikmin are agile swimmers and essential for underwater combat. Rock Pikmin pack a punch and can destroy crystalized walls and Winged Pikmin can help you float through dangerous hazards and can reach high places. Unlike the main Pikmin games, this one you are only limited to 20 Pikmin in each area. This adds a bit of strategy but also a bit of micromanaging since you need to make sure everyone is safe from harm. Carelessness will lead you to defeat.

Hey! Pikmin has you traveling through 8 Sectors, each with 5 areas. As you trek, you need to seek out Pikmin and use them to survive what lies ahead. This also relates to finding Sparklium. You do that by collecting Sparklium in each area. Finding treasures also count because they net a high amount of Sparklium and each area has at least 2-4 treasures to find. Finding them is the challenge. They can appear where you least expect it. Exploration is a definite must and the game offers a lot of it. If you’re lucky, you may find a hidden exit that can lead to an Area X. Those areas put your Pikmin playing skills to the test. Sometimes they can be a cakewalk and others can be a test of skill. At the end of every sector is a boss fight. If you know how the bosses behave, then they won’t be much of a challenge. One good thing about it is that the game really does a good job showing them before the big fight.

In addition to exploration, there’s also Pikmin Park and using all the Pikmin you gathered, you can order them to head to specific areas to excavate more Sparklium. It’s a neat addition and offers more to an interesting game. As I said before, getting Sparklium is needed to reach the end and you’ll have to do so in this 10-12 hour game. Going for 100% will have you clocking in at about 16 hours since you need to complete every stage, find every treasure and do so with all Pikmin unharmed. This game will test you.

For a 3DS game, the presentation is well done. The characters and environment are vibrant and colorful. Each world has a unique theme that offers something different as you progress. Olimar and the Pikmin I feel is the best thing since they express themselves in the form of short cutscenes. Some are rather humorous but it’s to be expected for a Pikmin game. The game has some great music. Unlike other games where music doesn’t reflect the game, this does and it’s done very well. Some songs like the cave areas have a bit of a Metroid vibe to them. It’s pretty good and it helps make the game feel enjoyable. The controls are good. You just tap with the stylus on the touchscreen and you can fling your Pikmin to where they will go. It can help with some tricky puzzles. The touch screen is also used for the whistle to get your Pikmin in line as well as the rocket backpack. Movement is done either with the analog stick or the D-Pad. The D-Pad is a safer bet if you feel analog isn’t your thing.

Though I do enjoy some of the good things, there are a few things I find problematic with the game. First, the puzzles are too simple at times. Understandably since this game is meant for kids but for others, they may find them to be too easy. The same can be said for the bosses. Many of their patterns are simple to figure out, making some of them be a joke. Thankfully each boss provides a different challenge, requiring you to use the Pikmin you have to take the boss down. Replay value is there if you want to go back and beat every level with all Pikmin intact but other than that, there isn’t much. It’s pretty much a one & done game when it comes to finding everything. Speaking of which, the Pikmin is another flaw I have with the game. They’re only useful when they see anything of interest and are pretty much brain dead. Sometimes they don’t follow fast enough and you can end up either losing Pikmin or getting killed and forced to restart. Oh, and there are no checkpoints. If you die, you have to start the level all over again. That is an issue especially in tougher levels where you are forced to redo a lot of progress. That’s upsetting.

In conclusion, Hey! Pikmin isn’t a bad game, far from it. It’s an enjoyable game that offers a lot of charm and a pretty acceptable challenge. For a handheld, Nintendo did well in bringing Pikmin to the small screen. A good presentation with simple yet effective controls added with an acceptable amount of challenge makes this a worthy addition to the franchise. If you want something to keep yourself busy before Nintendo makes an official Pikmin sequel, this is it. Trust me. You’ll enjoy it.

I give Hey! Pikmin an 8.5 out of 10.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review

Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided by Nintendo for the sake of this review.

Where do I even start with Metroid? Released in 1986, it was a groundbreaking game that introduced many features that would be mainstays for the franchise. It also gave us the first female protagonist in gaming history, Samus Aran. Metroid spawned eleven games. Many of them like Metroid Prime became glorified hits. Though it has had some rough edges, it’s a franchise where it’s games are always a delight to enjoy. The year 2016 would see Metroid resurface once more but it ha been mired in controversy. I speak of Metroid Prime: Federation Force a game that was subject to hate from everyone, considering that it was Metroid’s 30th anniversary. But does it really deserve the hate it got or is this game worth giving a chance?

The game takes place after Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with the threat of Phazon having been eradicated from the galaxy. Trouble is brewing within the Bermuda system and the Space Pirates, reeling from their previous defeat are planning something big. To counter the inevitable threat, the Galactic Federation forms a task force to stop them. It’s a straightforward story that does have some interesting twists but overall, it’s all right at best. What is surprising is that the focus is shifted away from Samus Aran. Instead it centers on the Galactic Federation. Sure Samus does make appearances in the game but it’s a surprising change compared to what we normally see.

Federation Force plays similarly to the Metroid Prime games where you explore, shoot things, etc. On a handheld, I say they emulated it rather well. The game is a mission-based adventure where you travel to one of three planets and complete objectives that the G.F gives you. You operate a giant Federation mech that you use to explore planets, shoot space pirates and complete missions. Controls are very solid, just like in the Prime games. They can take a while to get used to because it’s a Metroid game on a handheld but it’s well done.

Gyro controls help make your aim precise and that’s a good thing. I didn’t have any issues with them. Most games didn’t incorporate these controls well enough but for a game like this, it’s done pretty well. You can use analog controls if you feel they can be tiresome.

Speaking of the mech, you have the option to customize it however you like with different chips. They provide unique effects, giving opportunities for experimentation. Be warned that they can break, aside from one that can’t be broken. Also you can decide what weapons you can use like missiles, beams, etc. Depending on the mission you’ll have to decide carefully. Oh and you can also have your mech get a paint job. It’s cosmetic but it’s pretty cool.

In the presentation style, the game is acceptable. Having three different settings give the game a bit of variety. Sure it’s traditional cause you have an ice planet, a desert planet and a factory planet but they shouldn’t stop you from taking in the scenery. Due to the game’s mission structure, your exploration is limited but it won’t stop you from finding stuff like secrets. There are plenty and can unlock new stuff for your mech such as chips and paint jobs.

Federation Force’s campaign mode can take you roughly 8-10 hours, depending if you play it by yourself or with friends. Yes, the campaign has both offline and online co-op. Now that’s a good thing since with friends, it helps alleviate the game’s shortcomings and plus, it’s more fun if you have friends by your side blasting space pirates. The game’s built with co-op in mind and it’s done real well. Solo however can be a pain and depending on mission structure, it can get problematic. There is a high amount of replay value as you can go back to previous missions to get high scores and medals if you’re skilled enough. It’s even higher with friends.

In addition the campaign, there’s also Blast Ball. Think of it as soccer but with mechs, 3-on-3. Your job is to score three points while preventing your opponents from scoring. It’s an okay mode at best and doesn’t offer anything else. Once you play it for a bit, you get an idea and it can be kind of boring. Not much to say on that. Federation Force has Amiibo support but it only works on both Samus and Zero Suit Samus. They provide new paint jobs with added advantages. It’s okay at best.

In spite of some good things this has, there’s a bit of bad. The music isn’t as interesting as previous Metroid titles. They don’t have the kind of hook that gets you to listen to them. I would sum the music up as forgetful. Also since the game puts focus on the Galactic Federation, Samus gets downplayed. For the sake of spoilers, I feel that Samus should have been utilized more in the game. Heck having her be an unlockable after beating it would have been nice. But I feel that this leaves a lot to be desired. It also doesn’t help that this game was released to coincide with Metroid’s 30th anniversary. Having this to celebrate a franchise like Metroid just turns off a lot of people. Sadly it did and not a lot of people got to play it.

I’ll be fair. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a welcome addition to the franchise. The gameplay is solid and the presentation is well done. But its many flaws hinder the game from reaching its full potential. Fans of the franchise do deserve a better Metroid game and sadly this isn’t it. But with the game not doing well sales-wise, the future is uncertain. I only wish Nintendo can provide us a proper Metroid game… instead of this.

This took me half a year to do and I had to think about this well. However I will give the benefit of the doubt to this game. Metroid Prime: Federation Force gets a 6 out of 10 from me.

Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS Review

Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS – A Review by Jose Vega

Product provided by Nintendo for the sake of this review.

In 2015, Super Mario Maker was released for the Nintendo Wii U. For the first time ever, players were given the opportunity to create their own Mario levels and share them with players online all over the world. The game was a huge hit and creators went wild, coming up with levels that amaze while pushing players to their limits. A year later, Nintendo announced that Super Mario Maker will be coming to the Nintendo 3DS. Now that it has been released, does this game hold well to its Wii U counterpart?

If you played Super Mario Maker on the Wii U, you’ll feel real familiar with this game on the 3DS. Creating levels are easy to do with the bottom screen while the top serves as your platform. Pretty nifty. However like the Wii U version, you won’t have everything unlocked from the get-go. One difference this version has over the other is the Super Mario Challenge. It’s a mode exclusive for the Nintendo 3DS version and you tackle 18 worlds containing more than 100 courses. All the courses carry objectives and they can range from like collecting all 100 coins to gaining a set number of 1-Ups. This adds a bit of variety and challenge while teaching players how to use specific items to complete courses. The Super Mario Challenge can take players around 8-10 hours if they want to obtain 100% completion. The 100-Mario Challenge is also in this game and like the Wii U version they come in multiple difficulties, adding more hours of game time.

For a 3DS game, they nailed this port well. Very well I might add. Design-wise, the game is like the Wii U version and I will admit, seeing the old school Mario Bros. style in a handheld is real cool along with the others. However when it comes to the New Super Mario Bros. U style, it feels a bit blocky. Not that it’s a bad thing but since you’re playing a handheld port of a Wii U game it’s to be expected. But it’s pretty solid and I commend Nintendo for pulling it off. I only wish they could fix it so it can work but hey, what can you do?

Though this game is similar to the Wii U version, there are some things that differentiate it. First, there’s no Amiibo compatibility with the game. My guess it was due to game limitations but it’s pretty minor. Second is that you can’t share your courses online. The 3DS version gives you the option to share your courses but only through Local Play. In addition you can have other players edit your shared courses. If you have friends then this is a good thing but honestly, having that instead of sharing online hurts the game in the long run. It hurts because without the option to share online, it sort of reduces the value this game has over the Wii U version. I feel it’s a missed opportunity for Nintendo to make this game be just as awesome as the Wii U version. Sadly they didn’t and it hurts. That’s not to say the game is bad though. Also it’s recommended that the game is played on the New Nintendo 3DS handhelds. Original 3DS handhelds can handle the game but more likely than not, the game can crash. A minor issue at best.

Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo 3DS could have given Nintendo an opportunity to bring their most successful game onto the handheld. Despite the game playing just as good as the Wii U counterpart, it lacked a few things that differentiate it. But regardless Super Mario Maker for the 3DS is an enjoyable game that offers a lot for $40. I enjoyed this game, despite the drawbacks. But if you want the full experience, the Wii U version is your best bet but the 3DS does stand out on its own as a good game.

I give Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS a 7 out of 10.