Tag Archives: Nintendo

The Next Penelope Review


Combinations. Sometimes they work really well. Most of us like peanut butter with chocolate, fluff, or jelly. In gaming, we often see developers experiment with different elements from one genre, and blending it with elements from another. The Next Penelope is one of many such games. But the components it assembles are far more removed from one another in comparison to other titles.

PROS: Minimalist art style works well.

CONS: Technical hitches. Lack of options. A.I.

HOMER: Expect Iliad, and Odyssey references.

The Next Penelope bills itself as a top-down racer in the vein of the old Codemasters Micro Machines games that appeared on the NES, and Sega Genesis. But in reality that’s only one part of the game. The Next Penelope utilizes these kinds of races, but attempts to cross-pollinate them with bits of F-Zero. You can boost, which drains the health of your vehicle, and you can drive over pit stop lanes to repair your vehicle.

But it doesn’t stop there. The game also includes elements of vertical, and horizontal shoot ’em up games like Raiden, and R-Type. As with the boost mechanic, using the weapons throughout the game will also drain your vehicle health meter. There are several great weapons to use throughout the campaign, and you’ll find that they’re almost always the key to victory.


So how does the game work? The Next Penelope references Homer’s Odyssey. From the subtitle; Race To Odysseus, to names of characters, and places from the epic poem. In this game you play as Penelope who is trying to get to Ulysses. But in order to do so you’ll have to go to different star systems, and proceed to win different racing circuits. The reality is that each of these circuits has one race. Each circuit lists three races, but only the second race is actually a race. Your first race is usually a trial where you have to master one of the weapons or abilities. Complete that task, and then you’ll enter a race. A race you have to place first in. If you don’t win, you can’t advance. Winning the race will put you up against a boss for the third event. If you defeat the boss, you’ll get to take the weapon you gained in the first event with you through the rest of the game.

You can technically, go through the game in any order you want, a la Mega Man. But the game really wants you to go in a specific order. Because you’ll quickly find the races are almost impossible to win without the weapon or item required. Where as in Capcom’s games starring the Blue Bomber, you can get through an entire stage using only an arm cannon, here you can’t. You won’t even beat the course required to get to the boss to use your weapon on, without said weapon. That’s because the rubber band A.I. in this game is ridiculous. Even if you lead three laps because you’re good enough to do it, the last lap you will be bombarded with enemy racers’ firepower, and get overtaken.


Over the course of the game you’ll get laser guns, a teleportation device, a grappling hook, and even a cloud that turns bullets into experience points. Win the races, and it’s off to fight a boss. Admittedly, the boss fights are some of the best parts of The Next Penelope. Most of them are pretty creative, and involve some level of puzzle solving skills on your part. There are a few that are disappointing though, because they boil down to trial, and error gameplay as opposed to the puzzle solving twitch action of the better ones. Still, these are where most of the fun times happen.

That isn’t to say the racing is terrible. Most of the tracks have some pretty cool designs, and you’ll have to get your turns just right, to drift around a corner or make a jump over a gap safely. Tracks have some interesting hazards too, like flooded streets, blockades that require specific items to avoid, and even have shortcuts that require expert timing, and speed to use. What kills the fun a bit is the aforementioned A.I. if you thought some of the old Mario Kart, Need For Speed, or Cruisin‘ games had cheap CPU racers, you’ll have flashbacks when playing this. The pain is doubled when you realize this game has the same steering scheme as games like Super Sprint. Your space car also moves automatically, so you can’t brake around corners, or to avoid hitting something.


Thankfully the controls are responsive, and if you don’t want to use the classic D-Pad controls, you can use the triggers on your controller to steer left, or right. Once you have a handle on them, and you get a few circuits in, it will become a lot more manageable as the items, and weapons will help keep you in the lead a lot. Once you’ve gotten through a set of races you can move along a star map to the next set you want to attempt. There are also extra courses you can attempt. But these won’t be playable until you’ve completed the campaign for the first time. You’ll also earn XP throughout the game, and there is a store on the star map where you can spend your XP on upgrades. In my time with the game, I found it best to wait until near the end to do this, but you can also go into the shop whenever you want between circuits.

Once you beat all of the main circuits, you’ll be able to enter the final showdown. This is a two boss rush. Here the game ceases to be a top-down racer, and becomes a horizontal shmup. What makes these fights challenging is that the game continues to use the F-Zero drain mechanics from the races. So as you shoot at the bosses you’ll drain your health. Beating these guys will take careful resource management, and all of your cunning.


The story here isn’t particularly great. It references Homer’s poems a number of ways, but it doesn’t do anything interesting with them. It’s really just there to set up each of the circuits so that the boss encounters make more sense. On the plus side, the artwork is very nice. It could easily pass for one of the late 90’s action shows that aired on Cartoon Network with minimalist designs that are accented with a wonderful use of color. This moves into the mainline game graphics too, which use an interesting blend of background tile art, and shaded shapes for the vehicles, and characters. It reminded me a bit of Another World’s look. vehicles appear to be almost like models when in actuality they’re an animated series of sprites. It’s pretty impressive for a such a small game.


The Next Penelope isn’t a bad game, by any means. But it isn’t going to be for everyone. The worst part of the experience is the brutal A.I., and there are a number of technical hitches in it that don’t help. Sometimes the game will hiccup for no apparent reason. I played the game on both my gaming desktop that far exceeds the requirements, and an old laptop. In both cases they came up at arbitrary times. It didn’t matter if I had the settings maxed or set to minimum. The game also has a CRT filter you can enable. Again, sometimes this would happen with or without simulated scan lines. In my case I had been playing for a few hours before it would happen. But when it did it was awful, as it would cause me to drive off course, or crash into an obstacle. I don’t know if this happens on any of the console versions as I haven’t played those. There was also the strange omission of any kind of volume controls in the game. This makes it a tough game to stream as you can’t just go in, and lower the sound if it drowns out your voice. Instead you’ll have to go tweak your system’s microphone, and sound settings. Which isn’t always a simple task depending on your configuration.


That said, it’s worth experiencing if you’re looking for something a little bit different to play. It looks nice, controls fine, and there are some truly fun moments in it. But only the truly devoted will go through the bonus missions, or care to accomplish all of the game’s achievement milestones. It’s not a terrible game, but don’t expect the moon either. If you come into it looking for something on par with an F-Zero or Wipeout game, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you’re open-minded, and want to try something new, you might be surprised.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10


Owlboy Review


The Super NES is known for many great things. Obviously Nintendo’s own wonderful games, and some of the most memorable efforts from names like Capcom, Konami, Square, and Natsume. These efforts often resulted in excellent adventure games, action RPGs, and action platformers. In recent  years a number of new games have shown up paying homage to these titles. But not all of them have done it as well as Owlboy.

PROS: Beautiful visuals. Tight controls. Engrossing story.

CONS: A few annoying bugs. Objectives aren’t always clear.

PIXEL ART: This game really does raise the bar for the art form.

Owlboy is easily one of the best modern platformers done in a style that resembles the 16-bit titles of yesteryear. Immediately you’ll be blown away by the insane amount of detail in the pixel art. The shading of the grass, the gradients in the clouds, and the plethora of tiles that make every background, and object stand out. Not only is there a great amount of detail, but so much of it is animated. Animated so well, in fact, that it matches the characters with their text balloons almost flawlessly.


Speaking of facial sprite animation, and text balloons, Owlboy has a story on par with many coming-of-age animated Disney films. When the game begins you take control of an owl named Otus. Otus isn’t well liked by most of the inhabitants of Ville. He’s mocked, teased, bullied by many of the other owls his age (often because of his muteness), and he’s ostracized by adults. He gets blamed for things he has little to nothing to do with. He has one friend named Geddy who works defense for the town. Things change drastically one day, when a mysterious troublemaker distracts the two, and allows an invasion of pirates to occur.  From here, our pariah has to go on a three arc adventure to become the hero.


Along the course of the story new characters get introduced, and this is where the game’s mechanics start to really take shape. Owlboy combines the Platformer with Adventure, and Action RPG elements to create something pretty special. You’ll explore different towns, and talk to NPCs the way you might in a game like Ys, or Faxanadu. You’ll explore areas the way you do in Metroidvanias. You’ll get into boss fights on par with those of the Classic Mega Man series. The developers at D-Pad even went the extra mile to make the shop one of the most entertaining moments in the game.


Otus can run, jump, fly, and do a couple of  roll attacks as you go through the game. But he can also pick up some of the NPC characters you’ll meet, some items, and even some enemies. All of which are needed to solve puzzles, and get to a lot of areas. Most of the puzzles are fairly challenging to solve, involving every possible thing you can lift. Throughout the campaign you’ll also find fruits, and vegetables that replenish health too. Around halfway through the game you’ll find a shop. It works a little bit differently than the typical shops in most RPGs, and Adventure games.

Rather than simply buy items with the money you have, the shop keep sends out employees to just give them to you once you have enough coins. They don’t take the coins from you though. So it’s almost like a level up progress bar accented with comedy. These moments are quite hilarious too. The game makes excellent use of its characters, and animation to deliver laughs. Rather than simply give you the normal mundane experience of grinding money until you can buy the best kit, it’s gives entertainment. And these funny moments fit right in with the rest of the story.



The story is great, the characters, are great, and everything else for the most part is as well. Not only do you get a bunch of interesting challenges to solve, but you’ll also do your fair share of platforming. Any good platformer requires excellent, and responsive controls. Owlboy has them. As you jump, fly, and switch characters around, things feel natural. So while things may look insurmountable at times, with enough practice you’ll get through them. The game utilizes the Adventure feel of checkpoints rather than the life system many retro-platformers do. These are fairly numerous, so there aren’t very many times you’ll find yourself re-doing long stretches of hurdles upon a mistake. That isn’t to say things will be easy. There were a few parts of the game that I found myself spending thirty to forty minutes on because I didn’t do just the right move. Or because I didn’t kill an enemy quite fast enough. But again, perseverance pays off. If you don’t give up, you’ll get through it.

The game is a lot of fun too. It scratches the itch of just about any old-school experience you can think of, and it’s engrossing. It makes you feel accomplished when you do something grand, and it doesn’t feel discouraging when you fall down. There are also plenty of moments that will just wow you. From riding rock dragons, to infiltrating bases, to the tremendous boss fights, there is a lot to love. Boss fights bring back the era of memorizing patterns. Much like the Mega Man, Castlevania, and Contra games of old, each fight makes you watch for openings. Eventually you’ll realize the boss is doing the same thing, and you’ll learn where to move, or which character to utilize, at what time. Most of them have several forms though, and with each form, a new pattern to learn. But through it all, you’ll have a great time. Whether you were in that era or not.


As I’ve stated before, Owlboy looks astonishing. But the soundtrack goes along with it all so beautifully. The game has a wonderful orchestral score that flows from scene to scene, and area to area. It’s as if a Metroid game were filled with symphonic songs inspired by classical composers. None of it really comes off as cliché either. It’s almost expected in any fantasy setting to hear strings, and woodwind instruments. But here again, it feels like an animated Disney film. There are up tempo notes of optimism when things are looking up for our characters, and there are bombastic yet somber moments when it looks like all is lost. It probably isn’t the sort of thing you’ll listen to on a work commute, but it does accent the story, and gameplay very well.

It would be easy to write the game off as some niche experience for geezers like me who jammed on Ys III, Mega Man X, and ActRaiser on the Super NES back in the day. But it really isn’t, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you skip it because of that impression. Yes, indeed, there are plenty of things to like for those who were around for the 16-bit console wars of the 1990’s. But the new twists on gameplay, identifiable characters, and well told story, are things anybody who likes video games can experience. Owlboy joins the ranks of well-crafted, memorable indie releases like Axiom Verge, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, Undertale, and VVVVVV.


It isn’t without its faults, as even the best games have some issues. In the case of Owlboy it seems to be bugs. Minor bugs, but annoying nevertheless. One of which seems to screw up your controls at random. Loading from the last checkpoint seems to fix it. This only happened to me once, near the end of the game. But it’s still worth mentioning. Another is how, at least on PC, the game still runs in memory even after exiting to the desktop. Pulling up the Task Manager in Windows allows you to shut it down, but it’s still 30 seconds of annoyance. There are also a couple of times in the campaign where it isn’t always clear where you’re supposed to go next. But this is really a minor nitpick since you’ll be spending a good portion of time just exploring anyway.


Overall though, Owlboy comes highly recommended. It’s fun, engrossing, and has something for just about anyone. It’s a game that will likely garner an emotional response from you, thanks in part to the excellent animation. It’s a game you’ll likely cherish in part because of the story, and characters on display. But it’s also a game you’ll likely enjoy going through due to the top-notch play control, and well crafted gameplay. Owlboy is a must play addition to any collection.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Horipad Wired Controller Review


The Nintendo Switch is a great console, that plays a lot of great games. The controllers it comes with, while innovative, aren’t always the best option in every scenario. On the go, they’re great. They’re small, compact, and you can divide them to make two controllers. But at home, those two joycons are likely going in the comfort grip. So when a friend comes over, or your significant other, spouse, siblings or roommate want to play with you, what to do?

PROS: Quality build. Versatile. Inexpensive.

CONS: Doesn’t have the gyroscopic functions.

WEIRD: The D-pad design.

There are a surprisingly high number of controller options emerging for Nintendo’s gaming tablet. Obviously Nintendo’s own solutions are pretty great. You can roll with another set of joycons, which will double as two controllers, and that gets you set for four player games. But you have that small size issue which in a home setting, and on certain games may feel cumbersome for larger hands. You can also go for Nintendo’s Pro Controller. It’s nice, does everything the joycons can, and it’s got a hefty, yet comfortable design. But it also costs more than a lot of games do the day they come out.

For a lot of us, buying a Pro Controller for ourselves, or to have on hand for a second player, may be cost prohibitive. There are a wealth of third-party solutions coming out now to address this. But many of them have lackluster build quality, using cheap plastics or sub par wiring. Enter the Horipad. Hori isn’t generally known for what most might call general purpose controllers. They’re known for expensive, professional grade arcade fighting sticks. Go to any local Street Fighter or Tekken tournament, and you’ll find a lot of arcade joysticks made by Hori.


Anyway, the Horipad is a pretty good solution for anyone looking for a controller for a second player, or to leave connected so they don’t have to take the joycons off at home. It has a solid build quality. It doesn’t have the heft of Nintendo’s own controller, however it doesn’t feel brittle, and thin either. It feels about as solid as Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 controllers did.  The thumb sticks feel really comfortable, and all of the buttons, and triggers are very responsive.

Beyond that, the controller also has the +, and – buttons to pull up menus. It has the home button, and even included the screen capture button. Hori even put a turbo button into the controller, and it works wonderfully. Simply hold a button down, press turbo, and it will just rapid fire along when you hold it from that point on. Let go of everything, press the turbo button again, and everything goes back to normal.


Frankly, this would be an utterly flawless solution if not for a couple of things. The worst is the lack of gyroscopic functions. This means that for a handful of games, you really won’t be able to use it properly. Super Mario Galaxy, for instance, requires gestures for some of the moves. Using the joycons, or pro controller won’t be a problem, as you can swing or shake them when needed. You can’t do them with the Horipad. The pad does work in Splatoon 2, but you won’t be able to use mouse-look like you can with the joycons or pro controller. There aren’t gobs, and gobs of games that require the gyroscopic tech. But if you buy one, do know you’ll have to use the joycons. I do applaud Hori for mentioning this on the back of the box though. It’s nice to know this going in.


The other thing some won’t like is the D-pad. Rather than get rid of the C-buttons, and put a traditional D-pad in their place, they kept the C-buttons. The solution they came up with was to put a peg hole in between the buttons, and make a D-pad that plugs into it. It does work fairly well. In most games that benefit from a D-pad this works fine. Press “Up”, and get the desired result. However it ends up feeling like the D-pad on the original Xbox 360 controller.  So it isn’t quite as good as a dedicated D-pad but it’s still an improvement over the C-buttons on the  left joycon.



But there is one really, cool thing about this controller, and that’s its versatility. You can also use this on any Windows 10 computer. Plug it in, and it is seen no problem. However the buttons are still mapped as if you were playing on the Switch. So in games where you’re used to using Microsoft’s layout, you’ll have to go into the menu, and re-bind keys. The overwhelming majority of PC games let you do this. But the bottom line is that, you can repurpose this as a game pad for your PC. Which means although you’re getting a second controller for your Switch, you don’t need to buy an Xbox or Steam controller for your computer. Assuming you haven’t already.



All in all, this is a great all around controller for the overwhelming majority of games on the Switch. Especially if you want something a cut above most other third-party controllers in terms of quality while still coming in at a budget price. Those who require a traditional D-pad might want to look at other solutions. But again, this is still a cut above the build of a lot of third-party solutions. The fact that it can also be used as a PC game pad is also a really great feature. It’s also a really comfortable fit for about anybody’s hands. About the only major drawback is the exclusion of the gyroscopic features seen in Nintendo’s own Pro Controller. Be that as it may, you can get two of these pads for the cost of Nintendo’s wireless one. For someone who needs a solid controller at an affordable price, the Horipad is a contender.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Super Mario Odyssey Review


It’s hard to believe Mario has been with us for nearly four decades. It’s even harder to believe, but there isn’t a bad Mario title. Some are objectively better than others. Old timers like me can remember playing as him in Donkey Kong. We have fond memories of going to the arcade with friends, and playing the original Mario Bros. Obviously everyone from 7 to 70 has probably played Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy. Again, nary a blemish to be found. The latest adventure continues this trend.

PROS: Pretty much everything. Get this for your Switch if you haven’t already.

CONS: One slight hiccup in performance in the Seaside Kingdom. If you NEED to nitpick.

FROM OUT OF NOWHERE: Rock n’ Roll anthems hit you like an RKO from Randy Orton.

Let’s get this out-of-the-way right away. If you have a Nintendo Switch, and you still don’t have this game it should be your next game purchase. If you don’t have a Switch, it should be one of the first games you get when you get the system. Super Mario Odyssey is not only a wonderfully crafted platformer, it’s one of the most engrossing video games on the console.


As usual, Bowser has kidnapped Peach again. So Mario heads out to stop his nemesis yet again. This adventure, however is different for a multitude of reasons. This kidnapping attempt Bowser has decided to marry the Princess by force. When the game starts you’re treated to an opening cinematic where Mario is in the process of trying to save Peach. Unfortunately for our hero, Bowser works him over. After suffering a hellacious assault at the hands of the King of the Koopas, Mario is thrown off of an airship to his doom. To add insult to injury, Bowser shreds Mario’s trademark hat to really drive home to the viewer that all is lost.


Mario is then tended to by a hat named Cappy. It turns out that Bowser devastated an entire kingdom inhabited by sentient hats called the Cap Kingdom. It is also revealed that the bridal tiara Peach was forced to wear is Cappy’s significant other. So Cappy decides to help Mario rescue Princess Toadstool. This is also where you’re introduced to this game’s trademark feature: Possession. Mario can throw Cappy, and if he lands on certain objects, and characters they can be controlled. It’s not something most of us probably think of ever seeing in a Super Mario Bros. title, and yet here it is.


This makes the game feel very different from previous games in the Super Mario Bros. universe. Yet Super Mario Odyssey also retains all of the things you would expect to see in the long running franchise. This entry leaves the linear design of the two Galaxy games behind. It also abandons the design of the 3D Land, and 3D World games. Instead, Super Mario Odyssey returns to the freedom of Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario 64. This time around Mario can travel between Kingdoms using an airship of his own called the Odyssey.


As you might expect, you’ll be going through these Kingdoms looking for coins, and items in order to earn entry to another. In this game the coveted item will be Power moons. You have to collect so many for the Odyssey to be able to continue onward. There are a couple of spots where you can choose which of two places to travel to next. But there’s no major hub the way Peach’s castle in SM64 was. Still, while you’ll open most of the Kingdoms in a set order, the stages themselves are open. So you’ll spend a lot of time tracking down moons.


A lot of the moons are hidden in plain sight, but there are a lot of them that aren’t. Getting some of them involve going on fetch quests. Others involve beating platforming challenges. Still others will require you to win at a mini game, or explore off of the beaten path. Some of them are purchased in shops, while others require you to buy a specific costume with a Kingdom specific currency so you can go to a specific area. That’s not counting the number times you’ll need to possess a particular enemy. Or the number of times you’ll have to solve a puzzle. Or to have a keen eye in the 2D areas I’ll get to later.  You’ll also have to contend with a lot of different bosses to get many of the moons. The most obvious being the Broodlings. These are a group of evil rabbits who have jobs planning Bowser’s forced wedding ceremony. But they’re also Bowser’s hired mercenaries. You’ll have to defeat each of them. But they’re not the only threats you’ll face. Super Mario Odyssey has many bosses hidden within it. You’re going to see all kinds of massive adversaries. Some of whom are going to come completely out of left field.


There are 880 Power Moons to be found which means you’ll be playing this long after you’ve experienced the storyline. Those who love to get their Mario games to 100% completion can even buy another 119 on top of those. But along the way you’re going to continually be astonished, and amazed. Super Mario Odyssey has something for fans of every era of the character. There are homages to Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros., and pretty much every game in the series is referenced in one way or another. Some of the most creative moments, are the inclusion of 2D sections that use the sprites, and tiles seen in Donkey Kong, and the NES Super Mario Bros. games. But it even includes the newer enemies, and characters in the mythos in that same style. These sections are often blended into the contemporary look of everything else, and they work seamlessly together. Sometimes the game incorporates puzzles that can only be solved by transitioning between the 2D pixel game play, and the modern 3D space.


Mario controls as fluidly as ever too. If you fall off of a ledge, get shot by a Bullet Bill, or land a quarter of an inch in front of a Goomba you’ll know it’s your fault. Another thing that might surprise you is the fact that the traditional system of lives is gone. You’ll have unlimited lives in Super Mario Odyssey. Your punishment for getting killed, is the game takes some of your money from you. However, don’t think you’ll be blowing through this one in a day. A lot of players might think that not needing 1-Ups, and Continues makes this game easy. It really doesn’t. In the early goings, things might seem like they’re simple enough. A few easy to nab moons. Running to the beacon of light to progress to the next story mission. Simple, right? While you might be able to get through the first handful of required areas, and claim their moons without too much trouble, later ones aren’t so easy. Some of the later stages require some significant puzzle solving, and a bit of dexterity. This is a Super Mario game after all.


You’ll need at least 124 Power Moons to be able to get into the final boss showdown. If you’re persistent you can probably get there within a day of non-stop gaming. But with everything there is to do, and see, you’ll probably want to explore for more moons, and secrets in that time instead. Some of the areas can’t even be reached until after you complete the campaign, all but guaranteeing you’ll be playing this long after the big showdown. Another thing that sets this game apart from the other Super Mario Bros. games is the vastly different environments in each of the game’s kingdoms. Not only do they have different themes, each of the themes has a completely different art style. The Luncheon Kingdom has a minimalist look, all rendered in soft neon colors. Take your ship to the Metro Kingdom, and everything goes for a more modern, photorealistic look. Head to the Seaside Kingdom, and things look absolutely beautiful. Plus the inhabitants of each Kingdom are completely different from each other as well, lining up with the aesthetics of the area perfectly. There are also all sorts of little visual touches that you’ll appreciate. Like the rain effects in New Donk City, or the soot that lands on Mario whenever he walks through fire.


The soundtrack is absolutely spectacular. If there’s one thing this title has over many other games it’s the music. Everyone has likely heard Jump Up Superstar, as it has been in all of the promotional material for the game. The trailer, the spots at conventions, you can even buy the song on iTunes. But everything else on the soundtrack is just as good as that title track. From the orchestral pieces to Big Band Jazz, to Heavy Metal to Power Pop. Even if a certain genre isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll recognize the sheer talent, and greatness of the compositions. All placed in parts of the game that suit themselves best. There is just so much to like here. No matter what you’re doing the music thumps along perfectly. It’s energetic, and light-hearted when it needs to be. It’s ambient, and dark when it needs to be.


Quite frankly, so much of Super Mario Odyssey is done so well, it can be difficult to find anything all that wrong with it. Controls are spot on. The environments, character design, and sound are all simply brilliant. Some of the mission types repeat here, and there. By the second or third Kingdom you’ll pick up on the general formula. But again, everything is done so superbly, it feels like nitpicking just mentioning it. About the only technical issue I ran into at all, was a very minor hiccup when running along the beach in Seaside Kingdom. Once. Ever.



There are several other things I haven’t mentioned yet, like Amiibo functionality. Pretty much all of Nintendo’s releases utilize them in some way, and Super Mario Odyssey is no exception. If you buy the three figures specifically made for the game they’ll give you different wedding themed costumes you would ordinarily have to get in the game far later. They’ll also give you the bonuses associated with the non-Odyssey themed figures of those characters. Peach gives you a Life Up Heart, Mario gives you a few seconds of protection, while Bowser gives you purple coin locations on your map.

Some of the other figures you have knocking around can also end up giving you some early access to some of the game’s costumes. But generally just about any figure will get you something. You can also show your Amiibo to a machine Toad appears with after you clear a few kingdoms. Then it will bring back rewards at a later time. Another interesting Amiibo piece of trivia has to do with some cross-promotion with Kellogg’s. The cereal vendor has made a promotional Super Mario cereal you’ve no doubt heard about if you live in the United States. The cereal box has an Amiibo NFC chipset glued to the inside so you can actually scan the cereal box for the same rewards most non SMB related figures do. With one exception: There’s a line of dialogue that may bring about a smirk upon seeing the game recognize the cereal box.


There are a ton of crazy items in the shops. It is worth looking into them for the costumes alone. Which is good, because after finishing the story the game opens up a host of new areas, moons, coins, and other content. Some of the post campaign moons are tied to unlocking items in the shops. So you’ll definitely want to be looking into them. Many of the costumes get pretty wild too. Some of the ones I really like include a clown costume, a samurai costume, and a couple of retro costumes.

If getting to new areas wasn’t enough, some of the kingdoms have super-secret warps hidden in paintings in them. You can even get a glimpse into some of the kingdoms you may not have visited yet when you find one. Some of the game’s moons even require their use in order to be obtained. Beyond that, there are a number of crazy features you’ll just sort of stumble upon. Like the ability to steal a moped, and drive around on it. Or an RC Car mini game, where you get to use an RC Car in attempt to speed run a track from Super Mario Kart.


The map I mentioned earlier is part of an overall travel guide you can pull up. It has maps for every one of the worlds you visit along with checklists. You can also pull up the little tutorials that explain some of the more advanced techniques. This can be handy for those who haven’t picked up a Mario game in years, or for someone who has honestly never played a Mario game. It’s also a place where you can review things that you might have forgotten how to do during the course of your time with it.


Another really cool feature is the camera mode. It really enhances the screen capture function in the Switch. Normally, for any game you can press the camera button, and take a screen shot. But in this game you can press the Down C button first, and pull up a camera mode. In this mode you can zoom in or out before taking a shot. You can also tilt the camera, and apply a number of filters to the image. The absolute best of these are the vintage console filters. One of them is supposed to be the NES palette although in some situations it seems closer to something like the Commodore 64. Another is a Super NES palette, and a third is based on the original Game Boy. Plus you can slap the game’s logo in the corner of your photo. Then you can use the social media function on the Switch to post it to your Facebook account, or Twitter account. It might not sound like much, but you can honestly get pretty creative with what you’re given here.


It’s hard to say if Super Mario Odyssey is the best Mario game of them all, but it’s absolutely in the running. It’s one of those rare games that makes you feel like you’re 8 years old again, experiencing the series for the first time. It’s so full of awe. It’s so full of wonder. Even though you’ve likely been playing Super Mario Bros. games, and spinoffs for most of your gaming life. It’s a celebration of every era of this universe, and its characters. While at the same time making the entire game feel new. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of hours hunting down the items, and MacGuffins to see what comes next. But it rarely, if ever feels like busy work. With the wonderful environments, stellar game play, and absolutely fantastic soundtrack this is one Odyssey you’ll want to embark upon.

Final Score: 10 out of 10

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers Review


What can be said about Street Fighter II that hasn’t been said already? The original Street Fighter while by no means a horrible game, was mediocre in a few ways. It had some sluggish movement. Special moves did a ridiculous amount of damage. However, performing special moves was inconsistent. Sometimes the hit detection seemed off. The soundtrack wasn’t very good. It had grainy audio. Yet there was a ton of promise in it. It had wonderful characters, pretty cool graphics, and it was still a cut above earlier games like Karate Champ. But it still could have become just an obscure one-off.


Thankfully, Street Fighter II scrapped the parts that didn’t work, fine tuned everything that did. Then added a bunch of new features. You could play as characters other than Ryu, and Ken. Plus you could really compete with other people for something other than score. Every iteration of the game added, and refined more. You could play as the bosses. You could play at a faster speed. You could play as newer characters. You could do finishers. Every iteration also changed character attributes to try to bring everyone just that much closer. Not only was it leagues ahead of Street Fighter, it became a phenomenon. So now there’s an even newer version of a twenty-six year old game to play on the Switch. With a collection around the corner, should you still get this?

PROS: It’s Street Fighter II. One of the best games of all time. On the Switch.

CONS: Doesn’t add all that much bonus content to the package.

I’VE GOT NEXT: It does bring a taste of the arcade era in portable form.

Ultra Street Fighter II is a pretty awesome game. It’s Street Fighter II. That’s already pretty awesome. That’s a given. But what makes this iteration worth playing over another? Chances are you own at least some version of the game. If you don’t, and you have a Switch, well then this is a no brainer. For a lot of other people though, they’ll need more than that. For the five of you who were around in the 90’s, and somehow never played the game, what you do is simple. Pick a character, beat the other characters in two-out-of-three bouts, until you get to the final boss, and beat him too. Beyond that, you can play against other people for supremacy.


But if you’re a long time Street Fighter fan, you’ve played this before. So again, you’re going to ask “Why play this over my Super NES Game Pak, or my Anniversary Collection for my PlayStation or my Anniversary Collection on my Xbox 360? Or any other version for that matter?” Well, there a few reasons. A few of which are pretty compelling. The Nintendo Switch being a tablet means convenience. It also means you can recreate some of that bygone era of arcades in a public space. For instance, one of the first things I did when I purchased my copy was go out for coffee. While there I played the game, and a couple other people noticed. They inquired about the system, and we talked about playing Street Fighter II after school in the arcade as teenagers. These kinds of moments lend themselves to rekindling some of that. Strangers can challenge you in person now as you can give them a joycon, you have a joycon, and before long someone shows up with a quarter to say “I’ve got next.”


It’s also great for a game night. Street Fighter II, in spite of the technical aspects of it, is still an approachable game. Newcomers who weren’t around for it when it was new, can still pick it up, and have a good time. It has a fair amount of depth, and complexity. But it isn’t going to look impossibly daunting to someone who has never touched a fighting game before. At least not compared to something like Guilty Gear Xrd. We all have that friend who insists the party starts with something like Guilty Gear Xrd.  Anyway, It’s a lot of fun for newcomers, and veterans alike which is a big reason why Capcom likely chose to update this game for the Switch.


In terms of new additions, the obvious one is the ability to play with either the original coin-op graphics or to play with the newer HD Remix inspired graphics. There isn’t any difference in game play between them. When playing in either style everything looks terrific. The HD style looks crisp, vibrant, and detailed. All of the art assets from Udon, are completely on point. The coin-op graphics are also crisp, vibrant, and detailed. They also display in 4:3 aspect ratio which is great. Sometimes a retro release still comes out these days, that zooms or stretches everything into 16:9 by default, and looks just awful. Not the case with Ultra Street Fighter II. Now sadly, there isn’t anything in the way of CRT simulation filter options with this game. So if you do play with the older graphics, you’ll see every last pixel. Personally, I always preferred sharper images. So even in the 90’s playing crisp Super Street Fighter II for MS-DOS on a monitor looked nicer than blurred Super Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo on a TV. But I know not everyone feels the same way. If you don’t, and seeing all of the squares bugs you, you may want to stick with the new style.


A couple of other things were thrown in too. You can play the game in a Co-op version of the arcade ladder. Basically turning the bouts into handicap matches. It’s definitely something to try to see if you’ll like it. But it isn’t as fun as the core game you come into a Street Fighter II release for. The same can be said for the Way Of The Hado mode they’ve included. Now to be perfectly honest, I really like this mode. It’s a really fun mini game that you can break out at parties because of two reasons. First, (at least for me) the motion controls were spot on. Second, after you use the trainer to figure out how to hold the joycons for each move (Kind of like the Wiimote, and nunchuck for gestures in some Wii games) you can go into one of two modes. A story-like mode, or an endless mode. The story-like one has an ending you can make it to if you’re good enough. The endless is there more as a high score arcade game. It uses some of the graphics from Street Fighter IV to make a first person mini game. In it you throw fireballs, dragon punches, and other signature attacks as Ryu to beat up M.Bison/Dictator’s goons. Over time they can shoot fireballs back at you, and do other moves. Fortunately, you can also block. Again, it’s honestly a fun distraction. But, also again, it’s just that. It isn’t going to keep you engaged nearly as much as the core game you buy USFII for.


The game does have online play, and it seems to be fine most of the time. It’s about as good as Ultra Street Fighter IV‘s is. 85% of the time you’re going to get a good to great connection, and have an awesome match. 15% of the time, you’re going to get a jittery mess of a match, possibly a disconnection. I tried this mode at home where I have a good internet connection, at hotspots where things are mixed, and a relative’s, which has a good connection. I had pretty much the same experience everywhere. If you find you don’t have a great wireless connection to your router, you can buy the wired, USB Ethernet connector for the Switch. That can improve things a bit. In the case of the game though, it really comes down to the net code.  Again, most of the time it seems fine.


Some of the other bonus content in the game includes some in-house Street Fighter series art from Capcom. These were taken from a now out of print book. It’s really great stuff. You can’t use the Switch’s photo function on it though, likely out of piracy concerns. Still, it’s worth thumbing through it, particularly if you love art. Separate from the gallery is the option to add background themes to the menus. Nothing you’ll be excited about though. Some will love the included sprite editor though. It works a lot like the one that came way back in Capcom Vs. SNK 2. You can change the colors of three different sections of any given character, and save them in added color slots. This works in both graphical styles, and subsequently these edits will be playable in the game.


In spite of some of the bonus content, and the inclusion of online battles this feels like a barebones release though. The extra stuff here does give you a little break from the mainline arcade, versus, and online battles. But that’s just it. They’re minor diversions. Even though they’re fun, they’re not really fleshed out enough to keep most people engaged. Most players will likely try them, and then go back to the one on one fights. Had there been even more graphics options, like a simulated CRT filter, or more characters or backgrounds it would give old-time fans more to get excited about.


The three new characters you do get are ramped up versions of Ryu, Ken, and Akuma. And they’ve appeared in other Capcom fighting games before. Evil Ryu, Violent Ken, and Shin Akuma (whom you need an old school sequence code to use) are all fun to use. But they all have insane damage potential. Shin Akuma is even barred from online competition. So some of the top-tier players who play in tournaments have their concerns. For the rest of us, they also take a lot of damage. So average to good players who don’t need to bother with tournament level stuff like obsessing over frame data or lists won’t care. As is the case with most Capcom fighters, the trainer does let you see inputs, and some other information.


On that note, I do want to talk about controllers with this one. Playing the game with the joycons on the console or in the grip is fine. For the most part. It feels pretty close to using a standard game pad, though I found sometimes the analog stick would read a forward jump, as a jump. Playing the game with the joycons as two separate mini controllers is not that bad. It’s not great, and you’ll have to get used to rounding your index fingers to press the Z buttons. But it works. It basically follows the format of the Super NES controller. So if you’ve played any version of the game on the Super NES, you’ll know what to expect. That said, while it’s something you’ll live with when playing other people at Starbucks, you’ll probably want another option for home. There are a host of options for the Switch. The pro controller, aftermarket controllers, and even an arcade tournament joystick by Hori. Depending on your preference, and budget you’ll probably want to invest in one of these options at some point if you haven’t already.


In the end Ultra Street Fighter II is worth getting for a number of scenarios. Bringing the aforementioned arcade experience to a public setting. If you’re a fan of the game who no longer has an old console or computer version knocking around. Or if you’re getting back into it for the first time in years. Or if you’re just a big fan of fighting games in general, and you’re building a Switch collection. It’s a really fun version of Street Fighter II. With SFII being as timeless as classics like Pac-Man, Centipede, and Space Invaders it’s also a pretty safe bet. Just don’t expect much more out of it than a really fun update of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. The other stuff is nice to try, but isn’t the headline act. Also remember this version of the game isn’t included in Capcom’s upcoming collection.

Final Score: 7 out of 10






Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case For Nintendo Switch Review


So now you have the fastest selling Console in American history. It’s going to provide you years of entertainment on your TV. However, you love the portability of tablets. What if you decide to take your Switch to the local Starbucks to get in a few rounds of Ultra Street Fighter II in on your coffee break? You might scratch it, or lose your beloved fighting game somewhere in a seat cushion! What to do?

PROS: Inexpensive. Contoured for the console. Includes some nice perks.

CONS: Not enough space for an extra AC Adapter, or car charger.

CHOOSE: Slightly sturdier plain, or screen printed with your favorite game.

Enter R.D.S. Industries Inc. They produce the Game Traveler series of cases. Notably, today’s case. The Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case (Say that five times fast.) is an affordable, streamlined case that gives you most of the necessary features  a large case would. For starters, it’s compact. Often times cases for tablets, laptops, and even some phones get bulky, and oversized. Almost defeating the purpose of having a case in some instances.



The Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case has a sculpted, contoured inlay inside. So it fits the Switch easily, and firmly, Just zip it open, take the Switch out of the dock, and put it inside. You’ll notice though a couple of indents that the console will rest over. These house two little plastic cases. One of which will hold four physical Nintendo Switch games. The other will hold a few memory cards.


Above that is a soft cloth pouch that defends the screen from scratches in the event something jostles around while moving. This gets snuggled down with Velcro. On that pouch is a zippered pocket for a few other small items. Perfect for a stylus. The bottom half is constructed of a durable plastic material. So it keeps everything nice, and snug. Depending on the version you pick up, the top half will differ slightly. If you go with the plain, black version it too has the same durable plastic. It’s covered with a nice, nylon texture. And it will have a little Nintendo Switch themed zipper.


However the other models are screen printed, and these prints are done on a soft, vinyl. So they aren’t quite as protective in every situation, though the difference is pretty negligible. The version I ended up going with was the one themed after Splatoon 2. The screen printed versions of the case will have a rubber zipper based on the specific game the art is based on. So in my case, it’s a little squid from the game. But there are other versions based on Zelda games, Mario games, and others. The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe version has a little Mario logo for a zipper for example.


It’s a solid, compact case. The times I’ve taken it out to lunch or coffee it’s performed nicely, keeping the console from scratches, and dents if bumped while walking with it. The rubberized handle is a nice touch as well. Now obviously if we’re bringing extreme examples to light, like dropping it from the top floor of the local mall, then going downstairs to see if it survives? I don’t know that it will protect your Switch from something like that. There are all kinds of tales of Nintendo products surviving crazy scenarios. But don’t tempt fate. The case will likely help in a small drop from say your waist to the floor. But if you’re accounting for extreme examples, a better idea would be to buy a third-party warranty that covers accidents, and screen damage. Maybe even get a case made of Tungsten just to be safe.


Really, the sole complaint I have is that it isn’t *quite* big enough. I bought an extra AC Adapter to bring in the rare case that I forget to charge the console’s battery before leaving, and it won’t fit in the case with everything else. So you’ll have to carry one in a separate bag if you ever take it on vacation, and need to charge your Switch in the hotel room. But really, beyond that one annoyance it’s a great case. You can fit everything for a local trip you’d need, and you won’t have to carry 3 or 4 bags the way you did for some retro handhelds like the Game Boy, Game Gear, or Lynx. 


Overall though, I’m happy with the Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case. It may have a convoluted name, and I have to throw the extra plug in my pocket. But it gets the job done, and is far more convenient than the duffel bag size of some of the other options out there. The fact it can hold some games, and accessories without over stuffing itself is also a nice achievement. It’s a case, and it’s not terribly exciting. But the screen printed art versions do add a dash of fun to the mundane. If you’re going to be using the Switch as a portable, it’s a pretty nice option worth looking into.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Splatoon 2 Review


Well folks, it’s a new year, and thanks to a nice Christmas bonus I now have a Nintendo Switch. So now I have another platform to play games on, and review. I apologize for the delay in getting out some articles to you. Just know, the end of the year gets very busy for me, leaving me not as much time as I’d like for reviewing games. All of that being said, my first Switch game purchase is a sequel to one of the best games I own for the Wii U. Is Splatoon 2 as good as its surprise hit predecessor?

PROS: Everything you loved about the original, and then some!

CONS: Convoluted voice chat. Consulting the map is worse. Drawing with thumb sticks.

AMIIBO: The older figures have as much merit as the new ones.

In a lot of ways Splatoon 2 is a much better game over its predecessor. It features a lot of new weapons, and new maps. It has a few new modes. It also takes the Nintendo Switch’s wireless capabilities to add a LAN like feature. Think in the vein of the original Xbox’s system link feature. There are new characters, and a lot of great customization options. Even the campaign is improved. There is a lot to like here.


For those who never played the original game, be it because they didn’t have a Wii U, or because they were more enamored with something else, Splatoon 2 is a shooter. More accurately, it’s a third-person shooter with a lot of the stuff you’d find in a first-person shooter. You’ll be killing people, and blowing things up. But what really sets the game apart from every other game of its ilk is its mainline game objective.

Splatoon 2 is a very multiplayer focused team shooter. You’ll hop into game modes with other players online or offline (I’ll get to that soon enough), and fight alongside your teammates for victory. Splatoon’s trademark mode is called “Turf War”. In it, each team has to focus their efforts on painting every floor their own color. You’ll be doing this with a variety of paint, and water themed weapons, and tools that shoot ink. As is the case with many modern shooters you’ll start out with a competent gun. But as you play the game more, over time you’ll begin to level up. Once you get to around level 4 or so, you’ll be able to go into the various shops to buy newer weapons.


Each of the weapons also comes with a perk you can use once you earn enough points by painting the floors. Some of them are things like jetpacks where you can temporarily hover above everyone dropping ink. Others are rack mounted ink missiles. Or shields. Or any other number of things. During all of the game modes, you can, and will be killing each other. But that doesn’t get your team victories. Playing the objective does. When you kill an opponent it is really just a means to buy yourself a few more moments to paint.

Seeing how the characters in the world of Inkopolis are Squid people, you can transform into a squid which results in all different kinds of strategies. As a squid you can swim under your own team’s ink. You can camp in it, waiting for enemies to walk into an ambush. You can paint walls, and swim up to higher ground. You can try to go stealth, and get around opponents so you can start painting over their ink, and change the those floors to your team’s color.


Each of the modes lasts around five minutes per round. At the end of the Turf War the game displays an overhead look at the arena, and the team who painted more of it their color wins the round. Winning a round gets you a lot of points, which helps you level up faster.

The other modes are played under Ranked Battle, which you can begin playing once you reach a certain level. There’s Tower Control, which is a take on the push cart mechanic seen in other games. You have to hold your position on it, and the longer you do, the further toward your goal it drives. Of course the opposing team will try to kill you, and take it for themselves. If they’re able to do so, it will go in the opposite direction toward their goal.


Splat Zones is a variant of the mainline Turf War. Only instead of painting the entire map, the game will outline two key areas to paint. If your team gets one, or both painted your color, you have to defend the position, and hold it as long as possible. At the end of the round the team that held them down the longest wins.

Finally, there’s the Rainmaker, which is another take on the push cart mechanic. But this time it’s centered around a special weapon; The Rainmaker. One player on one team will have to take it, and then get it to the goal on the opposing team’s side. The player can defend themselves with it, as it fires charged shots. But the player will instantly become the default target. The entire enemy team will try to kill them so one of their own can take it for themselves. This is the only mode where your attack performance is going to matter as much as an objective.


Once you, and some friends have at least a B rank, you can group up into a League Battle, where you can play as a team in the various Ranked modes. The nice thing about the Ranked modes in this is that each mode has its own individual rank for you. So for instance, if you’re doing well with the Rainmaker mode, but patently average in Tower Control, you’ll see an *A* in the former, and a *C*. It’s great because if you get competitive you can see where you may need some practice.

There is also a fourth mode called Salmon Run. This mode works as a horde mode, where you have to keep waves of killer robot fish from taking you out. You’re also given a quota of eggs you need to collect during waves. These are dropped by bosses. It throws you into the grind with three other players, and you’ll have to work together to get all of the eggs, and survive. This also mixes up your load out when you play it, so you’ll be forced to learn to use weapons you might not normally choose. The only real issue with this mode is that you can’t play it all of the time. At least online. You have to be leveled up enough to do Ranked play, and the game’s servers will turn this mode on, whenever whomever manages it decides it’s playable.



When you first fire up Splatoon 2, things go about the way they do in the original. It will give you a quick character customization process. After this you’ll, be thrown into a brief tutorial to get you used to the control scheme. Splatoon 2 works in TV mode by using the two Joycons in the grip included with the Switch. Or you can use a Pro Controller or equivalent. As was the case on the Wii U in Splatoon, you can play with or without gyroscopic aiming. For those who eat, sleep, and breathe a controller with their shooters, turning it off might seem like a no brainer. But honestly, I would recommend using the gyroscopic aiming. When you’re in the heat of battle, and need that smooth, yet pixel perfect aim to hit something it is a Godsend. It isn’t quite as good as using a mouse in a PC shooter, but it’s still much better than the thumb stick. Particularly when trying to hit high or low targets on an angle. And you can focus your camera at any time by pressing the Y button. Handy, if somehow you find yourself stuck looking too far off.

With the Tutorial done, you’ll be dropped into the Inkopolis hub world. Again, as in the original Splatoon, you can go to the different shops after you’ve leveled up a bit, talk to NPCs, and get video updates telling you when maps have been rotated on the servers for online multiplayer. But beyond that you can find a shady character named Murch. Murch is pretty much this game’s version of the first game’s Spyke. After you get to the proper level, you can have Murch track down outfits of the random player characters who appear in Inkopolis. For the right price. They generally won’t have the same stats, but it is a way for you to find some of the nicer clothing options early, although they’ll usually cost you more.


As for each of the shops, again as in Splatoon one shop will have the weapons for purchase as you unlock them. You can also try them out before you buy them to see if it’s right for your play style. The others will cover shirts, shoes, and headgear. Each of these does more than simply make your character look cool. They have different attributes that will help you during your multiplayer matches. Some may boost your run speed. Some recharge your weapon’s ammo faster. Some will negate some enemy perk effects on you. As well as other potential benefits. Over time you can add other abilities to the clothes. If you ever regret some of the abilities that found their way into the clothes you can also have Murch scrub them out for a fee. At which point you’ll have to start over leveling that piece of apparel.

You can also buy food from a food truck for some temporary benefits. Beyond that you can also scan in Splatoon, and Splatoon 2 amiibo figures for some costumes. The original toys get you some of the outfits from the first game, while the newer toys get you some newer options. It should be noted if you open the Callie/Marie two pack, these toys also get you songs to listen to.  The toys will also give you access to a photo feature, and let you save load outs to them! One cool thing the original game did was implement the Wii U’s Miiverse service very well. You could post on Nintendo’s boards, and even draw fan art. But the game would post these pieces of art on walls at random in online matches.


With the service defunct, this game does retain a draw feature. Going up to a kiosk in Inkopolis will allow you to draw pictures, or write messages that can appear in the game on the walls. The thing to keep in mind though is you’ll want to use this feature in handheld mode, as you can draw freehand that way. Sadly, if you’re using the console in TV mode you’ll have to draw with the controller. Something that doesn’t work well at all. The sticks just swing far too wildly for you to do the intricate kind of detail needed if you’re someone who loves to draw. I should also note that once Nintendo rolls out its online service, you’ll need to pay $20 a year to enjoy online multiplayer. As of this writing it costs nothing to play online. But if you haven’t kept up with gaming news over the course of 2017, it has been something to be aware of. On the plus side, the netcode is really good in this game. I ran into no lag, even when connected to a hotspot getting coffee.

If you’ve been reading thus far, worried that you can only play this game against online warriors fear not. As I mentioned earlier, Splatoon 2 has a mode that works a bit like an offline LAN. If you have a few people with Nintendo Switches meet up somewhere, you can use the system’s wireless setup to connect the consoles together allowing each of you to play against one another in teams locally in the same room. Now unlike an actual LAN, you won’t be sharing files, resources, and other stuff through a router. But, it does make for a great time that will take you back to four player F1 Race on the Game Boy. However, if each of you have an old Wii wired adapter, you can play an actual wired LAN tournament through a router. This is also handy for convention tournaments.


But things don’t end there. If you’re not typically drawn toward multiplayer games, but you do enjoy single player action games, there is once again a campaign. Splatoon 2’s campaign is a bit more fleshed out that the original game’s was. This time instead of following Captain Cuttlefish down a sewer drain, you’ll see a mysterious woman hanging out in the back of Inkopolis square. When you follow her, you’ll find it’s actually Marie from the first game. It would seem her best friend, and fellow pop star Callie has gone missing. As an undercover agent she hires you to join her to face the Octarians.

This time around they’ve taken Callie, in addition to the Zapfish. So you have to help Marie rescue her. In the sequel you’ll again play a multitude of stages that combine elements of Super Mario Galaxy’s platforming, Metal Gear Solid’s stealth, and Doom’s circle strafing. It’s a lot of fun, and requires more than just hand, and eye coordination. Each of the stages houses blueprints, and hidden fish. If you find them you’ll get some back story for the game to read, as well as the ability to unlock some firepower for the multiplayer modes. You can also spend the tickets found in the campaign at the food truck for some boosts. Finding all of them takes some time, and some sleuthing on your part. Especially in later stages where they get pretty creative in hiding these items.


Stages are laid out similarly to Super Mario 64. There’s an overarching hub world, with different entrances to each of the stages. Some of these are cloaked, so you’ll have to shoot them to make them appear. Things get a bit more intricate as time goes on. Every stage will put you in exponentially harder situations that will force you to learn the mechanics. Until you get to that final showdown.

Boss fights in Splatoon 2 work almost exactly as they did in Splatoon. You’ll find the weak point, attack it, and then find you’ll have to do it three times. But each time, the attack patterns become a bit more complex, and so you’ll have to employ the advanced strategies you’ve learned in order to take them down.  Aesthetically they get more, creative as they’re introduced to you too.


The campaign is also done in a way that ultimately trains you for the multiplayer. But does so in a way that feels fulfilling. It doesn’t feel like padding, or that it only there as a trainer. The story is entertaining, and has a lot of funny dialogue. It’s also got a fair amount of challenge, and isn’t too long, nor is it too short. Though the final boss may irritate you a little bit with the cheap desperation moves.

Visually, the game looks slightly better than the original. With the game going up a minor notch from a 720p resolution to a 1080p resolution. A lot of the art has call backs to the original game, and even some of the old maps were retooled, and brought back. The texture work is also a little bit cleaner than in the old game. Overall, it isn’t that different from the last game. It’s still beautiful, but those hoping this would be a massive graphics leap over the old game may be left wanting a bit.


There are a few minor complaints I have with the game though. As a veteran of the first game, the dual screen gameplay really did one thing well. That was the map screen. You could jump to a teammate’s aid at any time by touching them on your screen. In this one you can still get to them, but you have to pull up the screen mid battle, and then select them. That fraction of a second in the heat of warfare can get you killed as you’re busy pulling up the map instead of looking at the incoming threats.

Another thing I think some people won’t like, is the cumbersome way they implemented a voice chat feature. Rather than, simply including it in the game, and letting players use a common headset you have to download an app to your smart phone, and have that an arm’s length away. This doesn’t affect me as I don’t have much more than a crappy old prepaid emergency phone. (I know, I know, I’m a relic.) But for those who do, this can be inconvenient, especially when someone calls your phone, and trying to take a call while voice chatting is going to be a pain.

It’s probably better to have a cheap, old laptop nearby with Discord, or another voice group chat application on it, and just using that to strategize on the fly instead. It’s not that much different although at least you won’t have to drop out to take an important phone call while you’re in a game. You can just tell everyone in the chat you have to take the call, without inexplicably leaving.

I also found it odd that the Salmon Run can’t be played online all of the time. Shooters generally let players play their favorite modes whenever they want, and locking this one up for arbitrary reasons just seems perplexing to me. Maybe they were trying to make it feel like a Splatfest event. But then again, it is one of the offline LAN modes too.


Fortunately, one thing that is very impressive is the soundtrack. Not only do some of the great tracks from the original show up again, but the variety is larger too. You’ll get the Pop Punk, Power Pop fix. But you’ll also get a lot of New Wave, Funk, Disco, and J-Pop too. In fact, a lot of the tracks mix a lot of these sounds together to make for something new. It really is a lot of fun to listen to. Hopefully, Nintendo will find a way to release this soundtrack as they did the first. Just at a much wider availability.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the game. Aside from a couple of baffling decisions it does successfully move the great gameplay of the original onto Nintendo’s newer, highly successful system where more people can be exposed to it. It’s fun because even if you’re not very good at shooters, you can still do very well by focusing on the objectives. As long as you’re painting a floor, you’re getting some points, and leveling up. In fact, just like last time around, you’ll find a lot of good players don’t boast the highest Kill to Death ratios. That isn’t to say it isn’t important. It buys your team more capture time. But you don’t have to feel bad if you see your little squid combatant explode into Looney Tunes gibs constantly. I only wish they could work on solving the AFK issues that rise on occasion. If someone abandons a match, or stops playing, it’s curtains for their team. If you’re on that team it can be frustrating to find the reason you were beaten is because player 4 got zero points. Which is impossible unless you set the controller down, and walk away. But I digress.

Splatoon 2 is a great game. It is pretty much everything the first one was, with a lot more weapons, and clothing. The new mode, is pretty fun, even if it does only open up once in a while. And if you really don’t do multiplayer, the campaign is something that you’ll at the very least enjoy one play through on before trading it in or selling it off. I wouldn’t hop in if you aren’t willing to at least try a multiplayer game. At least with this being somewhat portable though, the LAN option is a great way to play locally with friends if your only concern with online are the trolls, and jerks who spoil things.  And even beyond that, the ability to join a lobby with three friends mitigates this a bit.

I know I keep repeating myself in this review. But for those who do love online competitive multiplayer though, this one is a no brainer. There are a ton of great strategies, action, and advanced movement techniques to master.  If you like online multiplayer, but are hesitant about needing to Get Good, fear not. It’s still something you can have a blast playing at a rudimentary level. Really, the only people who may want to pass are those who have no interest in competitive gaming. Though the campaign is still worth a rent for those who love a good platformer, or action romp. The issues I do have with it don’t ruin the experience by any means, but can be annoying. Still, as I said earlier, it’s a must play for Switch owners who are fans of multiplayer. Especially those who loved the original Splatoon on their Wii U machines.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Boulder Dash XL 3D Review


Way back in 1984 came an excellent platform puzzle game called Boulder Dash. It was a big hit on home computers of the time. The Atari 400/800 version came first, but the game made its way to the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and some of the consoles like the Colecovision. There was even an NES port. Over the years it has seen newer versions. Some by First Star Software, the company who created it. Others by different developers who were licensed to do so.

PROS: A really great take on Boulder Dash with some refinements.

CONS: Some of the tweaks aren’t intuitive.

ROBOTS: Your quasi-human miners have been replaced by automatons.

In 2012, a small outfit called Catnip made a new version for the Xbox Live service, and computers called Boulder Dash XL. It replaced the main characters with robot interpretations, but it retained the spirit of the original game fairly well. It also added a few new spins on the game which I’ll get to in a bit. Boulder Dash XL 3D is a port of that game to the 3DS. This port was done by the folks at Ludosity who went on to make the well received Princess Remedy games on Steam.

For the uninitiated, Boulder Dash is a series where you collect diamonds while mining. You’re given a few minutes to get a certain number of diamonds, and then make your way to the exit. You do this, by moving around the stages, digging dirt, and picking them up. The challenge of course is trying to get these without getting crushed. Much like the rocks in Dig Dug, digging out the dirt from beneath the boulders will cause them to fall. You can also be crushed by the very diamonds you collect.


But where Dig Dug focused more on defeating all of the bad guys in the stage to advance, Boulder Dash does a lot more with the boulders (hence the name.). Boulders, and diamonds will shift to the left or the right as they fall on top of one another.  When you first start out, the earliest levels are pretty easy to figure out. You’ll find you can get the required number of diamonds, and get to the exit. There’s a bit of risk/reward too in that you can also try to get all of the diamonds for bonus points rather than just the required number to exit. Of course, getting all of the diamonds requires nearly flawless puzzle solving skills. Often times making a mistake will not only keep you from getting that last diamond, but may get you trapped between boulders, forcing you to restart.

But its a very engrossing formula, and this version adds a host of new mechanics to an already fun game. There are transporters, there are boxes that turn boulders into diamonds, and vice versa. They even added a few power ups on some levels that are used in a number of puzzles. That’s in addition to some of the newer takes on enemy types featured here. There is a large wealth of content here too. There are around 100 stages or more for you to play through. This edition also has several modes in it.


The primary mode is the Arcade mode, where the game puts you through the 100 stages in a row. This mode works with the traditional Boulder Dash rules. You’re given a time limit, and you have to get the qualifying number of diamonds to make the exit appear so you can escape as quickly as possible for the most time points. Again, getting every diamond is worth a huge bonus, but you risk running out of time, or trapping yourself if you don’t get them just right.

Next up is Puzzle mode, which gives you a 25 stage gauntlet. Every stage you complete can be replayed at any time, but you’ll have to beat them all in a row in order to see them all. This mode eschews the time limit, giving you more time to experiment, and figure out exactly how the level designers wanted you to find your way out of the mazes.


Zen mode is essentially the Arcade mode but without the time limit. So in a way it feels like a giant practice mode where you can try to fine tune your techniques on each of the stages to minimize the amount of time it takes you to clear them. It’s pretty neat from that particular perspective, but most will likely prefer the Arcade mode over it since it’s a lot more high stakes, which feels more rewarding when you succeed.


Score mode features four stages where you can either try to go for the time bonus or you can try to get every last diamond possible. To get the best scores, you’ll likely have to skip a number of diamonds as it’s a balance of knowing how many diamonds, and how many seconds left on the clock will get you in terms of points. It’s an interesting concept some players may enjoy. To me it isn’t as interesting as the Puzzle mode, or as fun as the Arcade mode. But still fun to check out.


Retro mode is one of the coolest inclusions in this game. It’s a combination of stages from the original game, as well as all new stages specific to this iteration. The interesting thing it does is replace all of the textures with the original 8-bit tile sprites from the Commodore 64 version of the first Boulder Dash. There are 25 stages in this set, and for older people like me who pick this up, the nostalgia it conjures up is great. But for people who never played the original, the newer stages are still a nice challenge. So even if you pick this up having never played the original, this mode gives you more content to enjoy.



Visually, the main game on display here is pretty nice. The blocks, boulders, and diamonds all look pretty good, and the monsters all have pretty interesting takes on their original designs. There’s also a pretty good use of lighting considering the obviously smaller budget when compared to a lot of the big hits on the 3DS. Be that as it may, the change from the humanoid miners to robots is a bit weird. It by no means hampers the game. It isn’t going to make any old timers scream “Sacrilege!” to the heavens. It’s just a small change that doesn’t make any sense. As for the 3D, I couldn’t really test that out, as I own a 2DS which doesn’t have the 3D functionality. But honestly this isn’t the kind of game that requires 3D to enjoy. In terms of performance, I didn’t run into any major issues, though there was some minor slowdown when I caused a slew of boulders to fall at once. Still, it didn’t get in the way of the actual game play.

There isn’t much in the way of good audio here though. The soundtrack doesn’t have the up tempo, frazzled chip tune theme of the original. It has a mostly forgettable set list, with one or two songs that can even annoy a bit. Some of you may disagree, but honestly I think you’ll enjoy it more without the music playing. The sound effects themselves are fine. You can hear the falling boulders, and explosions perfectly well, and they fit the game as intended.



Boulder Dash is one classic game that is perfectly suited to a portable platform. It’s the kind of game you can attempt to clear a map or two in during a lunch break, or commute. But you can also spend a weekend away, putting in a few hours into going for a high score, or solving puzzles. It’s also just a great game in its own right. This version on the 3DS is a pretty fun, and convenient iteration of the game. It’s probably not going to live up to the lofty heights of the original versions for those who grew up with them. But be that as it may this is (as Metal Jesus Rocks might say) a hidden gem in the 3DS library. It’s addictive. It’s fun. It’s Boulder Dash.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Holiday gaming gifting for the frugal.


Man, what a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been insanely busy with deliveries at my paid gig. Between this, and Thanksgiving week I haven’t had much in the way of *me* time. But I did find a few morsels of time finally this evening, so I’m trying something a little bit different. If you’re like me, the holiday weeks are not only very time-consuming, they’re wallet busting. Not only do you want to get the people closest to you something off of their list, you may want to do a little something for your friends. Or even Pete in accounting. But after getting that Nintendo Switch for your kids, that Gibson guitar your wife has been eyeing, and that new 4K TV for your aging parents, there isn’t much left in the tank.

Fear not! These are some pretty cool gifts you can pick up, that won’t break the bank. At least not too much. Some of these will be games, others trinkets. But hopefully they’ll give you some ideas. Some of these have deals that are ending soon, but I’ve tried to find some that aren’t too expensive at full price either. And some of these I’ve reviewed a while ago, but now can be had for less due to their age. But just because something is older than 6 months doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It’s still new if the person hasn’t played it.

So let’s have at it!

Digital Games

Digital Downloads can be a great way to save some money, and still give someone in your life an entertaining gift. I do this a lot every year, and I’m sharing that tactic with you. Steam, and GoG have amazing sales every year. As I type this there are two days left to their respective autumn sales, and Steam will likely follow it up with their annual Winter sale. But even some of the console manufacturers have thrown in some discounts. So do look into Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s digital store fronts in case of any promotions they may happen to put up. Some games I recommend:


Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading awhile knows I’m a huge fan of this game. It’s one of my favorite titles ever. But even if I weren’t, the quality is obvious. It has wonderful graphics, an amazing soundtrack, and a cool morphing mechanic. It twists you between parallel worlds. One a whimsical dream, the other a horrifying nightmare. But you’ll have to use this to solve puzzles, collect gems, and succeed in general. It’s also got a plethora of secrets, and unlockable modes. It’s a scant $3.59 with it’s expansion on Steam until 11/28. PS4, and Wii U owners can track down the disc version for around $20 on Amazon.



Ultionus: A Tale Of Petty Revenge

This one is a great choice for the friend who loves challenging action games, and shmups. Just know it is inspired by old computer games where movement was more calculated than it was brisk. That said, this one is a fun game for anyone who can get past that caveat, and it’s even better for one who grew up on the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amiga. It has great pixel art, a great sense of humor, and a lot of love for Phantis. It’s just shy of $5 on Steam until the sale ends. Then it goes back to the regular low price of $7.



If you have a friend who still hasn’t tried this one out, it’s a meager $5 right now rather than the usual $10. At least on Steam. But even if you spend the full ten dollars, that’s about what you’d spend treating them to lunch at their fast food staple of choice. Undertale is pretty cool too. While I’m not the hardcore fan many people are, I can attest to the fact that it is a fun RPG with some great humor, swerves, and a love of 8-bit computers. It also implements some bullet hell shmup mechanics in a creative way. It also has multiple endings, giving it a good sense of replay value. It’s also on consoles, so you’re not limited to the computer, though you’ll likely pay less for the PC version.


You may not realize Treasure’s classic is on Steam, and that like the previous game on the list it’s $5. $10 normally. Here’s the thing. A lot of retro fans obsess over getting the Japanese Dreamcast version or the Nintendo Gamecube release. These can easily exceed $40 for a used copy, and well beyond that if they have their case, and manual inside. If you have a collector friend, who also has a PC, you may want to get this one for them digitally. They can enjoy it legitimately, and you can save a lot of money.

Ultima 1-6

The entire run of Ultima can be had on GoG fairly cheap. They have their own sale running alongside Valve’s, and have made these games even cheaper. For a mere $3.58 you can get the best of the series via two bundles. Ultima is one of the most important RPG series in the genre. Many of the conventions you see in RPGs, and even some JRPGs were inspired by Richard Garriott’s seminal series. It starts out simple, but eventually gives you a compelling overall story, and an open world to get immersed in. It may not look like The Witcher, but you should probably play these if you love RPGs. And while it might not elicit the same joy cloth maps, and trinkets do being digital, the GoG release means you don’t need to know how to use DOSBox. GoG releases have DOS emulation wrappers built around them, so all you have to do is click *play*. Later Ultimas didn’t have the core elements these did, so you may want to pass. But if you’re still interested, those are also on GoG’s sale. A great gift for the Retro RPG fan in your life.

The Witcher Series

Speaking of The Witcher, the entire series can be found digitally for very affordable prices right now. And with Steam’s winter sale coming up, you can remind yourself to nab them if you miss the current offers. If you didn’t already know this, these games offer vast worlds to explore, tons of missions, and all of the levelling up you could possibly want. CDProjektRed has made a trilogy of excellent RPGs that would please about anybody. These sales aren’t as deep as some of the other games I’m mentioning, but they’re still worth looking into.

Rocket League

Rocket League may not be the newest game anymore, but it’s as fun, and as compelling as ever. Plus with the recent release on Nintendo Switch, and cross-play, there’s never been a better time to check this game out. The PC version is only $10 in this current Steam sale. If you’re uninitiated with it, it’s like a mash-up of Super Mario Strikers, and RC Pro-Am. If RC Pro-Am could jump with hydraulics, and do bicycle kicks. It’s one of the most fun arcade soccer games ever made. Even if your friend doesn’t usually gravitate toward sports games, they’ll probably really enjoy this on whatever platform they have.


This is one modern military shooter worth playing, and the fact that it’s less than $2 during Steam, and Humble Bundle sales makes it even better. It’s a few years old now, but it still has a sizable community, and you can still get into a full game. It eschews just some annoyances other modern military shooters have. No grinding away for guns. No micro-transactions. Here every player gets points to use every round on their layout. Every weapon is available, and attachments, as well as side gear. The catch is you won’t have enough to equip everything so it balances out nicely. Too much fire power you’ll have no protection. Too much protection you’ll be slow, and low on ammo. It also encourages team work, and objectives over kills. Though you’ll still have players who care about kills, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Also there are no kill cams, and barely any HUDs to speak of. It’s a wonderful blend of Rainbow Six 3’s realistic damage, and movement, with modes popularized by games like Battlefield. If you have a friend looking for something different from the typical Activision or EA annual release, get them this one. If they like it tell them to keep their eyes out for the sequel. If it’s half as good as this one, it should be quite the game indeed.

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R/Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator

This may not be the latest, and greatest Guilty Gear game around. But it is the definitive version of the XX line. All of the Guilty Gear games have some astonishing animation in them, and a wealth of great characters to choose from. If you get this during the Steam sale, it’s a meager $3, and will give a fighting game fan who missed it, hours upon hours of fun.  If you do want to get that friend Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator instead, being that it’s newer, it will set you back $15. This one is more advanced, looks slicker (Runs on the Unreal Engine), and is also a blast. The fighting system also has refinements over the older series so it doesn’t play exactly the same. But either game makes an excellent gift.

Ys series (Most of it)

Ys Origin, the re-mastered Ys 1&2, Oath In Felghana (Ys III), Ark Of Napishtim (Ys VI), and Ys VII, all have huge discounts, with the oldest games coming in for under $5 in most cases. This is a wonderful series of action RPGs dating back to the NEC PC-8801 computer in Japan. In recent years XSEED, managed to get the re-mastered editions localized, and on Steam. Their tireless work is your gain, as these titles are worth every penny. If you have a friend who loves JRPGs, and hasn’t played this series, all of these are great options, though I may start them with Ys Origin. It’s a prequel that kicks everything off, and explains a lot of back story the original games only touched on.

Cities Skylines

If you have a friend who can’t get enough of old school management games, and they’ve blown through Civilization 5, Sim City 4, and the Tropico series like a hot knife through butter, they’ll probably dig this one. And with the current sale price of $7.49 it’s a steal. I recently watched my buddy Xonticus stream it for Extra Life. It’s easily as deep as any Sim City title, and it has a lot of its own cool little details, and world animations.


Physical Games

You can often times find pleasant surprises in the used, and clearance bins at traditional retailers. Here are some really good ones I’ve found over the past year. Of course your mileage may vary as stock, and prices change. But that said, keep an eye out anyway. You may just find one of these.


Axiom Verge PC Game Trust Steel Book Edition (And other games in this format.)

Game Trust is a label GameStop created for some exclusive physical indie game releases. They partnered with indiebox to produce a few special editions of some of these games. For whatever reason, the company decided to put these titles on clearance. All of these are worth picking up if you see them in your local GameStop. Axiom Verge is probably the best of them. But they also did Steel Books for Guacamelee, Rogue Legacy, Punch Club, Nuclear Throne, Chariot, Thomas Was Alone, Stories: The Path Of Destinies, Awesomenauts, and Jotun. These editions not only include the digital key for Steam, but a physical disc with the game on it, as well as the game’s particular soundtrack album on a studio CD. The cases are made of aluminum, and are a sight to behold. I only paid about $5 for my copies of Axiom Verge, and Rogue Legacy. Hit up your local store’s clearance bins. You just might get lucky.

Bloodborne, The Last Of Us Remastered (Best Buy)

While I was out shopping for Christmas gifts, I noticed two pretty good games, are now at a budget price point. And even cheaper for the week of Cyber Monday this year at Best Buy. Bloodborne, and The Last Of Us on PS4, are only $20. But with this year’s sale, you can shave off another $5. If you have a pal with a PS4 who hasn’t picked up either of them, it’s a pretty good deal.

A plethora of PS4 Deals on Newegg.

I generally go to Newegg for parts. But a quick glance at their Cyber Monday deals tells me, to tell you, to go look at their store for PS4 game deals. A lot of games are ridiculously cheap.  Doom (2016), Dishonored 2, Ratchet & Clank, and Until Dawn are $15. Not bad at all for those on your list with a PS4.

“What if my friends have an XBOX One?”

Microsoft’s store has a TON of XB1 stuff at cutthroat prices. Injustice 2, Super Lucky’s Tale, Gears Of War 4, Fallout 4 (Standard), Prey, Watch Dogs 2 all were severed down to $20. Dishonored 2 is $12.


Gaming Tchotchkes 

Sometimes you may go through a thousand awesome bargains, but realize your friend probably won’t be into any of them, because they’re not in their genre of choice. Or because they have them already. Or they’re on a platform they don’t own. Not to worry! You can still find something affordable, and fun to accent their favorite hobby in a different way.

Pint Glasses.

Maybe they drink beer. Maybe they drink soda. Maybe they only stick to water. Whatever the case, when you’re playing through a 140 hour RPG, mastering a fighting game character, or just enjoying some Pac-Man here are some great, stylish glasses to gulp down a beverage while doing so.

Obviously you can get some decent game-themed glasses at GameStop or Think Geek as they’re the same company. Often times if you catch a closeout you can get a pretty cool Pokémon, Zelda, Mario, or Pac-Man glass for a few bucks. And who doesn’t like to jazz up their glassware with a nice print. But you have some other options too. I’ve had some luck at Spencer’s Gifts. Last year I got my co-workers some Nintendo themed glassware, but also one in particular an excellent Cyberdemon glass from Doom.

Sometimes you can even find them in an unexpected place. Wandering through a Kohl’s I’ve even found a few Pac-Man glasses. But also don’t discount the idea of helping out one of your favorite internet personalities. As most readers know I’m a big fan of Classic Game Room. As luck would have it, the show has a wealth of show themed Beer Steins, Pint Glasses, and Coffee mugs along with the usual things you might expect. Some of them may even go on sale before the holidays arrive.


T-Shirts, and Discs

Continuing on from that, if there is a game focused blog, or YouTube show your friend or relative follows, see if it has any merchandise. Many of them do put out DVD’s Blu Ray’s, and T-Shirts. Purchasing one of them not only gets your pal an awesome piece of swag, but supports a small biz, or labor of love in the process. Plus you know that nobody else thought to give the person an awesome Heyzoos The Coked-Up Chicken Stein. I know the focus here was to stay affordable, but some of these items are worth the extra money if you can get a few other people to go in on it with you. Pat Contri’s NES Guide Book isn’t cheap. But it’s also something one would definitely want to go with their game collection.

Individual Artists

A ton of really talented artists out there make some great gaming themed art. Like the YouTubers, and bloggers above a lot of the merchandise is similar. But when you get a print from Tom Ryan’s Studio, for example you’re getting quality. There are also a few great shops you can get stuff featuring independent artists work on. NeatoShop, and Teepublic have some terrific prints you can get from these artists, and they often have sales. Neatoshop’s print quality is a bit better, though Teepublic has a wider range of artists. In either case, you can get some memorable prints that won’t break the bank.

Action figures, and other knickknacks 

I’m not talking about the stuff from NECA that costs $30 (Though that Atari 2600 Texas Chainsaw Massacre Leather Face figure is pretty bitching). But hit up those clearance aisles, and you may be surprised with some cheap, but cool finds. Does your friend dig Funko’s POP vinyls? Often times some nice game themed ones will be closed out to make way for new ones. Why not get that co-worker a DOOM guy for a few bucks that they don’t already have? Another great option are the World Of Nintendo 6 inch figures from Jakks Pacific. These usually sell for $10 or less, and dress up any Nintendo fan’s shelf, desk, or cubicle nicely. And of course, The Amiibo figurines are another nice gesture, as the details on them are great. Even if they aren’t going to use them with a Wii U, 3DS, or Switch game.



Of course if they’re into collecting old games, we instantly think of $170 copies of Mega Man 7 or $1,000 copies of Little Samson. But there are still a lot of great bargains on old games out there. I won’t list a ton of examples as I’m running long. But things like MagMax, Abadox, or Blaster Master on the NES can all be had for a few dollars. And these are really fun games that not everybody has. You just have to do some research to find some of these titles, and of course figure out if the person you’d give them to already has them.

Hopefully this has given someone out there with a shoestring budget some ideas. You can really find some good stuff out there without maxing out your card, or depleting your accounts. Obviously presents aren’t the focal point of the holidays. Appreciating those in your life, and helping those you can afford to should be. But we all have those people we want to do something nice for in our hobby. So look into these deals while they’re up for the next day or so. I apologize in getting to this so late, but such is the way of a busy week.

Retro World Expo 2017 Recap


Now in its third year, RetroWorld Expo has slowly built up momentum over its humble beginnings. While it still isn’t the size of something like one of the PAX shows, it has made quite the impressive successes over the first two iterations. The biggest change this year was the move from the Oakdale center in Wallingford, CT to the Hartford Convention Center in Hartford, CT. Due to this, the show was able to increase the floor space, and use conference rooms for panels.

Getting into the show was very smooth, and easy. I didn’t have to go through two or three different lines to get in. I simply showed my ticket receipt to the volunteer at the booth, got my wristband, and got in. Of course, I would hinder myself a little bit by not gassing up the car before making the drive. (More on that later.)


Upon walking onto the floor, I saw a few familiar faces as I took a quick gander at some of the vendors’ booths.  One of whom was Tom Ryan. I’ve talked about him in the past, as he does phenomenal artwork. A couple of years ago I got an awesome Thundercats print from him. This year he had an amazing Masters Of The Universe print! It features a very detailed Castle Grayskull, while a Darth Vader-esque Skeletor appears in the background. In the foreground there’s a really great silhouette of He-Man with the Power Sword. It’s awesome. It looks even better in person.


After catching up with a few people I headed upstairs, as “Pixel” Dan Eardley was back again, and I wanted to get into his panel, as they’ve always been entertaining. This year didn’t disappoint, as he talked a bit about some upcoming crossovers. I can’t really go into too much detail about them as I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody. Suffice it to say, you’ll be pretty impressed with the first of these. After showcasing it early to those of us in the panel, he was also kind enough to show off a small home video clip that was quite heartwarming.

After this, he showed off some teaser footage with The Gaming Historian, and Eric Lappe of Let’s Get. There will be a few new episodes of From Plastic To Pixels coming down the pike. This is a series that focuses on showing off video games based on toy lines. It’s a fun show because it goes beyond a typical Let’s Play show by bringing in some of toy, and game knowledge. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. The panel closed out with a short Q & A segment with attendees. Some of the questions revolved around the upcoming episodes, that I don’t want to spoil. But a few questions were asked about some vintage toys, and games.


I was a guest on Big Bucks Entertainment’s Super Millionaire. This is a company that does covers of the Game Shows you likely grew up watching. They did two of them throughout the course of the show. One being the update of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and the other being Press Your Luck.  To get on the show, the company put up question challenges on its Facebook group. Leading up to the show, I had taken a shot in the dark, and answered a question. Well, it turns out I was right, and was put into the pool of potential guests.

So I showed up with my buddy Jordan as my lifeline. We were given a rundown of the game rules, and stage procedures. There were three of us who made it on. One of whom turned out to be a member of Super Retro Throwback Reviews. They had their own booth nearby. One of the judges turned out to be one of my good friends Russ Lyman, who was also in a panel later on in the show. He has a swell YouTube show where he combines VLOGs, DIY repair, gaming into one entertaining channel. He’s the one who got this snapshot of me on stage! He also brought his custom car to the show for everyone to see. None of us got very far into the game. Of the three I actually did the worst. I got all of the questions up to the first tier nicely. But upon reaching that first checkpoint I got the question wrong. I didn’t want to waste my lifelines. In hindsight I probably should have. But it was still a very fun experience.


But it didn’t end there because they kept the show going with audience members. Most of them didn’t fare much better than those of us who played initially. My lifeline got to go on, and had to use all of the lifelines on the first three questions. None of which covered game knowledge. (Thankfully when he called me up, I guessed the question right.) But after he lost, there was an attendee that came within inches of winning the entire game. Unfortunately the Judges were wrong about the voice actor who played Sinistar (It was John Doremus), and he went with their guess. Nevertheless, as I said before it was a lot of fun, and the quality of the set props was pretty good. It made for a great facsimile, and even the Press Your Luck set was pretty awesome.

I got in a little bit of shopping with a couple of friends after that. We found one husband & wife run vendor booth with a ton of vintage Atari games in addition to the NES, Master System, Genesis, and Super NES games on display. Many of them were boxed, and complete! I found a complete copy of Fatal Run which is one of the late life 2600 releases. There was also a complete copy of Kung Fu Master my friend Jordan picked up. There was also a rarely seen complete copy of Red Label Space Invaders. These were just some of the 2600 highlights. There were a ton of great games for all of the platforms, but the 2600 selection was unreal.


I found an old 7800 Alien Brigade Ad from an outfit called Glossed Over. They find vintage ads in great quality, and preserve them in laminate. They had a ton of memorable Nintendo, and Sega print ads. But there’s something special about the old Atari game ads. A few tables from where I found Fatal Run, I finally procured a copy of Tapper for the 2600! Up until the convention I had only ever seen it once before, so I picked it up on the spot.

But there wasn’t a ton of time left to keep shopping, the RetroWorld Expo brought back the auction from last year. Hosted by TV’s Travis Landry, the auction went on for three hours. I saw some of the items before they went up, and most of those seemed to be in decent shape. There was a really nice Commodore 64 set up among the items that included a Bread bin NTSC Commodore 64 model, a First-party joystick, a 1541 Disk Drive, and it had the box, and manuals. The box looked beat up, but everything else looked pristine.


So I sat through the auction with a few friends, and of course I didn’t win the C64 set up. After it got beyond the aftermarket value, I had to give up. But it kept climbing. In fact many items got spectacularly high. Not as crazy as last year’s auction. But still pretty high. There was a Nintendo World Championships cartridge that nobody bid on because the opening bid was astronomical. It was nice to see one in person though! Some of the highlights for me were the bidding war that broke out over a Little Samson cartridge, which ended around $800. (Which is oddly enough a steal considering it goes for over $1,000 in many cases.) As well as the fervor over a really nice Sega Sonic store display sign, and the fact there were TWO copies of Mega Turrican up for grabs. Those were the other two items I took a shot on, but lost both.

Some other items that went up included a few lots. One was a box of NES common games. Another one was a bunch of Master System games. Beyond that, a pretty nice Atari 5200 bundle, and a copy of Power Strike on the Master System. I’m sure there are a bunch of other items I’m forgetting. It was still pretty exciting though. It’s a shame not many toy collectors were on hand, because there were a bunch of figures, and busts that went for well below what you’d typically expect to pay.  A couple of NES Classic Minis went for auction too, and went for a bunch of money. With the announcement that they’re going to be re-released again at retail, this kind of surprised me. Still, it was nice seeing some of this stuff. Like the Nintendo branded retail case I still remember seeing in Bradlees back in the day.


I spent some more time on the floor, I got in a few rounds of Missile Command, and Street Fighter II in the arcade. I also found my buddy Bijhan had a booth where he let me have a complete boxed copy of Gunship for MS-DOS. My friend Jordan also hooked me up with a Shadow Warrior 2 scroll, and bag. As the sales floor started to close up for the night, I managed to find a copy of Pac-Attack for the Super NES. There was another after party this year, but I had to skip it due to the low amount of gas in the car. Since I commuted to the show, I wanted to make sure I got fuel before the stations might have closed. A few people were kind enough to point me to a couple of options. I managed to get to one, gas up, and get back to town.

Day two I went back to Hartford, for the rest of the show. I got there a little bit early, and I bumped into Pat “The NES Punk” Contri walking the floor. Just as last year, he was very kind, and cordial. I politely asked him if he had another copy of his NES Guide book. He took me to his booth to get one, and on the way over I told him where I’d found my deals the day before. He thanked me for buying a copy, I thanked him for his time, and let him get back to his game hunting. After that, I ran into my friends Chris, and Brian who had a small vendor booth for the weekend. Somehow I’d missed it the first day. They had a few coveted items, but I ended up getting some deals on some slightly less common games. I found RoboWarrior for the NES, and Desert Strike for the Super NES for a pittance. And it wasn’t just because I’m friends with them, they gave anyone who came by, bundle pricing if they bought multiple items. It’s part of why they do pretty well for themselves at events, and meets. I also got to catch up with Noah, and Paul from Retro Gaming Arts, and Rax The Great.


There was another booth I can’t remember the name of, but the business was another really nice group of people. They had noticed all of the stuff I was carrying along with my camera, and offered a bag before I even started shopping. And when I did peruse their racks not only did I find a Joe & Mac cartridge for the Super NES, at a really good price (The first one, not the obscure sequel), it came in a protective plastic box. In fact every loose cartridge they sold did, and they were in excellent condition.

After this though, I went back up for several panels. The first one was the RFGeneration Collectorcast Reunion show. Bil McGee, Duke, and Rich Franklin did a live podcast where they talked about collecting tips. Budgeting for items at conventions. Networking, and making friends. Helping those friends find things they need. As well as reminiscing about road stories, and times where they had to go into some strange, or even scary places to find those coveted titles. All of which resulted in a lot of funny moments. Bil McGee does a lot of behind the scenes planning of RetroWorld every year so there was some time spent on what is involved in the process. It was a really entertaining, and informative panel overall. Plus their site is a pretty good source of information for collecting games.


Especially their databases. At the end of the panel there was a short Q&A session. Some people asked about some of the topics discussed. I asked them to pair a beer with their favorite classic game. Duke didn’t drink so his answer was soda, as in many old games there were billboards in levels advertising fictional ones. Rich, paired stout with Tempest (which is an excellent choice.) Bil loved the question, and gave several examples that I can’t remember. But one that did stand out was drinking Lord Hobo Boom Sauce, or Consolation prize for any game that had shotguns. Because this would reference the cult movie Hobo with a shotgun. One can’t argue with that logic, although the audience erupted into laughter when Duke said he wouldn’t drink from anything called Lord Hobo.


The next panel was The Gaming Historian panel. This year, Norman Caruso went with a similar format to the panel as he did last year. But this year he went with a topic that wasn’t child friendly. To which he warned the parents in the audience who promptly took their kids out. He went over a major Rock star scandal from several years ago, and cleared up a lot of the misconceptions about it. He also told us about an upcoming episode of The Gaming Historian, which like the Pixel Dan panel, I can’t really talk about here, as I don’t want to spoil episodes. All I can say about it, is that it’s going to be longer than most of his usual episodes are. He rounded out the show with a quick Q&A where most of the questions centered around the subject matter of the panel. But he was also asked about what happened to his episode about Nintendo’s purchase of the Mariners.


Major League Baseball was immediately livid about it, and actually sent him a cease, and desist letter. So he tried to get into contact with them to iron things out. One representative liked the episode, and considered buying the episode. But only if things were cleared with Nintendo. Nintendo was fine with the episode. But when he went back to Major League Baseball, they ultimately decided they weren’t going to make any deals, and demanded the episode stay pulled. MLB is notorious for going after people, and fining them for seemingly innocuous things. In the 80’s they often sued people for taping games to a VHS tape to be viewed when they got home from work. All because they were that afraid, someone would try to sell the taped game. So as the potential debts piled up, Norman had to pull the episode.


The panel ended with another Gaming Historian Jeopardy match. This year’s contestants did battle for a free Gaming Historian T-Shirt. Most of the questions were new, though there were a few repeats from last year. At first one of the contestants was running away with it, but before long all three were in the running. When Final Jeopardy hit though, two contestants gave Celebrity Jeopardy SNL Skit-esque answers, allowing the victor to claim the prize.


After the panel ended The Game Chasers panel started, and they invited Norman to stick around for it. It was a really fun panel because it felt like a really good podcast. The banter was really good, and it led to a lot of hilarious road stories. One of the stories was about a debate over what really constitutes slippin’. Another was an argument Jay had with a cast member about what the official credentials for guacamole are. One moment that stuck out was when Norm told Jay about how great The Golden Girls is, and Jay thought he was being set up. But the audience reassured him it’s a timeless show. There were of course a few gross out stories that wouldn’t make the show. But overall it was a lot of laughter, and a lot of fun.

After that panel came the Connecticut Local YouTubers panel. This one featured my buddy Russ Lyman, Culture Dog, Miketendo, and Retroware TV’s own John Delia. After giving an overview of what each of them covers, they opened things up for questions. There was a lot of good advice in the panel, trying to know your audience.  How to discern constructive criticism from noise. Showing appreciation for those who appreciate you. I got to ask John about his experience with getting The Video Game Years on Amazon. He told us that the way the payments from Amazon work, is much better than the way it worked on YouTube. In a couple of months the show made more than it did on YouTube. This also led into the topic of finding new audiences. Because he found a lot of people on Amazon like to binge watch more than they do on YouTube. So a whole new group of people discovered it, and watched it.


Some of the challenges he ran into had a lot to do with closed captioning. Amazon requires every show creators put up include the feature. So getting the show on the service took hundreds of hours of added work. Once they got the captioning done, the show got rejected again because of the static images. So they had to edit out some of the static logos to get it ready. When it finally did get submitted in the right state, they still had to call Amazon, and explain everything they just went through. The company then looked, said “You’re right”, and launched it, where it has been a success.

Some of the other attendees then asked the panel if they would just move to Amazon, and the answers were no, because of the different groups who watch or listen. Culture Dog, and Miketendo brought up the importance of one’s authentic self. People can tell when you stray from it. Russ mentioned that even if you do a bunch of different content, there should be something that ties them together. As an example he noted how much of his Do It Yourself content references gaming. That means a few of the viewers who come to the channel for game stuff might check out some of the DIY episodes. Everyone on the panel talked about doing YouTube shows out of the love of the hobby over coming out of the gate looking to be an overnight success. For a variety of reasons.


After that wrapped up,  Joe Granato returned from last year’s convention with a major update on his NES Maker, and Mystic Searches, projects. He briefly showed off a trailer for his New 8-Bit Heroes documentary, and then jumped into the updates. He started out that process by explaining how the project started out. He, and his team found his old childhood ideas for an NES game, and decided to make that dream a reality. What they found in the process was just how complicated MOS 6502 assembly coding truly was, and after a short time found the project was going to take a very long time. So in the process they ended up coding their own editor to deal with mapping, objects, characters, and other assets.

So while using the tool to get the game made, they found potential in selling the editor as a standalone product when it’s completed. This will let people make their own NES games, and flash them to an actual NES Game Pak. Joe did concede there are some limits in it, as it was made to cater to RPG, and Adventure genres. But that people have demonstrated other genres can be done with it, though you may need to take up coding for some of that.


He also showed off some more of Mystic Searches, and the progress on it. The over world appears to be finished, and everything looks pretty tight. They’re shooting to get it out by early next year, and the three versions of the Game Pak were shown again this year. He also noted they’re also looking for a Steam release, and they’re in the process of getting a Nintendo Switch license. There aren’t any planned ports for other vintage platforms like The Commodore 64, Super Nintendo, or Atari platforms. Hopefully the final game, and utility turn out well. It is pretty apparent a lot of love has gone into making it thus far. There were even some real world locations referenced in the game’s over world. But keep an eye on this one. Mystic Searches, and NES Maker could be quite the homebrew titles when they come out.

I finished out the day by heading back down to do  some more hunting for the last hour or so. I stopped by Bijhan’s booth again, and he let me have a MOC Smash Mario Amiibo. Which was super cool of him. I was also a million times grateful to Norman Caruso. I stopped by his booth to pick up his Gaming Historian Blu Ray, and thank him for coming to the convention again. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I left my phone there like an idiot. I bumped into some of my pals in The Best Spuds, and played some WWF No Mercy before leaving the show. I couldn’t find my phone, but of course the convention center was closing up. So all I could do was quickly check the Lost, and Found before leaving. Of course the phone wasn’t there. Well when I got home, I found a message from my friend Antoinette in our trade group. Norman had found my phone, and asked around to see if anybody knew who owned it. She recognized it as mine, and tagged me. I’m super thankful to the both of them, as I’m not quite ready to go get a new one just yet.


That’s one of the best things this convention showcased to me this year. The wonderful sense of community here. People from all backgrounds coming together over a love of classic gaming. Every year I get to meet new people, and go to events. Even if you don’t see anything to buy, and you aren’t interested in the panels, there are tons of arcade games to play. There are a lot of  console, and computer games to play. There were even a host of tournaments hosted by my buddy Aldo this year. Including a big Overwatch tournament, Super Street Fighter II, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, and Mario Kart 64 among others.

They even had a couple of high-profile Cosplayers Midge Scully, and Maya Gagne there. I didn’t get a chance to see them, but they were there. Some other guests I didn’t get to see were Wood Hawker, and RGT85. Also Daniel Pesina came back with John Parrish this time. I also unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see them. If you’re not familiar with them, they were two of the motion capture actors in the earliest Mortal Kombat games. If you get the chance to see them you should.  Hopefully everyone returns next year, and I can rectify missing some of them.

Honestly as small as RetroWorld Expo is compared to larger conventions, it still has so much going on it’s impossible to see it all. Really, the only nitpick I really had this year, was the gap of time between the first night’s shutdown, and the after party I missed due to my own incompetence. Mainly because it breaks up the flow. There’s an hour-long window of nothing to do. I feel like if they could have either started the after party right away, or had a small panel to fill that gap problem

That said some of the stuff in the after party would have been fun. There was a drink, and draw event, one room had Culture Dog playing movies on LaserDisc, and then there was another spot for club music, and mingling. Again, in the grand scheme of things a very minor nitpick, and due to my own ineptitude didn’t matter anyway. The good vastly outweighed the bad this year. A part of me already can’t wait to see what they do next year.