Embarking on an Odyssey


Super Mario Odyssey CappyWell of course I purchased Super Mario Odyssey as a Nintendo Switch owner.  Probably the game I’ve been most hyped about all year.  So what’s it like?  I wouldn’t say I have the vastest experience with Mario games and haven’t owned all of Nintendo’s systems.  However I enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube and dabbled in Super Mario World from time to time in it’s various incarnations although always found that particular entry overly difficult.  Odyssey however is the first fully free roaming Mario game in a while and on picking up the controller I was pleased at how fluid and natural the controls felt (helped I’m guessing by the game’s 60fps).  Graphically it’s varied, colourful and highly-detailed even if the worlds don’t quite have the wow-factor of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that other AAA Nintendo Switch game this will inevitably get compared to, which is unfair as the games couldn’t be more different.  Odyssey’s main plot is simplistic and typical Mario-fair.  Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and this time is planning a wedding.  It’s Mario’s job to rescue her and prevent the wedding by chasing Bowser’s flying ship across various kingdoms dotted around the globe.  In each kingdom there are a number of ‘moons’ to find to power your hat-shaped space ship known as the ‘Odyssey’ and this is where the game delivers it’s inspired gimmick. 

Mario Odyssey

A talking hat named ‘Cappy’ befriends Mario after Bowser wrecks it’s home, and chooses to help Mario in his quest because his own sweetheart, a tiara has also been kidnapped.  Cappy can be used during the game in a variety of ways, to either break boxes, platform to higher levels or possess in-game characters to help solve puzzles and further traverse the environments.  It’s a great addition to the Mario-formula and makes for endless gameplay opportunities, but does come at a cost.  You feel slightly over-powered with it and your ability to possess enemies can make the game rather easy, meaning it’s quite possible to breeze through the entire game despite how huge the various kingdoms can be.  Yet that would do the game a disservice as exploration, finding the moons and all the secrets, collecting outfits or souvenirs for your ship is where the meat is and the game greatly rewards players who go off the beaten track and search every nook and cranny.

I’m enjoying my time with Super Mario Odyssey but at this stage, a fair portion into the game I don’t feel it has the depth of Zelda to clock in 100hrs plus, but realise this is a very different but equally polished experience that will keep me coming back for a good while yet.  Does it deserve the wealth of accolades it’s had, the myriad of 10/10s?  Maybe not but it’s still a brilliant game that, if you have a Switch is an essential purchase.

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Gaming perfection?


Yesterday I finished one of the most talked about and acclaimed videogames of the year… The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Not for a long time has a game captivated me as much as this did.  It was a game I could walk away from for a week or two, and then come back and instantly feel appealed and at home in it’s world.  It made simply walking around and exploring as much fun as actually playing the game for it’s story or missions or quests.  It’s also a game I shall still come back to even post-credits, as the world is so huge and full of wonder, I just can’t stop exploring and simply enjoying being part of it all.

Breath-of-the-Wild

It’s filled to over-flowing with fun characters, interesting, awe-inspiring and varied environments and many many fun things to do and see.  The main quest involves eventually restoring peace to the world of Hyrule, by rescuing Princess Zelda from the clutches of the malevolent force ‘Ganon’, who not only has shrouded the magnificent castle Hyrule in an impenetrable force of evil, but also taken over four ‘divine beasts’ who once were guardians of the world but now drench the world in fear and danger.  Once you reclaim said guardians by climbing aboard their bodies and defeating a boss in each, only then can you attempt to defeat Ganon.  It’s a vast under-taking but one I always felt compelled to persevere with despite the wealth of distractions available (the endless amount of ‘shrines’ to discover, the myriad of countless quests given to you by various characters) which is something the likes of Grand Theft Auto doesn’t seem to be as good at – keeping the player focused on the main quest and not just the side stuff.

Add to this a ridiculous attention to detail in every aspect of the game.  The amount to see and do is crazy, the detail in the cartoon world presented is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before…it has an atmosphere, personality and beauty to it that taking pictures and just standing looking around at stuff, the life, the wild-life and plants, the trees, the realistic weather … is just so fulfilling.  It is definitely what you’d call the complete package, and probably a game that such like we may not see again this generation.

breathofthewildLink

It’s gameplay and difficulty seemed very well implemented, with a gradual learning curve and increase in difficulty that works seamlessly with character progression, discovering new abilities, new armour and skills or weapons, that not once did I feel the game was unfair or that I couldn’t get past something without some perseverance.  That’s not to say it was easy – at times it was very tough, but it was a toughness that I felt my failings were my own fault and not that of the game, and as I learnt and developed my own ability, I’d triumph just when I was meant to and not before.

So I honour this game with my highest recommendation.  If you have a Nintendo Switch or even Wii U … it’s a must play.

What I’ve been up to


Destiny_2

I haven’t posted on here for a while.  Well, apart from going away on holiday for a long weekend last week, I haven’t been watching any movies and have more been concentrating on a combination of work and in my leisure time, playing some games.  Currently I’m playing Destiny 2 on Xbox One which I had pre-ordered a while back.  Short impressions?  I’m really digging it.  It’s not exactly far removed from Destiny 1, bar some improvements and polish to the formula, such as now being able to travel to different locations without returning to orbit.  I put many hours into Destiny 1 and can see me putting just as much time into this sequel.  The advent of clans and easier to be a part of fire teams seems an added incentive also.  Graphically it’s no slouch either, with varied planets to explore and great effects and atmosphere.  The core combat is also as satisfying as it ever was.  The game could greatly do with some new enemy types however but apart from that I’m having a great time.

Steam World Dig 2

Another game I’m enjoying is Steam World Dig 2 on the Nintendo Switch.  I liked the look of this game from footage I’d seen a while back and it’s as fun and interesting an experience as I’d hoped.  What can I say – platform exploration mixed with mining / digging is like gaming crack, and I find it very appealing that I want to rush back to the game time and time again.  It may be a 2D platformer but it has colourful, vibrant graphics with a charming art-style and plenty of detail.  I don’t have much else to say other than give it a try if curious.

I also got my hands on the highly anticipated Sonic Mania.  I have the Switch version and boy, I’d forgot how difficult Sonic used to be.  It’s sort of a celebration / re-imagining of the first 3 Sonic The Hedgehog games from waaaay back on the Sega Megadrive, with a few new stages added in for good measure.  Although I’m enjoying it and it’s still a great deal of addictive fun, it’s reliance on old-school pixel graphics is a little disappointing – a bit of refinement here and there would’ve been nice – and a few new animations only adds so much.  Overall for a Switch game it’s at times a bit ugly.  Yet as a celebration of a famed videogame character, I guess it does it’s job well enough.

twin-peaks

I finished watching Twin Peaks Season 3 also, and have come away somewhat disheartened.  The ending, without spoiling just left me thinking ‘wtf?’ and many plot threads (if they can be called that – this was not your usual show) failed to go anywhere.  I’m leaving my final verdict until after I’ve re-watched the whole season on Blu-ray where I can really study it … not that I’m really expecting to come away all that wiser.  We’ll see.  Yet I will say this:  as a purely artistic, utterly surreal ‘vision’ and as a return to film-making by acclaimed director David Lynch it was still effective, and at times amazing – but satisfying?  The jury’s still out on that one.

I have some movie reviews in the pipe line and a few other ideas for this blog, so keep an eye out for further updates soon.

Craig.

The big e3 2017 report


Well once again the biggest date on the gaming calendar, the e3 gaming convention in Los Angeles … has come and gone, and so what have the big names had to offer us feverish gamers?  Let’s find out…

E3-2016

Sony

God of War KratosI didn’t watch the whole briefing, but have learnt they showcased several games, some of which interest me some that don’t at all (Gran Turismo Sport … yawn, I became bored of that series a while back).  I am however looking forward to God of War and the new Spider-Man game looks impressive.  Days Gone, one of the most anticipated games of last years e3 had another showing and again wowed.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see they’re going to be releasing a Shadow of the Colossus remake.  Detroit: Become Human looked interesting but I’m not sure exactly what it is still.

However there was a strong focus on VR (which I can’t say interests me at all) like they were desperate to flog this expensive and gimmicky peripheral, and some of the newest most interesting looking games were for VR which was disappointing.  They also had a large presence of third party titles like Call of Duty WWII and Destiny 2, both of which looked decent.   There seemed a serious lack of firm release dates for all these titles overall which wasn’t good.  Overall some good stuff but not a lot to really blow me away this year.

Microsoft

The Xbox guys had some new hardware to showcase, making their briefing more exciting than Sony’s from the off and the uber-powerful Xbox One X certainly looked cool.  I’m an Xbox fan first and foremost these days and I was anticipating the reveal of the previously hyped Xbox Scorpio and like the new name.  Microsoft predictably showcased Forza 7 running on it and also showed off a new game in the acclaimed Metro series as well as my personal highlight of e3; Bioware’s stunning looking Anthem.  Sea of Thieves was looking better than previous but I’m still on the fence over whether I’d enjoy it all that much myself.

Xbox One X

They also showed off a ton of indy games but not many big name exclusives to get all that excited about.  No Halo, no Gears for example which although not surprising could have really added to the whole new hardware reveal and made it all that more sexy.  It was a bit of a case of quantity over quality but games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps still looked great.  Like Sony before it though it’s hard to really be all that confident in the games from an XB1 and PS4 owner’s point of view actually looking anywhere near as good as we’ve been shown due to the new PS4 Pro and Xbox One X consoles, meaning us existing console owners potentially being left short handed in time to come, which I’d say is inevitable.

Nintendo

Super Mario OdysseyNintendo’s segment was initially short and to the point, showcasing only a handful of titles but with some exciting announcements.  The biggest surprise here was Metroid Prime 4, an game I’ve personally been hoping for, and despite no actual footage, it’s got me feeling happy I own a Nintendo Switch.  To further cement this feeling we had reveals of new Kirby and Yoshi platformers which both looked great as well as further details on Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and especially Super Mario Odyssey.  The Tree House segment that ran over three days and was broadcast live on YouTube also showed longer gameplay of some of the aforementioned titles like Yoshi and Mario Odyssey and well, I was left drooling.

There was something immediately alluring about Nintendo’s games … they all looked a ton of fun, and well, fun is something that has gradually been getting replaced in the games industry for a while now, in place of realism – which it has to be said can make a game feel more like work than leisure.  Third-party support still seems Nintendo’s Achilles heel, and well there was Fifa and Rocket League announced which I suppose is a start.

There were absences of expected or hoped for titles to be mentioned for all three companies’ machines with no Animal Crossing or Virtual Console talk from Nintendo, no Halo, Gears or much in the way of big name exclusives from Microsoft and well, where was PS4 exclusives Hellblade or the Final Fantasy VII remake this year?  Overall each company had something to offer and as someone with all three consoles, there was certainly something to play on each machine for the foreseeable future, which can’t be a bad thing.

State of play


Regular readers of this blog will have observed I haven’t been posting many reviews of late.  Well, I’ve simply not been watching that many movies and concentrating, entertainment-wise more on videogames, what with recently buying the Nintendo Switch and having a great deal of fun with it.  Even my Xbox One and PS4 have become a little neglected as a result, even though I have been playing Persona 5 on the PS4 recently and getting some fun out of that.

Nintendo_Switch

Firstly I’ll report how much I’m enjoying the versatility of the Switch.  That simple idea of being able to play it like other consoles on my TV, and then being able to take that experience mobile and go play it wherever I like portably.  It’s pretty revolutionary and I’m guessing the big reason the console has been selling like hot cake since launch.  A month on I’ve clocked in over 60 hours in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and also had fun playing Graceful Explosion Machine and most recently, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.  To a lesser extent I’ve found indie titles like Snake Pass and Mister Shifty, intriguing but somewhat flawed and very frustrating.  However I’m mostly aiming that at Snake Pass which I doubt I’ll even pick up again it annoyed me so much.

Persona-5Going back to Persona 5 for a moment, I craved a traditional JRPG and with it’s lush anime style visuals and quirky personality, I jumped on this with excitement.  The opening hours though are very slow, dialogue driven and well, not much action and I could see it putting some people off.  However having stuck with it after what seemed to be a lengthy tutorial, the game did open up, the exploration restrictions and focus on dialogue relaxed a little and I could get more into the world, the game mechanics and the general vibe.  I cleared the first major mission after about 10 hours of game time and I’m intrigued to see where the story goes.  However it is a game that once you start playing, hours fly by and I realise I need to set some time aside each time I play to really get any progression done.  For now though I’m enjoying it.

Breath of the WildBreath of the Wild has been a massive, somewhat daunting experience but has all that unique Nintendo charm I’ve always admired, and this feels like the most fleshed-out and intricately detailed Zelda game I’ve played.  I wouldn’t call myself a Legend of Zelda aficionado by any stretch and have only really played through the Gameboy release ‘Links Awakening’ and the Gamecube game ‘Wind Waker’ whilst only slightly touching on ‘Twilight Princess’ back in the day, and although this has echoes of all those games, with an art style slightly resembling Wind Waker (but less kiddie more Ghibli), I have fallen in love with everything it has to offer.  Even 60 hours in I’m still finding new areas, uncovering side quests and well, have barely delved into the main missions (I’ve completed one ‘divine beast’ so far…) so still tons to do.  All I’ll say though now to conclude is that I’m very much impressed.

On the back burner some games have had to be placed.  It’s the nature of the beast I’m afraid owning three consoles now, and I need to focus on just a small amount or run the risk of getting bogged now with unfinished games.  So Dishonoured 2 which I’ve been really enjoying has had to be ignored for a bit, as has Watchdogs 2 and Mafia 3.  Phew that’s a lot of games but for now my time is best spent with Zelda and Persona, even though both games are reportedly so huge that It’ll be a while before I dive into much else.

Smaller games are an easy option though just for a bit of variety and some of those games, like Mario Kart and Graceful Explosion Machine are dip in and dip out experiences that I don’t need to dedicate hours.  I suppose I’m lucky to have the options that I have, and I don’t take any of it for granted even though I work hard to buy the things I enjoy.

My final thoughts on the above come down to one sentence:  It’s a great time to be a gamer.  Additionally I also have some movies I need to get reviewing so expect normal service to resume shortly.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.