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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Return to the Mushroom kingdom


nintendo_switch_logoWell I took the plunge and got myself a Nintendo Switch.  So what do I think of the device?  From the start it feels a very premium piece of kit.  The build-quality of the tablet and the joy-con controllers which attach to it are excellent.  It’s also quite heavy to hold in the hands and switching it on first time was exciting as the familiar Nintendo logo appeared, followed by the new Nintendo Switch icon.  Nintendo have a history of making quality consoles and this is no different despite what reports you may have heard on the internet.  My device seems free of dead pixels, joy-con sync-problems or wi-fi issues, but just to be safe I purchased a screen protector to ensure the supplied dock didn’t scratch the screen as has been reported.  On a side note I hate screen protectors and am historically crap at putting them on.  The tempered-glass one I got wasn’t too bad but it still took a whilst to get right and avoid any air bubbles.  Grr.

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In the run up to getting the Switch (I had a bit of a wait as initial stock everywhere had sold out after the March 3rd launch), I got myself a couple of Amiibos (Nintendo-themed character figurines which act as interactive NFC enabled devices for use in games) namely Mario and one of my all-time favourite characters, Toad.  It helped build the excitement as I also got myself a carry case and the official ‘pro-controller’.  Yes I confess, I’ve spent a lot of money on this but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

Using the device, it was easy to set it up to work with my broadband and to access the eshop (sparse with only a few games I’d find interesting (Shovel Knight, Snake Pass, Fast RMX) and the quirky design features, general simple but functional user-interface still pleased.  Once I put a game in though, my experience was elevated to another level.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I think by now most people will know how well received and acclaimed this latest entry in Nintendo’s ‘legendary’ franchise has turned out to be.  I couldn’t wait to get into it and am having a great time.  Firstly it’s gorgeous – I love cell-shaded, cartoon world art styles and this is one of the best representations of that look I think I’ve ever seen.  Has Zelda ever looked this good?  It’s a huge world too to explore and I’m loving travelling all over, meeting villagers, learning bit by bit about the over-arking story and doing simple side quests.  I also love the Shrines – trial based underground levels dotted throughout the land, sort of mini-dungeons full of puzzles and atmosphere.  I am only a little way into this so far but I am really impressed. 

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The big selling factor of the Switch though is it’s versatility.  It can be used as a handheld gaming system and works perfect for that.  It can be used as a home console too, and the transition is seamless and takes literally 5 seconds once you place the device in the dock to have the game appear on your TV screen.  It’s a gimmick that never gets old and I can see me using the machine in both ways.  Less appealing is some of the advertised multi-player, which with the 1-2 Switch game comes off as a left over idea from the Wii era with it’s gimmicky motion-controlled party games which might be fun but would get discarded fairly quickly in favour of ‘real’ games.  The versatility of the controllers to create multi-player split screen or two player games in your home certainly hark back to a by-gone era but as a primarily single-player gamer I doubt that functionality will get much use either.

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For now the Nintendo Switch is a system with a great deal of potential.  Early sales have been impressive so Nintendo is off to a good start … let’s just hope that in the future we still get the games for it, so that unlike many Nintendo consoles, it doesn’t end up gathering dust in favour of an Xbox or PlayStation system.  Only time will tell but for now consider me happy with my purchase.

Nintendo Switch launch


Nintendo Switch

I can’t let today pass by without remarking on the release of Nintendo’s brand new console – Nintendo Switch.  I’ve had my eye on this ever since it was announced, and it’s come as a bit of a surprise just how interesting and clever an idea Nintendo has come up with.  Firstly, Nintendo have for many years ruled the handheld market … that cannot be contested.  The 3DS flew off the shelves and it’s various iterations – even in the advent of increasingly powerful mobile phone technology.  However on the home console front, they’ve been failing for a while even after the huge success of the Wii.  Yet now here comes a console that offers the best of both worlds and will attract both types of gamers; those that want to have their gaming on-the-go (I hate that term) and those that prefer the comfort of their sofa and a big screen TV.  Never before has a console offered both and offered it so seamlessly, as the video below will attest:

SwitchI won’t go into detail too much on the various things the Switch can do…I’m sure if you’re at all interested you’ll have read up on the machine already.  What I can give you though is my thoughts on why this is an exciting games system and why Nintendo are luring me back, despite my reservations in the past with Nintendo’s consoles (I had a GameCube, a Wii and a Nintendo DS back in the day).  It has a feel from what I’ve seen and read of a great secondary console.  It’s not rubbing shoulders with Xbox or PlayStation (something Nintendo has avoided for years) and has it’s own identity.  Plus I’ve really missed Nintendo’s game design.  Nothing on a PS4 or XB1 plays quite like Mario or Zelda.  There is a unique and stylish charm to their characters, and yes I have sometimes even looked to the ill-fated Wii U with jealousy because it still had those games.  However that machine had little to separate it from the Wii, whose motion-control gimmick faded with time and so it was clear Nintendo had to revise it’s approach to console design.  Therefore I’d say the Switch has delivered sort of a ‘best of Nintendo’ this time around in a well-designed and attractive package.  Only time will tell if the games can live up to the machine’s potential, if 3rd party publishers support it the way they do Sony & Microsoft.

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I hope to get one at some stage myself and will report more on the machine when I’ve actually spent some time with it.  Until that day comes let’s send congratulations to Nintendo on the launch of their new console and wish them plenty of success in the future.  I think it’s their turn, don’t you?

Nintendo Switch – my thoughts


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Well earlier in the week, Nintendo dropped a bombshell with the reveal of their next console … formerly known as the Nintendo NX, now named Nintendo Switch … a great name and I’d say a great concept.  Give the video below a quick look…

I love the idea that it’s both a home console you hook up to your HDTV and also a portable console, seamlessly transforming just from removing the device from it’s docking station and going wherever to continue your gaming.  How the control pad transforms allowing the user to remove the two ‘joy-cons’ and then attach them to the portable version.  Very clever and something I could easily see myself utilising, for times someone either wants the TV I’m using or I simply want to sit elsewhere and carry on with my game.  From the video things I can’t see taking off is the two-player bits where people use those tiny controllers and game on the same screen … er no, Nintendo nobody’s going to be doing that.  Also unconfirmed reveals of ‘The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’ and ‘NBA 2K17’ running on the system, is a slight concern despite both games being shown in the video – why is 2K and Bethesda being so cagey??  Also that footage of ‘Mario’ looks worrying like a run-into-the-screen mobile game and not necessarily the Mario 64 successor some people are hyping it to be.  Yet I don’t think anyone can dismiss how good the new ‘Zelda’ looks.

Questions still remain though.  We have no price as of yet.  We don’t really have any confirmed games other than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and well, is that a touch-screen?  I’m guessing it will be.  Third party support has been confirmed as having all the big publishers like Activision and EA (see below), which could mean the usual drought of games for a Nintendo system may not be a concern this time … only time will tell.

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For now I’m optimistically excited for what Nintendo reveal next and the initial reveal of the system has me waning a Nintendo system again.  So they’re doing something right.

My gaming history – Part 3


See previous posts here:  Part 1 and here: Part 2.

As I started work, got money of my own my history with gaming gets a tad cloudy.  I think the very first videogame system I obtained from my own hard-earned cash was the original Sony PlayStation.  I saved up to afford it and even remember buying a walkthrough guide to Resident Evil 2 in the weeks leading up to getting the system.  To say I was excited was an understatement.  For a long time the PlayStation was my only system (I think I got a Gameboy somewhere along the line but my interest in that was limited to simply playing and completing The  Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening).  Sony PlayStation

gran turismoI played a lot of games on it and recall a firm favourite was Tekken 3 which I enjoyed endless nights playing against a friend and well, those bouts were legendary!  Some of the best games on the system for me were of course, the first Metal Gear Solid and also I’d say Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (a series I really wish would come back).  I also think Gran Turismo was a particular highlight.Sega-dreamcast

Following the advent of PlayStation that made gaming much more of a mainstream hobby, I did get hold of more systems, firstly the Sega Dreamcast, which I’d say pioneered the online gaming revolution we take for granted these days and was seriously ahead of it’s time.  The Dreamcast I’d say had one of the strongest games catalogues around with such gems as Jet Set Radio, Virtua Tennis, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2 and Powerstone as well as many more.  It was a short-lived system and really deserved to be more successful – but as at the time the PlayStation 2 had just been released, Sega’s final console didn’t stand a chance.  It was around this time I also got a PS2 and a little later an Xbox.

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The PS2 was of course my gaming system of choice for a good while but I did like my Xbox too even if the advent of Microsoft didn’t really hit it’s stride until the Xbox 360 came out.  During this era I also managed to get a Nintendo Gamecube which I think back to fondly and well, it had Super Mario Sunshine and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on it, but as with Nintendo consoles in the post-PlayStation era the only decent games were Nintendo produced (mostly) so quickly having games to get for the system became few and far between.  I sold it somewhere down the line and think that pushed me onto the last generation of consoles before we find ourselves where we are today.

To be concluded.