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Nintendo 3DS

Review – Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

The Good

  • Solid game play from a solid franchise
  • Nice little additions and changes from the original Metroid II
  • Good visuals

The Bad

  • Repetitive enemies and play mechanics
  • Bosses are disproportionately difficult compared to everything else
  • Very linear game play for a “Metroidvania” style game.

In Depth

Metroid: Samus Returns is a 3DS update and remake of the original Metroid II on Game Boy.  It’s essentially to Metroid II, what Zero Mission is to the original Metroid.  The maps in Samus Returns are a little closer to the original Metroid II maps than Zero Mission and Metroid, but there are some changes and additions.  Samus Returns adds Super Missiles and power bombs to Samus’ arsenal, for example, and there is a map revealing scope mechanism as well as the addition fo the Grappling beam.  A lot of the added items are things added during Metroid 3, that became regular staples of the series.

The entire game also has a modern overhaul.  Instead of sprites, everything is polygons and the game is playable in 3D mode, though it is a 2D platform title.  Only one new boss uses the 3D mechanics in 3D space, everything else operates in classic 2D Metroid style.  I really enjoy this style of game, so I am admittedly biased towards the play style.  The game is lacking a bit in the Metroidvania department however.  A lot of the areas have 2 or 3 main path loops that the player must traverse and there isn’t a lot of backtracking done aside from picking up items later, and a lot of this backtracking needs to be done close to the end of the game since you don’t even find the weapon needed to unlock these items until later in the game.  The game itself is broken up into 8 Areas, all generically named “Area”.  The Areas are gate blocked by special pedestals that only open the way after collecting a certain number of Metroid DNA samples.  There isn’t a lot of explanation to what these pedestals are but it’s most likely Chozo related, in classic Metroid fashion.

The core of the game is fun, and everything about the remake works well and helps flesh out the game play from the original title.  Metroid II has always been one of the weaker titles in the series and fleshing it out and giving it a bit more connection to the world of Metroid at large.  Despite taking place on the homeworld of the alien Metroid creatures, it’s always felt a little separated.  Partly because even the Metroids themselves are all mutated “mature” versions that don’t fit the usual Bubble with Claws image of what a Metroid is supposed to be.

Which leads into the core problem with this game, and with Metroid II.  The basic plot involves killing Metroids of various types, more powerful than the last, in order to proceed through the game.  There are 4 types of Metroids, not counting the Queen, and you fight each type several times.  These 40 fights end up being extremely samey as a result.  This problem is exacerbated by Alpha and Gamma Metroid being, more or less the same thing and each of the Omega Metroid battles are literally identical.  There is some variation in the fights by using different environments, sometimes over lava or damaging plants or around movement hindering water, but they all use the same general mechanics until you each the Omega Metroids.  Some of the battles have these moments where the Metroid runs off into a nearby room, which honestly just makes things even more tedious since it mostly just means passing a simple and annoying ball mode tunnel puzzle to progress the fight.

This repetition in boss fights isn’t helped by the normal level enemies either, there’s something like 6 or 7 different ones in different colors that you face… over… and over… and over…  They respawn extremely quickly as well, so sometimes just traveling back and forth a room you get to battle the same enemies over and over.  The game also introduces this gimmicky melee counter attack.  Enemies will charge you, you counter them, then you effectively one shot them if the counter hits.  If you miss, or just try to kill the enemy, you get to shoot it normally, often a dozen or more times.  The whole thing is designed around encounter, wait for charge, counter attack, kill, which itself is slow and tedious the 100th time you perform the action.

There is a new boss that’s added to the game that shows up a few times.  A large Chozo digging robot pops up early on, awakened by Samus.  It later shows up during a stage sequence where you must outrun it’s massive destructive drill arms while passing over and through obstacles.  Eventually you battle it out with the boss.  It’s probably the most difficult boss in the game, though not the final boss, and it’s a nice change of pace from the repetition of the Metroids.

Despite the repetition, it’s a fun game.  It’s not the best Metroid title but it’s a welcome update to one of the less enjoyably and probably less played games int he Metroid franchise.  The new additions do a lot of good freshening things up and the updated graphics are a great step up from the cramped old Game Boy title.

Review – Gunman Clive (3DS)

The Good

  • Quick classic style gameplay
  • Interesting and different art style
  • Game becomes more complex than it initially feels

The Bad

  • Game can be frustratingly “cheap” in it’s difficulty
  • Not an overly long game with not a ton of replay value
  • Some mechanics such as the weapons could be a little more refined

In Depth

Gunman Clive is a game that harkens back to a simpler time of gaming.  There isn’t a super deep story going on and the levels are all relatively short.  It’s very “arcadish” at it’s core, with it’s time tracking and death tracking, that is to day, the idea is more to beat your high scores, than experience some deep endless story or gameplay.  This isn’t a bad thing mind you, and there’s more going on here than it initially seems.

The basic plot is that you are a cowboy in the west and your girlfriend, or wife or whatever has been kidnapped.  You chase out, armed with your trusty side arm to rescue her.  The basic controls and gameplay remind me a lot of the old Mega Man titles.  Not for crazy power ups or level selection, but just the basic jumping and shooting only straight ahead sort of mechanics.  The levels themselves are much more classic platform shooter, something akin to a Contra game, especially with the power ups you collect along the way.  The game starts out simple enough, there are opposing cowboys to shoot down, sometimes there’s rabbits or birds swopping in.  As the plot advances along though it becomes apparent there’s a lot more behind the scenes as you travel through levels with more and more crazy technology and eventually head off into space battling aliens.

The game is divided into several themed “worlds” with 5 or so levels in each world.  Each world can be completed in around a minute once you get the hang of things, though chances are you’ll spend longer on each level working it out.  Each time you die you simply return to the start of the level to try again, there are no lives here.  As the levels advance, things get more and more complex.  Enemy cowboys start hiding behind things for example, and later you encounter robot cannons and various environmental hazards such as spikes and electrical beams.

At the end of each world is a huge boss.  The bosses are all pretty interesting and varied in their mechanics and design, I particularly liked the giant transforming train robot at the end of the Train world.  All in all the difficulty across the board is pretty simple, a lot of the puzzles and traps though fall into the category of trial an error.  You play through learning the proper timing of everything until you manage to get through to the end.  The most annoying aspects involve the enemies constantly respawning if you slide their spawn location on and off the screen.  Also annoying is that sometimes enemies drop new weapons which are worse than the one you have, except you can’t avoid picking up the inferior weapon.

Probably the main gimmick of this title is the neat art style used throughout,  The entire game is rendered in this sort of yellow and gray hand drawn motif.  It looks pretty cool without being super distracting.  Despite it’s simpler art design, there’s a lot of fun complexity going on, especially in the bosses and as the world progresses into the later worlds.

Gunman Clive isn’t a super complex title, but it’s a fun little indie game platformer.  It’s not the most replayable game though unless you are into score challenges.  There is a “Play as a chicken” mode that unlocks after completing the game though.

Review – New Super Mario Brothers 2 (3DS)

The Good

  • It’s Mario, it’s pretty good in all the ways Mario is good.
  • The return of the Raccoon Leaf, generally reminiscent of SMB 3 all around
  • Build in mechanisms for if things get too tough

The Bad

  • It’s Mario…  It’s not a particularly original Mario either
  • There are a few tricky points but not much is super difficult, which makes the game go by pretty quick
  • The Coin Collecting aspect is interesting but serves little purpose

In Depth

If there’s one consistency in Nintendo’s world, it’s Mario.  I’m not even going to attempt to figure out just how many Super Mario Brothers titles there have been, let’s keep it at “a lot”.  A few years back for the original Nintendo DS, we got the first New Super Mario Brothers, a sort of, return to roots restart of the Super Mario Brothers franchise.  There have also been a few New SMB titles on the Wii and WiiU as well.  New Super Mario Brothers 2 comes to the Nintendo 3DS.

It’s not a remake of any previous title, despite the name, which can be a bit confusing, given how much Nintendo rereleases it’s old SMB titles.  I didn’t expect it to be a remake but they seem to have taken the same idea with the Yoshi’s Story series, there is a New Yoshi’s Story, that apparently isn’t a remake of the original as I had thought it might be.  Though not a remake, there isn’t a whole ton here that’s super original.  While the more old school Super Mario Brothers titles would get newer graphics and power ups and music, this game looks and feels very much like it’s predecessors, especially New Super Mario Brothers for the DS.  There aren’t even really any super original power ups in this title, the primary two being the Fire Flower and the Raccoon Leaf.

I really like the return of the Leaf, SMB 3 is one of my favorite titles in the series.  Of all of the ways Mario has been able to fly over the years I always felt like Raccoon Mario was a good balance between functionality and being too over powered like say, the Cape.  If you fail a level too many times you will be rewarded with the chance to use a White Raccoon Leaf, which gives you unlimited invincibility as well as (normal) flight power.  This isn’t always the best choice though hen trying to collect the Star Coins necessarily though, as some coins require you to perform tricky bounce maneuvers across enemies, with the White Raccoon power, you’ll simply push right through the enemies.  Also, while completing the stage with the White Raccoon lets you proceed, the stage will remain red and incomplete for actual completion percentage.

The real addition to the gameplay here is the coin accumulation.  In addition to score, you have a counter for how many total coins you have collected throughout the game.  The only real change that occurs as you collect coins however is that the pile of coins on the title screen will gradually grow larger.  This feature is similar to how Wario Land worked.  It might have been a nice twist to the classic formula for Wario or maybe the genie from Wario Land to show up, giving this coin total purpose, but sadly, it’s just the slightly tired 8-9 worlds with Koopa bosses.

Which is another nice nod to Super Mario Brothers 3, and Super Mario World, the return of Reznor and the Koopa Kids.  Bowser Junior was the villain of the first New SMB, instead Bowser’s other kids get to take control here, one in each world, just as you’d expect.

If you really like the coin mode there’s also the Coin Rush Mode, where you play 3 randomly selected courses with a very limited time set to see how many coins you can gather.  These coin records can be saved and shared via the Street Pass system, to let you try to beat other’s records.  It’s an alright additional mode, though nothing special.  You can also purchase additional course sets, which I believe is the first time a Mario game has had paid DLC.  Honestly, I don’t find the mode fun enough to justify buying more stages for it.  I’d rather just buy another title.

 The Verdict

What’s the final call here?  Well, it’s a decidedly adequate Mario Game.  It’s fun, it’s got some good references to older titles here and there, it’s everything you’d expect.  It’s also… everything you’d expect, with nothing overly new.