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Review – Pokemon Magikarp Jump (Android, iOS)

The Good

  • Charming visuals and art work
  • Magikarp
  • Magikarp

The Bad

  • Very repetitive game play
  • Weird overpriced Microtransaction Model
  • Shallow Gameplay

In Depth

Pokemon Go isn’t the only mobile Pokemon Experience available on mobile, Pokemon Magikarp Jump is a much more traditional mobile game with all of the usual caveats that come along with that.  At it’s core, Magikarp Jump is just your traditional old school Tomagotchi only with Pokemon.  You fish up a Magikarp, you feed it food and train it, and then take it off to compete in a Jumping contest against AI Magikarp opponents.  That’s 100% of the extend of the game.

The best part of this whole game is the art and animation.  It’s repetitive yes, but it all looks really great.  There are several dozen Pokemon that show up in the game aside from Magikarps, all of them rendered in this recognizable cutesy art style.

The more you play the more coin rewards you get which allows you to upgrade the various foods and training courses.  There are also Diamonds which are this games Premium currency, which can be used to unlock Friend Pokemon and decorations for your Magikarp tank.  The friendly Pokemon offer time based rewards such as bonus experience (JP or Jump Power) or extra coins.  The Decorations offer passive bonuses such as a blanked percentage bonus to coins or JP.  This offers up some variety of ways to raise your Magikarp.  The Premium currency can be purchased for real money but it also can be earned, slowly, by simply playing the game. After training, and league matches, you often encounter random events, some of which drop diamonds, others bonus exp and gold.

There is choice, and not really a lot of choice.  To keep things moving, you really need to keep upgrading food and training, which means needing gold, which pretty much steers all upgrades into getting more gold.  Spending a few hundred hard to get Diamonds for 2 extra food isn’t really as useful as spending the same amount for a bonus to gold drops or even just a boost to the experience food gives.

The whole system is of course, also designed on a sliding scale, so you get stronger, but you never really feel like you are getting “better”.  The leagues (all ten of them) all play out essentially at the same pace until you reach Level 100 Magikarps.  Every match is the same and entirely dependent on having more experience than your opponent, which is a fixed amount.  The only real way to make things move faster is to drop real world money.

Which brings up some weirdness.  There is a spending limit, built in, it’s something like $50 ever.  I suppose it’s to prevent kids from blowing hundreds on the game, except the entire point of this business model is to be sustained by “whales” IE the people who spend hundreds of dollars, to make up for those trudging through at the Free pace.  Spending $50 also gives you the Diamond Miner, which grants 100 free Diamonds per day, which pretty much enables all of the unlocks to be purchased many orders of magnitude faster than playing for Free.  the amount of Diamonds you get on basic purchases is also pretty low, enough to buy maybe 1 item.  Essentially the only reason to buy in, is for the Diamond Miner.

The problem here is, game doesn’t have anywhere near $50 worth of game play.  I get that some people will feel it does, but speaking for the idea of the vast majority, it doesn’t.  You don’t do anything interactive at all side from tapping food and pressing OK a lot.  Maybe, MAYBE if the Training rounds were actual mini games and you maybe some extra taps or something to help jump more in League battles and just in general if there was SOMETHING besides being a time waster to the game.  There isn’t though, and as it stands, being a time waster is ok, but it’s not really $50 ok.  I’m all for supporting developers, and I’d gladly throw $5-$10 at this game for the time I’ve spent on it and the enjoyable art and animation.

After you reach level 100 you can keep training Magikarps to higher and higher experience to see how high you can get your Magikarp to jump.  There’s no direct player vs player aspect but connecting to Facebook lets you see how your friends are ranking.

Don’t get me wrong on the negatives, the game is pretty fun as a Tomagotchi time waster, it just feels like there are some odd choices in the pay model and the gameplay itself just, completely lacks any real depth.  I have enjoyed the game a lot.  I’ve played all the way through to Level 100, which, takes months, just as a heads up, but it’s more than doable.  It just gets old after a while.

 

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.

Weekly Wednesday Haul – Predatory Behavior Edition

So, when I order things from overseas, meaning, from AmiAmi, I like to order several items, to help cut down on the bite of the pricey shipping.  So when I had a preorder come up, I threw on a second figure for good measure.  I’ve been wanting to get my own Revoltech Woody for a while, for “dumb meme reasons”, specifically, the Woody with the “creepy face”.  He’s a pretty fun and funny figure, and he was recently re-released.

For my add on figure, we have Figuarts Ash Ketchum, from Pokemon.  I wanted to get Team Rocket, but I couldn’t swing that one this round, so I went with Ash for now.  He’s also pretty nice, and will be fun to use with the few other Pokemon figures I have, which is a collection of little PVC Pokemon I’ve picked up here and there as well as the domestic release of Dawn.

Review – S.H. Figuarts Yoshi

While he wasn’t part of the original Super Mario Brothers, in fact, he didn’t come around until much later in the series during the 4th full game, Super Mario World, Yoshi is as iconic to the Mario series as any of the main cast.   The popular Dino has even gotten several of his own spin off games.  He certainly makes sense as an addition to the Mario Figuarts lineup.

SH Figuarts Yoshi

Yoshi is quite a different little figure than Mario and Luigi, for the obvious reasons that, he’s a Dinosaur and not a plumber.  He’s actually a quite a bit more dynamic in some ways as a result.  His skinnier arms give him a lot more flexibility for outward motion than the Mario Brothers.  While his hips can rotate outward as well, he doesn’t have any knees.  I’m not sure where they would put the knees considering how short his legs are, not to mention the addition of knees would probably hurt his major gimmick.

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That major gimmick?  Mario can ride Yoshi.

Included among Yoshi’s accessories are two alternate shell pieces each with a clear saddle attached to hold Figuarts Mario or Luigi.  It’s a bit tricky to get Mario’s weight to balance on Yoshi without the use of a stand however.  Mario is a pretty heavy figure and sticking all that weight on the back of poor little Yoshi really sets things off balance.  It’s still a really nice touch to have it as an option given 90% of Yoshi’s function is carrying Mario around on his back.

SH Figuarts Yoshi

Yoshi’s other accessories are all based on alternate configurations for Yoshi.  He doesn’t have any power ups or blocks, likely because Yoshi is a bit larger than either of the Mario Brothers and he has parts like the saddle shell pieces, all of which already drive the price up.  One of the driving forces of these Mario Figuarts seems to be keeping them fairly affordable ($20-$40 vs the $50-$100 price of some Figuarts).

SH Figuarts Yoshi

Yoshi includes an extra set of eyes so he can look off to the side, an alternate mouth insert with an extended tongue, and an alternate set of hands.  He also includes a stand.  He doesn’t need the stand at all to hold himself up under normal power, and the hole for the stand is directly on the bottom of Yoshi anyway, the stand is meant to allow Yoshi to jump or hover like he does in the games.

The hands are slightly disappointing.  Yoshi has two fists and two open hands, but one of the open hands has an egg permanently attached to it.  It doesn’t come off, you’ll only break it trying.  Considering the Mario Brothers already gave us a method to attach objects to open palm hands with the turtle shells, it’s kind of disappointing that the egg can’t be removed in this same manner.  The egg would have made a great accessory for use with the other figures and having two bare open hands for Yoshi would have been a great plus.

SH Figuarts Yoshi

The tongue is a bit disappointing as well, though it may just be a problem on mine.  Basically, it doesn’t stay attached very well at all.  It’s not even a problem due to weight or balance, the pegs on the underside of the mouth piece simply don’t properly peg into the pegs in his mouth.  The real benefit that the tongue piece provides is that it means the mouth can open and close, something that I imagine wouldn’t have been a feature if it hadn’t been a necessity to allow for the tongue piece to work.

SH Figuarts Yoshi

While it’s still probably the best Yoshi Figure available, and it’s a good figure to be sure, There are a few little issue that keep it from being completely amazing.  Specifically the egg hand and the finicky-ness of how some of the accessories attach.  The riding feature really helps push the figure up an extra notch if you have Mario or Luigi to go with him however.

Review – S.H. Figuarts Luigi

Today’s review is on SH Figuarts Luigi.  I’ve previously done a review of SH Figuarts Mario as well that you may be interested in if you’re looking into Luigi.  A lot of what was said about Mario definitely applies here.  The build quality is solid, the paint apps are great, the sculpt is great, the articulation works for what he is, but it’s a little limited.

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Where Luigi differs the most is in his accessory count.  Luigi includes alternate open hands and a stand, both things that Mario lacked in his basic form.    Additionally Luigi includes a basic Block Brick and a Red Koopa shell.  It’s kind of a shame that he doesn’t have a coin, that feels like it would have been the cheapest accessory to throw in and coins are definitely something you can never have too many of when it comes to Mario.   Also included is a swappable back plate to allow the stand to peg into Luigi’s back and a small clear plastic bit that allows the Koopa shell to attach to either of the open palm hands to be held.

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Speaking of the hands, I touched a bit on the build style on Mario being different that your standard Figuarts release.  The hands are another place where this varies.  The pegs are nice and bulky and built into the forearms of both Luigi and Mario.  The hands stay on well but are easily swapped and it doesn’t feel like there is any chance of breaking the pegs.  This is definitely a change from many Figuarts where the removable hands often come off as pretty fragile.  It certainly helps that both Luigi and Mario are chunkier than most Figuarts, but it, once again, kind of feels like that Nintendo Quality push sneaking in a bit.  It’s also notable that it’s very subtle, but the hands are not identical to the ones that are available in the Playset Pack for Mario, they are slightly skinnier as well, to match Luigi’s slimmer build.

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Having the stand and hands definitely help flesh out Luigi’s pose options.  Every since Super Mario Brothers 2, Luigi has been known for his crazy high jumping, so having the stand for jumping poses is definitely a plus.  The hands are also great for both carrying and throwing the included Koopa shell.

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Luigi isn’t a straight recolor of Mario either, he stands a half inch or so taller than Mario and has an overall slimmer build.  I’m sure there is some parts reuse, I think the arms and shoes are the same, but the legs, center mass, and head are all slimmer and seem to be different sculpting than Mario.

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All in all Luigi is a nice package.  He’s definitely a nice addition to go with his brother Mario but the extra accessories make him a nice solid figure in his own right.

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.

Review – Figma – A Link Between Worlds Link (DX version)

The Legend of Zelda has kind of a crazy continuity, or more, a crazy lack of continuity.  Despite there being many many Zelda title in the series, more or less all about Link fetching the Triforce to save Hyrule, there are few that are direct sequels or even that take place in the same world.  Link has had many different designs over the years.  Generically, he’s kind of an elf looking person in a green tunic.  Sometimes he’s an adult, sometimes he’s a child, sometimes he’s somewhere in between.  This version of Link is based on his appearance in the game A Link Between Worlds, a 3DS title that is a sequel to the SNES classic, A Link to the Past.  This is the second Figma Link, the first being one of the older designs from Skyward Sword.

Figma Link - Left Handed

This design really hits all of the right points for my preferred link.  Most of my experience with the Zelda series is in the older games, before Link was a grittier older warrior type like in Skyward Sword or Twilight Princess, and before he became a kooky cartoon caricature like in Wind Waker.  It’s not exactly the same as the classic Zelda 1 style art but he’s a lot closer to that design than other options available at this time.  It also helps that A link to the Past is probably my favorite Zelda title.

Figma Link - Size Comparison

If I had any real complaint it’s that he is a really small figure.  Like 4″ tall short.  Admittedly this is kind of personal preference, I like to mix up my figures across lines, and I was hoping for a Link that didn’t come off as being a 5 year old kid next to my other ~6″ figures.

Figma Link - Accessories

Personal gripe aside, it’s a fantastic figure to be sure.  The accessories on the basic Link feel a bit lacking, though there is a DX version that includes a whole slew of extra bits.  The basic Link includes a stand, two faces (total), the Master Sword and Link’s Shield.  He also includes a flat cut out Link that is part of the gimmick of A link Between World’s gameplay.  There are also alternate hands and a bracelet that can be removed if desired.

Figma Link - Accessories (Disassembled)

The DX version also includes a Tornado Rod with a flat effect piece, a Hookshot with long and short hooks, a Bomb, a Rupee, a Pot and a Baby Maiamai.   All of the accessories are well designed and easily used.  There’s a lot of “quality of life” sort of features to these accessories alone.  For example, the sword isn’t one piece, forcing you to jam it into his hands, the hilt is removable so it can easily be slid into the hand and reattached.  The shield and hook shot handles both disassemble into several pieces to be easily put into Link’s hands as well.  The shield can even be adjusted so it can be held in both Link’s left or right hand (since Link is a southpaw except when facing west).  Little touches like this really help sell the figure.

Figma Link - With Bomb

Pose ability is nice overall as well.  The skirt part of Link’s tunic is a flexible rubber sort of material that allows for free movement in the hips, something that can often be a problem for figures with similar sort of outfits.

Figma Link -

My only actual complaint with this figure is that his hair and face come off a little too easily.  This seems to be somewhat of a Figma problem, since I have similar issues with Figma Motoko.   There isn’t quite enough friction to hold things in place solidly.  It’s really not a huge problem but it can be a problem.   Another “Figma Issue” is that often when swapping the hands, the peg comes out of the wrist instead of the hand coming off the peg, which can make the peg hard to remove from the hand, since it’s so small.  This is another issue I’ve had with other Figma as well.

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Figma A link Between Worlds link is a pretty good figure.  Some of what it comes down to is, which Link Design do you prefer.  Also, given his small size, he’s a bit pricey, even for an import figure.  Higher prices aren’t uncommon for import figures but the tiny 4″ size makes that harder to take, especially with the anemic accessory count on the non DX version.

Figma Link - Right Handed

Figma Link - Left Handed

Review – S.H. Figuarts Mario

Nintendo has long been weirdly stingy with the license for their properties.  Sure, there has always been merchandise for Super Mario Brothers, but only recently have they really opened it up, at least for more toy style merchandise.  They seemed to have opened the flood gates too, between the Amiibo figurines, and the World of Nintendo toy line.  There is also a line put out by Bandai under their S.H. Figuarts lineup.

World of Nintendo is alright, but if you want the “Cadillac level” of figure, you’re going to want to spring for the Figuarts Mario.

SH Figuarts Mario

Figuarts Mario is a bit of a departure from the standard Human figures put out in this line.  Sure Mario is human, but he’s considerably shorter and ore stocky than your average anime school girl.   The joint system all around also feels a lot more study than the other Figuarts I’ve handled.  I’m not saying the others are garbage, just that Mario here definitely seems to have a different mindset in mind on his design choices.  It kind of feels like that whole “Nintendo Quality” hand was probably involved in the design of this figure a bit to make sure he looks nice and solid in most poses.

SH Figuarts Mario

This also is almost a determent however.  He can make a lot of “classic Mario poses” but he’s also limited in a lot of ways due to his sculpt.  He can’t stick his arms out from his sides, for example, due to how his shoulders work.  He doesn’t have any alternate faces either.  In fact eh doesn’t have any alternate parts at all, though there are some alternate hands included in one of the accessory packs.

SH Figuarts Mario

What he does include is a Power Mushroom, one coin with stand, and a ? Block.  There isn’t even a stand (That is also in an accessory pack).  He’s plenty solid enough to stand without the stand though having one to do jumping poses would have been nice.

SH Figuarts Mario

There is an upside to the lack of extra parts however, and it kind of makes the whole argument moot.  Mario costs considerably less than your average Figuarts toy.  In fact Mario plus the two initial “Playset” packs, probably puts him about your average Figuarts price, with an above average number of accessories.

SH Figuarts Mario

Accessory woes aside, the figure is really nice.  It’s build solid, as mentioned and the sculpt and paint are all spot on perfect for a modern Mario.  Despite his limited articulation, he can pill off a lot of very Mario-like poses.  Mario isn’t exactly a Ninja after all, he’s a fat, squat plumber.  SH Figuarts Mario pulls this off nicely.