Probably the quintessential example of a cult classic in the video game industry, at least here in the United States, the Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound had an underwhelming debut when Nintendo released it June 5, 1995. The SNES was reaching the end of its commercial lifecycle, and RPGs on the system had matured to include ever more complex gameplay systems and grandiose visuals. Heck, the Sega Saturn had released a month prior, Sony’s PlayStation was on the horizon, and Nintendo was already discussing the next generation Ultra 64 publicly, so it seemed 2D graphics were on their way out. Yet here comes this simplistic looking game based in a reality not unlike our own instead of an imaginative fantasy or sci-fi backdrop. Similarly, the plain combat system could’ve been considered a throwback, even then. But, there was an audience for the game, and in the years since its debut, that audience has grown into a thriving fandom. Now that I’ve experienced firsthand the charming, unique adventure that EarthBound offers, a fandom so vibrant is well deserved, I’d say. Continue reading EarthBound [Super Nintendo] – Review→
As a character, Kirby is well-known for his youthful innocence and delight in simple pleasures, like eating. Simple is also an apt descriptor for the majority of games he’s starred in, generally platformers; simple, but often inventive, in one way or another. In the case of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the game is a pretty basic side-scrolling platformer with a remarkable visual identity. The yarn and felt visuals were more than just window dressing though, as they influenced the gameplay in creative and subversive ways. Continue reading Kirby’s Epic Yarn [Wii] – Review→
When Nintendo of America announced they had localized and released Picross 3D: Round 2 a year after its Japanese debut, I was over the moon. The Picross series has been a stable time sink for me ever since I first played Picross DS. However, I was a little dismayed that it wasn’t destined to receive a physical release in the west. No, it was only available digitally and I’m one of those weirdos who’s reticent to purchase nonphysical copies of games, convenience be damned. Seeing as I didn’t have a reasonable option for a physical purchase, I willingly plunked in my credit card information and made the purchase. I’m glad I did.
Released for the Game Boy in 1992, Kirby’s Dream Land marked the debut of the eponymous character that sucks and blows. What’s more, it also marked the beginning of Masahiro Sakurai’s entry into game development (in a directorial position, at least) and the growing relationship between the game’s developer – HAL Laboratory – and its publisher – Nintendo. But, instead of honing in on those aspects, I’m just going to talk briefly about the game itself. In short, it’s a basic platformer that was intended to be an entry-point for young video game players.
And short it is! After finding a complete copy at a local Goodwill for a couple dollars, I plugged it into my GBA SP late that night and wound up beating it there and then. After getting through the first two stages trouble-free, I looked online to see just how many stages were in the game. After reading there was five, I trucked on and completed the game, only having to continue once. After the credits, the game extolled a harder difficulty, but that’s not usually my scene.
One notable aspect of this game – while Kirby can suck up enemies, consuming them or shooting them back out, he doesn’t have his copy ability. This, being the ability to swallow an enemy and gain its attacks, wasn’t introduced until the next game, Kirby’s Adventure for the NES. Lacking this, the game felt a little empty taking my experiences with later Kirby games into account. Still, I was surprised to find that a few of the stages had a degree of openness to them, similar to the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games.
So, my biggest takeaway from Kirby’s Dream Land is its brevity. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, in fact, I think it’s very solid. Kirby controls great, and even lacking his copy ability, he still has many differentiating qualities. The boss fights that capped off each stage were fun too. And, I’d be remiss to not mention the jubilant soundtrack as well. It’s a high point for this game and indicative of the tunes the series would be known for. It’s a fun little game worth a half-hour of your time if you’re into platformers.
Before picking up Picross DS, I had only heard of picross through snippets in magazines and until I played it I had no idea why it received these mentions, when there had only been one game released in the US. Once I had got it, I was instantly hooked. I’m a fan of Sudoku and crosswords and for those who have never played picross, it compares to those games favorably to those kinds of games.
Before making the transition to 3D, picross was played in a grid (5×5, 10×10 etc.) and to complete it you’d fill in boxes by the clues given to you on the outside of the rows and columns; once completed, an image is revealed. I would have been happy with more puzzles for picross but instead they went and added another dimension which changes the game dramatically, yet it still retains familiar elements that make it picross.
In Picross 3D you are now given a 3D grid, that you can rotate and “look into” to figure out the image. Each image is completed the same as it has been in the past: each row and column still has the numbers that tell you how many of those boxes you need to fill in. The controls are superb and allow you to maneuver the starting grid easily and without any confusion. The game has a great, and lengthy, tutorial explaining every aspect of the game clearly and repeatedly which will help new players learn invaluable techniques and practice using logic to complete examples puzzles.
There are more than 350 puzzles, and if my experience with the game is any indication, it’ll keep anyone busy for a long time. Whenever I play, I typically do a handful at a time or pop in some music when playing for extended periods; I seem to play it every night just before bed. Once you finish with the included puzzles, you can get online to download more, for free, for what looks like will be a long time to come. Even whenever I finish everything, I foresee myself going back and starting a new profile to do it all again, the game has a good ability to allow you that opportunity; once completed, I can come back to a puzzle and not remember how to quickly solve it, or remember the image until it’s revealed.
And if you’re the type of person that likes creating in games, Picross 3D also scratches that itch. There is the ability to create your own puzzles and then share them locally or submit them for themed contests. Without a dedicated community to share with, I can’t see the creation being that much of a draw, unless you have a friend or two who are into that aspect of games.
For only $20 it’s hard not to recommend, and with the amount of puzzles included, it’ll remain in your DS for a long time, but if you’re not a fan of games like Sudoku or crosswords, check it out before running to the store, regardless I highly recommend getting Picross 3D.