Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

Animal Crossing Cover Art
Animal Crossing Cover Art
Released 2020
Platform Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Nintendo (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1*
Can invite/visit friends islands online or share 1 island with other account holders on your Switch
Category Relaxing
Exploration
Collecting
Customisation
Life Simulation

Well, I finally started to get what all the Animal Crossing buzz was about! Also, Tom Nook is evil :p

I have known about Animal Crossing as a franchise for years. It has never really held much interest for me. I generally like to do ‘something’ in my games, and Animal Crossing has me doing things I should be doing in my real home.

Things like cleaning up the garden, decorating my home and making stuff don’t sound like a ‘game’ to me. I understand that sometimes slow and straightforward gameplay is what you need – I have said it many times. I just like having a goal to work towards, and Animal Crossing is known for having no end.

And then I couldn’t leave the house anymore. I lost the precious downtime of my daily commute. I needed something to try and focus my brain away from work. Multi-tasking in other games is just too much to juggle.

Enter Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I thought I would jump on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, spend 15-20 minutes each day doing a few little odd jobs and relax.

And, for the first few weeks, that’s precisely what I did. I expanded my house a couple of times and ran around my island collecting fossils and fishing.

My museum was my ‘prettiest’ building for quite some time. I just didn’t really know what I was doing. I was (and still am) enjoying my time pottering around my island, fishing and collecting shells and oranges.

Animal Crossing Game Start
From simple beginnings, as they say.

Four weeks later

So I have realised what Tom Nook was trying to tell me for the previous few weeks. I stopped chipping away at paying off the ever-increasing renovation costs of my home and started preparing plots of land to sell.

Visitors have started appearing. I am building up an eclectic little community that I am enjoying talking to each day. I can now see the layout possibilities of my island, and kicking myself for some early “Oh that’s good enough” decisions.

Now, I am starting to get into creating hybrid flowers and turnip sales. I am resisting looking up the plethora of guides out there, but I may buckle in a couple of weeks. See how I go first 🙂

Animal Crossing Meeting Deirdre
You start with 2 other 'islanders', and your population grows

My goal of turnip sales? To make enough bells to terraform my island into my ideal getaway location.

But what is the actual game?

This is the hardest part of Animal Crossing. Everything I have been talking about is the game. It’s why I recognised that it was good for those that enjoyed it, but I couldn’t see how I could enjoy it. 

You can hopefully understand that I am enjoying different things in Animal Crossing. Hearing people tell me about their Animal Crossing adventures was always lovely, but never really enticed me. Why not? Because you can’t really see the goal.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has apparently ‘fixed’ this, but I am not at that point yet. Your goal in New Horizons is to improve your island to the point that K.K. Slider comes and does a concert there. You do this by doing all the things I have been talking about. Decorate the island, get people to live there, and collect records apparently. That’s what Tom Nook suggests anyway. I am pretty sure he just like me paying him 3,200 bells every day for a new album.

Animal Crossing Museum Opening
You can celebrate milestones with your community

So the point of the game is to work on an artificial island to hold a phony concert?

If you are cynical, you can look at it that way. Animal Crossing won’t be for everyone. For me, it gave me a goal to work towards other than ‘enjoy yourself’. Something concrete to aim towards.

If the current world pandemic hadn’t happened, there is an excellent chance I would never have played Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Once I played enough to realise there was a ‘goal’, it allowed me to focus my gameplay.

Today, I am looking forward to what I do after the concert is held. Animal Crossing is a completionist’s dream – or nightmare. Fishing is a simple activity I have little patience for in real life. But the fish you can catch change. Part of this is a random bit of luck, part of this is seasonal.

Animal Crossing Lounge Room
You don't just collect creatures. You can also collect decorations for your island and home

Just like in real life, different breeds of fish appear at different times of the year. And not only fish – there is a plethora of bugs to collect as well. You can donate these to your museum to display along with all of the fossils you find. Art has been added as well.

The museum gives you a great way to display your progress as well as giving you a goal. 

Wait, the content changed? Art has been ‘added’?

Yep. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has embraced the software as a service model. Not only has content been added, but more is also coming. And not just things to collect. The rumour at the moment is there will be a swimming and diving mechanic coming soon.

Sure, this will lead to new things to collect. This is the sort of game grind that can kill many games for me. Destiny 2 ring a bell anyone? Animal Crossing has somehow made this grind ridiculously fun and relaxing. Will I get bored with it eventually? Yes. But I can’t see that happening anytime soon. That’s why I feel that even without fully experiencing all the game has to offer, it’s still fair for me to review it after 45 hours of play.

Animal Crossing Bunny Day
There are also seasonal events, such as Bunny Day when I just started playing

That kind of makes sense. I don’t know if just collecting stuff appeals to me though.

Here is another aspect of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and one I am probably not going to engage in. If you are the creative type, the level of customisation in New Horizons is staggering.

For example, I made my own flag from the site logo. My island tune is an admittedly butchered version of the Chocobo music from Final Fantasy.

You can design clothes, flooring, roads – so many things. This gives you a real sense of ownership and satisfaction.

Animal Crossing New Flag
This made me happier than I thought it would.

Not so much into the artsy side? One of the things that make me smile is people are hosting TV shows from Animal Crossing! The first time I saw this was Outside Xtra and the Show of the Almost Weekend. During the week, I watched another show where Danny Trejo was a guest on the show. Animal Talking with Gary Whitta is a full blown talk show, all done within the game. It’s amazing.

Games like Little Big Planet and Dreams give you tools to make amazing things. The things people have been making in Animal Crossing: New Horizon have blown me away.

Long story short – Animal Crossing is the relaxing time soak I knew it would be, and the community has made it so much more.

Overall Thoughts

Games where you ‘get out of it what you put into it’ are always hard to classify. They can sound like people just want to like them, or just can’t convince you to give them a try.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons falls into this category. Giving it a try more out of desperation to try to get some downtime than ‘real’ interest in the game, my expectations were low.

I was wrong. I am enjoying the daily grind loop. My joy at finding an island full of Bamboo plants was real. The eye rolls from Rabbit when I show her the next silly thing I have done are also real. 🙂

The only reason I am giving Animal Crossing: New Horizons 7.5 is because I know I won’t be playing it in 10 years. That’s not how my ranking works. But I would guess 90% of people that jump into Animal Crossing for the first time and stick with it even casually for a week will begin to fall into the same trap I did.

Damn you, Tom Nook! :p

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Quick, what you want to do gameplay in chunks of time you decide.
  • New things to discover and are being added at a steady pace.
  • A relaxing game that gives you an escape.
  • Lots of complex systems to discover.

Cons

  • Early game is prolonged.
  • In-game tutorials aren’t always as helpful as I would like.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Luigi’s Mansion 3 Review

Luigi's Mansion 3 Cover
Released 2019
Platform Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Next Level Games (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1-2 (Campaign)
1-8 (Party Games)
Category Light Puzzler
Collection
Cute Horror Theme

Who you gonna call? Luigi! Wait, wrong franchise.

It’s an appropriate crossover, though. Luigi’s Mansion was a hit when released on the GameCube way back in 2002 (2001 for Japan). I got to play it in early 2019 when re-released on the DS. I say play it, as I started playing but never finished it. By then, the Switch was becoming my portable console of choice and other games called.

But even then, I knew Luigi’s Mansion 3 was coming. I got to pick up my copy when I got back from PAX Aus last year. And a couple of weeks ago, I finally got to enjoy it 🙂

So what is Luigi’s Mansion?

The series has Luigi somehow trapped in a situation where he needs to capture ghosts and save his friends from King Boo. Professor E. Gadd helps him in this by providing Luigi with a Pultergust – a vacuum that can capture the ghosts. Along there way there are collectables you need like keys to progress in the story. Eventually, you will work your way to King Boo and set everything right 🙂

The plot isn’t any more profound than this in any of the games. You don’t play Luigi’s Mansion for the riveting story. Luigi’s Mansion is a 3D light puzzle and collection game, and a whole lot of fun. That’s why you play it 🙂

OK, so what about Luigi’s Mansion 3?

You start the game on a bus with Mario, Peach and some Toads. Luigi has won a holiday at a new hotel, and everyone is looking forward to a well earned holiday.

Things go south quickly, and Luigi is the only one not captured in a portrait. Fleeing in a way only Luigi can, he lucks into Professor E. Gadd’s car. Armed with the Poltergust, Luigi then sets out to rescue Mario and all.

You need to get up to the top level of the hotel, but the elevator buttons have been removed. Gameplay wise, this means you have to solve the puzzles of each individual floor before beating the boss. Defeating the boss gains you another elevator button, and eventually, you unlock all the levels.

Welcome to the Last Resort
Everything looks like paradise when you arrive at The Last Resort

Unique Levels? Isn’t it a hotel?

You are in a hotel, but plenty of hotels are built around themes. Instead of having say the Disneyland Hotel with rooms tailored to different characters, the hotel in Luigi’s Mansion takes things further.

The lower levels and first few floors are standard kinds of floors. They look like most high-class hotels. Shopping, Lobby, Restaurant, that kind of thing. But as you continue to go higher, the levels take on their own themes.

Garden floors that have multiple levels, Film Studios, a Museum, even a dessert. You don’t have too long to get bored of any level. This is one of Luigi’s Mansions strengths and a weakness – the games are not very long.

Garden out of Control
The first 'strange' level is a multi level gardening nightmare

So how does a vacuum let you capture ghosts?

Simple, you vacuum them up! The ghosts themselves aren’t exactly keen on this idea. You flash them with your flashlight to expose their hearts, then you can catch them in your vacuum. Once you have them like this, but they try their best to get away from you.

When this happens, you need to pull away from them. This drains the ghost’s health, but do it long enough, and you can get a firm hold on it. Once you do, you can slam the ghost around. When you have them like this, you can slam it into other ghosts, using them as a club.

Capturing Ghosts
Watching the boss ghosts finally get caught is always fun

That sounds like it would get boring.

It does, but Luigi’s Mansion doesn’t have you doing the same thing for too long. Mostly you are exploring the floor looking for a key to get into new areas. Combat like this is all through the game, but it’s not a constant activity.

There are only a few types of ghost in the game, but they get tricky as you continue. They start wearing sunglasses, for example, so the light doesn’t affect them. This turns new encounters into mini-puzzles that need to be solved as well.

Fair enough, but just collecting elevator buttons doesn’t sound like a lot.

You need to collect elevator buttons to get through the story. But that isn’t the only thing you can hunt for in the game.

There is a bunch of cash hidden in the hotel. The more you collect, the higher your score at the end of the game. I spent a bit of time vacuuming everything and ended up with just over $80,000 collected. This gave me an A rank.

Elevator Button Acquired
Game progress is marked in how many buttons you have collected so far

With this kind of ranking system, there is usually an elusive S rank. No one is reported to have this, so I am not sure if it exists in Luigi’s Mansion 3. But if I was to replay the game, it gives me something to aim for.

There are also six gems hidden in each level. Collecting all of these gives you a sparkly plunger. Each gem is uniquely shaped based on the floor’s theme, and finding the first one got a smile out of me each time.

Once you have cleared a level, you can also go back and try and find a Boo hidden on each level. I found a couple when the mechanic was introduced but didn’t spend a lot of time hunting them down. Each Boo has a pun name. Some made me laugh, some made me groan, so the puns were spot on 🙂

Well, until I got to the second last floor. Then I went back and spent about an hour getting the boos and any gems I missed. The beauty of both collectables is that they are entirely optional. If you do decide to hunt them down, it doesn’t add much to the playtime, but it never got dull looking for them either.

Gem Display
You have standard collectibles as well.

What about the second all green Luigi? I have seen him on the cover.

This is a new mechanic introduced in Luigi’s Mansion 3. The bright green fella is Gooigi. As I was playing solo, I could use him to solve puzzles by switching control between Luigi and Gooigi.

You can also play Luigi’s Mansion with a friend. One player plays as Luigi, the other as Gooigi. If you are playing with two players, I would suggest the more experienced player plays as Luigi. Gooigi has health, but if he ‘dies’ he can be respawned very quickly. If Luigi runs out of health, it’s game over.

Gooigi taking center stage
Taking control of two characters can be a challenge, but opens up lots of puzzle possibilities

The biggest thing I grappled with in Luigi’s Mansion 3 was the controls. Mostly I could work around the sometimes overly helpful control system, except for one mandatory area.

There is a level with a lot of water that has you floating in a duck-shaped floatie. You turn left and right to pick a direction and suck or blow with the poltergust to go forward and backwards.

Going through the level, this was a little annoying but not too bad. The real hassle was with the boss fight and is the only time I stopped playing out of frustration.

B2 - the water level
While fun initially, this levels boss fight was very frustrating

Speaking of multiplayer, there are also two other games you can play – ScareScraper and ScreamPark. These are competitive and cooperative player modes to play as well. These are fun diversions, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Not because I am not interested in trying them, I just haven’t had the chance.

Who should play Luigi’s Mansion? It doesn’t sound like a lot of game.

This is one of those questions that I get a lot but sometimes have trouble understanding. There are more narrative-driven games and games with better graphics. Not that Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks terrible, it’s just no Red Dead Redemption 2 for example.

After coming off the 80ish hour Final Fantasy XV, the relatively short 20 hour run through of Luigi’s Mansion 3 was a great palate cleanser. The puzzles are engaging without being harsh. The length of the game meant I could always be progressing. I didn’t have hundreds of side quests to distract me.

If you want to sit down for a serious gaming session, Luigi’s Mansion 3 isn’t the game. But to just sit down and pick up a fun experience that keeps you engaged, it’s just about perfect.

Just about perfect?

Every game has one big downside for me. The controls never quite seemed to work the way I expected them to. There are some motion aspects where you can tip your controls to adjust the height of what you are aiming at. This isn’t too bad, but it did take a bit of getting used to.

Once I had the boss fight worked out though, it only took me two more attempts to get through it. It wasn’t the end of the world and didn’t reduce my enjoyment overall, but if I had to pick on something, this level is the only frustrating part for me.

Overall Thoughts

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great in-between game. If I had started expecting a long story-driven game, I would have been disappointed. Instead, you get a medium length light puzzle game with just enough elements to never get bored overall.

While I haven’t played any of the multiplayer games, I do appreciate their inclusion. It does help justify the full retail price for a short solo experience.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Light hearted game play that is still engaging
  • Good balance between exploring and combat
  • Extends campaign with multiplayer party games

Cons

  • Controls can be a little tricky
  • Campaign is a short for the asking price
JohnHQLD

Sega Europe going old school on PC packaging – and it’s recyclable!

Sega Total War Rome 2

I remember when software boxes were cardboard, and Windows NT 3.1 came on 22 floppy disks!

Yep, I am that old :p

I remember when I would buy any software, it would come in a thin cardboard box. Games tended to be in slightly thicker cardboard, and I had some until I moved to Cairns a few years ago. Still, I must have destroyed about 20 Lotus 123 boxes installing them at different companies. Not intentionally, but if you squeezed just that little bit too much it flattened the box! Ah, the memories :p

What bought on this little trip down memory lane? Last week, Sega announced that they were committed to continuing an earlier packaging experiment. The experiment? 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. Even the shrink wrap can be recycled safely.

What’s the big deal? You can recycle plastic already. Sega is just cheap.

Yes, plastic can be recycled, but only a certain number of times. Then it pretty much sits in its most toxic form in landfill or floating somewhere.

And while cardboard can be seen as cheap, it isn’t. It really isn’t. Because most packaging is plastic, most factories are producing it. Because fewer people want these packages, fewer people offer to make it. Cardboard packaging is actually more expensive than the plastic cases! We see this in board gaming as well. I have seen lots of people complain about the ‘cheap’ wooden pieces in games when they can cost double their plastic counterparts in terms of production costs.

There are other benefits to the cardboard packaging as well, though. Cardboard packaging is lighter and cheaper to transport. Lighter loads help reduce the carbon footprint of shipping large numbers of games even further. Sega is using water and vegetable-based dye to print on their covers. Why is this important? Because it ensures that the cardboard can be recycled with the least amount of waste (if any).

Sega Total War Rome 2
Keep the lot, or safely keep the disc sleeves and recycle the packaging. Your call.

Plastic boxes last longer, but that is part of the problem. Large numbers of plastic cases are thrown away each year. Hopefully, other companies follow Sega’s example.

But there is also something puzzling about the change.

This only applies to PC releases. PC gaming is great, but physical sales of PC games haven’t exactly been booming for a decade at least. Across the board, downloading your games rather than playing the physical release has been increasing more and more.

I have bought around 45 physical games in the last two years. Most were PS4 and Switch. Two were for PC, and only because they were ridiculously cheap on sale at EB. Both of these PC games required I download the new versions anyway, so the physical part was not needed, except for my shelf. Those two games? Starcraft 2 collection and Diablo 3.

That means with my highly accurate testing group of 1, the number of physical PC games I purchased borders on insignificant. The boxes were also cardboard as well, but with metallic embossing and the like the probably made some of the cardboard unable to be recycled. This is what Sega is improving, but how many will see the benefit?

If you go to any gaming store with physical games, consoles dominate the shelf space. It’s just the way things have gone and will continue as digital storefronts continue to dominate sales.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Dual Edition
Buy the dual pack? Get a special case to hold both games, plus both retail packages! What a waste!

So it’s just a publicity stunt?

I don’t think so. While I remember the old cardboard boxes with a sense of nostalgia, for Sega this is a significant change in ‘standard’ production. Dipping their toe into the waters makes financial and business sense. My issue is I don’t see how this small a market can make a big enough dent to understand the economic, market and environmental benefits though.

So while commendable, I say Sega Europe should go one step further. They can convert the packaging of all of their physical media in the new packaging, not just PC. Maybe just for an individual title/titles as a trial – converting everything at once would likely be too costly for the company to absorb. But trying with a broader market at the very least would allow better scrutiny of the ‘success or failure’ of the project.

Also, I would like to see Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo follow suit. Not including collectors editions, most games are a single disc that can be well protected in a cardboard sleeve. Worse, some games are just plastic covers for a download code printed on cardboard. Even if the new packaging was trialled on these download only retail releases, that would be a huge impact.

The more people that do this, the more the cost goes down. Here is hoping Sega can get the ball rolling with other companies.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pokemon Sword/Pokemon Shield review

Pokemon Sword and Shield Review Welcome
Pokemon Sword and Shield Art
Released 2019
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Game Freak (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category RPG
Collectible/Set Collection

It’s a brave new world for the venerable RPG. Just not too new a world.

Pokemon games have been around for decades. Starting with Pokemon Red and Blue on the original Game Boy, the formula hasn’t changed much in almost 25 years. You take the role of a young aspiring trainer and wander the land capturing Pokemon and building your team to become the best.

Pokemon Let’s Go (reviewed here) was the first significant departure to this formula in a long time. The main storyline and quests were still there, as they ultimately a remake of Pokemon Yellow. What had changed for the first time in a long time was the capture system. It bought in the Pokemon Go style ‘throw Pokeballs at creatures until you catch them’ style play. You could also for the first time see in the world the Pokemon wandering about.

Pokemon Red Blue Gameplay
The graphics have changed, but the core game has remained largely the same

To say the reception was divided would be an understatement.

Long time fans held there breath for the first ‘proper’ Pokemon RPG for the Switch – Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield.

You keep mentioning two titles. Which game are you reviewing?

The very confusing answer to this is “Yes”. Each game has an alternate edition that includes Pokemon the other doesn’t, so you need to find players of the opposing version and trade to complete your Pokedex. While I have only played through Pokemon Shield, everything I am going to talk about is relevant to Pokemon Sword.

Pokemon Sword and Shield – the basics

Nothing has really changed here since my first Game Boy Pokemon adventure. You choose your avatar and begin your quest to become the best Pokemon trainer around.

Your ‘rival’ in this outing happens to be the little brother of Leon, the unbeatable Champion of the Galar region and final story boss fight. What is the Galar region? It’s the area you are exploring, and this time around has been heavily influenced by England. Without getting wrapped up in Pokemon lore, basically, each region of the world of Pokemon has a ‘real world’ equivalent. In most games, you explore new areas, giving a reason for new Pokemon and mechanics to exist.

At its heart, Pokemon Sword and Shield are still light RPG adventures – depending on your definition of light. The path you take is fairly linear, but you can explore the world at your own pace. The story is far from complicated but serves to keep the game going.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Hop and Leon
That's you on the Left, Hop your rival, then big brother Leon

Instead of wandering the land looking for monsters to fight, you instead battle your Pokemon against other peoples Pokemon or even wild Pokemon. You can capture wild Pokemon to complete your Pokedex (your Pokemon checklist). You can also use some Pokemon’s abilities to complete quests during the game.

The first big change – Sword and Shield differ in a little more than just Pokemon!

That’s right – it’s not only a question of which Pokemon are in each version anymore. I am not going to go into details as I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a slightly different story path in each game. You do all the same things, but you meet two different gym leaders depending on the version you play. It’s not just the leader though, it’s also the Pokemon type they specialise in that is affected.

There are also slightly different items available in each game, but this only really affects your curries which I will talk about later.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Allister
You will only see Allister, the Ghost type trainer, in Shield

None of this is worth it for me personally to play both versions, but it is nice that Game Freak is experimenting with this feature and I hope it continues.

And now you can camp and cook for your Pokemon!

That’s right – you can camp and rest with your Pokemon now. Not only that, you have some Poketoys (what else?) that lets you play with your Pokemon at camp!

But not only that, you can cook for everyone as well. This little mini-game isn’t strictly necessary, but as you find new ingredients and get better at cooking, your Pokemon see in-game benefits.

It’s a bit of fun, but not essential. My Pokemon would sometimes complain of being tired and hungry, and taking care of them increased your relationship. If you treat your Pokemon well, they are more likely to critical hit opponents or hold on with 1 health point instead of being knocked out.

You will only see Allister, the Ghost type trainer, in Shield
Some of these meals I wish I could make so easily!

I have seen this mechanic in a few games now, and I had fun playing with my Pokemon overall. Sometimes it was nagging me to camp more than I wanted to (two-minute intervals sometimes!), but camping was executed pretty well overall.

The next change – the Wild Area

After coming to grips with the game, you are introduced to the Wild Area. This is a vast open area with all sorts of different Pokemon to discover and is easier to just run around and battle in than the original games.

After coming to grips with the game, you are introduced to the Wild Area. This is a vast open area with all sorts of different Pokemon to discover and is easier to just run around and battle in than the original games.

Pokemon of a certain level tend to hang around in specific areas of the Wild Area, but not always specific Pokemon. Depending on the weather and time of day (yes, this does matter in-game now!) different Pokemon will appear.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Wild Area
Bit of fourth wall breaking there 🙂

It is also an area with a couple of mini-games, such as the Rotum Rally. Winning these games do earn you prizes, but for me, they were not essential to play. So I will say they are there, and they are fun enough but know there are little games to play. Describing them makes them sound incredibly dull, and as they aren’t essential to the game, knowing they exist is enough.

Another feature of the Wild Land is the Pokemon Dens. Here you can find watts, a type of wild area currency. But the big payoff is the chance to capture a Dynamax wild Pokemon.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Dynamax Raid
It's four on one - we can get it! Right?

Capture a dynawhatnow?

A change in combat mechanics in Sword and Shield is called Dynamax. Basically, you make your Pokemon really, really big for 3 turns of combat. They get increased health and access to special moved. You can do it once per match in specific areas.

It looks cool most of the time. There can be new animations and looks for the Pokemon, as well as unique special moves. My big issue with Dynamax is once you have seen it a couple of times, I got bored with it. Competitive play has banned its use. I am glad they tried something different, but for me, this isn’t something I hope sticks around.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Dynamax In Battle
Some of the Dynamax Transformations can be a little terrifying!

So why is Dynamax in the Wild Area important?

Ahh, here is where it does hold my interest. In the wildlands, you can team up with up to three other trainers over the internet and do a specific Dynamax raid. You only get to use your first Pokemon, but if you win the timed battle, you get a chance to catch one of these special Pokemon.

The problem isn’t the Dynamax raids though. My issue with Dynamax raids is the glitchy online connectivity. But I will talk more about this later.

Even playing offline, you get three computer-controlled trainers to battle with, and the raid itself is still something different. Don’t want to do them? Don’t start a raid. It’s nice having optional combat choices in a game like this.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Camping Games
Anything is more fun than a loading screen. Like playing fetch with Magikarp!

And my favourite change, Jobs.

Previously, if you wanted to level up all of your Pokemon, you need to constantly battle with them. Now you can send your Pokemon out on Jobs and earn experience and items without playing!

This can sound cheap, but there is still a lot to it. You can’t just spam a job with the same Pokemon, you need to match the Pokemon you send to the task required. Sending Fire-type Pokemon to someone that needs help from water-types will not earn you much.

You also have to wait. You can send your Pokemon out for a full day, and I have levelled up Pokemon I haven’t used in combat pretty quickly. Later some jobs let you boost your Pokemon’s stats. Love a Pokemon, but they keep getting knocked out? Send them on tasks for a few days to increase their defence and health!

Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokemon Return From Job
When do well with a job, it's a party as your Pokemon return

That sounds alright, but you started complaining about online?

I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but as a general rule, Nintendo has made some interesting online decisions. I use Nintendo Online mainly for cloud saves and access to the retro games. Tetris 99 is the only big multiplayer game I play.

When you activate online in Pokemon Sword and Shield, you are continually seeing other players phase in and out of your game world. This is annoying, but not terrible. Trying to get players to join your Dynamax raids is awful. Even if you can see another player waiting and asking for players to join them, rarely can I actually do it.

Most of the time, you sit looking at the screen for 2 minutes for the requests to time out, then you play with computer-controlled players. It has stopped me from even trying to be honest. It’s not the end of the world, as it is an optional mechanic. It is frustrating to see the start of a fun feature that should work in 2019 fail again and again.

What about the complaints I have heard about reused assets and poor graphics?

OK, here I am picking a fight with the internet. The Pokemon games got their start on the Game Boy, and have had their biggest run on the DS consoles. These handhelds, while technological marvels in their time, hardware limitations equalled simpler games.

The Pokemon games are formulaic. They follow the same general structure again and again. Think of EA’s sports titles the 2K series – you keep getting the same game over and over again with small tweaks. Pokemon has been doing this for a long time, and people wanted to see something different.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Metacritic
What do I mean by people slamming Pokemon Sword and Shield? Look at the difference on Metacritic

Game Freak has tried to do things in a new way with the series coming to the Switch. Some things worked, others didn’t. As I have only played select titles in the series, I didn’t realise when I was playing that the same sound file was used for various Pokemon in battle. I was playing, the funny sound played, I was happy.

In the wild area, the ‘generic tree’ doesn’t look great. Apparently, the textures were a direct copy from the DS Sun and Moon games. And it is the same tree over and over again – no variety in the forest.

Personally, it made it easy for me to differentiate a generic tree from a Berry Bush. Because ‘normal’ trees are supposed to be generic, I noticed the difference and moved on. It didn’t ruin my experience overall, it was all a momentary blip. Which I promptly ignored.

People that did notice this and raised it on the internet have a point. This was supposed to be a game built from the ground up for the Switch. Using previous designs/textures/sounds means that wasn’t the case. When this happens, it’s usually because the developers were running out of time. Fixing things like this means delaying the game, it’s part of what ‘Polish’ means when delays are announced.

How is this picking a fight? Becuase there is a lot of yelling from people that haven’t moved on about it. I have seen reviews that have slammed the game because of a tree image reused from the DS. Not poor online connectivity, not game-breaking issues, but because of a time-saving trick used in one area that means nothing to game working or not. Immersion yes, but not the game functioning.

My comment? Get over it. Yes, I noticed it. Yes, you have a point that ‘built from the ground up’ didn’t happen. These are negatives that should be addressed.

But to attack a game and declare it rubbish because of reusing sound files and a tree? Priorities people. The amount of overreaction to small things that don’t affect the gameplay at all has me stumped.

Don’t let people ranting on small issues pull you away from a fun experience. The game is not groundbreaking. I could probably suggest other games for you to try, sure. But hand on heart, you can do a lot worse than the Pokemon Sword and Shield, and if you enjoy Pokemon and/or RPGs, you will enjoy your time with the game.

JohnHQLD

Overall Thoughts

While not perfect, I really enjoyed my time playing Pokemon Shield. The game still had that distinctive Pokemon feel, while pushing the envelope in certain areas.

Some things I would have liked seen pushed further, some I hope to get dropped in future games. Overall though I am glad Nintendo and Game Freak are embracing the idea of change, just not as much as in other titles like The Legend of Zelda.

Not yet, anyway.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Gameplay lets new players in easily
  • Trying out new mechanics while holding onto the classic feel
  • Generally good graphical upgrades
  • Nintendo is embracing expansion by DLC for the first time

Cons

  • The gameplay is still very close to all the other Pokemon games
  • Online is spotty at best
  • The main story is very linear
  • Dynamax bored me fairly quickly

HORI Split Pad Pro Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch
By HORI (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Category Controller

Big hands? HORI has you covered – with a couple of caveats

I enjoy playing on my Switch. I tend to play docked with the Pro controller, but being able to continue playing when I travel is fantastic. True, the Vita had this first for a few games, but Sony dropped the ball in terms of supporting the undervalued console.

When I travel for work, it tends to be day trips or for the better part of a week. The Switch shines here. I can sit in the airport and continue playing, but unless I wanted to bring extra equipment, I am limited in what I could play comfortably. Astral Chain on Joy-Cons for example words, but it’s uncomfortable and hurts my hands.

The solution? Bring a stand and pair my Pro controller. But putting the Pro controller in my bag worries me. Nothing to protect the sticks, and I also worry about button presses trying to wake it and drain the battery.

There have been a few third party cases that try to emulate ‘full’ controller feel, and they have all missed for me. The extra ‘wings’ to fit in my hand were nice, but I was still playing with Joy-Cons and their stick/button placement. It wasn’t great.

It works well, but not the most easy to carry around setup

HORI has come out with new controllers to address almost all of these issues, and I am loving.

Introducing the HORI Switch Pad Pro (Daemon X Machina Edition) controllers

First things first – Daemon X Machina Edition? Yep. I haven’t seen any other edition, but all it means is a black and red colour scheme with a stylised ‘X’ on the X button. In the future, there may be different game tie ins, but today it just means slightly off norm colouring.

So what is the Switch Pad Pro? Take the general layout of the Switch Pro Controller, break it in half, and slide them into the Joy-Con rails on your Switch. That’s it. You now have a pro controller with a screen in the middle, and it’s incredible.

There is no other way to describe it – that’s what it feels like, with all the pros and cons that entails.

It's not just the angle, the Split Pad Pro has everything that little bit bigger

What cons can there be with a screen inside a pro controller?

Size. Straight up, this makes the Switch longer and deeper. Now for myself, this made playing the Switch in handheld mode more comfortable. I am 6’3″ tall, and not everyone has hands and arms the size of mine – individual experiences will vary.

The changes to the dimensions also make the Switch impossible to not only put in a pocket, but any case on the market I have seen. This puts you squarely back in the ‘take extra controllers with you’ camp, which I was hoping to escape.

It doesn't look much here, but the Joy-Cons have the switch flar and it all fits inside the Split Pad Pro setup

HORI makes Switch cases, I would love them to make a case I can store the Switch with the Pad Pro attached, Joy-Con’s underneath just in case, and maybe a pocket above for carts. This would make the Switch perfect for taking on day trips for me. Get on it, HORI!

What it does Switch Pad Pro does do well is when you are home and want to put the Switch down between sessions. Because the Switch itself is above the surface, picking up the Switch is much more comfortable. I have trouble sometimes picking my Switch up from flat, and that is no longer a problem.

OK, fine, so what’s the Switch Pad Pro like to play?

And here is the crux of the matter. The Switch Pad Pro is like a Pro Controller, but a little oversized and most importantly, not a Pro controller.

It’s tough to explain in words, but while the Switch Pad Pro is great to play on, you still know you aren’t playing on a Pro controller – probably my favourite controller in general.

Everything is oversized on the Switch Pad Pro. Not comically, at least not for my hands, but it’s noticeable. The sticks are just that little bit larger than the Pro, but the same ‘mushy’ feel in the movement. The seems to exaggerate the loose feel to the sticks, even though in gameplay they are quite responsive. It’s a learning curve, but not a steep one. I was playing Astral Chain comfortably within a couple of minutes, and that was after not playing for a couple of months.

Even with one hand for the shot, you can see the more 'normal' placement of the Dpad

Like any controller, the ultimate form is very personal. What do you want in your controller? If you like the clicky feel like the Xbox controllers, this will not feel great to you. I prefer the feel of the Dualshock, but this is softer again. 

If you are comfortable with the Joy-Cons, the Switch Pad Pro will probably be too big for you, but if like me they are too small this is a viable option.

But that’s not all of the caveats!

That’s right – even after all that, there are still things to watch out for. These are not Joy-Cons – and that had a more significant impact than I imagined.

You lose NFC (Amiibo) support and HD rumble. The rumble I was surprised at, the Amiibo support was a little annoying, but if required I can switch controllers mid-game. The big one you lose is motion control.

If you are like me, right now you are thinking to yourself “It’s attached – that’s fine.” and no, no it isn’t. Not for some games anyway. Realisation dawned on me when I tried to fire up Asphalt 9 Legends, thinking the wider grip would help my arms last longer.

I couldn’t play it at all. The vital ingredient that makes Asphalt so fun to play is missing in the Switch Pad Pro. Everything worked, right up to the point I needed to steer the car!

Not a game I would play without the Pro controller previously

Then I tried Pokemon Let’s Go. The game worked as expected, right up until the time I tried to move the Switch to aim. Ooops. Not the end of the world, but not a hurdle I expected to have to deal with.

That sounds like a lot of negatives with not much going for it!

Yes, it does. And it’s important to flag them, not because the Switch Pad Pro is a bad product, but it is a more niche product than I imagined.

There are a couple of features I haven’t touched on. The first is the Turbo button. I don’t know why, but it has one. I have yet to find a use for it. The second though is an on the fly assignment to buttons on the back of the controller. I haven’t used it yet, but I can see times where a simple button press (or even the dreaded L3/R3) combination needs to be used a lot, so you can hit this button instead of taking you thumb off the stick.

This doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of people, the Switch Pad Pro controller won’t be the best choice for all situations.

The assignable button without third party software is nice

So who should look at buying a Switch Pad Pro?

If you find the Joy-Cons uncomfortable and play in handheld mode a lot at home, these will probably do the trick. If you play docked a lot or don’t want to take the Pro controller with you when travelling because of space, this probably won’t be the best choice.

Playing on the plane, I considered playing The Witcher 3 but instead tried Astral Chain again in the more cramped quarters. Playing felt good, and I wasn’t locking elbows more than usual with the passenger next to me. I also didn’t have tired fingers 20 minutes in, a big plus.

What was a pain was taking a bag for my ‘flight’ stuff, the Switch case and the two Switch Pad Pro sides separatly. I really would have preferred a single case I could have lifted the unit out of, but I have already described that.

Travelling with the Switch Pad Pro is about as fiddley as moving with the Pro controller and a stand, but the price is about the same. If you travel a lot, it might be worthwhile, but if it’s occasional, I don’t think it’s worth the select purchase and custom travel storage you will need to create.

HORI Split Pad Pro

Final Thoughts

The Split Pad Pro controller is great for me, but I am not using it as much as I thought I would. Missing motion controls is a pain for some games, but I miss the rumble more than a couple of games.

Because I already have a Pro controller, I am more likely to drop the Switch in my dock and grab it than setup the Split Pad Pro at home. On the move, it’s almost perfect – except for the size and carrying it around safely.

Add a case to hold the Switch and this HORI, put Rumble back in, and everything else can be forgiven.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Feels like you are playing with a pro controller with a screen in the middle
  • Using the controls feels better when playing action games, especially with my large hands
  • DPad is very responsive and works great

Cons

  • Could use more resistance in the sticks
  • An extra item to carry around with you, as actually two controllers
  • Unable to use a case with the controllers attached (May change in the future)
  • Rumble would have been nice

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pokemon Let’s Go Review

Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Released 2018
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Game Freak (Website)
Homepage Pokemon.com (Website)
Players 1 (2 player is a little deceptive)
Category Light RPG
Collectables

Let’s Go on so many levels indeed!

To call Pokemon a marketing phenomenon would be fair.  Even if you are not into games, it’s even money you know Pikachu.  You may not realise what Pikachu is, but you know the little yellow mascot by sight and possibly the call.

This all came to a head a couple of years ago with a massive surge in popularity due to Pokemon Go.  Droves of people were walking everywhere trying to catch all the Pokemon.  True, initially it was probably the sizable number of fans that always wanted to catch a Pokemon themselves, but the media frenzy that followed definitely got a lot of people that had never played a Pokemon game loading Pokemon Go onto their phones.

So what is Pokemon Let’s Go?

To say Pokemon Let’s Go is a remaster of the original Gameboy Pokemon Yellow isn’t quite right.  A lot of the story elements are there, the basic map and abilities are all present, but a lot of the game has been modified as well.

Pokemon Let’s Go is a new gateway game to the world of Pokemon, with many nods to the old school fans.  Gameplay has also been tuned to make the game accessible for the players that Pokemon Go is their only background to the world of Pokemon.

Pokemon Lets Go Meeting Oak
Your first meeting with Professor Oak! This time you don't pick your partner Pokemon first.

This made the initial reception to Pokemon Let’s Go mixed for some.  The hardcore audience screamed that the series had been dumbed down, while some new players were overwhelmed with the adventure and complexity of the world compared to Pokemon Go.

My take: Game Freak, Nintendo and the Pokemon Company took the opportunity to not only update a 20-year-old game, but to update the entire series in such a way that a whole new way of playing was introduced.

And it works well.

The Story

I’m not going to beat about the bush – the story isn’t anything super special.  If you want a deep narrative that rivals the greatest literary works, this isn’t it.

Yes, you get to beat the 8 gym leaders and then take on the elite 4 to become a Pokemon Champion.  You get to stop Team Rocket and their ‘evil plans’.

The overall story is enjoyable but predictable.  As I said – kids game.

But.

There are moments that are beautiful.  Playing with your Partner Pokemon is adorable, even if it’s not part of the story proper.  And reuniting Cubone with its mother pulled more heartstrings than a story like this deserved.

Pokemon Lets Go Facing Brock
80's kids already know all about Brock, the first Gym leader you meet on your travels.

Describing the story of Pokemon Let’s Go is like describing a day out at a park or something similar.  You remember the highlights and the individual moments and somehow gloss over the mundane things that you did for most of the day.

Yes, like any adventure game you grind facing other trainers to be strong enough to battle the next leader.  You run around for hours catching various Pokemon.  But the individual moments make it all worthwhile to see it through to the end.

The old school changes – the story run

One of the biggest changes to a traditional Pokemon game (even ones as recent as Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon) is the random battles required to capture Pokemon.

You used to walk around and wander in fields of grass and hope that the Pokemon you wanted to catch would appear.  Then you had to battle it, and hope you didn’t knock it out, then when you wore it down, you could throw your Poke Balls at it to try and catch it.

This worked and allowed you to give your Pokemon experience to level them up and improve their stats.  Just like any other RPG, your individual stats don’t matter, it’s your parties stats that count.

Unlike most other RPG’s however, you aren’t the hero of the quest battling whatever comes along – that’s what your Pokemon do, so they need to increase their skills.

While fun, this quickly became repetitive, the very definition of ‘the grind’ of RPGs everywhere.  Coupled with the random chance of Pokemon appearing, this quickly put off a lot of casual gamers in the past.

Pokemon Let’s Go takes advantage of the much-improved graphics and storage capabilities of the Switch to change this up.  Now as you explore Kanto, you can actually see the Pokemon inhabiting the land around you.  Don’t want to capture any more Weedles?  Don’t walk into them, and problem solved!

Pokemon Lets Go Seeing The World
Being able to see the Pokemon around you makes it both easier to collect them, and more immersive.

You also don’t have to fight the Pokemon first.  Taking inspiration from Pokemon Go, if you see a Pokemon all you have to do is capture them.  Better Poke Balls give better odds of capturing them, and you can use different berries to stop Pokemon from running around the screen or like you a little more to help.

Pokemon can run away, which can be frustrating.  You can throw a lot of Ultra Poke Balls at a Pokemon,, run out and capture the same Pokemon with a standard ball first time.  But what you can’t do is accidentally knock out the Pokemon, stopping you from attempting the capture at all.

Pokemon Lets Go Catching Pokemon
Catching new Pokemon is almost the same as Pokemon Go - just time the throw with the circle, and see how you go!

The Old School Changes – Post Game

For those that screamed ‘It’s too easy!’ when Pokemon Let’s Go launched, this is where they should probably have stuck with it.

A lot has been added to the post-game content.

You can hunt down and catch some legendary Pokemon, such as MewTwo, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.  Not that unusual as post-game content, but it’s there!

Finding the Mega Evolution stones should also be on your list.

Also on the cards are the original two rival trainers, Red and Green as well as Blue.  Finding more powerful trainers sounds standard as well, but these aren’t the only three.

Pokemon Lets Go MewTwo
The legendary MewTwo. Guess who I am running around with post game?

Pokemon Let’s Go also has Master Trainers.  These are trainers that have trained one specific Pokemon to level 75.  Not only do you have to beat them with the same Pokemon, but without any items or assistance as well!

Now people were complaining about levelling up Pokemon as the main experience source was catching Pokemon, and Poke Balls cost.  Unlike any other Pokemon Game I have played, you can continue to face Gym Leaders and the Elite Four for experience and a cash boost at any time!

Pokemon Lets Go Master Trainers
Not only do you have to train all of the Pokemon, you have to find the right trainers as well

While not everyone will want to do these activities, this should be what every hardcore Pokemon player was hoping for.  Yes, you have to finish the game to get to this, but this becomes the biggest collectible/side quest Pokemon I have ever seen!

And fair, I have only finished Yellow, Sun and Ultra Moon until now – but that’s kind of the point.  Pokemon has been almost the same game for over 20 years – it’s great to see something new in the mix!

Pokemon Go Integration

A game heavily influenced by Pokemon Go, many including myself were intrigued by the idea of importing between the two games.

I managed a connection once, imported Ditto, and then didn’t do it again.

Don’t be put off by this though – if you are a keen Pokemon Go player with all of the Pokemon to transfer, the ability to play with Pokemon in Let’s Go is amazing!  You just don’t need to do it to play the game, and I found the process annoyingly unintuitive.

Pokemon Lets Go Transfer with Go
Exchanging Pokemon is a whole lot of fun. There are even cool descriptions I won't spoil 🙂

Biggest issue – Pokemon Let’s Go doesn’t like sharing Bluetooth connections.  If you have a Fitbit or similar tracker, prepare for some issues.  But once it was working, the experience was fun, and it’s a great way to bring in some missing Pokemon if you don’t have anyone to trade with for the missing Pokemon between Eevee and Pikachu.

Poke Ball Plus

I already talked about this in my Poke Ball Plus review, but this was a fun add-on to the whole game.

Controller wise, it worked reasonably well.  The motion controls I actually found better than the single Joy Con.  I wasn’t as happy with the fact that you had to shake the ball to use the Y button though.  Overall this isn’t an issue, but because shaking in battle brings in a partner, if you don’t know exactly what a move does (bought up by the Y button) you are in trouble.

But taking your Pokemon for a walk makes up for all that in a lot of ways.  Read the review for my full thoughts, but if you are only going to get Pokemon Let’s Go, it may be an expensive luxury.

Poke Ball Plus Battery Level Check
If the light is green, the trap is clean! Wait, wrong franchise...

What’s this about 2 players being deceptive?

The one thing I was hoping to try was playing with my Partner, but timing kind of killed that.  In some ways though, it’s kind of lucky it did.

It’s true you can have a helper in the game, the second player.  But that player controls one of your party and uses your Poke Balls to try and catch Pokemon.

They don’t get any benefit at all other than helping you out, and you don’t even need another person.  Pokemon is turn-based, so if you are having trouble in a fight you can just play both ‘trainers’ yourself with a second controller.

Now this is great if you have little ones that are having trouble in a fight or catching Pokemon.  You will be playing together and helping rather than taking over the game.  But playing the whole game like this?  I feel it’s a little less than advertised.

Pokemon Lets Go Two Player Roaming
The help works, but it's not what I would describe a true two player game

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Pokemon Let's Go

Final Thoughts

I didn’t play constantly, but I enjoyed Pokemon Let’s Go every time I picked it up.  Personally, I don’t have a preference for Eevee or Pikachu so my choice was dictated by my partner getting Pikachu.  Both games are almost identical, with a few Pokemon only available in the other game.

If you are interested in Pokemon or are curious about turn-based role-playing games, Pokemon Let’s Go is a great choice for you.  Light enough with a little handholding in-game to teach you the ropes, but enough in it to keep the interest intact.

Even as a relatively hardcore RPG player, Pokemon Let’s Go was a fun experience that I will probably keep picking back up to beat all those Master Trainers for some time to come.  It has a surprising amount of depths and layers around it, making it one of the better examples of ‘the game you want it to be’ for quite some time.

Overall
8.7/10
8.7/10

Pros

  •  Modern take on a beloved franchise
  •  Playing with your partner Pokemon is amazing
  •  Great to pick up and put down as you need to

Cons

  •  Music is so repetitive
  •  Second player isn’t really a second player
  •  Veterans may not see it through

Another game is coming to the Switch! And it’s Saints Row the Third?

Saints Row the Third Feature

Well if Nintendo wants to show it can be adult, this is the series to do it with a smile!

Way back in 2011, I grabbed this game from Steam that a friend said would appeal to my admittedly warped sense of humour.  I had heard of Saints Row games before, but they were mainly described by the words ‘GTA Knockoff’.

But the player that recommended Saints Row the Third to me does know my gaming habits and what grabs my attention, so I looked at the Steam page.

I had bought the game by the end of the trailer.

Unfortunately om 2012, THQ went bankrupt.  But the series was kept alive with the even more over the top and just plain wrong Saints Row IV with the help of Volition and Deep Silver.

Well a couple of days ago, Deep Silvers Twitter account showed this little gem:

When I first saw this, I was thinking to myself how it would be fun to fire Saints Row up on the Switch and do a couple of side quests or generally just run around being an annoying character.

Then almost immediately after, I thought to myself “Why the Third?”

Saints Row IV was in a lot of ways the perfect send off to a silly bit of fun.  This would have been the game I would have thought would be first to bring across.  Maybe Saints Row IV is just technically too much for the Switch.

Going back this far Just doesn’t quite click.  Even if the Third is the first game that became ‘fun’ in the series, why go back to the start?  The Saints aren’t exactly retro nostalgia worthy yet.  Could this be a testing of the waters for a Saints Row V?

There is no timeline for when Saints Row the Third will be coming out, but there are two things for certain.

  1. The Switch is getting a crazy library of past games bought to it.
  2. The Australian Classification Board will probably be all over this again, as both 3 and 4 in the series has had to be modified for classification.

I’m going to concentrate on number one for now.  Politics in Australia is just insane at the moment.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Fire Emblem: Three Houses coming to the Switch next year

Fire Emblem Three Houses Feature

How can one little console make me so happy

I do enjoy my video RPGs.  JRPG’s though have a very special place in my heart.  Sitting down and learning the secrets of an entire world while usually all but single-handedly saving it are hero fantasy to the extreme.

Everyone nowadays has heard of the Final Fantasy series, but classics like Chrono Trigger and the like are still sadly neglected.  Over the last few years, the Disgaea series has been my main poison of choice, mainly on the PSP and the Vita.  JRPGs are great as mobile games, their turn-based nature thriving in the pick up and put down environment.

Being a Sega and then PlayStation child, I admittedly missed quite a few classics growing up.  One such series was the Fire Emblem series, that I started with Fire Emblem Fates on my 3DS.

The mechanics of Fire Emblem are typical of a lot of JRPG games – seemingly superficial until a critical mass hits, then incredibly complex.  These same systems can also lead to unique mechanics though as well.  For example, in Fates, you can romance and marry other characters in the game.  You can even have children.  Great from a branching narrative perspective to be sure, but there is more.

Through time shenanigans, your children can grow and fight alongside you, beginning with traits from both parents and then becoming another member of your army.  Find another game that not only does that but makes it seem natural as you play!

Fire Emblem on the DS has made great use of the system, but now a lot of hallmarks of the series look set to change as the series makes it’s RPG debut on the Nintendo Switch.

There isn’t much more known about the game now, but I am sure much more will be coming to light over the coming months.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is set to release in Spring 2019.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

My Little Scythe is real! And why are there so many games coming out?

My Little Scythe is so cute it’s almost terrifying

Last year, the Print and Play game that came out of left field was definitely My Little Scythe.  Designed by Hoby Chou and his daughter Vienna, My Little Scythe borrows some of Scythes mechanics and takes you on an adventure in the world of My Little Pony.

It sounds like an unlikely alliance I know, but the response was off the charts.  It even won the 2017 Golden Geek award for best Print and Play game!

Here is definitely one of the most kid-friendly how to play videos ever:

I always meant to get around to downloading it and having a good look at the game at some point.  Unfortunately, my chance to download this PnP award winner has passed.

But for the best reason!  Stonemaier games, publishers of Scythe, have announced that they are publishing My Little Scythe as a ‘proper’ game!

There have been some obvious changes, mainly because My Little Pony is a licensed product.  But the core of the game seems to be intact, and I can honestly say I am looking at adding this to my ‘Games with kids’ portion of my collection.

My Little Scythe Game
My Little Scythe is 'REAL'!

Changing the setting from Equestria to the Kingdom of Pomm, the core Pony mechanics of friendship are definitely intact.  In fact, looking through the original Print and Play video tutorial and the new rulebook, you can see that the change of the My Little Pony characters really is the primary change!

My Little Scythe plays 1-6 players, and while it says from 8+ early reviews say that six-year-olds with adult assistance for reading cards had a great time.

If you wish you could get your younger kids into playing your board games, this looks like a great first step!

Enjoy the teaser video below, then check out the official Stonemaier games page here.  And as usual, the Board Game Geek page here.

So many games, so little time!

My gaming backlog is huge, and this years release schedule promises zero catch up time.

Today marks Donkey Kongs’ big day for the Nintendo Switch.  Yep, It’s time for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze!

I essentially skipped the Nintendo generation, with the exception of the original Game Boy and playing some Game Cube games with my nephew.  But I do remember everyone saying how fun Donkey Kong Country was, so I am really tempted to pick this up tonight and give it a go!

Donkey Kong
He's Back!

Even though I am an older man who’s twitch reflexes are starting to fail, there is a new ‘Funky’ mode that makes the game a lot easier with more health and I believe protection from certain environmental hazards.

I want to play this and see for myself.  But you know what else I want to play on the Switch?  Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2.  And they are only the ‘big’ games on the wishlist.

What do you think, should I give it a try?

A couple of weeks ago I put up a Facebook post that Battletech had finally unlocked, and I couldn’t wait to play it.  Sadly, I still haven’t, but there is a long weekend coming up so maybe…

But then another fly appeared in my ointment.  As a backer of Pheonix Point, my first early access release version is available, and I REALLY want to five that a try!

Pheonix Point is the latest game from original X-COM creator Julian Gollop, and it looks simply AMAZING.  See for yourself:

You can pre-order on the Pheonix Point site still and get access to the backer builds yourself with the Digital Edition and up.

And on that note, the weekend is almost here!  See you tomorrow with the newest Board Game Review!

JohnHQLD