Masterpiece of the Year?

Greetings to all my Nintendo nerds! I can’t believe it’s November already. Maybe I should dust off my 3DS and check in on my Animal Crossing town sometime, grab some mushroom furniture. But who has time when we have been blessed with some amazing new games in 2017?

As the year comes to a close, I have been reflecting on which games were really groundbreaking in 2017. We certainly needed some escape from reality this year! Personally, as someone who went to art school and really appreciates the artistic design of video games, I felt there were two titles that I could qualify as “masterpieces.” Which was the best of the year? I am going to try to decide right now! lol

The first game I’m considering for Masterpiece of 2017 is the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A long anticipated title, BotW launched with the Nintendo Switch at the start of the year. Fans were astounded by the new open world approach to their beloved Zelda franchise.

The art style was even more impressive. Using an updated approach similar to Wind Waker, the design of BotW uses what I’d describe as cel-shading with water colors. It’s not overly cartoony, and it’s very much high definition. Individual blades of grass bend in the wind. Wispy strands of hair blow in the breeze. For the amount of time that fans waited for the latest Zelda title, it’s clear that it was worth the delays.

My personal opinion: If you really follow my blog, you’ll see that I don’t talk about Zelda a lot… b/c I never really beat these games. The only game I even got close to beating was Phantom Hourglass. Since BotW was basically the big name launch title for the Switch, I got it mostly b/c everyone else was playing it, and not b/c I had been desperately waiting to play it. However, when I did start playing it I was completely obsessed! It’s a very immersive experience, and I really loved the freedom of the open world. 

The second game in contention for Masterpiece of 2017 is *gasp* NOT A NINTENDO GAME. I know – it’s hard to believe that I play games on other systems. And honestly, I usually don’t. But there’s an indie game called Cuphead that FINALLY came out on Xbox 1 and Steam this year, and as far as art style is concerned… it’s a doozy!!

Now I realize that not everyone had the same upbringing as me, and may not realize the nostalgia factor in Cuphead. But I was raised watching Betty Boop and Silly Symphonies cartoons on loop ad nauseam. The creators of Cuphead took every step necessary to produce their videogame with the same exact art style that was popular in the 1930’s. This includes the hand drawn animation, 24 fps frame rate, the use of lampshade effect and much more.

Cuphead is a standard 2D platformer style game, and initially had been designed to have a Mega-Man-esque Boss Battles setup. But when the hype train rolled in, the creators expanded the game to have some standard platformer stages in addition to the boss battles. That’s all well and good… except they made the game insanely challenging. Many casual gamers find themselves unable to fully appreciate the game due to not being able to progress and see all of the stages.

My personal opinion: I was literally waiting YEARS for this game to be released. Delays and more delays pushed the game back several times and I waited patiently. When the game FINALLY released, I downloaded it right away and was so excited! Unfortunately, I haven’t actually been able to experience much of the game. I guess I’m just one of those lame casual gamers who isn’t good enough at platformers to progress in the game. It makes me very sad that after years of anticipation, and having loved this art style my ENTIRE LIFE… I can’t even see all of the gorgeously designed stages hiding in this game. 

You can probably guess which game gets my vote by now. As much as I wanted to love Cuphead soooo much… it fails b/c I can’t actually play it. The game does not forgive anyone who isn’t at ‘their level’ which I feel is kind of mean and makes me feel excluded and alienated. And it makes me not want to buy another game by Studio MDHR. First they made me wait, then the gameplay drops the ball… so they blew it with me. Being the belle of the ball doesn’t get you everywhere in life!! In Breath of the Wild I am free to explore the entire world, appreciate all of it’s beauty and play at my speed. And it’s darn pretty too.

SIDE NOTE:

Most people will want to interject – HEY WHAT ABOUT SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY?? That game is glorious too! I will give it an honorable mention. I don’t think that it’s a masterpiece, in that the art style of Odyssey is basically on par with every other 3D Mario game, albeit updated to the latest HD graphics, of course. New abilities and game functionality, plus the awesome smoothness of the controls thanks to the Joy Con and Pro Controller, make this game awesome! No doubt about that. But masterpiece? Not exactly. What makes Super Mario Odyssey a contender in this category is that the game truly allows you to create YOUR OWN MASTERPIECE. This game goes way beyond taking screenshots. You can change the camera angles, zoom, blur, add filters, add text if you want… it’s a meme gold mine. I created several masterpieces of my own:

Screenshot by @gluxbox

Screenshot by @gluxbox

Any game that lets ME make my own art gets a thumbs up from the Glux Box!

This is just my opinion, of course. Which game would YOU consider to be the Masterpiece of 2017??

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Monster Hunter Stories Review

Monster Hunter! One of Capcom’s most popular franchises these days. It’s a fan favorite with a die-hard core group of players. Many gamers who aren’t in this core group can find themselves overwhelmed by the vastness of Monster Hunter. There isn’t much in terms of training and orientation in the main Monster Hunter games, unless you have the patience to sit and read tons of little Hunter’s Notes in the menu. I know I sure don’t.

I started playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate a few years ago. The graphics are cool, I love the monsters and the collection aspects of the game. But the actual gameplay I found to be very difficult. In addition, the monsters have different elemental types, of which I knew nothing b/c I didn’t read the Hunter’s Notes. It’s just not a very approachable game, and since everything is based on missions, you don’t have much freedom or storyline. You can’t even necessarily ask friends for help either, as many quests are based on rank. The hardcore players rank up really fast and only the charitable ones will spend their time helping you get up to speed, and even then the noobs tend to simply rely on the higher ranked players and not really learn the game.

At least, that has been my experience. I’ve been WANTING to like Monster Hunter, but I’m just not there in terms of knowledge about the monsters or having the determination to rank up without an interesting story line to keep me motivated. That is, until I started playing Monster Hunter Stories, which is the latest spin-off from the world of Monster Hunter.

Monster Hunter Stories

Monster Hunter Stories appears on the outside to be a kids game, with it’s cutesy character art style and dialogue. The demo, which I haven’t played, is apparently just a play through of the first few minutes of the game. I think this was a mistake on Capcom’s part, because you don’t really get a feel for what you can do in this game until you have unlocked some of the cooler features. Many of the die-hard MH community have scoffed at this game due to the demo, which is sad.

One main difference between Monster Hunter Stories and the main Monster Hunter franchise is the storyline. There are Story Quests and Sub-Quests, with markers pointing to where you need to go on the vast world map. Why markers? Because MHS is an open world game. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want (once you have unlocked that area in the storyline). Feel like just slaying a bunch of docile Slagtoth and collecting herbs? You do you, boo!

Another major difference is the complete overhaul of the battle system. First of all, you befriend monsters and they will help you to battle against other monsters. You fight in a turn based system that uses a rock-paper-scissor mechanic for the normal attacks. But there’s more to it than the game of chance. Your character gets special Rider skills and attacks, based on your weapon. You can control your monster’s moves, which include awesome special attacks. As you and your monster battle cooperatively, you raise your “kinship” meter, which unlocks killer attacks when filled!

On top of the new battle mechanics, you can also customize your monsters, just like in Pokemon. By collecting eggs and hatching tons of monsters, you can transfer a move from one monster to another. Suddenly you can have a Lagombi, who is a giant icy rabbit who prefers frozen tundras, that now can shoot fireballs at enemy monsters. I would say that if you like Pokemon but think the battles are little too tame, give Monster Hunter Stories a shot. You can also battle your monsters in a tournament setting in-game, or via local wireless and online battles. With so many modes of battle, you will find yourself making different sets of monster teams with different strengths so you can take on any opponent! (Sounds a lot like Pokemon, right?)

I will add that on a personal level, I think that Monster Hunter Stories is fantastic for gamers like me who aren’t familiar with all of the elemental types, especially when it comes to monsters from older MH games. This game is helping me to learn which monsters are weak to the different elements in a more natural way than constantly checking Hunter’s Notes.

For the Monster Hunter purists, I will add that you still have all of the collection aspects of the main games in MHS. You still need to collect endless monster materials to forge new weapons, armor and upgrades. All of your favorite monster armor is available in this game. And you will still need to find all the hidden Poogies, of course!

One final thing I really like about MHS is the storyline itself. The Hunters (basically the characters from the main game) don’t like or trust the Riders (your character and other people who develop kinship with monsters) and you face discrimination and adversity at the beginning. One of your friends suffers tragedy and you watch as he transforms into a darker version of himself. I think it’s very interesting subject matter for a “kids game.” Just saying. The Felynes get to play a much larger role in the story as well, which is pretty fun!

I definitely recommend this game, especially if you are new to Monster Hunter. It’s much more approachable than the main series. Keep an open mind and give these Riders a chance!

Metroid: Samus Returns Event

Samus is back, baby!

Got my Samus t-shirt ready to go!

Got my Samus t-shirt ready to go!

Nintendo fans have been begging for YEARS for another Metroid game, and now the time is finally here! Metroid: Samus Returns has been reimagined for the 3DS with beautiful new graphics and controls. To celebrate the big day, there was a fun event held at the Nintendo NY store in New York City. I stopped by to check out the event! Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for it’s entirety so I missed the cosplay contest, but it was still pretty cool!

The event was held in the big upstairs area, and they had a table set out with lots of goodies for everyone in attendance!

Metroid Swag

Metroid Swag

For those keeping score, we have vinyl Metroid: Samus Returns posters, Metroid head cookies (arranged in the shape of an M!) as well as regular posters for the game. Not bad for freebies!

As guests walked into the event space, the next thing you notice is the huge Metroid backdrop with Samus Aran featured in a classic pose.

Who can resist a photo op? Not me.

Who can resist a photo op? Not me.

Of course I had to get a pic with my favorite Bounty Hunter! #girlcrush

The next feature of the event was the Metroid fan art that had been submitted in advance. It was on full display at the event and the artwork was really fantastic!

Metroid Fan Art

More Metroid Fanart

I wish I had skills like these artists! The event continued on from there, but didn’t make for great photos. There was a mass of people gathered around to play some Name That Tune with Metroid theme music. The Nintendo staff gave away prizes to those who answered correctly!

Sadly, I did not cosplay at this event. I was coming straight from work, so my red Metroid t-shirt was all I could muster. Thankfully, another Zero Suit Samus cosplayer came out to the event, and my friend Peter got a photo with her, so I’ll share it. She looks great – I just wish she had worn a wig! Brunette Samus is pretty cool though.

Peter with Samus Cosplayer!

All in all, it was a great event! I had a lot of fun, and it’s so awesome to see so many people excited for a new Metroid game. I’ve only played it briefly so far, and it’s really hard – just like the original! The new controls take some getting used to, but with some dedication I’ll get there.

It’s definitely nice to see some more great 3DS games coming out, because I really love playing 3DS on the go. It’s a great way for me to pass the time on my commute to work. I know the Nintendo Switch is portable too, but it’s still big and clunky to carry around. Plus it’s more expensive than the 3DS, should something horrible happen and replacement is needed… lol!

In closing, I love going to Nintendo NY events. They are always great! The cookie definitely had way too much fondant but I appreciate the effort and free food. Here’s a picture of my haul, including the event swag, the game, Metroid amiibos and my bonus Metroid keychain! Booyah!

My Metroid Goodies!

My Metroid Goodies!

Hands On with the Nintendo Switch!

Woo what a weekend! Everyone has been talking about the Nintendo Switch ever since the presentation last Thursday, which introduced the system and showcased the new Joy Cons – the convertible controllers that come with the Nintendo Switch system. But I felt lucky because I had a ticket for the Nintendo Switch Preview Event in NYC! I was able to get a hands-on demonstration of the Nintendo Switch system, the Joy Cons, software and more!

The event was held at a secret off-site location in midtown, open only to invited ticket holders. (I was able to get a ticket by logging into my MyNintendo account when they first announced the event. This apparently triggered an event invite to be sent to me at the time. So what have we learned? Log into MyNintendo once in a while!) I went with one of my besties, CarneyVorous. We braved the cold wintery weather and it was SO worth it!

20170114_185030As we approached the entrance, we were surprised to see that Link from Breath of the Wild was guarding the door. Well, Link and a dozen event coordinators. Everything was very organized, which was nice. They checked our tickets and finally after long last… WE WERE INSIDE THE SNEAK PREVIEW EVENT!

The event consisted of two large rooms. The first room had a glamorous setup with a main stage, glass windowed demo cubicle setups, and a third of the room dedicated to Legend of Zelda demo stations. The second room had a huge area dedicated to Splatoon 2 demos, as well as third-party titles and a Super Mario Odyssey photo-op station! It was a lot to take in. We didn’t even know where to start! Sadly, the Zelda line got ridiculously long in a short amount of time, so we decided to make the most of our time by trying as many fun demos as we could.

Our first stop was Splatoon 2. Who could resist? To make the experience even more *new*, the demo we played was done on the Nintendo Switch in hand-held mode. This means the player is watching the Switch screen with the Joy Cons attached to the sides. This mode is pretty similar to playing on the Wii U Game Pad, which I personally enjoy a lot. The Splatoon controls were set to use the gyroscope. It can be tricky if you’re not used to playing that way, but the Switch console is light and easy to move around as needed. I also decided to try out the new Splatoon weapon which was introduced in this latest title – the Splat Dualies! I thought they were pretty sweet. They shoot fast and it’s easy to aim. I played very well, got second place in my winning team with those Splat Dualies! (Did much more terribly with the Splat Roller in the second round. Sad face.)

Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch in hand-held mode.

Next, we wanted to get an up-close look at the Nintendo Switch Joy Cons by checking out the glass cubicle 1-2-Switch Demo Stations! The 1-2-Switch game utilizes the Joy Cons in a way that showcases all of the new features it has to offer, including HD Rumble technology. This game is unique in that you don’t really need to look at the screen to play – it’s all about playing with other people, making eye contact, interacting with humans… you know, scary stuff.

The 1-2-Switch Demo consisted of Quick Draw, Milking Cows (yep) and Counting Marbles. Each game showed a different feature of the Joy Con controllers. I will note that the Nintendo reps insisted on using the wrist straps with the Joy Cons for this game. Very sensible – and side note! – the wrist strap adds an extra half inch of width to the controller, which makes it even easier to hold.

Quick Draw showcased the Joy Con’s basics, such as motion control. Milking Cows introduced new ways to feel awkward around your friends (because yes, the game is exactly what you think it is) and also makes use of the L and R buttons that have been incorporated into the new controllers. Counting Marbles was the most interesting game in the 1-2-Switch Demo, because it featured the new HD Rumble effects. The Joy Con simulated the feeling of small marbles rolling around inside of it (and does an EXTREMELY CONVINCING JOB doing so) and you have to guess how many marbles are “inside.” You determine this by moving the Joy Con and “feeling” the marbles sliding around and clicking against one another. It was pretty amazing! The HD Rumble is very responsive and I am very interested to see how other games will incorporate this new technology.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Demo Stations

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Demo Stations

One of my all-time favorite games has always been Mario Kart. I would play after school with my friends on the N64 back in the day, and I haven’t stopped since! Playing MK on the go has always been a strong selling point… so being able to play MK8 Deluxe in full HD while on the move is going to be AH-MAY-ZING! To give us the full experience, Nintendo set up some fun ‘simulation’ demo stations. In the picture above, you see a fake diner with demo stations, as well as some guys in what looks like an RV? Or some kind of van?

Playing MK8 at

Playing MK8 at “the diner”!

Here I am “at the diner” enjoying some MK8 Battle Mode in handheld mode – which I won with Bowser, btw! It’s great to have some authentic battle mode back in the mix.

We also tried out a demo station that was set up to look like we were playing on an airplane. (Awesome idea!!) They set up the chairs to have those awful tray tables, and placed the Nintendo Switch in tabletop mode for us to play. Tabletop mode is when you have the screen standing up with the kickstand, and the Joy Cons are removed from the sides so that two people can use them and play while watching the screen. I will say that as a veteran MK player, I did not mind the Joy Cons for this game. Yes, if you’re using the Jon Cons, it is a small controller. Like I mentioned before, the wrist strap helps a lot with that issue. It takes some slight ‘getting used to’ but it’s not bad at all, and having usable L and R buttons meant that my game play was as good as ever! Please note that in this side photo, we were also trying out Mario Kart with the Joy Cons in what I am calling “nunchuck mode,” which is similar to the old Wii nunchuck and Wii Remote setup… without that cumbersome cord connecting them together! You can play with the Joy Cons as nunchucks, yet sit however you prefer, so that you can play comfortably. So much easier! Imagine how much better air travel will be when you’re challenging the random stranger sitting next to you to a Grand Prix!

We also tried out some other games, such as Street Fighter, Just Dance 2017, and PuyoPuyo Tetris. We got some cool swag – Nintendo Switch hats, pins, cookies, water bottles… It was a really good event. I wish they would host events like this every week! *sob*

Only 44 days until Nintendo Switch is released in stores!! Comment if you’ve got it preordered! What are you excited to play? I’ll leave you with a few more photos from the event…

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Battle Mode

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Battle Mode

Joy Con [puppy] Controller

Joy Con [puppy] Controller

Tetris!!

PuyoPuyo Tetris!!

Nintendo Switch and Accessories

Nintendo Switch and Accessories

Nintendo Switch Main Stage

Nintendo Switch Main Stage

Super Mario Odyssey Photo Op!

Super Mario Odyssey Photo Op!

Game Review: Return to Popolocrois

Well, I’ve never been to Popolocrois before, but this game Return to Popolocrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale has been impressing me from the minute I started playing!

This game was a little treat I bought for myself while holiday shopping. I bought it ‘used’ from GameFly using member coupons, so it only cost me $6! Not too shabby, not to mention that ‘used’ is a status that doesn’t really matter with 3DS cartridges, so it’s basically a brand new game for cheeeeap! Awesome.

Anyway, if you’ve been following my blog for a long time, you’ll know I’ve been a fan of Harvest Moon games for several years. It’s my kind of game, low key collection and simulation – great for “escapist” gamers like me! However, sometimes HM games (and the new Story of Seasons title, which is the newest iteration from XSEED games) can get a little… bland. The most action you normally can get in a farming game is the mining dungeon crawl. However, Return to Popolocrois fixes this with a new twist!

In Return to Popolocrois, you are a young prince who has been sent to a world that has been taken over by an evil Dark Lord, while the prince’s home kingdom is now at risk of being the Dark Lord’s latest victim. Prince Pietro must now save BOTH kingdoms because it is the right thing to do! And of course, what is deeply affected by the Dark Lord’s evil ways? Farmlands, of course! How can the people survive if their farmland is not able to grow crops? (And there we have our tie-in to the Story of Seasons background lol!) In order to save the farming lands, we must work with the local fairies, battle evil enemies, and explore dungeons to clear out the Dark Lord’s hold on the land. Then you can use this freshly cleared land to plant crops!

What’s great about this game is that the farming is much easier than in SoS or older HM titles. The crops won’t wilt, and the game will even give you notifications on when the crops need to be watered or harvested. Same goes for farm animals (available later in the game) who won’t die but simply get hungry if you forget about them. There aren’t any fancy ‘maker’ machines (so far) in RTP – yes I’m going w/that abbreviation lol – but you can Synthesize different crops and other items to create cooked dishes, new weapons, etc. The only thing I really miss is the seed maker. At least at the point I am in the game, the only way to get seeds for crops is to buy them, earn them, or receive them in an item drop after defeating enemies in the right region.

If farming isn’t really your thing, you can do the bare minimum to get by. But if you don’t like farming, what are you doing playing an XSEED game lol? Anyway, the battle system is pretty fun. You can move around the battle field, similar to “Fire Emblem” games. The battles look and feel very similar to the game “My Fantasy Life.” You can level up your characters, purchase or synthesize new armor and weapons, and each character has special skills. These skills have elemental powers, and if certain characters are playing in the same team, there are also Partner Skills that can be unlocked. If that wasn’t cool enough, in the game settings you can adjust the frequency of the random battles, so if you want to grind and level up you can change the number of enemy encounters to high! (Or if you want to just run through an area without being bombarded, change it to low and/or use a special item to ward off these enemies.)

Fans of the Story of Seasons/Harvest Moon franchise will also be happy to learn that you can also have a significant other (kinda) in this game. Prince Pietro is only 13 after all, and won’t be getting married anytime soon. But he does have little ‘girlfriends’ across all of the in-game regions, and you can visit them and give them gifts. The game even gives you a notification if one of them is missing you! Cute!

So far I’ve really been enjoying the game. The only thing that makes me nervous is that since this was a used game, the cartridge I received already had a completed save file. And that completed game save file only had 53 hours played in total. This tells me that the game is fairly quick to beat, and possibly doesn’t have much post game. I haven’t completed the game yet myself, so maybe this person wasn’t a hardcore farmer. (I can’t say for sure, because I refuse to play that game file and see spoilers lol!) Once I finish the game, maybe I’ll report back. But to play it safe, if you’re interested in trying out this game, I recommend buying it used like I did. I think the game is SERIOUSLY fun and if you like cute farming games with some fun action and battles, definitely give this game a try!

Cosplay Planning: Guzma Gender-Bend

Cosplaying is awesome because you can be whoever you want to be. Forget about who you are at your day job – when you cosplay you can be a super hero! Or a super VILLAIN (my preference)!

My latest villain crush is the great Guzma from Pokemon Sun and Moon. He’s the boss of Team Skull, with an over-the-top persona and a fragile ego. He has a signature squat! He’s the whipping boy of… (redacted to prevent spoilers!!)

Anyway, I’m really into Guzma and I’ve decided I’m going to explore the idea of doing a gender-bend cosplay of Guzma because it seems like a fun DIY concept. Guzma’s outfit consists of mostly ‘normal’ clothes which makes for a much less intimidating cosplay idea. Let’s break down the costume into parts!

Clothing:

  • black hoodie (short sleeves?!) with zig-zag accent on sides and Team Skull logo on the backside
  • black sweatpants with white cross stripes
  • white tanktop

These are all easily obtainable items, if I don’t have them already. I think to add a slight touch of sexiness to the gender-bend cosplay, I will wear a tight fit white tank showing some cleavage, but I’ll keep the sweat suit baggy. (Oooh I love comfy cosplay!!) The biggest challenge here is the zigzag stripe on the hoodie and the criss-cross stripes on the pants. I can either try to do this myself using felt and some hot glue or basic sewing skills (dicey) or have the design commissioned by someone a little more professional. I found this sweatsuit that I think would work well. I wonder if it’s worth it to cut the sleeves, or should I just roll them up? Hmm…

Accessories:

All of these accessories are purchase-able, which makes life a lot easier. I find that sometimes it’s more cost-effective to just buy something that looks authentic, than for me to spend time and money on materials only to end up with something looking shoddy. (Yeah I guess my crafting abilities are sub-par lol.)

I am struggling to figure out what to do about Guzma’s tattoo. It looks like a purple S from the Team Skull logo. I doubt I’ll find a temp tattoo to use. Should I just draw it on with marker?? If anyone can enlighten me on that, I’m all ears.

As far as makeup, I think this would be a lot of fun. I can wear dark eye shadow, go crazy w/black eyeliner and keep everything else very simple.

Does anyone have any other ideas or input? Where are all the Plumeria and Team Skull Grunt cosplayers? Let’s get organized!!