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Author: Evan Tolbert

Evan Tolbert is a happening dude with a tight budget, a bias for Nintendo, and a penchant for nostalgia. His crippling game-buying addiction has provided him with the inspiration to chronicle his gaming discoveries as a child and his adult deal-finding adventures, with reviews of current-gen games thrown in for good measure.
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Kingdom Hearts 3D Review

Kingdom Hearts 3D

Square Enix has poured from their reservoir Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, the next entry in the hack-and-slash RPG series that has won fans the world over, it's number of Disney crossover references only rivaled by the number of newcomers confused by the series' plot.As a reader and potential first-time buyer, one might be skeptical that Kingdom Hearts 3D, the seventh installment in the franchise, might be a worthy purchase. Anyone who has even heard of Kingdom Hearts is sure to be aware of the confusion surrounding the series, and as such, may be dissuaded. The assumption that one's enjoyment of the game would be significantly diminished had they not played the previous entries is likely; one could guess that Square Enix had the jitters about this, as well! And yet, Kingdom Hearts 3D's rich offerings and plethora of flashbacks and mini-encyclopedias are the nigh-perfect package for any 3DS owner to feel comfortable picking up. Thus, this review will be grading Kingdom Hearts 3D as much as possible as it's own game, as fans of the series have undoubtedly picked this one up anyway.

Kingdom Hearts 3D

The main draw of the series has been it's unlikely coupling of Square Enix's characters with Disney's atmospheres, a combination so bizarre that it actually works- quite well, in fact. In each game, the player visits famous Disney locales, usually taking on the role of Sora, the Haley Joel Osment-voiced protagonist. The main series antagonists are a group of people known as Organization XIII, and each trip to these Disney worlds sort of revolves around stopping the Organization from being evil. The series features one heck of an engrossing story, top-notch hack-and-slash combat, with RPG leveling thrown in as the icing on this hodgepodge cake. In theory, nothing about the series should work, but the formula is great, and it feels right! So, in Dream Drop Distance, it's more of the same, with a few game-exclusive concepts introduced to shake things up a bit. Sora and Riku (another series regular) are at the brink of becoming Keyblade Masters, which will allow them to circumvent the return of Organization XIII's Master Xehanort. They must awaken sleeping Disney worlds, and rid each world of creatures known as Dream Eaters. This is an incredibly watered-down summary, and if the player is at all confused, natural progression through the game unlocks helpful flashback cut-scenes and encyclopedia-like entries to read through. These two additions exhibit wonderful foresight on behalf of Square Enix, and are truly helpful in bringing newcomers up to date as close as possible.

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June 26, 2012 Posted by Evan in Reviews, Wii

Pikmin 2 (Wii Edition) Review

Motion Controls Make an Already Great Game Better.

Pikmin 2

The long-awaited third entry in the Pikmin franchise is due before year's end, and Nintendo took the initiative to cut the wait with a re-release of Pikmin 2 on the Wii, part of it's New Play Control! line of titles. As a series, Pikmin has been met with critical acclaim from consumers, and still feels as fresh and unique as it once was more than ten years after the original game. With the introduction of motion controls to the game, Pikmin 2 just got a whole lot fresher.Thankfully, Pikmin 2 actually benefits from the addition of motion controls; there's no unnecessary waggle here! As either Louie or Olimar, the player directs Pikmin to fight the aliens of Earth, destroy obstacles, or pick up treasures with an on-screen reticule, now controlled by aiming a Wii remote. The accuracy that pointing the Wii remote provides is similar to the precision of a mouse in PC gaming, and is such an improvement over aiming with the GameCube's analog stick. Precision and speed are key in directing one's Pikmin, and as a real-time strategy game of sorts, Pikmin 2 has been improved tremendously. Though the game boasts the New Play Control monicker, that's really the only motion control in the entire game! Nothing requires the player to shake the Wii remote or the nunchuck. Even the menus are navigated with the nunchuck's analog stick. Thus, Pikmin 2's controls are updated, but refined to a relatively comfortable transition.

Pikmin 2

That said, how does Pikmin 2 hold up eight years after it's original release, and does it deserve to be bought again? A resounding quite well, and yes, respectively. As stated before, the game still feels as fresh as ever, and thanks to Nintendo's decision to add it to the Nintendo Selects line of games for $20, there's really no incentive to not buy it. The GameCube edition of Pikmin 2 can be quite scarce to come by, and at upwards of $40 on ebay and Amazon, Pikmin 2 is very affordable. As a follow up to the first Pikmin, the game improves the formula in just about every way imaginable. The 30 day time limit from the first game has been done away with, in favor of a money-making system that allows for maximum exploration of the planet. For those who haven't experienced Pikmin 2 yet, or the Pikmin series in general, 2 is a very forgiving game. It takes a decent amount of time to amass an army of Pikmin, and with the 30 day formula of the first game, things could get quite stressful. Now, the player has an unlimited amount of time to do anything and everything, and though 100%-ing the game is still quite a challenge, it's much more feasible this time around.

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June 10, 2012 Posted by Evan in 3DS, Reviews

Mario Tennis Open Review

Mario and friends are back for another tennis match.

Mario Tennis Open

It's been 8 years since a new Mario Tennis game has graced our Nintendo consoles, and frankly, that's 8 years too long. Mario Tennis games have been unanimously fine-crafted, and the portable entries in the franchise are no exception. When a Mario Tennis game is featured on a portable console, it's expected to be an excellent tennis-RPG hybrid, a combination that is just insane enough to turn out awesome. And regrettably, with the release of Mario Tennis Open, the trend of RPG excellence that portable Mario Tennis games offer has been broken. That said, Mario Tennis Open is far from being a bad game. Camelot, the game's developer, have been at the helm of the series ever since Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64, and they've done a fantastic job at creating a tennis game that feels downright good to play. However, the approach they've taken with this title is significantly less Mario-like than other entries in the series. Nothing about the main game is over-the-top or whimsical. In fact, the removal of the physics-breaking “Power Shots” introduced in Mario Power Tennis have left the game feeling like a beautiful, enhanced port of the Nintendo 64 entry. Fortunately, Mario Tennis is a great title to grasp inspiration from, and Open plays and feels just as great as the other entries.

Mario Tennis Open

Mario Tennis Open features a few additions to the series, the most important being color-coded shots. When the ball is returned by the opponent, a colored circle may appear on the player's side of the court. Each color, six in all, correspond to either a single button, or a button combo, and in order to fully take advantage of the shot, the player must stand within the circle on the court. The addition of this new play type is certainly a game-changer, and with the subtraction of Power Shots, it brings the series back to relying on the skill of the player rather than over-powered games of chance. Following the course of the first game, each of the sixteen characters fall into different class types: All-Around, Technique, Speed, Tricky, and Power. These categories define each character's play style exactly as they sound, and the difference between each is definitely noticeable. The second noteworthy addition is the option to play as one's Mii. Rather than falling into the aforementioned classes as the other characters do, Mii's are a blank canvas to be painted by different outfits, each containing skill set variations. These outfits are comparable to Mario Kart 7's different kart parts, allowing for complete customization and a Mii that truly reflects the player's preferences. In a way, this feature is a shadow of the RPG elements in the Mario Tennis portable offerings of yesteryear, but a shadow nonetheless.

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June 5, 2012 Posted by Evan in News, Previews

Nintendo: All Access E3 Presentation - Play by Play

Nintendo

Nintendo held a surprisingly low key, Wii U focused press conference earlier today. Serving as a follow up of sorts to Sunday's Wii U oriented Nintendo Direct presentation, today's event consisted mainly of a Wii U software showcase. Shigeru Miyamoto began with a short Pikmin skit, hyping up the third game in the franchise by super-imposing the creatures on different audience members. Miyamoto continued by reiterating that the Wii U's goal was to reinvent the concept of the television/console relationship; the fact that consoles are dependent on the television is rather limiting. The Wii U was developed with it's own screen to circumvent this. Miyamoto stressed that he wanted the Wii U to be the first screen players and family would see when entering the living room. Pikmin 3 was first name-dropped several years ago, and it was thought it would be in development for the Wii. However, upon seeing the Wii U hardware in action, Miyamoto thought Pikmin 3 would be better suited on the Wii U and given an experience that isn't possible on any other platform.

The game looks absolutely gorgeous thanks to the horsepower of the new console. The gameplay of Pikmin 3 is very similar to the first two Pikmin, but Miyamoto found that the Wii U solved issues addressed in the first two games. He spoke of the camera issues, saying if it was too far away, one could see the landscape better, but couldn't see the Pikmin well enough to control them accurately. The Wii U has solved this puzzle, as one can see an expanded, natural setting on the Wii U game pad's screen, and the view on the television is more free because of this. The player can touch the map to more effectively place the Pikmin in different areas, and the game gets much more tactical because of this. The main game is controlled by aiming and throwing with the Wii remote and movement with the nunchuk. A new rock-type Pikmin was revealed, and it's uses were demonstrated by doling out more damage to enemies, and breaking down objects and obstacles faster than the other Pikmin types. Opening up multiplayer options was the announcement of four additional captains to control, but any information other than that will come at a later date. In closing, the hero of the previous Pikmin tiles, Capitain Olimar, was mysteriously absent from the title, and Miyamoto went on to say the reason for this was a secret.

When Reggie Fils-Aime took the stage, he promised 23 Wii U titles to hit the stage during the conference, though many of these were third party titles, teased in a sizzle reel. As has become a standard with any home console, planned Hulu Plus, Youtube, Amazon Video, and Netflix apps were announced to be available at launch, with "more on the way".

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Minecraft Review

Minecraft's younger XBLA brother does the brand proud.

Minecraft

The announcement that Minecraft was coming to XBLA was guaranteed to cause a great divide of anger from the PC-gaming faithful and rejoice from console gamers. The question of why Minecraft should be ported to a console is a valid one, with many gamers claiming it could only be a lesser version. The lack of mod support for this version alone is enough for most to turn their nose at the thought, and though updates are planned for the game, it has been said by Mojang, the game's developer, that the Xbox 360 Edition would be a bit behind it's PC counterpart. Yet with all of these things considered, is it not possible that Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition could be up to par with, or even best its brother?

Minecraft

Perhaps the main draw of this version of Minecraft is how the player will experience the game: on a television, from the couch, controller in hand. The gameplay is the same addicting, tried-and-true formula that granted Mojang overnight success some three years ago. However, the 360 Edition boasts new additions like split-screen multiplayer and a crafting guide(!), the latter making Minecraft a heck of a lot easier for newcomers to pick up and play. This may dissuade fans of the original, as part of Minecraft's charm was essentially throwing the player in a sandbox with no directions. The basic concept of Minecraft remains untouched in the 360 Edition, but the need to remember each crafting recipe or keep a browser window open with a Minecraft wiki has been rendered unnecessary, and is better for it.

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