Super Nintendo's Happy 25th

The march of time continues with the 25th Anniversary of the North American launch of the Super Nintendo. Probably my favorite console of all time, the Super Nintendo was peak Nintendo (and their third party support) at their best. From heavy hitters like Super Mario World, A Link to the Past, StarFox, Super Metroid and Final Fantasy III to smaller titles like Aerobiz Supersonic, Actraiser and Soul Blazer had tons of variety in its library.

Let's hope Nintendo releases a mini-SNES next year to celebrate one of the greatest consoles of all time!

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The First Turnabout

Today, August 3rd, 2016, the first case of the first Ace Attorney game takes place in a West Coast courtroom.

The first game I ever purchased for the Nintendo DS was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. A courtroom/visual novel/adventure game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney floored me with an excellent localization, funny characters and some pretty good music. After completing the first game I had to immediately find the second (which was out around the time I purchased the DS) and was hooked on the series since. Keep fighting the good fight Phoenix and bring justice for all!

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The Conundrum of Pokemon Go

The surge in popularity of Pokemon Go is really interesting. Cashing in on years of brand loyalty, a recognizable IP and releasing at the right time game has captured the hearts and minds of many (even though it is in a limited launch). While closely associated with Nintendo, Pokemon (and Pokemon Go) actually has very little to do with that company. While Nintendo does stand to profit from the app's popularity the success really belongs to Niantic and The Pokemon Company. In SuperBunnyHop's analysis he reminds of us this and the difference between this and Miitomo (Nintendo's other phone app).

It will be interesting to see how Pokemon Go fares in the future and how Nintendo responds (or adjusts) with the other games that are coming out in the future.

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Star For Zero and Shigeru Miyamoto

Kyle Bosman recently summarized the release of Star Fox Zero, Shigeru Miyamoto's involvement and the Wii U. Star Fox Zero is an interesting game because it exists as a proof of concept that the Wii U gamepad is not a gimmick. Star Fox Zero's implementation of a precision cockpit view and forced character audio through the gamepad is biggest point of contention with the game. While the aiming does work (after getting used to it), weird decisions like the character audio felt like they had to justify the speaker in the gamepad by making it mandatory. As pointed out by Bosman, after multiple delays two other Wii U games (Splatoon, Super Mario Maker) would actually do a much better job in showing gamepad implementation that Star Fox.

As a huge fan of the Star Fox series, Star Fox Zero isn't a bad game but doesn't do anything to stand out from the other console installments. While there are multiple fleet assault stages (the stand out stages in my opinion) nothing reaches the level of the Area 6 showdown or the Katina stage from Star Fox 64. A good entry in the series the problem is that it feels like a game lost in time. A follow up to Star Fox 64 (and a few elements like the walker from Star Fox 2) it doesn't take full advantage of the Wii U's power and feels more like a half step game than a full proper prequel/sequel.

At the tail end of the video is a rather brutal bonus bit describing Miyamoto's current design philosophy (part parody, part truth). Bosman's video is an interesting look and reminder of the strange story behind the development of Star Fox Zero.

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Mario 30th Anniversary Concert

This past September as part of the Super Mario series reaching its 30th anniversary Nintendo held an orchestral concert in Japan. Featuring music from all the mainline console Mario games it was something that was a real treat for Mario fans. Well... if you lived in Japan. But thanks to the magic of the internet the concert is available to listen on youtube.

Probably my favorite remix is the Super Mario World one (below) although they're all pretty great in one way or another. The inclusion of Super Mario Kart as well was a welcome surprise (including the sublime Mario Kart 8 main theme). Most tracks are high energy, fun pieces and the recording sounds great.

I hope Nintendo plans to take the concert internationally like Symphony of the Goddess tour for the Legend of Zelda or at least release a recording of the music as a reward in the future.

Find the full playlist here.

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My Favorite Games of 2015

2015 was the year of sequels and the PS4 and Xbox One finally hitting their stride. A tide of strong releases spread throughout the year helped make up for last year's rather slow release schedule. This year games (mostly) worked and there were more than enough different experiences this year to highlight that videogames can be more than mindless experiences. Strong storytelling helped some games stand out, while others had great mechanics.

2 years into this generation of consoles hopefully the trend can continue into 2016.

Best Games of 2015

1. Super Mario MakerWhat can I say that hasn't already been said? Mario Maker takes some of the greatest platformers of all time and allows you to play them with an endless number of stages and challenges. The trickle of new content and weekly unlocks keep me coming back, while seeing what crazy levels the internet have created is endless fun.
2. Life Is StrangeLiving the life of a teenage girl who just happens to have time travel powers is both empowering and at the same time limiting. Unlike Telltale's recent offerings, the ability to change time makes decisions that much harder as both ways usually have positive and negative consequences.
3. Fallout 4War. War never changes and neither did Fallout. Not that it was a bad thing, I enjoyed the game a lot. While some changes (I'm looking at you conversation system) were bad, the addition of settlements was more addictive than it had any right to be. Add in some charming companions and an interesting premise (which unfortunately ends faster than it should) the wasteland is one I hope to return to when the DLC packs hit.
4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainThe best playing Metal Gear Solid game is also one of the worst Metal Gear Solid games in terms of story. Improving on the gameplay introduced in Peace Walker, MGS V plays great whether sneaking or going full rambo on the enemy. Balancing building a mercenary army, upgrading your equipment and building your base (although the timers for some upgrades are way too long) is a great breather between the ops the player is running. While Konami have changed how certain mechanics have worked since launch and the end of the second act leave a lot to be desired, MGS V is still a great game from Kojima Productions.
5. Batman: Arkham KnightAfter Arkham City I was unsure if Rocksteady was overstretching their ambitions with the Arkham games but Arkham Knight proved me wrong. Cutting down on most of the clutter and diversions of the last game (although the get 100% to see the true ending is BS), Arkham Knight plays just as well as the last game while introducing just enough tricks to keep it fresh.
6. Until DawnI didn't expect to like this game as much as I did but Until Dawn is a fresh take on the story based adventure game. Using the most of it's horror homages and elements, Until Dawn is a great homage to the movies it takes inspiration from. Trying to figure out how to get all the characters to survive until dawn gets more tense as the hours tick down and the challenges ramp up.
7. Just Cause 3Explosion Simulator 2015. Probably the most fun action packed game I played in 2015, Just Cause 3 is an exercise in causing chaos and mayhem while rewarding you with satisfying explosions.
8. HelldiversThe Starship Troopers game I never knew I wanted, Helldivers unforgiving action on alien infested worlds feels great when playing with friends.
9. The Witcher 3: Wild HuntI didn't play as much Witcher 3 as I would've liked (need to finish the Witcher 2 first) but it's definitely the best looking game I've seen this year. No other game came close (for me) in looking like it was something that could've only been made for this generation of consoles. Also, Gwent is pretty fun too.
10. SplatoonHip squids shooting ink in Nintendo's unique take in the shooter genre. The post release support was top notch too.
11. Assassin's Creed SyndicateAfter last year's Assassin's Creed failed to impress, AC: Syndicate certainly made great strides in concentrating more on the core of assassinating and getting into some pretty brutal looking fisticuffs freeing London from the Templar's control.
12. Star Wars: BattlefrontEA had a mandate to make a game that looks like the classic Star Wars movies. They succeeded spectacularly in recreating the look and feel of those movies. While thin on content, what is the looks great and plays well.
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A look back at 2015 in the world of videogames

2015 was a crazy time, lots of great sequels and disappointments. The death of an industry icon and the dissolution of the games division for one of the industry's (former) biggest players. All in all, with the current consoles a few years old some really great games for them finally came out. This year's E3 was crazy in terms of announcements (Final Fantasy 7 remake, Shenmue 3) and this year's holiday release schedule was one of the best is recent memory.

Here's Ggamespot's look back at the last year in videogames.

Here's hoping 2016 can top 2015!

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30 years of the Nintendo Entertainment System

Hard to believe but the Nintendo Entertainment System turns 30 years old today (Octoboer 18th, 2015). I don't remember that much about when the family got our NES but I do remember it was the Gyromite/Duck Hunt combo unit with the grey light zapper and ROB. We never got ROB to work but the light zapper was certainly something else (even though I was terrible at it). Every week a trip to the video store was an adventure to see what new interesting adventure you could rent and play over the weekend. While some were better than others, the sense of wonder and excitement as you based a game solely on its box art and a few screenshots on the back cover is something we'll probably never see again.

It'd only be a few more years until I'd see some of my favorite Nintendo games including: Super Mario Bros 3, TMNT 2 Arcade, Mega Man 2 and 3. Even a few obscure ones like Little Ninja Brothers, The Magic of Scheherazade and North and South.

To read a bit more about the history of the NES in North America check out Kotaku's article.

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