New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) Review

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Originally released in 2012 as a launch title for the Wii U, the aptly named New Super Mario Bros U served as Nintendo’s flagship title to get the system off to a good start. While this may not have gone as well as they originally planned, the game stood out to me at the time. Almost seven years later, how does it hold up, and exactly what’s changed for it to earn its Deluxe title?

The Princess is Kidnapped!?

The plot of a Mario game has never really had much substance, nor has it ever really needed to. You have your standard “Bowser has the princess, go save her!” motivation, before setting out on your merry way. While it might standard, I’ve always appreciated the slight twist in this title in throwing Mario and friends out of the castle, in oppose to the princess being taken away. It’s a small thing, but it makes this otherwise predictable opening sequence a little more enjoyable.

In traditional form, you need to work your way through eight worlds: a grassy world, a desert world, an ice world, a water world, a forest world, a rocky world, a cloudy world, and finally a lava world. They’re all things you’ve seen before, and to some extent, they’re all things you’d expect to see. While much of this is your standard Mario, one thing I feel deserving of attention is the single branching point in the world. Ignoring secret exits to skip levels, you progress through World 1 and 2, where you then get to pick whether to venture into World 3 or 4. At the end of these worlds, the path joins together to finish the game in an otherwise largely linear fashion. What makes this small choice so brilliant is the two worlds you’re picking between: the ice world and the water world. To me, these are two evils of the series, but necessary evils. To not have them in a modern Mario game would quite frankly be odd, and despite my reservations I would miss them. Nintendo addressed this by giving the player the ability to do one or the other, and if they wanted to go back, do both. It goes to show the level of understanding the company has towards its userbase, and these details are what make Nintendo games shine to me. This understanding is shown beyond just the world design, including some of the new content in this version.

The most significant addition for me is the inclusion of Toadette, or more significantly, Peachette, her unique powerup. Toadette as a character is designed to make the game easier. Selecting her will grant you an additional 100 seconds in each level, transform every 1-Up mushroom into a 3-Up moon, and provide access to the aforementioned transformation. On top of this, she gains additional mobility underwater, and slides less on ice. Again, water and ice. Nintendo’s way of addressing these is in my opinion perfect for the kind of game it is. To many, the game isn’t exactly difficult, it possible to rush through in a matter of hours. Instead of simplifying mechanics or jeopardising an already brilliant overall experience, they added a new character. Toadette is a character to make it easier for parents to play with their children, or for somebody to be eased into this famous franchise, but that’s not all she is. She is a way for people like me who have already seen and experienced everything to do so again.

The Peachette transformation is largely the same as an Acorn Suit: you glide when holding jump and you get upward mobility for hitting the spin button in the air. The biggest difference is her ability is a jump to propel her upwards when falling into a pit, or any substance that might take a life such as lava or poisonous water. It’s a relatively small tweak to make the game easier without necessarily removing the consequence or possibility of losing a life. While I never really felt I needed it, I can’t deny the thrill and satisfaction that comes from a near-death recovery, as well as the frustration this extra jump has saved. On top of this, she’s generally a floatier character that just feels better to play as. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made her so fun or game-changing, but I can say with certainty she made my playthrough feel completely fresh.

A few of these changes have also been carried over to Nabbit, a character previously only playable in New Super Luigi U. Now available in both modes, the purple item thief presents the easiest way to enjoy the game in his complete invulnerability to enemies. Featuring Toadette’s additional 100 seconds on the timer, as well as her updated ice and water mechanics, he is the best way for somebody to take their very first step into platforming. The trade-off for his immunity to enemies is his inability to use powerups. This in itself gives players who tried and enjoyed playing as him an entirely new experience when moving to a more standard character. An interesting addition to his arsenal is how he interacts with items. Despite not being able to use them, the item thief can still put them to good use, transforming each item into a 1-Up at the end of the level. It’s a small addition, but it’s nice to see the items not entirely wasted, especially when your Nabbit-playing friend takes it upon themselves to steal them before you get a chance to power up.

Largely intact from the original release, four player local multiplayer is supported in both docked and handheld mode, and I strongly recommend you try it out if you have any Mario-loving friends nearby. Everything is how you might expect, each player controlling a character independently on-screen and frantically running and fighting through a level at a time. Sadly, the option for the fifth player is no longer present. In the Wii U version, playing with multiple people gave you the ability to place blocks on-screen to jump off by tapping on the gamepad. The reason for its lack of inclusion is fairly clear: the Switch simply doesn’t lend itself to this kind of control scheme. Yes, there’s still a touch screen, but when you think about this as something only available when playing multiplayer, you have to consider how much of a hassle it would be to be obscuring everybody’s view of the game just to place a block. It’s a shame they couldn’t rework this in some way, but I can’t say I’m entirely surprised. With many not even knowing it existed in the original release, I doubt it’ll be missed too much.

This being the deluxe release, I’m happy to see Luigi’s adventure included as well. Originally launching as DLC, New Super Luigi U was an interesting idea. Featuring Luigi as the hero and 164 completely new and notably harder levels, it served as an impressive expansion. With only 100 seconds on the clock for each level, you’re pushed to go fast and sometimes play a little riskier than you might have in the base game. Paired with Luigi’s more slippery controls, it’s an enjoyable and different experience. While I’m definitely glad to see it included and have enjoyed playing through it, I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. The levels are all still fun, but feel more like unfinished ideas when compared to the polished and precise nature of their base game counterparts. When seeing the goal flag at the end of the level I often found myself disappointed, too often ending before the level could really shine. To some extent, it is a shame, but the challenges present and the sheer amount of levels go a long way in making up for it. They’re fun, but I can’t help but think they could have been better.

Looking at it visually, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is stunning. Each world’s theme is put across in such an overtly ‘Nintendo’ way, exploding with vibrant colour and detail. While it might not push the boat out as the 3D titles have been known to, it knows what it wants to do and executes it well. Also worth mentioning here is how the game’s resolution has been updated from its Wii U release. Previously locked 720p, we now are treated to a cleaner 1080p image docked, and a native 720p when in handheld mode. On top of this, the game retains its locked 60 FPS gameplay regardless of whether you’re at home or on the go, even with four players on-screen fighting for supremacy.

This is a game I can recommend to any Switch owner. Though a thoroughly enjoyable experience with friends, the game still stands tall when played alone. Whether it’s worth the double dip is as it usually is something a little more difficult to address. The biggest draw to a Switch port lies in its portability. Pair this with the new character Toadette, cleaner visuals, and a few tweaks here and there, and whether you can justify the purchase becomes tough to say. What I can say with certainty is that this is a fantastic port and despite not necessarily adding much to the base Wii U package, does well in earning its Deluxe moniker.

Nippon Marathon (PlayStation 4) Review

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Looking at Nippon Marathon from the outside, I struggled to come up with any reasonable kind of expectation. It looked inexplicably fun, attracting me in a similar way to the 2010 classic Doritos Crash Course. It looked fast-paced, it looked low-budget, and for reasons beyond any kind of rational comprehension, it looked like a game I might enjoy.

The Nippon Marathon

So just what is the Nippon Marathon? On the surface, it could be considered exactly as the name describes it: a series of marathon races on-foot across Japan. With each race in the series offering an increasing prize for victory, fame and fortune await any who finish the final race in first place. That’s largely all there is to it, and yet it manages to be so much more.

Individual races are run with four players of either human or CPU origin, with the ability to tag in and out at any time. In the races, you move using analogue controls, with the ability to jump, duck, and dive, as well as pick up and use a small set of fruity items. That much is simple to explain; where it starts getting a little more interesting is in how you score points. You might jump to the rather logical assumption that, as a marathon, the person finishing first is the victor. This assumption would be wrong, at least in my experience. You see, there’s more to a marathon than where you place, and we can break it down a little. Final position does count for something, giving first place 100 points, and subsequent placing receiving 75, 50, and 25 points.

Moving on, we have a popularity bonus, adding between 0 and 100 points to your final score. Popularity is gained and lost throughout the race depending on your actions. If you push somebody in the crowd, you’ll generally not be their favourite to win; but if you find yourself being mauled by an army of dogs, the audience seem to love you. If I’m being entirely honest, it’s not a system I fully came to understand, but as you play, you gradually come to see the kind of things you should be doing. Green numbers appearing signify you’re doing something right, and red show that you should probably stop doing whatever you’re doing—it’s signposted clearly enough.

Next we have an extensive list of random bonuses, rewarding you for anything from eating the most mushrooms, to taking the most items, to being knocked down by the most dogs. If you did something that made you stand out, you’ll probably get some points for it here. These I feel are similar to the bonus stars of Mario Party in that you really have no idea what you should and shouldn’t be doing with many of them coming down to chance. They’re wacky and something to laugh at even when the race is over, fitting surprisingly well in the overall arc of events.

Finally, we have the core of the race: the running. Your goal is to stay ahead of your rivals as you might expect. With the camera following the leading player, those who are forced off-screen are eliminated from the current round and lose stars. Perhaps the most important part of scoring, each star will grant you an additional 50 points when the race is over for a maximum of 400 for eight stars. With rounds segmented depending on how long players last, it’s entirely possible for every player to remain on their starting total of three stars apiece, or for one person to be rocking a full set of eight while the rest suffer. It’s here you see the variety in races; no two are the same thanks to how this segmentation works. Though you only have eight courses, the replayability to be found in unparalelled madness and chaos is astonishing.

A Bit Extra

On top of your standard marathon races, there are a few extras to be explored. Featuring two party modes and an eccentric story for each of the four main characters, it isn’t exactly lacking in content. My favourite of the two party modes is a simple inclusion but fun nonetheless as a means of exploring the game’s physics. Go-Go-Trolly sees you dive down a bowling lane in none other than a shopping cart, avoiding miscellaneous obstacles to play what is otherwise a normal game. While the obstacles are few, the game mode justifies itself plenty in the surprising depth of strategy to be had. Should you roll down the alley in your cart? Should you push your cart to one side and rag-doll your way to the other? There are so many ways to play, and none of them feel wrong.

The second party mode is less than aptly named L.O.B.S.T.E.R. Here, you take it in turns to run through a randomly generated obstacle course with the goal of going further than the person before you in a short amount of time. If you don’t make the cut, you get a letter to your name, starting with L and going all the way to R. To win, you just have to keep staying ahead and not have the full word spelled. Another odd mode, I found myself enjoying this a lot. At the end of each round when all but one player has been given a fresh letter, the level is mixed up by either giving you more time to run, adding an item, or completely swapping out a section for a random one. It’s a great experience to make gradual progression in a group through a new stage every time you play, and with the game’s usual physics and fun at play, you’re sure to have a laugh with mayhem and mishaps.

To both the game’s merit and detriment, these modes are played one character at a time, in oppose to the four player free-for-all you have in marathon races. On one hand, you really do lose a significant degree of chaos and madness, especially when the free-for-all aspect would have fit so well in L.O.B.S.T.E.R, but there is a light to this darkness. The positive here is that both of these modes are playable with between two and eight players, and only a single controller to be passed around. As party modes, they succeed in providing an affordable and inclusive game to be pulled out for friends, regardless of your controller count.

The last part of the game that needs a brief word is the story mode. It’s only a brief word because much of this has already been discussed when talking about the marathon earlier—this is essentially all eight races packaged up in chapters of dialogue to breathe life into this odd cast of characters. It’s alright. Where I found myself in hysterics at everything else the game had to offer, the story somehow felt weak. It’s not as though the humour is particularly bad, fitting in well with the rest of the game’s general tones and themes, but it just feels lacking. All there is to it is a bit of text, and I feel the game could’ve done more. You’ll definitely enjoy them if you’re looking for something more catered to the single player, but I can’t see anybody completing each route more than once.

Making the Switch

Despite the review copy provided being for the PS4, I was excited enough about the game to purchase it from the eShop, so I wanted to provide a bit of extra detail about that version as well. In that regard, I’m happy to say it really does feel like the same game. A few minor grievances are how the menus can feel a little slow to respond, and how from time to time, you might feel a stutter as you run faster than the level can load. While sometimes noticeable, none of these are enough to detract from the fun, and can be seen on both versions of the game. My untrained eye felt no issue in framerate regardless of handheld or docked, though I can’t say it’s much of a surprise with how untaxing the game appears to be. It’s a shame about the occasional stutter in levels, but I can hope this is patchable in future.

Nippon Marathon is unquantifiably fun. Character models are basic and look off, the voice acting is cheesy with poor writing and repeated jokes, and the gameplay is raw to the degree of feeling like a student Unity project; and yet I keep coming back for more. The unspoken chaos is the game’s driving force—getting stopped in the middle of a race for a quiz, diving through windows into the street, rag-dolling down a hill as you miss the jump into a stray shopping cart. It stands as the most bizarre game I played in 2018, and it stands tall in that regard. Is it a game you should buy? That really isn’t for me to say. If you love the stupid, the wacky and fun, and the not so unreasonably priced, I’d dive right in. It’s the most beautiful mess you’re likely to play for a good while.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

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Originally released in 2013, Dynasty Warriors 8 (DW8) has since been seen on more consoles than Bethesda’s infamously ported Skyrim. Each release offering new content, new expansions, or simply a compilation of the two, it now finds itself in the hands of western Switch owners. Read on as we discover what makes this Xtreme port so definitive in Koei Tecmo’s latest excessively long-named release. 

It’s Dynasty Warriors

To discuss what this titles offers as original content, I’ll be comparing it to the other two games from the series I have experience with: Hyrule Warriors (HW) and Fire Emblem Warriors (FEW). With these two being until recently the only two available on the Switch, I can imagine there being a large number of people in a similar position to me having enjoyed them. How does this enjoyment translate to a more traditional series entry, and what makes this so different? Before going into that however, it’s easier to start with how they’re alike.

Put simply, it is a Warriors game like any before it. You hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies, completing objectives and cutting down enemy officers. Coming from either of the Nintendo versions, much of this will feel familiar, albeit with a slightly different graphical style and some differing terminology. As with HW and FEW, you have a story mode to progress through, seeing you beat a series of stages with a diverse cast of flamboyant and fun characters, as well as a unique mode to keep you hooked when you’ve finished. Where DW8’s story mode is different is in its branching paths. While this was technically also seen in HW and FEW, the way they they’re implemented here creates an overall more engaging and diverse experience. In the other titles, branching paths signified multiple events happening in tandem, with each needing to be completed before continuing. Here, they’re used as alternate paths. You have your standard path to follow that you’ll likely end up going down on your first playthrough, and when you’ve finished that, the previously-hidden bonus objectives are revealed that can alter scenarios down the line. For example, saving an officer, or convincing one to defect, ensuring a specific plan succeeds or fails; it all comes together to build something far more involved than I’ve seen before. Some of these objectives are interesting in that they can change how a scenario is played entirely, creating an unexpected level of replayability, especially for somebody like me who feels it necessary to beat each stage on each of the six available difficulty options. On top of this, you have not one, but five routes to play through, in addition to what ifs, bonus scenarios, previously-DLC scenarios, and the ability to replay any level as the opposing forces in Free Play. The content on offer here is both astounding and overwhelming in equal measure and has kept me hooked far better than HW or FEW ever did, despite my lack of connection with the game’s cast and lore going in. Something worth mentioning as an aside is how each map is playable not only alone, but cooperatively with a friend next to you. While it isn’t something I had a chance to play with, it’s a great inclusion, especially for those with siblings or eager housemates.

Looking at the gameplay, there are a few interesting differences to note, the most significant of which being the weapon triangle and use of horses during battle. While weapon triangles aren’t particularly uncommon, the way they’re used here do well in deepening what it otherwise known to be a simple and repetitive experience. When you go into battle, you can take with you two weapons to be switched out as you play, each weapon being one of Heaven, Earth, or Man affinity. Heaven beats Earth, Earth beats Man, Man beats Heaven. It’s your standard rock, paper, scissors kind of action, but it goes further than just offering damage multipliers for favourable matchups. If you have an advantage, you’re presented with the opportunity to perform a Storm Rush, the equivalent of a Weak Point Smash in HW. If you’re at a disadvantage, you won’t knock back the enemy, and leave yourself open to being knocked down yourself. Where all of this is particularly interesting to me is when playing on Normal difficulty or above. Much to my surprise, enemy officers actually seem to play cleverly. Where they’re at a disadvantage, they’ll switch out their weapon to either turn the table or even the playing field. It’s something small that’s little more than common sense, but it stands out in a game like this when it does more than simply over-level enemies for higher difficulties. The ability to bring two weapons is also goes a long way in keeping your battles fresh, with each character being able to use any of the game’s arsenal with varying degrees of compatibility. With compatibility only offering a variable damage boost, it steers you towards certain weapon types without necessarily enforcing them. It was balanced well enough for me to continue using my favourite character if I wanted to with an unbelievable amount of options. The DLC weapons in particular each come with a unique charm and flair. From straight-up kicks to a totem pole that can transform into a mushroom or coconut tree, the game managed to surprise me every time I picked a new weapon.

Horses might seem minor in comparison to the weapon options and matchups, but coming from HW and FEW, they’re something that take a bit of time to get used to. Available to call by holding ZL at any point in-battle, they offer a faster way to get from point to point. While mounted, you have access to a few limited attacks, but the focus here is clearly in mobility. Though the idea is something I can get behind, my issue lies in the game’s overall speed as a result of their inclusion. Both HW and FEW felt faster paced in regards to character mobility, each having a dash that felt equal to or faster than riding a horse does here. I can understand why this is the way it is when you consider the more realistic themes the game tries to go for (overlooking that totem pole anyway), but it’s hard to look at it as anything other than making large maps longer for no good reason when you jump in for the first time. It’s a similar feeling to what I felt in HW after playing so much FEW, the game feeling much slower in that case because of a skill being absent. It’s not exactly a fault of the game itself, but is brought into the light if you have experience with others available. 

Chen Gong’s Ambition

The other significant mode the game houses is Ambition Mode. Your aim here is to build up your camp, gathering famous officers as you go, in order to win the emperor’s trust in you to protect him in these troubled times. With the name of the mode, I went in expecting a mini version of what you’d usually see in the Empires expansion, which is in itself a blend of Koei Tecmo’s Nobunaga’s Ambition and your standard Warriors action. What I actually got was something entirely different, and not necessarily worse for it. To grow your camp, you go out and do one of three types of battle: Great, Unconventional, or Skirmish. Great Battles allow you to recruit more allies, Unconventional Battles allow you to accrue fame, and Skirmishes make it easier for you to gather materials to build up your camp. Starting with a seven minute timer, you choose which battle you want, and can continue to chain battles as long as you think you have time for it. Additional time is given for tasks such as killing 100 enemies in a map, or completing objectives in Unconventional Battles. While the core is simple, the increasing difficulty as your chain more and more battles, combined with an ever-encroaching timer all comes together to create an incredibly fun and replayable experience. Add to this the simple but satisfying sense of steady progression that comes with building up your camp and you have what surprises me to be my favourite mode out of the three games I’ve been discussing.

Up for a Challenge?

Challenge Mode is something I spent less time on when compared to the others. Featuring battles and objectives to be played and met using pre-specified character builds, there’s a lot to like. Akin to the Arena Quests of the Monster Hunter series, you can dive straight in without having to level up any specific character, or farm for any specific sets of weapons. Everything is laid out nicely in an arcade-like way, and it’s something great for the game as a whole. With five really fun courses to be played by any of the game’s huge roster, it does well in extending an already feature-packed list of content. The reason I’m not as fond of it as I perhaps should be lies in how I enjoy Warriors games. My love for the series stems from the progression of building a weak character to destroyer of armies, the grind for weapons and the eventual plateau of greatness that comes with reaching the top. These arcade-style courses deprive me of my hard work in order to even the playing field to create a competitive environment for high scores. 

The flavours of the challenges themselves are diverse to the point of there really being something to please any player. Rampage is the closest to a vanilla Warriors experience, tasking you with defeating as many enemies as possible within a time limit. Beyond this, things start to get more interesting with challenges ranging from knocking as many enemies off a bridge as possible to running through a battlefield as quickly as you can. If there were a way I could use the non-specified character builds, even if the high score was recorded separately, I feel I’d have a lot of fun here. As it is however, it just doesn’t align with my love of the game. I understand why it is how it is, and I understand a lot of people will enjoy it, but it isn’t for me.

An Xtreme Purchase

Whether this game is for you really boils down to one question: do you like Warriors games? If you get absorbed in mindlessly cutting down troves of enemies with a splash of strategy, overly flamboyant acting, and more betrayal than I care to shake a stick at, this is a game I will not hesitate to recommend. On the flipside of that, if you don’t like Warriors games, I don’t think this will be the one to change your mind. While this is the best Warriors game I’ve played to date, it is still a Warriors game, and doesn’t do anything revolutionary in the way of change. It’s more of the same, but better than ever.