Super Smash Bros. for Wii U — Worst Online Play in Gaming History?

I’ve had some shitty online multiplayer experiences in my life, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U takes the cake.95507_083

People complain about lag all the time, and yet I rarely encounter it. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? Online generally played smooth as butter. Battlefield 4? Flawless connections. Street Fighter 4? Barely any latency issues. Super Smash Bros. 4? I can’t play three fucking matches in a row without the game turning into a literal slideshow.

The Nintendo network is complete trash. Seriously, peer-to-peer connectivity as bad as the kind Nintendo is allowing for should be illegal. I hope anyone who worked in R&D on the online portion of this game stubs their toe tonight. Seriously, screw Nintendo. And I’m even angrier that I like the game enough to keep playing it, because that means I have to continually suffer more unplayable online matches.

Hell, I’ll make this my review of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, because it pretty much sums up my feelings on the game. It’s a great package with loads of content, 8-player smash is a particularly impressive addition, and the new characters are solid (Megaman and Shulk are particularly kick-ass, although they practically ruined Sonic with obscure buffs and critical nerfs), but the biggest component of the game, the online play, sucks to an irredeemable degree. In a fighting game that supports online play, lag like this is past the point of “well, I still think that game is a 9/10 overall”. No, because this entire portion of the game is pretty much broken, I would say that 7.5/10 is the highest you could reasonably give Super Smash Bros. 4, and that’s ignoring the fact that most of it is just a re-skin of Brawl.

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Review of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for Wii U

While the Sonic Boom cartoon fared well a week ago, a lot of skepticism still surrounded its game counterparts. Rest assured, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is nowhere near as bad as the internet buzz would have you believe (given that the overwhelming majority of these comment critics have yet to even play it), and while it’s definitely nowhere near a must-buy, there are a few audiences that just might love it.Sonic-boom-rise-of-lyric-wii-u-wiiu-1401974567-014Rise of Lyric is centered around the story of, well, the rise of Lyric. He’s a snake-cyborg who wants to wipe out all organic organisms on the planet, and it’s up to newly-scarfed Sonic and his band of sports tape-tangled friends to collect magic crystals that hold the power to stop him. So, basically, if you swap out Lyric with Eggman and crystals with chaos emeralds, we have a typical Sonic plot. Eggman himself does have an actual role in the story, but it’s similar to that of his in Unleashed — short and back-seated. Even shorter roles are had by Metal Sonic and Shadow, who appear extremely briefly as both functional plot devices and as assumed fan service.

Gameplay-wise, Rise of Lyric is a very mixed bag. Sonic and co. are as slow as can be for the majority of playtime, which is centered around puzzle-platforming and battling robots. The puzzle-platforming hearkens back to classics of the genre such as Jak and Daxter, which was fittingly made by the same developers so it’s no wonder they share such similarities. And that slower, more methodical blend of scaffold-hopping with switch-activating and gate-moving is a classic type of gameplay that we haven’t really seen a lot of since the PS2 days, which means it’ll be fun for younger gamers and fans wanting a nostalgia tickle from days of platforming past. Another great aspect of the platforming is that there’s always two or more paths, as you are generally given a choice between one of two characters at all times. Each character has their own way of getting from point A to B, whether it be via Sonic’s spin-dash pads, Amy’s tightrope running, Knuckles’ rock climbing or Tails’ hovering. Good variety for co-op players, especially.

Combat is, well, a less refined version of the werehog stages from Sonic Unleashed (if that makes this an instant no-go for you, that’s understandable). Combat is clunky button mashing fare with a few poorly implemented combo mechanics thrown in. The game features a weird energy beam that can grapple enemies, but this is only used to hurl enemies at generic obstacles rather than as a fun tool to enhance the combat. Worse, the combat makes up the majority of the action, being about two-fifths of the game (the other two fifth being platforming and the last fifth being “speed” sections, to be discussed momentarily). It’s not horrible, but it’s definitely not satisfying and I think the developers would’ve actually been better off had they just copy-pasted the werehog’s physics and combat mechanics into these sections.

largeThe speed sections are the briefest chunk of gameplay, and considering how shallow they are that might be for the better. If you’ve played Sonic Dash, that’s essentially what these sections are; a console version of “slide left, slide right, jump, repeat”. Now, there are a few cool things, like Sonic’s really cool run-on-water segments and the fun energy-beam roller coaster chunks, but the majority of the speed sections are either completely automated or just underwhelming in execution.

Fair warning in regards to the gameplay: it can be extremely frustrating at times, as games that borrow heavily from old-school styles tend to be. Even if you think you can manage some moments of absurdly difficult clunky combat and platforming, there are a few segments that you couldn’t possibly be prepared for, such as fleeting moments when you’re put in a special situation like piloting a rotating donut boat. I’ll be the first to say that these missions are both unnecessary and so stressful that they can sour your opinion of the game as a whole (meaning that if you have younger kids playing, expect to help them out with these extremely short bits).

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Now, the technical aspects of Rise of Lyric need addressing. The game is not visually impressive whatsoever, and there are framerate issues from time to time (and at the weirdest times too, like in really slow segments of the game rather than during frantic moments). But, with that said, it’s not a bad looking game, and far from the eyesore some would make it out to be. The textures might be a little under-cooked and the character gloss effects are downright unsettling at times (makes Sonic look like he’s made of glass), but it’s a colorful game with some scenic locales that will appeal to its target demographic, kids. The only visual effect that is truly pathetic is Sonic’s water-treading wake texture, which is the most poorly done water animation on the Wii U. As far as bugs and glitches go, I’ve encountered a few minor ones, such as an enemy spawning outside of its proper area and a camera with fixed angles that screw over the player.

In terms of length, the story mode is hefty by itself, which is good as that’s all you’re really getting with Rise of Lyric. There is a weak party-mode included in the game, but it’s so underdeveloped that you wouldn’t miss a thing if you skipped it all together. The story mode has little to no replay value, however, so if you choose to skip party mode and have gone through the story once, you’ve essentially done it all.

One last thing I’d like to note before I give the final verdict is that the writing is fantastic. Sonic games have been pretty poor in terms of story-telling as of late, but Rise of Lyric features some of the funniest Saturday morning cartoon dialogue that’s so stupidly chuckle inducing that you’d assume it was pulled right from the actual Saturday morning cartoon, Sonic Boom! And the voice acting itself is surprisingly strong as well. Mike Pollock kills it as Eggman, as does Roger Craig Smith as Sonic. The newbie that impressed me, however, was Travis Willingham as Knuckles, who gave the big bruiser a surprisingly fitting dude-bro personality. Of course, the writing is not without its flaws. Some dialogue is painful (at one point Amy might say “nice kill Sonic” when he blows up a robot. A.) robots can not be killed as they are not alive, and B.) “kill”? Like, it’s one thing for Lyric to say that as a villain but Amy??) and Tails has an obnoxiously overly-nerdy persona in the Boom universe, it seems.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a game that I can recommend to three types of people. I can recommend it to fans of classic platformers such as Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and even Sly Cooper, to some degree. And of course I can recommend it to children below the age of 12, especially if they have a friend to play through it cooperatively with. But the surprising recommendation I have is for the literal handful of people who liked Sonic ’06. This is almost like a version of ’06 where everything was improved technically speaking, but the core gameplay experience was the same, such as multiple characters to play as and an emphasis on quirky platforming and combat.

For those of you who aren’t fans of the blue blur, this game definitely won’t change your mind. For those with reserved expectations and a taste for traditional 3D platforming, Rise of Lyric might be up your alley… after a small price drop.

Review of Bayonetta 2 for Wii U

In short, Bayonetta 2 might just be the finest beat-’em-up of all time. There are good ones, like Devil May Cry, there are great ones, like Anarchy Reigns, and then there are phenomenal ones such as Bayonetta 2. For those saying “not worth buying a Wii U for”, that’s either because you’re not a real beat-’em-up fan or because you weren’t going to buy it in the first place. For anyone with an inkling of interest in this game, know that your anticipation has been completely justified.
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Bayonetta 2 signals the return of the titular witch from the original, this time accompanied by a Nintendo-sized budget. All of the original cast return, including sassy rival witch Jeanne and bad-ass bartender Rodin. Some new faces appear as well, but mentioning them would spoil important aspects of the story, so just expect some unexpected appearances. As far as voice acting and story-telling go, Bayonetta 2 is hit or miss. The voice acting is well done for characters such as Bayonetta and Jeanne, but on the other side of the fence you have characters such as Loki who provide some of the worst dialogue and performances in video game history. This falls on both the writers and the voice actors, and while it’s not that important for this kind of game, the lack of truly talented writing and acting do hinder the overall powerful narrative.

In terms of gameplay, if you loved the original Bayonetta or love button mashers in general, then this game has you covered. Not only does it improve upon the original, but it provides so many new weapons and gameplay-altering costumes that the experience feels entirely fresh in a deceptively familiar way. All aspects of the original title are present, including core mechanics such as witch time and animal transformations, as well as the previously unlockable skills such as air-dodge, now available right from the get-go. This means that the game can start expanding and refining on its original foundations right from the prologue, meaning crazy new skills and weapons for veteran players to enhance their experience with right out of the gate. New weapons include everything from a magic bow to a dual-pair of pink, spiky vine-whips (my personal favorites). Each weapon has unique animations depending on if you equip them to Bayonetta’s arms or feet, which results in thousands of different combo-pairing opportunities.WiiU_Bayonetta2_scrn03_E3
In terms of length, Bayonetta 2 clocks in at around fourteen hours, give or take. With tons of different difficulty levels and unlockables, though, there’s ample incentive to replay the entire adventure from start to finish (not to mention that the core gameplay is inherently fun on its own). There’s an online mode called tag climax, a competitive co-op experience where two players try to kill as many demons and angels as possible while competing for the high score. Stages for this mode are unlocked by completing single player chapters, so in a way both modes work together to give each other longevity. Tag climax matches range from five minutes to thirty minutes a piece, and while they’re not especially engaging (not to mention the online community is shitty), the inclusion of the mode serves as a reason to pick up the game every so often for quick bouts of inconsequential action.

Lastly, the soundtrack. Bayonetta 2 has turned one of the most slowly-paced Frank Sinatra songs, “Moon River”, into one of the most rip-roaring and fun pop songs in recent memory. Not to mention the main theme, “Tomorrow is Mine”, is absolutely fantastic in its own right. These two songs sung by the amazing Keeley Bumford, in accompaniment to a fantastic soundtrack including such classics as the “William Tell Overture” mean that pretty much anyone with a love of music will find something to jam out to.

One minor note is that graphical fidelity has been noticeably upgraded since the last time around. Not too much given the hardware limitations, but there is definitely a visible improvement since 2009’s Bayonetta.

With the only minor downside being some occasionally shoddy writing and acting, you are committing a sin against yourself if you love beat-’em-ups and ignore Bayonetta 2. Even I, one of the most casual button mashing gamers in recent memory, absolutely adored every moment I spent with the game and can see the unlimited potential it has to entertain hardcore fans. With one of the most engrossing action experiences of all time under its hood, a glorious female protagonist, a large assortment of content and a surprisingly accessible touchscreen mode (although most players, like myself, will prefer the traditional button scheme), this Wii U exclusive adventure might be the best game Nintendo releases all year (yes, I am considering Smash Bros. in that comment). In short, if there is one console exclusive worth supporting this year with your hard-earned cash, it’s Bayonetta 2.

And if somehow you’re still on the fence, remember that it even includes the original Bayonetta (complete with some snazzy Nintendo-themed gameplay-altering costumes), so you’re getting two of the best button mashers of the decade in one package.

Review of Sonic Lost World for Wii U

This isn’t a Sonic game for everyone. In fact, even with Sonic’s polarizing history, this will probably be even more of a mixed bag than Unleashed when gamers reflect on it in years to come. So with that, I’m here to cast my vote and say that it’s a good game, as long as you play it how it wants to be played.maxresdefault

Sonic Lost World does not play like any other Sonic game in the series. Its got its own thing going on, mixing some classic elements like the spin-dash (Sonic Adventure style), Wisp power-ups (Sonic Colors) and new elements like the parkour system. And to be honest, until you get a firm grasp on all of them, Lost World probably won’t be fun for you, which can be seen when you look at all of the grumpy IGN and Gamespot reviewers, complaining that the game is “hard” and blah blah blah. I’m not going to lie, I was planning to be among that sorry group of reviewers up until halfway through the game, when everything finally clicked into place and the adventure finally started feeling natural, and subsequently fun.

First off, Sonic’s speed is all but gone. You will not be boosting, you will be leisurely jogging, albeit with Sonic’s feet turning into a misleading figure-eight symbol (a la Sonic CD). Do not be fooled, however, as without a boost pad, Sonic is doing no more than sauntering through levels. Even the spin-dash is pretty slow. Most of Sonic’s real speed in Lost World is found in the parkour system, which is extremely hard to use, but easy to master. Once you learn its spotty mechanics and touchy frame-connection points, using the new feature becomes a cinch. This is where Sonic’s real speed comes into play, with him zipping across walls, ricocheting across springs and briefly returning to his speedy self. But because of the parkour mechanic’s insane touchiness, most reviewers avoided it, thus robbing themselves of the only real (non-scripted) speed to be had in Lost World.

The Wisp power-ups return from Sonic Colors, and are all really pointless inclusions that do almost nothing for the level design, with the exceptions of the returning Orange Rocket Wisp which is used to discover interesting new locations, and the new Red Eagle Wisp which can be used to bypass some of the game’s more irksome sections at a moderate pace (looking at you, Silent Forest Zone 1).

As far as difficulty curve, the thing that almost every review has been hammering Lost World for, I’m here to say that if you are truly competent at video games then Lost World should be a breeze of a platformer. Sure, some of the deaths are cheap, but aside from a few late-game bottomless pit scenarios Lost World is extremely fair, in my humble opinion. The game’s tight controls leave you at fault for any deaths you may suffer, and the curve itself is pretty good, starting out at piss-easy and revving up to the point where collecting red rings can become downright brutal, which means an actual challenge for a change.

In terms of plot, it’s simple, full of holes and nothing special. However, the script is absolutely fantastic and actually got me to chuckle a few times. Eggman actually says some pretty dark stuff (genocide and whatnot), one of the Zetis makes an anorexia comment, and the humor is surprisingly black for a Sonic title. It’s a breath of fresh air from the overly-cute Colors and Generations scripts. There’s even some really fun corny stuff that’s chuckle-worthy instead of the usual cringe-worthy.

Should you get a Wii U for it?  I did, but only because Smash Bros. is on the horizon (and Bayonetta 2); so if you haven’t already I recommend picking this game up with a Wii U to, at bare minimum, serve as a fun appetizer for the system’s ever-expanding library. Not to mention it’s a solid enough game in and of itself.

 

Wii U NYCC 2012 Demo Analysis

Is the Wii U Nintendo’s trump card back into the gaming world? From what I played, not really.

Now, disclaimer: I only played one game, which was the new Wario title. It’s a collection of minigames that are obviously centered around the Wii U’s unique control scheme. And the minigames were cute, don’t get me wrong. It was a blast rubbing an arrow with Wario’s nose on it, firing it with the Wii U game pad and watching it blow up fifty-some enemies on the TV screen.
After I walked away from the collection of minigames, I felt two things. The first being pain in my neck from having to look back and forth between screens so often, but the second is disoriented/empty. By that, I mean that it didn’t feel like a fufilling gameplay experience. It felt more like a fun arcade diversion that couldn’t possibly be considered a substantial gaming console for my living room TV.
That could all be because of the one particular game I played, and maybe ports such as Batman Arkham City would completely change my opinion, but that’s where I stand as of now.
Stay tuned for more demo reviews from my trip at NYCC 2012!