Category Archives: Uncategorized

Catharsis and Digital Monsters

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate released to glowing reviews claiming it was the most fully fleshed out iteration to date. The most monsters, the most areas, the most gear. Generations was seen as growth, maybe in a new direction, but as a hold over title while Capcom worked on Monster Hunter World. XX released in Japan only, but it was MH World that was in the news as the new title. A technological advancement in the game, seamless maps, stunning design and a player experience that may hold as the most welcoming to newbies for a long time to come. So when Generations Ultimate released in the West, essentially a localized XX, it opened the door for debate, which version of this stellar gaming franchise is champion, Classic Monster Hunter, or the new and streamlined Monster Hunter World?

There is no way for me to compare the two, I’ve never played World and I likely never will, not to the end game anyway, I’ll never have the time. My friends are playing it though and its because I talked them into it. For months we would talk at work about the early quests, the frustration of learning the Anjanath fight as a complete noob, the wall of stats and status effects and how each one plays on each monster in different ways. We constantly compared the two, “well in 4U it was like this,” or “World does this different,” or not at all. Everyone knows about the lifestyle changes made to World and it is arguably the better entry point to the franchise. For several reasons, all our conversations have lead me to think a lot about why I love the game so much, and why I really have no interest in playing World at this point in time.

The most obvious is that I’ve only experienced Monster Hunter as a hand held game. My introduction to the franchise was Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS, it was the first “new” game I played on the device and I still play it (I’m around 700 hours play time). I picked at Generations but I didn’t have as much time to play and the changes Capcom implemented had an adverse effect on me for a long time. I didn’t like arts and styles, I saw them as a temporary thing that wasn’t going to be included in further titles, also the press was saying that it was an interim game likely never to have G rank. I felt like it was skippable, especially after XX wasn’t coming West I wrote it off for good.

When World released and people were coming to me for information I felt the pull again to let my self be caught up in the experience so I started playing Gen with fuvor, then to find out that Generations Ultimate was releasing in the States on Switch and our save data was coming with us, that was what I needed to hear to let my self pick the game back up with excitement. Seeing it on a big screen has got to be the coolest thing in gaming right now, even if I am years behind having that feeling. And the fact that I can still take it with me where ever I go appeals to my early love of the game.

Monster Hunter fills in what I need in a game in that it rewards your hard work. Nothing about the game is given to random chance. Your gear and gathered materials are stockpiled as you collect them, all stacked relative to the time you put into collecting them. Your skill against each new challenge is a reflection of the time you put into learning each fight and nuance of the game and how quick you can pick it up. Each boss has a tell, a weakness, super moves and stumbling blocks.

The build up to the fight is catharsis enough, my hard work is rewarded, but the actual fights are the gem of the game. There are enough weapons and status affects that you should never get bored strategizing. By the time you come face to face with your first large monster as a new player, the build up to that moment leaves you feeling like you are part of something epic. The first time you down a large monster is one of the rarest feelings I’ve had playing a game. And when you are on, and you’ve figured things out enough to go into a fight with very few questions, and you are one step ahead of every move, bashing a monster skull, severing tails and breaking parts, nothing feels more satisfying. It is all on you and the build up makes it very clear that it is because of your skill and what you’ve learned that you are able to complete the task. It is because this game is unforgiving and makes no apologies for it that makes it great, and when you rise to each occasion, you feel that much better for it.

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Nibelsnarves

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate releases tomorrow and if there is one quest I want to leave behind it is the five star village quest Trifecta of Terror. I loaded it up thinking I would trap them all and be on my way, only to find that pitfall traps will not work against the Nibelsnarf, and that I would actually be failing quests in Gen, which I had yet to do.

5 Star village quest, Trifecta of Terror, Hunt 3 Nibelsnarf

I got the impression that this is one of those gear check fights like a middling raid boss in World of Warcraft. If I was paying attention I am sure I would have completed it, but I went into the fight thinking I would trap all three after a modest beat down and continue to the next quest. I had one shock trap and mats for three pitfall traps. I couldn’t figure out why my traps weren’t working…

As frustrating as it was to see the 10 minute warning, and then fail, it reminded me why I like the game. Coming off of 600+ hours of MH4U, Nibelsnarf is new to me, my first encounter was successful but only because it was forgiving. I had to muster up the monster hunter mindset of patient beat down. There comes a point when you are flying through quests, but only after you learn the monsters inside and out, which I have yet to do with anything that wasn’t in 3 or 4U, and I didn’t play 3U much.

Since I’m not leaving it behind, its the Monday evening before the Switch expansion drops, I guess it will have to be the first quest I complete after I get my save data transferred…

Updates pending, I’m so excited for this game on Switch.

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Celeste

Towerfall is a beautiful game that I never got around to playing. During research like I do though, on the people behind it, I came to follow Matt Thorson (@MattThorson) on Twitter. When I started seeing art for Celeste and Matt was tweeting about the number of levels he was building for Celeste, I knew it was going to be something I would like. A day from Launch, I’m sure it will be and since it was announced for Switch, I was going to buy it.

The soundtrack is great. There are systems in place to skip out on parts of the game that a player finds undesirable. Unlike Fez, where the game is designed with no enemies, no death, no consequences, Celeste allows you to turn those things off. Don’t like the stamina system, turn on unlimited. Don’t like the spikes, turn on invincibility. Don’t like the pace, turn on slow-mo. Don’t like the story, click through it. Instead of designing those things out, the game allows you to filter those aspects yourself and tells you that even though that’s not how the game was designed to play, you can play through that way.

I will absolutely be writing more about Celeste, reaching out to those that made it for insight, and to the top players in the speedrunning community that is sure to build up around this game. I see Celeste being a thing for a long time, the spirit of which may be even closer to Super Meat Boy than SMB Forever will be.

 

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Celeste, release 1/25/18

 

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Why Indie

There’s a lot of definitions of “what is an Indie game,” or “Indie developer,” for me the characteristic that sets Indie apart is that if you were to ask them what the structure of their workgroup is they would tell you who is doing what. They give you names not departments and everybody really does everything. Art, code, sound, in the case of Fez, sometimes various assistants in the case of Hyper Light Drifter, but the vibe is the same, she does this, he does that, we all do this one thing because it sucks and nobody wants to do it. I’m drawn to Indie because if I was going to make a game I would want to do it as part of a small team of less than 10 or so people, and I think I would need to have constraints.

 

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Hyper Light Drifter, New Game + still on my list.

 

“Constraints” sounds like a bad word, but really it forces an artist to focus, they are obstacles to be worked with not fought with. Derek Yu talks about this in his book “Spelunky” a lot. He pitched competitive multiplayer to Microsoft as an XBLA exclusive feature as part of a hook to get them on board, only to cut the feature because it was just going to take to much time. The result was a more focused game, they had time to flesh out other aspects of the game more fully. And then there is the opposite example of Fez, where the constraint of time gave us a map that Phil Fish even saw as the weak point of the game, but people were asking for it.

The product of this struggle is an experience closely tied to the personality of the developer. I am sure that an interview with anyone that works on Assassin’s Creed would explain the personal touches that made it into any of the AC games, but you cannot play any popular Indie game and not feel like a little of the respect they demand has to do with how tied up the creators are. Even The Witness has me picturing Jonathan Blow all zen like alone and meditating,  he wants me to attempt Tai Chi with my thinkers like he does, he wants me to put it down from time to time to stay calm because he does. Ed and Tommy want us to feel a little eratic playing SMB because they are a little erratic. Isaac is a little manic, Hyper Light is elusive, Fez is solid intelligence, hell even Doom 1 exudes the darkness conveyed through any interview its creators have given, they’re a little scary.

 

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Super Meat Boy, Glitch Girl screen from SMB on Switch.

 

When the art is the vision of a small group, a pair, a single artist, its clarity keeps me coming back. Playing a AAA game makes me feel like I’m sitting in the back of an English 101 class at University, the prof doesn’t have enough time for me and there isn’t enough room to be comfortable, I will not be able to make this information my own because that isn’t how the course is designed.

 

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Doom on Switch

I’ve been playing Doom since the free demo of the original released on PC. Going against

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Doom on Switch, mmm that helmet.

my mom I put hours and hours into the Super Nintendo port, never getting far but renting it as often as I could. Less than 10 hours into the Switch port of the newest Doom release from Bethesda, I have very little complaints and much to praise.

 

After almost 80 hours of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I’ve gotten used to fast load times and frequent auto-saves. Doom adds to the load times and feels as if it doesn’t auto-save as often, though it may feel that way because of the difficulty; Doom is as expected, more difficult. The main reason for the slow load times seems to be that the game tries to connect online before anything else, erroring out before allowing me to move forward.

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Even downloading the first update took longer than I was happy with.

I’m not playing online yet so it’s more noticeable. After a death, loading from the last save point seems always to take me further back than I would like unless I’ve died during a swarm, which is a hallmark of this game.

 

Things I love far outweigh the things I do not, however, and the slow load times may just be because of the hardware, or me being used to playing a Nintendo product tweaked to fit neatly within a Nintendo product.

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There are enemies everywhere always, don’t ever stand still.

 

I love the diversity of enemies. In older Doom titles I remember fewer enemies with more significant jumps in toughness. The original enemies are there but have been reworked and added to, to make things feel more diverse at every level I’ve encountered so far. It feels like there are constantly more tactics involved because you are always scanning to see whats in front of you, it isn’t going to be the same 2-3 possibilities, and these enemies are smart, using cover and high ground to their advantage. More play time is required to say anything more definite but I’m waiting for that boss fight moment where something new and uglier than anything I’ve seen yet rips my face off.

I love that there are retro Doom unlocks for uncovering secrets, though this is something I’ve only read about but not experienced so far. Other collectibles in the game feel authentic, suit and weapon upgrades are a nice addition from previous titles and there is a more tangible reward for being thorough about clearing every last mob beyond getting a higher percentage complete at the end of a map.

This game is the strongest argument yet for the purchase of a pro controller. I’ve yet to complain about the joy-cons in any of their configurations but their small frame cramps my big hands trying to finesse the thumbsticks into accurate shots. I wish I had played Doom on another console before Switch for comparison but it may be a blessing as everything I’m reading tells me it was tweaked for the hardware and maybe a touch less good looking. In handheld mode it’s flashy and quick. I’ll have a lot to say once I’ve played more.

 

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Suit powerups are just cool.

 

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The Only Way to Play Breath of the Wild

On my first playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I didn’t know anything specific about the game other than I had seen and heard enough in the build-up to the release that I could trust it. I didn’t understand this until maybe 30 hours in but BotW gives you total freedom. No other game comes to mind when it comes to solving puzzles and problems how you want. You will never find yourself asking “what does the game want me to do here?” Zelda has always been my favorite franchise but that was one of the most frustrating things about it, it was never about completing the game or resolving issues in the game, but doing so in the way the game was programmed to allow you through. Breath of the Wild gives you tools and sets you free. That’s as true to life as it gets, and because of that I kept thinking, why is this game so easy?

 

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Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This shrine is a puzzle where you twist fans that blow wind to direct the ball into that bowl. I stacked the blocks and threw the ball, it still made it into the keyhole, I still got the chest in the shrine and my spirit orb. I stood and stared at this shrine for a few minutes, playing with the wind, then I saw the two blocks and thought I should be able to throw the ball far enough. I could.

 

If you want to complete Breath of the Wild you will, there is very little difficulty. After two spirit beasts I started to feel like I was putting off completing the game just to see the rest of the map. There was nothing new to discover that I needed. I had upgraded my runes which was cool but I never thought I needed to. Armor was the same. It was such a big deal to find the fairy ponds and spend for upgrades but it didn’t matter. Set bonuses? For what? Once I graduated from sticks to real weapons after first talking to the Old Man I felt like that was the only progression I needed to finish the game. Sticks to real weapons. But those sticks were super effective. All of the tricks Nintendo developers gave us to use within the game are fun, but whats the point when you can bash a baddie in the face a few times, dodge their slow attacks and be done? Not so in Master Mode.

I needed a fire to cook some hot food for mountain climbing in the cold soon after restarting the game. The first fire with a pot I found was surrounded by Bokoblin. In normal mode I’d run up and start swinging; master mode I stand for a minute thinking. I’m still on the Great Plateau, just completed the 4 shrines there. I decide to single one of them out, arrow to the face at close range, drop a bomb, run out of blast range and detonate sending the other two over the cliff edge taking the third out with a nearby club the others didn’t have time to get to. Then I was cooking. It is that kind of thinking that makes the game feel real. Before, battle encounters felt like they were included just because this is Zelda and fighting is required, but everything else in the game had moved on to something more fleshed out. Now the enemies are tough, intelligent and properly equipped to cause real damage in a world that will otherwise swallow you hole. Master mode is the only way to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that truly respects every aspect of the game. Master Mode feels the most authentic, these monsters should flatten you, you should be afraid of encountering them in numbers and if something is 3,4,5 times your height, you should hesitate before approaching.

 

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Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I saw this Hinox sleeping on a broad plateau alone. Up to this point I had kind of gotten a handle on the difficulty and thought, why not try? About 10 minutes after this screenshot, after 20 minutes total, I was one-shotted far enough into the fight that the game had autosaved and I lost two weapons and half my arrows but started the fight over anyway. I learned, and downed it the second time.

 

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Nintendo Labo?

Shortly after Nintendo’s unannounced, unexpected Mini Direct, it was teased that they would be releasing a statement about a new and interactive way to play on Nintendo Switch. In a three minute video, Nintendo Labo was introduced to consumers and no one saw it coming. I’ve watched the video several times still trying to wrap my head around it, still coming up with new possibilities, because once you see that short video you cannot unsee it, and it will change the way you look at your Switch as a modern gaming console.

Nintendo Labo will come in two packages at $70 and $80 price points, coming with a game cartridge and several sheets of cardboard cut-outs that you use to build peripherals that interact with the tablet screen and joy-con controllers. Fully assembled, they are referred to as toy-cons, and appropriately so, they are toys. Longtime Nintendo fans will not see that as strange, the company has forever projected itself as a toy maker, even going so far as opting out of the console wars that the original NES started.

The first toy-con in the video is a fully functional tiny piano, screen goes in front, one joy-con goes in the side using the optical sensor to determine which keys you are pressing to emit the proper tone.

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New Nintendo Labo, fully functional tiny piano.

 

Each piece of cardboard comes flat packed and perforated to be punched out and folded up like a cereal box toy, and Nintendo Switch components are inserted to bring the toy-con to life.

 

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Ninendo Labo cutout sheets.

 

After the piano, the toy-con that blew my mind was the “bugs,” no one knows what these are going to be called yet but the bug gets a joy-con on either side and is controlled by using the touchscreen. You literally drive a tangible creation of your own around using the joy-con HD rumble functionality.

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Color the cardboard Labo bugs.

 

 

 

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Using the Switch screen to control the critters.

I pictured several critters skittering around the kitchen floor, but I wondered how I’m going to afford all the switches it would take to mobilize a cardboard horde of toy-con bugs. So many things popped into my head, Nintendo staff have been talking about hiring fresh talent that has never played games in their life. This makes so much sense after seeing the Labo video, I can imagine top Nintendo creators handing switch consoles, rugged cardboard and box cutters to a room full of structural engineer toy designers with the direction to make something new and exciting. Out comes a piano, critters brought to life, and this, a backpack looking device with rubber bands and pulleys you wear on your back, over your head and hold in your hand to operate an upright standing mech of some sort in what is sure to be a new sandbox type game.

 

 

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The inside of a Labo creation. How long does it take to build these things?

 

Not long ago the numbers came out that Switch is outselling PS4 3 to 1. New console comes out and consumers want to know, what is the new AAA first party experience to be had using the fresh technology, Nintendo’s answer, DIY cardboard arts and crafts. Better yet, the cardboard cutouts will be available free online. So much has come from Nintendo over the past few days about the companies ambitions to topple Wii sales figures, reach “gamers” that have never gamed before, and come up with new ways to play. This short video shows that they are supremely committed to that goal like no other company could be. In one year Nintendo took back over the gaming console market, only to reinforce the fact that they are a toy company that is going to do what they want. Nintendo will always be known for thinking on their own about things no one else would ever think of.

Full video @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3Bd3HUMkyU

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Nintendo Direct, Mini

 

The New Year came and went and we started hearing more and more about the much anticipated, possible, near-future Nintendo Direct. What we got was a Nintendo Direct Mini, wherein the only new first-party launch announced was a tennis game. Nothing about Virtual Console, nothing about Pokemon, or Metroid, or the now often rescheduled Online Service. While for die-hard fans who are up to the day in tune with everything Nintendo does the Mini Direct may have had a lot of missing announcements, the presentation was still jam-packed with much to look forward to.

First is the popular Pokken Tournament, due for two DLC packs at the end of this month and March, releasing among other features 6 new Pokemon to battle with. Mario+Rabbids Kingdom battle and Mario Odyssey will be getting DLC packs as well. For Odyssey there will be a two player experience, Luigi’s Balloon World where one player hides a balloon in an Odyssey stage within a time limit for the other player to find. Knowing the level’s every surface will be key.

Nintendo Direct Balloon World

Mario Odyssey DLC!

 

New Indie games Fe and Celeste will be coming soon. Celeste, a game I’ve been watching come to life via Twitter, will for sure be the next game I buy. Its an action platformer with unique mechanics to get through each stage. Pixel graphics and a great soundtrack will hold my attention over several hundred levels. Fe looks interesting because I’ve been itching to play Ori and the Blind Forest again, so of course I was thinking about having that game on my Switch. Then comes Fe, maybe nothing like Ori, but visually similar. The Switch is turning out to be the new best place to play Indie games.

 

Nintendo Direct Celeste

Celeste will be the next must-play Indie game to release on Nintendo Switch

 

Nintendo’s own Hyrule Warriors will release in a Definitive Edition with updates from The Legend of Zelda Breath of the wild. And Donkey Kong, Tropical Freeze will migrate from the Wii U library of first party titles. I’ll be interested to see what Nintendo charges for the new/old DK game. At the end of the Wii U’s life Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze was on the $20 selects list. There are a few updates to the game but for the most part it is the same game, it would be nice to see Nintendo continue selling it for less than the full $60 they are charging for new Switch games.

Two games that will continue the current trend of Nintendo rebuilding their image are Payday 2, and Dark Souls Remastered. Dark Souls was positioned in the video as the-thing-to-be-excited-about and much like Doom and Skyrim go a long way to bolster player confidence in the platform’s ability to deliver solid third party games. Third party developers’ willingness to participate in the Switch landscape is something Nintendo is counting on to get them through between releases of their original content. Having either of these games on the go will prove to be exciting in itself at least, but with all these major third party releases, player and developer confidence is sure to be over the top, making sure Nintendo sells even more of their wildly popular console.

 

Nintendo Direct Dark Souls Remastered

Dark Souls Remastered, continuing the trend of recent classics releasing on Nintendo Switch

In addition to the previous Mini Direct, Nintendo announced today that they will be making another statement later this evening about a “new interactive experience” on Switch. Nintendo is the hottest brand for gaming right now, outselling all their competition and laying out long-term plans to break Wii sales records by appealing to people that have never played on any system ever. Announcements are sure to continue rolling out, and all of those “missing items” will be certainly be covered.

 

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Breath of the Wild: Master Mode

I’d like to think I took my time with BotW, and I probably did for the first 30-40 hours, but revealing the path I took to complete the game it became obvious that after the first two spirit beasts, I was pretty much gunning for Calamity Gannon. Vast holes in my exploration gave obvious clues to the location of shrines I’d yet to find, Korok seeds I’d left behind, and enemy encampments which at this point in the game guarded chests with weapons and supplies I needed. After so many hours I decided it was time to approach the Hynox unafraid, and once I figured them out it was on to the Lynels. I practiced fighting certain enemies with Monster Hunter like focus, taking my time dancing around and learning their tells, their every move. Not going to lie, Lynels still ravage me, but once I turned my eye towards the guardians littering Hyrule, and mastered the timing to deflect their deadly attacks, the game became something different to me. And after I amassed the Ancient Amor from the research lab, that was when I turned my eye towards the castle, and the final encounter with Gannon.

After completing the main mission I continued roaming around Hyrule, thinking I would fill in the unexplored portions of the map. In the weeks that followed I purchased the DLC and began the quest at the Great Plateau, frustrated at the difficulty, but appreciating it all the same. Once I was finished with the Great Plateau portion of the DLC I put the game down for the day and other things caught my attention, Fast RMX, Super Meat Boy. But it was during a night shift talking to a co-worker about the game (he is playing it too) I decided that the best way to continue the game was to start fresh in master mode. I realized that the first take of Gannon was a primer, and I wanted more from the game. What I didn’t want to do was find every since collectible seed and piece of gear in normal, only to start master mode with a checklist of I-must-complete-this-to-see-the-entire-game items that would bore me. I want to find every nook and cranny with the added difficulty and terror that comes with each enemy I encounter. And that is exactly how it feels.

Leaving the resurrection chamber to have that first conversation with the Old Man, I headed to the mark on the map at Link’s request, to find a single Bokoblin tucked away under two trees I climbed to get eggs, thinking I’ll need every resource available to complete the game. That Bokoblin killed me 5 times before I thought to myself that maybe stealth is the way to go at the beginning of master mode. As of now, I’m going to say I was right. Completing the lower two shrines, I needed to cook cold resistance food before heading to higher elevations. I found a cooking pot guarded by three Bokoblins and I only managed to kill one of them, using bombs to knock the other two off the ledge allowing me to cook up an hours worth of hot food. The two high elevation shrines were easy enough to get to after that, and now I’m on my way to the wider world, wondering when I’ll be able to face enemies with any confidence but happy with the difficulty so far.

Some early observations; there are more enemies, they have better weapons and a higher health pool, and that higher HP regenerates if you do not fight aggressively. In my normal mode playthrough I took my time leaving the Plateau, but in master mode I feel the urge to head down to find better gear. I don’t seem to be able to do enough damage fast enough to deal with groups of enemies at all, 2-3 hits and I’m dead, and my stamina wheel reminds me of how frustrating it was to climb or run or glide long distances early in the game.

 

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BotW Master Mode restart. Already feels like the right way to experience the game.

 

I will take my time with master mode, but master mode will not take its time with me. This may be my favorite game of all time, so I am willing to commit to taking my time with this playthrough. I feel like the first time completing the game was a warm-up for the real thing, and now that I have expanded my library of Switch games I think it will be easier to take my time. Now if I could just remember where I found the climbing gear…

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Super Meat Boy on Switch

Team Meat (@SuperMeatBoy) on Twitter says that day one Switch sales were close to day one Xbox live sales in 2010 when the game first launched. Super Meat Boy is aging but no one should be surprised that it still holds up. It would make sense if day one sales on Switch weren’t what they were but the system is perfect for the game. The thumb sticks are short and maybe a little too responsive, the game boots quickly and the scale feels right. Most important, Meat Boy handles the same. People on Twitter are talking timing and rhythm engrained in their brains. Super Meat Boy is one of the best games ever made, the Nintendo Switch is a perfect match, and while it was released on the Vita, being able to hold it in your lap, play it laying in bed, pop in some earbuds and tune out, make it one of the best games on the system right now.

First on the list of things I was happy to see was the return of Cotton Alley. I wondered if the unlockable end levels would be Switch specific but I hadn’t heard anything about it so I wasn’t expecting it. Two days after downloading I completed Cotton Alley and moved on to the Dark World, second on my list of things I was happy to see return. I expected them to be there but halfway through the Light World of each level I realized I never completed all the Dark World levels on Xbox or PC, instead getting caught up trying for the no death achievements. Even that goal I cut short, saying I only wanted the achievements for levels up to the Light World version of The End. Since there are no achievements in the Switch version, completing the Dark World levels will have to suffice for challenge, which that will do just fine, Dark World is no joke, and completing the game 100% gains you entry into an exclusive alcove within Steams SMB forums.

Super Meat Boy on the Switch will pave the way perfectly for Super Meat Boy Forever, due to launch soon to similar acclaim. In a brief Q and A with Nintendo Dads, Tommy Refenes (@TommyRefenes) states that SMB Forever will not be a reskin of SMB with 600 new levels, wanting instead to do something different but within the SMB world. He referenced the early Mega Man games stating that Mega Man 2 is one of his favorites, and 3 and 4 were good games but he doesn’t remember 5,6,7,8, and 9 because they were so similar. Until SMB Forever launches, I’ll be fighting Dark Worlds and finding bandages in the original.

 

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Super Meat Boy on Nintendo Switch

 

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