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What’s Wrong with Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

I’ve been in a bit of a retro games kick lately because I keep playing new games and being disappointed with them. It’s a shame but I’ve been having a good time. Thankfully, I just borrowed the games I didn’t enjoy from the library so no harm done!

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland was one of these games. I must have missed it when it came out so I thought I’d give it a try. Despite largely positive reviews (or so wikipedia tells me) it really fell flat on my brother and me and I’m here to tell you why!

please don't burn down that forest kirby

Kirby’ Return to Dreamland has many issues, one of which being the most advertised feature of the game. This game adds Super Powers to Kirby’s repertoire which essentially boil down to the comic above: Press 1 to win! I realize that Kirby games aren’t really meant to be challenging but watching the same animation over and over to kill all on-screen enemies isn’t entertaining at all. The areas where you get the super powers are specifically designed for them so there isn’t much choice in whether you get them or not. Kirby is all about choice so this doesn’t work.

Another major flaw were the various held items. What are these doing in a Kirby game? You can get a candle, a bomb, a stomping boot thing, and maybe a couple more. See, Kirby is all about sucking, blowing, floating and copy abilities. When you are holding one of these items, you can do absolutely none of these! Why is there even a bomb? Why isn’t bomb power used here instead? Lightbulb power in the past was used to light up dark areas. Why add a candle? And what is that Mario stomping boot thing doing in here? None of these make any sense in a Kirby game and yet most levels featured either one of these items or one of the previously mentioned super powers. Talk about boring levels!

This game also fails in being remotely compelling with the plot. Don’t worry, I know: This is a Kirby game. The plot is always something along the lines of the bad guy stealing Kirby’s cake. This one somehow manages to be even worse. Someone’s ship crashed so you decide to fix it. Yup, that’s it! There aren’t even any overarching bad guys! You just fight enemies because it would be a boring game without them (hint: it’s a boring game anyway). At some points you go into this strange monochrome dimension where you fight a Sphere Doomer (!!) every single time. Never a different boss. What is this thing? Who cares. It probably shows up right at the end but my brother and I couldn’t make it past world 5 due to boredom.

One final point that isn’t necessarily a problem but something I’ve noticed. Over the years, Kirby’s abilities have gotten more useful. Back in the old days, each ability had one function. Now, pretty much every ability has a dash attack, a standing attack, a low attack, a vertical attack, an aerial attack and maybe even more! This sounds like it should be a good thing, but it doesn’t work for me. Before, each power had limited use depending on the situation so there was a great incentive to switch all the time which was what made Kirby interesting. In this new one, there is little reason to ever bother switching. Almost every power is the same but with different colours. Why bother switching to ice when you’ve got fire? Not much of a difference. We just got water power (one of the few new ones) and steamrolled through most levels while barely paying attention. Nothing was gripping nor interesting.

Part of me felt like I must just be getting too old for Kirby here at the ripe old age of 23. It’s always difficult to examine old games due to the whole nostalgia thing but I decided to give it a try with Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Boy did that game ever get it right. Wow. The combining powers ability was genius and made for so many interesting (and very silly!) abilities that really make this game unique. There are so many different powers that really are vastly different that there is a huge incentive to switch to try them all and to get the right one for the situation. The secrets in the levels are unlocked by actually using powers which seems so obvious for a Kirby game but apparently the Return to Dreamland team forgot about this basic concept? Kirby 64 is incredible and you should really try it if you missed it. It’s on the Wii Virtual Console!

Just this morning I decided to download the original Kirby game on the Nintendo 3DS eShop which I had never had the chance to play before. A fun but short game. Kirby doesn’t even have the copy ability in this one but luckily I had researched it first so that wasn’t an awful surprise. Really interesting to see so much of what makes Kirby already there sans copy ability. Most of the iconic enemies were all there and all of King Dedede’s attacks in particular were exactly as I know them from later instalments. It was very short but it probably would have dragged if it was longer since there were no copy abilities. The fire-breathing spicy food parts were funny, though. An excellent beginning to it all for only 4 bucks.

It’s really a shame that Return to Dreamland fell so flat for me considering that it seems to have been reviewed quite positively on most major game sites. Same situation as Skyward Sword, I guess. Decent games but so bad in comparison to what has come before.

Skyward Sword: Thoughts

Image

Edit: Sorry for the terrible size of the comic. I’m new to this!
Panel 1: This forest has trees. It even has a big tree.
Panel 2: There are also animals and flora.
Panel 3. There’s a 98.2% chance that what I just said was trivial and pointless.
Next time it’ll be better!

Skyward Sword is a Zelda game. How could Nintendo mess this up? I got a copy from the library – I love that this is a thing now – to check it out. I had heard it was a bit different from the standard Zelda game but had high hopes because the Zelda series is fantastic. I had just finished playing the Ocarina of Time remake on the 3DS which was fantastic as expected.

The rumours were true: this game is definitely different. The following review comes with a disclaimer. I didn’t get very far in this game. I grew tired of many, many things shortly after entering the forest proper. Take that as you will.

Thing I liked:

1. Zelda is actually an interesting character.

Normally she seems aloof and elegant. This time she is playful and fun. She would have made a great sidekick but alas, I have to rescue her as usual. With the one fun, non-ugly character out of the way I wasn’t feeling too motivated to continue.

Things I didn’t like:

1. The intro was too long.

The sword mechanics are interesting in this one because of the wii motion plus but I was made to run around doing boring errands for quite a long time before I could even get my hands on one. The flying also seemed interesting but it takes even longer to finally try that. Your bird is missing in the beginning so I hoped it was a hook for something sinister. Turns out it was just the class bully. Thrilling. It also took me forever to figure that out because I had to go to a particular spot for a cutscene without very clear directions.

2. Fi is incredibly annoying.

Navi gets a bad rep for being annoying but I just played OoT and she is silent the vast majority of the time. Sure, there is the occasional HEY LISTEN but then you let her tell you something for 2 sentences tops and she’ll leave you alone. Zelda games have had some great assistants. Midna was cheeky. The Minish Cap and Linebeck were hilarious partners. Fi, on the other hand, is a very dull character who talks far too much about nothing (see above comic) and continually quotes probabilities for no reason. I assume what she says is to make her sound less human since she is your sword spirit or something but it makes for some very tiresome reading as she pops up continually.

3. The stamina meter and shield health bar needlessly complicate things.

Stamina meters try to add realism to games but since when was Zelda realistic? Adding running was nice since I didn’t need to listen to Link’s incessant yelling as he rolls but this was replaced with heavy breathing instead. Having to watch stamina before climbing a wall isn’t all that fun. And really, both meters are just things that distract from the rest of the experience. Running is a good feature but having it linked to a stamina meter isn’t. I don’t know how the shield thing works as well since I didn’t get too far but I assume it is there for the upgrades you can get for it. That just doesn’t feel like Zelda, though.

4. The dowsing needlessly complicates things as well.

Good level design shouldn’t need a constant pointer to tell you where to go. This dowsing mechanic worked in Shadow of the Colossus because it was such a massive area where everything was open to you right at the beginning. In Skyward Sword, everything felt open in the first forest so I tried exploring but Fi kept stopping me and telling me to use the dowsing. I felt that it should be obvious enough where to go without it but apparently not. Ugh. The dowsing was supposed to lead me to Zelda but it led me to a weird critter who ran away. It obviously wasn’t Zelda so I tried going elsewhere. Fi wouldn’t let me. Yak yak yak. So I chased the stupid creature until we found out that (gasp) it wasn’t Zelda. And then we went on our merry way along the path I had tried to go on before. Hooray. In most Zelda games a quick nudge in the right direction (Navi: Hey, does that smoke about Death Mountain look right to you?) is all the guidance you really need. This game has constant interruptions to tell you where you can and cannot go.

5. The aesthetic is unappealing.

Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask didn’t have much going for them with graphics but the games themselves were fairly dark and sinister. Wind Waker had childish cartoony graphics which really made it feel like a fun adventure. His dramatic facial expressions were entertaining too; much better than OoT Link’s bucktoothed awe every time he learns a new song on his ocarina. Twilight Princess went for the dark feel again but could really show it with the graphics this time and it looked fantastic. Skyward Sword is a strange combination between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. It has the graphics of TP without the darkness but the goofiness of WW which makes a lot of characters quite ugly, honestly. Zelda, Link, and possibly Fi look good but most others are kind of gross.

I didn’t get to see many areas but the forest is uninspired to say the least. I saw nothing that indicated that this forest was different from any other forest. It just looked bright and open and that’s about it. The Skyloft was ok but I doubt you spend all that much time up there since I already explored the whole thing.

So that’s about all I have to say about Skyward Sword. In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t enjoy the experience. I feel like I should continue since it’s a Zelda game and it must get better. And yet, Fi , the boring forest, the weird character designs, and those pesky extra meters will all still be there. I think I’ll pass.

While digging up some other Zelda games from the past I discovered my old copies of Wario Land 2 & 3. I have since gotten all the treasure in Wario Land 2 and am planning on starting the third one tonight. I’m planning on writing why the old Wario games are so great and what went wrong with the new ones. I’m also really looking forward to the release of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 on the VC because I never got to play that one!

Cheers, folks.

3DS + Mario Kart 7 Review

I just recently acquired a 3DS and have been pleasantly surprised to find that I am really enjoying it! Why did I doubt you, Nintendo? The 3D is gimicky for sure but it sure looks fantastic. With wii-level graphics and a proper internet connection (I was still using an original DS so it wasn’t able to bypass modern router security) with downloadable games, this is truly a great handheld experience. I’ve always been a fan of Nintendo’s handhelds ever since I got my hands on a Gameboy Colour back in the day, so it is certainly strange to see how far it has come! My inner (and outer) child is giddy with excitement to start downloading old games (I don’t think I ever played Mario World 1 or 2!) and playing the new 3D ones.

Anyways, my only game right now is Mario Kart 7. I’m still surprised that it wasn’t called Mario Kart 3D and I would give kudos to Nintendo for that but just sticking to a number is hardly original. However, there is the lucky seven item, which I have yet to get, so I guess that was their reasoning.

I’ve never been too obsessed with graphics but I just can’t get over how great this game looks. It seems to be about on par with the Wii, and Mario Kart Wii in particular, but the 3D really pushing it ahead in my eyes. This might also be in part because my television is woefully outdated but even still! I know that the PS Vita in particular has crazy good graphics but the 3D sure looks nice with all your favourite cartoony Nintendo characters.

The character choice in this one strikes me as a bit odd but I’m not complaining – they added Shy Guy! I seem to recall him being playable by anyone who you played against without a cartridge in Mario Kart DS or maybe Super Circuit… but I think this is his first official appearance. I just can’t get over all his hilarious noises and adorableness. Other strange additions include the bee queen from the Mario Galaxy games, a Wiggler, Metal Mario, and Lakitu. Shy Guy and Lakitu are definitely my favourites.

The courses in this game is where it really shines, I suppose. I enjoy Mario Kart games for the absurd and cartoony courses and, as such, am usually disappointed by a multitude of [mario character] Circuit courses with some boring ol’ asphalt and a fairly basic layout. These courses feel like a cop-out when there are so many other fantastical options! Mario Kart Wii seemed to have better Circuit courses but still had several. Mario Kart 7 does away with them mostly even in the retro lineup. There are still a few of them but I found them to have a much more interesting design.

Mario Kart 7 adds parasailing and underwater aspects to the courses for some new experiences. Mario Kart Wii only really had the half pipes and bikes as new additions and I can’t say I was very fond of those pesky two-wheeled devices! The water and aerial portions of the courses mix it up a bit and provide just the right amount of variety in the courses. Not only that but, to my knowledge, this is the first Mario Kart game to have differences between laps. This varies from making its iteration of Rainbow Road more epic, to making simpler courses much more fun for multiple races. I’ve been addicted to this game for a few days now and all the courses still feel very fresh, something which I don’t think I’ve been able to say for all MK games. The retro course selection is also fantastic, with lots of my favourites from the N64, DS, and GCN. I’m surprised how much I like the retro Rainbow Road from the SNES! They’ve tweaked the old courses more than usual, so that they fit much more smoothly with the new dynamics.

Part of me was definitely hoping for an event match style mode which was included in MKDS but I suppose the online mode for this one makes up for that. I’ve been a bit disappointed by how irrelevant your rankings in the Grand Prix mode are. Getting coins are how you unlock things in this one – 10 max per race – which provides zero challenge, just grinding. Oh well, I still want 3 star rating on ’em all, anyways. The courses are fun enough for me to forgive them.

I’m certainly glad I waited to get a 3DS but now that the new Paper Mario and Luigi’s Mansion games are on the horizon, I felt it was time. I hope that the Virtual console plumps up a fair bit as it is slightly empty at the moment. I’ll definitely pick up the Super Mario Land games, and I’ve never tried Megaman before so I’ll grab that as well. The prices are slightly high with $4 or $5 getting you a very old game but I’m willing to pay it for the convenience of it all on a handheld device, and well, because it’s Nintendo. The 3D classics are definitely a ripoff, though. Seven dollars for a barely changed retro game? Whaaaaat? The 3D … it does nothing (basically)!

I haven’t been this exciting about gaming in a while. I guess I just really like Nintendo handhelds. Silly me.

Sick of Time Travel

I used to love time travel and really, I still do. My friends joke that the only movies I ever make them watch are about time travel.

However, my girlfriend was playing FFXIII-2, which prominently features time travel, and it made me realize that I’m not willing to suspend my disbelief for it anymore! While the game in question does address how tangled and messed up time travel makes everything, I have a hard time taking it seriously, which is something that I feel Final Fantasy games strive for (but maybe I’m wrong).

Now, I realize that the science is probably more on a tentative “probably not” in regards to the possibility of time travel. It could be possible then, right? I guess so but… not how most media treats it. I guess it’s just one more trope that has been overused – big deal.

Time travel that I enjoy is used for comedy. Time Bandits and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure play it all for laughs and thus, no need to take it seriously! Then I can just enjoy the silliness. Time travel as a plot device for a serious show can make anything happen, essentially, which makes any last second switcheroo possible which is a bit lame.

I could probably still enjoy FFXIII-2 for the silly monster taming. The monsters really need more customization options, though. Only one item per monster and it is often hidden/small? Darn. Anyways, since the newer Final Fantasy games are slowly crossing the line into interactive movies rather than regular games, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to enjoy this one as much when the characters won’t stop pouting and angsting about the repercussions of time travel when really all I want to do is dress up my slime guy with a flower or, perhaps, a backpack. It’s just too bad this game decided to focus on time travel. It just happened to be the one thing that pushed me over the edge into an insane rage about the overuse of time travel. Well, not quite.

There’s nothing in particular wrong with FFXIII-2. I think I’m just sick of time travel in general in a serious setting. I’ve got other stuff to do right now so I doubt I’ll get around to playing it for a bit. Oh well!

Pokemon gambling addictions

And I don’t mean the game corner!

My favourite blogger, Shamus, talked about the sneaky gambling mechanics snuck into Borderlands recently over here. The gist of it is that you never know when the next loot you find will be a super fancy big gun so you feel the urge to keep playing.

Well, this happened to me with pokemon. I’m in sort of an awkward transitionary phase in pokemon where I am definitely not competitive and yet I understand too many of the mechanics to really feel like a casual player anymore. Darn! I get all the IV and EV nonsense but I only want to  use my favourites and make all one type teams.

I was busy trying to make a team of all normal types. Not even mixed types. We’re talking all pure normal types here! I love pure normal pokemon so I don’t care if it is a terrible basis for a team competitively. Snorlax, Slaking, Dunsparce, Bouffalant, Porygon-Z, and Lickilicky! I was spending a lot of time on this but I was justifying it but doing multiple things at once. Pokemon and Adventure time. Pokemon and The Daily Show. Pokemon and random youtube videos. It was the perfect plan! I could watch stuff but ride my bike back and forth to get eggs and hope for one with good nature/IVs etc. But sometimes it takes a while for a pokemon with great stats to come along and since I could do a lot of stuff at the same time as pokemon, pokemon was suddenly always on. It was an addiction. You never know when that perfect egg is going to come along just like that perfect gun in Borderlands. Addictions are scary!

So that sorta snuck up on me but thankfully I was still doing other stuff so I don’t feel like I wasted a few days, really. But I decided that enough was enough and just stopped playing. Now I’m back on track playing games that are actually entertaining and reading cool books instead of riding a virtual bike back and forth while half-watching videos. I’m playing Psychonauts and reading The Diamond Age so I should have plenty to blog about soon.

It’s incredible how relieved I felt to just stop. This is what scares me about the social gaming fad propagated by zynga and others. The games never end and they just feed off of addictive behaviours. It saddens me to think that this is the sole gaming experience for many.

I do like the game corner music, though!

I seem to be turning into some sort of poser hippy health nut

That’s right!

I had been fairly unhealthy for a while. Chips of any kind were my go-to snack with fairly small meals besides a big dinner. Fast food was convenient for lunches or dinners at work so that was frequent. My girlfriend wanted to eat healthier so I was sort of dragged along at first but I realized fairly quickly how much nicer it is.

Now, I’m making smoothies for breakfast, bringing much healthier lunches to work, and trying to buy much less obviously fake food. I found some local yoghurt with listed ingredients: milk, honey, bacterial cultures. Now that’s what I’m talking about! I’ve heard that pretty much all yoghurts in your average grocery store are not real yoghurt and are made in a way that compromises most of the health benefits. Sorry, no source for that, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. I do love seeing short ingredient lists without any mysterious chemical compounds in ’em.

I feel somewhat weird for suddenly buying local products; I do have a degree in economics so I understand that it makes more sense to get things from wherever it is cheapest to make. It is certainly nice to avoid those darn preservatives, though!

Local stores are much more fun to shop at instead of big chains because there are strange new local products to check out. Grocery shopping at the chains really feels like a chore. I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually but checking out new stores is definitely something I will be doing more often. My usual store is the Thrifty’s chain which is decent enough but many smaller stores have exciting specialty stuff.

This doesn’t seem to fit any usual theme from here but hey, I wanted to mention it! I’ll try to get back into blogging on a quasi-regular schedule.

Exciting Entertainment Challenge: 2012 and Beyond!

I’ve always had a difficult time being bored; There is always so much to do! Not only is there always new stuff coming out that I want to watch/read/play but I have tons to catch up on as it is. I know it isn’t a race but… it feels like it sometimes. Here’s a collection of stuff that I’d like to try out soon but it will take a while to get through it all!

Shows:

Firefly – This is one of those shows where I feel my nerd cred is in jeopardy for not having seen it. The infamously cancelled show about … sci fi stuff? I don’t even know but I’m sure it’s worth a watch. At least it was cancelled so I won’t have too many seasons to get through, I guess?

Invader Zim – I’ve also heard great things about this cartoon which was… cancelled. I think this one is much harder to get your hands on but maybe it will get rereleased someday. Crazy alien tries to take over the world with a goofy sidekick and stuff. Apparently the writing is super great later on.

Adventure Time – Another cartoon that I’m certain is great. The original short of it certainly was! A whole lot of surreal silliness, I presume.

Games:

Katamari Damacy – I’ve only played Katamari Forever which was the most recent one (I think) but I would certainly like to check out the original and possibly others. Such a silly game where you roll up stuff into balls with strange music. It’s a bit hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it.

Beyond Good and Evil – I don’t know much about this game at all but it has been recommended by a couple people who I trust the opinions of so, yeah! I never had a PS2 in its heyday but my girlfriend has one so this is my chance to catch up on some great games!

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 – I’ve only played one game in the Shin Megami Tensei series called Devil Survivor (before they made it all fancy and 3D for the 3DS) and it was fairly fun. Apparently Persona 4 is really fantastic, though. The “last good game for the PS2” or so I hear.

Gosh, all these games I want to play are for the PS2. I don’t currently own any of the above games but I will soon be checking out ICO. My brother got me the ICO/Shadow of the Colossus combo rerelease for PS3 for christmas. I have already played Shadow of the Colossus but will certainly be playing it again because it was excellent. Boss fights and exploring are awesome and that is all you do in this game filled with scenery porn. Hooray! ICO is made by the same company so I have high hopes for it. I’m sure Colossus will still be my favourite, though. I also bought a copy of Half-life 2 on Steam during one of their infamous sales. Definitely need to give that a try. Will also need to play Portal 2 sometime. Argh! So many games. SO MANY.

Books:

I have plenty of books I need to read right now but there are more to come.

The Fault in our Stars – John Green’s new book! Alas, amazon is being slow so I still don’t have it even though it came out on the 10th. However, I’m busy reading about dinosaurs right now so perhaps it is for the best.

Neal Stephenson – He isn’t a book but he is an author! I loved Snow Crash and have been enjoying Cryptonomicon although that one is taking a bit longer for me to get through. I recently bought Anathem and have another one of his books coming in the mail. He is an amazing author so I’ve got to collect all his stuff now!

Kurt Vonnegut- Breakfast of Champions was hilarious and original but I have yet to read his other works. I’m just worried that they won’t knock my socks off quite like BoC!

 

There is so much for me to do and I won’t even need to leave my couch/chair to enjoy any of it! Wahoo! I do try to keep in shape though so never fear!

This is obviously an incomplete list but it might be handy for me to refer back to if I forget something I wanted to do. I just wanted to talk about what is on my to-do list in general!