Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review (3DS): “A New Leaf That’s Also A New Blast To Play”

Animal Crossing New Leaf Wallpaper

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the latest iteration of the cute life simulator Nintendo franchise. Developed by Nintendo and Monolith, this is the most fleshed out and full Animal Crossing to date.

Gameplay: 5/5

Animal Crossing has always had simplistic but engaging life simulation gameplay since its culmination on the west on the Gamecube (Nintendo 64 in Japan). The games had you cutting trees, bug catching, fishing and other such fun little activities to raise money, pay off your debts to Tom Nook and make friends in the town. While the core mechanics remain fairly similar here, Animal Crossing New Leaf’s twisted the entire concept by making the player the mayor of the town, giving them town-wide responsibilities such as maintaining citizen approval, keeping the town clean and sprucing up your own place as best as you can (while paying off Nook’s stinking debts).

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 2

As per the norm, the ‘story’ begins with your avatar, a random villager, moving to a new town. Another character interviews you and the questions you answer set the stage for the game. You can choose a randomly generated map to be your town, a variety of attributes such as gender, names and other things. All of this becomes a part of your identification as mayor and also how the entire game will play out as long as you maintain your save file.

When you play the game, you will start out with practically nothing but a shabby tent until your house is set up. Nook charges you plenty for your down payment and much more overall. This gives you a lot of time to do other things (as Nook gives you as much time as possible to pay off the loan), such as picking trees of your town’s common fruit, talk to your neighbors and engage in other activities. Picking weeds and doing other friendly deeds will improve your approval rating and bring you closer to your goal of being a good mayor and shaping a fun and thriving town.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 1

Be prepared to play the game in short bursts across several days at least. There are many instances where characters will reward you for your efforts, but often those rewards will have to wait until “tomorrow.” For example, after I paid off my down payment to Nook, I was told to wait a few days for the house to be built and he was not kidding. Animal Crossing’s sense of time is real time, so when it is morning for you in real life, it will be morning in the game (provided you set your timezone’s hour as the game’s).

Online Multiplayer works quite well. Like in the previous game on Wii, players can visit their friends’ towns and engage in a variety of fun activities. You can give each other presents, help each other accomplish tasks and play multiplayer games. Players can open their gates to allow friends or StreetPassers to visit their towns through local wireless connections as well as online. The multiplayer is virtually lagless and even offers an immersive way to merge the interactions of your towns. For example, a kitten character in my friends’ town (whom I visited early on) actually became a resident in my own town and asked me to take her to other towns. It was very interesting to see these interactions occur so randomly. It was almost like an MMO.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 5

Graphics: 4/5

New Leaf doesn’t seem like a particularly taxing game and its art style is ultimately identical to earlier iterations. Character models are cutesy and stubby in nature, and textures are just as simplistic. Your villager avatar can show a variety of different emotions and wear a vast array of accessories and clothes, but all-in-all the style remains. In the end, it all matches the game’s cutesy aesthetic and the graphics work well enough for what they are doing. If you have played a previous Animal Crossing game, the graphics in this iteration will not really surprise you. That’s not to say they are inherently bad, or even all that flawed mind you. They do precisely what they should.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 3

Sound: 5/5

The soundtrack in this game is nothing short of brilliant. Cute little towns help make for a relaxing world, and KK Slider’s DJ and guitar music are bouncy and fun. The compositions involved are extremely creative with DJ’d mixes of Slider’s songs from earlier games, as well as songs performed exclusively on the groovy pup’s acoustic on Saturday nights. Fun and familiar sound effects are used on recognizable items such as the Mario coin and Master sword from the Mario and Zelda games respectively. Character dialogue is adorable high pitched mumbling, occasionally actually enunciating the words being spoken. If there is one thing you will not like about this game, it probably won’t have anything to do with the soundtrack.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 4

Replay Value: 5/5

This game has replay value. A LOT of replay value. With the amount of activities to do, characters to interact with and friends to share stories and experiences with, you will find this game has a great deal of longevity. Paying off your loans will not happen over night and it won’t be a boring chore to get there.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 6

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5 out of 10

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a must have game for any 3DS owner looking for a social experience with a little more depth than the latest Facebook game or microtransaction ridden free-to-play game. Animal Crossing is fun to play, fun to listen to and just plain fun. There’s very little I don’t like about this game. If you have friends who play this game, there’s no better time to jump in.

PROS:

+Fun, replayable gameplay

+Cute and quarky soundtrack

+Solid multiplayer aspects

+Very full and interactive experience

CONS:

-Graphics are familiarly basic

Copy purchased by author for review purposes.

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Dishonored Review (PS3/360): “A Flawed but Solid Blend of Stealth and Action”

Dishonored is a first-person stealth/action game published by Bethesda and developed by Arkane Studios. This was a game I chose to approach with little or no expectations. When I initially saw it, I felt it was basically a first person Assassin’s Creed. To some extent, I feel I was right, but the game does take a sense of initiative to be a much more unique experience. It incorporates supernatural elements that set it apart from Ubisoft’s triple-A title.

Story: 3/5

The story falls a little short in Dishonored. It starts off with you being framed for the murder of the Empress and her daughter kidnapped. From there, you follow the orders of some ‘freedom fighters’ who tell you that they wish to see order return to the nation. Early on, you retrieve the girl and she plays a slightly bigger part in the story. There’s a plot twist in the middle that was unbelievably easy for me to predict and the rest of the game is just as much while just providing more victims to your sword (or liberation).

The game is not largely unique in its plot devices. What I enjoyed most from the story was almost directly snatched from Bioshock 2, where a character essentially learns from your actions until the end of the game. The game has two different playable endings depending on how chaotically you play it, one more dynamic than the other but both provide satisfying finales overall. The epilogue you receive will sum up the fruits of your labor and close the story without leaving many loose ends either way (unless of course you receive the worst ending). Overall though, the story is forgettable.

Gameplay: 4/5

Dishonored is a first person stealth/action game from beginning to end. It’s a game that almost clearly runs on a Bethesda engine. The animations, the way the camera shifts when you speak to an NPC, etc., this game sweats Bethesda’s usual engine quips. Being that I was playing the PS3 version, I was told through word of mouth of friends that the PS3 version would probably be very buggy in line with Bethesda’s work on the PS3 version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. My expectations were little or none in this regard, but I can happily report that the PS3 version of Dishonored is a perfectly playable (and enjoyable) experience. If only suffering from some minor technical issues.

You play as Corvo Attano throughout the entire game, a faceless and mute protagonist. You are thrown into the action of the story very quickly. Your friend, the Empress, is killed and her daughter is kidnapped. And to top it off, you’re framed for it all. This means the entire government is out for your head and will kill you on the spot.

Corvo can approach each scenario in a variety of ways as advertised. There is a great deal of emphasis on player choice, particularly on whether you want to approach each chapter with a violent or nonviolent approach. Incidentally, this will ultimately dictate the way the game’s story ends thematically. Generally the game is paced well and it allows you to play it rather loosely. Are you the type of gamer to kill everyone stealthily or chaotically? You can even sneak through and avoid violence altogether if you so chose and there are several ways to do it.

Corvo has two primary weapons; a pistol and a blade that doubles as a short blade and a sword. He also can use a crossbow with various arrow types and several magic-like abilities such as teleportation, time manipulation and some as unusual summoning of an army of man-eating rats. This makes the less violent challenges more difficult as the game’s features seem to make the player want to kill NPCs as oppose to letting them live. The most useful tool for this is probably the sleep arrows, but ammo is rather finite. Worse yet is enemy placement. It probably has to do with my limited stealth game experience, but I was not particularly good at keeping myself from being seen by the enemy. This is a game that caters to stealth fans, for sure. Though I feel I should stress that fans of games like Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock definitely can find enjoyment from this experience as well.

Graphics: 4/5

The graphics are mildly impressive, if unspectacular. Where this game excels visually is in its design. The characters are rendered in a stylized manner, somewhat like something out of a mature Pixar or Dreamworks film. Characters look unique, outfits are stylish and the building architectures are colorful and imaginative. The world is a ruined but new one and it is one worth exploring.

Unfortunately, not all of the architecture can be possibly explored. There were several occasions where I found myself unable to reach rooftops that I wanted to use to travel the world without being spotted. The game is sometimes unclear about where you are supposed to go for certain objectives (keyword being sometimes). Otherwise, it is a vibrant and well designed world that I would most certainly like to visit bigger and better in a sequel.

Sound: 5/5

Bethesda struggled to find decent voice work for all but the primary cast in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and led to some humorous results with random NPCs. This is not the case in Dishonored. This game has some really quality voice work. Every character, even the one child character in the game, sounds authentic and part of the world they are in.

The score is also quite good. The music matches the situations in the game and they are dynamic and well conducted. Overall, zero complaints on what a player will hear in this game.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Dishonored is a good game. It is just a slightly flawed one that suffers from a forgettable and somewhat derivative story. Its gameplay ideas are more unique and are certainly worth exploring in a potential sequel. It’s also worth noting is that the PS3 version is a perfectly playable version of the game that suffers by easily ignorable technical issues. This is a game that a person plays mostly for its gameplay as oppose to anything else and it succeeds in providing a fun stealth/action experience. At worst, players should at least try the game for themselves. This is a game the should be played by core gamers and should be experienced despite the response. If you see it, try it; I reckon you will not regret it.

PROS:

+ Fun and solid gameplay

+ Stylized and well designed world

+ Solid soundtrack and excellent voice work

CONs:

– Forgettable and derivative story

– Unclear paths for the player

Nintendo Land Review (Wii U): “Classic Nintendo Gaming Goodness”

Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U, has finally been released after over a year since its reveal at E3 2011. Its launch has been met with mixed reception due to a sparse selection of ports and casual titles. Among the gems however is the one title that Nintendo opted to pack into the box containing the sleek deluxe model of the new console. Nintendo Land is honestly the most fun any gamer can have with what is deceptively disguised as a mini-game compilation.

Gameplay: 5/5

Nintendo Land is fun. Plain and simple. Its different attractions utilize the Wii U GamePad in a variety of ways, all of which I found to be very fun. Single player attractions provide the least longevity for the obvious reason that you can do the same thing only so much. Multiplayer on the other hand (despite painstakingly lacking online playability) is unbelievable fun.

To put my experience into perspective, one of my favorite games back in the day was Pac-Man Vs. It was an asymmetrical multiplayer experience where three players with Gamecube controllers played as the ghosts with a limited viewpoint on the TV, while a fourth player with a Gameboy Advance had an overhead view that looked like a classic game of Pac-man. It was ridiculously fun, especially with a full party. Why do I bring up this experience? Two words: Mario Chase. This game follows the same basic formula as Pac-Man Vs. and had me very excited for Nintendo Land ever since. It’s no surprise that I loved the simplicity of playing virtual tag in a Mario universe. But the other games are just as intuitive and fun.

Single player games include titles like Yoshi’s Fruit Cart and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, among a few others. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart has you look up at the TV to see where all of the fruit in the level are and then you draw a path on the controller (where the fruit is hidden) for the cart to follow and hopefully get all the fruit and then to the exit. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is a game that centers on swiping your hand across the screen while pointing it sideways at your TV. It requires no sensor bar to function and it works just as well, if not better, than the Wii’s MotionPlus upgrade.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest and Metroid Blast in particular can actually be played in single or multiplayer and either way works perfectly fine. However, multiplayer is most certainly recommended. Zelda Battle Quest acts as a miniature Zelda title within Nintendo Land; you don’t just wildly swing your sword. There are elements of strategy involved that harken back to Skyward Sword where you must swing your sword in certain ways or at particular moments to defeat enemies. The user with the GamePad works with the sword wielders by hanging back and shooting arrows at pots, birds and enemies that the sword wielders cannot reach. This fun game comes complete with quite a few levels that span over different familiar Zelda landscapes with appearances from enemies within the universe as well.

Metroid Blast only spans a few different levels but makes up for it with a plethora of competitive and cooperative modes. For example, one mode features several on-ground players with Wii remotes and nunchuks trying to shoot down the user with the GamePad who flies Samus’s airship. Another mode has all of the players teaming up against AI controlled enemies that attack in waves. We found this mode was the most fun if only for the fact that the Miis on the ground can use the grapple beam to latch onto the ship’s under side and fire at enemies from above.

Balloon Trip Breeze is one of the less exciting experiences, opting for a relaxing tone and all touch screen gameplay to move your character from one platform to another while avoiding obstacles. The game works well, but it gets old pretty quickly. Captain Falcon’s Twister Race is a single player racing game that offers two perspectives of the same game, an overhead view on the GamePad and a standard third person view on the TV. You steer by tilting the GamePad and it works incredibly well. It’s just a shame that this game in particular had no multiplayer, let alone an online multiplayer mode. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is by far the most frustratingly fun game in Nintendo Land. I found it to be pretty challenging because just like in older NES games, your mistakes can mean the end of the game pretty quickly. Taking care is of the utmost importance because you cannot tilt the controller recklessly and expect to make it to the end. Though even when taking care while playing, I still was not able to reach the end on my first run through. Definitely a keeper for anyone looking for a challenge. Octopus Dance is extremely obscure but a nice idea. It’s a dancing mini-game that mostly uses some tilting mechanics with the gyroscope and the two control sticks. For anyone who’s ever played Ape Escape on the first Playstation, it plays similarly to the dancing minigame in that title. A little confusing due to the need to use both screens, but overall cute and enjoyable.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is a very interesting concept; the player using the GamePad plays as two guards (controlled with one of each control stick and their respective trigger) who chase around the players with Wii remotes as they attempt to gather as much candy as possible. An exceptionally fun experience with a full party. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is largely a slower version of Mario Chase, but the hunters can become the hunted. The GamePad user plays as a ghost who is only visible when charging, has grabbed an opponent or has moved into an area that has been lit up. The other players have to use flashlights to bring the ghost’s health to zero. This game is especially tense and also provides a great deal of enjoyment as a party game. Pikmin Adventure is by and large Pikmin, but with human players controlling some of the titular creatures. The GamePad user plays as Olimar who has a small degree of control on the human controlled Pikmin and total control over his own standard Pikmin. A very fun cooperative and competitive experience.

Nintendo Land’s multiplayer attractions provide the same unbridled experience. There is nothing like sitting down with four friends and playing a quick game of Mario Chase. Then playing it again. The variety in the attractions is as impressive as the fun gameplay within them. It needs to be played to really believe it, but the games are genuinely very fun.

Graphics: 4/5

Nintendo Land has a very simplistic style as far its visual look. Lighting and shadows are quite impressive and the overall design is actually quite cute and appealing. The thing is, I feel that more could have been done with this. The game gives me a very “Little Big Planet-esque” vibe. For example, the enemies in the Legend of Zelda themed attraction are all styled to look like they’ve been stitched together and made to look like stuffed toys with buttons and string. Again, very cute, but more could have been done with it. The game does run at an extremely smooth 60 frames per second and it certainly has me excited for what Nintendo has in store as far as first party content goes.

Sound: 4/5 

The sound falls basically in the same line as the graphics; it’s quite good but they could have gone farther with it. Cute remixes of classic Nintendo games like Mario, F-Zero and Pikmin are all present in this game. There’s even a jukebox you can unlock that can allow you to play some of those songs in the main Nintendo Land plaza. Some themes you will hum to and others you won’t really notice. Sound effects and even dialogue from Monita (a robot who helps you learn about Nintendo Land and its attractions) all sound crisp and clear on both the TV and the GamePad.

Replay Value: 4/5

Nintendo Land is a game that some will revisit the same way a person revisits games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band; mostly when you have friends around. That isn’t to say you won’t want to play more of the single player games. Each attraction actually has quite a few levels (something that Wii Sports completely lacked) and completionists will actually find some of the later stages to be somewhat challenging, especially for multiplayer attractions. Unfortunately, there is no online play and no leaderboards. However, a direct link to Miiverse makes up for this and makes sharing fun moments in the game quite easy to do (though this is only relevant to those who actually choose to make use of Miiverse).

Throughout the game, there are presents to unlock via coins and a fun little retro styled coin drop game. These serve as primary unlockables and wind up littered throughout the plaza. They’re mostly useless little statues but it’s fun to collect them, if only for a little while.

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

I’ll be honest; I really wanted to give Nintendo Land a higher score simply because it was just that much fun to play both alone and with friends. Sadly, there are some hindrances that prevent this from being a near perfect experience. However this is not a bad thing; Nintendo Land’s primary goal is to show you what the Wii U’s capabilities are in terms of gameplay and it does exactly that. There is not one attraction in this game that does not work the way it should and the variety provides everyone something they will enjoy. The exceptions of attractions based on Star Fox, Kirby and Pokémon is a little odd, but I say let’s leave all of that for Smash Bros.

PROs:

+Incredibly fun gameplay

+Cute and detailed visual style

+Fun soundtrack

+Direct link to Miiverse

+Greater longevity than Wii Sports

CONs:

– No online playability

– Could have taken the overall experience further

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Code of Princess Review (3DS): “Unbridled JRPG Goodness at the Mercy of your Hands”

Code of Princess is a real-time action JRPG developed by Agatsuma Entertainment and Bones and was published by Atlus.

Story: 4/5

The story is pretty straightforward. You start out as Princess Solange who humbly wears the least humble princess outfit I’ve ever seen (the game pokes fun at this at times). She is forced to flee her kingdom when it is attacked and taken under siege by an evil queen and Solange finds help in an Aladdin-inspired character named Ali Baba, a Necromancer named Zozo and an annoying sage in training named Allegro, who fights and expresses himself with an electric heavy guitar. As previously mentioned, the story is really silly and is often, enough to drive the player forward. It’s not unimaginably new or creative, but it’s enough to not especially harm the game’s value. The silly voice work makes it especially difficult to take seriously, but then the humor in this game seems intentional. You’ll either enjoy it or be able to ignore it in the end.

Gameplay: 5/5

The gameplay in Code of Princess reminded me very much of the combat engine in the “Tales of” series. It is played on a 2D plane and your character is given a set of combos and and other special abilities to use to fight off enemies. You an also play as different characters with different combos and abilities from the primary protagonist AND to top it off, there is local and online co-operative gameplay. The only thing missing is exploration.

The combat is the primary focus and is therefore, fluid and fun. Attacks that deal heavy damage often make you feel the impact by shaking the camera or providing a satisfying sound effect for the impact. The combat simply feels great. Some may find it repetitive, but in my experience with the game, it simply has not stopped being fun each time I take out an enemy, weak or strong. Adding to the combat is a guard button which can also double as your dodge ability, a magic burst that helps deal extra damage at the expense of all of your magic. Speaking of which, your characters also typically come with a very useful magic attack or two that, while not as damage effective as your burst ability, are far less taxing on your magic meter.

Each character plays differently and therefore possesses a different battle strategy. This adds replay value as you can tackle either the main story or bonus quests to boost all of your character’s level. Playing with friends is recommended but not essential.

The game has a lot of replay value in my opinion. While there are times where level grinding feels necessary, the game makes it worth your while and makes it easy for when you’re on the go. You gain experience from later challenges and chapters very easily. Because there is no exploring and the game only consists of combat, you can skip past any cutscenes in your way and get right into the action. Most challenges are only a few minutes long and can be beaten very quickly depending on your character’s level and what strategies you choose to apply. The Bonus Quests also add an additional level of challenge, expands the combat somewhat and gives you more to do. Basically, you will not be able to finish this game in a matter of days or even a week. This is a lengthy and lovable game. It may seem strange for me to list off imperfections in the gameplay and give it a perfect score, but it’s just that much fun for me. It’s as if those imperfections don’t matter because the gameplay was just that addicting.

Graphics: 4/5

The graphical look of Code of Princess is pretty standard for many JRPGs. It has a cute anime style with colorful character designs and comes out looking pretty nice in 2D or 3D. The cutscenes are told with anime stills with some movements generated in the game engine which is rendered in a cel-shaded style that looks very much like an anime on the screen. The only major downside is that the frame rate is not always smooth and occasionally dips, sometimes in large increments. This is mostly during heavy duty battles with many on-screen enemes. Otherwise, if you dig well animated anime intros, this will tickle your fancy.

Sound: 4/5

The sound effects on this game are amazing. Each impact is loud and forceful. Combine this with a killer soundtrack (which comes with the game in a disc for anyone who buys it brand new) and you have for an amazing soundtrack. Unfortunately, the english voice acting is all over the place. A lot of the time though it’s intentional and self-aware as the game itself is very silly and does not take itself very seriously. However, a lot of the side characters sound a little too ridiculous and voice clips get reused often in combat. This is a minor issue though, as this has been a staple in JRPGs for years. If you can ignore (or even enjoy) the voice work, there’s next to nothing that will harm your experience with this game.

Overall Score: 18/20 = 8.5 out of 10

To any 3DS owner who is seeking a good JRPG experience, pick this game up. It hits many chords on just the right notes. It’s not necessarily perfect, but it’s a very fun experience that any owner of a 3DS (or an Atlus or “Tales of” fan) should pick up. You most certainly won’t regret it.

PROS:

+ Ridiculously fun combat system

+ Strong soundtrack

+ Lots of replay value

+ Local/Online co-op with up to four players

+ Colorful graphical style

CONS:

– Wonky voice acting

– Frame rate significantly dips occasionally

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Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Review (3DS)

Being an avid fan of the Kingdom Hearts series, I was largely excited to get my hands on this new installment for a number of reasons. I had been largely disappointed with most (if not all) of the portable Kingdom Hearts games up to this point and I was interested in trying a brand new game in the series that did not derail the gameplay and the story. Kingdom Hearts 3D does everything it can to stay true to the first two installments, and in almost every way, it achieves just that.

Story: 3/5

It’s within the story that that this game takes any real hits to the experience. The story’s alternating “on-and-off” manner is a little off-putting and can leave players feeling confused or disengaged. It’s certainly not a bad story; in fact I would hold it leaps and bounds over the likes of 358/2 Days and Birth By Sleep. But it does not quite match up to the second game and especially not the first from a narrative standpoint. The game also does not do much to keep players who have missed previous installments up to speed with the plot (outside of a beautifully rendered CGI intro set to Utada Hikaru’s “My Sanctuary”).

The plot begins with Yen Sid, the sorcerer from Fantasia’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” sending Sora and Riku on a quest to test their abilities as Keyblade masters. Something about “sleeping worlds” and “dreams and nightmares” or something convoluted of that nature. All in all, fans will dig it but newcomers will be incredibly confused.

Gameplay: 4/5

Kingdom Hearts 3D is very much an upgrade of the games before it. Most fights can be handled by a simple mash of the attack button. You can cycle through secondary options for the X button (such as magic and items) as an alternative to your strategy. Two brand new features are the Dream Eaters and Flowmotion.

Dream Eaters are very much like a Kingdom Hearts version of Pokemon. They take up the partner slots once used by the likes of Donald, Goofy, Riku and the various Disney characters you encountered in the first two games. For the most part, I felt as though I was able to handle each battle without them. They do help you find certain objects and devices that progress the game forward. Their assistance in combat is most needed during boss battles where the extra hits and attacks wind up being crucial. What the player will find most useful about them though is Link Attacks. Link attacks are somewhat like the character summons from the first game; you touch your Dream Eater partner’s icon when its Link gauge is full and this initiates a special attack or mode that strengthens both of you into a far more lethal fighter. This is especially effective in dealing with large groups of enemies.

While the Dream Eaters are certainly a welcome help, I still missed having Disney, Square Enix and original character companions in this game. Hopefully they will take the time to blend the two in future installments.

As for Flowmotion, it definitely serves to make the combat more acrobatic and frenetic like the bulk of the trailers. It is controlled primarily with the Y button and can be confusing to work with at first. After some use and practice it becomes second nature though, making fighting smaller enemies much less tedious and far less of a chore. There is some amount of platforming that may or may not use Flowmotion, but these segments are not always as fun.

It’s worth mentioning that the player is expected to switch between Sora and Riku during gameplay, creating a parallel story for the plot. The worlds are apparently split in two (despite looking exactly the same) and Sora and Riku are stuck on either side. The two play very much the same way but engage with different locations and characters. The issue here is that the game gives you a time limit to play as one character in the form of a “Drop Gauge.” If this runs out, you enter “Bonus Time” and when that ends, you are forcibly moved into the other keyblade master. Thankfully this time limit is incredibly slow and will not really effect your game if you’re interested in some exploring. You can also willingly “Drop” at anytime.

It’s not perfect, but the gameplay will hold any Kingdom Hearts fan over despite its complexity. Each world is about thirty minutes to an hour depending on how you play the game. With that in mind, the adventure is fairly lengthy and extended further from the local multiplayer games involving the Dream Eaters.

Graphics: 5/5

The graphics in this game are an absolute marvel for a portable game. The style itches to be exactly like its Playstation 2 brethren and succeeds with flying colors. The effects and colors are breathtakingly beautiful and the characters are animated fluently and rendered out quite nicely, if not even better than the first two games. As with any 3DS game, there is a noticeable lack of antialiasing, though it’s not nearly as significant in this game as it is in some others.

As far as design and looks go, from a technical standpoint Kingdom Hearts 3D sets out to visually present itself like a true followup to Kingdom Hearts II and there’s very little reason to say that it does not reach that goal. Oh, and the 3D looks really, really good. But really, did we expect anything less?

Sound: 5/5

As with the graphics, the soundtrack is very reminiscent of the earlier games with brilliantly mastered music and some very solid voice acting. The sound effects are crisp and clear and the Dream Eaters sound ironically cute. There is not a whole lot to say here; anyone familiar with this franchise will truly appreciate what they hear. Use headphones for the best experience.

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

While I totally acknowledge that this game is not for everyone, I’m hard pressed to find anyone who would suggest that any of the games since the second installment are for everyone. This is a solid game for the 3DS. It may not be perfect, but it delivers a decent experience for users, especially fans of the series. If you were ever once interested in this series and own a 3DS, pick it up. You will not regret it at all. For everyone else, give it a swing. It might just flash your interest for the series.

PROS:

+Gameplay is fluid and fast paced. The circle pad pro helps improve the experience

+Fantastic 3D effect and visuals

+Solid voice acting and fantastic soundtrack

+Dream Eaters are a fun addition to the game

CONS:

-Disney/Square characters no longer help you in combat

-Story is a little ridiculous and hard to follow, especially for newcomers

-Platforming elements are stiff

Mario Tennis Open Review (3DS)

Mario Tennis Open is a Mario sports title for the Nintendo 3DS. It was developed by Camelot and published by Nintendo.

Gameplay: 4/5

Mario Tennis is a game with a special place in my childhood. Honestly, I must have spent days playing the hell out of Mario Tennis 64 with friends and family members. It goes without saying that the idea of a Mario Tennis game on the 3DS was nothing short of appealing. Camelot’s developed the gameplay quite well. It’s a sweet blend of skill and strategy that leaves the luck factor that is present in many of Nintendo’s other spin-off multiplayer titles out of the equation.

Mario Tennis Open plays much more similarly to Mario Tennis 64 than Power Tennis. This is a large improvement given the exclusion of the Power moves from the latter game. Instead, there are now “Trick” shots that you can use with the pressing of the X button when you stand on a symbol that sometimes appears after your opponent hits the ball. This will, depending on the color, change the ball into a curve shot, a high shot, a low shot and others. This keeps the action fast paced and the strategy flowing. Do I want to lob the ball over my opponents’ heads or do I want to spike it past them?

There are also some fun challenges you can try out such as the classic “Rings” minigame from previous versions and the newer “Super Mario Tennis” minigame where you play some of the original NES classic but in tennis form. Accomplishing any of these will earn you unlockables that you can buy from an in-game store for your Mii. These power-ups will actually provide you stats that can eventually make you more well-rounded than any of the primary Mario cast, all of whom are not customizable. Some may see this as an issue because Mario Kart offered customizability, but I personally like that their stats are fixed and that only the Mii is customizable. Trying to give Bowser upgrades to increase his speed when he’s primarily meant for power seems like overkill to me.

There’s something that Mario Tennis Open certainly achieves and it is balance. Every player has a chance to beat their opponent, no matter who it is. The upgrades will provide small boosts but only so much. It’s limited to say the least, but it works.

As far as control options go, Camelot has added itself to a list of developers I praise for taking advantage of the 3DS’ multitude of control options. You can either use the practical face buttons or you can use the “touch screen” buttons. Each one is color coded and sized very well so that getting used to said method is a breeze. The only control method I would not recommend is the “gyro control” method. It’s a cute idea, but trying to play the game by moving the entire system when there’s no way to keep the 3DS’ screen stationary is downright annoying. It’s largely the the only problem I had with the controls.

Graphics: 5/5

I was surprised to see the graphics in this game look as good as they do, even with 3D being used. The models in this game are very high in quality. Much of the game’s overall design seems to come from Mario Galaxy’s engine. Any longstanding Mario fan will be pleased to see that the cast still all have their fingers (refer to Mario Kart Wii if you don’t know what I mean). Every court in the game is inspired by a place in the Mushroom Kingdom. Everything is bright and colorful and looks very nice. I don’t know what’s more impressive; the fact that the graphics are much finer than most of the Wii’s software lineup or that they were able to achieve it with 3D in mind.

Sound: 4/5

Outside of the main theme, the soundtrack is mostly just happy orchestral and energetic rock tunes. Nothing bad at all, but nothing particularly special either. There’s nothing here that you’ll be humming to next week, but it fits the world and helps you stay in the mood when playing.

The sound effects are standard. Chimes for characters when they taunt, the rackets hitting the ball make the appropriate noise and all of the characters have their cute voices. One thing I’d like to note is (and this is not a flaw by any means) but if you thought the Miis sounded strange in Mario Kart 7, you’re going to raise an eyebrow at their voices in this game. It’s awkward and amusing to go from cute Yoshi-like squeaky voices to regular human voices. Overall, the character voices may annoy older gamers, but Mario fans will be pleased.

Replayability: 3/5

Sadly, the modes are short-lived overall and there is not a great deal of them to begin with. Outside of the addition of online multiplayer, there really isn’t much here to keep the player hooked for very long. The online multiplayer is still a major upgrade for the Mario Tennis franchise however. I am pleased to say that I have had next to no issues connecting with others (aside from rage quitters). Like with Mario Kart 7, Mario Tennis Open gives you a set number which will rise and fall with your wins and victories. This number serves as your rank. This alone will probably keep pros hooked. Anyone else will probably enjoy this with friends for a while, then move on to something else.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Mario Tennis Open is limited for sure. However, this does not stop it from being an addicting and overall very fun multiplayer game with some tiny single player features. Whether you’re a Mario fan or simply looking for some online multiplayer action, then you have no reason to miss this game.

PROS:

+Fun and addicting gameplay

+Mii customizability

+Online multiplayer works well

+Pretty to look at

CONS:

-Lacking in single player modes

-Soundtrack is nothing special

-Gyro controls are awful