Monday, January 20, 2020

Got the Dark Samus amiibo

photo of the Dark Samus amiibo

Behold, the newest piece of my video game collection, the Dark Samus from the Super Smash Bros. line.

This wasn't an easy one to get and I'm a little annoyed by how things played out. For some reason, whenever I'm interested in a new amiibo of the Super Smash Bros. series, Nintendo makes the respective wave ridiculously scarce at launch. The last two waves got plenty supplies, there were Isabelles and Simons all over the stores and there still are. With Dark Samus and Richter, however, I could not find a single one in my city and I went to multiple electronic stores and GameStops on Friday, Saturday and today with absolutely no luck...

So, ultimately I had to order one online (after Amazon screwed up my pre-order), which is always a bad thing, because you can't really look at them in advance and they might arrive damaged, plus I had to pay a little extra. Not much, but still. I'm happy with the result, but not happy with the way there. Nintendo should stop making certain amiibo a rarity for no reason.

Anyway, the Dark Samus amiibo itself is really nice - it has this glossy paint to it, which looks quite amazing. It's certainly one of the prettier amiibo out there and nice to have. And thanks to Smash there is now quite the respectable amiibo collection for Metroid...

photo of the Dark Samus and Ridley amiibo with the Metroid between the two

photo of the Dark Samus and Samus Smash amiibo

Let's hope that the collection will be extended by Sylux in the next years, whether it's through Smash or amiibo for Metroid Prime 4.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Fighters Pass Vol. 2 – Hopes & Predictions

Fighters Pass Vol. 2 Logo

The "Rules"


Six more Challenger Packs were announced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and according to the official site they also all will be composed of a fighter, a stage and some new music tracks. It's likely that the six additional Challenger Packs will also be accompanied by a DLC Spirit Board and also aim at a crossover with a specific game or franchise, just like the first five packs.

And you have to keep all of this in mind when coming up with predictions. The more there already exists for a certain game in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the less likely it is for this game to be featured as a Challenger Pack. It's even possible that these six Challenger Packs stem from the same list that Sakurai has been working with from the start, maybe with additions from newer games. If a game already got featured with various Spirits, music tracks and maybe even a stage or an Assist Trophy, it makes a potential Challenger Pack less likely. Not completely impossible, but not realistic either.

It's easy to say that there are no rules and Sakurai does whatever he wants, where anything is possible at the moment. But so far there are certain patterns for the Challenger Packs and there is no reason to believe that any of the Assist Trophies will be promoted for example, when there's plenty of other possibilities left. And even Spirits just feel like a "not this time" consolation and if Sakurai's team were to have any plans for adding a certain character, they wouldn't have added the Spirit already.

It's most obvious with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Over the course of the last year various Nintendo games got promoted via Spirit Board events in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. There have been events for Nintendo Labo, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Daemon X Machina, Pokémon Sword & Shield, Tetris and Astral Chain. But not for Fire Emblem: Three Houses, as well as Yoshi's Crafted World and Luigi's Mansion 3, where the last two would be amazing candidates for new DLC stages. And we all know what happened with Three Houses – it has gotten its own Challenger Pack.

Of course having a Spirit Board doesn't necessarily disconfirm the game for DLC, but if Sakurai's team really had planned to make an Astral Chain Challenger Pack, they wouldn't have released a Spirit Board for the game just now. They would have kept this for the DLC and certainly not go for the playable main characters as Spirits.

Pokémon Sword & Shield might be the big exception here, because it's the big new Pokémon game and one of the most important Nintendo Switch games, which has more than enough Pokémon to work with for a potential new fighter and even more Spirits. And this leads us to...


1st Party Inclusions


Ideally, the Fighters Pass Vol. 2 finds a better balance between 1st and 3rd party inclusions, where it would be nice to get Challenger Packs for more Nintendo Switch games published by Nintendo. This could be some recent games, but it also games that are currently in development. The three biggest candidates in this field are arguably the following:

  • Pokémon Sword & Shield
  • Breath of the Wild 2
  • Metroid Prime 4

Like Fire Emblem, Pokémon produces potential new fighters with each new game and as already said, the existing Spirits don't necessarily exclude Pokémon Sword & Shield from getting a Challenger Pack, because there are so many Pokémon to choose from. And it's this generation's big new Pokémon game, where an inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is to be expected. It might even be the first of the new Challenger Packs, setting a new tone for the 2nd Fighters Pass right from the start.

With the other games it really depends on how far they are into development at the moment. But the Fighters Pass Vol. 2 is said to last until the end of 2021, where this is more than enough time for Sakurai to get into early versions of these games and prepare something.

For the sequel to Breath of the Wild it's even realistic to be released before the end of 2021. Maybe it's even planned to be released this year, we'll see soon enough, but in any case it could be something that Nintendo wants in Smash. The bigger question here would be the potential fighter. We already have the Breath of the Wild version of Link, while a new version of Zelda or Ganondorf might not feel as exciting right now. But this really depends on what the game has to offer. Maybe the new Ganondorf is exactly what Zelda fans might want from a new fighter.

In case of Metroid Prime 4 the fighter already was decided many, many years ago: Sylux, the upcoming antagonist. It's even suspicious how there is no Spirit for Sylux in the game, while Kanden and Trace got one, despite the fact that Sylux is story-wise the most important of the six hunters from Metroid Prime: Hunters. This could still mean something, but the likelihood of a Challenger Pack really depends on how fast Retro Studios has been working for the past year.

But of course we could also be looking at Challenger Packs for games, which haven't even been announced yet, but are already in Sakurai's hands. And there could be challengers from older games, but naturally there already have been many of such additions in the base game with King K. Rool, Ridley, Isabelle, Dark Samus or Chrom, while most other candidates got turned into Spirits or were thrown into the Assist Trophy hell.

Speaking of, if they really were willing to turn Waluigi into a fighter at this point, it probably would turn into a "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate x Mario Tennis Aces" Challenger Pack with a tennis court for a stage...


3rd Party Inclusions


With games outside of the scope of Nintendo on the other hand the possibilities are near endless. It's no secret that the first Fighters Pass was primarily made out of 3rd party guests and the second Fighters Pass might continue this trend, where there are lots and lots of male (and rarely female) protagonists to lead the way...

  • Hunter (Monster Hunter)
  • Lloyd Irving (Tales of Symphonia)
  • Heihachi Mishima or Jin Kazama (Tekken)
  • Sophetia or Nightmare (SoulCalibur)
  • Travis Touchdown (No More Heroes)
  • Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden)
  • Kasumi (Dead or Alive)
  • Doom Slayer (Doom)
  • Steve (Minecraft)
  • Master Chief (Halo)
  • Dante (Devil May Cry)
  • Chosen Undead (Dark Souls)
  • 2B (NieR: Automata)
  • Crash Bandicoot
  • ...

This list keeps going and unlike most first party franchises there are rarely any Spirits in the way. Rayman got one and Resident Evil got a Spirit Board event via an update a few weeks ago. So, these might be out of the question, but there are many other franchises to choose from, some offering a rich history with Nintendo, others less so.

Instead of studying Spirits, here it pays to take a look at Mii costumes instead. Of course there are many fighters that also have gotten a Mii costume as well, like Link or Samus. But all the 3rd party Mii costumes so far were exclusively available via DLC... And why would you buy an Altaïr Mii outfit for example, if you could have the real deal? So, whatever characters made a cameo via a Mii costume are most likely off the table.

At the same time there are characters that got a Mii costume in Super Smash Bros. 4, which suspiciously did not return yet, most noticeably Lloyd, the Hunter and Geno. Of course those could just be licensing issues or they could be sold at a later time, where especially Geno felt pretty perfect as a Mii Gunner. He could even become another one of these bundles, where a Mii costume comes with a new song. But all of these could also be planned as fighters, where Monster Hunter feels like one of the strongest contenders right now.

Monster Hunter is one of the most popular video game franchises, especially in Japan, where a lot of it has taken place on Nintendo consoles. And it already has been featured in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but only with Rathalos, which seems rather odd given the popularity. There is so much more that they could do here, enough to easily provide a full Challenger Pack.

Ninja Gaiden also still feels like one of the best candidates, because so far Koei Tecmo has not been featured in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in any way despite their good relationship with Nintendo and Ninja Gaiden goes all the way back to the NES days. It would also open the door to add a Dead or Alive character later on, like Kasumi. But it's also possible that they might go with Dead or Alive right away.

Other franchises like NieR or Halo don't have any history with Nintendo whatsoever, but still could feel like great additions, if Microsoft and Sony were to allow it. And that the game(s) in question not necessarily have to be playable on a Nintendo console was already proven by Persona 5.

Some of the games in the above list could also just become Mii costumes and Spirit Boards. While it would be the most awesome thing ever to get the Doom Slayer in Smash, a Mii Gunner costume and some Spirits from Doom probably feel like the more family-friendly solution.

Speaking of family-friendly, Minecraft is also still in the running and considering that both Nintendo and Sakurai love the game, it's still a good possibility for one of the Challenger Packs. You can find a full concept for this here.


Conclusion


Whether the Fighters Pass Vol. 2 is going with 1st or 3rd party additions, there are enough potential fighters out there to fill three more Fighters Passes and beyond. So, it will be exciting to see, which games will cross their way with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the next two years. And maybe there is even something in it for the Zelda and Metroid fans...

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Ideas for New DLC Stages

the Garreg Mach Monastery stage

One of the best things the DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate could achieve is creating a proper representation for the current generation, the era of the Nintendo Switch. The games in the Super Smash Bros. series usually fail to properly represent their generation, because they get released early and therefore focus on major games from the previous system.

So, for example Super Smash Bros. Brawl mostly added contents based on GameCube games like Super Mario Sunshine, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess or Metroid Prime. Only Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS did a good job here with contents from many 3DS games, mainly because it had three years to work with.

But it's not really much better with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it might even be the worst so far. Only Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild got properly represented with new stages and updated versions of Mario and Link. The other new Nintendo entry was Splatoon, but this was already from the Wii U era, while many other later Wii U and 3DS games got skipped entirely.

This makes the upcoming Challenger Pack 5 so much more important. With Fire Emblem: Three Houses finally another Nintendo Switch game gets some real presentation outside of Spirits in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and it feels right, despite the fact that Fire Emblem got so many fighters already. But there are many more great Nintendo Switch games, where it should be the job of the DLC to offer contents for these games in Ultimate.

And if a fighter is out of the question or already on the roster, a stage can still be a very good representation for some of the newer games. So, here are some examples for potential DLC stages based on various Nintendo Switch titles:

  • Sky Arena
  • Crafted World
  • Labo
  • Eagle's Tower
  • Last Resort

While ARMS probably won't get a fighter at this point, it's still possible for it to receive a stage and to get some more presentation next to the Spring Man Assist Trophy. It's a pretty fun game and it's a shame that it's so overlooked when compared to Splatoon. The Sky Arena would be the perfect addition without a fighter, where it even could feature Max Brass as a stage boss. He is not a Spirit yet, where this would be the best way of adding the great ARMS champion to Smash.

The Woolly World stage from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is one of the few stages that didn't return in Ultimate, but Sakurai's team can make up for it by adding Crafted World. The Unreal Engine 4 powered Yoshi's Crafted World is a charming Switch game with worlds made out of cardboard and other scraps, where the game literally begs to be turned into a new Smash stage.

Speaking of cardboard, Nintendo Labo is certainly a weird experiment, but it's recognizable and could lead to another curious stage. This is even the perfect example for a stage without a fighter, where like PictoChat or R.O.B. it's just something that exists in the vast world of Nintendo without a big fictional universe behind it.

screenshot of Link fighting the Evil Eagle in the Link's Awakening remake on top of the Eagle's Tower

This wouldn't be Hyrule Blog, if it didn't have at least one stage idea based on Zelda, where this comes from the newest title, Link's Awakening. The Eagle's Tower always has been one of the most memorable places of the entire game and its top would make for a great Super Smash Bros. stage. It could even turn around, so the view changes to the Wind Fish's Egg in the background, or it could sink for one floor, so that instead of an abyss you get spikes. And the infamous Evil Eagle could swoop down as a stage boss.

Last but not least, Luigi's Mansion 3 should be featured as well with its haunted hotel, the Last Resort. There are lots possibilities for stages here thanks to its many different hotel floors with different themes, where the stage might even change between areas somehow, like via an elevator. It could also place to combatants on top of the hotel.

...

Of course these are not all major Nintendo Switch games and this doesn't cover any upcoming games. If there were a new 2D Metroid coming in the near future, it certainly should get a stage as well. And of course this should mention Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze again. It's a crime that nothing from this excellent platformer was used for a stage in Ultimate.

In addition the DLC could offer some of the missing past stages, like Rainbow Road or Woolly World. Like the Mii costumes, the additional DLC stages are sold separately, but Nintendo could also offer a pack with all stages.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Byleth Joins House Smash

Sakurai in the Byleth presentation showing his middle finger to the audience

Rarely ever I've been so happy to be wrong. In my previous post I was convinced that the final Fighters Pass character will be another 3rd party entry, mainly because the rest of the DLC was exactly the same and DLC characters only came with new stages when they were from a new IP. Corrin for example didn't come with a stage either, even though there would have been possibilities for one...

But after all, all of the Challenger Packs were crossovers with a specific game, like Persona 5, and not necessarily new franchises. And there he/she is: Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses with a massive new stage based on the Garreg Mach Monastery. And both look very promising!


I haven't played Three Houses yet myself, but I do own the European Limited Edition and I'm very curious about the game. From what I've gathered it's one of the most epic tales for Nintendo Switch and it's nice to see that the DLC also offers something on the more recent Nintendo territories. It's well deserved to be featured in Smash and the music alone makes me want to have the DLC.

Of course there is a certain bias with Sakurai, who seems to be a big Fire Emblem fan and keeps adding more and more Fire Emblem characters to Smash. By now it's on the same level as Pokémon and Super Mario, while being a relatively niche franchise in comparison. But it's a series where every new game offers new protagonists, where it's easy to come up with new fighters, and in the least Byleth finally does something with all four main weapon types...

So far four of the Fire Emblem characters are the same type of sword fighter and it's nice to see more variety here, even though they now have cramped it all in one. But at least it fits the character well enough.

It reminds me somewhat of Link using the different Champion weapons in Breath of the Wild, which has a very similar array of main weapon types, just with two handed, heavy weapons for the axes. And it would have been awesome, if the Breath of the Wild Link worked like that as well, while there could have been the Twilight Princess Link from the previous games in addition for a total of four. If Fire Emblem can have four Marths, then Zelda can have four Links, right?

But no hard feeling, because I personally enjoy playing as Corrin (and I'm not even too hot about Fates) and I'm sure I will enjoy playing as Byleth as well. And this also gives me hope for the 2nd Fighters Pass, which was also announced. Six more Challenger Packs! There are lots of possibilities here, both for 3rd parties and new entries from the ever increasing Nintendoverse. This will keep being exciting.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Final Fighters Pass Reveal Incoming

Smash Ultimate Logo

It's happening. It has been over a year that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released and in two days we will finally know how the complete Fighters Pass will look like and maybe even play with the final fighter.

But it's most likely going to be another male 3rd party game protagonist, just like the rest of the Fighters Pass... So, I have no high hopes here of getting anything that would interest me. For example it could be Dante from Devil May Cry or Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes, which both would be cool, but I would prefer something from Minecraft or Doom on the same lines. Master Chief would be the most amazing candidate, since he represents both first person shooter games and Microsoft as a whole, and I'm not even a fan of Halo.

Well, I'm personally more interested in whatever DLC plans there are after the Fighters Pass. I have no illusions that we're getting anything here for Zelda or Metroid, since both franchises got served in the core game already, but more stages and Nintendo characters would be nice in general, especially things from the Nintendo Switch era, which is getting three years old already. Byleth from Three Houses for example. Or the Sky Arena from ARMS.

We'll see.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Smartphone Zelda After Link's Awakening

Two years ago I've been an advocate for a Zelda Smartphone game, where I even was quite excited about the possibility, mainly for three different reasons:

  • It would keep topdown Zelda alive.
  • I've been enjoying Nintendo's mobile games for Android/iOS.
  • It would most likely get regular updates for new contents.

By now only the last point still stands. So, what happened?

Well, first of all, Link's Awakening happened. I was afraid that after Breath of the Wild Nintendo will mainly focus on a sequel (and they probably do), while the classic 2D Zelda experiences will be pushed to the sidelines. But of course the Switch is both a home console and a handheld, so it should be home to both 2D and 3D Zelda experiences, where GREZZO has now provided a charming remake of the GameBoy classic, which looks really beautiful and plays nicely as well.

in front of the Tail Cave after finishing the dungeon

This is where the future of 2D Zelda is at and not on smart devices with touch controls. A smartphone Zelda game will now only look bad in comparison... And there is tons of potential for follow-ups here: remakes of the Oracle games, a new single player Zelda game and some project that focuses on dungeon building and/or multiplayer. All of this possible and might come to the Nintendo Switch in the next couple of years.

At the same time I'm still quite happy with Fire Emblem: Heroes on my smartphone, which keeps me more than busy whenever I'm on the go. Even if it's more or less doing my daily "Fire Emblem chores", it's still entertaining enough to be enjoyable. But I can't say the same about Nintendo's recent smartphone outings in 2019...

Dr. Mario World was alright, but the way it limits playing and the slow Gacha killed my motivation after a while. It also didn't play as nicely as Fire Emblem: Heroes, because you often have to swipe your capsules all over the screen, which only works well if you're sitting perfectly still (and not in a bus or a tram). And to make things worse it requires a constant internet connection, even during the plays. In a time trial level the timer would even keep running, while the game freezes, whenever you're out of 4G. And this isn't acceptable for a mobile game.

So, Dr. Mario World was quite disappointing and I've stopped playing it, but at least I've still got the game installed just in case. Which is more than I can say about Mario Kart: Tour. As a fan of the series I was looking forward to this one, but it's just a horrible mess and everything that's wrong with smartphone games. The controls are bad and asking players for monthly paid subscriptions for the full experience is a giant rip-off, especially when you combine this with Gacha as well.

The worst about it is all the effort they put into making new courses and drivers. It's a lot of stuff that should have been DLC for Mario Kart 8 (Deluxe), which I gladly would have purchased, but instead it's all made for possibly the worst Mario Kart yet. And this stings.

The quality of Nintendo's mobile games really went down the gutter. And at this point I'm not sure I would want something like that for Zelda, where I guess most of you have arrived at that point long before me. Luckily, Fire Emblem: Heroes is still good and keeps me entertained, so I don't really need another mobile game. While its monetization is still horribly overpriced, at least I never felt the need to put any money into this game (which sucks for Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, but it's really their own fault with those orb prices).

So, the only thing that we would be missing out on is a Zelda game, which gets regular content updates over a longer period of time. Of course that's possible for a Nintendo Switch Zelda game as well, especially if they do something level-based like a dungeon maker or a multiplayer Zelda, but the past has shown that Nintendo isn't all that interested in updating Zelda games with new contents, outside of a few DLCs for a few months. Most Nintendo games don't even get DLCs beyond their first year. They could have kept adding to Breath of the Wild, but instead they've chosen to put their DLC efforts into a sequel (the Wii U version was probably a factor here, though).

It's still possible, but not as likely as with a mobile game. And in the end most Zelda fans want to enjoy a complete package anyway, so it wouldn't necessarily be a big loss.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Dawn of a New Year – 2020

Outside of Marin's and Tarin's house in the remake of Link's Awakening, at the start of the game

A new year begins and not only that, it's also the start of a new decade. At the beginning of the previous decade the Zelda series was arguably at a low point after the release of Spirit Tracks in the middle of the Nintendo DS and Wii era. Of course this is entirely subjective, but the Nintendo DS Zelda games are often regarded as some of the lesser favorites and it could only go up from there.

And up it went. In the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U era the Zelda series saw a collection of solid remasters of its 3D games, as well as a great new take at topdown Zelda with A Link Between Worlds and with it a return to less linear adventures. We also got one of the most extensive and popular spin-off games for the series with Hyrule Warriors, which was able to entertain Zelda fans for hundreds of hours.

And then came Breath of the Wild, the biggest milestone for the series after Ocarina of Time and the most successful Zelda game yet... It sparked a newfound interest in the series and really made Zelda popular again, where it's in Nintendo's own interest to keep going with the series in all directions.

This is how the last decade looked like in terms of new releases for the Zelda series:

  • Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS, 2011)
  • Four Swords: Anniversary Edition (DSi, 2011)
  • Skyward Sword (Wii, 2011)
  • The Wind Waker HD (Wii U, 2013)
  • A Link Between Worlds (3DS, 2013)
  • Hyrule Warriors (Wii U, 2014)
  • Majora's Mask 3D (3DS, 2015)
  • Tri Force Heroes (3DS, 2015)
  • Twilight Princess HD (Wii U, 2016)
  • Hyrule Warriors: Legends (3DS, 2016)
  • Breath of the Wild (Wii U & Switch, 2017)
  • Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch, 2018)
  • Cadence of Hyrule (Switch, 2019)
  • Link's Awakening (Switch, 2019)

And this will keep going, where it's not unlikely that there will be some form of Zelda release every year, even if it's just a spin-off. And what we will be getting in 2020 will heavily depend on how far the development of the sequel to Breath of the Wild has progressed.

"Breath of the Wild 2" could be the big focus of this year's E3 and become a release for the Christmas season. It's more likely, however, that the game will be released in early 2021, following the release of Breath of the Wild in March 2017, or even later. We can't really be sure at the moment other than the fact that Nintendo and Monolith Software are working on this game.

But it should be clear that the sequel won't be released in the next few months, where it's entirely possible that early 2020 will give us something else. There's still Skyward Sword HD up in the air, which could already be coming soon as a nice filler. After all it will already grow ten years old next year and it was the first major Zelda title of the previous decade. Such a project would probably be developed by Tantalus, the studio that made Twilight Princess HD, so this wouldn't distract Nintendo from developing the next big game.

In the same sense would could see ports of both The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD at any time. Nintendo really loves to port its Wii U games for a second home, where they might actually sell, so the library of Zelda games on Nintendo Switch could expand pretty quickly.

It's also still possible that GREZZO might consider updating Link's Awakening to make more out of the Chamber Dungeon feature, which was very promising, but ultimately somewhat disappointing. New rooms, enemies and bosses could already spark some excitement here. However, that's all that we can expect in this department for 2020, where any follow-ups to Link's Awakening will probably take their time until 2021 and later.

If the sequel to Breath of the Wild will keep us waiting, we might also hear something from a sequel to Hyrule Warriors instead to keep us entertained in the meantime. Focusing on Breath of the Wild and letting us play as the four Champions would certainly attract attention, while they also could fill some gaps from earlier games.

And of course there always could be something that's coming out of nowhere, like Cadence of Hyrule in 2019... The possibilities for other crossovers or completely new Zelda experiences are vast.

In any case 2020 should be an interesting year and the start to an even more interesting decade full of new Zelda games and surprises.