Monday, October 19, 2020

Age of Calamity: Untold Chronicles 3

Hestu dancing in front of Urbosa and Zelda

If this is Nintendo's way of building up hype for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, then they are doing it wrong. Very, very wrong. Today we got the third Untold Chronicles From 100 Years Past, where again we can take a look at a character, where you'd wish he was playable: Hestu.

They are actually addressing the issue where Hestu could only be seen by Link in Breath of the Wild, but apparently he is not the only one who can see the big Korok. In the new trailer it looks like both Zelda and Urbosa can see him as well. And since there are Koroks as a collectible again, probably every playable character should be able to see them...

Speaking of playable characters, this third part of "Untold Chronicles From 100 Years Past" is quite different, because it also shows us more gameplay clips of Link, Zelda, Impa, Mipha and Revali... We can see Link fighting with a Boomerang, but there is the question whether these will behave like swords or a different weapon type. It might just be a silly sword skin.

At the end there is also a cutscene, where some of the playable fighters are using their gliders, which looks hilarious with Daruk and should confirm that every playable character has a way of flying over the battlefield.

But these trailers will probably leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who expects more than just the seven confirmed fighters. Why show us King Rhoam, Robbie, Purah, Master Kohga and Hestu in a way where they are seemingly just cutscene characters? Why suddenly show us gameplay of the confirmed characters again to stress the fact that they will be playable? Why not show us another playable fighter each week?

The game will be released in a month. Is seven fighters all that we can expect? Will the rest of these introduced characters be DLC fighters? It would be quite disappointing if that was the case... And this is currently killing the hype for this game, at least for me personally. Don't show me what I can't have...

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: The Final Four?

Fighters Pass Volume 2 with four open slots

Now that I finally got a single prediction for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate right, I'm going to pretend like I know it all and make a list of what I feel like are the likeliest candidates for the four remaining spots of the second Fighters Pass, the "Final Four". Of course there still could be more fighters beyond or next to this, where I'm personally still expecting a couple of Echo Fighters, maybe even a small "Echo Fighters Pass", but for now we should assume that that's it.

Also, now that I've gotten two of my "most wanteds", I try to be as unbiased as I can be, where most of the characters that I view as likely are from games that I haven't even played yet and that aren't of major interest to me. While games like Metroid Prime 4 and the sequel to Breath of the Wild felt like a possibility at the beginning, now these games seem too far away to be represented in the same fashion as Byleth. Even if they come out in late 2021, the 2nd Fighters Pass will already conclude by then.

That being said, let's get right to it. These are the chosen ones. Or not, we'll see...

  • Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden)
  • Agnés Oblige (Bravely Default)
  • Hunter (Monster Hunter Rise)
  • Rex & Pyra / Mythra (Xenoblade Chronicles 2)

All of these will be released throughout 2021, where it's possible that we get the first announcement at the Video Game Awards again, similar to Joker in 2018. Last year they didn't do this, but Byleth probably wasn't the most spectacular announcement and this really depends on whether we'll be looking at another guest characters or not.

But when it comes to third parties, Ryu Hayabusa is arguably one of the biggest omissions with ties to Nintendo. Now that Simon Belmont is on the roster, Hayabusa is one of the few missing NES Legends, probably the most important one. And not only would he represent Ninja Gaiden, but also the Dead or Alive series, where it would be lovely to get Spirits for Kasumi or Helena...

In any case it's weird how we haven't gotten anything from Koei Tecmo yet, despite their very healthy and friendly relationship with Nintendo. I mean, they are currently developing Nintendo's big Christmas hit, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, but they have nothing in Smash yet? That needs to change!

Also, Vergeben, the German leaker who predicted a huge part of the base roster and also heard rumors about both Dragon Quest and Minecraft in Smash before the DLC even was announced, only has one other clue at the moment and that's Hayabusa. So, if I had to put money on any of these characters, I would put it on Ryu Hayabusa.

Anyway, speaking of third parties, it's of note how five of the third party Mii costumes that used to be DLC for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U haven't returned in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate yet:

  • Chocobo
  • Geno
  • Llyod
  • Hunter
  • Rathalos

Well, by now this list gets smaller and smaller with every DLC release, where we got Heihachi's costume back with Min Min and now also Gil. And it's likely that we will get the rest of them back as well, where I don't really expect any of them to be upgraded to playable fighters. Well, except maybe one of them...

While the Mii costume waves don't necessarily need to have anything to do with the concurrent Challenger Pack, it's still possible that they saved some of these to go hand in hand with a fitting DLC fighter, similar to how they gave us Heihachi with another fighting game character. And it's kind of weird how Square Enix still has their Mii costumes out in the open, mainly because they had focused on Dragon Quest Mii outfits that came together with Hero. But it's possible that the Chocobo and Geno outfits were saved for a second Square Enix fighter in the DLC...

And when it comes to Square Enix, I don't see Geno or Sora as the likeliest candidates, also not another Final Fantasy fighter, but someone very close to Nintendo: Agnés Oblige, the protagonist of Bravely Default. The Bravely series has been exclusive to Nintendo systems and we're actually supposed to get Bravely Default II on Nintendo Switch still this year. So, the timing for Agnés as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. couldn't be any better.

Then there's Monster Hunter. It's already represented in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate via Rathalos, who is a Spirit, a boss and an Assist Trophy, as well as two music tracks... But that's very little considering how successful this franchise has been and how Capcom kept putting exclusive Monster Hunter games on Nintendo's systems, like the upcoming Monster Hunter Rise.

This could even tie in with the new game, where the protagonist from Rise could use the "Wirebugs" for his recovery and so on. Obviously, they would also bring back the Mii costumes for the Hunter and Rathalos armors with this.

People keep quoting that the producer of Monster Hunter was originally against putting the "Hunter" into Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which happened later anyway, and that this might also the reason why they put only Rathalos in Smash over a playable fighter. The series is mainly about the monsters.

And this is understandable, but naturally a Challenger Pack would also come with a stage, where there are other changes of showcasing different monsters from the series on that stage. And the combat of Monster Hunter can only be represented via fighter. You really want the whole package of this and all of that good music, where the Monster Hunter franchise seems to be in the exact same spot as ARMS used to be before the 2nd Fighters Pass in terms of representation...

Speaking of ARMS, there certainly is going to be at least another 1st party addition to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the last Challenger Pack. This would be similar to the first season of DLC, if you also count Piranha Plant as the first DLC fighter. Here four third party additions were sandwitched between two 1st party newcomers and history could repeat itself with the 2nd Fighters Pass.

And with that in mind, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 with Rex & Pyra feels like the best fit to end things on a different note again. Sakurai even has expressed his regret that they couldn't consider Rex as a fighter for the base game, because like with ARMS the timing was simply bad. And they've added his Mii costume as a bonus for the first Fighters Pass as some sort of consolation.

People claim that his has effectively has disconfirmed Rex as a possible fighter, like all DLC Mii costumes seemingly do, but it's a different story here. First of all, the costume is just a bonus and not sold separately. And even if someone took it as an incentive to buy the first Fighters Pass, then they probably wouldn't complain about getting the real deal later on. Plus, if we're going with the last Challenger Pack, it will have been three years since the Rex costume got available... Three years!

And the Rex Mii costume is just for Rex himself, while the fighter certainly would end up being a duo of Driver and Blade, so Rex and Pyra fighting together. Mythra could even become an alt and it's possible that there is a mechanic that allows you to use other Blades, which could even include the infamous KOS-MOS (though, she probably should become a fighter of her own at some point).


The Runner-Ups

Honorable mentions go to Dante from Devil May Cry and Crash Bandicoot as two of the most requested 3rd party newcomers out there. But there's nothing that I can say about them that makes them seem more or less likely at this point. If Capcom is getting yet another fighter in Smash, Monster Hunter still feels like the more important choice... But you never know.

My "most wanted" 3rd party newcomer would probably be the Doom Slayer, but he had been effectively disconfirmed by Marty Stratton from id Software in an interview with Metro earlier this year, so I'm not holding my breath.

Also, we can't dismiss the possibility of getting another Pokémon from Sword & Shield. In general they could do more 1st party additions this time, where I like to think that Dixie Kong or anyone from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is still on the table, because that game needs more love in Smash...

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate x Minecraft Impressions

Steve using Flint and Steel on K. Rool at Gerudo Valley

Time to troll. The "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate x Minecraft" Challenger Pack has been released yesterday and certainly offers by far the most creative and unique addition to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate yet. It's absolutely hilarious and I had a good laugh trying Steve for the first time. The moves, the taunts, the victory animations, it's all so out there and the perfect troll fighter.

However, I can't claim that this is my favorite DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate so far, because that title still goes to ARMS. Actually, my first impressions of both fighters were quite similar: you have to play them very defensively and with that they aren't really something for me personally. Well, this turned out to be completely wrong with Min Min, where she basically is my second main by now and not just a "secondary"...

Steve on the other hand is exactly what I expected him to be: super defensive. He essentially has a "mind your own business" playstyle, where your goal is to mine, craft and build things, just like in Minecraft, and your opponent is just a nuisance that's getting in the way. His weakness are seemingly rushdowns, but it's easier said than done for his opponents thanks to his defensiveness. You don't want to be under Steve when he has that iron and you don't want to be above him in any case. His anti-air game is insane. And so is his ability to ledge-trap.

He can wall off opponents from getting back to the stage, place TNT traps at the ledge or simply spam raining fire... Well, as a downside, his own recovery isn't that great either. You can't place blocks while you're falling and if you can't place blocks, your only option to get back up is the Elytra, which is very tricky to control. I'm not a fan of the gliding mechanic, really, and it's easy to mess it up. But at the same time the things that you can do to mess up any other fighter's recovery are insane.

What a character! I didn't think he's for me at first, because he's very hard to handle and I'm personally a little overwhelmed by all the mining and crafting you have to do, since this makes you quite vulnerable and I prefer to play offensively. Well, I wanted this character for the ability to build things and that turned out even more amazing than I had imagined. But it wouldn't be "Minecraft" without mining and crafting as well, so I'm not complaining... And I'm slowly getting the hang of him, where there is some potential for a new secondary / counter pick here.

And the mining is such a crazy feature, especially how every stage can be different for Steve. It's fun to do and the attention to detail with this fighter is absolutely above the charts, where you even get sand blocks on Tortimer Island, ice blocks on Summit or wool blocks on Yoshi's Story.

Some stage materials seem quite off, though, for example the Great Plateau tower is apparently made out of stone and Spring Stadium made out of dirt, even though both should probably be iron... I suppose they based this feature on what sounds are played from the materials, but it probably could have needed some more adjusting here and there.

  

Steve and Alex on the Minecraft World stage

Speaking of stages, the "Minecraft World" turned out much better than I thought it would. At first I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't entirely random, but the attention to detail is again superb. There is so much to discover in the backgrounds, it's absolutely beautiful. It's really like playing in a Minecraft world with its day and night cycle, mobs running around and some generated structures.

Destroying the upper layers of the stage block by block can be fun, but the blocks can also get heavily in the way. However, the hazardless versions of the stage have all destructible blocks removed from the get-go, so that's good and each variant still feels different enough thanks to the platforms and visuals.

It's basically like getting six Minecraft stages in one and that's some amazing effort, where it's also nice how can select all six variants individually via shortcuts. I wish that some of the morphing stages, like Paper Mario, had this feature as well, so that you could go directly to a certain part of the stage or even choose it for the hazard-free variant.

The Classic Mode route for Steve was great as well. Lots of nice references to the game, like going into a Woodland Mansion, the Nether and of course the End. Using giant Kirbies as Ghasts or Pits as Vexes was quite clever, I give them that.
 
The only real downside of this DLC pack is the lack of any C418 music. And don't tell me that it's too "calm", Sakurai, there are other calm music pieces in the game and you can always remix them. In the very least the victory theme should have been the main Minecraft theme and not that weird Achievement jingle. I suppose that there probably have been issues with getting the rights here and that's a shame...

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Age of Calamity: Untold Chronicles 2

Master Kohga on a table with a Yiga commander giving him a massage and a robed figure next to them

It's been a week and Nintendo has just released Untold Chronicles From 100 Years Past - Part 2, featuring three more characters from Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which hopefully will become playable at some point.

In this case we get a first look at some villains. We're introduced to Master Kohga, who seems to be the same as in Breath of the Wild. Well, since the Yiga Clan is made out of Sheikah, it's possible that he was able to grow very old or even stay young somehow. But it also might be that this Master Kohga simply got replaced by someone with a similar statue at some point in history, but this really looks and feels like the exact same guy.

Anyway, he gets full voice acting now, as well as a special commander for his troops, who looks like a Yiga Blademaster with the difference that he is dual wielding and has two pigtails on his head. I bet he also likes eating two bananas at once. But he could be like this game's version of Volga, just less serious.

In addition, there is a dark sorceress type of character who's aiding the Yiga and has a Gerudo symbol on the back of her robe, so she could be a Gerudo witch serving Ganon, similar to Twinrova. Of course it doesn't necessarily have to be a Gerudo, where this simply could be someone with allegiance to the old Gerudo Ganondorf from legends, similar to how Onox and Veran used to wear the Gerudo Symbol in allegiance to Twinrova. But since the Gerudo tribe in Breath of the Wild is overall opposed to Ganon, the simplest explanation would be a Gerudo who is still loyal to Ganon somehow.

This character also has the typical villain jewelry on their forehead, but in this case it's an eye that looks very similar to the Glowing Eyeballs that grow in Calamity Ganon's malice, further linking this new villain to Ganon. And her weapon seems to be a corrupted Ancient Core.

People also seem to be quite obsessed with the fortune teller who told King Rhoam about the prophecy, where it would be a cool twist if that fortune teller was this evil figure. But whoever it might be, we can briefly see that person in the Yiga Hideout, but also at the entrance to the Lost Woods at the end of the trailer, where the Yiga are probably trying to get to the Master Sword or chase after Zelda.

This is all very intriguing and I can only repeat myself when I say that all of these characters better be playable. King Rhoam, Robbie, Purah, Master Kohga, that Yiga commander and the sorceress... Well, I wouldn't be surprised if the villains only become playable via DLC, but in the least it's good to see that Koei Tecmo is working on some original characters again. I really liked what they did with Cia, Volga and Wizzro in the first Hyrule Warriors, so this could be equally good.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Zelda Calendars 2021

Covers of the 2021 Zelda calendars from Abrams and Pyramid

New year, new calendars. Like the previous two years, I got both the Abrams calendar (on the left) and the Pyramid calendar (on the right). This could change in the upcoming years, however, because the difference in quality between the two keeps increasing.

I've always preferred the Pyramid calendar from a design standpoint, but because they just started doing this two years ago, their motives were a little bit too "vanilla" for my taste. I've seen all those artworks in the Abrams calendars before...

Backs of the 2021 Zelda calendars showing all months

But now, funnily enough, it's the other way around. If you look at the 2020 calendars, four motives from the 2020 Pyramid calendar are now re-appearing the 2021 Abrams calendar...! Talk about lazy... It's like they just were looking at what the competition is doing and said to themselves, "we can do that, too! Let's just copy that!"

Well, Abrams has expanded their previous focus on the 3D Zelda games to "3D Zelda games + A Link Between Worlds", so there is still not much love for the 2D Zelda games here. I didn't even bother with their new Metroid calendar for 2021, because it's twelve times a Samus render from the Metroid Prime Trilogy games. I'm not even joking, you get one month of Quadraxis and the rest is Prime Samus.

It's like the guys at Abrams have the mindset of "we have to go with the popular 3D games or else no one will buy this". Pyramid on the other hand will offer you artwork from The Legend of Zelda, The Minish Cap, Four Swords Adventures, A Link Between Worlds and the new Link's Awakening remake.

With the latter they are also more up-to-date. Abrams seemingly likes to produce and sell their calendars very early, but because of this they are usually two or even three years behind with what's new in the series. Pyramid doesn't seem to be as bad in that regard, where they got the newest Zelda game covered. Plus, they had a good pick with the Champions for December, where this also works nicely to represent Age of Calamity.

Also, the new design for the months in the Pyramid calendar is absolutely amazing. Check this out:

It's a dungeon map! This is probably inspired by the Chamber Dungeon feature from Link's Awakening and I absolutely love this. This looks so cool and you get a different dungeon every month! That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you design a nice Zelda calendar.

I won't even bother showing you the inside of the Abrams calendar, because it's the same uninspired, effortless single-color design as always. And you can see an example on the back above. So, if you only have space or money for a single Zelda calendar, definitely go with the one from Pyramid.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Age of Calamity: Outfits?

outfit menu

There is one part about yesterday's stream that we haven't talked about yet and that's the possibility to change your fighter's "attire". In the showcase they went trough a small collection for Link, which consisted entirely out of familiar armor pieces from Breath of the Wild, like the Snowquill Trousers, Soldier's Armor or the Zora Helm.

That is another thing that Koei Tecmo has taken directly from the source material and it's certainly a lot more versatile than the different costumes in Hyrule Warriors, because you can change your clothes for the legs, torso and head individually. You can even remove everything, if you want to play as Link in his underwear...

And that raises a certain question... Can you undress the ladies? Will you be able to change the attire of other fighters as well and how will this look like? Obviously, they can't just use the same armor pieces from Breath of the Wild for everyone else.

Well, in case of Zelda we have already seen her in three different outfits – her Champion attire, the white Goddess dress and the ceremonial outfit. And there is at least one more outfit that needs to be there, her cute winter clothes from The Champions' Ballad:

Zelda in her winter outfit talking to Revali

Whether all of these will actually be an option for the playable Zelda or not remains to be seen. For some missions it might even make canonical sense for her to wear a certain piece, e.g. the white dress during the final missions. But it certainly would be nice to be able to choose this before side quest missions and so on.

As for Impa, she could have the Sheikah stealth set as an alternative. But with both ladies you probably shouldn't expect the option to fully remove their clothes and play in underwear. Well, it's with all certainty something that Koei Tecmo would do (The Legend of Zelda: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, when?), but it's also probably something that Nintendo wouldn't approve, even though it's totally sexist that it's okay for Link to fight in his underwear, but not for Zelda. But we'll see about that.

As for the four Champions, in the least they do get the Champion cloth / scarf as an option. In the beginning of the game they naturally don't have those yet as part of their outfits and you will probably be able to turn it on and off in the same way as Link's armor. Urbosa certainly will also have the option to wear the Thunder Helmet or not...

They could also do some more creative stuff, e.g. Nabooru's outfit for Urbosa. Speaking of, similar to how Link got the amiibo armor pieces that made him look like a previous incarnation, e.g. the Link from Ocarina of Time, there could be similar sets for both Zelda and Impa.

So, there are many possibilities here and it will be interesting to see more of this feature in the near future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Age of Calamity @ Treehouse Live October 2020

Urbosa fighting Yiga in the Gerudo Desert

Today Nintendo streamed Treehouse Live for October 2020 with some new gameplay for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, showcasing Urbosa, Zelda, Link with a two-handed weapon and some more of Impa. We also were able to take a look at the Gerudo Desert stage and the main map for the game, where both confirmed a couple of suspicions about the game.

The Gerudo Desert stage is huge and the Gerudo Town is only a tiny part of the entire stage. That's actually quite impressive and much larger than the battlefields from the first Hyrule Warriors. There is also a much bigger attention to detail, where everything looks like it was taken directly out of Breath of the Wild, even with added details on top with all the villages and places that aren't ruined yet.

The main goal of the story chapter is to defeat Master Kohga, so whoever took that title 100 years ago is confirmed for this game. It's not a big surprise and the question remains whether he will become playable in the end or not, because so far it looks like you will only be able to play as the good guys this time.

In Gerudo Town there was also a nice discovery in form of a Korok, so this collectible feature has been confirmed in the way we expected it to work. I wouldn't even be surprised, if there were 900 in total again.

The most interesting part about the stream, however, was the main map. Unlike Hyrule Warriors, there won't be separate Legend, Basar and Adventure Modes, instead everything has been combined to one giant map, where you access the story chapters, but also play side-quests or visit merchants or use materials:

ingame map screen similar to Breath of the Wild

And this is sooooo smart, I love it! Things that were super trivial in the first Hyrule Warriors, like unlocking a new move for a weapon type, all now have these little stories to them and are all part of one large world. It just makes everything feel more relevant and connected and not like you're grinding through countless discount missions.

The "Challenge Battles" from the Adventure Mode, where you have to defeat 1000 enemies or so, are also integrated into this, so you'll have a nice mix of following the story and playing side missions. In the example here Link was training his two-handed sword style against Hylian soldiers and Daruk at Lon Lon Ranch. Yes, at the Lon Lon Ranch, which we finally were able to see before it was destroyed and which looks remarkably similar to the one from Ocarina of Time.

There also don't seem to be any ranks, like "S", "A" and "B", but I could be mistaken. I would like to see those gone, however, because the arbitrary requirements like "don't take more than ten hearts of damage" were always annoying. In this there are even "Sacrifice Strong Attacks" that consume a part of your life energy, where it would be really silly to have these strictly limited due to some artificial achievement. The ranks also made having many hearts and healing items completely useless, which hopefully will be different for this game...

Well, materials you collect can be used to trade for stuff (like new combos) or to cook recipes, which give you helpful effects for one battle. The materials and recipes seem to be taken out of Breath of the Wild, much like the weapons, where you seemingly can have a limited pool for each character. There is no distinction between weapon types, it's just that different weapons will lead to different play styles, which is actually the same as in Breath of the Wild with its three main weapon types. The number of weapons you can have for a single character might be increased with the Korok Seeds again, I suppose.

As for the new movesets that they've shown today, they did confirm that Zelda is using the Sheikah Slate as her main weapon in addition to using the Runes like everybody else. And it looks crazy... The Special attack where she uses the Sheikah Slate Camera was really funny!

Urbosa is pretty impressive as well, where you have a lightning gauge that you need to charge. But all the flashy lightning attacks really help to set her apart from Link's one-handed sword gameplay.

But I have to say, all of this looks extremely well done. As much as I loved the first Hyrule Warriors, this Warriors game puts it to shame. It's on a whole other level!

What might not be on a whole other level is the number of playable fighters, however. They've shown us seven so far and it's questionable how many more there will be. This might even be it... But I still hope that we will get Hestu, King Rhoam, Robbie and Purah.

 

PS: I fully understand that in these times events like this are done remotely, with people streaming from their home. That's cool and I'm in full support of this, but in the least you should get your employees proper microphones. The one woman was very hard to understand and it felt super unprofessional.