Thursday, January 31, 2019

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Piranha Plant Released

So, the 2.0.0 update for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out yesterday and we indeed did get the Piranha Plant as part of the update already. There won't be a Nintendo Direct this week, however, but then again the Piranha Plant already got introduced in the Super Smash Bros. Direct in November. At this point, I wouldn't expect a Direct before Joker is ready to be revealed in playable form, which still might take some time.

The Piranha Plant itself is fun, though maybe a little awkward to play, where it has several Special Moves, where you can alter the direction of the attack during the execution. Especially the Neutral Special takes some time to get used to it. It probably won't become one of my mains, but it's certainly a very unique fighter on the roster.

By the way, the Piranha Plant also guest-starred in the Zelda series alongside other Mario enemies in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Since this was my first Zelda game and I came from the Super Mario Land games, it was completely normal to have these enemies in Zelda... So, the Plant is really everywhere.

Otherwise version 2.0.0 introduced the ability to get exclusive Spirits from the Spirit Board and Shop and the ability to short hop by pressing two jump buttons. I welcome both of it quite a lot. Since I don't have the game yet myself, I would have missed quite a few Spirits otherwise, and I do have issues getting short hops done normally in Ultimate. I would prefer a more intuitive solution, where the duration of the button press determines the height of the jump, but I take what I can get.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Ruined Zelda Stages

Okay, the title of this post is probably worded a little bit too dramatic, but while playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate I've noticed that there are two Zelda stages that are noticeably worse than in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It's the two stages that used to be DLC on the Wii U: Hyrule Castle and Pirate Ship.

Hyrule Castle

The main issue with Hyrule Castle is the camera against the fixed skybox background. The camera loves to adjust its angles a lot, especially when playing in 1on1s, where in this case the castle feels like a ship shaking on the water. It feels nauseating and makes playing this stage very uncomfortable.

While the camera can be weird in other stages as well, I've only witnessed this particular problem in Hyrule Castle and some of the other N64 stages so far, where I suspect that this is mainly caused by the fixated skybox. With other stages the background moves a lot more in relation to the camera, while here it's simply still, which lets it look like the castle is bouncing around. This is something that could potentially be fixed in a patch, though.

Also, its Omega form looks less appealing than it did on the Wii, which brings us to the next part...

Pirate Ship Ω Form

While the Pirate Ship stage itself received a visual upgrade that lets it look closer to The Wind Waker HD, the Omega (and Battlefield) form faced a significant downgrade.

On the Wii U they put a lot of love into designing the Omega variant, making it look like one of the Lookout Platforms from the original Zelda game:

In Ultimate on the other hand, they kept some of the platform's design, but it's really just a platform floating above the sea:

The pole of the tower doesn't go into the ocean and neither does the ladder in the front. The cannons are also gone. It's probably because they wanted to give all Omega forms in the game the exact same shape, where this affects other stages as well. For example the the Omega variants of Hyrule Castle and Onett in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U still looked like a building, while in Ultimate now you have a floating mess that doesn't look all that great.

With the Pirate Ship it still doesn't make much sense, however, because they could have used the same standard shape and still have the pole and the roof in the background. Other Omega stages still have background elements, like for example the laboratory in the Great Bay stage. Maybe the roof didn't look good in the Battlefield variant, but they could have removed the roof for the Battlefield version only.

Considering that the original Omega form of the Pirate Ship was a really nice idea, it feels like a loss to have this mutilated version in Ultimate.

Metroid Prime 4: Development Reboot

In this year's preview, I was still confident that Metroid Prime 4 would be showcased and released in 2019. Two months ago Reggie even confirmed in an interview with that the development of the game is going well and they already have internal expectations for a release. But we can certainly forget that now.

Today, Nintendo released a video message from Takahashi, where he explains that they are not satisfied with the current state of development of Metroid Prime 4. As a result they are going to collaborate with Retro Studios to make it happen, which will effectively restart the development of the game.

Well, why not so from the beginning? After Federation Force, it was already easy to be skeptical about Tanabe's vision for the series. And since we didn't know anything about the "talented new developers" that were going to create Metroid Prime 4, skepticism unfolded even more, especially if it was going to be developed in Japan, because Japanese aren't usually all that comfortable with First Person Shooters...

So, the project going back to Retro certainly feels right, but at the same time Retro hasn't delivered anything after the excellent Tropical Freeze, released almost five years ago. What have they been doing in all this time? We don't know... But we know that several staff members had left the studio over the years, so it's not the same key talent anymore, which was responsible for the original Metroid Prime Trilogy. So, this might even have been a reason why Retro wasn't going to develop Metroid Prime 4 in the first place.

But maybe this is exactly what both ends need to get back on track. Maybe Retro Studios needs a motivating project like Metroid Prime 4 to get back on their feet. And maybe then Retro Studios will become the studio that Metroid Prime 4 needs to be really good in the end. We'll see. In time.

In any case this is bad news for the Metroid series. A development reboot is costly. They had people working on the game for about two years now with no results. The game needs to be very successful to get these costs back in. And considering that both the Nintendo 3DS Metroid games combined couldn't even sell one million copies, we're possibly looking at a dire future for Metroid.

Well, let's hope for the best. Let's hope that Metroid Prime 4 will be a tremendous blockbuster for the Nintendo Switch in the end.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Nintendo Direct and Piranha Plant Next Week?

According to this, a 2.0.0 release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is scheduled to be released next week. (Update: this is now also confirmed ingame!)

January 31st is the final day to receive the download code for the Piranha Plant for free and it might as well be the day, where they are going to release it. It should happen before February 15th in any case, because that's when the Plant's amiibo arrives in stores. And for it to be supported, the fighter needs to be in Smash Ultimate, so this update needs to happen in the next three weeks - the sooner, the better.

And January 31st would be a perfect timing for a Nintendo Direct as well, because the date falls on a Thursday, where they could announce the Plant for download right after the Direct and maybe even offer some surprises, e.g. a free stage or a free Echo Fighter...

Maybe Piranha Plant even comes with its own stage for free, in which case I would expect one of the missing past stages that fit the Plant, so either Mushroom Kingdom (Melee) or Mushroomy Kingdom 1-2 as a separate stage.

This Monday was also the 20th Anniversary of Super Smash Bros., so they could use that as an incentive to deliver something special for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It could even mean the start of the Smash World app, which could create another alternative for the free stage - something like the Miiverse stage, but for Smash Sworld.

In any case there is a current news drought and nothing much to talk about otherwise. So, let's hope that there will be a Nintendo Direct in the near future.

Monday, January 21, 2019

20th Anniversary of Super Smash Bros.

After Ocarina of Time, it's now the turn of Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 to celebrate 20 years of existence - and with it the entire series. While it's not as old as Zelda or Metroid, it's certainly an important milestone for both of these series and many others. By now the Super Smash Bros. franchise has grown into the biggest video game crossover of all time.

I've recently revisited the original N64 game and shared my experiences about it. I first came in contact with the series via the odd commercial back in the day, where I still remember how we talked at school about how cool the concept was. Sadly, I never got to play it on the N64 at the time. It wasn't before Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008, right when I started this blog, that I laid my hands on the series and became a fan, at least somewhat.

This week I will celebrate by playing the newest installment - Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Luckily, I can borrow a Nintendo Switch for the entirety of the week, so I can get some good practice.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: DLC Roster Leaked?

So, there is this rumor going around, where the entire DLC line-up for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been revealed (see here). I personally think it has too much information to be real (e.g. already knowing some alt costumes or reveal plans), where I'm leaning towards fake, but it's still an interesting list:

  • Joker (Persona 5)
  • Erdrick (Dragon Quest)
  • Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden)
  • Steve (Minecraft)
  • Doom Slayer (DOOM)

Wow! I previously disliked the thought of getting a full 3rd party roster for the DLC, but if these are the candidates, I'm taking it back. I would be really excited for this.

Now, Joker is already confirmed and there have been several other rumors around Erdrick. One is that data miners have found character filenames with the name "brave" in the 1.1.0 update code (source), where it's speculated that this is simply a literal translation of "Yuusha", the Japanese name of the Hero character in the Dragon Quest games.

In addition, Vergeben also is saying that he keeps hearing about Erdrick (source) and he has been quite reliable about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate so far. He thought that the Square Enix character, which would be the fighter from Dragon Quest, would be revealed first and was wrong about that, but since he accurately predicted Ridley, Simon, Isabelle, Ken and Incineroar, I still give him the benefit of the doubt. And it all adds up.

Vergeben also kept hearing about Minecraft content (source), which would be another bullet point on the list. So, there are only really Ninja Gaiden and DOOM being the big surprises here.

And Ninja Gaiden makes a lot of sense. The series is a cult classic that goes back to the NES days. It also spawned the popular Dead or Alive fighting (and sexy volleyball) game series, where Ryu Hayabusa is a fighter in these games as well and would represent two franchises at once with that. Also, it would be the first Koei Tecmo representative, something to be expected sooner than later. Koei Tecmo has been cooperating with Nintendo left and right, they even gave us Hyrule Warriors, where it's weird that so far nothing from them has been playable in Super Smash Bros. – and Ryu Hayabusa should be the first choice here.

Also, Nintendo has been cooperating a lot with both Bethesda and Microsoft in the recent years, where some opportunities for Smash may arise here. And in case of Microsoft the choice of Minecraft is extremely obvious. It's the second best selling game of all time and insanely popular, going strong for almost a decade now. Nintendo loves Minecraft. Sakurai loves Minecraft. Miyamoto loves Minecraft. And most gamers love Minecraft as well. The game is available on Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Switch, where there's even a special Creeper-faced New 2DS XL.

And adding Minecraft to Smash Ultimate would be the biggest deal possible. There are so many fans out there that suddenly might become interested in buying a Switch with Smash Ultimate (and maybe even a copy of Minecraft to play it on the go), making this a very good addition from a business point of view.

In case of Bethesda, it probably comes down to either Dovahkiin or Doom Slayer, where the latter has multiple advantages. He represents the genre of classic, fast First Person Shooter games, which is not yet represented in Smash at all, while he also has a rich history with Nintendo. The original Doom appeared on the SNES and GameBoy Advance, while the N64 had a Doom game on its own with Doom 64. And of course the new games are on Switch.

Doom Slayer also appears in the Quake series, mainly as a playable character in Quake III Arena and Quake Champions, where similar to Ryu Hayabusa he could represent two series at once. So, while this might seem like the most outlandish choice on this list, Doom Slayer has lots of going for him.

And I personally would like this selection quite a lot. I don't care about Dragon Quest and I also don't Akira Toriyama's art anywhere near Smash, but I can still see the rich history Nintendo has with this series and its popularity in Japan.

Minecraft on the other hand is one of my favorite games of all time, where an inclusion in Smash would make me very happy. As a fan of the earlier Dead or Alive games, I would welcome Ryu Hayabusa with opens arms and I think he has the right legacy to be in Smash. And while I'm more a fan of Quake than Doom, I would still be very excited about Doom Slayer in Smash, especially if he brings weapons like the Rocket Launcher and even the BFG as his Final Smash. That would be insane. So, if this were the real DLC, I would be quite happy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Dawn of a New Year – 2019

A new year has arrived and with a new year come new possibilities. And 2019 looks really promising for both the Zelda and the Metroid series. It will probably be the year to finally get a Nintendo Switch for whoever doesn't own one yet (like me), because we could be looking at some major new contents, which weren't already available in some form on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS... Let's go briefly through the potential Nintendo Switch titles:

Skyward Sword HD

When you have the producer of the Zelda series on stage, teasing the audience with "Skyward Sword for Switch", the game better should be ready to be announced soon, maybe even in the next Nintendo Direct. It could be an early title for the year, similar to Hyrule Warriors - Definitive Edition in 2018.

It will be interesting to see, how it handles the topic of motion controls, especially with the handheld mode of the Switch being a thing. And it will be nice to see what contents and improvements the game will receive, e.g. a trial cave dungeon.

It's also possible that this game (or any new Zelda release in 2019) might finally come with a special Zelda Edition of the Nintendo Switch. Imagine a bundle with a golden dock and golden Joy-cons. That's how Nintendo gets even the last Zelda fans without a Switch (like me) to finally buy one.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC

While we shouldn't expect anything from the Zelda series in the Fighter Pass for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, they still might add some more contents to the game, like some additional Echo Fighters. In that case Impa from Skyward Sword would have a solid chance and together with the release of Skyward Sword HD could become an important face in 2019 for the Zelda fans.

A New 2D Zelda

Grezzo has been hiring personell to "make a legend 2" in 2017, where the fruits of this labor could be harvested in 2019. It could be another remaster, but probably not Skyward Sword HD, because this is a game that would be handled by either Tantalus or the main Zelda team, since for the most part it will only require upscaling of its graphics.

It's more likely that Grezzo has been working on some new Zelda game entirely, like with Tri Force Heroes in 2015, unless of course they meant Ever Oasis with that "legend" in their job postings... But this could lead to another game using the classic top-down or even side-scrolling perspectives in the series. It could be a new take on Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. It could be a new take on Link's Awakening. Or it could be something else entirely.

It's also possible that the game might utilize multiplayer in some form, where the trend so far was going for less. After the Four Swords titles that focused on two to four players, Tri Force Heroes became a thing from Grezzo with a strict three player count, which didn't really work out so nicely. Maybe a focus on a two player coop will be a good idea for the next multiplayer Zelda game, where one plays as Link and the other as Zelda, similar to Spirit Tracks, just with two players this time (the singleplayer mode could work like in Spirit Tracks, though). This would be interesting and be ideal for any pairs playing Zelda.

Hyrule Warriors 2

Hyrule Warriors was a great success for Koei Tecmo and a sequel will happen eventually. They've finished their work on Fire Emblem Warriors for both Nintendo 3DS and Switch last year with its DLC, around the same time when Hyrule Warriors was released on Switch as well. And with all certainty they have moved on to the next Nintendo Warriors project afterwards. But this doesn't necessarily have to be the next Hyrule Warriors, seeing how the first game is already on the Nintendo Switch. It could be something else entirely, like Xenoblade Warriors, which would be cool as well.

However, if Koei Tecmo is indeed working on Hyrule Warriors 2, chances are that we will hear about the game for the first time in 2019. But I wouldn't expect a release in this year, maybe a first teaser at the end of year, like it was done for Hyrule Warriors in 2013... So, overall this feels more like a title for 2020.

Metroid Prime 4

Not a Zelda game, but still a Nintendo Action Adventure game of big interest to this Blog would be Metroid Prime 4. So far we haven't seen anything from the game yet and this will hopefully change at E3 2019. How will the game look like? How does it play? What's Sylux like? Will we be also getting a Metroid Prime Trilogy HD release? All those questions may or may not be answered in 2019.

Smartphone Zelda?

Last but not least, there is still the open question of a potential Zelda game for Smartphones. This was expected for 2018 already, but we got Dragalia Lost instead. And 2019 will start off with Mario Kart Tour, where it will be interesting to see, how this game will be handled on smart devices. Maybe Zelda will be coming afterwards...