Thursday, March 25, 2021

Maining the Master Cycle Zero

 ... in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

So, what to do with a new Nintendo Switch, now what I've completed Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity? Playing all those good Wii U games again, of course, where I'm busy with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury, as well as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Well, both of these titles can be played together with someone else, so that's always good, and they also offer something new over their Wii U counterparts, which is certainly nice to have.


And other than the new Battle Mode, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe got a couple of new drivers and karts, which includes Link and the Master Cycle Zero from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And for completing the game I decided to primarily use this bike and character. So, no Waluigi and Wild Wiggler for me.

I already liked the Master Cycle Zero quite a lot when it got released via a free update in 2018, because it comes with an outward drift, instead of an inward drift like the original Master Cycle. While I preferred bikes in Mario Kart Wii, like pretty much everyone, I really don't like the behavior and camera for most of them in this game. But the Master Cycle Zero drives more like your typical kart, so this is great.

To be fair, I didn't go with the full setup all the time. I use the Paraglider, but I like to change the tires to something else. However, my favorite wheels, the "Hot Monster", didn't unlock for me yet, while I'm already done with three-staring all the cups in all the modes... Which was kind of frustrating, but this game loves to frustrate you anyway.

For example the bots are clearly cheating in 200cc, where they can take even the sharpest turns at full speed. Luckily, they aren't as good with dodging obstacles, which may give you an advantage after all, where you will need it, because with bots it's like you're playing alone against a whole team. Everyone is against you... And then there's the whole star system, which makes playing cups simply not fun, because it forces you to rank 1st place every single time, like some Michael Schumacher. Though, at least it doesn't ask you of utmost perfection any longer, like it did in Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii.

In 200c I also dropped Link for Dry Bones at first, who is new in the Deluxe version as well, because I certainly prefer driving as a light weight character in that mode for the reduced speed. Less speed and more acceleration is actually a good thing here, or so I thought at first, because with some of the cups having more weight made things actually easier, where I personally like one of the metal characters best. And instead of taking away the speed from your stats, it's better to sometimes avoid the things in 200cc that make you go too fast in the first place, like stunts or even mini-turbos (you can quickly let go of gas to avoid them).

But despite some experimentation, I stuck with the Master Cycle Zero and will continue using it in the future, because I love this bike. It may not be the optimal Waluigi Wild Wiggler meta, but I personally prefer to find a compromise between what characters and carts appeal to me and what characters and carts work well.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: New Vs. Old

This is a small observation I've made based on a topic on SmashFAQs...

The development of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can be divided into three stages: base game, first wave of DLC and the second wave of DLC. And each of these phases came with a total of six unique new fighters.

There were Inkling, Ridley, Simon, King K. Rool, Isabelle and Incineroar as the base game additions that weren't Echo Fighters. The first Fighters Pass had Joker, Hero, Banjo & Kazooie, Terry and Byleth, while there was also Piranha Plant as the first DLC fighter overall. And the second Fighters Pass comes six more fighters, where Min Min, Steve, Sephiroth and Pyra / Mythra have been released so far.

Now, if you exclude the Echo Fighters, because they are derivative by nature and therefore always come from an existing series, and look at the distribution of fighters that have been introducing a new series to Smash, you'll notice that it's exactly half so far:

all 16 new fighters so far with half of them shown in lower opacity

In the base game only two fighters were added from a new series: Inkling and Simon from Splatoon and Castlevania respectively. The first wave of DLC made up for this, where only two fighters were added from existing series, Piranha Plant and Byleth, while the rest has been new 3rd party additions.

And with the second Fighters Pass so far things are very balanced, where there's a new first party fighter with Min Min from ARMS, a new third party fighter with Steve and co. from Minecraft, a third party fighter for the already represented Final Fantasy VII with Sephiroth and finally Pyra / Mythra from the second Xenoblade Chronicles game, which is another first party. It doesn't get any more balanced than that.

So, what does this mean for the last two fighters? Well, it probably doesn't mean anything at all, where this is most likely just coincidence so far. On the other hand it really may be that Sakurai's team and Nintendo want to keep additions fairly balanced, which ultimately led to the current distribution.

And to keep things balanced between additions from existing franchises and new franchises, all it needs would be one more from both sides, like for example Rayman and a Pokémon from Sword & Shield. But if they also were to keep things balanced between first and third parties, the last two fighters have to be third parties, because there are nine 1st party additions and seven 3rd parties so far.

One of them should be from an existing series, where first and foremost Tails and Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog come to mind or another Street Fighter character like Chun-Li. And the second one is again free to dive into completely new territories, like for example a Tales Of character, the Master Chief or the Doom Slayer.

But this is pure speculation for the sake of the current equilibrium and in the end it could also be two first party additions from existing series, because that's simply what they were going for and there are no rules to get a certain number of anything into Smash.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Pyra / Mythra Released

Mythra to the left and Pyra to the right creating a flame with her fingers

After the presentation yesterday, we didn't have to wait long until Pyra & Mythra got released for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. How lovely!

Their flashiness aside, it's pretty much just what you'd expect from another sword fighter on first glance. So, what ultimately sets these two apart is the fact that you're getting a new sword fighter and the inevitable clone in one package. I do like them more than the usual Fire Emblem sword fighter, however, and the switching makes them more interesting.

Basically, Pyra is stronger, but slower, while Mythra is faster, but considerably weaker. This reminds me of a certain character in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, who also could switch between two "modes", where one mode is faster, but the other does more damage. Of course with these blade ladies you're getting a little more than just that, where this also affects their walking speeds, jump heights, certain abilities and also their Specials, where their different Side Specials are really cool and fun to use.

Overall I prefer playing as Mythra, but I like to swap to Pyra when I want to score some heavy hits. This reminds of playing as Min Min, where for the most part you want to go with Ram Ram, but the Megawatt helps you with dealing some massive damage.

Using the Down Special to swap is in line with similar characters, like Pokémon Trainer or the aforementioned Min Min, but I personally would have swapped this with the Neutral Specials, just to make the swapping in the middle of the battle somewhat more accessible. Pressing down while in the air might result in going down faster, while you simply want to switch to Mythra to save yourself...

The swapping is also not as fast as you might have expected from the first trailer, where it would have been interesting, if you were encouraged to swap characters for cool combos. Right now I wouldn't be surprised, if Sakurai was right and there are quite some people who stick to one of the two characters, which would be like Zelda and Sheik all over again. It was still executed better, though, and these two characters in combination have a ton of potential.

Anyway, the alt costumes, which had been a secret until yesterday (with one exception) are kind of a mixed bag. Some of them look great, others are way too similar to the default one. The seventh almost looks identical, where this is Crafted Yoshi all over again. The alternate costumes should help you with distinguishing players using the same fighter, where having too similar colors doesn't really help. And the one where Pyra and Mythra swap their color schemes is just utterly confusing.

Alternatively, it would have been nice to get more colors based on other Blades, like Brighid. And alt colors based on KOS-MOS and T-elos seemed like an absolute no-brainer here, where it's quite disappointing to not have this...

a dragon with a scrap house on its back flying through the sky

Moving on to the stage, the Cloud Sea of Alrest, which is really nice and probably one of my favorite DLC stages. It looks beautiful and it's very simple, where the moving head is unique, but not some overly crazy mechanic, which keeps annoying you to death. In its hazard-free version it's actually quite similar to one of the simple stages I've made for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, with a platform on the left side and a slope on the right side. I like it!

Now... if only the stage were to stop talking...

Otherwise update 11.0.0 also came with some improvements, like the ability to shut off other controllers with your own. Still no stage hazard toggle to be found on the stage select screen... This will never be implemented, now will it?

Both my mains, Min Min and Zero Suit Samus got nerfed a little, so screw this game, I'm done with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for good. Nah, I don't really care, nor do I play much competitively...

There are new exclusive Spirits that you get from having save games of certain other games, like Arthur from Ghosts n Goblins Resurrection, but apparently those will appear in the shop via a later update, so that's fine, too.

We certainly had much more exciting updates in the past, though...

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: 3rd Fighters Pass?

fake Fighters Pass Vol. 3 logo

When Masahiro Sakurai talks about the remaining two Challenger Packs in today's Mr. Sakurai Presents, it sure sounds like this is going to be it. "Only two more opportunities to bring you cinematic videos."

In any case we shouldn't expect a third Fighters Pass, where the current DLC offers already exceed the price of the main game. But then again a second Fighters Pass also didn't seem likely and no matter who the last two Challengers will be, there will be something left to desire. Naturally, you can't satisfy everyone, no matter how many fighters they will include, but it might be worth it go the extra mile to fill some of the biggest gaps.

As for the Challenger Packs 10 and 11, we're back to "it really could be anyone". Well, everyone except for characters that are already Assist Trophies or DLC Mii Fighter costumes, where Monster Hunter has basically been disconfirmed by the current set of Mii Fighter outfits. If they were to make a Challenger Pack for Monster Hunter, they certainly would have saved these costume for that occassion, so it's safe to say that this is it for the franchise.

The only 3rd party DLC Mii Fighter outfit that hasn't been re-released yet is Llyod Irving from Tales of Symphonia. It's likely that this costume will be brought back as well, which doesn't bode well for Lloyd, but the question what Challenger Pack will accompany the costume. Llyod could come with a different character from the Tales franchise and/or another sword fighter or even something completely unrelated.

If we're getting one more character with a sword, Ryu Hayabusa still seems like the top contender, but the inclusion of Sephiroth, Pyra and Mythra makes this feel a little less likely than before. Crash Bandicoot or the Doom Slayer would certainly feel more different and maybe Rayman finally breaks out of the ice on Battlefield at the end, which would be a hilarious trailer.

But you've heard all of this a hundred times before and most fans will probably agree that the final two Challenger Packs should be more 3rd party guest characters, because that's where all the spectacle is. However, this would leave some 1st party possibilities unfulfilled...

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate hasn't really done the best job of representing the current era of Nintendo with the Nintendo Switch, as well as late era of Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Lots of good games are barely represented, where on the front of new stages and (updated) fighters they've only done the bare minimum with Splatoon, Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey in the base game.

The DLC has slowly, but surely been adding more 1st party representation with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, ARMS and now Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but there is still a lot to be done here. And this is where the third and final Fighters Pass comes in.

Now, for a hypothetical Fighters Pass Vol. 3 let's assume that they won't expand the current boundaries of the stage and characters select screens. They probably could, but it would look awful and there might also be some technical hurdles here. This means that there are ultimately only three slots for stages left, as well as four more fighters. Which means that a third Fighters Pass would end up being a small one, only consisting of three more Challenger Packs.

But this would be more than enough to check off some of the most important first party boxes. Here are some ideas, where it's time for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate x ...

  • Kirby's Epic Yarn featuring Prince Fluff ... (jk)
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze featuring Dixie Kong 
  • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker featuring Captain Toad(ette)
  • Yoshi's Crafted World featuring Poochy
  • Luigi's Mansion 3 featuring King Boo 
  • Pokémon Sword & Shield featuring some new Pokémon, e.g. Cinderace
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons featuring Tom Nook

Yes, Prince Fluff is a completely out there and not likely at all, but it's a shame how Kirby's Epic Yarn didn't get much recognition in Smash, not even a stage, despite this game being highly unique. It also could lead to a very interesting moveset and the game just got ported to the Nintendo 3DS two years ago, so this idea made this list as well, despite its low chances.

Interestingly, the Woolly World stage in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was originally supposed to be an Epic Yarn stage, but this got changed during development. Since Woolly World didn't return in Smash Ultimate, here is a good chance to bring back the original intent.

Anyway, Dixie Kong and a Challenger Pack for Donkey Kong: Country Tropical Freeze are arguably the most important option here, where it's a crime that this game didn't get a stage or more music tracks. It's in a similar spot where ARMS and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 used to be, except that it doesn't necessarily need to come with a fighter. But Dixie is one of the most iconic first party characters left and you don't need an excuse to add her... Just do it.

Of course this could already be happening with the second Fighters Pass, where Dixie Kong might be the next or even the final Challenger. Or a new Pokémon... But if none of this makes it in now, then this will be heavily in favor of a third volume.

As a bonus this 3rd Fighters Pass wouldn't come with another Mii Fighter costume, but instead with one more Echo Fighter, where Dry Bowser feels like the coolest option for this. Yes, this could potentially bring both Super Mario and Pokémon to a total of eleven fighters, which is ridiculous, but alternatively they could also give us the Champions Pack and do something for the Zelda for a change... Which probably won't be happening.