Monday, August 25, 2014

Kirby 3D Falls Flat

Platform: 3DS   Genre: Platforming   Release: May, 2014 (January, 2014 in Japan)
Let it not be overlooked that I am one of Kirby's biggest fans (seriously, I was a winner of Nintendo's Kirby's Biggest Fan Contest on Facebook in 2012), so I understand that Kirby games tend to be relatively short and easy. But even though they're short and easy, they're still super fun. Unfortunately, even though Triple Deluxe borrows much from the fantastic Return to Dreamland, it generally fails to develop its new ideas into compelling gameplay and ends up being a bit underwhelming. Hold up though! Before I lose all my readers, let me also say that Triple Deluxe is by no means a bad game. It's just... average and not as good as it could be.

Ok, so, if you're not familiar with Return to Dreamland, it has a wide variety of new and old copy abilities, each with a Smash Bros.-esque variety of moves. Triple Deluxe does the same thing. Although a few abilities from Return to Dreamland don't return, there are also a few new ones to replace them and they're pretty unique and cool (Beetle and Circus, for example). Apart from using copy abilities to beat enemies and solve (mostly optional) puzzles, both games also have areas where you must carry objects like bombs or keys. Triple Deluxe adds a couple new holdable items as well, replacing that spiky boot from Return to Dreamland that probably no one will miss. The bigger difference between the two games are that Kirby can now jump between different depths in the level (only at designated points) and super abilities have been replaced with hypernova sucking.
This background-extending-into laser beam hits stuff in the background. Spiffy. (via cobanermani456)
That first big difference is worth digging into further. Not only can Kirby hop between different depths, but enemies and obstacles can as well - I especially enjoyed the reworked minibosses. There are also parts where actions in one layer will affect the layout of the background or foreground. All of this gives what I can assume is some impressive 3D eye-candy. (I can't actually see the 3D effect myself.) Unfortunately, while there are some cool concepts of foreground-background interaction, they hardly ever are taken any further than simple concepts. The level design is usually such that it'll be enough to make you say "huh, that's nifty", but then it'll be over so easily that you'll wonder if someone just drew up a proof of concept and it got put in the game that way. The hypernova segments are similarly disappointing. In these, Kirby gets the ability to suck really hard (lol) in order to inhale huge enemies and move objects. Once again, this usually results in simple eye candy and is practically a "press button to watch Kirby eat stuff" section. Not that Return to Dreamland's super abilities were much different in that regard.
Hmm... snowmen bodies... snowmen heads... what could you possibly need to do!? (via cobanermani456)
Like Return to Dreamland, Triple Deluxe also has a few hidden collectibles in each level. You're required to find some to get to each world's boss, but getting all of them in a world also unlocks new levels. Most are pretty easy to find, but finding them is at least a little satisfying. Triple Deluxe also adds collectible key chains with sprites from previous Kirby games. While trying to collect them all can be a grind, having them in the game allows for more secret areas that are more satisfying to find since they won't simply contain a 1-Up. So that's nice.
One of the collectible key chains. (via cobanermani456)
The length of the game definitely feels about a world shorter than that of Return to Dreamland and it lacks the super fun challenge rooms that its predecessor had, but it does have a few additional sub-games. First is Kirby Fighters, which is like a watered down version of Super Smash Bros.. You can go through it and fight against computers on varying difficulties with each (of a selection of) the copy abilities, or you can fight against friends. Since I don't have any friends, I couldn't try out the multiplayer, but I wouldn't bet on it being particularly balanced. Even though this sub-game is fairly bare bones, it's decently fun. The next sub-game is Dedede's Drum Dash, which is a surprisingly challenging rhythm game. It only has four levels, but it's well designed and incredibly difficult to do well. Next, The Arena (and True Arena) make a return. It's a boss rush mode, and this also can get quite challenging. And finally, there's Dedede Tour, which has you playing through a slightly harder version of the main game as King Dedede. Unlike Return to Dreamland's hard mode, this one strings the levels together and has warps to skip levels, making it more about racing to get a good time than anything else. There are also harder versions of each boss and a few additional bosses in this mode, but unfortunately, little else is changed to make this mode harder and not every level from the main story is represented.
Dedede Tour (via SunnyCrappy)
Also worth mentioning is that the music, while mostly recycled from previous games, is top notch as usual. The game also makes use of Street Pass to exchange records and give better healing items (not that you'll need them). Oh yeah, and there's some occasional use of tilting the 3DS to move stuff too, but it neither takes away or adds much to the game.

The final word:
I didn't want to listen to the reviews that said Kirby: Triple Deluxe was too easy. "Of course it's easy! It's a Kirby game!" I thought. But it's not the mere easiness which most Kirby have, it's a disappointingly unimaginative implementation of would-be brilliant gameplay gimmicks. There are good ideas in here, but they rarely realize their full potential. Overall, there is fun to be had with Triple Deluxe, but I can't recommend it at full price (then again, I rarely recommend paying full price for any game). Just trust me on this, I don't mind if games are easy and I love me some Kirby games, but in spite of its good gameplay mechanics and concepts, Triple Deluxe managed to fall flat with overly simple and uninspired level design.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Kirby: Triple Deluxe totally rips off Virtual Boy Wario Land, which is even shorter, but has better level design and is fantastic. And for another easy platforming game to which I gave a slightly more positive review, check out Felix the Cat on NES.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pokemon: Chamo-Chamo ☆ Pretty ♪ Vol. 3 - English translation

Just starting? Click for: Vol. 1 or Vol. 2
The first ever (to my knowledge) translation of Pocket Monsters Chamo-Chamo ☆ Pretty ♪ Volume 3 is now done! This manga is out of print and not available in an official English version, but you can support the author by checking out her other works.

This third and final volume finally concludes the story of Torchic and Poochyena's relationship! How will it end? You'll have to read and find out! Once again, cuteness and silliness abounds.

Here are some sample pages from my English translation (read right to left): 
(Download links are below or Read the whole thing online)
Chapter 28
To be continued in the zip files below...

Download (97 MB .zip of PNGs):
Google Drive (Old, lossy version)
One Drive (JPG, 55.7 MB)

Read online:
Imgur (Temporary)

More translations by me:
Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (My Summer Vacation 3)
Kino's Journey Vol.5 Ch.2: Land of Permitted Murder

I also teach Japanese lessons and do translations for pay, so let me know if you're interested! :D

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Things Xenoblade Chronicles Does Wrong

Several months ago, I gushed over all the things Xenoblade Chronicles does right. Well I'm still playing it (though there were some breaks in between) and now that I'm closer to the end of the game, I think that it's only fair that I point out some of the not so great things about the otherwise fantastic game. 

1. Battles get repetitive once you figure out a winning strategy
Last time, I said that the battle system was done right because its complexity. It's true enough that positioning can change the effectiveness of an attack, that the status effects offer a slightly new spin on things, and that seeing future attacks makes it more complicated than just waiting for each attack's cooldown to end, but in spite of being generally good in theory, the vast majority of the enemies offer little variation and fall to the same winning strategies. Bosses occasionally offer a challenge, but once you figure out what works, it does get quite repetitive.

2. Party members' AI is bad and uncontrollable
The party members have variety and you can make any of them your player-controlled character for a change of pace (until you develop the next winning strategy). That's all fine and dandy, but the two party members you don't control... you really don't control. You can tell them to focus on the same enemy as you, use up part of your meter to warn them of oncoming attacks, and choose their attacks during chain attacks, but that's it. Not having control over them wouldn't be so bad if they didn't also have mediocre AI. For example, one of the characters' main weapons is a gun and yet she constantly gets closer than necessary to enemies. Luckily (?), the enemies also have predictable and simplistic AI which basically amounts to repeatedly attacking whoever dealt them the most damage. Since everything has bad AI, it doesn't really make the game frustrating or difficult, it just makes it less fun than it could be.

3. Yelling the same things over and over for 80 hours
Via Marcos Lopez on Tumblr
This is an issue with so many games and I don't know how this annoyance gets through testing (and it looks to be a part of Xenoblade Chronicles X as well). Xenoblade is a long game, especially if you do the many side-quests, but even if it wasn't a long game, the characters' shouting before, during, and after battle gets old real quick. "Let's not lose our heads though," but "what a bunch of jokers" the developers were. I just feel like "I have to protect everyone" from repetitive battle cries. I can only hope that "the future is... changing!"

4. Drop rates
If you avoid every quest (unlikely), you won't have to worry about item drops and collection at all. Even if you do go after some quests, most of them are for killing enemies you would've fought anyway and for items that aren't really that far out of the way. However, there are a few that are more out of the way and they're probably for the one side-quest you would care to do: reconstructing a certain colony. It's optional, but when you find yourself wanting a certain item that only drops from certain enemies a small percentage of the time or only appears on obscure corners of the map in groups of one, it's gonna turn into a mindless, boring grind. If there's one thing I hate in video games, it's mindless, boring grinds. Still, like I said, these items are optional and only a problem for completionists, so don't let it turn you away from the game.

5. Armor and weapons clip through stuff during cutscenes
I like it when games actually visibly change your weapons and armor when you equip new stuff. Xenoblade Chronicles does this, and that's cool. The drawback of this though, is that some weapons and armor will unnaturally clip through each other during normal use and through walls and other objects during cutscenes. It's only a minor aesthetic complaint and it would be a hassle to make sure every piece of equipment works perfectly in every cutscene, but it still detracts somewhat from the overall quality of the game. Bonus complaint: skimpy armor for girls still gives just as much or more protection.

By and large, Xenoblade Chronicles is still a fantastic game. It's just not quite perfect. Here's hoping that Xenoblade Chronicles X is even better.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Plunger for Christmas

It all started at an early age; I got my first pair of glasses at only six months of age and was forever destined to be a nerd. It was only a matter of time before video games got a stranglehold on my life, but I only made it to the age of four before the first controller was thrust into my hands and I was addicted to the likes of Super Mario, Metroid, and Kirby.
Video games crossed over into my reality on a regular basis. My imaginary friend was a sheet called Venus Flytrap, based on the Piranha Plants of Super Mario Bros. and I recorded my own soundtracks on cassette tapes by singing them in "doot doots".

Blissfully unaware of console wars, I enjoyed both Mario and Sonic games. I watched the cartoons and got them recorded on tapes from my grandpa when they were only on cable TV.

With my mind and imagination running wild in the worlds of gaming, I reached the age when children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Certainly, becoming an astronaut was high on my list, but after I heard about the potential for motion sickness and vomiting, I decided against it. That left me two choices: take up the family trade as an HR manager or become a video game character.
Video game character it was! Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the game of the day and Tails was by far my favorite character - not yet the obnoxious thing it became when it got a voice and 3D movement. I stuck a rope in the back of my pants by the middle and just like that I grew twin tails! Maybe I couldn't actually move them or fly with them, but I could still run around with them while grabbing rings from this baby toy set we still had. My future career as a flying fox was all but set in stone.
Unfortunately, my parents never understood or appreciated my potential as a fox. It soon became apparent that I would never enter fox college or the floating ring collection agency or even the loop-de-loop maintenance crew with my parents' approval. That Christmas, they nudged me in the direction of a career goal which they thought to be more realistic and which still lied within my scope of video game character professions. That Christmas, I unwrapped a plunger.
And I loved it! Tails was out and Mario the plumber was in! It was a small plunger, probably meant for sinks although I didn't really know and never used it for its intended purpose. It was the perfect size for me to run around and hit things with. It could also be thrown and used to take out any dangerous turtles in my path. But there was one thing a plunger could do that an ordinary stick from the park couldn't do, and that was stick to walls.

Upon this discovery, I gleefully attached my plunger to the kitchen wall.
And then removed it again.

And suctioned off a chunk of the wall with it.

And that's the story of the time I got a plunger for Christmas and liked it.

The End

For more paint drawings that are better than these, check out my unflattering depictions of popular games.
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