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Our exclusive editorials about the 3DS and its games, as well as Nintendo as a whole.

One for the Season; The Best Christmas Themed Games for the Holidays!

Hey it’s Christmas Day! A time of goodwill. Of family. Of giving and receiving presents supposedly brought to you by a fat guy in a red suit with a white beard.

In other words, not a time for reading articles on gaming websites. But hey, you’re here now. And based on that title, I’m gonna assume you want some suggestions for Christmas themed games to play. Something that really gets into the spirit of the holiday season, right?

Yeah, I thought so. Well, a quick tip before we begin:

Do not buy any Christmas games on the Wii or Wii U. With maybe one or two exceptions, they’re gonna be crap. Something like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer isn’t worth the cost of the disc it was printed onto.

Nor is that Christmas themed ‘find the hidden objects’ game that’s likely going around the eShop by now. Santa Claus Jr and Santa Claus Saves the Earth are pretty crap too.

Instead, here are some real suggestions for enjoyable games to play on Christmas Day. Starting with the inevitable Christmas themed platformers.

Such as Daze Before Christmas on the SNES and Mega Drive. Yeah, you knew this was coming. After all, a game where you actually play as Father Christmas and then collect/deliver presents while defeating the various evil bosses out to stop your journey? That’s about as obvious a Christmas themed game as you can get.

And it’s quite good too. Not amazing, but decent, with some nice graphics and music to get you in a festive mood.

Also on the same systems, you’ve got James Pond II: Codename Robocod. Starring a secret agent fish who’s very clearly a pastiche of James Bond, he has to stop the evil Dr Maybe, who has taken over Santa Claus’ workshop and attempted to ruin Christmas in the process.

Again, it’s a 16 bit platformer, albeit one a hell of a lot more competently designed than Daze Before Christmas was, with an interesting mechanic where Pond can stretch his body upwards to view or reach new areas. And hey, he can fly a plane around too!

Another notable one to try is Santa Claus in Trouble, a neat 3D platformer that has Santa Claus collecting presents in a weird Croc like world. Interesting, it’s part of a series of 2 games, with the first being entirely free to download and the second being a paid, much higher budget follow up to it. Both games are solidly designed with decently done game mechanics and lovely graphics, and they work about as you’d expect them to.

However, it’s not just platformers here! Oh no, Christmas stealth games are surprisingly good too! There’s Merry Gear Solid, a decent Christmas themed parody of Metal Gear with Santa Claus as the main character:

As well as the old Grinch video game based on the movie. Yeah, that movie. The home console one is a mediocre platformer/action adventure thing, but the Game Boy Color one is actually a really good stealth game in the style of the old Metal Gear titles! To the point IGN gave it a 9/10 review score!

But what if you want something a tad more familiar?

Like, an expansion of an existing game?

Well you’re in luck here too. Because quite a few great old school games have Christmas levels and episodes too!

For example, Jazz Jackrabbit had plenty of nice Christmas levels to play. Like Holiday Hare 94 and 95 for the original game:

And the similarly named Holiday Hare 98 version for the sequel:

Which were then redone and rereleased as Jazz Jackrabbit 2: Christmas Chronicles. Either way, all the levels are very nice, very festive affairs filled with Christmas trees, twee looking houses covered in snow and lights and a whole multitude of snowmen.

Other games with interesting Christmas versions include Christmas Nights into Dreams, which has you collect items while flying through a beautiful Christmas night while a frantic remix of Jingle Bells plays in the background:

Duke Nukem: Nuclear Winter which has you stop a feminist elves and evil snowmen in your quest to free Santa from his brainwashing by alien forces and take back the North Pole:

Saints Row IV: How the Saints Saved Christmas. Where your gang has to fight to save Santa from an evil alien warlord called Clawz.

Christmas Lemmings, which is exactly what you’d expect it to be.

The Christmas mission in Hitman. Where you have to kill the robbers from Home Alone (and maybe get a Santa outfit in the process).

Plus a Christmas themed level for Viscera Cleanup Detail, where you have to clean Santa’s Workshop after ‘jolly’ old Saint Nick when on a homicidal rampage.

And a Christmas themed version of The Escapists called The Escapists – Santa’s Sweatshop. That one has you playing as an elf who has to escape the workshop after suffering through Santa’ cruel regime for the last 20 years of his life.

Yes, both of those are real:

And both make for very different takes on the whole ‘holiday season’ affair.

Which brings us to the final set of games. Namely, the fan games and mods. Did you ever want a Christmas version of Super Mario World?

Well, no problem! There are tons and tons of these online. For Super Mario World hacks alone you’ve got the likes of SMW Christmas Special, A Haunted Christmas and Mario’s Christmas Adventure among many others.

Older games don’t have as quite Christmas versions, but they definitely exist all the same. Like Super Mario Bros 2 Christmas Edition:

Or Super Mario Xmas, based on the original Super Mario Bros for NES:

Other possibilities here include Holiday Hex, a really interesting Earthbound mod that has two Christmas loving kids team up to save it from evil, Pokemon Christmas (which is basically Pokemon Gold and Silver Christmas edition) and the Christmas themed chapter of Fire Emblem 7 Chaos Edition. Yeah, Santa in Fire Emblem.

Okay then:

And there’s always Super Mario Blue Twilight DX. The game that was actually meant to be Halloween themed Mario (and which only lets you play its final level on October 31st), but that also comes from Christmas and April Fool’s Day themed side stories:

It’s not amazing (at least, compared to the main storyline), but it does a competent enough job of providing some fun Mario platforming on Christmas Day. Short too, in case your only allowed playtime is between Christmas dinner and your favourite TV show starting.

So yeah, I hope that gives you some ideas of what to play this Christmas Day. Just avoid the shovelware, okay?

10 More Underrated Gaming Channels to Check out in 2016

Back in July, we wrote an article about underrated gaming channels on YouTube. Listing everyone from BlueJackG to Slopes Game Room and Boundary Break, the article showcased some of the best unknown video creators on the site in order to help them get a bit more attention and a few more views.

And oh damn did it succeed. Ever since that article, we’ve had:

  • Slopes Game Room hit the bigtime and reach a massive 22,000 subscribers!
  • Boundary Break… well, break out and bring its creator an even more insane 50,000+ subscribers!
  • Arlo make it to more than 70,000 subscribers

Plus a whole lot more besides! Basically, everyone featured became a YouTube celebrity since their inclusion in the list, to the point many of them actually got their videos posted on big name gaming sites Nintendo Life and Kotaku!

And so we’ve decided to write another article, with ten more underrated gaming channels you should check out and subscribe to right now. Let’s see if these guys can become as popular as the folk on our first one, shall we?

Starting with…

Game Sharks

Current Subscriber Count: 934

This interesting, yet depressingly obscure video game discussion channel. Named Game Sharks, this channel has some very interesting videos about game design in Nintendo titles. Like this recent one about Paper Mario Color Splash’s battle system:

Yeah, it’s a bit more low rent than say, Extra Credits. But the ideas are good, and the presentation is decent enough that I do consider it worthy of a bit more attention. So give Game Sharks a chance, because the creator has some great ideas that I think more people need to hear for themselves.

But it’s not only game design channels that need your support here. Oh no, quite a few Let’s Play creators need a bigger fanbase too.

FeatherGame555

Current Subscriber Count: 1,006

Like this guy, whose videos I first found while looking for a Super Mario 64: Last Impact walkthrough. Yeah, he’s another LPer making Let’s Players of video games, but there’s an awful lot to really like about his work. Such as the unique subject matter (he records lots of Mario 64 ROM hacks):

The good picture quality, which provides for a nice clear view of the game being played, as well as the decent commentary that keeps the whole thing interesting. It’s just a decent Let’s Play channel, and one I feel could become the next big thing if a few more people subscribe and share his work.

But you don’t even need to provide commentary to make some great YouTube videos…

Skawo

Current Subscriber Count: 22,934

Just ask Skawo, aka one of the best LPers without a microphone that I’ve ever came across.

Sounds odd doesn’t it?

Yeah, I thought so. The assumption nowadays tends to be that a Let’s Play involves voice commentary. But they don’t have to, and in fact text LPs used to be a huge deal in the olden days of Something Awful. Like this one here.

And that’s what Skawo does. He plays games like Color Splash, while making amusing text commentary and jokes about it in the form of ORLY owls and counters.

Which is then made better by how ‘meta’ most of his commentary is. For example, is the game trapped in a time loop like the Dark Bloo Inn in Color Splash? Then his commentary will initially loop as well, before suddenly realising he’s already said this part and something funny is going on in the background. Did a hurricane suddenly chuck Mario into a giant hole while Huey says something obvious? Cue the owl appearing… before getting blown off the screen.

Heck, you even had a credits sequences with the owls in! Like the one at the end of this Paper Mario Color Splash video:

It’s an amusing gimmick, and provides an otherwise low key video format an edge that keeps it interesting in every episode.

But text Let’s Plays aren’t the only thing on this channel. Oh no, you’ve also got ROM hacking videos too. Because you see, Skawo is also a pretty well known ROM hacker. He’s working on Newer Super Mario Bros DS and Newer Super Mario Bros U on the DS and Wii U respectively, as well as projects involving games like Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon.

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Why Gaming Sites Should Post Leaked Information

In the last few years, leaked video game information has become an extremely common thing online. You’ve got cases like with Pokemon Sun and Moon where every release gets datamined weeks in advance. There are examples like Paper Mario Color Splash, where information is unintentionally made available due to the game being accidentally released two weeks early. And through insiders, anonymous posts and YouTube mess ups alike, we’ve seen everything from Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty and Rayman revealed way before it was supposed to be.

Yet even with the rise in leaked information, it seems a large portion of the press doesn’t seem to want to cover anything early. You’ve got people posting screenshot upon screenshot on forums and videos popping up with the entire soundtrack, all while the press sits on their ass and does nothing for days on end. Or if you’re lucky, posts about one or two random discoveries while trying their very best to ignore the rest of it.

But I disagree. I think every gaming site should cover ‘leaked’ information to the fullest of their ability.

Why?

Well for one thing, because that’s closer to journalism than anything else the gaming press has done. Journalism means going out of your way to find information that the powerful do not want others to know. It means bending the rules to get the news your readers want rather than those that make for someone else’s good PR.

Look at the rest of the media for example. Yeah, they’re not as good as they used to be (especially where investigative journalism is concerned), but they don’t just sit around online and wait for information to come in. Or game companies to email them press releases.

Instead, they go out and look for a story. That might mean heading into a dangerous war zone in the midst of a global crisis. It might mean interviewing someone who might otherwise not want to provide any information about current events. Or attending political rallies and events, perhaps even undercover!

When’s the last time you saw a video game journalist go ‘undercover’ to get a major news story? Probably never to be honest.

And that’s kind of a problem with entertainment ‘journalism’ now. It’s not really journalism, it’s more an industry PR branch. It’s more about making the games and corporations look good than telling the readers what they really need to know.

But journalism isn’t supposed to be like that.

Journalism isn’t really about ‘making friends and influencing people’. Heck, some journalists would say that being friends with your subjects is the mark of a terrible journalist or reporter. No, journalists are supposed to be hated by the people they report on. Companies are supposed to dread journalists getting involved in a story about them (usually cause they’re in the middle of a public relations disaster).

So yeah, of course a company will hate you reporting on leaked content. Of course the Pokemon Company will hate people that post the final boss of Pokemon Sun and Moon two weeks before the release date. Heck, sometimes a company will go as far as to threaten you with legal action.

But that’s kind of expected as a journalist.

Journalism isn’t all fun and games. It’s a job which puts you at serious risk on numerous occasions, and one where dangerous or financial costly consequences are unfortunately all too common. Think being sued once sucks? Imagine being Ian Hislop (editor of Private Eye). He’s the most sued man in Britain, and has been through dozens of court cases over things like libel (and apparently lost most of them). That has never stopped the satire magazine releasing new issues.

And that’s nothing compared to the horrors that have happened to journalists writing about real politically charged subjects and dangerous parts of the world. They’ve been arrested for espionage, sent to prison for decades (or deported to Siberia in the Soviet Union). Assaulted or killed for saying things those in power didn’t want to hear (or just by sociopathic nutcases who were ‘offended’ by what they were saying).

Basically, journalism is about risks. Because of this, you need to realise at some point that your own ‘safety’ or ‘comfort’ is outweighed by the needs of the readers/viewers. Unfortunately, a lot of gaming journalists don’t ever get this. They think it’s about making their life convenient. Screw the readers, I matter more.

Which is completely wrong.

There’s also a very pragmatic reason for all this too. Namely, it’s bad business to be scared of leaked content.

I mean, look at Bulbapedia. They were so scared of Nintendo’s ‘response’ to covering leaked content (which never actually came) that they refused to open up editing from somewhere in September till now. The result? Their wiki is useless now. No one visits a Pokemon wiki (or a Mario or Zelda one) that doesn’t cover hardly anything about the latest games.

And the same will be true of your website if you don’t cover this stuff. A gaming site that censors itself and doesn’t cover the latest gaming news is honestly a rather useless website, and one that’s probably not gonna still open for much longer.

So cover leaked content, and be a real journalist. Because a journalist who only covers what others want him to cover isn’t much of a journalist at all.

The Top 20 Worst Video Game Ripoffs

The gaming world has always had more than its fair share of clones and copycats. From the legions of shovelware on older systems to the thousands of lazy app ripoffs on the app store, it seems a popular game can’t go five minutes without a bunch of people trying to cash in on it.

I mean, just look what happened to Flappy Bird. There are copies everywhere now!

But as lazy as this is, there are some games that go… just a little too far in copying others. Games that don’t just copy mechanics or ideas, but outright steal whole levels and characters from more popular works.

Games that at best hover at the edge of fair use, and at worse fly straight into wilful copyright infringement or scamming. Games like this one:

And that’s what today’s list is about. Here are 20 of the worst, most blatant video game ripoffs ever made!

20. Another Bound

Ripping Off: Metroid Prime

So let’s start with a slightly lesser known example, and perhaps the most ‘innocent’ game on the list. For those who don’t know, Another Bound is a first person space shooter/exploration game which takes… more than a tiny bit of inspiration from a certain Nintendo franchise:

Yeah, it’s basically Metroid Prime on PC. Well, Metroid Prime on PC as designed by someone who’s absolutely god awful at level design and aesthetics that is. Because damn, this makes both Metroid Prime Hunters and Metroid Prime Federation Force look like the pinnacle of good game design by comparison.

Either way, it looks like a terrible game all round. But hang on, you might ask?

Why is such a blatant knockoff so low on this list?

Well, here’s the thing. Another Bound may be a blatant ripoff, but it’s also a freeware game. So while it’s still a blatant clone of a better series, we can at least be happy in the knowledge that the creator isn’t also trying to make a quick buck off his ‘work’.

Which is more than can be said about the next 19 games on the list…

19. Sword Requiem

Ripping Off: Fire Emblem

Like this one, which is about as obvious a Fire Emblem clone as you can get:

Seriously, just look at that thing! Every single element there is copied directly from the Fire Emblem series.

You’ve got similar map sprites and character artwork. The gameplay is similar. The general game setup is similar.

Heck, even the name itself sounds like a poor clone! I mean, ‘Sword Requiem’? That’s like if someone tried to come up with a Fire Emblem esque title without knowing a word of English!

Still, at least there’s one positive here. The game doesn’t actually steal characters from the one it’s ripping off. Not like the next app on the list anyway…

18. PokeBalls Training

Ripping Off: Pokemon GO

pokeballs training

Because Jesus Christ, this looks utterly horrifying. I mean, look at that Pikachu or Snorlax! They look like possessed demons trying to impersonate Pokemon! As animated by the people behind Food Fight!

But the graphics aren’t the only questionable issue. Oh no, the very purpose of this app is completely useless as well. Why? Because ‘PokeBalls Training’ is supposed to train you in playing Pokemon GO. Like, you’d test your Poke Ball throwing skills by tossing them at the game’s knockoff Pokemon to see if you can get better at playing the real app.

However, because this isn’t Pokemon GO, and the physics aren’t like in Pokemon GO, it’s completely useless. Why get better at throwing Poke Balls in a Pokemon GO knockoff when the physics don’t work anything like the ones in the real game? That’s not helping you get any better at the latter, is it?

No, no it isn’t.

And that’s the issue here. The app has no reason to exist. It’s cashing in on Pokemon GO by someone who clearly doesn’t know how Pokemon GO works.

Still, at least they give some excuse to why it’s like Pokemon GO. That’s something that can’t be said about some of the following games on the list…

17. Final Combat

Ripping Off: Team Fortress 2

Like this one, which is very clearly inspired by Valve’s work. Heck, they even have Team Fortress 2 style character intros (albeit far less well produced):

Unfortunately, this game really lacks any of the charm the real game has. I mean, the names alone are poor enough (see, ‘Rocket’ and ‘Fat Man’), but then the videos themselves are even more dull and uninteresting. I mean, look at that video. What a boring way to introduce a potentially interesting character design.

And gameplay wise? Well, it’s low rent Team Fortress 2. That’s it. If you want a game like this, play the game it’s ripping off instead. Because like the next item on our list, the imitator just cannot compare to the original.

16. Wii Console Clones

Ripping Off: The Wii system

That said, I will give Final Combat its due in one sense:

It’s a better clone of Team Fortress 2 than the Wii’s imitators were of the real system.

Cause dear god, these clones are dire. Like the Vii, which doesn’t really have motion controls:

No, I’m not kidding there. Note how the reviewer says the console doesn’t track the remote’s movement. Instead, you just shake the thing to do the equivalent of pressing a button. Bit like how Super Mario Galaxy’s spin attack works. Except you know, with that being the sole mechanic for the entire system.

And this is only one of the dire Wii clones you can find on the market. You’ve got The Reactor:

The Zone Wireless Gaming System:

The Miwi Xtra (oh god these names are embarrassingly bad):

Hmm, seems like the Miwi guys and the Zone guys might be the same people. Or at least, sharing their terrible quality Punch Out clones with each other.

And there’s also the ‘Excite’ Sports Games. Hmm, I suspect this won’t be ‘exciting’ anyone any time soon:

But regardless of what they’re called, they’re all the same thing; primitive games on systems with no real motion controls aimed at uninformed buyers in pound shops.

Which at the end of the day, is kind of the rule with knockoff games and consoles. Just low quality crap aimed at audiences too uninformed to tell otherwise/too cheap to buy the real thing. Kind of like our next game really…

15. The Legend of Titan

Ripping Off: Overwatch

Aka The Legend of Titan, a very clear copy of Blizzard Entertainment’s hit game Overwatch! Just look at this video if you don’t believe me:

As you can see, it’s got pretty much every aspect of the original down pat. Different character classes. Similar style visuals and character designs. Indeed, it’s so close to Overwatch that Activision themselves took down some of the videos for copyright reasons!

It’s an obvious clone, right?

Well, maybe not. Because you see, after the trailer blew up, a Chinese gaming magazine actually asked the developers about the title, and why it’s so similar to Overwatch.

Their response?

It’s an engine test/proof of concept.

Basically, the game wasn’t gonna be released like this, they were merely using it to test their technology. The video shows a tech demo for the game, using placeholder art and concepts. Everything will be made much more original than it’s actually released.

But do I believe them? Eh, maybe not. But for how the video was released and how the game was presented as an Overwatch clone, it’s well worthy of being in this list.

14. Classic Robo War

Ripping Off: Mega Man

Either way, let’s move onto a more obvious clone now. Namely, an interesting little game called ‘Classic Robo War’ that you can get for Android phones? Looks a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Yeah, I thought so. It’s basically Mega Man for Android, with only the flimsiest attempts made at trying to turn it into something original.
Seriously, the only thing they did was recolour Mega Man and name him ‘Robot’. And if that’s not funny enough… well the description is almost a work of art in how insanely poorly worded it is. Just try and read this without laughing:

Robot plays similarly to its predecessor series Robot, but with various new features: Robot has the ability to dash along the ground at any time (which is very similar to the original slide move from the original, but with better accurate controlling), cling to walls and Wall Jump, and dash and jump at the same time, increasing his speed in the air. This all gives Robot more mobility than his Classic counterpart; these modifications make it easier to go through the majority of the game without using any other gun than the default, which is different from previous Robot games where players were more inclined to rely on weapons won in previous fights against boss characters in previously conquered stages.

Did you get any of that?

No?

Me neither. It sounds like a Mega Man X description that’s had X replaced with Robot and the result sent through Google Translate a few times.

What’s more, when you do understand it, you realise the developer just doesn’t understand the Mega Man series?

Why? Because he’s talking about the Robot Master weapons being useless as if it’s a good thing! As if the player not using enemy weapons is an improvement over the classic gameplay.

Smooth move there guys. You’ve taken a perfectly good series and made its one interesting mechanic completely useless. Guess your game design skills are about as ‘good’ as your English ones?

I guess so. But hey, it’s not just Mega Man who gets lazily named knockoffs like this!

13. Various App Store Mario Clones

Ripping Off: 2D Mario platformers

Oh no, look how many lazy Mario knockoffs are littering the Google Play Store!

mario clones

40! On just the first page or two that come up for searching ‘Mario’!

On the more ‘obvious’ side of the spectrum, you have games which very clearly take content from the Mario series and don’t bother changing the name. Like Classic Mario Jump here. This one’s about as lazy as you can get. I mean, how can you genuinely think this looks good?

classic mario jump

The graphics clash like hell! And wait, are those clip art animations for the enemies? What the hell I am looking at here? It’s like you took Hammer Brother Demo 3 as an inspiration rather than a cautionary tale!

And the games don’t get any better when the characters are replaced either. Want originality? Hah, good luck finding it here!

Isn’t that right, ‘Super Smash Jungle World’?

Or Jungle World of Mark:

jungle world of mark

Or even Andrio’s World:

andrios world

Hey, at least this one ripped off Luigi instead. But damn those graphics look like a certain SNES title!

Eh, must be a coincidence. After all, this is a perfectly legitimate Google Play app, right? By a morally outstanding citizen who is in no way trying to copy the Super Mario Bros series. Yeah, that’s it.

Just like Hario World here. That doesn’t look like Mario without a moustache at all!

harios world

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