It’s been about a week since Pokemon Sun and Moon have been released for the 3DS. And boy have they done well in that time frame. They’ve scored 87% on Metacritic. Boosted 3DS sales in all regions by a significant level. Heck, they’ve even managed to become Nintendo’s biggest ever UK launch successes, with their sales in the first two days being higher than Wii Fit’s in its first two WEEKS.
But how good are these games really? Are they better than the previous Pokemon titles in the series? Can they make Pokemon X and Y look like crap by comparison? Will they inspire Pokemon GO players to try out the full titles?
Well, let’s find out for ourselves, in our exclusive review of Pokemon Sun and Moon for the 3DS!
So let’s start out with the graphics. How good are they in this title?
Pretty fantastic actually. Seriously, look at this and tell me it doesn’t look a million times better than the games you used to play on the original Game Boy:
Heck, it even puts the recent 3DS Pokemon games to shame too! X and Y? Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire? God, those look almost prehistoric by comparison.
And there are a few reasons for this.
For one thing, note the camera is a lot ‘lower’ in these games. Whereas old Pokemon games had a top down view, these ones have the camera pointing downwards on a slant behind the main character instead. This change in perspective makes the world look much more three dimensional than the past titles, as well as less like a series of grids pasted together.
There’s also the more realistic art style in general. I mean yeah, the Pokemon have traditional designs, sure. But the people themselves look more like normal humans rather chibi dolls/Game Boy sprites, and the environments look like 3D places with rounded edges and curved paths rather than a bland series of grids. This in turn makes things look more lifelike than it did before, and the Alola region feel like a real place with normal looking humans.
And the small background details help too. Like say, the trainers actually sticking around in battles to give orders to their Pokemon!
Yep, you heard me right. Now when you battle an opponent, both you and the other trainer are visible at all times. You even see them give orders to their Pokemon in regards to what attacks they should use when fighting!
It’s only a minor touch, but it helps make the games a great deal more immersive, and removes the awkward separation between the overworld and trainer battles that the older games had.
Which in itself seems to be a goal with Pokemon Sun and Moon. They’re trying to remove the ‘gap’ between what the game says is happening and what’s being shown on screen. For example, Ride Pokemon (more on that later in the review) are actually shown pushing blocks, flying or surfing on water instead of it being implied by a simple animation. Trainers don’t always stand still on the map, instead often walking or swimming around to look for opponents. And while most Pokemon encounters are still in tall grass, that’s not the only way they’re presented here.
Oh no, you can sometimes get ambushed by Pokemon flying above (complete with shadows underneath), them visibly moving in the grass (as a black shadow that homes in on your location) or even doing things like jumping out of trees or berries when you least expect it.
Yeah, they’re all minor things in the bigger picture, but they make the world look a whole lot more ‘alive’ than it did previously.
Unfortunately, all this detail comes at a price.
Namely, the games run terribly on a normal 3DS. Think I’m exaggerating? Well, here’s a comparison between the same games on a normal 3DS and a New Nintendo 3DS:
As you can see, it takes about 10 seconds longer to even boot the game on the older system. You have to wait for the system to reboot to quit out of the game and shut down.
And that’s still not the worst of it. Oh no, that ‘honour’ goes to the game’s performance in double and totem battles. There, the frame rate literally drops in half immediately. Like, to the point it’s sometimes in the single digits. Where animations outright freeze for a few seconds while the game tries to keep up.
That’s unacceptable for a 3DS title like this. I mean yeah, it’d make sense for a complex 3D title with hundreds of things on screen (like Luigi’s Mansion 2 with its Paranormal Chaos mission), but not here. Pokemon Sun and Moon look nice, but there’s nothing there that really should be straining the 3DS this much.
So yeah, it’s good as far as graphics go, but perhaps one best played on a New Nintendo 3DS given the crippling technical faults that come up on older hardware. But how does that soundtrack hold up here?
Well, it holds up really well to be honest. Because damn, Pokemon Sun and Moon has a great soundtrack.
Now admittedly, that’s not exactly too unexpected by this point. After all, every single Nintendo game on the 3DS in the last five years or so has sounded incredible, as have most of their titles on the Wii U. It’s like the 2000s and 2010s are Nintendo’s glory years as far as video game music is concerned.
But even with all the fantastic competition, Pokemon Sun and Moon’s soundtrack is one to remember. You’ve got all those catchy area and town themes, which perfectly fit the mood of a tropical vacation:
As well as the numerous catchy battle themes:
And many more besides. Of special note are the themes for the two villain groups of the game (Team Skull and the secret other team):
Which in the case of the former, are… ‘interesting’ attempts at hip hop music with a Pokemon flavour to it. The latter? Well, yeah, just hear for yourself:
Oh, you didn’t think the Aether Foundation were evil? Well, there’s not really much point hiding it now. After all, the game kind of hints at them being evil all of five seconds into the opening cutscene and practically the entire internet had figured it out long before the games were released.
And hey, they’ve got some catchy songs, so that’s something to consider too. Either way, it’s a good soundtrack, and one that’s actually quite epic for the series it’s being used in.
However, does the gameplay itself stack up?
Cause at the end of the day, even the nicest graphics and music would be irrelevant if the gameplay was poorly done.
Fortunately though, Pokemon Sun and Moon is still as fun to play as any other game in the series. The battle system is solid, with the setup being mostly identical to that in X and Y. The basics of the overworld design are still as great as they always were, with interesting places to explore, items to find and Pokemon to encounter in the tall grass. And there’s the obligatory online system that lets you fight or trade with others from all round the world.
Yet as good as the normal mechanics are, they’re not really why Sun and Moon shine. After all, X and Y were seen by many people by rather disappointing, yet they nailed the battle system and overworld exploration just fine.
Oh no, it’s the new stuff that’s really interesting in Sun and Moon.
Like the Z-Moves. These are super powerful Pokemon moves with flashy effects that can be used once per battle. Like this:
As you can guess, these are usually a one hit kill on whatever doesn’t resist them. Or in the case of the status move variants, a massive boost in power to the point a single Pokemon can clear out whole teams.
And this adds a decent amount more strategy to the battles than you’d expect. Why? Because you never know how the opponent will set them up. They might go for one right off the bat, aiming for a quick KO at the expense of leaving the team vulnerable later. They might save them, as a last ditch trump card to change the tide of battle. Or they might just bring ‘em out to take down a certain Pokemon on your team, like a ‘wall-breaker’ in the competitive scene.
It’s a neat battle mechanic, and adds a surprising amount of depth to the system. But the game’s features get more interesting still.
Like say, the new movement system. Remember how in past games, you had to walk in straight lines?
Well that’s gone now. You can simply walk wherever you like, similar to in a 2D Zelda game. So yeah, basic movement now feels a lot more fluid than before, with the awkward tank controls being a thing of the past.
But that’s not the only old school system getting an overhaul.
Oh no, the gyms are too.
Because this game has no gyms at all! The whole system has been ripped out, gym leaders, badges and all.
In their place, you get the Island Challenge. What’s this? Well to put it simply, you travel around solving ‘trials’ to become a better trainer. To some degree, these trials are structured a bit like gyms. You’ve got a trial captain leading them, complete with a unique personality and design similar to a gym leader. There’s a special totem Pokemon you fight at the end, with boosted stats (which kind of acts like the gym leader battle from earlier games). And beating them gives you certain Z-Moves and items, like how beating gyms gave you badges and TMs in previous titles.
Heck, you even have another boss after all trials on an island are done. This is a fight with the ‘kahuna’ (ruler) of the island, who acts like an even tougher gym leader analogue.
But here’s the thing:
Island trials are not combat focused. Instead, the actual task varies significantly based on who’s running it and what their interests are. So you’ll be exploring a jungle looking for cooking ingredients, watching dance moves from a trio of Marowaks, completing an audio quiz to lure the totem Pokemon to your destination… and much more besides that. It’s a nice change of pace to the otherwise stale gym formula that’s remained a fixture for the first 6 generations.
That said, island trials aren’t the only change the series has received with Sun and Moon.
Oh no. There are also no HMs (Hidden Machines) in Pokemon Sun and Moon.
Instead, we get a system called the Poke Ride. This lets you register special Pokemon for moving around the overworld and solving puzzles, like a Lapras to surf on or a Charizard to fly between areas.
And it makes the game far, far much more enjoyable to play than the old system ever did.
Why? Because for one thing, you don’t end up with a limited team because of it. I mean, think about what you needed to have to get around the old regions. A flying type to use Fly, a water type to use moves like Surf, Waterfall, Whirlpool and Dive, a bulky physically orientated Pokemon for strength… basically, your options were limited by the HMs you had to use.
Want an all fire type team? Tough luck kiddo, you need something that cross the ocean or go underwater. Don’t like birds? Eh, you can only usually teach Fly to them or certain dragons. So you were seriously limited there too.
Now in theory, a lot of players found another way to solve this. They called it a ‘HM slave’, where some mostly useless Pokemon would be given the task of solving overworld puzzles in order to spare the rest of the team from having the movesets wrecked. But it was one step forward and two steps back really; the extra Pokemon would be nothing more than on a millstone you had to put up with simply to get around. As well as a liability if you ever got into a battle and ran out of other useful Pokemon (since most ‘HM slaves’ are useless in combat). Add the obvious awkward implications (you’re using a Pokemon as a simple tool rather than a companion), and again, it didn’t really work.
But with Poke Ride, all this is now gone. No worrying about losing attack slots to worthless HM moves. No limits on who can choose for your team. Basically, it’s Pokemon the way people wanted to play it all along, a system without unnecessary compromises and other bullshit.
It gets better too. You know all those puzzles you had to solve on the overworld with these HMs?
Well, most of those are gone too. You don’t have to cut any trees down, there are no caves to light up or remove fog from. No rocks to smash in the middle of routes. Heck, even the stuff that does remain here (like pushing boulders) is drastically simplified from the olden days.
This makes for a world that’s altogether less of a chore to navigate, and feels like it isn’t wasting your time with pointless filler content.
And that’s a key strength of Pokemon Sun and Moon in general. The game doesn’t waste your time any more. Instead, you’ve got a game that’s been simplified and fixed as to be playable by people with a lack of free time.
For example, now you:
Don’t have to use a PC to take out a newly caught Pokemon. You can just swap it into your party the moment you catch it.
Only watch the credits once after beating the champion, with future playthroughs just putting you outside the Pokemon League instead of playing all those long cutscenes again.
Can use multiple copies of a single item in a row, by just clicking on Pokemon names in a list multiple times.
Can use Poke Balls in battle by pressing a single button to open the right pocket, rather than scrolling through a big list of irrelevant items.
Set up EXP Share so every Pokemon in the party gets full experience for any battle.
Increase a Pokemon’s EVs and IVs without endless breeding or battles.
And heck, even get more EXP for catching Pokemon now too! So someone filling out the Pokedex isn’t being penalised for simply focusing on their collection rather than trainer fights.
In other words, it’s a more convenient Pokemon game. One that’s actually going to be enjoyable for the Pokemon GO generation.
And that’s a great thing. Old school Pokemon wasn’t bad, it was just very, very time consuming. The UI just made everything feel as drawn out as possible.
Pokemon Sun and Moon fixes that, and is a thousand times better for it.
However, the biggest change/improvement in these games isn’t about ride Pokemon or trials. No, it’s about the story and general tone.
Because as you can see from the thousands of articles about it online, the games have took a rather… dark turn with Pokemon Sun and Moon.
Seriously. Imagine if I said there was a new game that had abusive parents, eldritch abominations, mind control, the end of the world, kids being kidnapped, gangs taking over cities and a conspiracy involving an ‘animal rights’ group being a terrorism front. You’d probably think I was talking about an ‘adult’ RPG on the PlayStation or Xbox. It’s certainly a far cry from what you’d see in Pokemon, right?
Well no. That’s basically the story outline for Pokemon Sun and Moon. It gets absolutely and utterly insane sure, but that’s pretty much how the story goes here. Heck, just walking through Po Town or Aether Paradise makes you think ‘this is a Pokemon game?’ in just how jarringly different the locations are from the norm.
And this darker storyline is always there, front and centre. For example, the entirety of the game’s third island onwards is dedicated to the storyline. You’ve got the Aether House, where it turns out the Team Skull admins have stolen a preschooler’s pet and have take it away to their base. Their whole base of operations in Po Town, which looks like a war zone filled with barricades, broken down houses, grunts standing on vehicles complete with the team leader’s wrecked and heavily fortified mansion at the end of the street. And that’s only the beginning!
Basically, it’s a bit of a crazy thrill ride that emphasises the evil team’s plans over the typical ‘get better and become the champion’ element, and it works wonderfully for.
Of course, it also helps here that the characters have some semblance of a personality this time around. After all, does anyone remember who the rivals were in generation 3 onwards? No?
Me neither. Because they didn’t do anything. They showed up every so often, gave you a few words or a quick battle and then kind of fell by the wayside when the endgame started. They were cardboard cut-outs that completely failed to give you a reason to care about them.
That’s not the case here. Oh no, now the rivals and friend characters (in this case Hau, Gladion and Lillie) actually have goals throughout the game and pop up on a regular basis as you’re exploring the region. They complete trials, try out the activities in various towns and cities, challenge you to battles every few hours or so (at least the first two). Heck, the former two guys even go as far to support you when raiding the supervillain lair the main antagonists operate out of, trying to fight bad guys and supporting you in double battles all the while.
And this characterisation isn’t just limited to your close friends and rivals. Oh no. Professor Kukui shows up fairly often whenever the plot requires for it, and has a far deeper connection to the Pokemon League that any professor before him. The kahunas and trial captains actually do things outside of standing around in their home towns and waiting for challengers (like say, taking on legendary Pokemon that appear from nowhere or visiting each other’s trials to see how things and going.
Heck, even the villains are generally interesting personality with actual characterisation this time around. Lusamine has a lot of secrets that are extremely important to the storyline (though giving them away would be spoil about half the plot), the Team Skull grunts actually have an excuse for their evil ways (coming from broken homes and failing in life before joining as a last resort), and even their blatantly evil leader Guzma has an excuse (of sorts) for his own selfishness and poor behaviour throughout the game.
Basically, it makes you want to succeed. To go on an adventure with people you almost consider as friends.
That said, there are still a few issues here. Most notably?
The linearity and restrictions on where you can go at any time.
Because like a lot of Nintendo games in recent years (Mario & Luigi Dream Team, most Zelda games before A Link Between Worlds and Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon), Pokemon Sun and Moon just loves to throw tutorials and dialogue and mandatory events in your face every six seconds. Arrived at a new city? Well, time to meet up with the rival and Lillie and the professor and whoever else to talk about whatever the heck’s supposed to happen next.
Just completed a trial? Well then, the very next area you need to go will open up as if by magic. Oh, you didn’t want to go there?
Well, tough luck kid. There’s an angry Tauros blocking the path. Or wet paint on the gate. Or a literal roadblock across half the route, complete with a trial helper saying ‘you have to have beaten the last trial to pass this barricade’.
Now, I know what you’re gonna say. Isn’t this like the rest of the series?
Well, kind of. Yeah, you need to get the flute to wake up Snorlax, beat the Pewter City gym to get that annoying kid out of the way and buy some lemonade to have the Saffron City guards let you in. To some degree, Pokemon games have always been a fairly poorly disguised sequence of linear events that try and filter you down the ‘most convenient’ path from the home town to the Elite Four. I get it.
But it’s just ridiculous in these games. It’s like they’re not even trying to hide how linear the games out, almost to the point of self parody. Heck, you’ve even got a little flag icon marking your next location, in case you somehow missed the hint that ‘suddenly open side area’ is the next stop on your storyline tour of the Alola region.
It also doesn’t help that your movement (while fully 3D) is still really limited in these games. Want to drop down off a ledge? Tough luck kid, find a ramp or something. Is that slope anything less than perfect? Then you’re not climbing up it, regardless of how much you try. Small obstacle (like a picket fence) in your path? Well, looks like you’re not going this route today.
It gets very annoying on Poni Island, where the canyon areas are filled with shortcuts you should easily be able to take (assuming your thirteen year old avatar is in good shape) but somehow can’t for technical reasons. Or in the Shady House, where the only reason you need to find three passwords to reach Guzma is because someone left an anchor on the set of stairs that bypasses the blocked door.
Outside of path progression linearity issues, Pokemon Sun and Moon also have a few minor flaws that hinder the experience somewhat. Such as how some Pokemon are severely limited in when they can evolve.
What do I mean by this? Well, here’s Charjabug, along with Vikavolt. How do you think the former evolves into the latter?
Through levelling up, an evolutionary stone or trading, right?
Wrong! It has to level up in a certain area. That area? Great Poni Canyon.
But here’s the issue; Great Poni Canyon is on an island called Poni. This is the last area in the game you visit.
Meanwhile, Charjabug and its pre evolution are found on the first island.
See an issue here? Yeah, it’ll take you about 20 hours to get from the point you find some of these Pokemon to the point you can actually evolve them. And it’s not just limited to this family too. Magneton only evolves in Magnezone in Great Poni Canyon too. Again, about 20 hours of using an underpowered 1st evolution is needed before you can actually evolve it.
And yet it’s still nothing compared to Crabrawler and its evolved form. Why? Because you have to level him up in an area with SNOW.
Guess where the only area with snow is?
Victory Road. You know, the area right before the final boss. Keeping in mind the first form is found on the first island, that means you’ll have to keep a fairly weak Pokemon in your team for 30 whole hours before you can get something that’s moderately decent out of it.
Yeah, it’s a minor annoyance I know. But it’s still an annoyance that will affect a fair few players, and one I should point out now rather than never.
Either way, Pokemon Sun and Moon are generally great games overall. Perhaps a tad linear for a few, but still great in the gameplay department none the less.
Game Length/Replay Value
So now we know Pokemon Sun and Moon are good games, how long do they last? What’s the replay value like here in general?
Well for the former, my playtime clocks in it at about 20 hours from the intro to the final boss. So if you’re after a typical playthrough, you’re gonna get something roughly on par with the Mario & Luigi or Paper Mario franchise; not that long of an experience, but enough that it feels you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
However, here’s the key:
My playthrough, was done as quickly as possible in order to get my thoughts out sooner rather than later. I stuck with a single team through most of the game, avoided catching Pokemon I thought weren’t necessary, didn’t try many of the extra features and spent no time at all fighting people over wifi.
If you actually do those things?
Like, actually try out everything there is to do in this game?
Then trust me, your playthrough will take about twice the amount of time my one did. And that’s not all.
Oh no, you need to keep in mind that I’m also someone who’s played earlier games in the series. Someone who for the most part, is a bit of an expert at completing video games as quickly as possible.
And even then, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be. Yes, the EXP Share removes some of the difficulty. It has to, the item/option is overpowered as all hell and has been since generation 6. Yes, the starters seem to be a bit more competitively viable than they were in the early generations. That all helps a tad.
But the trainers also often have an actual strategy in mind here. They’ll use status moves to waste your time while setting up their stat boosts. Moves that aggravate half the tournament scene (like Stealth Rock) are used by the elite four and champion to surprisingly decent effect. And heck, even the wild Pokemon can be moderately smart when they need to be.
Like say, the Tapu Guardians. These Pokemon are smart enough to realise that using Nature’s Madness (a move which always takes off exactly 50% of an enemy’s current health) is a good choice right after you heal with a Full Restore or Potion.
Or the totem Pokemon in general, who’s summoned help will either be good against its weakness, heal it on a regular basis or boost the power of its attacks through their ability.
So the difficulty has increased quite significantly over previous titles, likely adding another ten or so hours to playtime due to the mistakes you might be making in plot significant battles.
And that’s just the beginning. Why? Because like in every other game in the series, there is a significant amount of things to do after the final boss. These include:
An Ultra Beast hunting quest where you have to track down five species of dangerous extradimensional Pokemon on orders of the international police. This is surprisingly difficult, given the trainer battles necessary before every mission and the ability of the beasts in question.
The whole of Poni Gauntlet, which acts like a pseudo gym to an island trial captain you never face in the main story.
A hundred different Zygarde cores you have to collect across the game to assemble a certain powerful legendary Pokemon. Some of these are only found in the day or at night, so good luck finding them.
A whole plethora of bonus bosses, including a Game Freak employee, a rematch with the Team Skull leader and various trainers that only appear after you beat the game for the first time.
Along with the numerous online features, the Poke Finder (read, Pokemon Snap as a mini game), QR code scanning for rare Pokemon and the usual Pokedex of about 300 to capture in this region alone. Either way, you will never run out of things to do, with Pokemon Sun and Moon basically offering infinite replay value.
Pokemon Sun and Moon are great games, and make for fine additions to the Pokemon series. They’re not perfect (especially in regards to linearity and technical issues on older 3DS models), but they’re definitely worth buying if you’re a fan of Nintendo, Pokemon or RPGs in general.
Two weeks ago, a technically impressive mod called Super Mario 64: Last Impact was released. Developed by a guy called Kaze Emanuar and featuring a ton of custom content, the game quickly became a massive phenomenon on the internet and was covered by all manner of sites. Like GoNintendo. Or My Nintendo News or Nintendo Life. Heck, the latter even made a video of it!
Indeed, it got so much hype, some people said it’s the best Mario 64 hack of all time.
But how good is it really? How does Kaze’s work compare with an official game?
Does it make the same mistakes as 90% of ROM hacks and fan games? By featuring a difficulty curve that’s simply broken to hell? An killing players through tricky jumps right off the bat?
Well, no. As the review shows, Super Mario 64: Last Impact may actually be one of the better designed, more ‘fair’ ROM hacks I’ve ever played. It’s not as easy as the original, sure, but it’s also not broken as most of the other mods for the title out there either.
But let’s look a bit closer, in the official Gaming Reinvented review of Super Mario 64: Last Impact!
Starting with one of the aspects the game does far better than its source material; the graphics. Put simply Super Mario 64: Last Impact’s graphics are ten times better than those in the original Super Mario 64, and honestly about on par with some of Rare’s games from the era. Indeed, if it was released in the N64 days, this game would have gotten a ton of acclaim for its visuals.
So why does it look so good? Well, three reasons really:
It uses art from later games. Like say, ledges and tileset graphics from the likes of Mario Kart and the Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker. Even compressed to N64 standards, these look a ton better than the equivalents from the original time period.
The themes are interesting and varied enough to stand out. Oh sure, you’ve got a few grasslands, a desert and a beach world, but that’s only the boring stuff here. In addition to that, you then have a space station, a world made of food, a casino and even Rainbow Road from Mario Kart as explorable worlds.
They’re just more visually interesting and unique locations than say, yet another ice world or yet another volcano world.
Character models seem a lot more rounded and detailed than those in most actual Nintendo 64 games. Yeah, the ones from the original Mario 64 didn’t change much, with Mario and Bowser being about the same as they always were. But the new enemies like the giant Piranha Plants, the space aliens and the Blarggs feel much better modelled than most characters from the olden days.
Either way, it’s impressive, especially for a fan made game.
But the graphics aren’t the only great thing here. Oh no, the soundtrack is pretty good too…
Because damn, the mix of ported songs and original compositions both sound excellent and fit the levels absolutely perfectly.
On the ported front, you have some really impressive renditions of songs from the likes of the Zelda and Final Fantasy series. What’s stranger, these actually fit some of Last Impact’s worlds at least as well as they did their source game. Forested Temple may have been composed for Final Fantasy VII, but it fits Last Impact just as well:
Deep Castle from Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside story works well in Big Beast’s Belly:
And Mario Party’s ‘danger’ theme works just as well in Last Impact’s mini games as it does in the actual game’s ones:
But as good as the ports sound, it’s the original music where Last Impact really shines. Because you see, this game doesn’t just use music from other titles. Oh no, it comes up with many of its own songs, and those are absolutely incredible.
Like say, the two final boss themes from the game, which are brand new for this ROM hack:
Or the Dusky Doomed Dales theme, which really does sound appropriate for a middle ages village in the middle of a witch hunt:
As you probably know by this point, I’ve not exactly been the biggest Paper Mario Color Splash fan since it was announced. I’ve tweeted comics about how Miyamoto killed the Paper Mario series. I’ve posted on the Paper Mario subreddit lamenting the franchise’s direction. Heck, I even used to constantly tweet under the hashtag #MakePaperMarioGreatAgain and wonder whether people should be boycotting the game.
But then, I decided to give the game a chance. After all, no point in complaining about games you didn’t play, right?
So after many hours of playing Paper Mario Color Splash, here it is. My review of the game, from the perspective of an old school Paper Mario fan!
Starting on a positive note, the graphics in this game are definitely one of its strongest points. The paper theming shines through in every level, with absolutely everything feeling like it’s physically made out of paper and cardboard. Add such interesting themes as a military base, an old school steakhouse and an archaeological dig site, and you’ve also got environments that are both different from the norm and brought to life brilliantly by the paper art style. Basically, it’s to Sticker Star what Mario 3D World was to 3D Land; a huge graphical step up with more interesting themes and visuals perfectly suited for the Wii U.
The Things look good too. Totally unlike everything else, definitely, but really well animated and (at least initially) really funny to watch as well. It’s like a Family Guy cut out gag or Simpsons title sequence down well.
However, there is one graphical issue here that really hampers the game.
And that’s the character design. Put simply, the general character design is atrocious.
Seriously, how many uniquely designed characters exist in this game? Huey, the Rescue Squads, the Rock Paper Wizard, the pirate Toads and (to a very loose degree) the Chosen Toads and Museum Curator. That’s literally every ‘new’ and ‘uniquely designed’ character outside of the typical Mario cast.
And it really hurts the visual variety here. Indeed, look at the places here, and about 90% could probably have fit well in the original or Thousand Year Door. So you’ve got a visually interesting, varied world to explore that’s worthy of the original titles.
But then it’s let down by the fact no one interesting lives in said world. It’s like a theme park made by a company not called Disney; a fantastic land staffed by employees who don’t actually dress to match the themes of the areas they work in. Except you know, with every employee replaced with a genetically engineered army of clones in slightly different colours.
It’s a good looking game, but one let down by the disappointing lack of unique designs.
Music is where the game truly shines though. Why? Because Paper Mario Color Splash has an amazing soundtrack filled to the brim with great songs to listen to. You’ve got unique songs in every stage (all of which are catchy and fit the setting perfectly). There are songs unique to the Thing animations and cutscenes (the piggybank and battery ones are especially hilarious here) and then there’s the boss themes.
And it’s the latter which are the true highlight of the game. For example, the mini boss theme (named ‘A Fearsome Foe’ by the soundtrack) is amazingly catchy and enjoyable to listen to:
Whereas each of the Koopaling fights have an amazing tune that’s among the best in Paper Mario history. Like Wendy’s one, which is perhaps the best pirate themed song in a video game: Or Iggy’s somewhat over the top ‘colosseum’ boss battle song:
Or even Ludwig’s somewhat techno sounding battleship song:
It even comes with a nice handy sound test that lets you listen to these songs whenever you want. It’s a little hard to get the songs for (since you have to fill in all the blank spots in the respective level), but it comes with absolutely everything on the soundtrack. The boss themes, the Thing themes, any mini game or cutscene music… heck, even the songs from ‘parallel dimensions’ are included here!
Either way, the soundtrack in this game is incredible, and it’s possibly the best part of the whole title. But as good as the music is, that’s not a reason to buy a game. It’s a reason to look it up on YouTube, but you don’t spend $60 for an interactive music CD. Oh no, what matters is the gameplay, and that’s when Paper Mario Color Splash gets a bit mixed in terms of quality…
Because on the one hand, the overworld gameplay is really good. Exploring levels is fun, with all the secrets to find and objects to paint around every corner, and the puzzles are really well thought out and enjoyable to solve. For example, how many games make you literally pull tape off the floor to unravel a bridge to a new area? Or paste cards into the background to do things like generate a huge tidal wave, activate a NES system or melt a giant block of ice in a steakhouse’s freezer?
So as far as exploration goes, it’s great. Perhaps even better than Thousand Year Door or Super Paper Mario.
And the humour is worth pointing out too, because damn, this game made me laugh quite a bit. You’ve got the Rescue Squads acting like idiots and saving people in the most unorthodox ways possible. You’ve got jokes about everything from Watergate to the Exorcist.
Heck you’ve even just plain amusing randomness like Mario fighting a steak to cook it:
Because of this, many parts of Color Splash really are fun to play (or in the case of humour, read).
What’s not so great however is the battle system.
Now okay, it’s technically a step up from Sticker Star in a lot of respects. You can attack multiple times with one card in a lot of cases. Cards don’t run out anywhere near as often as stickers, since you can have 99 at once (and they all use the same amount of space in the ‘deck’). And battles do give you actual rewards this time around (like hammer scraps to give you more ink to use in battle), which act like a pseudo exp system.
But it also has serious problems too.
For example, it’s really slow to use. Just to do one attack, you need to:
Search the entire list of cards (in one endless row) til you find the one you need
Move it to the card slots above
Press on the card for a few seconds to paint it
Then finally flick the card to the top screen to actually use it.
That’s four steps before you’re even using any action commands. And that’s on ‘advanced’ settings.
Not using advanced? Well, then the process becomes:
Search the card list
Move cards to slots above
Paint cards on a separate screen
Then flick them up to the top screen to play them.
That’s ridiculous. What’s more, that’s just for one basic attack. Want to use multiple attacks? Then you need to select each card from the deck separately, then paint them all separately on top of all this. So a fight that should take about 30 seconds now takes about 2 or 3 minutes because of the time spent selecting and using attacks.
It’s also got the same ‘Thing puzzle’ bosses from Sticker Star too, which makes it a bit worse. Okay, they’re improved now (most of the battle involves using normal attacks, with the Thing card only being needed for a single specific step), and you do usually now come prepared (the necessary Thing is usually found in the same level as the boss), but it’s still frustrating for anyone who doesn’t know the ‘strategy’ needed in advance. I mean, why should I need the Bone to break Iggy’s chariot? Pretty much every ‘Thing’ hits everyone on the field, so surely they should all work fine here, right? But no. Apparently he manages to dodge an electric fan the size of a planet or a giant fire extinguisher, but not a rolling Chain Chomp going after a giant bone. Makes sense!
It’s been out for a while now, and it’s already become a massive success in the process. And so with all the hype Pokemon GO has been getting, I thought it’d be time to finally review the game as a whole. Does it really live up to the idea of real life Pokemon collecting and battling? Does it do a good job of transferring the Pokemon feel to the mobile app world?
Well, sort of. It’s fun, and it’s certainly a nice way to get people exploring the world around them.
But what’s it like on a more detailed level? Well, let’s find out, in our official Gaming Reinvented review of Pokemon GO!
First on the agenda, let’s talk Pokemon GO’s graphics. Which for the most part, are actually pretty good.
For example, the Pokemon models have been designed pretty neatly here. Sure, they’re not Pokken Tournament or Super Smash Bros quality, but they do at least look a bit like what you’d see in one of the Gamecube era spinoffs.
And the menus and interface are a decent quality too. Yeah, they’ve got the same ‘flat’ look present in a lot of mobile games and modern websites. That’s pretty much undeniable.
But it does work well, and it makes finding nearby Pokemon, gym and Pokestops really convenient.
In addition to these, there’s also the unique style splash screen that’s run when you try and load up the game. You know, the one with a Pokemon trainer walking dangerously close to a Gyarados. This artwork looks really good, though it’s a shame that there’s only one design at the moment. Would have been neat if they’d switched it up randomly with some of these:
So on a graphical level, Pokemon GO works well. But how about the sound?
Well, that works well too. The remixes played in gym battles and wild Pokemon encounters are certainly nice to listen to: And the game’s main theme is quite catchy as well:
Above: Some catchy songs from Pokemon GO
Yes, it’s not the best in the series. There’s nothing in Pokemon GO that can quite match some of the songs from generation 5 or generation 6, because it’s a simple ‘collect them all’ experience without anything in the way of special boss battles or a main plotline. But it works well for what it is, and you won’t ever really find any of the music irritating here.
But the aesthetics don’t mean anything without the gameplay to back it up. And suffice to say, Pokemon GO’s gameplay is pretty good for the most part.
Now, before we start, I have to mention that Pokemon GO is not a typical Pokemon experience. You don’t fight Pokemon directly to weak them. You don’t go around collecting badges from different gyms and battling the regional league and elite four. There are no gimmicky extras like the contests and studios and musicals or whatever else. Heck, you don’t even have the ability to trade or battle Pokemon with people nearby yet!
But this doesn’t mean the game isn’t enjoyable. It’s just a very different beast from the games on Nintendo’s handheld systems. Continue Reading…
So, it’s been officially a week since Mario & Luigi Paper Jam was released in the UK and Europe. It’s an interesting little Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario crossover with some new ideas, some interesting additional mechanics and other various extras.
But how is the game, you might be wondering? Is it anywhere near as bad as Sticker Star? Does it overuse tutorials as much as Dream Team? Are there any awkward bugs that the reviewers don’t talk about because most of them are complete idiots?
Well… no, in all three cases. Instead, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam is for the most part, a very good game. It’s got the classic Mario & Luigi series gameplay working down to a tee, with an even more advanced and impressive seeming battle system. It looks and sounds fantastic, with music at the same quality as that in the rest of the series and for the most part, it’s a fun experience.
But with that said, what is the game like on a more detailed level? Well, let’s find out, in the official Gaming Reinvented review for Mario & Luigi Paper Jam!
Let’s start with the graphics first. Because for whatever else you may say about the game, there is absolutely no denying that this game looks fantastic, with extremely well animated character sprites and atmospheric, beautiful looking environments. Just look at it for yourself if you’re not convinced:
So on an aesthetic level, there really isn’t a whole lot to complain about. Mario & Luigi Paper Jam keeps up the graphics style from Dream Team and just looks amazing in the process.
Onto the soundtrack next, and as is expected from a Mario & Luigi game, it is an incredible selection of songs that doesn’t ever really disappoint. For example, the boss themes are really well done in this title, and suit the battles they play in down to a tee:
But it’s not only boss songs that are fantastic here. The area songs are equally amazing, with Bowser’s Castle(s), Mt Brr and Sunbeam Plains being notable favourites:
That said, while the music is great overall, there are definitely a few tracks that aren’t up to par with the rest of the soundtrack. For example, the Toad Hunt theme, as catchy as it is the first time, gets extremely grating in very short order. Hear this?
Well, you’ll be hearing it for hours, especially if you get stuck finding that last pesky Toad or two. Perhaps it would have been better if they’d (mostly) stuck with the original area music for the Toad hunting missions instead, since they’re a lot less repetitive and offer a decent amount of variety.
There’s also the matter of the papercraft battle songs. Okay, they were never going to live up to the giant battle themes in terms of their epicness, since the very concept is less ‘epic’ by nature. But they just seem far, far too upbeat and cheery for such dramatic points in the game:
But they’re not bad songs, just not that appropriate for the points of the game where they play. So in general, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam has a great soundtrack, with all the catchy songs you’d expect from a Mario RPG.
That said, neither the graphics nor soundtrack can save a poorly designed game. After all, look at Sticker Star; it sure looked incredible, and the soundtrack certainly had its fans too. But Mario & Luigi Paper Jam (mostly) shines here as well.
So what’s new and interesting? Well for the most part, Paper Mario is obviously the main addition. Joining the party in a way not too different from Bowser or the Baby Mario Bros, he adds new abilities on the overworld that are used to explore the different locations. Like a spinning drill move to go underground and up walls, a paper plane form to cross large gaps or a giant hand that can grab objects and press switches from the other side of the room. What makes this more impressive though is that these abilities are not wasted; you end up reusing them all throughout the adventure rather than just in the first area or two you learn them in. That’s a nice (and positive) change from the often lacklustre way the overworld abilities were implemented in Bowser’s Inside Story and Dream Team.
In battle on the other hand, Paper Mario acts as a sort of cross between Bowser from Bowser’s Inside Story and Dreamy Luigi from Dream Team. Like the former, he has his own abilities and attacks, like the ‘cloning’ one and the Trio Attacks he can pull off with help from the other Mario Bros. Like the latter, he attacks multiple enemies at once, with only one Trio Attack actually targeting a single opponent. Heck, even his basic hammer attack has his clones split off and attack the enemies at the same time!
But let’s move onto the Trio Attacks now. Requiring all three Mario bros to be active at once, these attacks tend to involve some sort of paper related gimmick that wipes out the entire battlefield in a single impressive attack. For example, Trio Racquet has them batting a ball back and forth onto the background, on which their enemies are stuck on as scraps of paper. Every enemy you hit damages that enemy, and doing it perfectly blasts away the whole wall and hurts every enemy at once.
These are extremely useful in battle, and for the most part, tend to get better and better as you progress. Trio Shuriken and Trio Meteor are especially impressive examples, which can easily be enough to wipe out a boss in a couple of hits.
That said, there are a few issues here. Namely, as fun as these attacks are… they just take too long to pull off. Trio Racquet and Shuriken are fairly quick (though perhaps still overkill for normal enemy battles), but the likes of Trio Whirligig and Trio Meteor take so damn long to use that you’d probably spend less time watching through the animations for Final Fantasy VII’s Supernova.
The Bros Attacks themselves are a mixed bag. Some are recycled from Dream Team, like Dropchopper, Red Shell and Bomb Derby. Some are new and work really, like Balloon Blast, Drill Shell or Rocket Blast. Some… not so much, like Toad Trail.
And then there’s Mega Thwonk, perhaps the best thing the game has to offer attack wise:
Another change comes in the running away sequences in battle. See, like in Dream Team, you’ll get chased in the foreground by certain bosses. But this time, Paper Mario joins in, either as a plane flying above, a boomerang your characters throw at the boss or a trampoline they hold. You have to use his abilities to deflect or dodge boss projectiles and take them down in a way which is interesting, albeit a tad more mentally demanding than the norm.
There’s also the addition of a cursor underneath your characters that lets you know who’s being targeted. It can be turned off (and is forcibly disabled in the Battle Ring), but it’s a nice bit of help for anyone who’s struggling to read enemy attack tells.
Other non battle additions are a bit of a mixed bag as well. Toad hunting is introduced here for instance, and basically replaces the Pi’illos from Dream Team. It’s usually fun due to the different types of challenges introduced (sometimes slow collectathon sections, sometimes basic puzzles or mini games), but it can also become rather irritating in cases where it doesn’t really work out as well, like the annoying stealth section one.
These sections also end up becoming mandatory before every papercraft battle (to give you Paper Toads to carry your papercraft around), which sometimes slows the game right down to a halt.
Talking of papercraft battles, those seem to be the other major addition this time around. Replacing the giant battles from the last two games, they involve Mario and co riding around on a giant paper version of themselves and smashing apart enemies and bosses in a 3D arena, kind of like a weird tank battle/beat em up hybrid. They’re extremely fun in general with some interesting ideas and mechanics, but unfortunately fall into the trap of being far too easy due to how easy it is to spam the same attacks over and over.
Above: These are fun, but they’re just too easy.
So for the for the most part, Paper Jam is a pretty fun game. But hang on, didn’t I mention something about the difficulty in the review title?
Yes. Yes I did. And that’s where the game… kind of falters a bit. You see, a normal game has a reasonable difficulty curve. Easy levels and enemies at the start, moderately difficult ones part way through and difficult ones in the endgame and postgame. Simple, isn’t it?
Paper Jam does not really have this. Instead, the difficulty is basically random, with certain bosses and sections simply being far too difficulty (or maybe even far too easy) for the point in the game in which they’re encountered.
And a good example is found in the Koopaling battles. See, these boss fights all have unique gimmicks (like the enemies using battle cards against you, or them attacking each other when they mess up a counter attack, or you having to defend against them before any chance to fight back), and they’re all pretty damn hard to complete.
Problem is, they’re just littered throughout the game at near random. Roy and Wendy you fight at the one third of the game mark, and are harder than the next few real bosses. Larry and Ludwig… well, you fight those at about halfway through, and they’re difficult enough than many players literally consider them the hardest boss fight in the game.
Which Is pretty messed up, given that you’ve got about ten boss fights afterwards, and all are generally much easier. Heck, even the final boss can be easier!
And this issue continues with the Toad hunting sections and various mini games. For example, various points have stealth sections where you have to avoid being spotted by a mini army of monsters patrolling around. Unfortunately, they’re difficult as all hell, and one actually comes RIGHT between a fun part of the game and a fun (and much easier) boss fight. Other good sections include certain fake ‘battles’ on the overworld that end up being closer to mini games (the one with Morton firing cannonballs at Mario and co is getting infamous for its difficulty level) and a few Toad hunting sections which are just ridiculously hard to figure out. The worst of these is the village one on Mt Brr, since the Toads are hidden all around the village in often difficult to figure out locations. But do you know what’s the real kicker?
Above: Oh shut up you lying pricks.
It’s actually semi random where they’re hidden. But the game doesn’t seem to realise it’s semi random. So you get five NPCs who are meant to give you hints to the Toad locations… which are telling you complete and utter crap nine times out of ten because their hints only apply to one possible setup out of maybe a hundred. It’s like a modern version of Castlevania 2, with the NPCs giving you useless and completely wrong ‘hints’.
Add a few difficult puzzles and platforming sections, and you’ve got a game which really, really needed to be rebalanced a bit more before being released. It’s not as bad as Dream Team in some sense (because the controls aren’t a broken mess at any point), but it’s shockingly bad for a difficulty curve in a Nintendo title.
That said, there is one nice helpful addition that does kind of lessen up the problems with the above. Basically, in addition to an ‘easy mode’ which makes you massively overpowered in exchange for not being able to complete the bonus challenges/achievements, there’s a very welcome option to ‘skip this section and continue on with the story’. So if you feel like you don’t have a hope in hell of getting past something and just want it over and done with, there is at least the option to say ‘screw this crap’ and move onto something that’s more enjoyable in the game. Maybe more games should have that option…
There’s also battle cards, which act as a replacement for badges. They let you do things like heal in battle, damage enemies, boost exp, defend from attacks completely without having to counter anything and reduce enemy stats significantly. They’re more balanced than Dream Team’s (no time freezing abilities here, at least from what I’ve seen), but also a tad annoying in how random they are (you have to shuffle the deck to get the cards you want in battle). And as mentioned above, one boss uses them against you as well, which is kind of terrifying.
The other issue is padding. Basically, you know how Dream Team padded out the gameplay with pointless mini games, quests and other random chores? Well this game does likewise, and to an unfortunately often greater degree than Dream Team. For example, the boss battle before the final boss is literally a seven or so stage fight with no save point between, the first three or four parts of which are just fighting random hordes of enemies (and the last three difficult fights against the Koopalings). The last papercraft battle is similar, you have to fight EVERYONE you’ve encountered to that point, as well as at least two bosses you haven’t. In a row, with no checkpoints.
And let’s not even get into the Toad hunt stuff. Basically, every time a papercraft battle comes out, you need extra Paper Toads to carry the papercraft. Problem is, that basically means your adventure has to stop dead in its tracks so you can run around completing irrelevant minigames. It’s not the worst thing ever (they’re still fun), but it’s really bad for the game’s pacing in general.
It’s a good game, but it’s let down in this respect by an extremely badly balanced difficulty curve,
But for replay value, Paper Jam is a great game. Indeed, this is one of the key things that the game does significantly better than Dream Team.
For starters, the boss rush mode has been expanded, with both the normal battles and papercraft battles have ranking systems that give you rewards for doing nearly perfect. Kind of like the item mini games in the last game.
In addition to that, the Toad Hunt mini games and other challenges were made replayable as well. This was a significant improvement to Dream Team and prior games, where most ‘gimmick’ parts of the game were impossible to return to after the first time you completed them. So it was nice to be able to redo the stealth sections, the Koopaling ‘mini battles’, the Boo avoiding challenges, etc, complete with an extra ‘hard mode’ for even better rewards.
There’s also a challenges system, which is far improved from the one in Dream Team. For example, now beating the bosses in the boss ring gets you an in game ‘achievement’, as does getting a perfect S ranking on each of them. Other challenges are now everything from ‘use every item type in the game’ to ‘battle x number of times without getting hit’ to ‘get excellent with a certain attack five times in a row’. It’s certainly something that’ll keep you playing an extremely long time, especially given the high difficulty level of much of the rest of the game.
With all that said, there are some issues here. For one thing, Hard Mode from Dream Team is gone in Paper Jam. You can’t replay the whole game again at a higher difficulty level for a better ending or other extras, which is a bit of a shame.
And there’s the problem I mentioned earlier about padding. Put simply, it’s padded to all hell, and without all the filler content, would actually be shorter than Bowser’s Inside Story. So there’s a significant feeling throughout that the game is just trying to waste your time and delay progress as much as possible.
Story, Characters and Humour
Yeah, an odd thing to mention this one. But given that the Mario RPGs are well known for hilarious, well written scripts with plenty of memorable characters and moments, it only seems right to judge this game by the same standards.
So is it funny? Are the characters as memorable as before?
Well, yes and no. On the one hand, there are literally ZERO new characters in Paper Jam. None whatsoever. If you’ve played a Mario game in the last five years or so, you probably know EVERYONE who plays a part in this game.
That’s really disappointing, especially given how previous games have introduced funny, amusing individuals like Fawful, Popple, the Massif Bros, the 1337 Hammer Bros, Midbus, etc. Without anyone like that, the game does kind of feel a bit empty and lacking in personality.
It’s also disappointing that for much of a degree, the game never really does a whole lot with the Paper Mario characters or world. Oh sure, Paper Mario appears, and paper versions of Peach, Bowser, Bowser Jr and Kamek make notable appearances in the game, but what about all the older favourites? Why not have Kamek meet Kammy Koopa instead, given her major role to play in the original and Thousand Year Door? That would have been a lot more amusing.
Above: Some characters who are not in this game (bar Mario, Peach and Bowser)
And without characters like Goombario and Goombella and Vivian and Bobbery and Doopliss and Dimentio and Count Bleck and Lord Crump… well, the game doesn’t feel as much of a tribute to Paper Mario as it really should have been. Paper Mario and normal Mario versions of characters meeting is interesting, but the more original ones meeting the more original Mario & Luigi cast is what the game should have focused on, but didn’t.
But there are some good things in the game’s story and characterisation. For example, the Koopalings now actually have personalities, and help each other in battle with all kinds of neat tricks and traps. Like Larry and Ludwig using battle cards against the main characters, or Morton/Iggy/Lemmy using each other attacks in their own elaborate attack sequences.
Other highlights are the two Kameks (who literally bicker right up the very end, even during their supposedly ‘heart-warming’ death scene), Big Bob-omb (who goes from a forgettable first boss to a stern and serious leader on Mt Brr) and King Boo, who’s just as nasty and selfish in this game as he was in Dark Moon (he actually holds Paper Mario in a hostage situation and threatens to beat him up if Mario and Luigi attack him). But there are two sets of characters that really took the limelight here.
First, the two Bowser Jrs. Unlike the other guys, these two actually got along really well with each other, and became best friends throughout the storyline. They fight you in an amusing battle with a paper plane flight contest, troll you by taking Peach away at the last second, try and get rid of the book so the paper one doesn’t have to return to the other world… and then, their defeat scene. Oh god:
They pretty much nearly die there and then, complete with a sad montage and both Bowsers holding their dying children and threatening to kill Mario and co in revenge. It’s quite the moment for a Mario title…
Then, there are both Bowsers in this game. Remember how Bowser’s Inside Story made Bowser into a badass? Or how Dream Team showed he could be a competent villain?
Yeah, this game continues with it, and hammers it home big time. Bowser is not a joke any more, and damn well he means business. He enslaves Toads to mine ore for Neo Bowser Castle’s rocket engines, literally blows Peach’s Castle to smithereens with a giant cannon (nearly killing Peach in the process), burns the old papercrafts you made to a crisp to show how much better his own one is, becomes a nigh godly being in the final battle and actually plans to trap Mario and friends inside the Paper Mario book so he can burn it to cinders with them still trapped inside. Bowser in the early Mario RPGs was comic relief. Bowser in this game makes everyone bar the Shroobs look like amateurs. That’s impressive.
So it’s disappointing that there’s a lack of new characters, but nice that they really fleshed out and improved upon the personalities of the existing ones.
All in all, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam is a pretty good game. It’s got some lovely graphics and music, some interesting gameplay mechanics and boss battles, and in a certain few ways, significantly improves upon Dream Team by forsaking the broken motion controls and overabundance of tutorials that bogged the game down significantly.
It just needs to reign in the difficulty curve to something reasonable, remove some of the obvious filler content and to introduce some more new characters to the world to make it as good as it could ever be. So, a nice solid 8/10 seems a decent score for it.