New Character Called Helix Announced for Nintendo Switch

Ever since the ARMS Nintendo Direct, we’ve been gradually getting more information about the game. We’ve seen Mimi announced as a new character. Various costumes and palette swaps shown for existing ones. New weapons and abilities in tweets. Basically, Nintendo’s finally stepping up their marketing with the game, and not trying to hide everything outside the initial demo like in the past.

Which brings us to today’s surprising announcement. Namely, a new playable character called Helix being announced for the game! Here’s a trailer showing him in action:

As well as some artwork showing him in a new light:

Helix

Helix Artwork

So what’s interesting about him? Well for one thing, he’s the first explicitly artificial character in the series.

Like say, Mewtwo in the Pokemon series, he was created by ARMS Laboratory as a fighter for the game rather than being a modified human like everyone else in the cast.

And that’s not all. Oh no, his body is also apparently elastic, meaning that he can shrink and stretch at will in battle. In other words… his whole body acts like the arms of the other characters. Pretty neat eh?

Either way, that’s the latest additions to the ARMS roster. So what do you think of him? Is Helix an interesting addition to the game’s cast? Or are you going to stick to one of the first five announced for the title?

Nintendo Announces the New Nintendo 2DS XL

Well, this is a turn up for the books! Apparently there’s some life in the old 3DS line after all!

Yeah, you read that right. Nintendo has (perhaps against all odds) announced the New Nintendo 2DS XL. This system is a more powerful version of the 2DS, with the New Nintendo 3DS’ tech. However, with no 3D and a lower price point of $149.99, the console is likely intended at a younger audience. You know, those kids whose parents don’t want to spend a ton of cash on a handheld games console.

Here’s a trailer showing off the system:

Plus the console’s box:

As well as some photos showing more of how the console looks:

New 2DS XL Promo Yellow

New 2DS XL Promo Blue

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Sonic Forces: Green Hill Zone Footage

Ever since it was announced alongside Sonic Mania in 2016, we haven’t seen much of Sonic Forces. Yeah sure there was that trailer showing the two Sonics racing through a ruined city. And yes, a few short clips were shown in March as well, showing about 30 seconds of Sonic running through the same city environment.

But we never really saw a full level. A real look at how a stage in the game may actually work.

Until now. Because earlier today, Sega posted a clip showing the new Green Hill Zone level from the game. Here’s the video in question, showing off the new stage in action:

As you can see, it’s pretty much exactly as you’d expect a Green Hill Zone area in a modern Sonic game to be. You’ve got the typical chequered grass and cliffs found in every iteration. The traditional bridge with the Chopper fish monsters jumping up from underneath. The various tunnels and loops to build up speed and look cool.

It’s as pleasant looking and as safe as you’d expect it to be. Nothing broken or unexpected. No awkward gimmicks like a werehog or sword fighting thrown in for the sake of it.

However, it’s also… Well how do I say this nicely?

Not very ambitious. I mean, the level design is technically ‘okay’, but it seems to have very little depth compared to that of the previous Sonic the Hedgehog games, and acts like a slightly disguised straight line to the finish. The physics work to an extent, but Sonic doesn’t seem to have proper momentum. He just crashes to a halt whenever he lands on an enemy.

And as for the music… Well that’s another matter altogether. It’s not ear hurting in the way that say, Sonic Chronicles was, but it’s also not particularly memorable either. Honestly as a Nintendo fan? I’d say this music sounds like something Artoon may have composed. Aka the kind of song you find in the modern Yoshi’s Island games. Inoffensive, somewhat fitting of a theme but generally rather soulless and non memorable.

Ah well, at least it’s only one level, and presumably one you encounter at the very start of the game. So in that sense, at least it does introduce you to the mechanics well enough. And hey, at least it leaves the possibility of the Modern Sonic/extra characters feeling a bit more interesting and varied than this one.

But what do you think? Are you impressed by what you’ve seen of Sonic Forces so far? Or do you think Sega’s game needs a bit of a rethink in the level design department?

How the Switch can maintain momentum

The Switch has been out for four weeks now and despite Nintendo’s plan to increase production, retailers still expect to have a hard time meeting demand for the remainder of the year. Indeed, the Switch has a shot at being the hottest game system this holiday season if Nintendo plays its cards right. Here’s what Nintendo can do to ensure a strong finish to 2017 and an even brighter future in 2018.

Get the Virtual Console up and running

It’s no secret, Nintendo dropped the ball by not having the Virtual Console ready at launch. Demand for the NES Classic is still high, and scarcity has inflated the cost to well over double the original MSRP of $60.00. While the demand for their older titles is obvious, it’s unclear why they aren’t presently available on the Switch. Perhaps Nintendo is having trouble getting the emulation performing at an acceptable level, or maybe they are spending more time adding online modes to their games. Either way, it’s surprising to not have any official word from Nintendo on when we can expect older titles to hit the eShop.

Hopefully, when the games do arrive, the offerings will be more in line with the original Wii VC, rather than the truncated version offered on the Wii U. Another trickle release of games will just exacerbate any droughts the system suffers. Nintendo needs to put their best foot forward this time and bring back all the old systems that had a home on the Wii VC while also adding newer systems like the GameCube. The Wii U VC wasn’t all bad though, it’d be nice to see them offer games at a discount the first week after release like they did with Wii titles. Likewise, Nintendo should take a hard look at dropping VC prices. Currently, on the Playstation Store, most PS1 and PS2 games go for $6 and $10, respectively. This is a stark contrast to Nintendo’s pricing that puts SNES games at $8 Nintendo 64 games at $10.

Kill the 3DS

Nintendo has quieted down on selling the Switch as the perfect solution for both portable and home gaming now that 3DS sales have made a bit of a comeback. Unfortunately, they need to take the opposite stance and double down on the portable aspect of Switch.  As a home console, the Switch is hard to sell when you compare it to the PS4 or XB1 with their similar price point and deep library. The only thing the Switch has over its competitors, other than the first party titles, is its portability.

To really sell the portability factor, Nintendo will have to compete with itself. The 3DS still has quite a bit of support in 2017, including first-party titles like Pikmin and Fire Emblem. Development of 3DS titles should have been moved to the Switch to bolster the launch year, but sadly Nintendo stuck to an aging system. Hopefully, the games already announced will be the end of it. They need to move full steam ahead on Switch development while also enticing all those primarily handheld third-party developers to do the same. If Nintendo can get everyone to focus on this one device, they can pump out enough games to prevent all of the droughts that have plagued their previous consoles.

Get meaningful 3rd party support

No more Mass Effect 3 a month before the trilogy collection is released at half the price on every other console.
No more Arkham City a year after launch, once everybody has already had their fill.
No more Darksiders II with performance issues.

Everybody knows the Big N needs to step up its game with the big third party developers. Unfortunately, being a generation or two behind the graphical cycle of Sony and Microsoft makes that a steep hill to climb. Third parties will go where the gamers are, and currently, there are 83 million of them enjoying their PS4s and XB1s. Straight ports are no longer an option, and third parties are going to be wary about dropping exclusives on a Nintendo console after the Wii U debacle.

Nintendo needs to work harder at securing third party deals that brought the likes of Bayonetta 2 and Zombi to the Wii U, and go over the previous gen with a fine tooth comb to find hidden gems. They can even pitch the console as budget friendly given that developers don’t need to worry about making their games 4K ready. Right now, their glaring weakness is a lack of first and third person shooters. A Singularity or Alpha Protocol sequel with Nintendo assisting on development would bring some excellent diversity to the platform. Who knows, maybe they could even talk Platinum into working on an exclusive Vanquish 2!

The Big Picture

The Switch is off to a great start, but a great launch doesn’t always guarantee long term success. To keep the future bright, Nintendo needs to focus on three things. First, they have to get the Virtual Console up and it needs to be stronger than the poor effort put forth on the Wii U. Second, it’s time to let the 3DS ride of into the sunset. Keep producing units if the sales are there, but don’t split your development between the two devices. Third, figure out a way to work third parties into the fabric of the console. Don’t settle for lazy ports, aggressively work with developers to breath life into cult classics that will generate a buzz around the system that is sure to attract gamers beyond the typical Nintendo fans. If Nintendo can execute on each of these three steps, we’ll have a system that can stand on its own for the rest of this decade and hopefully a few years into the next.

How Should Zelda Improve Upon Breath of the Wild?

Recently, The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild was released for the Nintendo Switch. An incredible game with a huge explorable worlds and tons of interesting things to do, it received universal acclaim from players and critics alike.

In other words? It became the Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo Switch era.

However, as great as the game is, that still leaves one ‘issue’ for Nintendo. Namely, how do you improve upon near perfection?

Because let’s face it, Ocarina of Time left Nintendo in the same daunting situation. And while their follow ups to it were all great games in their own right, they also all felt like they lacked something or another in general. Like Nintendo had kind of missed the point in regards to what made Zelda popular or beloved.

So to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, here are my answers to that question. To how Nintendo can in fact improve upon Breath of the Wild with their next few Zelda titles…

1. Focus on a New Central Idea for a Direct Sequel

Or in other words, you’ve got a great engine now. Time to consider the Nintendo Switch equivalent to Majora’s Mask. Aka a game with the same engine and resources but a new main concept completely different to anything found in Breath of the Wild.

Heck, maybe even bring back the parallel universe gimmick. After all, there are lots of NPCs here that you could put into new roles, and plenty of neat twists you could make to the ideas found within the title in general.

So yeah, start with something simple first.

2. Expand upon the dungeons and bosses

But then move onto improving perhaps the only minor ‘downside’ Breath of the Wild has. Namely, that its dungeons aren’t as interesting or unique as those in past games.

Okay, don’t get me wrong here. The Divine Beasts being huge animal shaped mechs is amazing, and the idea of you fighting them in a boss battle before you can get inside is a really neat twist on the formula too.

So those aspects could easily be retained for one or two of the dungeons.
However, what’s less amazing is the actual inside of the dungeons themselves. Basically, they have too little variety in enemies or puzzle setups.

Seriously, look at the dungeons here and tell me what enemies you remember fighting there. I’m pretty sure the answer is ‘just Guardians and Corruption Eyes’.

And that’s a bit disappointing really. One of the best aspects of the older games was how each dungeon used to have a unique mini boss encounter in it, as well as how the dungeons and setups would be themed around the region they’re in. No, that doesn’t require the game to be linear or the dungeons to be bland item puzzle based setups either. Just look at Link Between Worlds if you need proof of that.

So another improvement they could make in a sequel is to bring back the themed dungeons and greater enemy variety inside, and add them to the amazing world presented in Breath of the Wild.

I also think the bosses could be improved here too. Yeah, they are brilliant in Breath of the Wild (especially in a mechanical sense). And I do like the idea of bosses that act more like a physical battle than a glorified item puzzle, where the player can choose how they take them down. That’s really appreciated too.

But the downside here in Breath of the Wild’s bosses is that design wise, they just don’t look very varied. They’re all Ganon Blights, no exceptions. Which in turn makes them all weird Phantom Ganon like ghosts with Guardian weapons attached.

Hence I feel that visual design thing should be improved upon in future Zelda games too. Make the bosses look as unique as they feel, while keeping the same ‘action’ based setup as in Breath of the Wild. Give us a ton of different looking bosses with the same battle strategies and AI skills as the Ganon Blights. Make the bosses in Zelda both visually interesting and difficult at the same time.

3. Reintroduce some Classic Items and Upgrades

Another thing I feel future Zelda games could do is bring back some of the items and upgrades from past games. For example, the Hookshot could be reimagined to let Link instantly shoot to any land or wall he can climb within a reasonable distance. Or to steal items away from enemies like the Grappling Hook in The Wind Waker.

And the same goes for many other items. Not all of them mind (since many have been rightfully replaced by the weapons system or runes), but enough of them to expand upon the formula a bit. You could bring back the Magic Cape and its invisibility effects. The Dominion Rod could be merged with the Command Melody to brainwash enemies (imagine how cool it’d be to turn a Bokoblin or Moblin against its friends!) The Mole Mitts… well, digging underground seems pretty useful in an open wide title like this one.

The list just goes on and on. But that’s not all that could come back either.

Oh no, upgrades could return to. For example, remember the Golden Gauntlets (or slightly weaker Silver ones) in Ocarina of Time?

Yeah, those let you pick up and move large objects. I think those could make for an interesting rune or magic spell in a Breath of the Wild like game too. After all, we can already fling metal objects with Magnesis or catapult heavy ones with Stasis, why not let us literally throw or swing around even bigger ones with this power too?

Similarly, the boots from Ocarina of Time could make a comeback as well. I mean, we’ve already got sand and snow shoes (to walk at full speed on sand and snow respectively). So why not add in Iron, Hover and Magnetic Boots too? These could let us go underwater/brave strong winds, hover in the air for a few seconds or even climb on metal walls/ceilings like in Twilight Princess’ Goron Mines!

Really, there are so many great possibilities here, and I hope Nintendo looks into some of them for the next Zelda title.

4. Allow for new methods of exploration

Finally, I think Nintendo should consider allowing new methods of exploration and new places to explore in the next game.
What do I mean by this?

Well, at the moment we can go anywhere we like on land via climbing. We can swim or sail anywhere we like providing our stamina holds up/we can find a raft. And with Stasis and some neat tricks, we can do a few more creative things there too.

But we cannot quite do everything just yet. We can’t actually go underwater, minus some recently found glitches. Flight is more like gliding, with no way to gain height in mid air. And while anywhere on the surface can be fully explored and enjoyed, going beneath that is limited to a few caves or Shrines.

So that’s the final thing I think Nintendo should work on in future Zelda games. A way to let us not only explore an open world environment on the surface, but to fly around, go underwater or even dig underground to drastically increase the number of possibilities for locations and mechanics. Take what you learned from Ocarina of Time, Minish Cap and Skyward Sword and implement it into the open world environments of Breath of the Wild.

That’s what Nintendo should do to build on Breath of the Wild’s success. Take what worked well, and add in the few things missing from Breath of the Wild to make an amazing new set of Zelda games for future generations.

But hey, what do you think? Do you feel Nintendo should do the above for the Zelda games post Breath of the Wild? Or is there another direction the series should be taken in now?