Review of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019) — I want this to be my awakening

It’s no secret that Nintendo has a knack for releasing updated ports of prominent games in their catalog, but it should also be noted that they haven’t released that many full-blown remakes.  For a long time, the big N seemed nearly completely hesitant when it came to completely redesigning classic games for new consoles.  However, as the 3DS’s life cycle winds down and the Switch continues to be highly successful, that hesitance is becoming a thing of the past.  And now that games from established franchises like Pokémon and Metroid have been given the remake treatment in the last two years, next in line is The Legend of Zelda.  But instead of the first Zelda remake being that of a heavy-hitter like A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time, Nintendo and Grezzo have chosen to unearth the 1993 Game Boy gem in Link’s Awakening.

I can swing my sword, sword

If you’ve played the original version, you’ll know the story by heart.  Link is caught in a storm while sailing on his ship, and he ends up stranded on Koholint Island.  The skilled swordsman then spends time lying unconscious on the grains of sand, until a girl named Marin comes to the rescue.  After getting acquainted with this new location, Link must awaken the Wind Fish so that he can begin his trip back to his home kingdom of Hyrule.

We all know the gameplay structure when it comes to Zelda games, and this remake is no different.  There’s a sword to swing, dungeons to explore, sidequests to complete, and upgrades to buy.  The dungeons you complete can now be played in a time attack mode if you want to earn some goodies  You even get to create your own dungeons as your journey goes on.  From the dungeons to the minigames, this remake doesn’t disappoint in the upgrades department.

Despite a noticeable amount of framerate drops, the visual style is both charming and beautiful.  The dot-eyed character models are kind really cute, in my opinion.  Also, the soundtrack does an above-average job recapturing that of the original Game Boy version.

Gone with the Wind Fish

This remake of Link’s Awakening does have a few dents in its shield, but it’s definitely a must-have for your Switch library, even if you never played the 1993 classic it’s on based on.  Will the success of this one influence Nintendo to pump out additional Zelda remakes on the Switch? Time will tell, but I don’t see why not.

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Review of Pokémon Snap — For those with the benefit of Pokémon photography

For those of you who don’t know me very well, something I really wanted when I was a child was my very own camera.  Not because I was jealous of those in my family who owned one, but because I developed a fascination with walking around and taking pictures of the beautiful pieces of nature that surrounded my home.  I know it sounds like I watched too much Discovery Kids when I was a lot younger, but this wish of mine was actually influenced by a very interesting spin-off in the heavily-revered Pokémon franchise.  Replace the turn-based strategy with on-rails photography, and you get Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo 64.

Gotta photograph ’em all

Released in the summer of 1999, Pokémon Snap tasks you with taking pictures of 63 Pokémon in their natural habitats.  You and your trusty ZERO-ONE vehicle travel through seven courses that make up Pokémon Island, and you must use your photography prowess and a handful of gadgets to make sure your pictures look as nice as possible.  Every time you complete a trip, you must choose which of your shots will be shown to Professor Oak, who gives your pictures ratings based on size, pose, and technique.  Even though the amount of courses seems small, the goals of timing your shots correctly and searching for all the included Pokémon will have you hooked.

This was the first game to have 3D Pokémon character models, and the team at HAL Laboratory did a fantastic job designing both those and the courses’ graphics.  There can be a little slowdown when things like smoke and fire cover a big portion of the screen, but it’s only temporary.  In terms of sound, the voice-acting for each character (Both human and Pokémon) is above average, and each course comes with very appropriate music.

Snap, crackle, Pika

This Pokémon game doesn’t have nearly as much replay value as the main series we know and love, but it’s a unique game within its franchise.  If for some reason you enjoy photography simulators, or if you simply enjoy on-rails games of any kind, Pokémon Snap will no doubt be a very charming addition to your N64 library.  It could definitely use a sequel on the Nintendo Switch, especially if it’d allow you to share your in-game photos directly to Facebook and Twitter.  If we can’t bring our cartridges to Blockbuster anymore to print out our photos, we may as well go the social media route.

The Outer Worlds announced for the Nintendo Switch

Have you heard of this upcoming first-person RPG called The Outer Worlds, created by former Fallout writers? It was announced today that with a little help from independent studio Virtuous, this title will be getting a Nintendo Switch port sometime after its Oct. 25 launch. If you’ve played the Switch versions of L.A. Noire and Dark Souls, you have reason to be confident that Virtuous will do satisfactory job with said port. If you don’t own the latest console from the big N, you still have the options of playing The Outer Worlds on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.

Review of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order — Back in black

If you’re both a gamer and comic book collector, chances are you spent many hours playing the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series from Activision. And in turn, you might have been pleading for a third title in the ten years that have passed since Ultimate Alliance 2‘s release. Luckily, the folks at Nintendo and Team Ninja have finally granted your wish in the form of the Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.

No roses, just stones

The story is very similar to the recent Avengers films. Thanos teams up with a group known as the Black Order, and they go on another hunt for the six Infinity Stones, which were inadvertently scattered by Guardians of the Galaxy leader Star-Lord. It’s up to you and up to three other players to put together a giant roster of heroes and anti-heroes, sharpen your beat-’em-up skills, and save the galaxy before Thanos’ team conquers it.

Hack-and-slash? More like hack-and-Hulk-Smash

Gameplay-wise, The Black Order is a team-based beat-’em-up. Your heroes have light and heavy attacks as well as special moves that can be used when standing next to your allies. There are no complex button combos to memorize, so every battle and puzzle is basically full of button-mashing. As your journey progresses and you keep taking out bad guys, you’ll be earning enough currency to upgrade your characters’ stats and give them some new moves. Your starting roster is comprised of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Groot (With Rocket Raccoon on his shoulders), and many other popular Marvel characters will join you along the way. The overall roster is pretty big, and it will keep getting bigger thanks to free updates and a season pass.

Despite the limitations of the Switch’s hardware, the character designs look as if they’ve escaped from whatever comic pages you happen to be reading, and that’s a compliment. The graphics engine itself is also well-designed, and I have not run into any framerate issues whatsoever. The music definitely sounds like something out of a comic book show or film, and it’s accompanied by wonderfully-performed voice-acting from stars such as Laura Bailey, Phil LaMarr, James Arnold Taylor, Nolan North, and Yuri Lowenthal.

Talk about a MARVEL-ous adventure

As I mentioned, it had been a decade since Ultimate Alliance 2 hit the shelves, and the third chapter does an above-average job picking up where the folks at Activision left off. Whether you’re an avid fan of comic books or adept at co-op beat-’em-ups, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 will reward you and your friends with more action-game fun than you can shake a stack of Free Comic Day books at.

Review of Mischief Makers — Shake-shaking things up

If there was anything the Nintendo 64 was knee-deep in, it was platforming games. Not only was Super Mario 64 an absolute masterpiece in the genre, but there were a handful of second and third-party platform gems in the 64-bit console’s library. And no matter how obscure a game may be, you know it has a strong cult-following when lots of gamers request it to be re-released on a digital marketplace…Which brings us to a 1997 2.5D platformer called Mischief Makers, developed by the fine folks at Treasure.

Stop and shake it

To set the scene, the Planet Clancer is faced with the growing possibility of war, not to mention the Emperor is tricking the inhabitants, known simply as Clancers, into doing indisputably evil things. The brainwashed Clancers kidnap one of the planet’s visitors, that being the robotic mastermind Professor Theo. Luckily for him, the professor’s robotic assistant Marina Liteyears witnesses the capturing, and she sets off on a journey to not only bring her creator to safety, but also protect Planet Clancer from all of the threats that are about to unfold.

Every level puts your 2D platforming skills to the test. And thankfully, Marina has plenty up her…Robots have sleeves, right? Marina can perform both normal and long jumps, and the C buttons grant her special moves like rolling, sliding, and even boosting herself in any direction. However, these moves are afterthoughts compared to the game’s emphasis on grabbing and shaking the many objects and NPC’s you’ll come across. Grabbing things in mid-air and launching yourself towards platforms far away from you will become very vital as your journey progresses. Along with a truckload of platforming playgrounds, you’ll be faced with a handful of boss fights against rogue Clancers and other cold-hearted villains.

Shaking, not stirring

For a 1997 N64 game, Mischief Makers is full of good-looking level backgrounds, well-animated characters, and above-average cutscenes that some gamers may have thought the N64 just couldn’t pull off. In terms of sounds, you’re not gonna hear a lot of voice-acting (Although it was performed well) due to the console’s limitations, but you’ll still be treated with plenty of well-composed songs that are very fitting for each level and boss fight you go through.

In terms of replay value, Mischief Makers‘ length depends on how long you are willing to explore each level and whether or not you can succeed at the bonus tasks in the special events. If you’re good enough, you’ll be able to find all the gold crystals, one of which is found in each level. The amount of gold crystals you have at the end of the adventure determines how long the ending will be, so you’re gonna need a lot of patience and platforming prowess if you want the full experience.

No tomfoolery, no hijinx, just mischief

Just because a game falls under the radar due to its console’s heavyweight-filled catalog doesn’t mean it’s a meaningless game, and Mischief Makers strongly proves that. It doesn’t fit into the same league as heavily-revered platformers like Super Mario 64, but if you’re looking for an obscure platformer with an entertaining (And sometimes funny) plot and a deep pool of replay value, Mischief Makers will not disappoint you. Also, I don’t recommend taking a shot for every time Marina says “Shake, shake!” Alcohol and robotics don’t mix!

Talk about monkey business — Sega announces Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD

Remember this charming party-game series from Sega called Super Monkey Ball? The reason for that question is because from out of absolute nowhere, the Japanese former first-party company has announced they are unearthing the Wii game Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz and giving it an HD coat of paint. This remaster is set to release on October 29, 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with a PC version coming this winter. For those who don’t know, Super Monkey Ball is a series in which you roll around in a ball, play a butt-ton of minigames, and try to collect as many bananas as you can. I’m personally very excited for this release, even though the closest I came to actually playing the series was via a McDonald’s Happy Meal LCD game. Yeah, that’s how old I am! Anyway, fast food toys aside, I’ve been meaning to play a full-fledged Super Monkey Ball title for some time now, and if you haven’t already delved into the series, this remaster sounds like a good place to begin. We’ve only got three months before Banana Blitz HD hits the market, so be sure to stock up on bananas…Or at least any kind of fruit!

Review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — Did you say “chocolate?”

Remember the 2005 film adaptation of the classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That movie was heavily hyped up before it came to theaters, and for good reason. Tim Burton was in the director’s chair, Johnny Depp portrayed the internationally-famous Willy Wonka, and it was the first time since 1971 that Roald Doahl’s masterpiece came to the big screen. The film itself was a dark and quirky remake, but I found it to be a well-made piece of cinema full of hilarious one-liners and catchy musical numbers. And as I saw in its heavily-replayed commercial, the folks at Take-Two Interactive and High Voltage Software were turning this into a videogame that combined puzzles with action-platforming. Not gonna lie, this game kinda became a guilty pleasure in my library, and it’s my job to tell you about all the interesting features in this game’s…Inventing room, so to speak. Television-Chocolate goggles at the ready!

Sideways, longways, slantways

The beginning of the story is not surprising if you’ve already seen the film, although the plot as a whole has been tweaked for the purposes of the game. Charlie Bucket dreams of visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and the notorious candy man ironically announces that he is allowing five children to do just that, as long as they are in possession of a golden ticket hidden in a random Wonka Bar. Quickly, four tickets have been found, meaning Charlie has only one slim chance to make his dream a reality. And then out of nowhere, a $10 bill flies in and leads the boy to the local candy store. By some miracle, Charlie finds the final golden ticket and rushes home to gear up for the journey that awaits him. He chooses his Grandpa Joe as his chaperone, as the latter used to work for Mr. Wonka before the factory closed down. The tour seems to start off swimmingly…But just like in the movie, four of the five children end up in danger and cause huge problems within the factory due to their self-indulgent behavior. It’s up to you and Charlie to travel through many prominent rooms, solve a variety of puzzles, and repair the giant factory from all the issues that are about to develop.

Each level tasks you with doing some action-platforming and puzzle-solving through the factory’s most important rooms. You won’t be able to handle all of the incoming tasks by yourself, and who better to help you than the miniature assistants known as Oompa-Loompas. They’re pretty much this game’s equivalent of Pikmin, and are able to perform tasks like picking up important items, knocking candy out of trees, fixing leaky pipes, and repairing electrical devices. As the adventure goes on, you’ll be given special candy that will help you reach high places and do combat with machines gone rogue.

Everybody give a cheer

The graphics don’t do anything mind-blowing, but as long as you have the Xbox version, the resolution will be high and you’ll hardly encounter slow framerates. Each room in the factory looks very well-made, as do the character models. The game’s camera might occasionally interfere with your ability to admire how breathtaking the factory is, but it’s not a broken camera by any means.

I’ve probably said this about the majority of games I’ve reviewed on this site, but I’m gonna say it again here — I absolutely adore the audio in this game. Nearly all of the actors and actresses from the film reprise their roles, and the script is nearly identical to that of the movie. One thing to note is that Johnny Depp was not available to reprise his role as Willy Wonka, but James Arnold Taylor does a very nice imitation. I feel this version of Mr. Wonka is wise rather than over-the-top, and I don’t mean that as a complaint…Just giving my honest point of view. But what I love more than the voice-acting is (You guessed it!) the music. If you’re expecting a Danny Elfman score filled with Oompa-Loompa dances, you’re not gonna be satisfied, but you still get a laundry list of incredible songs courtesy of the talented Winifred Philips. The melodies are either really cheerful or on the dark-and-moody side depending on the room you’re in and the task you’re faced with, and all of them fit perfectly considering how up-and-down the film is in terms of emotion.

With a golden ticket, it’s a golden day

It’s not one of the best movie tie-in games in existence, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not without merit despite its short length and imitations of established franchises. Even if you weren’t fan of the big-screen remake upon which it’s based, it’s still a satisfactory and charming game if you like platforming and puzzles. Just don’t try playing this game while simultaneously dancing like an Oompa-Loompa…That would probably be as safe as testing out the three-course dinner chewing gum.