Wii U Essentials: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

While Nintendo as a company is often accused of playing things rather safe by relying heavily on its established franchises and game styles, titles like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker remind us that we’re dealing with a company that is still willing to innovate and experiment with its most beloved properties.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Captain Toad hereafter) is a spinoff of the excellent Super Mario 3D World for Wii U. The titular Captain, who was first introduced as a character in the Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy, put in occasional guest appearances for single-player puzzle levels throughout Super Mario 3D World, and so well-received were these levels that they were subsequently spun off into a game of their own.

Captain Toad is far from a simple Super Mario 3D World reskin, however — and it most certainly develops the base idea considerably beyond the bonus levels found in its source material. The result is one of the Wii U’s most unusual but utterly joyful games, and an essential addition to any collection.

Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Nights of Azure: Introduction and History

2015’s Nights of Azure — or Yoru no Nai Kuni to its Japanese audience — was something of a departure for veteran developer Gust.

Primarily known for unconventional turn-based role-playing games with heavy crafting components, a style of game best exemplified by the developer’s flagship Atelier series, Gust opted to step out of their comfort zone with Nights of Azure by making it an action RPG with elements of monster raising.

It turned out to be a highly successful experiment for the developer, and what appears to be the beginning of a new series for the company, since a sequel is on the way at the time of writing. Yet despite Nights of Azure’s relative freshness compared to Gust’s other output, the game never forgets its heritage, and is recognisably “Gust” in both style and tone.

Continue reading Nights of Azure: Introduction and History

Wii U Essentials

MoeGamer’s site mission has always been to delve into the overlooked and underappreciated Japanese games of yesterday and today. And, let’s face it, you don’t get more overlooked, underappreciated and Japanese than Nintendo’s troubled Wii U console.

With Nintendo now looking to new horizons after two successful mobile apps — Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run — and its next console, the Nintendo Switch, on the way in March of 2017, now’s a great time to look back at the Wii U’s lifespan. More specifically, it’s a great time to look back at its small but well-formed library of games, and pick out those titles everyone looking to build a “complete” collection before the console disappears off the face of the planet should have on their shelves.

With that in mind, over the next few weeks/months, watch out for a series of “Wii U Essentials” articles alongside MoeGamer’s regular Cover Game features. Each focusing on a single retail game from the Wii U’s library, these articles aim to build a comprehensive record of this turbulent period in Nintendo’s history: a time when the company released some of its very finest games, yet it struggled to recapture popular attention and commercial success in the same way as the original Wii did.

The games will be presented in no particular order, beginning later this week with a look at Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Final Fantasy XV: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Final Fantasy XV drew some raised eyebrows from certain quarters for its focus on an all-male cast, but this was a specific decision made in order to support the overall tone and character of the story.

Despite what this might sound like, however, Final Fantasy XV does not make any particular effort to explore concepts such as traditional (or indeed “toxic”) masculinity and the like. In fact, at numerous points over the course of its narrative, it subverts expectations through the interactions between its main cast and the supporting characters.

Not only that, unlike most previous Final Fantasy titles, the experience is not intended purely to be judged on its main scenario. Instead, as we explored last time, much like other Japanese attempts at open-world games such as the Xenoblade Chronicles series, the intention is clearly to build up a comprehensive picture of how the game world as a whole works, supporting the main scenario with numerous intertwining side stories and background lore to create a setting that feels well-crafted and truly alive.

Continue reading Final Fantasy XV: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Final Fantasy XV: Inverting the Formula

Final Fantasy XV’s predecessor Final Fantasy XIII, despite attaining widespread plaudits on its original release, has become fashionable to bash in recent years.

The main justification for this is pretty much always the “20 hour tutorial” argument, criticising the fact that the game gradually introduces its various character classes and other gameplay concepts over the course of a very linear, narrative-heavy section that lasts approximately 20 hours.

Once this part of the game is complete, the experience opens up into a much more freeform affair with sidequests and optional battles aplenty, and at the same time the progression system also removes all restrictions, allowing you to develop all of the game’s playable characters as you see fit.

Apparently aware of this increasingly frequent criticism, Square Enix opted to make Final Fantasy XV the complete opposite of Final Fantasy XIII in terms of structure, in the process completely turning the standard JRPG formula on its head.

Continue reading Final Fantasy XV: Inverting the Formula

Final Fantasy XV: The Latest Reinvention

As we discussed last time, the Final Fantasy series is one that has rarely stood still or grown complacent.

Each new installment has represented a reinvention of the basic formula to one degree or another, with some offering a more radical new take than others.

Latest installment Final Fantasy XV is arguably the most significant and noticeable reinvention of the series since abandoned the Active Time Battle mechanic the series had used between its fourth and ninth installments. And it’s an effective new approach that offers a blend of spectacular real-time action and the strategy of more traditional, conventional role-playing games.

Let’s delve into Final Fantasy XV’s battle mechanics in depth.

Continue reading Final Fantasy XV: The Latest Reinvention

Final Fantasy XV: A Series of Constant Reinvention

“If it’s not new, it’s not Final Fantasy.”

According to World of Final Fantasy director Hiroki Chiba, speaking with Gamer Escape earlier this year, this is the attitude that Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi strove to work by. And it’s a creed that the various teams around Square Enix responsible for the continued development of the brand have maintained to this day, right up to latest release Final Fantasy XV.

The result is one of gaming’s longest running, most successful series that has managed to move with the times across six generations of console hardware and changing gaming trends, plus jumps to handheld and mobile devices. Your feelings about individual installments may vary, but it’s impossible to accuse Final Fantasy of stagnation at any point in its long history.

Let’s delve into the history of the series and see just how it’s developed over time.

Note: This article spans five pages. Navigate between them using the buttons at the bottom of each page.

Continue reading Final Fantasy XV: A Series of Constant Reinvention

Oh, Japan!