There have been a number of attempts to dethrone Nintendo’s Mario Kart over the years, but none of them have been successful, at least in the multiplayer sphere.
There is one aspect of Mario Kart that has pretty consistently sucked over the years, though, and that’s the single-player offering. Offering little more than predefined Grand Prix championships, one-off races or time trials even in the most recent installments, Mario Kart has always struggled to provide anything of real substance for the solo player. Which is fine, as the series has always been known for being best experienced with at least one friend, right from its inception in the 16-bit era.
This has, however, left a decent-sized gap in the market for other developers to come along and offer more robust solo experiences in kart racing titles. And one game that succeeds admirably in this regard is the cumbersomely titled Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed from Sega.
Continue reading Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed: Driving Into Dreams
Those with a longstanding interest in the worldwide shoot ’em up scene may well be familiar with German developer Hucast Games.
A developer primarily known for helping resurrect Sega’s defunct Dreamcast platform for modern audiences through the release of original, new arcade-style games for the system, Hucast’s work has had mixed reception over the years — though not necessarily entirely due to the quality of the games themselves, as this article from Segabits in 2015 explains in more detail.
As we move further into the “digital age”, however, it becomes a lot easier for developers such as Hucast to ply their trade — and, should mistakes occur, to correct them. Which is how we now find ourselves, two years after its original Dreamcast release, with an HD version of Hucast’s shmup Ghost Blade for Windows PC, PS4, Wii U and Xbox One.
And hey! It’s really good.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Ghost Blade HD
Nintendo’s Wii gained something of a reputation as a “party game machine”, for better or worse.
The Wii U never quite captured the same success as its predecessor in this regard due to its considerably smaller audience — not to mention the rise of other types of games filling a similar niche — but that didn’t stop Nintendo in particular from producing a number of different games intended to be played socially. With other people. In the same room! Imagine that.
One such example was Wii Party U, a successor to its similarly named predecessor on the older platform. Designed to be accessible and understandable to all ages, it’s neither the most complex nor technically impressive game on the platform — but it is noteworthy for being very successful at what it does.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Wii Party U
It’s easy to write off a pack-in bundle of minigames as being somehow “lesser” than full-scale titles. But the Wii U’s Nintendo Land was special — and in a different way from its spiritual predecessor Wii Sports.
Functioning as a joyous celebration of Nintendo’s most beloved properties — and a few slightly more obscure ones, too — Nintendo Land is an enjoyable enough experience in single-player, with several games specifically designed with solo play in mind, but it’s in multiplayer that it truly shines: Nintendo’s same-room party gaming at its finest.
And it’s an evergreen title, too; some five years after its initial release, for many Wii U owners it’s a game that still gets regular play, particularly when friends come to visit. Let’s take a closer look at what makes it so special.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Nintendo Land
Star Fox Zero, a return to Star Fox’s standard formula after numerous games exploring alternative game styles, was met with a somewhat mixed reception on its original release.
Developed as a collaborative effort between Nintendo and action game veterans Platinum Games, Star Fox Zero was intended as something of a reboot of the series, retelling the stories of the original games and reflecting the original gameplay styles while incorporating some new elements of its own.
It was these new elements that caused some consternation among those who had difficulty adjusting to them, but this didn’t stop Star Fox Zero from being an interesting and worthwhile addition to any Wii U owner’s library.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Star Fox Zero
The idea of a “construction set” for a video game being sold as a standalone product is something we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years, but it used to be a common sight in the earlier days of gaming.
Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, titles such as EA’s Racing Destruction Set, Interplay’s The Bard’s Tale Construction Set and SSI’s Unlimited Adventures allowed players to try their hand at game design without needing to know any of that pesky programming, albeit within the constraints of an existing game’s framework in most cases.
The concept of “programming-free game creation” was later expanded on by companies such as Clickteam (Klik and Play, Games Factory, Multimedia Fusion, the latter of which is still used by many indie developers today), YoYo Games (GameMaker) and ASCII/Enterbrain (RPG Maker) — these packages were more “general purpose” and could be used for a wider variety of projects, but became quite a bit more complex as a result.
Given Nintendo’s love of making “toy-like” games, it was entirely appropriate that it would be the one to mark a triumphant and high-profile return to the standalone, more constrained and accessible “construction set”. Super Mario Maker was the result, and it’s one of the Wii U’s most interesting titles.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Super Mario Maker
While Nintendo platforms were very much the spiritual home of JRPGs in the 8- and 16-bit eras, in more recent times most of those games have jumped ship to Sony platforms.
This isn’t to say there’s a complete lack of JRPG goodness on Nintendo platforms, however; the 3DS has some solid titles, the original Wii had its three famous “Operation Rainfall” titles Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower — and the Wii U has Xenoblade Chronicles X.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is, it’s fair to say, a fairly different beast from its predecessor, and consequently it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. However, even if you didn’t enjoy it, it’s hard to deny that it’s a truly remarkable game, and a highly noteworthy entry in the Wii U’s library.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Xenoblade Chronicles X