Mar 212013
 

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You know how the old saying goes: “Just when you are putting the supernatural events that happened to you 12 years ago behind you, a zany scientist calls you in the middle of the night and you will once again find yourself battling paranormal phenomenon with a vacuum cleaner and a flashlight.” Oh, you’ve never heard that saying? Weird…my great great great grandmother had it cross-stitched on a sampler above her fireplace. I don’t think Luigi had ever heard it either, because he certainly looked surprised and reluctant when the opening events of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon were unfolding.

Story
The game opens up with Professor E. Gadd asking Luigi to help restore peace to Evershade Valley. There was an artifact known as the Dark Moon that kept the spirits residing in the valley subdued and happily living out their afterlife, but that item has been stolen. Gadd re-equips Luigi with his updated Poltergust 5000, which is a vacuum cleaner designed to capture and contain ghosts. Luigi, while trembling in his boots, vehemently opposes this notion but the Professor seems to think “no” means “yes” and thrusts poor Luigi into a valley of haunted mansions anyway.

OooOOoO! Spooky!

OooOOoO! Spooky!

Gameplay: Ghost bustin’
Playing the original Luigi’s Mansion on GameCube required a player to move Luigi with the left analog stick, and then use the right one to pull the Poltergust in the opposite direction the ensnared ghost was moving in order to weaken it and eventually suck it up. A lot of people were concerned that a CirclePad Pro would be required to fully enjoy the game, but the developers have tweaked the control scheme enough to where that isn’t the case. To capture a ghost, you must first use the A button to trigger the flashlight’s strobe function to stun the ghost. Then you initiate the Poltergust’s suction with the R button and use the CirclePad to move Luigi away from the ghost. A meter above Luigi’s head fills up as this is going on, and once it’s full you can press A to give the ghost a good tug and lower it’s hit points more quickly. Imagine you are fishing, but the fish  is mostly invisible,  flying around, and is trying to kill you while you reel it in. The mechanic works well, and it won’t take long for players to adjust to only having one CirclePad.

This ghost's day is about to really SUCK.

This ghost’s day is about to really SUCK.

Gameplay: Puzzle solvin’
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is not just a game about grabbing ghosts, but it is also pretty heavily laden with puzzles. They’re usually a puzzle that involves manipulating the room or area you’re in by finding hidden objects or doors so you can proceed to the next room. A lot of the puzzles will likely leave you scratching your head for a while, but don’t worry; the solution was probably standing right in front of your face the whole time. You will have to be a fast thinker though if you want to get the maximum rating for each mission (which you can keep replaying until you get a score you’re happy with), because the amount of time it takes you to finish a mission weighs heavily on the grade you’re given at the end. A lot of puzzles make use of the new Dark Light attachment to the Poltergust’s built-in flashlight. Shining it on hidden objects reveals them and makes it possible for Luigi to interact with them. For example, the key you need to progress may be hidden in a vase you can’t see until it gets a good dose of Dark Light. Some puzzles were very challenging, but any lack of success was usually pretty easy to attribute to not being observant enough.

Puzzles like this will appear almost as frequently as ghosts.

Puzzles like this will appear almost as frequently as ghosts.

Gameplay: Multiplayer
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon offers both local multiplayer (either two game cards or a limited mode via Download Play) and online multiplayer (either with friends or worldwide). At the time of writing this review, there were not very many people playing online yet, so expect a follow-up later that focuses on this aspect of the game. However, we did get some online time in with people playing the Rush Mode. All players split up to find the exit for the floor of the ScareScraper they’re on. With only 30 seconds to start with, a feeling of panic can immediately set in, but collecting watches as you play adds 10 seconds to the shared clock.

Presentation
The visuals in the game are clean and crisp, and styled in a way the is cute which is good if there are any children in the household that will play. Unfortunately, the 3D effect isn’t so crisp and it seemed impossible to find that “sweet spot” for a sharp and solid 3D image. Add to that the fact that you must move the 3DS to precisely aim the Poltergust, and playing with the 3D on at all feels pointless.  It seems though that most 3DS owners don’t particularly care if a game is in 3D or not, so playing the game in 2D all the time feels just fine. What really makes the game stand out visually are the little touches, like the way Luigi’s flashlight flares if you point straight forward at the player, or the way Luigi pats his pockets looking for his DS when the Professor calls him.

The sound design was handled in much the same way; there are some great themes you will be humming around the house for days, but it is the tiny details that make the game sound so delightful. Playing the game with headphones on not only allows you to bypass the 3DS’s shoddy internal speakers, but it lets you hear which side of the room a ghost is in even if you can’t see it yet. As Luigi is exploring each level, there will be times when he starts humming along to the theme, and his DS plays a clever dance remix of the game’s main theme when it rings. It’s all of these little touches that will leave you with a smile on your face as you’re playing.

At least one other character from the Mushroom Kingdom makes an appearance as well.

At least one other character from the Mushroom Kingdom makes an appearance as well.

Luigi may have been reluctant to begin a new adventure with Professor Gadd, but once you get into the swing of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon you’ll be glad he did. The challenging environmental puzzles and fun ghost grabbing gameplay are wrapped up with some nice visuals and awesome sound work to make a package that you’ll have a hard time putting down. Add to that the value of online multiplayer and you’ve got one of the first “must-have” titles to hit the 3DS in a long time. I just wish my great great great grandmother could put down her cross stitching long enough to work through the ScareScraper with me.

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Pros: This game is just pure fun, period. You would have to try REALLY hard to play it and not be completely delighted.

Cons: While it was pretty disappointing to see the blurry 3D (it’s awfully late in the 3DS’s life cycle for that), it wasn’t necessary to play the game or enjoy it fully.

Value: With the amount of time it takes to initially complete each level, plus the added replay value of improving your score and tackling the ScareScraper in multiplayer mode, $40 seems like a steal.

Verdict: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a game that will likely cause some strife in a family, because it’s so good no one is going to want to share it.

Score: 9

Mar 172013
 

3DS_LMansionDM_2_illu02_E3It has been over a decade since Luigi’s Mansion launched with Nintendo’s Game Cube.  It was actually one of the only games I played on my GameCube for a long time and it earned a very special place in my personal video game hall of fame. When the Wii launched, I secretly hoped for a sequel and would preach to anyone that would listen that the Wii Remote would be a perfect ghost grabbing control scheme.

Alas, those dreams were never realized…until March of this year when I got my grubby little paws on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS. In the game, Professor E. Gadd once again calls upon Luigi to not only clear the spectral squatters out of one mansion, but several other mansions in the area. The game is a fully realized sequel to the original, and has been tailored to play quite well on the 3DS. Luigi’s trusty Poltergust 3000 has received a few tweaks and upgrades to make his paranormal battle a little easier, but that doesn’t mean this game is going to be a cake walk.

It’s been a while since I have played the first Luigi’s Mansion game, but I don’t really remember the puzzles being overly challenging. That has changed drastically in Dark Moon and I have frequently found myself staring at my 3DS screen for quite some time, wandering around, and trying to figure out what to do next. Usually when I find the solution, it is a total “facepalm” moment, and the answer was staring me right in the eyes from the get go.

How is the game shaping up? You’ll have to wait until we post our review later this week, so keep your eyes peeled and your flashlights charged!

Mar 112013
 

Contender for the 2013 award for most convoluted game title ever.Vampires are just one of the many occult creatures that heavily pepper today’s pop culture. We have vampires that write diaries, vampires that sparkle when exposed to sunlight, and even vampires with a Southern drawl living in the Louisiana bayou. One thing there aren’t a lot of is stories about old timey vampire hunters with magical chain whips, and perhaps that’s a role Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate can fill. Set over 1000 years ago, it tells the story of one Simon Belmont and mysterious shadowy figures helping him as he infiltrates the castle of Dracula to learn the fate of his long lost father and avenge his death.

Gameplay
One trope that has been consistent in Castlevania games is a nonlinear progression through levels, and Mirror of Fate is no different. Right out of the gate, players will see areas that are not accessible with the character’s current abilities. The expectation is players will want to backtrack to earlier areas of the castle and explore the locked areas once they have the appropriate abilities. Explorers will be rewarded by getting to witness the incredibly varied locales of the castle. There are rooms with obstacles ranging from malicious merry-go-rounds to tiny, dirty nooks Simon must shimmy through as zombies clutch at his ankles. However, if you’re the type of gamer that likes to take a straight shot through a game, then that’s something you can totally do.

The intuitive way to control a game that almost exclusively calls for two dimensional movement would be to use the D-Pad, but unfortunately that is not an option. The only way to guide the protagonists’ movement is with the Circle Pad, which can feel awkward at times. While you’re guiding Simon and his cohorts as they platform their way to Dracula’s lair within the castle, hordes of undead minions will be in your way. There are typical, run-of-the mill ghouls and rabid dogs, but the developers also threw in things like harpies and magic books that conjure more enemies while sapping your life or magic just to keep things lively. Boss design was inventive as well – especially when you consider the large breasted bisexual succubus. It’s not often game designers throw in foes of that nature!

To dispatch these foes back to the depths of Hell from whence they came, you will be flailing a whip around with more fervor than Willow Smith when she whips her hair back and forth. The whip mechanic works well and makes for not only some interesting combat sequences, but also some unique exploration opportunities once the weapon is upgraded. You will also earn various secondary weapons you can equip, such as new ax to throw at flying enemies, or Molotov cocktails to clear out a crowd with fire. As you earn experience points from defeated enemies, Simon and his co-conspirator will unlock new combos with the whip, as well as other abilities. Players will not get a choice as to which abilities unlock or when they do, but this pseudo RPG element adds some welcome depth to the game.

When a problem (like a skeleton monster) comes a long, you must whip it!

When a problem (like a skeleton monster) comes a long, you must whip it!

Another cool aspect of the combat is the ability to get various spirits to aid you during your fight against Dracula and his minions. The first one is a handy shield that draws energy from Simon’s magic supply to block attacks, but each one you befriend offers a new ability. They prove to be valuable assets, and most players will probably find themselves scouring each area for refills on the magic they need to summon their spectral friends.

Presentation
The visuals in the game look pretty decent, and the 3DS has no problem running the game at a full frame rate. However, there is nothing overly remarkable about Mirror of Fate’s look. The cutscenes are some of the best visual treats in the game, but the cell shading used in them is so different from styles used in the rest of the game that it is a little unsettling; almost like you are seeing scenes from a different game. During these cutscenes is the only time you should attempt to utilize the 3D function, because during standard gameplay you will probably be so frantically smashing buttons that the effect will make your eyes hurt rather than wow you. The environments are incredibly dark, and while that is understandable considering the game’s subject matter, it caused difficulties while playing. Thankfully, there is an option in the game’s settings to turn the brightness up and this helps immensely.

Whip it...into shape!

Whip it…into shape!

The music for the game is actually quite exceptional, especially when listened to with headphones. The themes are all very dramatic and some of them sound like they’d be right at home in an old horror movie starring Vincent Price or Bela Lugosi. There is quite a bit of good voice acting in the game as well, which is something a lot of gamers still probably aren’t used to when it comes to a handheld title.

Castlevania is one of those game franchises with an intensely dedicated fan base, and a lot of those fans will be vehemently opposed to any changes to their favorite series simply as a matter of principal. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is a solid game with passable graphics, and combat that could only have been improved if the protagonists were actually whipping their weaves around instead of chains. However, if you have enough garlic and holy water on hand and are brave enough to insert the cartridge into your 3DS, you will be treated to a fun action platformer with a sprawling and labyrinthine Gothic castle to explore.

Whip it...whip it good!

Whip it…whip it good!

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Pros: The combat and level design in this game are top notch, the soundtrack is something other 3DS developers need to take notice of.

Cons: The visuals aren’t the best seen on the 3DS, and playing with the 3D on is not advisable due to the amount of movement your system will be experiencing. Some people may get bored trying to explore every nook and cranny if the castle. Playing with the circle pad is pointless considering movement is almost solely up, down, left, right.

Value: Players that are really into heavily exploring the game will fund this game well worth the money. Those wanting to blow right through the story may be underwhelmed, considering the hefty $40 price tag.

Verdict: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is an excellent addition to any 3DS owner’s library, even if it is the first title they’ve played in the franchise.

Score: 7

Whoops…wrong video.

Feb 182013
 

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If you’ve been visiting our site for any length of time, you know that I was pretty much obsessed with Monster Hunter 3 for Wii. After putting well over 100 hours into the game, my poor decrepit launch day Wii gave up the ghost and I didn’t have the heart to start fresh.

Since then, I (along with other North American Monster Hunter fans) have been chomping at the bit for a new game. Finally, that wait is over!  Capcom announced that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will be hitting North American stores for the Wii U and 3DS March 19th. The tons of new monsters, new areas to explore, new weapons and armor were enough to get my adrenaline flowing, but add to the fact you can transfer your save file back and forth between the Wii U and the 3DS and I am in LOVE with this game over a month before its release date. Despite the fact that we’ve just recently posted some details,  we really just wanted an excuse to post some cool screens and a video.

Check out a couple of my favorite screen shots from the game and a video below! Also, check back with us later this month when we will have our impressions of the demos up!

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Jan 252013
 

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This may be old news for a lot of you, but late is better than never, right? Capcom recently announced some more details concerning it’s upcoming action adventure game, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate  for Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS. This game is one of the first for Wii U that will allow cross platform play between its 3DS counterpart; meaning you can transfer your save file from the Wii U to the 3DS and play your same game on the go, and vice versa.

If you aren’t familiar with the Monster Hunter series, it pits players against fearsome monsters and gives them the opportunity to upgrade their equipment with materials obtained from these monsters. A demo hits the eShop for both systems on February 21st. The game’s retail release date follows soon after on March 22nd.

If you are as excited about this game as we are, you will probably enjoy looking at the pile of screenshots below.

Jan 182013
 

Hey everybody! Do you know what I like? I like demos. I’ve been playing a few demos as of late and I felt I should share my experience with the demo of Fire Emblem Awakening. FEA plays like any other Fire Emblem game. It’s your standard Strategy RPG, but pretty polished. The game is GORGEOUS and the 3D, while not needed to enjoy the game it does look sharp on the right setting. I will be honest, I skipped the dialogue for the most part because I just wanted to dive into the action. Also, I didn’t want to be spoiled for when I get the full release.

The Demo isn't in Moonspeak, I promise.

Fire-Emblem-3DS-screenshot-2 The Demo isn’t in Moonspeak, I promise.

If you’ve never played a Fire Emblem, I wouldn’t be too worried. I am pretty sure the stories are not connected. I have only played the one for the Game Boy Advanced (3Ds Ambassador WHAT UP!). The battles are tactical, the battlefields have different secrets with in them, and the action is tight. If you are a fan of the series, the genre, or just curious about this type of game, do yourself a favor and download this demo. I mean, its FREE! Then if you like, I suggest picking it up on February 4th.

Nov 112012
 

With the winter months quickly descending upon us, it is hard to think about having a picnic, but that’s just what the people at Majesco would have us do while playing their recently released game for the 3DS entitled Hello Kitty Picnic. This adorable collection of kid-focused game puts players to the task of helping Hello Kitty get ready for a picnic by completing various mini-games, all while seeing super cute renderings of their favorite Sanrio characters in 3D on the upper screen. It also will likely put parents to the task of trying to figure out just why a cat with no mouth would be planning a picnic, since she wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the food.

The Good
This collection is the perfect thing for young gamers-in-training that would likely get too frustrated with a more difficult game. The five mini-games cover a variety of themes and difficulties, such as putting berries in the correct container, which was easy, to games like sliding puzzles which were much more difficult. Once completing a task successfully, the player is either awarded a piece of clothing for Hello Kitty, or a decoration for her room, which can be played with during the game’s “dress up” mode. The game even allows kids to take pictures of their favorite outfits and save them in an album to view later. Aside from the forgiving difficulty, Hello Kitty Picnic is kid friendly in another way. Each game has a full set of instructions, which are read verbally by Hello Kitty.

You can also decorate the scenes with items you unlock while playing. Remember Colorforms? It’s just like that.

The Bad
Creating a game as easy as Hello Kitty Picnic can be a double-edged sword. The cast of Sanrio characters appeals to such a wide array of people, that it is quite possible an older player could pick this game up and be utterly underwhelmed by the speed at which they sail through these games. Also, it was a little disappointing to see nothing happening on the 3D screen other than some nicely rendered character models standing around looking cute. This late in the 3DS’s life cycle, it seems almost crucial to at least try to implement the top screen in some fashion.

Berry sorting fun at its finest!

It’s great to see a game so expertly tailored to a younger audience on the 3DS. Not only are the mini-games approachable by just about anyone able to hold the 3DS and a stylus at the same time, but they are designed with a difficulty that ensures even the tiniest of people can feel some satisfaction as they play. It’s also great to see that Sanrio envisions a world free of discrimination; a place where kitties, froggies, and penguiny birdy thingies can all get along and plan a picnic together. The world of Sanrio is one so unblinded by bigotry, that even a kitty without a mouth can find her place on a picnic blanket with her friends; and somehow manage to enjoy sandwiches and potato salad.

Hello Kitty Picnic

ProsSimplistic mini-games means all kinds of young people can be entertained by Hello Kitty and her motley crew on the 3DS.
ConsUnfortunately, the nature of this game means that older Sanrio fans will probably not enjoy this very much. It was also disappointing to see no gameplay occurring on the upper screen whatsoever.
VerdictIf there is a child gamer in your home that you trust to hold your 3DS, then they will probably get a kick out of this game.
Rating
65%