Friday, April 24, 2015

Crossing/Bell Cups, 200cc first impressions

Which of the new tracks or 200cc did I try out first, you may ask? Well, I'm not quite as insane as those who did both at the same time, but I went for 200cc Mushroom Cup first. And, well, the verdict is quite clear. I haven't touched that button since the days of SNES 150cc. (Seriously, if you've never tried that, they toned down 150cc significantly from MK64 onwards, and this newfangled 200cc is the closest we'll ever have to that.) Still, it was Mushroom Cup, where you can take most curves without braking (you can even do Water Park with the foot on the gas the whole time), so I won three of the races and finished sixth in the other (Not Sweet Mountain, No Really It's Not) because of a blue shell. At least THAT's consistent. After trying out the new tracks I went back and three-starred the whole thing. I'm honestly not expecting to do that with every cup, and if I do it'll be after loads of practice trying to find out where to brake and where I can go through without it.

As for the new tracks (which I tried in 150cc)... funny how one of the best tracks in the entire series is a simple oval. Baby Park is just as hectic as ever, despite the fence in the middle of the track. While this makes it lose some of its uniqueness as far as items being able to go where players can't goes, they might have put it there because it would be straight-up abusive otherwise. With new items like fire flowers and such, and four extra racers compared to Double Dash and MKDS, it's still absolutely crazy. Did I mention the whole thing's anti-gravity? The whole thing's anti-gravity.

Funnily enough, this is the only track I was familiar with, because Super Circuit and MK7 are the only two I've never played, and the other three retro tracks are from these games. Then again, one can easily argue Cheese Land and Ribbon Road are entirely new tracks, because they have nothing, NOTHING to do with their Super Circuit versions. There was a pretty good reason why we only had one Super Circuit track so far in this game - the game sucked beyond all comprehension, and the tracks were boring and bland. But Nintendo took up the challenge of making them interesting, and by golly they succeeded. Sure, Ribbon Road is a pretty easy track, but aesthetically it's still such an improvement. Cheese Land is a bit more challenging, though. Those Chain Chomps (yes, there are CHAIN CHOMPS in CHEESE LAND now) can bite you in the ass at the worst moment, and my first attempt at this track was absolutely embarrassing, finishing 11th because I ended up in limbo between a fence and the cliff... TWICE. Whereas no other human being will ever set so much as a tire in that area. Remember in my SMB3 LP when I fell down the most harmless, out-of-the-way pit in the entire game? Yeah, that's how I felt.

Neo Bowser City was also a new experience for me, and it just so happens to be one of those tracks where traction can actually do a lot for you (and guess who runs very low traction?). What elevates it above stuff like Sherbet Land or Dolphin Shoals, though, is that sequence of three back-to-back hairpins. The third hairpin has NO WALLS on the outside, and it's incredibly tight, meaning that if you run low traction you're going to need a lot of practice to get through without falling. It's doable, mind you (at least at 1.75 - God help you if you run an inward drifter AND slick tires), you just have to be perfect. I think the key is to let go of your mini-turbo as early as possible when coming out of the second hairpin, so you don't go at the speed of light going into the third. It's hard and it needs practice, but I wanted to chuck my controller at Bone-Dry Dunes when I first got the game, and it's one of my best tracks now. Practice, practice, practice.

The new tracks are pretty dang good, too. Wild Woods is unremarkable in terms of difficulty, but not everything needs to be N64 Toad's Turnpike mirror mode, right? As it is it's a visually pleasing, high-speed breather before Animal Crossing. As mentioned before, there are four variations. I got to play the summer and winter ones so far, and clearly winter is one of those traction-reliant tracks too. Summer is a lot, and I mean a LOT more manageable. I've never played an Animal Crossing game in my life, so all those neat references are lost on me. Alas.

Super Bell Subway kind of feels like a mix between Toad's Turnpike and Wario's Gold Mine - moreso the latter, because there's no huge traffic or anything. There are two subways in the whole place, tops. When you do meet one, though, you have to be extra careful, because sometimes there won't be much room between off-course on one side and the subway on the other. Finally, Big Blue is the final track in the game, so they had to make something grand. And they sure stepped up to the plate! It's just like Mt. Wario and N64 Rainbow Road where it's just one lap across a long track. Whereas Mute City featured an overabundance of speed boosts, Big Blue gives us a few areas that are faster on the outside, but slower on the inside (think Toad's Factory in MKWii), as well as areas with flowing water that boosts your speed if you stay within it. Overall a very memorable track that tops off a very memorable game. As a whole, Nintendo did a stellar job with the tracks' designs in this game, both new and old. Mario Kart 8 will definitely be a tough act to follow, and they'll need the few years until the next installment to think of ways to surpass it.

(By the way, I three-starred both of the new cups in 150cc after a few attempts, as well as 200cc Mushroom Cup on my second try.)

(Oh, right, I almost forgot. Dry Bowser is a super heavyweight. No big surprise. What IS a surprise, though, is that the male and female Villager have different stats, effectively making them two separate characters. They have the same stats as Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach, respectively.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A damning verdict for the traditional business model

Time is going by, and the buzz around the two Pokémon F2P spin-offs, Shuffle and Rumble 4, is simply not dying down. We're fast reaching the point where the only Pokémon spin-offs that had that kind of weight were the ones from the 1998-2001 era when Pokémon was absolutely freaking everywhere. Snap, Stadium, that TCG game, that sort of stuff. And I don't think this is a coincidence: I believe it has everything to do with the games being F2P. And it's not like both games use the same general backbone in terms of microtransactions: while Shuffle is known for its voracious appetite for your hard-earned pay (elevating the boiling hatred many people bear towards Mega Mawile to a whole new level in the process), you can buy Rumble 4 altogether for less than the price of a new copy of Rumble 2 almost four years after release.

And I'm at a complete loss as to what causes this. Is it because of the possibility to try out a game before buying it? Maybe? I have no idea. What I do know, though, is that whenever greedy pigs like higher-ups from Activision, EA or Ubisoft tell you gamers are embracing F2P, they're not talking out of their asses to piss off so-called "hardcore gamers". They're making a statement that, like it or not, was proven true time and time again. It's almost certain it has more to do with consumers in general being morons that are easily parted with their money because they don't want to do their research than with the merit of the F2P model or the quality of the F2P games themselves (a large percentage of which easily fall in the shovelware category).

At least I can't see another reason why Shuffle and Rumble 4 are so much more popular than other spin-offs, especially in the latter's case since there were three other Rumble games before this one, and no one gave a crap. Heck, we've had some damn fine spin-offs over the years. Conquest and MD2 were both absolute masterpieces, despite the latter being a critical disaster (WHY?!?). Ranger 2 and 3, as well as Rumble 2, were also pretty solid games. And yet no one gave them a look because they weren't part of the main series. People are just now discovering the Pokémon spin-off universe, and it just so happens to occur at a time when it starts exploring the F2P realm. Does it mean that if your game isn't AAA material, it's better to just have it be F2P instead? Maybe not to that extreme, but the fact that this is happening is rather disheartening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MK8 Animal Crossing DLC stats revealed

Even though no one really cares about this stuff except me.

Anyway, the Villager is in the same limbo weight class between middleweight and cruiserweight as Tanooki Mario. I did NOT see that coming, I totally had him pegged as a lightweight. Which Isabelle ended up being, so at least I got that right. It's a good thing the Villager wasn't one, though, because it was already the most overpopulated weight class to start with. We still don't know anything about Dry Bowser at the moment (no idea why we know EVERYTHING except for Dry Bowser), but super heavyweight is a safe bet.

As for the vehicles, the Streetle kart is an exact clone of the Blue Falcon, which is commonly believed to be the best vehicle in the game (if you're not me and you prefer outward drifters, that is). Yep, that makes MK8 pay-to-win, since you can't get that stat set outside of paid DLC. Meanwhile, the P-Wing kart is a clone of the Mach 8 and other similar vehicles - another popular choice. The City Tripper bike is a clone of the Pipe Frame and its reskins, and is clearly an outward drifter. Finally, the Bone Rattler ATV is a clone of the Tanooki Kart. The Leaf Tires are a clone of the Roller set (I'll probably end up using that, since it seems to fit with the Yoshi Bike nicely), and the Paper Glider is a heavy glider (as opposed to the Hylian Kite from the previous pack which was a light one).

This means this DLC pack has no unique stat sets (barring a surprise with Dry Bowser), though the Streetle and Bone Rattler, as well as the Villager, do if you disregard the first DLC pack.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A break from the rampant cynicism

I've had many goes at Nintendo in my day - nothing malicious, mind you, more tough love than anything, because at the end of the day I love their games in general. So it's about time I take a break from that and express my gratitude for the way the situation with my Wii U gamepad was handled. Because that was FAST. And absolutely free of charge, too. I mean, the warranty was still in effect, so whatever repairs or replacement I'd get probably would be free, but I didn't expect them to pay the shipping fees as well. And that was through Purolator and not Canada Post, which had to be more expensive too. Hell, the destination wasn't even in the same province!

So anyway, I sent it two weeks ago (the day after Easter), and received a brand new replacement today. It works like a charm, as you'd expect. I wonder if the old one was impossible to repair, or if they just decided, screw it, it's still under warranty, let's just send him a new one. Not that I'm complaining either way. So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Nintendo for their exemplary customer service, after all the shit I gave them over the most trivial things.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Aegislash being re-tested in OU

One of the recurring themes of the April Fools Giratina-O test and its aftermath was "why not Aegislash?" After all, Aegislash is kind of a chibi version of Giratina-O in many ways, though it doesn't work with numbers quite as ridiculous, and if Giratina-O is less broken than previously thought, then what about Aegislash? Well, we're about to find out. The best part is that there's virtually no consensus, so it really could go either way. The main complaint that keeps coming back is, believe it or not, that the OU tier is TOO VARIED, and thus it's impossible to cover everything with just six Pokémon, making many battles won or lost before a single turn is played. Aegislash would be a fix to that, because how long is the list of Pokémon that are totally Aegislash's bitch? Have you even SEEN the amount of previously unusable stuff that became good once Aegislash was gone? Yes, we're now at a point where a Pokémon could be unbanned BECAUSE it's overcentralizing. Goddammit, Smogon, can you just figure out what you want already? Then there's the outstanding matter of Aegislash featuring unparalleled synergy with Landorus-I, probably the most dangerous Pokémon at the moment.

Yeah, usually I try to recognize both sides' arguments because there are people much better and more knowledgeable than I am defending them, but I imagine you all figured out I clearly have all my chips in one pile this time around.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

PSA: Don't do 10-Man Smash with Mewtwo!

It can break your save file in unforeseen ways. Figures Nintendo wouldn't like Mega Rayquaza being the benchmark for "gamebreaking".

Tracks for MK8's second DLC pack announced

Probably the crown jewel out of the eight tracks is the most simple one ever made for a Mario Kart game, Double Dash's Baby Park! After being featured as a retro track in MKDS, it returns for more frustration! Of course Bowser shells aren't around anymore, that was half of the fun with this place, but oh well. Get ready for many broken controllers when you visit it in 200cc! Then we have a duo of GBA tracks, Cheese Land and Ribbon Road. Not that surprised, the GBA was the most underrepresented in terms of retro tracks so far, with only Mario Circuit present. MK7's Neo Bowser City rounds out the retro quartet.

As for new tracks, Animal Crossing was actually announced a while ago, and it will feature four variants, one for each season. Here's to hoping this is cosmetic and nothing else, because otherwise I'm pretty sure no one would like ending up on the winter version if they can avoid it (especially in Time Trial). We already have Sherbet Land covering the whole icy aspect anyway. Surprisingly, we get a second F-Zero-based track, which is naturally going to be Big Blue. Didn't expect that, I thought Mute City was going to be it - not that I'm complaining, it was one of the coolest tracks in the game anyway, complete with the recharge zone mechanic. Then we have Wild Woods and Super Bell Subway as the two tracks no one really cares about, at least until we get to play them.

As an added bonus, we also know what the four extra vehicles will be: the Streetle and P-Wing karts, the City Tripper bike (no word on the drifting type), and the Bone Rattler ATV. This last one is particularly welcome, because the only ATV that doesn't look like crap is the standard one. Then again, if you only care about function, there are karts and bikes with the same sets of stats as the other ATVs, but if you really want to drive an ATV, this'll be welcome (as long as the stats are there).

Note that I probably won't be able to try the DLC and give my two cents on it for a while, since my gamepad is currently out for repairs all the way over in Toronto. I'd say that's unfortunate timing, but the thing was still under warranty, so at least there's that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pokémon really is a messed up game.

Name another game where the WATER element is famous for BURNING. Go on, I dare you.

Sure, OU players don't have it that bad since Azumarill and Gyarados are physical, Rotom-W only gets Hydro Pump and Greninja is banned, but in UU... hoo boy. The tier is dominated by legions of bulky Waters that aren't quite good enough for prime time, such as Empoleon, Suicune, Blastoise, Tentacruel, Vaporeon, Milotic and Kingdra, and they just love running Scald every chance they get. I'd say Scald is second to only Knock Off as a move you can use whenever you have no idea what your opponent will do... the risk/reward ratio is extremely low. So much so that some people legitimately wanted Scald banned from UU, and Smogon's higher-ups had to put their foot down and say that won't happen. They did, however, make a separate UU ladder where Scald was banned. Yeah, we've reached that point.