This is so gross.
The dirt…it’s…it’s not washing off…
Why did I create this?!
Kirby…you were once so innocent.
It’s possible we may never see a true successor to Yoshi’s Island. Not for lack of trying, Nintendo has certainly published attempts, most recently with Yoshi’s New Island. These efforts have been lacking, due to Nintendo’s adherence to replicating the original. This practice runs opposite of the change of pace Yoshi’s Island was, which doesn’t do these new installments any favour.
While the question of its belonging in the lineage is up for debate, Yoshi Touch & Go is no less creative in its use of the Yoshi’s Island mechanics, and is the worthiest successor the first game has ever had.
I didn’t do myself any favours last night logging onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi servers for one last go. At some point today they’ll be no more. The online modes of your favourite DS and Wii games will cease to exist as their servers fly up to heaven, where will dine and party with those of Maddens and FIFAs past.
Some will celebrate the occasion, welcoming Nintendo Wi-Fi’s demise, happy to put the days of game specific Friend Codes behind them.
To say I’m mourning is a bit over stated, those Friend Codes were a load of garbage after all, and maybe I%m forgetting the finer details of just how awful it truly was. But as I bid farewell last night, the memories of the fun we had together took hold of me, and I began to feel bad for my ugly friend.
I kicked things off with Mario Kart DSssssss, a game I turned my back to long ago due to snaking and its abusers. Snaking is an exploit used by weirdos, and it the act of quickly power sliding from side to side as a means to drive faster than normal. A case can be made for its use (and it supposedly has a history with previous Mario Karts, though I’ve never seen it before as I didn’t play with jerks), but to me snaking does nothing more than suck the fun out of the game. While my return to Mario Kart DS was yet again marred by this practise, I was happy to also be pitted against some hackers. I didn’t know this at first, I had assumed the art of snaking had just been perfected is all. But upon asking around, I discovered that hackers have invaded the game, with racers that appear jittery as they move about the track.
I’ve never been one to need a challenge, especially as I crept into adulthood and became a father. My time is limited, and while I don’t necessarily want a “Win Button”, I get nothing out of banging my head against the wall until I succeed. As such, don’t expect me to rattle on about Kirby Triple Deluxe (and the series all together) lacking in difficulty. If achieving greatness in the face of adversity is your bag, then Kirby just isn’t for you. I, much like girls, just want to have fun, and Kirby has fun for days.
There’s no such thing as too much cute. While my teeth have been rotted away by the sugar sweetness of Kirby, I can’t help but dive into the dream land of another. Klonoa: Empire of Dreams and Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament are two candy coated romps and I can’t help but pour them straight into my gum holes.
What makes these two Game Boy Advance games so interesting is that they eschew the genre the series was founded upon, the sidescrolling platformer, and in the process became niche sequels to an already unpopular game. Problem is, these two Klonoa games are some of the genres best, and stand out from the series they grew from.
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams and Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament were puzzle platformers before it was cool. Nothing is physics driven, and there’s no “interesting” art style; it’s just you playing as a cat boy who loves to toss dudes around. It looks and feels from another time, what with its mascot character hopping and bopping around brightly coloured environments, grabbing ahold of enemies that are nearly as cute as himself. While I drew comparisons to Kirby earlier, the element of difficulty is where they split; and don’t worry, Klonoa isn’t easier than Kirby.
While they have their differences, the two GBA games play the same. As Klonoa, players grab onto enemies and various blocks (using what the game badassedly refers to as a “wind bullet”), toting them around puzzle rooms before putting them to use. Enemies can be used to reach higher elevations by allowing a double jump, or tossed at other enemies to clear the way. Blocks can be used to hold down switches, or stacked to achieve new heights. Of course, as the game goes on the tools available to you grow in number, but Klonoa’s moveset remains the same. As I’ve made clear in the past, a game that begins and ends with the same abilities are favourites of mine (Punch-Out!!, Yumi’s Odd Odyssey). It challenges the developer to build a game around an evolving skillset, and naturally allows the player to feel empowered. If a game’s primary mechanic can last throughout an entire game and still be fun, then it’s a clear sign that the developer is onto something.
The flow of the puzzles in these Klonoa games are built with the Game Boy Advance in mind; while the levels are large as a whole, each is composed of a few rooms. Each of these rooms is a self contained puzzle, and each houses their own bits of collectibles to obtain. These extra trinkets (in the form of jewels and coins) are placed with a careful hand. While you may be on your way to the room’s exit, a little extra work yields the reward. It’s a tough decision to make, as sometimes I had just passed a rather tricky sequence only to have to double back and make it harder on myself to get a trinket.
Each of these games break up the puzzle platforming pace with “surfboard” sequences, although the two handle it differently. Empire of Dreams keeps the game’s sidescrolling perspective, with players taking care of Klonoa’s jumps as he hurdles through a stage. Dream Champ Tournament puts the camera behind or in front of Klonoa as he makes his way to his destination. Neither approach is poor, but both games may have been better served without them. The surfboard appears to be an aspect of Klonoa’s “edginess”, a holdover from the latter days of the mascot. Klonoa’s backwards cap was enough ‘tude for me.
Something many puzzle platformers struggle with is boss battles. Forcing a game’s puzzle mechanics onto a boss fight often leads to a miserable experience, or at least one that feels out of place (Mighty Switch Force! and A Boy And His Blob for the Wii come to mind). The Klonoa games managed to surprise me in this respect, as their pace worked well and Klonoa’s ability to throw items is put into good use. While fun, Empire of Dreams‘s encounters are the run of the mill “chip away at their health bar until they’re dead and buried”. Dream Champ Tournament mixes the events up, having a timer running as they race towards the exit. Some battles require beating the boss to the finish line, while others have you stop along the way and damage them before the race continues.
The Klonoa games came at an odd time, a period where we had moved beyond the platforming mascot, especially those that lacked the attitude found in Crash Bandicoot. Perhaps now more than ever we’re more accepting of this type of experience, a cute puzzle platformer that doesn’t need to mutilate a child ala Limbo to stand out from the pack. Thankfully that chance may come, as Empire of Dreams was rated by the Australian Classification Board. The same occurred with Mr. Driller 2, which will be seeing a release in Europe this Thursday, so it seems likely that Klonoa will have another shot at the spotlight. Let’s not let him down.
I really, really need to play more Kirby Triple Deluxe. From the first world alone, I can tell that I’m in for one hell of a treat. I’ve been super impressed by the 3D (not in the way you’d expect on the 3DS, but by the level and boss designs), and the collectible keychains have their hooks in me.
But, I can’t pull myself away from Mario Golf: World Tour. I’d like to, but there’s tournaments to lose and friends to embarrass myself in front of!
I expected a lot out of Mario Golf: World Tour. That’s what 11 years of waiting can do. Since Toadstool Tour‘s release on the GameCube, I’ve filled that golf ball-sized hole in my heart with Sony’s Hot Shots Golf series. I’m aware of the advancements its made in the genre, particularly in online play, so World Tour had plenty of ground to cover.
Thankfully, Camelot Software Planning has produced my favourite golfing experience with World Tour, going well beyond what I felt was necessary to compete.
Perhaps easiest for the studio to pull off is the game of golf itself. First introduced in Camelot’s Hot Shots Golf for the PlayStation, 17-years of iteration and refinement has honed the studios abilities to perfection. The three-tap system is wonderful as ever; rewarding players with the dexterity necessary to pull it off, while keeping things accessible for the less acquainted (auto-mode let’s players select the strength of the shot, leaving the precision of its landing area to chance). The courses where this all plays out terrific, offering up the usual tropes (desert, tropical, and forest themes), while also providing six separate, 9-holes courses that are more in line with the Mario “universe”. While my heart will always side with the more grounded of the two groupings, these surreal courses offer up plenty of unique hazards (Bob-ombs, Thwomps) and shortcuts (DK barrels, speed pads) that keep the proceedings enjoyable. Expanding the selection further is the DLC, each pack containing a remake of two courses from the N64 Mario Golf. While there’s a debate to be had over this offering, I’ll say that the initial batch is a lot of fun. Whether the $5 pricepoint is worth it or a sign of the end of Nintendo as we knew it is a decision for you to make.