Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Video Game Memories

I have countless Christmas memories that are tied to video games, or would that be countless video game memories tied to Christmas? Either way, when I think of fond Christmases past, the thought is usually accompanied by memories of playing a certain game either on Christmas day or sometime around it. There are numerous titles that are “Christmas games” for me, but I’m going to focus on two specific memories (involving three games) in this post.

                One game whose opening moments I will always equate with the rapturous jubilation of Christmas morning is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. To this day, I have probably never been more excited for a game than I was for that one. Back in December of 2006, I had just finished my first semester of living away at college and my life was in a huge state of change. In the span of about four months, I’d felt like so much in my life had drastically changed. It was jarring to be thrust out of my comfort zone and into a brand new world with brand new people and brand new experiences, but before heading off to college I knew however it went there would be Zelda waiting for me at the end of the year. Twilight Princess was significant because it was the first major console Zelda release to come out after I had fallen in love with the series at the release of The Wind Waker in 2003. The years and months leading up to Twilight Princess was the first time I got to experience that sweet, sweet Zelda hype and I drank in every ounce of it (perhaps to a fault, in retrospect). Despite the fact that my life was in a tumultuous state, getting to dive into that game on Christmas morning and through the night made me forget all about everything around me and it was just like any Christmas past when I was an elated kid with a new game. It really was a magical experience. I remember my Mom was disappointed that she wasn't able to get me a Wii with the game (she actually got me both the GameCube and Wii versions of Twilight Princess; I believe she'd bought the Wii version first and was planning on getting the console and just ended up giving me both versions when she wasn’t able to find a Wii; I ended up liking the GC version better anyway), and I remember telling her how much I really didn't care, I was just so happy to have the game. I had a big, goofy smile on my face and all I cared about was playing Zelda. And play Zelda I did. This song will forever remind me of the pure, peerless excitement of Christmas morning, and I wandered around Ordon Village that morning in a sense of awe and disbelief that I was actually finally playing this game. I vividly remember first stepping into the open area of Faron Woods with all the Bokoblins running about and being filled with joy at the first small cave I found. Stepping into the twilight for the first time later in the day, meeting Midna, being completely baffled at the weirdness going on in the game with the giant goat light spirit and this odd triangle-headed villain, and finally conquering the Forest Temple Christmas night. After taking my first steps onto Hyrule Field, I knew that my adventure was only beginning, and over the next two or so weeks, I devoured Twilight Princess. My ultimate feelings on the game ended up being mixed (to put it as simply as possible), but there is no denying the fond memories I have of finally getting to immerse myself in the newest Zelda epic that Christmas vacation.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
                The second game-related Christmas memory I want to talk about predates my Twilight Princess experience by a year and actually involves two games, and it’s a bit of a strange combination: Soulcalibur III and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. I don’t talk about the series much, but I was a big fan of the Soulcalibur games back in the day (before losing touch with the series when the HD era came around, mainly because I didn’t get a PS3 until a bit later in its life-cycle when there were many other games vying for my attention). I loved the atmosphere and detail put into the Soulcalibur games, and also loved the adventure mode present in Soulcalibur II and III (and maybe the first Soulcalibur as well; I can’t remember exactly) that almost felt like an RPG of sorts. Dragon Quest VIII (to this day the only DQ game I’ve ever played through) was a title that I had been greatly anticipating due to its beautiful-looking art design and also because it just looked like a great traditional JRPG that would be right up my alley. I received both games as gifts on Christmas morning and moseying about DQVIII’s first village, with that tranquil orchestral music playing, on a sunny Christmas morning is a wonderful memory that I have. I also remember sneaking away from my relatives whenever I could throughout the day to play Soulcalibur III. The following week I sunk a ton of time into Soulcalibur and although I don’t remember much about the game right now (except, oddly, for a scene involving a clock tower and that big dude with a giant scythe…I guess I’ll just leave it at that), I do remember having a blast playing it. But there was also Dragon Quest, and that’s one I certainly, absolutely do remember. I adore Dragon Quest VIII; it’s one of my favorite video games ever and one of my fondest gaming experiences. Similarly to Twilight Princess, I remember just immersing myself in the breathtaking, pastoral world of Dragon Quest that Christmas vacation and the days and weeks (and months perhaps) beyond it. I’d never experienced adventure in an RPG or a video game in general quite like in Dragon Quest VIII, where a sprawling fantasy world was laid out before me; not a zoomed-out map with a small avatar running around on it, but an up-close, fully rendered world for me to hoof about in. Dragon Quest VIII is very “traditional” in its approach to fantasy adventuring and it does this so, so well while oozing charm around every polished corner. The first dungeon in the game is a dank cave that the player explores with a burning torch in hand, fighting monsters and looting treasure chests. It just doesn’t get any more classic and charming than that, and DQVIII delivers this kind of experience perfectly. And really I mean that: perfectly. I remember there was a moment about halfway through that Christmas break when I was exploring the massive world in the game and I came to the ocean. A sprawling seaside vista spread out before me with a path bordering the ocean stretching in two directions and hills rolling down to the seaside with rocks and cliffs dotted about. I felt free in that moment, felt inspired and full of joy. To have that kind of adventure when I was younger was simply sublime and I cherish the memory to this day.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
                There are many other Christmas video game memories I could talk about: the year I received my GameCube and Super Smash Bros. Melee (and Luigi’s Mansion!), or the year I got a Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure (and how much that game blew me away back then), or when I experienced my very first Metroid games in Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion one year. I’ve been fortunate and some (myself included) might even say spoiled to have parents who have delivered so many wonderful experiences to me at Christmastime that have consistently supplemented many other lovely memories I have of spending Christmas with my family and friends, especially my Nana, who has now passed away, but who was always an anchor of happiness for me at this time of year. I try as hard as I can to not take how lucky I’ve been for granted and look back on all the happy Christmases that my parents, my brother, my relatives, and my friends have brought me. With my love for Winter and snow and my birthday right around the corner as well, this time of year has always been a source of great joy for me, and I’m incredibly, enormously thankful for it.

To anyone reading this, I can only hope that you find some of the joy that I’ve experienced around this time of year and I wish you a heartfelt Happy Holiday.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pikmin Short Movies HD (Wii U) Review

Today, I'm going to give a brief review of three short films, a first for this blog! In terms of how faithful they are to the source material and how well-produced they are, Pikmin Short Movies HD is how video game-based films should be done. These three shorts, which were directed by Masaru Matsuse and executive produced by Pikmin series creator (and general Nintendo guru) Shigeru Miyamoto, are a wonderful homage to the Pikmin series as well as a beautiful and charming work on their own. Putting a lens on the world of the Pikmin and illuminating their day to day experiences through short films was a brilliant idea, and I'm glad Mr. Miyamoto decided to try something new. The stories here are humorous and even touching at points as well as consistently entertaining the whole way through. The films look gorgeous, the animation is fluid, and the sound design is also spot-on, including sound effects from the Pikmin games and other Nintendo titles. The music was done by several composers, including Pikmin series veteran Hajime Wakai, and features both familiar tracks and new ones. I'm going to fully spoil what happens in these films so if you haven't seen them, I'd suggest you run to either the Wii U or 3DS's eShop right now and check them out; they're well worth your five dollars (I opted for the HD Wii U versions, which I think probably do the Pikmin's miniature world more justice, although the films can also be viewed in 3D on the 3DS, which I imagine has its own merits). Come back and read the rest of this review when you're done! ...please!

While 'The Night Juicer' is more of a brief taste (no pun intended) before the two longer films, it's still enjoyable and just a little creepy (if not predictable for anyone who's a fan of the games). Seeing such grizzly imagery in a colorful Nintendo-produced work is a little surprising at first, but it's actually not that out of place for the often unforgiving world of Pikmin.

'Treasure in a Bottle' is probably my favorite of the three shorts. It's interesting seeing the Pikmin go about their business without the aid of any captain guiding them, and seeing the Pikmin displayed as intelligent, sentient creatures here capable of communication, laughter, and planning makes me feel even more horrible for all the ones that I've sacrificed in the games or carelessly let perish! It's actually touching seeing all the Pikmin trying to help their trapped buddy (the different-colored Pikmin coming up with plans that utilize their unique skills from the games is a nice touch) and the moment when they all form a chain to grasp hands with the trapped red Pikmin and pull him out of the bottle is actually quite heart-warming. These films as a whole, especially the way the Pikmin are characterized, actually remind me of the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, with the Pikmin reminding me of the Soot Sprites from My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away and the Totoros of My Neighbor Totoro. Actually, when presenting these films at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Mr. Miyamoto collaborated with someone who works at Studio Ghibli, and while I won't jump to conclusions, I can't wait for that Ghibli-animated Legend of Zelda film!

'Occupational Hazards' is the longest and fullest of the three films and it delivers on both an amusing first half and an exciting second one. The giant construction vehicle is an excellent set-piece and the many ways in which the Pikmin interact with it and harvest its many parts is a highlight. One of my favorite aspects of the Pikmin series is how ordinary settings and human objects become intricate levels for the captains and the Pikmin to explore, and this short demonstrates that central charm of the series well. The encounters with the Fiery Blowhog and Bulborb are also highlights, although I felt a little sad when the Bulborb fell to its doom (not to mention after the numerous Pikmin casualties during this film, especially when the poor little 'Min who got curious died from electric shock). The Pikmin series has always been relentless in its casual depiction of the slaughter of the countless adorable little titular creatures as well as the gruesome deaths of the territorial enemies of the Pikmin and these films are no different.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed watching these movies. I think that these short films are an experiment for Nintendo and Mr. Miyamoto, to see how Nintendo's lovable properties fair in a different medium. I think the prospect of seeing more Nintendo characters and worlds making the faithful transition to film with the close involvement of the original creators like Mr. Miyamoto is an exciting one. After all, I can only think after watching these films that I want more. I joked before, but seriously, an animated Legend of Zelda film (that's not this), maybe? Or perhaps an actually faithful adaption of Super Mario Bros.? Actually...


Friday, December 12, 2014

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS) Review

Playing through Shantae and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge back to back last year was a great experience and I was happy to discover a new side-scrolling adventure series that took inspiration from some of my favorite games while also being wholly unique. In short, I love those two games and was greatly anticipating Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third game in the series and the advertised end to the Shantae “handheld trilogy” (just the end to the story these three games have set up; don’t worry, the series isn’t over). So did it deliver? In one sense, yes: Pirate’s Curse is a polished, well-designed adventure full of the smooth gameplay, beautiful spritework, feverishly catchy music, endearing characters and charming writing the series is now known for. In another sense, however, Pirate’s Curse falls short for me in several key areas and doesn’t quite have the same spark its two predecessors have. So what is Pirate’s Curse? For me, it’s a mixed experience, but let’s start by praising what deserves praise.

Risky’s Revenge is a gorgeous 2D action game, but I think Pirate’s Curse might look even better. I’m so happy that sprite-based 2D games haven’t gone extinct and indie developers like WayForward are keeping the form alive. Shantae’s wacky, fantastical world really comes to life and now pops more than ever thanks to the stereoscopic 3D effect of the 3DS. But more impressive than the colorful, detailed environments are the varied and lively cast of characters and creatures that populate them. Character sprites are full of details and personality. If you want to see what I mean, just stop moving anywhere in the game and watch Shantae and any surrounding characters’ idle animations; it looks like everyone is constantly rocking out to Jake Kaufman’s awesome chiptune soundtrack and having one giant dance party, which is fitting for a game starring a dancer. I also love the new art-style for the game’s expressive character portraits and official artwork, which has never looked better.

Shantae and Risky team up

In keeping with the previous games, PC also features an endearing cast of lovable characters and the patented sense of charm that the series is known for. The Shantae series as a whole features some of the funniest writing in the genre and the humorous back and forth between Shantae and the likes of the Ammo Baron, Risky Boots, and several other bizarre characters had me chuckling more than a few times. I particularly like the characterization of Shantae and her nemesis, Risky, who she is now forced to team up with in order to best a greater evil. I enjoyed how their relationship grew throughout the adventure and was consistently amused by the interactions between the two of them. That said, I think more could have been done here and Risky could have had more of an active role in the quest instead of basically just being Shantae’s chauffeur (via her pirate ship), but I ultimately enjoyed their partnership and how it turns out in the end.

Besides being an aural and visual delight, it should not be understated just how good Pirate’s Curse feels to play. This game has some of the most fluid 2D platforming of any side-scrolling action game I’ve played, which is fitting for a game heavily inspired by the Metroidvania games, which also excel in this category. It’s just a joy to move through the world and seamlessly going from hopping about to hair-whipping monsters feels fast and fun. The game’s excellent movement becomes even better when you acquire more and more of the pirate gear, the game’s main item upgrades (think Zelda or Metroid). The more items Shantae acquires on her journey, such as a giant pirate hat that acts as a parachute and a pair of boots that allows her to perform a high-speed dashing maneuver, the more freely she can move through the world and the more wonderful the experience feels to play. It’s that classic Metroidvania appeal of finding new equipment and improving your character as you go, so that by the end, revisiting old areas becomes a seamless experience of stringing together jumps, attacks, and dashes as you effortlessly dance across the environment with all your new skills in tow. You’ll know what I mean the first time you do a dash, followed by a leap into the air into a parachute glide, followed up by a cannon blast in order to stay aloft as you soar over large gaps and enemies below. I do wish more of the game was designed to utilize the player’s skills in stringing all of these abilities together (instead of just a handful of late game sequences), but it’s still a blast using these items to traverse old areas when trying to gather up all of the game’s collectibles.

Click on the picture for a better view!

Pirate’s Curse also makes up for Risky’s Revenge’s relative lack of mazes to explore with plenty of dungeons to traverse this time around, even more than in the first Shantae title. In fact, Pirate’s Curse feels like a much fuller and more complete experience than Risky’s Revenge, thus improving on my only real problem with that title. Overall, the dungeons are well-designed, but they don’t really stand out too much. A few do some interesting things atmospherically, but with the exception of a memorable mini-dungeon in the desert and one other main dungeon that I loved, these labyrinths didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me. They seem to lack stand-out elements like the unique color-switching mechanic in the desert labyrinth from the first Shantae. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two series, but part of what makes the dungeons in, I don’t know, the Zelda series (I know, you’re so surprised I went there, right?) is how each one feels like a unique world in themselves, often revolving around some kind of core gimmick or theme. The dungeons here make good use of the items Shantae finds, but lack that extra pizazz that made the dungeons in a game like A Link Between Worlds so memorable. I know, I know, Pirate’s Curse is working on a much smaller budget and under much stricter conditions than a giant like the Zelda series, and what the team at WayForward accomplished here is still incredibly solid. What Pirate’s Curse’s dungeons do have is a great sense of progression and a fluid design, plus some great bosses to cap them off, including a battle with a huge dragon and another with a giant robotic caterpillar.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a well-designed, well-executed, enjoyable experience. It improves on the one flaw that I had with its predecessor, Risky’s Revenge, which I thought was otherwise a pretty much perfect game. Unfortunately, Pirate’s Curse missteps in some other key areas, which ultimately hold it back from being that ideal Shantae game that I wanted.

Each Shantae game has followed a somewhat different formula in regards to how it has handled its world design. The first Shantae took an approach akin to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Risky’s Revenge went for a more traditional Metroidvania route, and now Pirate’s Curse takes an approach comparable to Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, where there are several, smaller Metroidvania-style maps selectable from a “map screen” of sorts. Instead of one big, interconnected overworld, this time Shantae and Risky Boots travel to several separate islands, each with their own area maps and dungeons. This is a neat idea and I’m a big fan of the seafaring adventure trope, so I was excited to see what each new island had in store. I have two big problems here though. Firstly, I was disappointed with the layout and design of most of the outdoor areas in the game. My problem with most of the field areas in Pirate’s Curse is that they are very linear and straightforward in design, often consisting of a single, flat pathway with a few hidden areas branching off of it. There are a few more maze-like areas in the game, but I wish this had been the standard, instead of reserved for a few special areas. Actually, the design of the first island Shantae visits is more what I wanted the rest of them to be like, as it involves more branching paths and verticality instead of just a straight line. These linear paths just don’t lend themselves to much exploration or imagination. The dungeons are less linear, but I was expecting more of an intricate overworld to explore. Instead of a single large overworld containing several different regions, the different islands just end up feeling like small, disjointed areas that don’t feel fleshed-out and feel somewhat hollow as a result. Also, I miss the awesome “plane-switching” mechanic from Risky’s Revenge, where Shantae would jump from the foreground to the background and so on. Not only would this mechanic be perfectly suited to the 3DS, but it would also go a long way in giving the areas in Pirate’s Curse more depth (literally) and making them feel more rich and expansive.

My second problem with the areas in the game is that, by and large, they are all heavily based on familiar locales from past games. I was excited to finally be traversing beyond Sequin Land after exploring its environs for two games, and these islands are supposed to be mysterious new lands beyond that familiar domain, but instead each island is based on one of the regions from the first Shantae game, and at this point these environments are starting to feel a little too samey and familiar. The desert island is a prime example of this, as that’s a trope we’ve seen in every Shantae game now, and I’d rather have something new at this point. There are exceptions: even though the zombie-filled forest is familiar, it’s never looked so beautiful or given off such a sweet Castlevania vibe as it does now; Mug Bog Island, while also based on a location from the original Shantae, still has a brilliantly eerie (Metroid-influenced?) atmosphere and the Village of Lost Souls section is a notable portion of the game. There are also some later portions that feel fresh as well, but in a large way, I feel like these islands aren’t necessarily new places, but just the same Sequin Land staples, except cut up and scattered across the ocean. The island idea is nice, but overall I do miss having one connected world to explore, as I usually always prefer that to a more “level select” approach. While I think the island idea could have worked better if the areas were fresher and less linear in design, I also partly wish they’d stuck with the model from Risky’s Revenge and just expanded the world as well as updated the map to the new Metroidvania-style one in Pirate’s Curse.

Besides my issues with the way its world is designed, there’s something else about Pirate’s Curse that hold the game back for me. Put simply, the overall structure of this game is very familiar to me and quite frankly, overly formulaic. Whereas past Shantae games clearly took a lot of inspiration from the likes of Zelda, Metroid, and Castlevania, they still felt fresh with mechanics like Shantae’s belly-dancing and her animal transformations that took the place of traditional item upgrades in those other games. In Pirate’s Curse, however, Shantae has lost her magic and as a result the game follows the “Zelda/Metroidvania formula” more rigidly than ever: it’s go to a new area, find the dungeon (usually doing some kind of task or mini-dungeon in order to do so), get the dungeon item, use that item to beat the boss, backtrack to the immediately previous area and use that new item to find a “key” that unlocks the way to the dungeon in the next area, and then it’s basically rinse and repeat for the whole game. This is another case of me respecting the developers doing something new with the pirate gear items, but ultimately these items, while a lot of fun to use, detract from the uniqueness of Shantae’s identity, and all this amounts to Pirate’s Curse feeling much more like a traditional experience than ever. That said…

…That isn’t particularly a bad thing. After all, I love those kinds of games and this formula does work. Pirate’s Curse just seems a little too formulaic, or at least enough for me to really notice. The bottom line is that Pirate’s Curse is very solid and well-built, it just doesn’t feel as original or unique as its predecessors, and doesn’t do as much mechanically to feel distinct from its contemporaries. The game does what it does well, just not in such a way that really stands out to me. Whereas games like A Link Between Worlds are finally taking strides to change up the classic “Zelda formula”, Pirate’s Curse feels archaic and overly familiar. Unique mechanics in the past two Shantae games helped to circumvent this issue, and thus Pirate’s Curse feels a bit like a step backward to me.

Besides a lot of uninspired area designs and the overly formulaic structure, there’s one more aspect of Pirate’s Curse that left a bad taste in my mouth and distracted me from enjoying the adventure as much as I could have. Yeah, you know what’s coming: this game is straight male fan-service incarnate. I mean, Shantae games have always had sexualized female character designs, there’s no denying that, but Pirate’s Curse takes it a little too far, making sure that every single female character, from humans to monsters to zombie girls, has large, emphasized breasts, a sexualized physique, and a plethora of sexualized poses. While the male character designs, on the other hand, are far more varied, with men being allowed to be deformed, overweight, monstrous, handsome, cartoony, whatever. For a good example of what I’m talking about here, just compare Rottytops’ design to the designs of her two brothers, Abner and Poe, all three of whom are sapient zombies. It’s very telling that the only really “hunky” male character here is a cyclops. The straight male “fan-service” moments are around every corner here: at one point spring breakers get into their bathing suits for a pool party and the method for unlocking the path forward involves light shining off of their half-naked bodies and then there’s an entire dungeon devoted to dressing up all of the female leads in sexy metal bikinis against their will (the different explanations for each of them happening to be there are all laughably flimsy as well). The premise of this chapter is a humorous idea (a bizarre cult mistaking Shantae and co. for their “long-lost” princess when the real princess was just out getting groceries), but the clear purpose of it to objectify all the female leads is tasteless, and the final punchline of this section basically making a joke about female body image is off-putting. And if that weren’t enough, the game dresses Rottytops up in a skimpy schoolgirl outfit. It just never ends. While there are certainly a lot of funny moments in Pirate’s Curse (such as everything involving the Squid Baron; I love that guy), I feel that the humor in Risky’s Revenge was overall stronger and more consistently funny without having to rely on so many tasteless attempts to please a straight male audience. At the end of my review for the first Shantae, I wrote this: “Shantae proves that it's really not that difficult to have an action adventure video game that stars a cool, interesting female protagonist whose main power isn't her ability to grow a pair of gargantuan breasts that would break the back of any normal human female.” While I still think that Pirate’s Curse having a large cast of mostly female main characters and an endearing, powerful female protagonist is a positive thing, I’m a bit disappointed that the team at WayForward decided to make female objectification such a focus this time around.

Shantae addressing the game's developers

While I have a lot of gripes with the game, I really don’t want to understate that Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a great game that I enjoyed playing through a lot. It’s an incredibly polished and endearing 2D action game with a great soundtrack, great art, great gameplay and overall an experience that stands well with its predecessors for a fantastic trilogy that I’d highly recommend to any fan of action adventure games or just 2D sprite-based games and artwork in general. But…I have a feeling my opinion is going to be in the minority here, but Pirate’s Curse is my least favorite in the series, and I feel it’s less memorable and creative than the previous two. I just love what the previous two games did with the dancing mechanic and connected overworld and think the perfect Shantae game for me would just be expanding on Risky Revenge’s formula (which remains my favorite game in the series), adding some of the tweaks that PC made (like the better map), and making it a longer, fuller, more complete experience than Risky’s Revenge is. All this said, Pirate’s Curse is still a very solid title which retains the endearing charm and personality in its world, characters, and themes that the previous Shantae titles have (I mean, a half-genie using pirate gear to save the world? Awesome). I also respect the fact that each of the three handheld Shantae games feels unique from each other while also having the same spirit. I enjoyed the way in which Pirate’s Curse concluded the story set up in Risky’s Revenge as well and was overall satisfied with the game’s finale. Overall, it’s a great trilogy and a great series and I’m looking forward to Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, which I hope will improve on some of the qualms I have with Pirate’s Curse.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) Review

I want you to do me a favor. Yes, you reading this. Now that Super Smash Bros. is out and you’ll most likely finally be picking up a Wii U, you will soon be in a position to play one of the finest platformers ever created. After you’ve had your initial fill of smashing, go out and pick up Donkey Kong Country:Tropical Freeze. I haven’t heard many people talking about this game, and right now it seems destined to become a criminally overlooked gem for the struggling console. Tropical Freeze is marvelous; a beautiful, rich experience full of detail and some of the most lushly-realized environments I’ve ever seen in a platformer. It’s a joy to play and just to look at and especially to listen to. To think that I was so disappointed by this game’s initial announcement back at E3 2013. I’d like to go back in time and punch my stupid Donkey Kong-bemoaning face into the ground. Tropical Freeze is truly special and one of the most wonderful gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

                I enjoyed Donkey Kong Country Returns a lot, especially after I replayed it last year and gave it my full attention. It’s a brilliant platformer, but it didn’t quite speak to me on a deeply personal level. It mainly channeled the spirit of the original Donkey Kong Country for Super Nintendo, another great game but not my personal favorite. No, my favorite DK game (and one of my favorite games period) is the first SNES sequel to that game, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong-Quest. Tropical Freeze evokes the magic of DKC2 and has provided me with what feels like the true successor to that SNES gem all these years later. Part of the reason I love DKC2 so much in relation to the first DKC is because it felt so much more lively and adventurous and has much more memorable and vibrant environments. I feel that DKC2 has more personality than its predecessor as well as an atmosphere and a feeling that speaks to me more. Tropical Freeze follows this trend with environments that feel more creative and new than the ones in Returns and it appeals to me much more as a result.

                Besides just how damn great the game feels to play, I think there are three things that immediately grab me about Tropical Freeze: the narrative, the environments, and the music.  That narrative is simple but is executed to near-perfection here. The Kong family’s island is conquered by the invading Snowmads, a group of Viking-like arctic animals that bring to mind the Kremlings in all the right ways and have way more personality than the Tikis from Returns (who, for the record, I actually liked). DK Island is literally frozen over courtesy of a giant magical horn (because that’s just how the Snowmads do things I guess) and the four Kongs (Donkey, Diddy, Dixie and Cranky) are blown far out into the far reaches of the neighboring seas. The game’s first level is set up brilliantly: DK lands in a wrecked plane suspended in the tangled branches of a massive mangrove forest. After busting out of the plane, he and his buddies’ adventure begins. I love the way that the frozen DK Island can be seen as a tiny speck far in the background right at the beginning of the first level: this wonderfully communicates a clear goal (get back to your island and take it back) while the distance of the island communicates what a grand adventure awaits. Something I’ve always loved about the DKC games is that the Kongs are never on some selfless quest to save the whole world just for the sake of it, but rather their quest is usually a personal one, with the familial bonds shared between the Kongs often a highlight. In Tropical Freeze, DK and pals are not trying to save the world, but their world, so to speak. One might say I’m spending too much time focusing on the narrative of a Donkey Kong platformer, in which cartoonish apes collect bananas and fight fish-throwing walruses, but everything is just executed so well in TF and the opening and ending cinematics are both gorgeously rendered and so very fitting for their situations and the feelings that they aim to evoke.

The Kongs are in this together

                Something that often irks me about platformers (especially Nintendo-produced platformers) is how they often rely on all the same old environment tropes and stale themes that the Super Mario Bros. series established back in the NES days (particularly in Super Mario Bros. 3), with the worst offender these days of the “grass world,desert world, water world, etc.” pattern being the Mario series itself. Tropical Freeze forgoes the Nintendo trend of copying Mario for some of the richest, most well-fleshed-out and beautiful environments I’ve ever had the pleasure of journeying through in a platformer. Each of the game’s six different islands is alive with its own atmosphere, feeling, and wildlife and each one feels like a game in themselves. The themes here are naturalistic and based on real-world natural biomes (for the most part), and fit Donkey Kong’s world supremely well while also being more creative and lively than your typical themed worlds. This is Retro Studios, so it goes without saying that Tropical Freeze boasts beautiful visuals and art design and incredible detail and depth when it comes to the environments. But saying it this way doesn’t do Retro’s first HD work justice. Small animals in the far background of levels are animated, backgrounds stretch way into the distance and are fully-modeled and detailed with imposing cave-sprinkled mountains, tropical islands, and deep caverns full of torchlight and castles. In just about every level, I want to jump into the background and explore, and each background feels like the world of an entire adventure game in itself. It’s marvelous. Each level in the game is like a new present on Christmas morning, with each new loading screen prior to a level filling me with giddy anticipation for what new sights and experiences awaited. A forgotten mangrove forest in the middle of the ocean full of wrecked planes, submarines and ships is one hell of a memorable opening world, and by the game’s second world, a majestic autumn-time wonderland themed after parts of western and central Europe, I was already in love. If the game had ended there, it would have been enough. Then the first level of the third world had me almost tearing up with its beauty and inventiveness.

                The level designs themselves are fantastic. The minecart levels, despite there being an unfortunately small number of them, are the best in the series. Levels feature unique new designs and themes as well as ones inspired by DKC 1, 2 and 3, although not in a pandering way, but in one that builds and expands on those old ideas (the entire second world in particular and my personal favorite, Autumn Heights, feels in large part like a homage to Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, which I was surprised by given that game’s relative lack of popularity). I plan on making a separate post here listing out some of my favorite levels in the game, so I’ll save the details for later, but for now some of my favorite levels (besides the sublime savannah level I mentioned earlier) include a thrilling log-plume ride through a sawmill during a thunderstorm, a harrowing romp through a scorched wilderness set on fire, and a beautiful Limbo-esque silhouetted climb up an avalanche. 

Tropical Freeze's worlds and levels are superbly designed and rich with beauty
                Besides the original DKC trilogy, Tropical Freeze notably takes inspiration from many great platformers throughout the years such as the Super Mario series, DuckTales, the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and Rayman Origins. Some might call it “ripping off” in some areas, especially when it comes to elements like the way Cranky Kong uses his cane to bounce around a la Scrooge McDuck, but the game uses these ideas in conjunction with its own to create something special with its own unique feel. Actually, Tropical Freeze feels somewhat like a conglomeration of ideas from all the best platformers throughout history mixed with its own original ideas. The result is simply a supremely well-designed game that is absolutely joyous to play and experience. And then there’s that soundtrack…

                That David Wise soundtrack. As one of the composers of DKC1 and DKC3 and the sole composer for the absolutely stellar soundtrack to Donkey Kong Country 2, this was perhaps the element of Tropical Freeze that I was looking forward to the most. Very rarely are my expectations exceeded like they have been with the phenomenal work Wise has done for this game. Perhaps it wouldn’t be right to say he has surpassed DKC2’s score, but he’s certainly equaled it in terms of magic and wonder (only losing out in terms of nostalgia, but that will come with time). Donkey Kong Country Returns, which Wise did not compose for, had mostly straightforward updates of classic tunes from DKC1 that were designed to evoke nostalgia, but for Tropical Freeze Wise chose to compose mainly entirely new tracks, while using remixes and new compositions of old favorites sparingly and often in more creative ways, like hiding samples from classic songs in new tunes. I’m all for this choice, as the overly familiar OST of Returns was just a bit boring to me (as great as those classic songs are). There are only a few straight updates here, a beautiful update to Aquatic Ambiance being one of them, while the rest are all original pieces. The only update to a classic that I really wanted was Stickerbush Symphony, my personal favorite DKC2 track (and I’m sure many others’ as well) and…well, Retro kind of screwed up here. Retro, I love you, but I just have to ask: why didn’t you put the Stickerbush remix with the bramble level you created? Both a Stickerbush Symphony remix and a bramble-themed level are here, but bafflingly are not put together. The remix of Stickerbush Symphony is nice, although in truth I didn’t even recognize it at first; it’s more of a different take on the song like the Super Smash Bros. Brawl remix (although more faithful in feeling than that one) than a straightforward orchestrated update of the original, which is kind of what I was hoping for in this case, but really any version of this song is great, especially a new version from the original composer himself. The really odd thing though is that the remix of SS is used as filler music for the beginning and ending of one rocket barrel stage that has different music for most of the level. Maybe this is some kind of purposeful troll on Retro’s part or simply an oversight. While I know I’m asking for fan-service here, including both a return of the bramble level theme and a Stickerbush remix in the game is already fan-service so why aren’t they paired together? It’s a nitpick, but as such a huge fan of the original bramble levels and music in DKC2, it’s something that stood out to me and was a bit disappointing. But enough of that. I really can’t praise David Wise’s work on this soundtrack enough. The man is a beautiful human being and instead of failing to really describe how much I love this music, just have a listen to Mangrove Cove, Windmill Hills, and Amiss Abyss. Those are three songs that I love, but I have many other favorites. There’s really not a single track that isn’t stellar in its own way.

                You may have noticed that I haven’t really said anything bad about this game (besides the Stickerbush nitpick); in fact, this review has been almost entirely glowing praise so far, hasn’t it? Well, that’s because I really love this game, if you can’t tell, and I really don’t have much bad to say about it. I do have a few issues though, and one of them has to do with the controls. Now, unlike in DKC Returns, Tropical Freeze gives multiple control options, so if you don’t like shaking a stick to roll, now you can use buttons! I thought this would be a great thing, but then I realized that I actually found the Wii remote and nunchuk to be the most comfortable out of all the control schemes, and it was also the one I was used to from Returns, and I even realized that I actually like the motion stuff! Well, kind of. I actually think that the kinetic and active nature of wildly air-drumming with the Wii-chuk combo lends itself well to DK’s ground-pound move as well to pummeling bosses in the face after one of the game’s terrific boss fights. I even like giving the Wii remote one quick shake to do a roll. It just feels good. I enjoyed this in Returns as well and across both games, there were only a few rare occurrences where the motion control led to a screw-up (such as when I want to ground-pound, but haven’t let go of the control stick yet and accidently go rolling off a platform and into a pit, but this is more an issue with two actions being mapped to the same control input than motion control). However, there are a few areas where the motion control seems to fail me. I found dashing with Rambi the rhinoceros, which is required frequently in the levels that involve him, to be an awkward exercise. Shaking the Wii-chuk in short bursts is all well and good, but it gets tiring constantly flailing one’s means of controlling a game for a long period while dashing, while also remembering to press buttons on the instruments of said flailing, make precise jumps, and avoid obstacles. Also, this might not even be an issue with the motion control, but Rambi’s momentum seems incredibly wonky, especially when dashing and jumping, which led to many deaths. All this makes the Rambi levels (which are very few and far between) some of my least favorite in the game, which is a shame because they’re otherwise very thrilling, well-designed, and should by all accounts be some of the funnest levels. I also feel that a precisely-timed Wiimote shake being one’s only means of attacking underwater (sans Cranky Kong’s cane swipe) isn’t ideal and felt a bit janky to me.

                Speaking of swimming, what a great and convenient segue to lead into my only big complaint with Tropical Freeze, and even this one is ultimately trifling when it comes to the experience as a whole. As someone who has always actually enjoyed water-based levels in platformers and the atmosphere that they bring, and with the DKC series being known for its memorable and wondrous water levels, I was actually thrilled that they were bringing back swimming in Tropical Freeze, and had missed it in Returns. Swimming in Tropical Freeze feels fluid and fun, the game’s fully underwater levels are mostly well-designed and backed by beautiful music of course, and in short bursts (such as the levels that involve pools of water but where it’s not the focus), the swimming overall works great. Unfortunately, one irritating design choice puts a serious damper on the levels that take place almost entirely underwater and I’m sure by now you can guess what it is: yep, the air meter. In the classic DKCs, just like in Super Mario games, Donkey Kong and his friends could hold their breath forever, but now Retro decided to go all realistic on us and add a tiny air meter that rapidly empties, leading to a group of apes that is even more water-phobic than Sonic the Hedgehog. What’s worse, in the depths of the abyss, the only way to refill air, which again one must do constantly, is by using air bubbles also similar to Sonic games, and those air bubbles are annoyingly spread fairly thin in some of these levels. Put bluntly, there’s just nothing good about the air meter. One of the central charms of the water levels in classic DKC games, especially the first one, is their peaceful, calming nature. The water levels in Tropical Freeze are beautiful and I want to take my time and explore them and enjoy that sweet, sweet David Wise soundtrack, but I have trouble doing this when every ten seconds or so the annoying air meter starts beeping and completely shatters my immersion. This design mechanic is in stark contrast to the serene music and atmosphere of these levels. Similar to the timer in Super Mario 3D World, the air meter adds nothing to the experience and takes away so much. It might add a minimal amount of challenge, but it mostly just adds irritation and wastes the player’s time when they have to rush backwards in a level to find the last air source that they passed, or otherwise hamper their enjoyment of a level by forcing them to rush forwards through it. Even if one argued that the air meter adds a paltry amount of added challenge and a touch of realism, the sacrifice in atmosphere and enjoyment in these levels just isn’t worth either of these things. The air meter just feels really out of place and I wish it’d never made it into the final game.

I love this level; I just wish I didn't have to worry about that tiny blue bar in the upper left corner
                But in the grand scheme of the experience, my complaints with controls and the air meter are ultimately trivial. Even though I feel as though the developers chiefly had the Wii remote and nunchuk in mind when designing the game, several other controller options are available and you might like them better than I. I simply wish that the moves delegated to motion control could have been mapped to either the C-button on the nunchuk or the Z-trigger on the Wii remote as both of these buttons are used for the same action (grabbing) and thus one of them could have easily been used for the actions that require shaking (with the other one still being for grabbing). Perhaps ground-pounding could still have been mapped to shaking the Wii-chuk, and rolling, dashing with Rambi, and the swimming attack could have been delegated to one of these two buttons. This easily possible set-up would create the ideal control scheme for the game in my opinion. As for swimming, there’s only a handful of fully underwater levels in the game and all of them are contained in the same world, so their grievances were quickly forgotten when I was hopping and bopping back on dry land again. Not only this, but upon revisiting the underwater levels, I found that once I was familiar with their layouts, the air meter mechanic became more manageable (but still annoying) and I was able to enjoy them more. The levels of course should be enjoyable on one’s first run-through and this in no way pardons the air meter, but it’s worth mentioning.

                Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a stellar experience. Not only is it a fantastic adventure in its own right, but it subtly improves on just about everything from its predecessor, Donkey Kong Country Returns. The additions of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong alongside the returning Diddy Kong are great and all of these partners for Donkey Kong bring useful and fun abilities to the table in the single-player mode (to say nothing of the added variety that they bring to the co-operative multiplayer mode, which I have not tried myself, either in Returns or in Tropical Freeze); having secret exits hidden in levels Super Mario Bros.-style is way more exciting than simply buying a key in a shop to unlock a bonus level (not to mention, spoiler alert, TF has a slightly more substantial secret world than just one level like Returns had); the already mentioned several different control options; and to my utter surprise, no Super Guide. I had to look this up while writing this review to make sure, but sure enough, Tropical Freeze completely nixes the crutch that Nintendo has usually been adamant about putting in most of their modern platformers. Now let me clarify, I actually don’t have much of an issue with the concept of Super Guide itself. While I do think even having the option takes away from the experience a bit and I always prefer just old-fashioned good game design to unsubtle hand-holding elements, I respect the fact that there’s an option for less-skilled players to skip a level that they are frustrated with or learn how to conquer it, especially in a challenging game like Tropical Freeze. What I don’t like, as someone who never touches the Super Guide, is that obnoxious, horrible, immensely nerve-grating, beeping, flag-waving pig from Returns that would appear at a checkpoint after just a small number of deaths and every single subsequent time that I screwed up, reminding me that, “HEY! YOU CAN USE THE SUPER GUIDE!!!”. “THANKS, PIG! I KNOW! AND I DON’T WANT TO! NOT NOW, AND NOT EVER!!!” This was especially awful on the incredibly challenging bonus levels in Returns. Seeing and listening to that pig over and over and over again tripled the frustration, at least. All I ask for when it comes to Super Guide is an option to stop it from ever appearing at all, but I’ll also accept just not having it in the game period (although that pig still hangs around at checkpoints and peeks around corners to give the occasional button prompt, but as long as it's not waving a flag in my face, I'm cool with it).

Tropical Freeze has, what I feel, is the perfect challenge level for a platformer like this. It feels very fair, and with the exception of the fully underwater levels, was never frustrating for me. My failures were almost always my own fault, and cheap deaths were rare during my playthrough. There were a few trial and error situations in the normal levels, but not many, and less than in Returns from what I remember. I didn’t find the difficulty in Returns to be as harrowing as some, but it did certainly get very brutal at times (and thanks to that pig, quite frustrating). I found Tropical Freeze to be much more manageable, while also still providing plenty of challenge. The hidden temple levels from Returns return in Tropical Freeze, and while they are still a great challenge and involve a few more moments of trial and error than standard levels, are far more manageable than the ones in Returns and far less frustrating. Also, mine-cart and rocket barrel levels are no longer a one-hit kill scenario in Tropical Freeze like they were in Returns, giving the player two hits this time before they go down, and this too is a smart improvement (and there’s always the unlockable hard mode if you still want that unforgiving challenge). And even though there is no Super Guide, there is still plenty of help in Funky Kong’s shop if players need it; for just a few banana coins (which are plentifully available in each level), players can purchase a heart that adds an extra hit-point, a balloon that will rescue them from a pit, and much more. One can even collect figurines of every friend and foe in the game (but I just have to ask: what the heck is up with Funky Kong’s “voice” in this game?). If one aims for all the game’s collectibles (which are worth it just for the thrill of the hunt and also to see the game’s gorgeous concept artwork, which contains a lot of unused ideas that I would have loved to have seen in the game; perhaps they’ll influence a sequel?), there’s a lot of trial and error in Tropical Freeze, but this mainly comes from going for all of the game’s well-hidden puzzle pieces (as opposed to the collectible K-O-N-G letters, which are often easier to nab). Finding and acquiring everything certainly takes patience and while I don’t mind this kind of thing, I respect that others don’t have that kind of patience. The reason I don’t mind is because I was thrilled to have an excuse to go back and replay levels over and over again thanks to their excellent design and music, and just how damn wonderful the game feels to play. The game is really as difficult as one makes it: if you just want to get to the end of the game, it’s a very fair challenge; if you want to collect all of the K-O-N-G letters to see all of the hidden levels, it’s difficult but very manageable; and finally if you want to go for all of the puzzles pieces to unlock hidden artwork, it will take time, but it’s a rewarding journey (and Squawks the parrot is there to help you out if you need their help as an item that can be purchased in the shop). A level’s K-O-N-G letters have to all be grabbed in one go and are usually easy to spot but sometimes tricky to acquire (and then make it back in one piece), whereas the puzzle pieces can be acquired one by one and are usually more well-hidden. I think that this duel system of collectibles is genius. And even beyond these main collectibles, Tropical Freeze is a game that rewards the player at every corner. Pulling an object out of the ground here and doing a ground-pound there, grabbing every banana clustered together in a certain part of a level, investigating a suspicious piece of scenery…players are almost always rewarded for their curiosity with a banana coin, an extra life, a puzzle piece, or something else.

I’ll say it once again, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is marvelous. There’s just not much more to be said now than if you’re in a position to play it (that is, if you own a Wii U), you should play it, especially if you’re a fan of platformers. Tropical Freeze evokes the magic of Donkey Kong Country 2 while also being entirely its own experience and creating its own brand of wonder. Donkey Kong Country Returns is a fantastic game but it felt like it was largely concerned with paying homage to the first DKC game. Tropical Freeze feels more like its own, original game and similarly to DKC2, it branches out into creative new worlds and feels like a real adventure as DK and friends travel to places beyond DK Island. The only thing that seems to be missing is the other animal buddies besides just Rambi, and while I’ll admit that leaving them out does take away a big aspect of the old DKC trilogy’s identity, when the platforming is this well-constructed, I just find it easy to overlook this. The Retro Studios DKC games are simply a different beast, and when they’re as damn good as they are, that’s totally fine with me. Retro, I’m sorry I was ever disappointed by you in any way. If you choose to make a third DKC game, or if you are already working on it, I will eagerly anticipate it when it’s announced.

But seriously, that David Wise soundtrack though.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hyrule Warriors Reminds Us Why DLC is a Bunch of Rubbish

The above video is a great example of why I think DLC is such anti-consumer rubbish. I paid $60 for Hyrule Warriors on its release day. I decided to buy the game new and not wait to get it used because not only did I want to play it and form an opinion on it as a Zelda fan (and play it as soon as I could to avoid having the experience spoiled), but I also genuinely wanted to support the game for several reasons (for being a quirky, experimental Zelda spin-off, being able to play as non-Link characters like Zelda, and a large cast of playable female characters).

But seeing this makes me regret that decision a little bit, and think that perhaps this game did not deserve my commerce.

The game itself is ok. I just posted a lengthy review on the topic, so I won't waste too many words talking about my feelings on the game here, except to reiterate that as much I enjoyed the title at certain points, Hyrule Warriors feels like it's missing a lot and is definitely far from the comprehensive Zelda tribute that I thought it would be. I'm never one who measures the worth of an experience by the quantifiable amount of stuff in it, but if I feel that an experience is lacking in certain respects, than it certainly can be not worth its full price for me, and I do feel that Hyrule Warriors is lacking. The core Zelda series has seventeen titles in it (including the two Four Swords games), but Hyrule Warriors only chose three Zelda games to focus on: Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Most playable characters and several of the game's battlefields are derived from these games, as are two of the game's six boss monsters (three more are Zelda classics found in several games, and the remaining one is the final boss; although Dodongo actually has two models in the game, with one being based on his Ocarina of Time appearance). Playing as Zant and Ghirahim is great, but what about the other fourteen games, all of which are brimming with characters and unique worlds? Where's my journey to to Termina for a battle against the Skull Kid in Clock Town? How about some high seas pirate battles on the Great Sea? Or maybe we could shrink down for some Minish-sized battles? Can I play as Tingle? Marin? Malon? How about Veran and Onox who who fit in so well in this game (and easily could have replaced generics like Cia and Volga)? No? None of that? Ok...well I guess there's always a sequel.

But apparently Koei Tecmo and Nintendo had other plans besides a sequel before the game even launched in North America. No sooner did I get past the title screen of Hyrule Warriors on release day did I find a giant, obnoxious advertisement on the right side of the main menu for the "Hero of Hyrule" DLC pack, complete with the option to select it and be taken right to the eShop where I can apparently pre-order not one, not two, but four different DLC packs, all coming out within the next several months, all for the combined price of $20. You might be thinking that $20 for all this extra content is a good deal, except that, wait...didn't I just pay $60 for what I thought was a full, complete experience? And about that battle in Clock Town and those other characters like Skull Kid? Well, apparently there's a Majora's Mask pack on the way next year. Gee, I would've loved to have my personal favorite Zelda game already represented in the full-priced game I just bought.

It seems that Hyrule Warriors was hacked up into several different pieces, and the releases of its many pieces are being staggered over time and ensuring that the game's publishers are getting more and more of your money for content that should have been in the game to begin with. If the game wasn't quite finished, if they didn't have time to include this content in time for a launch, fine, it can be a free update later. But why do that when they can sell a mediocre $80 fan-service cash-in and get away with it? My $60 only got most of the Hyrule Warriors experience, but other key parts were cut up and are being sold separately.

I was already annoyed with all the obnoxious pre-order exclusives before the game's release. There was a bonus for every major video game retailer to get extra costumes. It's now more apparent than ever that Hyrule Warriors is (how did Yahtzee put it?) a giant "blatant marketing exercise" meant to get as much cash from Zelda and Nintendo fans as possible. And the first pack detailed in the video above is not even exciting or interesting DLC. $7.99 can get you: one new "weapon" (Epona is easily the only really compelling thing about this rip-off, but she should have been in the game to begin with), five new Legend Mode missions based on the generic non-Zelda characters that take place in the same maps that players of the game have already fought in hundreds of times, a new Adventure Mode map (which is also just another way to recycle the same content that's already in the game), and finally one new non-Zelda costume shared between, again, two of the non-Zelda characters. It also looks likes there's some lazy recolor costumes in there as well. Really? One lame costume, some lazy recolors, one new weapon, and some recycled content for nearly eight dollars? On the subject of costumes: multiple costumes are also something that should be in the full-priced game to begin with, especially re-colors. Just look at the new Super Smash Bros., that game isn't selling the Koopaling variants for Bowser Jr. separately or Little Mac's pink jogging outfit as DLC, and those are actual costumes. Hell, the Koopalings are more than just costumes, but wholly unique models. Just think about all the varied and unique content in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U on day one for the same price as Hyrule Warriors. Now, I might learn to eat my words in the future when Nintendo does announce costumes as part of a future DLC pack for Smash Bros. I'd certainly be lying if I said I was happy with the way that the newest Smash game was handled, spreading it across two different versions so one must buy both if they want to experience all the content the two games have to offer (as well as Mewtwo, so far as we know right now). But as far as I can tell, purchasing the Wii U version will basically net players the full experience, minus the Smash Run mode, some stages, and a lot of trophies (and again, Mewtwo...). Smash 3DS was obviously conceived as a way to get more money, even if it may be a worthy game in its own right and even if handheld Smash Bros. is neat. Despite all this, I still think my earlier point about costumes in Smash Bros. shines a glaring spotlight on how greedy and anti-consumer Hyrule Warriors' DLC is.

Let's look at it this way: if one wanted to get every single piece of content for Hyrule Warriors, they'd have to buy the game three separate times at GameStop, Best Buy, and Amazon for all the pre-order bonus costumes (although these apparently will also be available later for a price on the eShop from what I've heard), then register the game on Club Nintendo for two more bonus costumes, then buy all of the DLC packs, most of which aren't even out yet and all of which won't be until March of next year. That is ridiculous. This game is not worth all that money and trouble.

If you plan on buying or have already bought the DLC for Hyrule Warriors, I'm not going to berate you, but please give it some thought and try not to simply jump on it as soon as you see Epona. At the very least, please don't defend it. I'm tired of seeing people defending greedy bullshit like this, saying it's "reasonably priced" and "DLC done right". Besides the fact that content like Epona and costumes should be there at the $60 launch, the Master Quest pack isn't even exciting DLC. Other Nintendo series joining Mario Kart is exciting, I admit, but Epona and some lazy costumes, plus a bunch of non-Zelda content for a Zelda tribute is not. After playing Hyrule Warriors for around 50 hours and finishing the Legend Mode as well as a substantial chunk of the missions in Adventure Mode, I think I can confidently say that these new missions probably won't offer much new. I'm sure the future packs that actually have exciting Zelda content in them like the aforementioned Majora's Mask pack will be less offensive, but for the very nature of their existence, still pretty offensive.

As for "doing DLC right", something like the Mario Kart 8 DLC that comes out today (and the other MK8 Animal Crossing-themed pack that is slated for May 2015) isn't terrible I guess, but the only truly proper way to do DLC right is to make it free; an extra; a bonus for people who already paid for and own the game, but nothing necessary and nothing that requires another $20, especially not so soon after I just paid full price for the game, and especially when this content was clearly planned for the purpose of wringing more money out of people after the game's release.

GameStop-exclusive Ocarina of Time Link is disgusted by Hyrule Warriors' DLC