*This review originally appeared at wizarddojo.com*
An inspirational climb to greater heights.
January has never been a heavy hitting month for video game releases – it functions as a relative calm before the storm. However contemporary showcases have proven to be a delightful exception to the rule, transcending January into a mainstay of quality. January 2013 saw the release of one of the best modern JRPGs in recent memory, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and January 2017 introduced the franchise resurrecting Resident Evil 7: biohazard, a franchise reviver and one of the best games of 2017. This past January also had a masterpiece simmering under the radar, the independent platformer with tremendous heart, Celeste. While its sense of scale is rather diminutive compared to the previously mentioned January entries, its level of quality never faltered, making it an undeniable front-runner for game of the year. Plated with its impeccable level design, brilliantly simple mechanics, and slew of deviating paths and hidden goodies, Celeste transcends into a remarkably defined staple of the modern 2D platformer. Its pitch perfect gameplay and refined mechanics are enhanced by its impeccably crafted pace and gameplay implementation, introducing new twists and turns at every corner, significantly upping the ante with each new chapter. Aside from its mechanical prowess, Celeste boasts one of the most beautifully crafted narratives to ever grace the gaming sphere, a creative element typically undermined or absent in mainstays of the genre. Celeste’s inspiring coming of age story is a breath of fresh air to the expanding portfolio of 2D platformers. While these two fundamental structures of Celeste are inherently separate, both exude an unparalleled level of quality, becoming prime examples of their craft and are seamlessly harmonized as a result. Celeste is not only a remarkable start to the new year, it is arguably the best modern 2D platformer, standing tall amongst the meteoric heights of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Ori and the Blind Forest.
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*This review originally appeared at wizarddojo.com*
Reach for the moon…
The Super Mario series requires no introduction; to say that it is synonymous with the video game medium would be an immense understatement. Its cadence to this unanimous praise is heavily warranted as the Super Mario series is game development at its finest. One staple and undisputed fact that has remained a constant of sorts for the legendary series is its profound sense of unadulterated fun; no other series is able to emit an equivalent sense of elation or wonder. However, Mario’s strongest backbone and alluring element is its ability to adapt and evolve. The core ingenious structure has remained intact for over three decades, with innovative ideas and constructs implemented into each new iteration of Mario. It’s a successful formula that rightfully acknowledges and respects the past, but also leaves way for innovation and improvement, encompassing a disposition for unpredictability and audacity. Super Mario Odyssey is a prime example of Nintendo’s pristine ability to take the familiar and beautifully mold it into something brilliantly exotic. In a lot of ways, Super Mario Odyssey is a renascence of the 3D sandbox platformer, however this magical adventure is far more than the sum of its parts. It redefines the structure of the series in terms of its gameplay variance, level design, and progression structure, while paying homage to its roots and acting as a celebration of sorts for the beloved franchise. It’s a delicious adventure that is equally parts exploration and platforming, and is chockful of enticing secrets and goodies to discover. Super Mario Odyssey is an amalgamation of each minute element that validates the series’ perfect standing; this foundation is enhanced considerably through Nintendo’s ingenious use of inventive concepts and implementations, crafting an experience that is constantly evolving in surprisingly brilliant ways. It’s an unabashed masterpiece that surpasses the insurmountable standards set by the Mario franchise. Super Mario Odyssey is the definition of perfection and is a glorified testament to Nintendo’s unparalleled sense of creativity and innovation.
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An exhilarating knock-out…
Nintendo has been knocking it out of the park as of late; through the release of the masterful Breath of the Wild and the forever endearing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo welcomes a new addition to the their collection of fantastic IPs and their ever growing lineup of excellent Switch games. I have to be honest with all of you, I was not impressed with ARMS when it was originally revealed back in January. Gimmicky motion-controls have never been my cup of tea, and the questionably marketed reveal trailer showcasing a man in business attire fighting against a Japanese school girl was laughable at best. However, after a few Nintendo Directs showcasing the game’s surprising amount of depth and a plentiful amount of hands-on time with the Global TestPunch, my perception of Nintendo’s newest IP took a sharp 180. The Global TestPunch proved that this bizarre complex fundamentally works and it’s ridiculously fun and addictive. While the TestPunch featured a considerable fraction of content, the final product adds an exceptional bevy of different modes and unlocks to keep this addictive experience vigorous and constantly on your mind. While its single-player portion is rather shallow and is undoubtedly a secondary point of concern, both online and local multiplayer are extremely robust and are the fundamental crux as to why ARMS is such a delight. The nuanced gameplay, robust catalogue and combination of different weaponry – which are called ARMS to little surprise – slew of varying idiosyncratic game modes, and a constant stream of new dedicated content within the coming months, ARMS is an absolute knock-out of a gem and is arguably the best motion controlled game I have ever played.
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The open-world genre has always been a perplexing beast as most titles struggle to find a harmonic balance between the interminable desire for seamless quality and quantity. Most popularized examples simply litter their sandboxes with menial tasks for the sole purpose of longevity, while others have a profound sense of world-building that never appropriately warrants the use of open-world fundamentals. The Legend of Zelda series has always embraced the essential nuts and bolts of the open-world genre, but its explorative world has always felt dissociated from the core innards of the experience. The latest entry in the three-decade long running franchise is said to rethink the conventions of the Zelda series, offering new implementation of player freedom. Breath of the Wild is not only a reinvigorating surge of pulsating energy into the Zelda series, but a masterful reinvention of the open-world genre as a whole, incorporating elements of fundamental realism and meaningful progression that were simply not present in the examples of yesteryear. With a core thematic imprint of discovery, Breath of the Wild’s sense of unadulterated curiosity and exploration is second to none; every minute detail serves a resound purpose and each structured piece of this exceptional puzzle seamlessly blends with the overarching world. Breath of the Wild is simply the most cohesive title in the series and an impeccable example of the aforementioned harmonic balance in the open-world genre. An embodiment of the imperative first steps of a console generation, while simultaneously striking a notable chord as a renowned swan song, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece in every meaning of the word.
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The illustrious year of 2017 is upon us and a proper moment of reflection is in order; 2017 will be a bountiful year and hopefully deliver a slew of fantastic new titles ripe with limitless potential. All three major parties – being the Big N, Sony, and Microsoft – have their own particularly unique plans for the New Year, each filled to the brim with their own resounding highs and unfortunate lows. Nintendo has an innovative console/handheld hybrid on the horizon, Sony is assertively pushing their bevy of exclusive content throughout 2017 and beyond, and Microsoft suffered an insurmountable blow with the cancellation of Scalebound, which was my most anticipated Microsoft exclusive of 2017. Let us begin with the most pertinent publishing company of the three shall we?
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As much as I loved my original PlayStation growing up, I can’t help but feel that I truly missed out on some of gaming’s greatest treasures when I skipped out on the Nintendo 64. Seeing as I grew up in the 3D prominence of gaming – with 3D platformers being one of my favourite genres – the N64 had a myriad of golden gems that would cater to my prolific love for jumping and collecting things. The fact that I have just completed Banjo-Kazooie 18 years after its initial release is a sad accomplishment and realization as that should’ve been rectified prior as Banjo-Kazooie, is not only one of my favourite 3D platformers of all time, but is another title that I can slab onto my “favourite video games of all time” list. It’s a nostalgic, yet exquisite, time capsule into a simpler era of gaming that exuded such pristine quality while pursuing new forms of innovation. While its moment to moment gameplay unfortunately shows its age and doesn’t control nearly as well as Nintendo’s iconic plumber, it’s the sum of its parts that stand the test of time and make the titular duo an instant classic.
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The best game of 2014 that I never played
Boy oh boy was I a fool to have neglected what is easily an underrated gem of the current generation. Thanks to the consistent reminders and high recommendation from Wizard Dojo, I eventually decided to give Tropical Freeze a slice of my time. While I extensively enjoyed the Donkey Kong Country series on the Super Nintendo, Diddy’s Kong Quest in particular is quite spectacular, I’ve always felt fairly alienated by its following as for some ineffable reason, I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as the status quo. They are certainly excellent games, do not get me wrong, but they never beguiled me to the extent of others, and while they most definitely left an imprint, I felt an unsatisfied need for something more. Both a controversial and downright ludicrous opinion am I right? Whatever personal gripe that overstayed its welcome or minute element that felt omitted, Tropical Freeze bombastically rectifies all of my personal uncertainties with the series and rightfully fills the void of understanding Donkey Kong Country’s true brilliance. Not only is it a pristine example of level variety and game design, Tropical Freeze is also the most thrilling and exhilarating platformer I have ever played. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze harmoniously merges the frantic, moment-to-moment nature of reactionary platformers and the strategic and methodical tendencies of Super Mario into a seamless masterclass of gameplay, resulting in what is easily the Wii U’s crowning jewel. Tropical Freeze is the best game of 2014 that I never played and is not only my favourite game on Nintendo’s Wii U, but is also a new personal favourite of mine.
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Building perfection, one question block at a time…
Legacy is a word that is seldom used nowadays; the word has never constructed itself into an oversaturated, pretentious connotation and the vast, vigorous world of gaming haven’t the shortage of premium, quality titles that embody the potential and sheer definition of a legacy. Legacy is a matter of quality and time. Very few series have the pristine ability to kickstart a brave new medium of entertainment, one that is not only presently relevant but also healthier than it has ever been, breathing new, imaginative life into this expansive world. The Super Mario series not only crafted the world of gaming that we know and love today, but it pioneered a beloved genre to perfection and also introduced iconic characters that’ve become synonymous with the entire gaming medium as a whole, with Mario himself becoming the public face of the Big N, which at one point was a renowned playing card and toy company. Thirty years later and Mario has undoubtedly seen his fair share of sequels, successors, spin-offs, and inspirations, arguably taking massive responsibility for the popularity and success of the 2D and 3D realm of gaming. With countless masterpieces under his belt such as Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Mario Bros 1 & 3, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario World to name a few, Mario has unquestionably become an icon and staple in the gaming community due his unparalleled relevance and punctual ability to deliver a quality gaming experience. For Mario’s thirtieth anniversary, Nintendo have cooked up something special that marks an innovative step towards the series’ evolution; Super Mario Maker gives fans the necessary tools to create a minute, yet idiosyncratic piece of Mario’s very own legacy. Super Mario Maker is essentially two games in one beautiful package: an exquisitely precise 2D platformer that accentuates that iconic responsiveness that is synonymous with the Super Mario series, and a brilliantly intuitive design tool that incomparably outshines all of its respective ilk in nearly every way imaginable. Super Mario Maker somehow managed to find a superlative equilibrium so that fans and newcomers alike can enjoy the experience to its fullest. Fans will undoubtedly bask in all of its nostalgic glory while newcomers, like myself, can perceive the structural template of Super Mario Maker as a small slice of Mario’s history.
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It’s funny how each new Classic Corner I write up results in a classic game becoming one of my favourite experiences of all time. This statement proves factual with Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and it brings me great pleasure to say that Super Metroid is no exception to the rule. Super Metroid is pure exploration gold, pioneering many of the amazing gaming concepts and intricate mechanics that build the very core structure of our favourite games today. It’s atmospherically eerie, immaculately diverse, and its masterful gameplay is second to none. Super Metroid is a bonafide masterpiece that is an absolute essential for those who wish to delve into the renowned history of the medium. The “Metroidvania” genre gained noticeable popularity thanks to Super Metroid’s pristine ability to craft a masterful formula that was equally perplexing as it was addicting, after all, its very name represents half of the iconic genre, a formidable honor no doubt. Very few games have the potential to boast an innovative quality that can even hold a candle to the likes of Super Metroid. Many games have mirrored and/or tweaked the effective formula, which admittedly resulted in some of the greatest games ever created, but sometimes, it’s imperatively essential to experience the beginning of greatness to truly respect and appreciate its legacy.
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Making a mess has never been this much fun…
Splatoon has always been an interesting project ever since its inception in 2013, not in the sense that its obtuse or abstract, but more by the defining manner of how Nintendo rarely ever set their foot in the shooter space of the gaming ecosystem. I’ve never once thought that they were incapable of crafting a competent shooter, it’s just that the idea had honestly never crossed my mine. For better or for worse, Nintendo has constructed a family-friendly persona, ripe with imagination and innovation like no other; shooters are an oversaturated genre that implore the excessive use of violence and are stubborn for their inability to change. These two statements adherently contradict one another, so I never thought the two would ever merge. Splatoon is Nintendo’s take on the traditional genre, adhering to the common standards of the online shooter while simultaneously adding their own flare to spice up the formula, resulting in one of the most original gems to have ever graced the online gaming community. Splatoon’s pleasantly surprising emphasis on team-oriented, objective based gameplay is a shining feat that is not commonly attempted nor explored in the over-arching realm of the online shooter. The game is just oozing with unparalleled charm, a fantastic colour pallet like no other, and its moment to moment gameplay is fast, frantic, and houses an addictive nature that very few shooters have the potential to reach. Just like any new IP or first entry in a series, there are clearly a few kinks that need to be ironed out, and even though Nintendo constantly updates the game with free weapons, maps, and new modes, the game unfortunately feels a bit sparse which is evidently apparent after playing a few online matches. There’s obvious room for improvement with Splatoon, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s one of the most original shooters in recent memory, an addictive joy to just splatter your enemies, and to be accommodated for, what honestly seems to be, vandalism. Splatoon is a reminder that Nintendo are the rightful kings at what they do, creating the most fun and entertaining games that the medium has to offer; Splatoon wholeheartedly continues this legacy of theirs and in doing so, brought life to an aging genre. Simply put, Splatoon is a breath of fresh air and the best online shooter I’ve played in a long, long while.
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