"It's about time you showed up, Fox!" After eleven years, the ace fighter pilot and his team of mercenaries are returning to a home console in Star Fox Zero, and a long hiatus like that creates some major expectations. Surely if Nintendo thought it was time to bring back Star Fox now there'd be some big things in store, right? Well it seems those "big ideas" aren't quite as big as I had hoped.
I had forgotten just how cool The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was as I was replaying the HD remake for this review. The original release being almost ten years ago as a launch title for Wii, it's been a long time since I journeyed through Hyrule as Twilight Princess presented it. I had forgotten how dark some of the scenes get, how completely badass Ganondorf is, and how much this story grips me from beginning to end. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD reminded me of all of it — just as a good remastering should — but this return to Hyrule isn't without its flaws.
I set out on another mission into the wilds of Mira, a gigantic world of untraveled terrain and unseen creatures where safety is never guaranteed no matter how prepared I think I am. The path to my next mission is clear, but there’s a lot of ground to cover between the peace of New Los Angeles and the unknown. I have a few teammates at my side and some new abilities to test, so there’s nothing else to do but set out.
I must have had this conversation during my Xenoblade Chronicles X playthrough hundreds of times, as each return to the untamed world of Mira required such preparation. Xenoblade X is simply massive, the kind of game that a player like me who wants to explore every nook and cranny can get lost in for hours on end. Creatures of all shapes and sizes inhabit this world, making for plenty of opportunity to grow stronger with each battle and even more time spent in the wilderness. Xenoblade X thrives on its open-ended nature, to the point where the idea of reigning the player in is simply nonexistent.
If Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash were a book, it would have the cover of an epic novel and the pages of a children’s book. What was billed as a fun and engaging Mario sports game is lacking in both, and instead presents a shallow game that takes all of twenty minutes to fully experience. In a year where Nintendo seemed to make massive strides, delivering a major new IP and finally showing some understanding of how DLC can make games better, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash serves as an unwanted reminder of how Nintendo used to work.
Koei Tecmo and Nintendo may have skipped out on taking the Wii's Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse out of Japan, but the House of Mario decided to cave to fans' demands and give Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water a digital release for Western audiences. As the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series have started to stray and stumble in maintaining survival horror, Maiden of Black Water ups the frights. This new Fatal Frame purposely maintains a slow burn in order to properly build up suspense, bringing back the ghostbusting gameplay of the Camera Obscura, which now utilizes the Wii U's GamePad to exorcise the dead. In an era when survival horror has skewed into action-oriented gameplay or defenseless first-person perspectives, Maiden of Black Water is a welcome, old school-style callback to survival horror's glory days. Unfortunately, Fatal Frame 5 suffers from simple control issues pertaining to its core gameplay that should've easily been ironed out. Despite its solid attempts at spirit photography, there are some basic parts of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water that feel underdeveloped, which can ruin the overall shot.
If cute things make you barf, then make sure the trash can is next to you every time you boot up Yoshi's Woolly World. Every single thing in the game could melt even the coldest heart. The enemies are cute even though they're dangerous, the Yoshis are insufferably adorable, and the unlockable costume colors for the Yoshis are just the best thing ever, especially with amiibos. Duck Hunt Yoshi? Ness Yoshi? They and the rest of Yoshi's Woolly World constantly made rainbows spew out of my mouth... but was it any good?
I just put the finishing touches on a brand new stage for Mario to conquer with friends and strangers at the helm. There are enemies galore in my aptly named stage "Enemies Galore!," with Goombas and Koopa Troopas lining also almost every square of the arena provided for my customization. With a few quick taps my stage is uploaded to the world, and I can either choose to keep building or try some courses of my own.
This is the beauty of Super Mario Maker, the coolest idea to come from the minds of Nintendo in quite some time. This game gives me the power to do something I never could before: take the Super Mario formula for building challenging stages and create my own Mario opus, then upload that stage for the world to get their hands on. It's charming, it's addicting, and the best game Nintendo has put out this year.
Competitive platforming has always been one of the weaker spots in my gaming repertoire. I'm a major spaz, and often my twitch reflexes guide me down the nearest endless shaft of doom or into a wall of spikes instead of keeping me out of harm's way. That doesn't mean I avoid games like Rayman Origins or New Super Mario Bros. all together, though. Quite the opposite in fact, as I just can't seem to keep myself away from these kinds of games. That's part of the reason I found myself awaiting the release of 13AM Games' Runbow. The other parts have to do with the frantic nine-player multiplayer action and that sweet visual aesthetic.