Skylanders SuperChargers Review

Skylanders SuperChargers Wii U Starter Set

The toys-to-life genre has absolutely crushed the second half of 2015 with one major wallet-busting launch after another, and Skylanders lands right in the middle of the fray with their strongest entry yet: Skylanders SuperChargers. SuperChargers introduces big change to the Skylanders franchise with vehicles, online co-op, and a Mario Kart-esque racing system. Let’s dive in and take a look!

Skylanders and Adventure Mode

Much of the core gameplay still revolves around the Skylanders figures themselves. Many of our favorite Skylanders return as one of the 20 new Skychargers, each witch a matching vehicle, but a few new characters join the ranks of the Skylanders which I’ll get to in just a moment.

The story is rather thin, as all Skylanders stories tend to be, but that doesn’t detract from the point of each mission: Explore, beat up the bad guys, collect lots of coins to upgrade, and beat bosses. The gist of the story this time around is that Kaos has destroyed much of the islands by harnessing the power of darkness. The Skylands are shattered apart and it’s up to the SuperChargers to use their vehicles to save the day. They’re totally up to the challenge, of course.

In terms of time to complete, the campaign is roughly 10-12 hours for those looking to do a full clear on a harder difficulty. Graev and I played the entire thing co-op, and each mission ended up taking easily 1.5-2 hours. I don’t want to gloss over this point: ONLINE co-op in two different houses with our own copies of the game and our own consoles. You can play finally play with friends!

Each mission definitely had a unique feel with unique looking bad guys and gimmicks. That’s not to say the levels were really all that different in terms of the way in which you went about completing them. The real flavor comes in the form of the new vehicles. [Read more…]

Pokemon Shuffle Review & Pokemon Go Preview

The world of “mobile” gaming is surely evolving (accidental pun intended) as the gamer demographic expands. Mobile gaming used to be my brother and I playing our Gameboys in the backseat of the car during family vacations. Mobile gaming used to be restricted to the few who owned handheld systems. Now, mobile gaming is done on just about every device in our pockets or on our wrists.

The Pokemon Company has dabbled recently into how their namesake can be implemented onto other devices. Previously, Pokemon as a video game was a Nintendo handheld gaming franchise. Then, it lightly expanded into guest appearances in other games and occasionally a few standalone console titles. Now, Pokemon is being taken to the masses on mobile games.

You might recall that Nintendo partnered with DeNa back in March of this year to start bringing games to smartphones and other devices. So far we havent’ seen anything come from this partnership, at least not that I am aware of anyway, but we have seen Pokemon begin its journey into the mobile space much more aggressively in the past few weeks. I attribute most of this to how Pokemon is owned partially by three main companies: Nintendo (33%), Gamefreak (33%), The Pokemon Company (33%-2% or so to some anima people). I think I saw that Nintendo owns 54% of Gamefreak, therefore putting Nintendo technically in big control, but it just gets too complicated. Suffice it to say, Pokemon gets around.

Let’s first take a look at the just announced Pokemon Go.

Sensationalized in every imaginable way. Obviously the city of New York will not band together to defeat Mewtwo, and Blastoise won’t be making waves in any major bodies of water. You won’t see these things in real life, and you won’t throw or even mimic throwing anything to catch a Pokemon. This will all take place on the phone, maybe utilize the camera, but at best still be a digital experience.

Pokemon Go Plus Watch

Wearing this bluetooth device will alert you when there’s action happening in your area.

The point they’re trying to get across in this video is that Pokemon can transcend a game you play on a device where you control a trainer. YOU can become the trainer. YOU can set out on the adventure. Just a few problems with that…

I don’t want to go out and adventure. I’m simply not going to bust out my phone and geolocate Pokemon. I’d rather sit at home in the air conditioning and explore a fantasy world.

Gamers — specifically Pokemon gamers — aren’t into traversing mountains, seeking out vistas, or exploring the world. They are definitely (especially in Asia) into the whole street pass thing where people carry their system around with them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a group of Japanese tourists at Disneyland all playing on their 3DS while waiting in line for rides. That’s a far cry from seeking out the experience of hunting pokemon by traveling to different locations. [Read more…]

Nintendo Smart Device Games & Multi-platform Gaming Network


Huuuuuuge news coming out of Tokyo this morning! Nintendo has formed a massive partnership with mobile gaming giant DeNA to bring Nintendo’s IPs to smart devices as well as develop a multi-platform gaming network spanning across PC, smart devices, Wii U, and 3DS. This news is INCREDIBLE for people like me and Graev who have always wanted Nintendo to finally get into some form of online service.

Nintendo has always been afraid of diminishing the value of their handheld consoles like the New Nintendo 3DS XL by releasing games on platforms like the iPhone, but with this multi-platform gaming network perhaps allowing all of these devices to interact in some way, it can only strengthen the power of their overall trend toward ‘mobile’ gaming.

Here are a few key notes from the announcement:

  • All apps/games will be new games (not ports) based on the Nintendo IPS and will utilize the characters, etc.
  • ALL of Nintendo’s IPs are up for grabs
  • The games will be designed toward “more premium experiences” on the smart devices (aka the higher priced games)
  • The multi-platform gaming network will be an”online membership service”
  • Nintendo gets 10% of DeNA, and DeNA gets 1.24% of Nintendo

I’m stoked. I love my iPhone 6 Plus, and I love my New Nintendo 3DS XL. If I can get nintendo games on my iPhone then I can ‘game’ more inconspicuously in places where busting out my 3DS is a little less socially acceptable than staring at a phone. I’m betting it’s only a matter of time too before Nintendo’s eShop will be available on their ‘online membership service’ allowing us to download these “ports” of games they supposedly aren’t working on right now. Give it time. It’ll happen.

I’m also really excited for the possibility that Nintendo may actually have something a little more like Xbox Live. It will be a platform that connects all players regardless of their device, and it will perhaps finally allow for the multiplayer experiences I’ve been wanting in my Nintendo games.

New Nintendo 3DS XL & Monster Hunter Ultimate 4

New NIntendo 3DS XLI’m 1/10th the enthusiast that Graev is when it comes to handheld systems. We both got the 3DS when it very first launched and became ambassadors (received the spiffy badge and free games) for supporting their somewhat rocky launch.

When the 3DS took off and launched the ‘XL’ version, then several more versions of the XL, Graev would get them and pass down his systems to me and I would fiddle around in a Pokemon game every now and again. When the New Nintendo 3DS XL came out, boasting so many new features, I decided I wanted one.

My family got me the New Nintendo 3DS XL as a belated birthday present, and thanks to Graev tossed in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to go along with it. I’ll talk on MH4U but first let me talk up a few of the things I like about the new system.

Improved 3D Technology

New Nintendo 3DS Eye Tracking

If you’re like me and unable to hold still, you probably noticed that the 3D was finicky on the original 3DS. Moving your head to the side or not holding the 3DS at just the right angle made viewing the 3D effects difficult. The New 3DS includes a form of eye tracking that knows where your eyes are at and adapts to follow them when you move your face or the system around. I know it tracks my eyes because when I look a way then look back it wigs out for a second to find my eyes again. So as long as you don’t turn your head and look away completely, this thing keeps you engaged in the experience.

new-nintendo-3ds-c-stickThe C Stick

A couple of new controls were added like two new shoulder buttons, but the real star here is the C stick. The C stick is that little nubbin you see just above the X button. It barely moves but is made of a rubbery type feel that is sensitive to how your thumb pushes in directions. The only C stick implementation I’ve played with so far is in Monster Hunter, but that ability to control the camera alone has proven immensely useful for someone like me who has always struggled with handheld systems and the lack of ‘freedom’ of movement. Works great!

The New 3DS XL Overall

Overall the system is nice a big, feels good in my hands, and runs faster thanks to a better CPU. The browser on this thing feels better to me and navigates well. I think the camera was also improved to no longer be so dark and grainy. I haven’t played with the Amiibo support or anything but it has that. I plan to give the wireless file transfer stuff a try later to see how easy it is to take stuff from the micro sd card and transfer it over the wifi network straight to my PC. OH! I should also mention that exclusive games are coming to the New 3DS XL that will take advantage of not only the controls but the new upgraded speeds, so they will look even better.

 Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate


I have never been a Monster Hunter fan. I was always intimidated by what felt like massive barriers to entry and learning curves. There is so much that goes into such a simple premise of hunting monsters. Choosing weapon and armor types, crafting, upgrading, massive amounts of collecting, tons of strategic positioning during fights… it’s intense.

Much of that has changed now that I’ve hunkered down and put about 8 hours into the game. I’m starting to realize MH isn’t as incomprehensible as I thought. Still massive and overwhelming? Yes. If I stop and think about how insignificant I am compared to other people like Graev who have put in 100 hours already and could play another 200 hours easily… yep I could give up now. But I don’t. I focus on me and I go kill monsters.

For those who are completely unaware, here’s the gist of the game. You’re a monster hunter (the story is pretty simple and forgettable). You have a basic city/hub where you get quests, craft, etc. When you’re ready to go out on a quest you depart from the hub and you’re transported to a ‘map’ of ‘screens’ or ‘sections’ containing monsters. You’ll have lots of ‘trash’ monsters to kill as you make your way to objectives. You can harvest monsters you kill, big and small, for their resources which is essentially the entire point of the game: Kill monsters, harvest resources, make better stuff. You can mine nodes too for metals and gems, harvest plants, bugs, fish, etc. When done, you’re teleported back to the hub.

I’m having fun. I’ve even played multiplayer co-op with Graev! From the break room at work on my lunch I log in and Graev and I can connect to each other and slay monsters together. That’s an AWESOME feature for handheld systems, and it supports like 4 or 5 people all playing together hunting big monsters — yep, that’s pretty sweet.

I’m still a newb. I’m actually still trying to figure out which weapon I want to use. I thought I decided on the Chargeblade, but something about it just doesn’t fit my play-style. I’ve slayed lots of monsters already, gone on plenty of quests, and I’m crafting armor sets. This game brings out the min-maxer in me already by making me want to go online and read message boards to find the best combination of armor sets for my weapon type. Kinda fun, but kinda stressful.

Maybe the biggest downside to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and MH games in general, is the time investment. Don’t get me wrong, you can have tons of fun like I am from the start, but to really get far it’s going to take you easily 30+ hours. That’s realistically no bad, but for a handheld system it’ll be the most I’ve ever put into a game except for Pokemon.

Should you get Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate? Yes. Get it. It’s awesome. Just be ready for a learning curve and expect to invest some time. It’s a game that will last.

Skylanders Trap Team

Another year has gone by and we are already at the annual Skylanders release. Time really does fly because it feels like we were playing Swap Force not too long ago. Again we were fortunate to get a review copy from Activision for the newest release — Skylanders Trap Team — and I’ve been checking it out ever since it got here. I wont bother going into too great of detail about what Skylanders are, but if you are curious we have several articles from the past games. Basically it’s light action RPG where you place figures on a tiny portal and see them come to life in the game. What I will go into detail about is all of the new stuff in Skylanders Trap Team.

skylanders-trap-team-fire-trapTrap Masters & Traps

The new hook this year are the traps and the whole concept of trapping villains and turning them to fight for you. The specialty figures in Trap Team are known as Trap Masters and they are each equipped with weapons made out of “Traptanium.” From what I can tell they don’t seem to be really any different than normal Skylanders and have the same amount of abilities and so on. The thing that makes them unique is their ability to destroy Traptanium deposits which usually lead to bonus side areas. Trap Masters are also the only Skylanders that can access the elemental doors that also lead to bonus areas. In past games you would be able to open these with any figure of the respective element, but in Trap Team the doors are made out of Traptanium and can only be opened by Trap Masters.

The traps are actually a pretty cool idea. Each element has its own trap and they can hold one villain from that element. There are around 50 villains that you can trap and initially I was concerned that you would need multiples of each trap in order to catch them all, but thankfully that is not the case. When you do encounter a trappable enemy and defeat him you are given the option of putting him in a trap our not. Regardless of whether or not you decline the trapping, or just don’t have that elemental trap, the villains will be locked away in a vault back at the Skylanders Academy. If you want to put a villain inside a trap, or switch it out with another, all you have to do is go to the vault. So this means you really only need one of each elemental trap rather than 40 traps. You could have multiple traps of an element if you wanted, for taking multiple villains of that element out with you, but it really isn’t necessary.


Villains & The New Portal

Tskylanders-villainhe Villain characters are all very interesting and the whole concept of trapping them and using them is easily one of the best ideas added to the series. Some of the Villain characters are just specialty versions of normal monsters that you encounter but some are actually the bosses that you encounter in the game. In order to call out your villain all you need to do is press the left trigger and you “tag-out” with your current Skylander. The villain character can stay out and fight for short amount of time before having to recharge. The timer bar acts as its health as well so taking damage will decrease the amount of time they can be out. I was bothered at first by the time limit but it actually recharges fairly fast. Villains don’t level up or gain new abilities like Skylanders but each one has a special side quest where they can be redeemed. Some of them are fun little missions or minigames but there are a few that amount to just a short conversation. Once the side quest is done the villain turns into his evolved form which usually means some cosmetic changes and making his attacks stronger. Not only that but it seems to greatly slow down the trap timer and make them buffer. [Read more…]