Category Archives: Nintendo 3ds

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D – First Impressions

Courtesy of the fruits of Operation Rainfall, Xenoblade Chronicles arrives on the 3ds in full form. Having missed the original wii title the first time around, I’m in the process of experiencing this grandiose RPG for the first time. How does it hold up, and what kind of experience does it provide on the new nintendo 3ds? Please be aware that spoilers for the first 3 or so hours of the game are contained here. You have been warned.

There are, admittedly, a shortage of JRPG’s for the 3ds (although the vita is bathing in them), so I was eager to get my hands on this highly regarded JRPG. My impressions about 4 hours into the game are overall favorable – the game boasts one of the largest open worlds I think we’ve ever seen on a handheld device before. The colony and the open world offer no load times – it’s just one enormous world to explore (Although a new map will still be loaded when entering a ‘dungeon’). Enough first impressions – on to the nitty gritty.

The story revolves around a struggling humanity facing the looming threat of Mechon – devious machines that for whatever reason are seeking to snub out mankind. Made entirely of metal, they cannot be easily damaged by normal weapons – only the Monado, a legendary weapon, has the ability to cleave them in two. Dunban, a hero of the older age, was the only one able to control the Monado and keep the Mechon at bay, successfully defeating them. A year later, humanity and the colony enjoy the peace Dunban has afforded them, although he has not bought them that peace for free – many of his comrades were killed and Dunban remains bedridden even a year later.

It is not long before we meet our hero Shulk, dedicated to understanding the Monado that no-one save the hero Dunban can wield. He is joined by Reyn, an old comrade who often accompanies him in his missions to recover scraps, and Fiora, the younger sister of Dunban who cares for him. It is not long before the Mechon see a mysterious resurgence and a Mechon with a Metal Face appears, killing most of the colony and murdering Fiora. Shulk watches on in horror, grips the Monado, and manages to make use of its power against his metal foes. He dedicates his life to revenge – an interesting character flaw in contrast to his peaceful, resourceful demeanor seen earlier in the game.

That extends about as far as I’ve gotten in the game thus far. So what is the gameplay like? Battles are interesting – those familiar with the battle style of FFXII will feel right at home. Your character auto attacks when in range and can perform several Arts. You have the ability to use a chain attack too, when party morale is high enough (measured by a simple bar in the top left hand corner of the screen) – this consists of the ability to execute three or more commands in a row with your whole party in tow; very useful and even required for the first encounter with metal face.

Tension cuts high – Everything leading up to Fiora’s untimely and unexpected demise was tense and powerful. Something to consider is that Fiora had a full set of skills and attributes to learn. Typically when a character is to be ‘killed off’, their character traits suddenly die off after level 10 or so (Nei from Phantasy Star 2 being one of the earliest notable examples). Kudos, monolith soft. I certainly wasn’t expecting such a gutsy move.

Exploration is enjoyable – sprawling but not confusing. The world is doubtlessly huge but a quest marker ensures you won’t get lost or lose track of your objective. This is welcome as I hate wild, aimless searching for the next “story point”.

The game looks beautiful. It’s easy to see that it takes advantage of the 256 Mb of RAM and upgraded processor afforded by the new 3ds. That said, would it kill them to add some simple anti-aliasing? This was present even in PSP games from last generation – certainly it’s not too much to ask!

Music is the orchestrated wonder you might have expected – every booming theme is grandiose in scale, accurately representing the unbridled enthusiasm the game holds for its own tale.

The voices I wasn’t too keen on initially – I was hoping there was an option for the original japanese voices, but unfortunately this was only present in the wii version. I must say they grew on me as time went on; it’s certainly a different kind of experience but they’re certainly not bad. If nothing else I’m grateful that they speak quickly – some voice actors have a tendency to speak very slowly.

That’s about all I’ve got for now! It’s a promising game so far. For a classic JRPG experience on the 3ds, you can’t go wrong.

Kirby Triple Deluxe – First Impressions

I’ll save you the horribly-played-out-and-never-funny superman metaphor (‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane, etc.’) and begin with something equally uninteresting and possibly even more cliche: Kirby is back in a true to form 2D platformer using the Return to Dreamland engine that I love so much.

Triple Deluxe is not only a worthy sequel to what I believe to be the best Kirby game we’ve gotten since Kirby Superstar Ultra but also has more than enough merit to stand on its own. Where to begin? I guess the gameplay is as good a place as any. The game has the best game feel I’ve felt since RTD and SS – it’s amazing how damn polished this engine is and how easy it is to move Kirby around the screen. Movement is a treat and you never feel like you’re moving too slow or fighting the game for power over Kirby.

Abilities are also the best the series has ever had (We can thank RTD for this) – no longer are moves just “one button” moves – we’re back to the Super Star variants of several moves with each ability. Each ability’s moves are seriously fleshed out too; you’ll have A + down movements, neutral A, charging A, Side and aerial A, etc. This is…just about everything I ever wanted in a new Kirby game. Please, Hal Labs, keep up the trend of the much deeper and fleshed out abilities – The fact that I feel like I’m talking about a fighting game excites me (Good kirby bnb: 5A – 2B – 3C – just kidding). While we are on the subject of gameplay, blocking also makes a return in this game and unfortunately it’s still way too good. I love the idea of being able to strategically block, but there needs to be some sort of downside. I suggest implementing a shield mechanic similar to what Smash Bros utilizes. While shielding itself is nothing new, you CAN in fact roll dodge in this game. Not extremely useful, but a cool addition nonetheless.

What next? How about music? I love remixes as much as the next guy but I feel that a lot of modern Nintendo games forego working on new, catchy themes we’ll remember for years to come in place of remixing old ones we already DO remember for years. While this is fine (and even welcome in some instances), I miss the days where we’d get truly character defining themes. Thankfully, Triple Deluxe seems to have addressed this with a plethora of original music – and it’s great. I meant that, I love it. The happy tunes in the first world or the underground themes – even the circus themes stick with me now. Your ears will be pleased. I must admit that I am a bit reluctant to say that a video game featuring “new music” is a plus, though.

Graphics are just, uh, graphics, but the game looks stellar; if you want a reminder on just how strong the 3ds is, this might be what you’re looking for. While Kirby has never thrived on complex designs or elaborate concepts, even the simple designs show through the raw power the 3ds has at its disposal. I still wish we had a higher resolution than 400 x 240, I mean, come on Nintendo – it didn’t have to be 720p or anything but I was expecting a little more pixel fidelity than that. That system gripe aside, it still looks fantastic.

Included in the game are a few minigames which I have yet to delve into, but just going from name alone the one of them promises much. Please be a psuedo Kirby ability Smash Bros.

A bit more spoilery, but apparently Meta Knight isn’t in this game at all. What the hell? A little annoyed that’s the case here, but oh well. The presentation, music, gameplay – it’s all here just like it always is. If you enjoyed Return to Dreamland, you owe it to yourself; this right here is true Kirby bliss.

Bravely Default – First Impressions

No doubt everyone who owns a 3ds has heard about this game at this point. Touted to be a return to square’s claim to fame class system in addition to the classic ‘protect the crystals’ bit from all FF’s prior to 6 and a heavily stylized art style and massive marketing push, it promises much. Riding on the coattails of it’s predecessor Four Heros of light for the DS, the game rarely takes a moment for a breather. Designed by the heralds who have brought us such greats as 3D dot game heroes, Silicon studio strikes in full force, guns blazing style on the 3ds. And judging from my first 10 hours with the game, it delivers in full.

The intro shows us a desperate situation with vague context (par for the course nowadays, honestly) where the only thing I can remember at this time that happens is that primary character Tiz’s hometown Norende is swallowed up by a great abyss. Tiz desperately tries to save the boy that was next to him but his strength gives out and the boy falls to his unknown doom. I thought for the longest time this kid was his brother but he’s never mentioned again. Yup. I take it he wasn’t really that important? Well, whatever!

A random battle!It isn’t long before our hero meets the Agnès, the vestal of the wind crystal. Agnès has lived in solitude for much of her life with several other acolytes in order to properly do her duty and protect the crystal of the wind. Imbalance has struck and now she has to adventure out to right was has been wronged. Agnès has witnessed the wind crystal overtaken by darkness and knows there is much for her to do. Despite telling Tiz to “butt out” several times, he is insistent on doing something about the “wrongs” of nature against the crystal and help her, all the while while rebuilding his hometown Norende.

Now here is a bit of an interesting element: you actually DO rebuild Norende yourself. Through the use of the touchscreen (and several streetpasses, hopefully) you can assign your villagers to uncover and build several weapons/armor/item shops for your own use throughout the game. Norende exists in some temporal spacial realm that doesn’t allow you to visit it but somehow all of the items you earn the privledge to buy get transported to the mysterious red merchant that saves your game for you in the middle of dungeons. Hey whatever right?

Good luck with this bastard. But enough about the story. Uncommon in an RPG, the combat is the draw for many and gains much of its individuality in the addition of two commands: “Default” and “Brave”. Default is an action that has effects we are familiar with; it’s essentially a defend command that allows us to increment our “How many times can I move in a turn” meter to 2. Yes, that means that next turn, you can attack twice if you choose. If you choose to do so, it is considered a “Brave”; you can stack up to four of these to attack four times in a turn. It’s worth noting that you do not need to store up BP by defaulting in order to Brave; you can just Brave in the beginning of a battle right off the bat. Ensure that you terminate your enemy should you choose to do so, as otherwise you will spend four turns getting your ass kicked into next Tuesday.

It’s refreshing to have a relatively uncomplicated battle system that’s familiar and successfully merges a seemingly inoffensive but totally game changing game mechanic.

I’ve only just finished the first chapter and I can say the game is relatively grindy and to be honest, I’ve found the game challenging. Mashing “attack” during any random battle is usually a quick ticket to the title screen. Message boards are filled with people chiding that the game is “too easy” so maybe I just suck, but hey, there’s what I think about that.

Give it a shot. It’s definitely got promise and it’s loads of fun. Good luck finding the collector’s edition now, though!