VIDEO GAME: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (2014)

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Year: 2014 Rating: T Time Played: 562 minutes / 9.37 hours A couple of years ago, I started hearing about a cult classic Game Boy Color game known as Shantae. While this game released near the end of that handheld’s life cycle, there was plenty of buzz about how it was a solid platformer with plenty of potential. Fast forward eight years and the first sequel, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, made its appearance as a virtual game on the DSi. I happened to jump into this series with the 3DS virtual title, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and I certainly enjoyed the pseudo-Metroidvania approach that WayForward took with this franchise. While I would have liked to have found a cartridge version of this game, I eventually settled on buying it from the eShop. I’m glad I did, as it allowed me to play the game instead of just thinking about it. Overall, it’s a solid action platformer with plenty of upgrades...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

Super Mario OdysseyYear: 2017Rating: E10Time Played: 20+ hours As is the case with many Nintendo systems, Super Mario Odyssey marked the mustachioed plumber’s arrival on the Switch, much like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy did for the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and Wii, respectively. Taking cues from all its predecessors, Super Mario Odyssey is a gorgeous platformer with plenty to do, almost to its detriment. It’s clear a lot of attention to detail went into this game, but it’s also evident that Odyssey is a celebration of Mario’s history as Nintendo’s de facto mascot. The fact that you can now play as many of Mario’s enemies is a fantastic mechanic that is as unique as it is timeless. Odyssey uses the improved graphics on the Switch to create stunning worlds that are just itching to be explored. The music as well is perhaps some of the best in the franchise, with the theme to the Wooded Kingdom being...
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VIDEO GAME: Undertale (2015)

Undertale Year: 2015 Rating: E10+ Time Played: By the time I had the chance to play Undertale (on the Nintendo Switch, no less), most of the surprising revelations about its battle system were already spoiled for me. Regardless of knowing the unique playstyle for this game, I tried my best to play by the counterintuitive methods that set this game apart from others of its genre. And while I didn’t get the true pacifist ending for some reason, it was still an enjoyable and humorous game. Despite its somewhat shorter length, I still think making it any longer would have ruined the tight storytelling. Now, Undertale is by no means a perfect game, and I’m sure the diehard fans of this franchise will hate me for saying this. The visual style was pretty good for a retro throwback, but it felt inconsistent from place to place, almost like it didn’t know if it wanted to be 8-bit or 16-bit. Similarly, the fantastic music and audio...
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VIDEO GAME: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)

Mario Kart 8 DeluxeYear: 2017Rating: ETime Played: 5+ hours Just like how Mario Kart 7 expanded on the core gameplay mechanic of the Mario Kart series by adding gliding and underwater features in its tracks, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe goes a step further and removes the confines of gravity from the franchise. This core change to the Mario Kart formula results in a lot of genuinely unique courses that couldn’t have been possible in previous games. To top everything off, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is presented in gorgeous high definition while also including all the downloadable content from the Wii U version at no additional cost. With a variety of new courses, as well as classic racetracks enhanced to the Switch’s advanced graphical capabilities, I was glad to finally see some representation in this franchise from characters outside the typical Mario franchise. Representative characters and courses from the Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Splatoon franchises felt like welcome additions and perhaps even the...
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VIDEO GAME: Mario Kart 7 (2011)

Mario Kart 7 Year: 2011 Rating: E Time Played: 2.35 hours One of the challenges of long-running series like Mario Kart is how to maintain the core gameplay mechanic while also continuing to innovate. Previous iterations in the franchise played with having two characters in a Kart (Double Dash on the Gamecube) before reverting to the traditional formula (Mario Kart Wii). Furthermore, with the limitations present in portable and handheld consoles, there’s a point where the experience isn’t quite the same as it would be on a television screen. Fortunately, Mario Kart 7 seems to have struck a good balance between new ideas and embracing nostalgia. Even if I didn’t use the online mode for racing against other individuals (one of the core attractions of the Mario Kart series), I did find that each race in Mario Kart 7 was just long enough for me to play through in a single sitting. If I had more time, the option to race through a series of...
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VIDEO GAME: Metroid II – Return of Samus (1991)

Metroid II: Return of Samus Year: 1991 Rating: E Time Played: 7.5 hours The forgotten child of the original Metroid trilogy, Metroid II is that weird transition between a neat idea and a video game masterpiece. Relying on most all of the same concepts that made the original Metroid on the NES popular, Metroid II suffers from the innate limitations of the Game Boy hardware. Color certainly helped delineate the different areas in the NES game and made the follow-on Super Metroid that much more vivid and haunting, which is why the lack of it in this game poses several problems. Still, it is a solid Metroid game at its base, despite its few flaws. One of the flaws of this game is its lack of a map. Another weakness is the ability for the player to know what exactly changed when the screen shows a rumbling vibration. I spent way too long going back over the same areas, only to learn later that I...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Year: 2018 Rating: E10 Time Played: ~45 hours I grew up playing the original Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64. I loved being able to play as a variety of characters across some well-known (and perhaps less well-known) Nintendo franchises. With each iteration of the series, I’ve enjoyed seeing new characters representing new and classic games join the roster. However, even if I can understand cutting some characters as the series moved forward, it was still a disappointment when I couldn’t play as my favorites in subsequent entries in the franchise. This is why I was hyped up for the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For the first time, I was able to play as a staggeringly large number of characters. The fact that (almost) everything from previous games made it into this one made it feel like this was a celebration of the history of video games and not just a party brawler. And while I didn’t bother...
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VIDEO GAME: Nintendo Labo – VR Starter Set (2019)

Nintendo Labo: VR Starter Set Year: 2019 Rating: E10 Time Played: ~5 hours With the increasing number and availability of virtual reality (VR) headsets, I figured it was only a matter of time before Nintendo jumped in on the craze. I always felt the Switch would be ideal for VR, as it has a gyroscopic screen with detachable controllers that have an equal amount of finesse in their movements. It is then no wonder that Nintendo decided to pursue the VR space with its line of experimental cardboard toys: Labo. While I didn’t have too much interest in the previous Labo sets, the fact that the VR Labo could also be used on other games for a VR effect is what pushed me to purchase the starter set. Putting together the cardboard for the VR goggles and blaster accessory took me a long evening to assemble. I appreciated the user interface for the instructions, as it made the whole process easy and basically idiot-proof. Of...
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VIDEO GAME: Shovel Knight (2014)

Shovel Knight Year: 2014 Rating: E Time Played: 27.33 hours I grew up in the era of retro video games. My favorite was the Mega Man series, but I appreciated what games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link were trying to accomplish. While Shovel Knight isn’t a spiritual successor to any one game, it lovingly paints the pixelated beauty of classic video games in vibrant homage. I played through this game and all three of its free DLC add-ons on the 3DS, and I found the stereoscopic effect to be just as mesmerizing as the stunning visuals it used to create the effect. Shovel Knight managed to create a world filled with lore and unique characters that far surpasses anything programmed on the NES. Granted, there was a bit of a cheat in not being wholly constrained to NES graphics or audio, but I’d rather have a great game that fudges some nostalgia than one that suffers because of...
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VIDEO GAME: Gris (2018)

GrisYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: 3+ hours Much like Journey, Gris is an incredible fusion of art and video game. Taking a watercolor aesthetic and hauntingly beautiful music in stride to tell a subtle story of loss and recovery, Gris ended up being a relaxing trot through its geometric world for me. Unfortunately, much like Journey, the amount of effort that goes into making this game look beautiful was also probably why it ended up being so short. Even if I broke up the platforming gameplay into a few hour-long sessions, I could easily complete it in a long evening. In the end, the platforming of the game is relatively simple. There’s a couple of puzzles that took me a moment to figure out, and I still haven’t found all the hidden items, so I might come back and do a second play-through to complete it fully. The fact that I wanted to play it again shortly after reaching the end credits is...
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VIDEO GAME: Journey (2012)

JourneyYear: 2012Rating: ETime Played: ~2 hours As someone who enjoys movies and video games, I appreciate how cinematic video games have become over the last decade. Additionally, since many films can be “artsy,” there’s no reason why video games can’t follow the same style. Journey definitely fits this definition, and I’d almost go so far to say that it’s interactive and collaborative art. The story is pretty simple, but the execution of it gave me shivers as I finished and watched the end credits. The visuals and music add to the ambiance that engulfed me for the short time I spent playing this game. Perhaps my only qualm with Journey is the same qualm I have with any artistic video game: its length. I would have loved to spend more time in this world, but as it stands, I can easily complete it in a single sitting. Which I suppose is how it should be when you consider that the “partners” along...
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VIDEO GAME: Let’s Go Pikachu (2018)

Pokémon: Let’s Go PikachuYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: 23 hours I hesitated to pick up Let’s Go Pikachu for the sole reason that I already had bought this game decades ago in the form of Pokémon Yellow. I couldn’t justify spending $60 for a re-skin and decreased difficulty to align it with the Pokémon Go-style of catching. That being said, I was able to pick this title up for $20 as a part of Redbox’s video game sale, and I’m glad I did. Sure, the game is the same as before, but there are a few things I still enjoyed about it as I reveled in the nostalgia it brought to me. First off, the visuals are stunning. I think we often forget how limited the Game Boy’s graphics were, but seeing all these classic Pokémon in full HD on my big screen was an experience. I also appreciated how they removed HMs in favor of special techniques for Pikachu to use, which...
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VIDEO GAME: Untitled Goose Game (2019)

Untitled Goose Game Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 2+ hours The indie breakout hit of the year, Untitled Goose Game, has a lot going for it. The action-synched music, the visual aesthetic, and (most of all) the ability to play as a modern-age dinosaur. While most of the geese I’ve interacted with in my life have been of the Canadian variety, the controls and feel of this British goose are accurate enough for me to become lost in moments of hilarity at the hands of this foul waterfowl. However, for $20, I can’t recommend anyone pay that much for what amounts to a polished tech demo. Despite all it has going for it, Untitled Goose Game is incredibly short. I was able to play through the four main areas in only a few hours, not bothering to complete the expanded list of tasks as most of them were minor variants of the things I had already done. Additionally, while the game seems open-world at...
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VIDEO GAME: Owlboy (2018)

Owlboy Year: 2018 Rating: E10 Time Spent: 5+ hours I had seen a video of some Owlboy gameplay a while ago that made the game look interesting enough to buy. The retro 16-bit-style graphics were what drew me to this adventure platformer. Now that I’ve played through it, I found it to be somewhat…disappointing. Sure, the visuals are quite striking, and each location certainly has some elemental charm to it. Additionally, the story is relatively simple but also charming in its own way. In the end, though, I don’t think I’ll give this game an additional playthrough. This is mostly because—without trying—I collected almost everything in the game in my first go. First off, this was a fairly short game, which I should come to expect from independent game developers. After all, Cave Story and Undertale weren’t terribly long, but perhaps I’ve been spoiled by games like Hollow Knight. Secondly, even up until the last boss, I could never quite get the hang of the...
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