Yoshi’s Woolly World – Touch Fluffy, Get Knitty

This game has been a long time coming. Since Yoshi’s Island in 1995 there have been a number of competent sequels, but none of them captured that true magic and some were just bad. Yoshi’s Island remains one of the greatest platformers of all time not just because of its brilliant game mechanics, but the outstanding level design that took advantage of everything Yoshi could do. Furthermore, it was different to any other game at the time and made a big impact on the industry with impressive graphical effects that pushed SNES hardware to its peak. With such big shoes to fill, development team Good-Feel have taken up knitting and made some brand new fluffy shoes to climb into instead. Since Kirby’s Epic Yarn came out in 2010 they’ve done a bunch of side projects, but Yoshi’s Woolly World has been in development for all of these years and has become, by far, their biggest project yet. It’s the first time Yoshi’s visual style has really been changed up, with Yoshi’s Island DS borrowing heavily from original’s art style, and Yoshi’s Story and New Island adopting a half-arsed 3D look with no real identity. It’s also the first console Yoshi game since Yoshi’s Story on the N64, three generations ago. This woolly makeover was exactly what the Yoshi formula needed, because Yoshi’s Woolly World is an absolute triumph in game design. I got it when it launched in Australia last month, and I’ve already 100% completed it and replayed it multiple times. I love it for many reasons I didn’t expect. Not just as a worthy follow-up to Yoshi’s Island, but as an original game in 2015 that brings new ideas to the table and stands strong as an example of how much further games can be pushed.

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Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse – eShop Treasure

Shantae on Game Boy was an incredible technical feat in 2002. The Game Boy Advance was already out, but Wayforward stuck to their guns and made the best GBC game possible, working so hard to make it one of the best looking games on the system. Unfortunately while the gameplay had some neat ideas, it felt like it wasn’t as exciting as it could be. It’s well designed and I understand why people like it, but I personally never really felt inspired by it, and the movement is very basic to the point where it’s not that enjoyable to play. It made an interesting one-time playthrough at the very least and established the character. Fast forward a decade, and Shantae has been set free from technical limitations with the release of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse on 3DS and Wii U. Sporting a glorious pixelated style in 3D and on the big screen, the game takes Shantae’s wildest wishes and makes them come true. I’ve just played through the Wii U version and it’s absolutely fucking amazing. The music, controls, gameplay design, structure, presentation are all excellent and everything has suddenly clicked in a brilliant way. It’s significant. I’d liken the improvement here to the jump between Metroid and Super Metroid. Great foundations were already in place, but now it’s a lot more fun to play. This is a top-tier videogame, and I felt that the second I started controlling Shantae.

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EarthBound Beginnings – I’m A Kid Now

Nintendo’s E3 this year opened with what I personally still consider the biggest bombshell of the entire show: EarthBound Beginnings not just announced, but released on the Wii U Virtual Console. It was a quiet Monday morning in Australia and I was excited to see what the Nintendo World Championships would bring, waking up early just to get hyped. However, it wasn’t until Shigesato Itoi appeared on the screen that I fell out of bed. He hadn’t said anything, but this man could only be there for ONE reason, something Mother related. EarthBound Beginnings was announced with this beautiful trailer, and some very touching words from Itoi. It melted my heart and I downloaded it straight away. I played through EarthBound on the Wii U for the very first time 2 years ago. It was the first time Australia actually got the game, so I consider that its official release here. I absolutely loved it, and since then have been patiently waiting for the other games to come over “officially”. Now, I’ve spent the last month playing through EarthBound Beginnings and making the most of the experience. From the look of the game and people’s vague impressions, I went in thinking this would be “EarthBound Lite”, just a more basic novelty version of EarthBound. Boy, was I wrong. This is a game that stands strong on its own, a finely crafted piece of work that expresses more emotion than anything I’ve played on the NES before. The game kicks off with a strange event unfolding, and suddenly you’re ready to go on an adventure. What does this world have in store for a 12 year old boy?

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Game Journalists Are Not Covering Videogames

Videogame banter used to be simple. Whether it was opinions on a game or straight console war shitfights, people said what they were thinking. Xbox is a poorly made piece of shit. GameCube is a purple lunch box for babies. Playstation games are ugly like your Mum. Now days, you get banned for that kind of stuff on forums and that’s fair enough. It’s never nice to insult people or trash talk for the sake of it. However I’m beginning to feel the landscape of passive-aggressive assumptions we have now is even more toxic. There’s this illusion that things are more “civilised” in the gaming community, created by ever growing concern for social issues and a set of universal standards games are being judged on. As a result of this social narrative becoming popular and generating clicks, every game coming out is being judged by the same set of rules, regardless of whether or not it makes sense in the game’s own context as a playable videogame.

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Smashing QR Codes – Next-gen DLC

Nintendo’s Miightiest heroes have finally assembled, ready for assymetric action.

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Part of the Nintendo Difference: E3 2001

As a follow-up to my previous E3 scan, here’s some subtle marketing Nintendo spread around E3 2001, again, on the back of the E3 Show Daily magazines. Checkout the “interesting” front covers, too, and maybe you’ll question how there could be any excitement for such an unappealing video game industry at the time (as presented by the magazine). “Doug Lowensteins’ State of the Industry 2000-2001 Report: IDSA findings indicate games are fully mainstream…” Yes!…? Wait, is that really a good thing or a bad thing?
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Wario Land: The Shake Dimension – Bigger and Smellier

A year before New Super Mario Bros Wii made 2D platformers popular on consoles again, a 2D masterpiece had already been delivered to the system. That masterpiece is Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, also known as Wario Land: Shake It in the USA. That’s right, Wario beat Mario to the punch on this one. Unfortunately, corruption in the Mario Media meant this game was somewhat overlooked, and I’ve only just had the pleasure of playing it. It’s a little strange how this game came about. 2008 was a time where everyone was splurging over 3D worlds, motion controls, demanding HD graphics, and even Wario himself was cashing in on the mini-game craze. The heavens just opened up and decided it was time for some serious platforming in 4:3 aspect ratio. Wario Land: The Shake Dimension is the first Wario Land game to hit a home console, and Wario’s fat arse lands on the Wii with quite a thump. Shake Dimension is an extremely polished 2D platformer that excels in all areas, with great art, amazing music, fantastic gameplay and genius level design. I’ve recently finished it and feel like I’ve come out of the experience enriched with garlic breath and a full tummy.

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