REVIEW: Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe brings the heart
A Kirby classic that stands the test of time
With Kirby’s belated 3D debut in Kirby and the Forgotten Land arriving to massive success – and ultimately usurping the original Kirby’s Dream Land as the best-selling Kirby game – one might wonder what room a post-Forgotten Land world would leave for Kirby’s bread-and-butter 2D adventures. The existence of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe might prove series developer HAL Laboratory wouldn’t be so quick to toss aside its legacy, yet when my Nintendo-crazy nephew shrugged at the news of the 2011 Wii game receiving a remaster, it was the question he posed that gave me pause: “Why can’t the new games just be 3D?”. It’s a spine-chilling question for ye olde gamers I’m sure; however, gaming history has proven since the medium’s foray into 3D that evolution doesn’t necessarily preclude tradition, as evidenced by how said nephew caved and fell in love with this remastered 2D Kirby game anyway.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is an interesting choice for a remaster. The original game was released during a hectic holiday season, and while often overlooked as a late footnote for the dying Wii, it sparked something of a new era for the beloved pink marshmallow. Following a belabored development, it was the first new, fully homegrown Kirby game from HAL in over a decade – an occasion well-suited to its North American name. Copy Abilities that were one-trick abilities evolved into full-fledged combo fiends. The wafer-thin, sugary-sweet world of Kirby was recontextualized with newfound lore, callbacks, and unearthed mythology which provided the proverbial building blocks that are still being used to this day.
Putting it this way: for all of Return to Dream Land’s relative modesty in its commitment to 2D platforming, it drew a rock-solid roadmap for Kirby for the first time since creator Masahiro Sakurai left HAL Laboratory. Since then, the series has treated fans to a plentiful bounty of confident sequels and derivative spin-offs, paving the way for the resounding success in Forgotten Land. That being said, this evolutionary progression makes Return to Dream Land’s aging foundation come across as especially redundant in its familiar gameplay. However, it still remains a strong Kirby game in and of itself, with this Deluxe remaster going the extra mile for new fans and old with ample new content in the form of its carnival of time trials, mini-games, and epilogues.
Review: Trophy falls short of its 8-bit legacy
A heartening retro tribute, albeit a frustrating one
Some may say the indie explosion of pixel-art games may’ve diluted their novelty, with 8-bit relics and 16-bit replicas a dime a dozen even in this 3D-dominated industry. The thing is, it’s not just the preservation of gaming’s aesthetical genesis that continues to endure. These titles are timeless vectors for realizing the lifelong dreams of starry-eyed gamers, personalizing the formative worlds of their youth into veritable tributes now resting in your hands. Such is the case for Trophy: a pixelated tribute to the NES Mega Man library of old, born from the mind of a pre-teen Derek Andrews. While this isn’t the first time his childhood creation’s been sent out into the world (it originally released on Xbox One back in 2021 alongside a special NES cartridge), years of tinkering with 8-bit coding have finally found this platforming shooter a home on Nintendo hardware. Ain’t that a dream come true?
The fact that Trophy failed to make any sort of splash prior may speak to its quality, but what we have here isn’t so much bad as it is “ordinary”. Yes, the game certainly wears its Mega Man-tattooed heart on its sleeve, with colorful graphics, rockin’ chiptune score, hidden power-ups, googly-eyed enemy robots, and even the spontaneous sprite flickering reminiscent of Capcom’s Blue Bomber. There’s even extensive lore supplied by its prolonged opening, which sets the stage for aliens, mad scientists, and robotic fusion producing our titular hero in Trophy. Yet, a facsimile is a facsimile all the same, and we’re left with a game that’s a little too comfortable with paying tribute rather than finding its own niche.
REVIEW: Fire Emblem Engage weaponizes nostalgia
Your engagement will vary
Us Fire Emblem fans are a hardy bunch. Much like the innumerable factions within the medieval strategy series, cutthroat rhetoric and fanbase politics are what forge sturdy allegiances that stew about in our fortified Reddit garrisons. Some hail the Game Boy Advance iterations that pioneered Fire Emblem’s western debut as the series’ pinnacle, while those who started with newer titles like Fates and Three Houses have no use for the older games’ emphasis on permadeath. Why, in the right forums, a world-weary netizen might regale you with tales of how even the beloved GBA games were trivial follies compared to the Super Famicom games of yore.
Hence why I’m very interested in how Fire Emblem Engage will ultimately fare in the court of public opinion given how it marches to the beat of its own war drum. Forget how it arrives fresh off the heels of a sincerely human, grounded narrative in the wildly popular Three Houses, everything from the Colgate-colored protagonist to its corny opening theme feels so alien by series standards even despite its narrative redundancy. Fire Emblem is certainly no stranger to puddle-deep tales of dragons and MacGuffins operating through tough-as-nails tactics, yet I can’t think of a wider disparity between both in Fire Emblem’s whole history, let alone one married under the blatant banner of self-indulgent nostalgia.
How WarioWare Twisted! Embraces Profound Pointlessness
Don't get it Twisted, this game rocks
A carrot floats in the void, suspended ominously above our instrument of execution: a flat iron grater, ready to tear it to pieces. Mimicking the rough, real-life movement of shredding food, we cradle our Game Boy Advance SPs and jiggle the handheld back and forth, harsh scrapes escaping its speakers as we observe the digital vegetable being reduced to nothing more than flakes ready for an elaborate dish. A swift process, yet a delicate one boring repetition into our skulls right up until a clump of orange specks lie still upon the tray.
And…that’s it. The carrot flakes never decorate any fancy dish, let alone delivered to their consumer. There’s no time limit rushing us, nor any goal or purpose. Our kitchen exercise was merely the latest of WarioWare: Twisted!’s non-sequiturs that are dubbed “Souvenirs” – unlockable gifts earned upon completing any one round of the game’s microgame collections. They are literal time-wasters: not the fun kind you’d idly tap away at on your phone during lunch, but practical jokes that Nintendo’s programming jesters spent time, energy, and resources crafting just to make the player go, “what the hell was that?”
Eight Spooky Nintendo Locales That'd Make For Great Halloween Attractions
Spine-tingling dens of gaming horror await you...
While commonly associated with bright colors and happy characters, Nintendo fans know their games run the full gamut of human emotion: love, hate, sadness, and yes, crippling, all-consuming fear. From your moaning zombies to man-eating pianos to haunted temples, Nintendo’s assortment of creepy critters and nail-biting scenarios have ruined many a childhood, spawning no end of fan theories, art tributes, and therapy sessions.
Still, who can’t resist a good scare? With the Halloween season upon us, it’s only natural we gravitate to the spooktacular, and with Nintendo finally investing in an actual theme park, us horror-jaded gamers must now ask ourselves this: of all of Nintendo’s ghostly haunts, which would make for hair-rising Halloween attractions? In this list, we review eight most accursed locales, so turn off the lights, grab some treats, and watch for ReDeads as we take a trip down into the Nintendo underworld.
REVIEW: Kirby's Dream Buffet makes for a light snack rather than a full meal
A tasty, yet tiny treat
Within 1996’s masterful Kirby Super Star omnibus was a game by the name of Gourmet Race, wherein Kirby and his nemesis King Dedede engaged in an off-beat marathon where they’d race while gobbling upon littered sweets for points; a perfect fit for the pink puffball’s ravenous appetite. It was also, by a significant margin, the least consequential game of the lot. Even for a game priding itself on replayable content, its two-minute running time rendered it an unusually thin appetizer within an otherwise scrumptious smorgasbord.
I bring this up because it’s downright uncanny how Kirby’s Dream Buffet, the latest Kirby spin-off, treads the same design philosophy – right down to the slim offerings at odds within its gourmet theming. While certainly meatier than its 1996 forebearer, some may walk away from Dream Buffet still hungry as opposed to its chunkier Switch cousins in Super Kirby Clash and Kirby Fighters 2. Not that this land of sweets and tweets doesn’t provide a good time, but what’s an easy sell for Kirby diehards might not appeal to casual shoppers.
REVIEW: Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a welcome return to Fódlan
Three routes, three leaders, Three Hopes
When the opening bars of the Fire Emblem theme – this time portrayed as a powerful, heavenly hymn –– greet a brilliant golden sunrise over the sprawling Garreg Mach Monastery, it’s not just the faint nostalgia stirring our nerdy souls upon witnessing Fire Emblem: Three Hopes’s title screen. The original Fire Emblem: Three Houses still holds an iron-grip on the strategy series’ public mindshare with its riveting ensemble of ambitious war heroes, sobering politics, and tragic poignancy; in many ways, we’ve yet to graduate from our unforgettable time at a military academy famed for cheery gatekeepers and lore-divulging tea parties, and so we’re given one more opportunity – or three, I should say – to have a new dawn rise over the mythical realm of Fódlan.
Hence the minor misconception that Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is a direct sequel to the 2019 Switch entry. It’s easy to elaborate on all the whys and hows that would defeat the entire purpose of Three Houses – wherein Fódlan’s three territories lived and died by their ideals in what was easily Fire Emblem’s most grounded narrative this side of Path of Radiance – but having swiftly tossed aside any semblance of a functioning life in favor of sinking a hundred hours into Three Hopes, I concede there is legitimate cause for confusion, not the least in how this “what-if” spin-off translates Three Houses’s DNA into Koei-Tecmo’s Warriors genre. The result: meticulous time management and camaraderie-building forged amidst endless combo strings and enemy mobs, all juggled in three separate campaigns.
PREVIEW: Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes' demo is a tantalizing look at what's to come
Which path will you carve into Fódlan's history?
Is there any worse feeling in gaming than reaching the end of a demo you’re really into? That happened to me with the Fire Emblem: Three Hopes demo that launched last Thursday. There I was, fighting alongside Prince Dimitri, Felix Fraldarius, and the rest of the Blue Lions as we were demolishing bandits, mercs, and Empire soldiers alike. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be: just as I was about to rendezvous with the Church of Seiros, my progress into Chapter 4 was impeded by the dreadful message of “You have reached the end of this demo.”
Cue a drawn-out moan of despair. I’d just gotten reacquainted with Fire Emblem’s best cast in what amounts to an alternate take of 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and after all the spicy new lore and heartening character foibles and interactions, I’d have to wait another two weeks to learn the fate of a war-embroiled Fódlan? Perhaps, but then I remembered: much like the original game, the Azure Gleam route I’d just previewed was one but one of three paths featured in Three Hopes – the other two being Scarlet Blaze and Verdant Wildfire. Would I be able to resist the allure of another campaign on my plate?
Celebrating 23 Years of Super Smash Bros.
Yes, it's been that long since its American release!
I still remember seeing the original Smash Bros. for the first time in Tips & Tricks magazine. For anyone too young to remember that monthly tome of guides and codes, it had an import corner detailing the latest hits in the Japanese market, and one such issue detailed “Nintendo All-Star! Great Fray Smash Brothers.” The feature promised the stuff of playground discourse: an all-out brawl between Nintendo’s finest. I might not have known what a “Samus Aran” was, but from Mario smacking Pikachu to Yoshi aiming a gun at Fox McCloud (Complete with the gut-busting caption “Yoshi with a gun? It hardly seems right.”), the crossover concept lit my imagination aflame and demanded my immediate attention.
Selling over five million copies, what was eventually localized as 1999’s Super Smash Bros. captivated the Nintendo public with its intuitive accessibility. Anyone can recognize the appeal behind Mario vs Link, but can everyone handle layered controls like those of Street Fighter and Tekken? Here, there are no mind-bending button combinations to unleash Mario’s Fireball: just a simple press of the B button, and you have yourself a scorched Kirby marshmallow.
Is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Wave 1 A First Place Finish or False Start?
Can the Booster Course glide past its rusty graphics?
To claim that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Booster Course pack is “generous” would be an understatement – we’re talking about 48 remastered courses implemented over the next year-and-a-half. All this for a 2017 racing game (or, more accurately, one that originally released in 2014)! With many series veterans turned off by the microtransaction-heavy Mario Kart Tour and its awkward controls, their desire for a straight-up sequel meets the unfortunate impasse of financial reality; Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still selling big numbers five years after the fact, and Nintendo’s not about to undermine that Golden Mushroom-fueled momentum. In that event, why not display a gesture of goodwill by letting fans take a grand tour down Mario Kart history at a low price? (At no additional cost if you’re a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber!)
And yet, much as we’ve been enjoying our return to the world’s best kart-racer, not everything is well on Mario Circuit. As the hype following the initial trailer settled down, it quickly became apparent that the new tracks’ graphical fidelity weren’t up to par with the ultra-detailed aesthetics from the base game; in fact, some closer analyses all but proved Nintendo was brushing up ported Mario Kart Tour tracks, as opposed to rebuilding these courses from the ground-up. Combined with the absence of anti-gravity – Mario Kart 8’s signature visual and gameplay attraction – and it’s rendered rather obvious that the Booster Course is but a budget stop-gap for the next big Mario Kart.
Chocobo GP Review - It'll make you go Kweh!
...until you realize it's microsanction-city, that is.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Chocobo GP bears little tonal resemblance to its Final Fantasy progenitors, what with the brooding sadsacks and multi-layered epics substituted by deformed, doe-eyed Behemoths and kiddie cartoon escapades. Yet, there’s something to be said about Chocobo GP’s own tonal dissonance. Within a span of three minutes, we’re treated to an opening cinematic accompanied by a rock guitar, a gritty, cutthroat version of the Chocobo theme arranged with all the brutality of a monster truck rally, and then a peppy sing-along for the main menu that’d be right at home on Nick Jr. (“Ah, how well we get along~ But oh, when the race is on~ No one can stop me on my way! Straight! To vict-tory!”)
Alas, I’m unfamiliar with the original Chocobo Racing, so I can’t claim if such discordance was present within the 1999 PlayStation racer. That said, I find myself oddly charmed by it all – it’s one cog in how earnestly Chocobo GP engages in its off-beat identity. The roster cameos, along with a plethora of references and in-jokes elevate the tongue-in-cheek story mode, which certainly doesn’t dismiss the game’s prestigious Final Fantasy origins. That’s all well and good, but it’s the predominantly self-contained cast and world that welcome us into a wholesome little kart racer that’s just fun to dive into, regardless if one is familiar with Square-Enix’s RPG franchise or not.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land Preview
Prep for your journey into the Forgotten Land!
2022 is shaping up to be quite the birthday for Nintendo’s cutest mascot; Kirby. Yes, the pink puffball is celebrating his 30th anniversary this April 27th – the Japanese release date for the original Kirby’s Dream Land– and The Big N’s wasting no time dumping a boatload of commemorative merch (My poor wallet!). While previous anniversaries were celebrated via the heartfelt Kirby’s Dream Collection anthology pack and the grand Kirby 25th Anniversary Orchestra Concert, this is the first Kirby anniversary event to launch with a big, mainline entry in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. What better way for series developer HAL Laboratory to celebrate the precious boy’s 30th year than with his big jump to fully-realized 3D?
Obviously, Kirby’s new Switch game won’t be an industry-defining revolution in the vein of Super Mario 64, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes a page from Super Mario 3D World’s playbook by utilizing three-dimensional movement within straightforward obstacle courses. In this manner, Kirby’s gold standard for approachable gameplay is carefully juggled within this new, unfamiliar playground. This creates an inviting bridge for both beginners and veterans alike, allowing everyone to explore abandoned vistas in towering castles, colorful carnivals, and arid deserts surrounding a derelict, dilapidated shopping center.