The Must Play List | Nintendo Direct 9.13.2018

MARIO & LUIGI: BOWSER’S INSIDE STORY + BOWSER JR.’S JOURNEY

So the last 3DS game on my radar…is a port of a DS game. What a weird way to go, man.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story was actually the game that got me into the series, so it’s nice to see it get a fresh coat of paint, especially with the killer animation and pseudo-3D effects AlphaDream pulls off with ease.

In this outing our favorite brothers tackle an adventure inside their nemesis’ innards while you also control said nemesis as he stomps around the Mushroom Kingdom. Everything from the clever humor to the button-pressy combat is present, only this time you’ll find Mario and Luigi’s actions affected the Koopa King in real time.

Add to this an odd side story starring Bowser Jr. that takes the strategic battles from Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions and you have a tidy if unexciting sendoff for the 3DS.

MEGA MAN 11

When I first played the recent demo for Mega Man 11 I was a bit put off by it’s lack of adherence to the tried-and-true control scheme. A lot of jokes have been cracked about him not properly jumping through boss gates, but on the whole it comes up short in an area I’ve traveled through more times than I could count.

Upon further investigation, Mega Man 11 manages to have the right flow and pacing, and once I started replaying the demo over and over I began to realize that his new sprightly movement goes hand-in-hand with everything else the game is going for and that I should enjoy it as the new interpretation that it is instead of trying to have it carry all of my old baggage.

CAPCOM BEAT ‘EM UP BUNDLE

While Street Fighter II has a special place in my heart, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that my favorite type of arcade game was the beat ’em up. Thumping gang members and ninjas with my brother was always more satisfying than thumping him in a one-on-one fighting game and besides, it made your stash of quarters last longer.

Capcom Beat ’em Up Bundle is a well-rounded collection of the company’s most venerable titles, including Final Fight, The King of Dragons and Knights of the Round. My kids are in love with the genre themselves, so I’m really looking forward to playing it with them as well. The only in-fighting that’ll be happening is when we decide who gets to play the baby riding a mech suit in Captain Commando.

YOSHI’S CRAFTED WORLD

Yoshi’s Woolly World was an underappreciated gem that won me over with it’s charming visual style, infectious soundtrack and solid co-op platforming.

While the aesthetic seems to have shifted ever so slightly into the realm of arts and crafts instead of fabric and cloth, the heart of Yoshi’s Crafted World remains the same. There’s much more interacting with the background in most stages, and the idea of literally backtracking through them but seeing it from a literal different angle is very intriguing.

Again, one I can’t wait to play with my kids.

XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 2: TORNA ~ THE GOLDEN COUNTRY

While most role-playing games, even of the Japanese variety, seem to have been passing me by for so many years, its nice to see a near glut of them on the Switch.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country is the type of game that reminds of all those 16-bit games I used to love in that they had this whimsical, slightly medieval vibe to them where the heroes were on a serious journey, but didn’t take themselves too seriously.

A prequel to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 proper, Torna takes players into the history of that world and leads them on an adventure that puts in place some of the interesting characters Rex and company meet and puts a little perspective on why they are the way they are.

FINAL FANTASY XII: THE ZODIAC AGE

Final Fantasy XII is one of those games that are my secret shame because I started it and never finished. To be fair my PlayStation 2 broke, but I didn’t exactly replace it and keep on going, instead opting to trade my games in and get a new console instead.

It’s OK; I’m older now and know better.

Final Fantasy XII takes a lot of the combat cues from the previous MMO title and marries it to an epic and sweeping single-player experience that Square-Enix usually goes for with these games. The world of Ivalice is one of the more interesting setting in the Final Fantasy universe, so much so that they’ve returned to it a time or two.

This in itself was a great announcement for a lapsed Final Fantasy fan such as myself, but it gets better…

FINAL FANTASY VII

If ever there was a game I’ve given short shrift to, it’s Final Fantasy VII.

I can clearly remember seeing screenshots of of a Final Fantasy game for the Nintendo 64, what with it’s boxy, polygonal super-deformed characters and promise of adventures of grandeur. I was convinced that Nintendo’s leap to the next console generation was the second coming and I happily lapped up that Kool-Aid.

But Squaresoft didn’t.

They wanted a medium that they could use to push the epicness beyond what was seen on the Super NES with pre-rendered cut scenes, and the N64 couldn’t muster compressed video like a CD could. Final Fantasy VII game out on PlayStation to near universal adulation; I grouched that Nintendo was robbed of its glory.

It took me a long time to come around to the game, and while I still don’t think much of its story I will admit that it’s a nice bit of JRPG comfort food that streamlines and simplifies a lot of systems to become the accessible breakout the genre needed to get over on the masses. I’m now looking forward to replaying it, if only because nothing of the series has grabbed me since XII.

FINAL FANTASY IX

Final Fantasy IX is what I always imagined the series looking like after VI. As VII and VIII tended towards realistic characters with melancholy backstories, IX was a weird departure in that it decided to take the series back in the direction of googly-eyed, squatty heroes.

I’ve always wanted to dig into Final Fantasy IX, not only because it hearkens back the games I fell in love with, but because it does justice to those heavy themes that you just can’t convey with minimalist animated pixel art. Much like Final Fantasy VII, this’ll be like comfort food, spiced with a dash of active time battles and a pinch of chocobos.

SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE

I think at this point it’s a given that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is going to be a highlight for me, but after E3 I wasn’t always so sure of that. Ridley was a great addition and having everyone was neat, but it felt like it was missing a bit of that razzle dazzle.

One Smash Direct and a Simon Belmont and K. Rool later, I’m super excited to dive into the ultimate Nintendo love letter in the form of a fighting game.

Seeing Isabelle warms my heart as it both gives us another female fighter to add a little diversity but also another Animal Crossing character, which is a series I adore more than I like to admit. I still feel like there needs to be an ARMS character in here, but maybe that’ll be shown in due time. Regardless, this is going to be one deep package I’ll be wading into for a very, very long time.

ANIMAL CROSSING

After what feels like a small eternity since New Leaf, we finally have confirmation that Animal Crossing is coming to Switch! At first I thought it was going to play off the Isabelle announcement by adding Tom Nook as an echo fighter, but what was announced is far better!

Other than knowing it’s not coming out ’til next year, there’s not a lot to say about it right now other than I’m beyond excited. My theory for this new game is that you’ll not only run a town but an apartment building, so perhaps the series will go beyond the cozy hamlet feel and give you the reins of an entire city! Even if it doesn’t I’ll drop hundreds of hours into it, but I don’t think Nintendo would have waited this long if it didn’t have something up its sleeve.

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How I Duped My Mother | A Review of Mom Hid My Game!

I’m not one to play games on my phone. There’s nothing surreptitious about that, just that it’s more of a utilitarian device in my life than anything else. My hot take is that there’s a lot of potential in mobile touchscreen gaming but it’s often waylaid in favor of worrying about monetization, but I digress.

There are plenty of games I’d probably like to play that are on mobile devices, but in the end I spend my lunch breaks reading or checking my email or doing other boring adult things. However, a lot of these little gems have been ending up on the Switch lately, which in turn means they end up in my purview. Mom Hid My Game! is such a treasure; the type of thing that was built with mobile devices in mind, both technologically and systemically, which in turn works well on the touch-enabled Switch as well.

It’s hard to nail down how best to describe Mom Hid My Game! simply because it’s more interested in taking these little moments you experience and building upon the player’s expectations as they progress rather than challenging them. The gist of the game is that your mother (like most moms, I’d gather) is over you playing video games all the time, so she takes your little handheld device and hides it from you. It’s then your goal then to investigate the room to uncover it. Each stage is considered a day-in-the-life of your little effervescent avatar, each one an uncomplicated puzzle.

They start off fairly simple; one day you’re using a broom to sweep your console out from under a wardrobe, another you might have you using a stepladder to reach it atop the curtains. Even though it’s easy to suss out the solutions, there’s something satisfying about watching the little boy cheer at his success. Things never get much more perplexing than what I mentioned above, but they do start to get more clever and absurd as you go on. Soon enough you’re feeding an elephant some vegetables from the fridge so it will poop, which you’ll then clean to find your gaming device. Or you’ll see a baseball batter and catcher in front of a cupboard and the only way to get them to move is to throw a ball outside of an imagined batter’s box. All the while if you make a mistake than mom will bust you in a thematic and stage relevant manner that makes her more endearing than annoying.

Everything about Mom Hid My Game! is minimalistic, but the game smartly reuses things to its favor. It adds a lot of character to the proceedings, from your luchador mask wearing grandpa who stumbles into certain stages to curious twists to prior puzzles that give the whole thing an interesting cohesiveness. In many ways it feels like a sitcom; the game plays out in these little vignettes with cunning callbacks and funny but groan inducing jokes. The only thing missing is a laugh track. Even more interesting is that when you do approach the end of the game, there is a bit of closure and even a bit of a PSA that nicely caps this concise little experience.

Lately I’ve been struggling with trying to tackle all these epic and sweeping titles that take dozens of hours to complete that I get a little distraught at the notion and get discouraged. Mom Hid My Game! did a great job of getting me to realize that it’s both gratifying to play shorter experiences such as it but also that no matter the length of something that it’s often worth seeing it to the end, so don’t get anxious over it. It’s silly to get concerned over playing a game, but here we are. At least I realize that feeling that way is folly, which no longer makes it a mental roadblock. Not bad for a game who’s entire modus operandi is for you to sneak your toy away when your mother isn’t looking.

Where I’ve Been, Where I Am & Where I’m Going

I fell in love with video games by accident.

In fourth grade I can distinctly remember the teacher asked us students what we wanted for Christmas that year and she went up and down the rows gathering answers. As everybody gave their carefully thought out dissertations on why they needed whatever new toy was hot, one name kept cropping up – Nintendo. I had no idea what that even was, but enough kids gave that as an answer that quickly changed my mind from whatever I did have jotted down to the popular choice.

The following fall, I was invited to a cousin’s birthday party where his dad brought a bunch of his buddies from school to his house as well as my brother and I to celebrate the joyous occasion. He got a metric ton of gifts, as children of divorce often were, and one of them happened to be the coveted Nintendo I had blindly requested. He and his friends played some Contra, they summarily went outside to play with his other presents. My brother and I were slack-jawed for a moment, then took advantage of the situation and booted up something else — Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Saying it was love at first sight would be a huge understatement; I was fully absorbed in its world from the moment I saw Link standing in front of a comatose princess and exited the palace to embark on a most grand adventure.

Both my brother and I worked my parents hard for a Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m sure my Pop was on our side pretty quickly (as he’s soft to that kind of thing, plus he liked to play it himself) and softened my Mom up, and soon enough we had our own NES with a packed in Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and out own, quite literally shiny, copy of Zelda II.

My enthusiasm about video games never waned from that moment on.


I fell in love with reading games journalism by accident.

In the summer of 1989 my grandparents from Germany were on their way to visit, on the occasion that my youngest brother was born. We had to drive across South Dakota to the Twin Cities to pick them up, which all told is a full day’s drive if you don’t make a lot of pit stops. In some Podunk town we stopped for fuel and I managed to con my parents into picking me up something to read. A copy of GamePro, the second issue as I can clearly recollect. My other brother and I had fallen head over heels for video games after that brush with them at my cousin’s birthday party, and I couldn’t keep them out of my mind. An entire tome devoted to it with pictures of systems and games unheard was a nearly biblical experience for me.

I was (and still am) very jealous of the people who got to play and write about video games as their day job. My perpetual avidity towards them has yet to this day subsist even the slightest, which makes me wish I could be paid to pontificate about them. Nintendo Power, Electronic Gaming Monthly and Game Players were my favorites, and any day that a copy landed in my mailbox or a new issue was found at the newsstand was a joyous one indeed. I would peruse and pour over each one over and over, embedding useless knowledge in my head that remains to this day. The magazines are few and far between these days, but the ever moving attempt to chronicle our experiences is alive and well, and more importantly a little more D.I.Y.


I fell in love with writing on accident.

There was a contest on the now defunct 1up.com that tasked patrons with telling everyone why they deserved to go to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I’d been a frequenter of the site by proxy (it was run by the same folk who wrote Electronic Gaming Monthly, which has some bearing in this story of mine) and found that I had as good a chance as anyone else. All I had to do was sign up for the site and write a blog about it. So I did. I wrote, proofread, edited and re-wrote a dissertation the likes of which I never had before, submitted it and made it to the finalist’s list.

I didn’t win.

While I never made that trip to Los Angeles, I did catch a bug that got me to where I am now. I quite enjoyed writing about something I’m passionate about. I also enjoyed the fact that people wanted to read what I had to say. It was an interesting way to have a conversation with someone, this shared admiration for digital merrymaking. I posted frequently, not only about the games I was playing but the culture surrounding it, the history that inspired it or at the very least a reactionary piece to whatever hot button issues may have cropped up at the time. My work would end up on the front page of the site often, which further fed my desire to write. I thought maybe it’d be a byway into a career in writing about games, but like all good dreams you eventually wake up from it.

1up.com became a victim of capitalism and was no more. My audience was gone, my online acquaintances had scattered and the realization that pursuing a career in games journalism was folly.


I love to play games, I love to write about games and I love to read about games as well. But lately, it doesn’t really show. Life’s been busy and I’ve been a bit listless in general as well. I want to spend time doing all these things, but don’t have any of this precious commodity to give. I’m by no means bitter about it because family will always come first, but it always hangs in the back of my mind. When I do partake in any of the above mentioned activities, I feel guilty. I could be doing something else, something more productive. Then I turn around and get mad that by the time I stop doing something useful, usually around 9 p.m., I’m too physically and mentally wiped to do them either.

I want to get back into the market of being enthusiastic, but need to figure out how to work it into my life a little better.

I need to go in with the mindset that any game I play will be a slow grind. I usually play in a methodical, deliberate manner…until something else piques my interest, then I hurry it up so I can glom onto that. You lose the ability to appreciate the nuances when you do that. My goal right now is to bounce between two games at any given time because sometimes you get stuck and need to refresh yourself, so I may as well make progress in something else in the meantime. I also need to learn to ride on the caboose of the hype train. Getting caught up in new things is a fun I’m not going to deny myself, but something isn’t going to be more entertaining if I play during the height of a zeitgeist. I’ll get to it…as soon as I finish what I’m currently playing. It’s gonna be a tricky mindset to get into, but if I don’t than my backlog will continue to grow and I’ll feel guilty for having spent money on something I haven’t played.

Writing, on the other hand, is something I’m going to have to just block off time for on weekends or the random days off I get during the week. I’m very much a stream-of-thought scribe, so stopping in the middle because of obligations usually means I lose steam altogether and stop. Everybody that writes has this issue, but most of the great ones can put an article/story in the can regardless. I need to not only give myself the time to write, but time in between to let it percolate a bit. But most importantly, I need to finish what I start. This too will be rough for me, but I think with the right motivation and ethos I can pull it off.


To wit, I’ve also come to realize that I need to play to my strengths instead of following some obnoxious rubric that’s been ingrained in my head since the days of magazines. I’ve been fortunate to get to write reviews for the likes of Nintendo Life, A Most Agreeable Pastime and Two Button Crew, and while I can emulate the proper style for them, it doesn’t do me any good on my own personal goddamn blog. It just makes me sound like, well, everybody else.

I had to dig into the heart of what it is I enjoy so much about video games, and it came down to being able to experience new places. A lot of folk debate between mechanics and plot, but my disposition lies in settings. There is no doubt that both how you play and what drives you along are critically important to a game, but I can look past either if done poorly if I get good vibes from where the game is coming from. I think a lot of games writers focus on the trees and forget that they make a forest if you look at it from afar. I’m not saying I’m above that myself, I could work on avoiding tropes a little bit more honestly, but what I am saying is I’d like to put a little more emphasis on my own personal sentiment instead. I love playing games, but a huge part of that for me is relaying my experiences for all to read.

I’m earnestly excited about where I’m heading in regards to my writing, because I feel wizened enough to realize that I struggle with it and as they say the first stage in recovery is realizing you have a problem. Getting over that hurdle is always arduous, but I’m so tired of giving up that trying extra hard looks like the only path I should take. I need to pack up my experiences in a proper bindle and hike the path less traveled. If I’m keeping with the hobo analogy, I’ll probably be trailing behind and inhaling the dust from the aforementioned hype train. But I’ll be smiling, because I’m going my own direction for once and the view looks mighty fine.