The Do-Want List | Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions

Developer: AlphaDream

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: October 6th, 2017

I’m actually something of a fan of videogame remakes and remasters. By all means they are a cash-in, a means to tap into gamers’ nostalgia with a false pretense that they are the definitive version or a new way to try your hand at a classic you may have missed. Who am I to argue, though? Whether it’s reliving a moment or getting a second chance, I enjoy these little love letters that developers fondly create!

Until about a year ago, I had never even tried the original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga until it dropped on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. The only thing that makes that crazy is that I’ve played other games in the series like Partners in Time and Bowser’s Inside Story first and loved them, so imagine my surprise when I did finally go back to the beginning and discover that it’s probably the best of the bunch!

While the unique, two brother control scheme has remained well-trodden and worn, it works out well and helps define Mario & Luigi as a series. What Superstar Saga does that all the games that follow doesn’t is add a healthy dose of genuine humor in its writing, its animation and its endearing characters. One name needs only be mentioned: Fawful. While taking Bowser out of the equation as the main antagonist and replacing him with something else wasn’t new at this point, this was an opportunity to take the brothers out of the Mushroom Kingdom and have them adventure across new lands.

The only thing that’s really been added to this re-release is that the visuals have been overhauled to match later games like Dream Team and Paper Jam. While I love the original Game Boy Advance design, the animation of the 3DS games is top notch and seeing Cackletta and company move around as if they jumped straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. With that and the clever dialog, Superstar Saga is looking more and more like weekend cereal-binging fare.

There’s also a side-story known as Bowser’s Minions added in, which if I’m being honest I’m a little on the fence about. It looks like something of a lite strategy game in which you take Goombas, Boos and Koopa Troopas on a journey to rescue their bumbling boss from the clutches of a superior evil. From video it doesn’t look terribly compelling to me, but it does follow along with the plot of Superstar Saga, so it may be interesting enough in that respect if only for its different perspective.

Just when I though the 3DS was going to be setting off into the sunset quietly, Nintendo shows that it still has some horsepower to keep the quaint and loveable little portable going for the foreseeable future alongside the Switch.

The Do-Want List | Metroid: Samus Returns

Developed by: MercurySteam/Nintendo

Published by: Nintendo

Release Date: September 15th, 2017

I’m a pretty stalwart Metroid fan. While most people complain about the gap in between releases, I’ve come to realize that, no matter how much cultural cachet it may have, it just isn’t a series that gets visited very often. In a world where people want to be constantly fed the same thing over and over again constantly, Metroid’s better off showing up every now and again because I feel like players appreciate it more because of that.

That being said…we are getting two new Metroid games in a much shorter span, and I will gladly and hypocritically say I am perfectly OK with that.

There’s not much for me to say about Metroid Prime 4 other than I’m excited and anxious to see where it takes the series, but for now we get to revel in the fact that while we wait for it there’s a neat looking remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus for the 3DS colloquially known as Metroid: Samus Returns.

Of the Metroid games, Return of Samus is the one I remember the least. I downloaded the Virtual Console edition years ago but have yet to sink any time into it again. What made it interesting is that it tried to adhere to two different philosophies: being an open(ish) world you explore to find new kit to keep you moving forward and being a more guided experience because it released on the Game Boy and your time (and battery life!) were limited. It’s a neat idea that maybe didn’t always pan out, but damn it was a portable Metroid!

Not unlike Zero Mission, Samus Returns looks to take the core game and build it from the ground up with new tech and aesthetics. While SR388 will more or less remain the same at its base, everything from the visuals to new areas will make it feel brand new. The game takes a pseudo-3D approach that thankfully takes the stereoscopic 3D into consideration. It’s a dead-in-the-water feature these days, so it’s nice to see it get a little support!

Also like Zero Mission the game looks to add new game play elements to spruce things up. There are powers that are based on an energy source, a much needed melee counter attack and some 360 targeting for good measure. While that last one brings back bitter memories of Other M, for the most part these all sound like great additions that bring an older game to a newer generation in a way that feels fresh but doesn’t betray its main mechanics.

The nice thing about this and a lot of Nintendo’s reveals this year, Metroid: Samus Returns is coming sooner rather than later. More to the point, it’ll keep my favorite bounty hunter relevant and in everybody’s mind while we impatiently wait for Metroid Prime 4.

A Robotic Canary in a Coal Mine: The Quietude of SteamWorld Dig

Right from the get-go SteamWorld Dig lets you know that it’s going to be a quiet experience. The game’s hero slowly walks across a barren desert while a tune that’s equal parts Metroid and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly plays solemnly in the background. Much like the inspirations it wears on its sleeve, the adventure within SteamWorld Dig is a lonesome one both thematically and design-wise.

SteamWorld Dig is one of those games that gleefully defies definition. A lot of people label it as a “Metroidvania” at first blush, and while it has elements of one, I always think of that as kind of a lazy comparison. It is its own beast; focusing more on the gathering of supplies and bettering your cowboy/miner avatar Rusty and the gratification of self-improvement rather than simply showing your growth via combat prowess. It’s an important distinction, and one that I think a lot of people have noticed.

The game begins with an all too familiar scene with Rusty quietly sauntering to a town called Tumbleton, to pick up the deed of his lost uncle’s mine. As he’s going about his business, he is introduced to his new claim by haphazardly falling into it. It’s a pretty loosely hidden tutorial, but luckily it’s also a brief and to-the-point one as well. Soon enough you’ve pried a pickaxe from your deceased uncle’s cold, lifeless hands and you’re on your way to fortune, glory and answers underneath Tumbleton.

Your goal is to dig as far down as you can go, finding out what your uncle discovered and making a tidy profit all the while. The game runs at a comfortable cycle; you mine for minerals and ore until you run out of oil for your lantern, then return to the surface to sell your wares and upgrade so you can dig deeper ad nauseum. You’re never pressured to try and get further, so the game lets you kind of decide your own pace through its labyrinthine network. Personally, I chose to futz around and make sure I raked in as many robot bucks as I could to try and max out Rusty in order to make the game easier for myself.

As you move further and further into the old claim, secret paths are uncovered. Some just offer a little bit of platforming with a side of resource gathering for good measures; others are marked because your uncle had already scoured them and contain a significant upgrade. SteamWorld Dig never has pretenses at being anything other than what it presents to you, and it’s one of those rare cases where that’s a good thing.

The quietude of the experience is unique in a world where bright and colorful bombast are the order of the day. Rusty’s endeavor is a lonely one, with subtle undertones such as solemn music, lack of lighting and genuine surprise every time you run into something below that moves. It makes the workhorse mentality of being a miner something special; the dreariness offset by the reward of finding rare ore or a hidden alcove. More importantly, it never overstays its welcome even though I wouldn’t have complained with even more tunnels to explore.

The plot too is a subtle one, to the point where you don’t even really have to follow it. By little bits of conversation though, you can divulge that there’s more going on underneath Tumbleton than first appears. As you go further, townsfolk begin to question the high technology you unearth and why you’re even doing so in the first place. The end game is shocking, with a surprise that you don’t really see coming. If I had one complaint about SteamWorld Dig, it’s that it never owns up to what happens just before the credits roll. There are more questions than answers and it leaves the ending a little underwhelming. Obviously the hope is that all will be revealed in the upcoming sequel.

SteamWorld Dig was a phenomenon when it first hit the scene; everyone was taken aback by how good it was. It feels familiar while also treading a new path, a perfectly heady mixture that didn’t go unnoticed. Even better is that it holds up to repeated play-throughs. I don’t think the randomization of ore placement is the key, rather its the return to a more somber state of mind that you don’t often see portrayed in video games very often. It’s like a robotic canary in a coal mine – you’ll somehow find your way back.