The Do-Want List | Yoshi

Developer: Good-Feel

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: 2018

It’s taken a lot of time, but I’ve finally learned to love Yoshi.

As an ancillary mount during his Mario days he was innocuous enough, an endearing and perhaps even loveable character who both fit the pantheon of Mushroom Kingdom ephemera and was a surprisingly functional power-up. But as he took off on his own, his games got more saccharine; he was a snuggly teddy bear on the soft sheets of a baby’s crib and not something I’d even give a chance to because of societal insecurities that I’d be caught enjoying a toddler’s game.

But here’s the thing – he is ridiculously cute and his adventures adorable…but their also solid platforming games that focus more on discovering hidden areas and uncovering a set of collectables that make it more deliberate. With the blood long washed away in the great Donkey Kong Country vs. Yoshi’s Island debate, I came to appreciate where Nintendo was going with the Yoshi series and actually fully enjoy them. I feel like I’m one of the few people who actually liked Yoshi’s New Island and Yoshi’s Woolly World had the perfect tempo to play co-op with my boys. I’ve gone from being merely respectful of the derpy green dinosaur and have actually come circle to becoming a fan.

With the tentatively titled Yoshi for Nintendo Switch, it looks like developer Good-Feel is looking to peel back the curtain a bit by making its modus operandi of seeking out secrets a matter of perspective. Each level has two sides to it and depending on your approach you’ll see things from the other side in a new light. With the ability to come at each stage from a different angle, there’s more opportunities to discover things from a certain point of view. I’m a fan of plumbing the depths of Yoshi games, so the fact that there is this whole other route is appealing.

Also interesting is the slight aesthetic choices that have been made. While Yoshi and his world are no longer cloth and wool, the art class design is in full force still. Our protagonist is still squishy, but more plush than afghan and the world he adventures through is filled with corrugated cardboard pathways, paper mache backdrops and clay pot warp pipes. At first blush it doesn’t look much different from Woolly World, but upon further inspection it looks to take it in just different enough direction that it looks worth exploring.

Most importantly though, I’m really looking forward to playing through this one with my kids. Without the kinetic chaos of a New Super Mario game, it’s something that truly feels co-operative and a little more directed. Even if you can swallow each other and turn the other one into an egg.

The Do-Want List | Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Montpellier, Ubisoft Bucharest

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release: August 29th, 2017

While it was hands down the worst-kept secret leading up to E3, the interesting thing about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle wasn’t its existence but people’s reaction to it. Namely people’s snap judgment and dunking on something they’ve never even seen before. As I’ve gotten older the cultural cachet of the internet and the general negative din that permeates from it made me realize that there’s a very thin line between being constructively critical of something and just plain being an ass.

I myself am not much of a Rabbids fan per se, but hearing that they’d teamed up with the Mushroom Kingdom crew in a hybrid strategy RPG no less had me intrigued at the most and at least willing to give it the benefit of the doubt at least.

Surprise, surprise – Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks like a unique amalgamation of franchises and play styles that, at least in my humble opinion, looks worth checking out.

For the most part the plots in Mario games are intentionally aloof excuses to do whatever it is that they have you do, but the effect of the Rabbids definitely has an impact on the world design. With the Mushroom Kingdom being invaded, this is probably the closest you’re going to get to a post-apocalyptic setting on a Nintendo platform. Adding to the dilapidated blocks, crushed debris and fallen cartoon parapets are a healthy dose of Rabbid-themed warp pipes and the like. It’s a different take on the familiar, and it all looks great and animates like a Saturday morning cartoon.

But the most important thing about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is that its fresh take on strategy role-playing games could welcome a new crowd to an otherwise niche play style. It has the familiar trappings – grid based movement, a defined turn-taking mechanic, degradable cover. It’s the emphasis on movement (well, that and its wacky premise) that makes it stand out. You can launch one of your party members even further by jumping off of another one, as well as take actions briskly such as running to cover, taking your shot, and then summarily beating a hasty retreat. In that sense it feels “Mario-ified” in such a way that it feels similar enough to what it’s trying to emulate but simultaneously new enough to be more interesting that in has any right to be.

I’m looking forward to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle far more than I thought I would and the fact that it releases in a scant couple of months means I won’t have to wait long.

The Do-Want List | Lost Sphear

Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory

Publisher: Square Enix

System: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: Early 2018

Although I find it hard to articulate, the Switch has made me borderline infatuated with video games in a way I haven’t been since the Super NES days. Which is ironic, because a lot of the reason why I’m so interested in Tokyo RPG Factory’s next game, Lost Sphear, stems from an unabashed love for 16-bit Japanese role-playing games as well. I didn’t always have the kind of time you need to devote to a proper world mapping, level upping grindy kind of game…until I bought an all-in-one console that gives me literally no excuses as to why I can’t go back to my old high school flame.

That’s Tokyo RPG Factory’s M.O. – take all the things that you look back fondly upon and spruce it up for a modern audience. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am Setsuna was a second coming of Chrono Trigger, it definitely pays homage in all the right ways. Lost Sphear looks to continue that love letter mentality with a robust turn-based battle system, gorgeous world maps to explore that are inherently superficial but give the game character and a ton of little nuances and nods that quell that need to tear into a black box with a Super NES logo emblazoned on it for some hearty, old school RPGin’.

While Lost Sphear wears its inspirations on its sleeve, it’s worth noting that Tokyo RPG Factory is also establishing that it takes a different tact when it comes to relaying its stories. They tend to be more morose and reflective. Huge swaths of its world have up and vanished and it’s up to its heroes to find out what’s going on and summarily save it. There are stark white holes on the world map that play up the apocalyptic nature and hints of dialog that show people saving the world not for any altruistic nature, but because they lost something more personal. Perhaps it’s a little heavy handed, but it helps to drive the point home.

With a more lush landscape than I am Setsuna and the promise of a more active combat system, Lost Sphear will fit nicely in my suddenly burgeoning library of role-playing games while simultaneously tickling that nostalgia I’m so quick to fall back on.