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.

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.