SonicManiaPlus

 

Last year, “Sonic Mania” marked the lovable hedgehog’s return to the 2D landscape. It gave fans who have been craving a renaissance for the series exactly what they asked for. Now, the Blue Blur is taking a victory lap with “Sonic Mania Plus” for PS4, Xbox One, PC and the Nintendo Switch.


“Sonic Mania Plus” is available as DLC for owners of “Sonic Mania” for $5. But now, for the first time, the game is available in the form of a physical release. A hard copy of the game is available for PS4, Xbox One and Switch for $30, and comes with snazzy Sega Genesis cover art on its reversible game sleeve. If you purchased “Sonic Mania” last year, but still want the physical release, your saves carry over to the physical version.

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Pokemon Lets Go

 

Covering pre-release game demos is a weird thing. At shows like E3, journalists are introduced to heavily polished, bite-sized portions of a game with little context. These portions are always hand-picked by the developers or publishers to ensure that a game makes an excellent first impression. Generally speaking, pre-release demos are viewed favorably. They’re usually a tense, exciting or memorable sample of game still in development. The person covering it usually walks from it thinking, “sure, that was pretty good.” But every so often, something goes horribly wrong.

 

At E3, it’s easy to fall into a habit of positivity when you’re seeing dozens of these types of demos per day. I thought that was happening to me. I thought I was unable to view the flaws of a game because a demo never showed me enough of itself to reveal any shortcomings. Then I went to my final appointment of the show and played “Pokémon Let’s Go.”

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Rocket-League-Switch

 

“Rocket League” has accomplished a lot in two years. It launched on PS4 and PC, and has since added Xbox One to its platforms. It established itself as one of the premiere esports. Now, it has gone mobile. Well, sort of. “Rocket League” has joined the Nintendo family, and is now available for the Switch.


There are some clear obstacles when making a game like “Rocket League,” which was originally designed for the current gen, playable on the less graphically capable Switch. For starters, a fast-paced game of precision like “Rocket League” needs to run at 60 frames per second at the least. Is the Switch up to the task of handling soccer with rocket-powered cars? Surprisingly enough, it is!

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MarioOdyssey copy

It’s a special thing when a new “Super Mario” game releases. This isn’t a series that has become saturated thanks to yearly releases of other games like the “Maddens” or “Call of Duties” of the gaming world. New “Mario” games have become a rarity, and that makes them special. The last game in the series was “Super Mario 3D World” for the Wii U in 2013, but some don’t even consider that to be a part of the core series. Before that, it was “Super Mario Galaxy 2” for the original Wii seven years ago. Now the red-capped plumber makes his triumphant return in “Super Mario Odyssey” for the Nintendo Switch.

 

Every great “Mario” game has a hook. “Super Mario Bros. 3” introduced Mario’s many costumes. “Super Mario 64” created a fully realized 3D Mushroom Kingdom for the first time. “Super Mario Galaxy” played with crazy gravity-defying space physics. And now, “Super Mario Odyssey” introduces Mario’s newest companion Cappy.

 

The game begins with Mario’s usual, and now archaic, struggle of getting the helpless Peach back from Bowser who plans to force her into marriage. Mario loses the initial battle and gets his signature red hat destroyed. He’s booted off of Bowser’s airship and lands in the kingdom of hats. It’s there that he meets Cappy. Cappy is a friendly hat who comes with the unique, and, in reality, quite terrifying power of being able to transfer Mario’s consciousness into other beings. All Mario has to do is fling cappy in the direction of another creature and boom! Mario becomes that creature. Cappy is “Super Mario Odyssey’s” hook, and what a hook it is.

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Splatoon 2

 

“Splatoon” is back, which means it’s time to assemble your squid squad for Nintendo’s new competitive arena. “Splatoon 2” continues the unique, family-friendly shooter series. Rather than measuring kills and deaths like other shooters, a “Splatoon” win is achieved by painting the map with your team’s color. The original “Splatoon,” which debuted on the Wii U, made a colorful splash on what turned out to be a very limited platform. Now, “Splatoon 2” looks to garner more of an audience on the highly successful Switch console.

 

“Splatoon” was an excellent starting point for this zany series. It introduced players to a new kind of competitive shooter, but it had its share of puzzling problems like not being able to change weapons once you saw your team’s loadout, no chat functionality and unusually limited matchmaking options. “Splatoon 2” tries to right those wrongs while adding a lot more to the formula. While it does add more content in both its single-player campaign and pain-spraying weapons, those online woes that always seem to plague Nintendo are omnipresent.

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A successful E3 needs an identity. That identity is usually established with a console reveal or a shiny new peripheral like VR, or the promise of a functional Kinect before that. On the hardware side of E3, this was a year that was tailor made for the Xbox One X (previously known as Project Scorpio) to steal the show. But it didn’t, because it can barely be considered as a new console.

 

It’s a powerhouse that is going to be curbed by its currently unbreakable link to the current Xbox One. New hardware is always more exciting than software. It’s what grabs the headlines. But, the One X in all of its teraflops couldn’t muster up the excitement. Instead, that spotlight was stolen by the anti-Xbox: the mascot of a company that has pushed back against an entire tech world that year after year tries to push power over substance. At the end of E3 2017, the “bigger, stronger, faster” mentality of the video game world was outshone by a plumber and his wonderful scene-stealing, body-snatching cap. “Super Mario Odyssey” was the star of E3 2017, and it wasn’t even close.

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arms

 

 

Nintendo’s game reveals never do the showcased game justice. First it was squids shooting ink all over a map in a multiplayer battle, and now cartoonish fighters with spring-loaded arms trying to punch each other into submission. These concepts don’t make the greatest first impression, but Nintendo knows their vision and knows that it’s going to be good. It’s so easy to snark on these ideas. That is, until you get them in your hands. Then it all makes sense.

 

Their newest potential franchise is called “Arms.” While “Splatoon” reinvented the shooter genre, “Arms” reinvents fighting games. Two fighters with arms of coils face off in an arena, jockeying for spacing and positioning to defeat their rival. It’s an original and zany idea that somehow works so well in Nintendo’s first attempt.

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UltraSF2

 

How many times has “Street Fighter 2” been ported, improved, revamped and re-released over the years? If you count every arcade cabinet and console release the game has had from 1991 until now, it’s well over 20 times. Surprisingly, this is reasonable for the game that rightly became the standard in which all fighting games are measured.

 

If the Nintendo Switch version’s title is any indication, this will be the last time “Street Fighter 2” is revamped, but I wouldn’t bet on it. “Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers” brings the fighting game that has been playable everywhere to Nintendo’s new home console / mobile platform hybrid. Capcom has added some new features that can only be found on the Switch, but it’s still the same “Street Fighter 2” that players have come to expect.

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MK8Deluxe

 

It’s been nearly three years since “Mario Kart 8” graced the now-defunct Nintendo Wii U. The game advanced the beloved racing series with some new tracks and a nice layer of graphical polish, but it lacked legitimate substance until downloadable content added it months after its launch. Now, Nintendo is taking the game for a victory lap on the new Nintendo Switch. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is what “Mario Kart 8” should’ve been in the first place.

Published in The Game Guy