It’s that time of year diehard Nintendo fans call “January,” when we know the least about the rest of the year despite it also being when we want to know about it the most. So then us fans all get together and make unreasonable guesses about what the rest of the year might look like, but ultimately, nobody guesses correctly outside of an anonymous 4chan poster. So, that’s the time of the year it is. “January.” It’s both a testament to the endurance of the human spirit and the power of imagination, as well as a masturbatory exercise in self-loathing. Happy January, everyone!
Below is my list of things that will happen this year, minus the collapse of the natural world and the rise of the New World Order. These month-by-month predictions are separated into Main Attraction (announced or rumored big thing that will definitely happen), Backup (announced or rumored smaller things that will definitely happen), and Wild Card (unannounced thing of varying size that may not but probably still will definitely happen). They should be roughly as accurate as last year’s predictions. Happy future, everyone!
Main Attraction: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
EZPZ. This game has already been announced for a worldwide launch on January 11.
Backup: Travis Strikes Again, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, PIranha Plant
Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story will launch alongside New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on January 11 while Travis Strikes Again drops exactly one week later. Smash’s Piranha Plant DLC will be the only first-party surprise of the month, and it will drop January 25 to keep those Friday specials rolling.
Wild Card: Mother Trilogy
Unless we also get Mother Trilogy, because this is the year. I… can… feel… it… About as much as I felt it last year and the year before that. But this year I say we’re getting the whole trilogy instead of just Mother 3 because when you shoot for the moon you land among Mothers.
Main Attraction: Metroid Prime Trilogy
Although technically unannounced, a Metroid Prime Trilogy port was heavily rumored by so-called industry insiders in late 2018 and, like last year’s Bayonetta collection (which was also released in February) did for Bayonetta 3, this would stoke the hype flames around Metroid Prime 4. It just makes too much sense…which, given Nintendo, means this may not happen after all.
Backup: Untitled Goose Game, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Wonderful 101 Port
Untitled Goose Game doesn’t have a release date, but if they’re willing to release it untitled why wouldn’t they release it otherwise unfinished, if need be? Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles also doesn’t have a release date, but it will be the first of many FFs to release next year because it’s the one people want least. Finally, a Wonderful 101 port will support the as-yet-unannounced Wonderful 102 coming exclusively to Switch next year.
Wild Card: Switch Fit
In a stubborn attempt to prove they are not just a games company, Nintendo will release a revamped version of their old “quality of life initiative” called Switch Fit. It will focus on both physical and mental health and be sort of a hybrid Wii Fit/Brain Age for the fitbit generation. Nintendo will also strike a deal with the federal government to subsidize the cost of the game for anyone covered by Obamacare. Or we might just get Pikmin 3 HD.
Main Attraction: Animal Crossing
Animal Crossing will launch in March to help Nintendo sell 20 million Switches by the end of the fiscal year. It will manage to just barely meet that goal, and it will clearly be thanks to Animal Crossing. The game will feature increased connectivity between towns and feature a wide variety of mini-games, both of which will be used to push Nintendo Switch Online. In a shocking turn of events, it will not receive a subtitle.
Backup: Mario Kart Tour, Resident Evil
Mario Kart Tour will release as a surprisingly robust experience and will even feature an online multiplayer mode that will become a series staple. Still, fans will clamor for a true follow-up to Mario Kart 8, since many of the tracks will be dumbed-down versions of classic courses. Resident Evil will also release as a perfect “adult” complement to Animal Crossing.
Wild Card: Point-and-Shoot Gallery
Announced in the January Direct, Point-and-Shoot Gallery will drop on the eShop in March. It’ll be a mash-up of past Nintendo “shooters” Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, and Link’s Crossbow Training, and will feature a new Nintendo-fied Time Crisis-like adventure mode. It will be the first in a loosely affiliated series of “gimmick” games that take advantage of the unique properties of the Joy-Cons.
Main Attraction: Yoshi’s Crafted World
In honor of cute baby animals, metaphorical rebirth, and incoming allergies, Yoshi’s Crafted World will drop shortly after the start of Spring. It will be shockingly good and the first game in the series to fully step out of the original’s shadow by thoroughly exploring the stage-flipping mechanic. It will be the highest-selling Yoshi game to date by a significant margin.
Backup: Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy Forever, Mortal Kombat 11, FFVII, Skyward Sword HD
As announced, indie darling Shovel Knight: King of Cards will launch April 9 followed by Super Meat Boy Forever later in the month and Mortal Kombat 11 on April 23. Final Fantasy VII will also drop to massive sales, as will Skyward Sword HD, which will make several quality of life improvements to the original game including multiple control schemes.
Wild Card: WarioWare: Shake and Bake, Joker
WarioWare: Shake and Bake will launch on 4/20 as Labo did last year. Its main mode will be a fairly typical onslaught of micro-games that dive into the limitless possibilities of the Joy-Con. It will also feature an unexpectedly deep culinary side mode called Cooking Wawa. Finally, Persona 5 R will release with the Joker Smash DLC on the same day.
Main Attraction: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses will launch with a bevy of new tedious army-related mechanics. While the core gameplay will be as strong as ever, the story will be less ambitious than anticipated and those new army mechanics will make high-difficulty playthroughs an unfortunate slog. Some people will be disappointed by the game’s waifus while others swoon over them. None of those people will feel ashamed.
Backup: Team Sonic Racing
Team Sonic Racing will be pretty good, but most cart racing fans will be playing Mario Kart Tour or waiting for Crash Team Racing. Someone’s “Gotta go last”!
Wild Card: Super Mario 64 Deluxe Ultra Remix for Switch
This game will basically be Super Mario 64 in HD, but it will also include eleven of the levels cut from the original refurbished for the modern player’s palette. Players will be able to turn off and on many of Odyssey’s conveniences, such as not having to exit a level after nabbing a star, and some of the game’s signature speedrun glitches will be intentionally retained. Its absurd name will be proof that even though Nintendo is in the midst of a stellar rebranding, they are still Nintendo.
Main Attraction: Daemon X Machina
Daemon X Machina will be an underwhelming mech shooter game that gains a cult following and eventually a much-improved sequel that Nintendo plays a greater role in developing. It will be short and unpolished, but it will sell relatively well since the Switch is lacking in mechs.
Backup: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, Final Fantasy IX, Resident Evil 0
Fans of each series will be happy to see these games on Switch, though other games in their series or genres will outshine them by year’s end.
Wild Card: Mario Golf Mobile, Overwatch, Tracer, Paper Mario: Planet Peach
We will get the Mario Golf game we all want but not on the platform we want it on. It will, however, feature RPG mechanics that blow Mario Tennis Aces out of the water and will eventually tie into Mario Golf Hole-in-One releasing for Switch in early 2020. We will also get an Overwatch port on Switch and Tracer as a Smash DLC character the same day. Finally, Paper Mario: Planet Peach will be a return to form for the series, but will have players play as Paper Peach scouring the galaxy for Mario. It will make use of some of the clever gameplay concepts introduced in the 2005 DS game Super Princess Peach and it will be hilarious. During chapter interludes, the player will play as Mario, who is being held hostage on Planet Peach by the one and only Bowsette.
Main Attraction: Town
The headliner for this month is the upcoming JRPG from GameFreak, Town. Though its world is small in scope, the game will be lengthy and strategically deep. Much like Octopath Traveler, which was July’s headliner in 2018, Town’s uniquely limiting structure will be its greatest shortcoming as well as one of its greatest strengths.
Backup: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
July’s backup will be Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the long-awaited crowdfunded Igavania. Although some early builds received mixed reception, the final game will rival Symphony of the Night and will feature a surprise not unlike Symphony’s inverted castle.
Wild Card: Endless Ocean: End of Days, Pikmin 4
Endless Ocean: End of Days will mark a return for the Endless Ocean franchise, though it will blend elements of survival horror into the core oceanic exploration experience. Nintendo’s riff off Subnautica will be even more terrifying since it will be built around the real-life horror of climate change and take place across rapidly dying seascapes such as coral reefs and the Arctic Sea. The final boss will be Dick Cheney riding an oily, deformed Leviathan. Or we might just get Pikmin 4.
Main Attraction: Shin Megami Tensei V, Dragon Quest XI
July won’t be the only month headlined by JRPGs. This month, we will get DQXI and SMTV, each with meddling Switch-exclusive content. Neither will sell well outside of Japan, where they will sell like the hottest of cakes.
Backup: Dragon Quest Builders 2, Final Fantasy X/X-2
Doubling down on JRPGs with re-releases and spin-offs, August will also see the launches of Dragon Quest Builders 2 and FFX/X-2. Playing FFX on the Switch will be great, but the biggest surprise will be Dragon Quest Builders 2, which for many will be a surprise game of the year candidate.
Wild Card: Tomodachi Life 2: Also End of Days, The Witcher 3: Breath of the Wild Hunt, Geralt of Rivia
Tomodachi Life 2: Also End of Days will be at once a fanciful life sim as well as sardonic social commentary on our global culture’s erosion of privacy and self-obsessive descent into a technocratic hellscape. The final boss will be Mark Zuckerberg riding his own arrogance. Though he won’t be much of a threat on his own, he will be flanked by his faithful Siberian Husky summon, StockDrop. It will be developed by Ubisoft and there will be Far Cry 5 hats. We will also get The Witcher 3: Breath of the Wild Hunt, which will be identical to the original The Witcher 3 except Geralt will be able to climb some things. Geralt will simultaneously release as a DLC character in Smash, where he will also be able to climb some things.
Main Attraction: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order will be enjoyable in co-op but most will wonder why it didn’t release alongside Avengers: Endgame in April. And the answer is something that has to do with the MCU that I can foresee but do not understand since I don’t care about it. But just you Marvel fanatics wait and see!
Backup: Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn
In this surprisingly lackluster month, a 3DS port is happy to play second fiddle. It’ll be Kirby’s Epic Yarn with a little something Extra, and the world will be ever-so-slightly better off for it.
Wild Card: Unmapped
In September, Retro will reveal that they have spent the past five years BBQ-ing up a generic single-player third-person action game with a supposedly mature by-the-numbers narrative. It will be Nintendo’s take on Sony’s brand of action-adventure games such as Uncharted, The Last of Us, God of War, and Horizon: Zero Dawn (which true blue Nintendo fans know are actually all the same game passed through different visual filters). Everyone will call it a masterpiece and it will be a game of the year contender, but by 2023 it will be widely regarded as Retro’s worst game and people will clamor for more Donkey Kong. Then when the Switch Classic Edition is released in 2034, it will include Star Fox Grand Prix, which Retro’s secret B team finished but never released due to Starlink’s shoddy sales.
Main Attraction: Luigi’s Mansion 3
Despite seeming a bit too on-the-nose, the second sequel to Luigi’s Mansion will launch in October to capitalize on Halloween. And if by some fluke it launches earlier in the year, it will receive seasonal DLC in October. Either way, it will feature one giant hotel-mansion with a massive outdoor area including a swimming pool Luigi can awkwardly dive off of. It will also feature some unique ghost-catching mechanics, but its biggest draw will be its couch/online multiplayer, which will use the same map as the single player campaign but alter the location and difficulty of enemies. Both in and out of this co-op mode, players can play as Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad, and there will also be a Nintendoland-influenced battle mode where players can play as ghosts.
Backup: Resident Evil 4
Pssshhh… “Backup.” GOAT!
Wild Card: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Dreams, Leon Kennedy
When announced at E3, A Link Between Dreams will initially appear to be a direct sequel to the Game Boy classic Link’s Awakening. But upon release players will discover first-hand that it actually takes place during Link’s century-long slumber that he awakens from at the very start of Breath of the Wild. Taking place in Link’s subconscious after the three timelines have merged will make A Link Between Dreams the most surreal and unpredictable Zelda to date. In keeping with this merged timeline subconscious theme, it will combine and twist overworlds, dungeons, characters, and items from throughout the franchise. We will also get Leon Kennedy and Ashley as an Ice-Climber-like duo in Smash. Leon will be a formidable and sassy opponent, but also-sassy Ashley will take double damage and the player will lose a life whenever either of them dies. Fortunately, Leon’s down B will conjure a dumpster in which Ashley can take refuge.
Main Attraction: Pokemon: Wild and Tame
Wild and Tame will release in mid-November and be billed as the must-have Switch title of the year. It will be a fairly typical “core” Pokemon game, but will borrow several quality of life improvements from Let’s Go, including the elimination of random battles. It will also introduce a new “catchability” meter that determines how easy it is to catch an individual Pokemon based on its personal history. It won’t get as many new Pokemon as an average gen, but will feature many more variants of the original 151 a la Pokemon Sun and Moon, some of which will include particularly wild or dolled-up versions to fit the games’ central theme.
Backup: DOOM: Eternal, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
This trio will be the month’s major third-party headliners and will sate gamers too “mature” for adorable pocket-able monsters (though are such gamers ever truly sated?).
Wild Card: Mario Kart 9
Mario Kart 9 will supplement Pokemon for a no-holes-barred Black Friday banger. It will feature integration with Mario Kart Tour, a limited and disappointing track editor, a huge variety of playable characters, an adventure mode, and a reworked battle mode. Much as the graphic of “8” in MK8’s title showcased anti-grav, the graphic of “9” in MK9 will be a tribute to its hyper-fast sections of tracks, where players race at 250cc and their vehicles become hazardous to touch, as in F-Zero. Its Blue Shell will be terribly imbalanced.
Main Attraction: Bayonetta 3
Although no official release date has been given for Bayonetta 3, a December release would give it a holiday time slot that the similarly niche Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had in 2017 to supplement the broader appeal of Pokemon: Wild and Tame. Like Smash in 2018, it will launch the day of The Game Awards, where DLC for the game will be announced.
Backup: Super Mario 3D World Port, Star Fox Grand Prix, or Metroid Prime 4
We may get Metroid Prime 4 instead of Bayonetta 3, though Bayo is more likely. If we get Metroid, it will have a mission-based structure, take place on one world that builds off the original Prime’s Tallon IV, and feature several new abilities while also removing some introduced in Metroid Prime 2 and 3. Sylux will appear to be the main villain, but the end game will reveal Ridley, Kraid, and Grandmother Brain were pulling the strings. Whether we get Bayo or Metroid, we will also get either a Super Mario 3D World port or the long-rumored Star Fox Grand Prix to appeal to a wider audience. Nintendo will more or less have to go this hard to meet their fiscal year sales goal of 30 million.
Wild Card: Chrono Resurrection, Chrono
Also at The Game Awards, we will get the surprise announcement and day-and-date drop of the final Smash DLC character: Chrono. The third game in the storied Chrono franchise, Chrono Resurrection, will also be announced as a Switch exclusive, and will take place in between Trigger and Cross.
And then you will faintly hear a voice murmur “open your eyes.” And then the real you will awaken to the sight of Reggie standing over you wearing a Sigmund Freud pin, unto a world in which none of these magnificent predictions came true, for the real world cannot contain such untempered glory.
‘Bee Simulator’ Review: Pleasantly Droning On
Unless a typical bee’s day involves a lot of clunky wasp fights, high-speed chases, and dancing for directions, it’s doubtful many players will walk away from Bee Simulator feeling like they’ve really been given a glimpse into the apian way of life. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical pollen collecting and human annoying here, but odd tasks like hauling glowing mushrooms for ants, helping baby squirrels find their mom, and stinging some little brat who’s stomping all your flowers (hopefully he doesn’t have an allergy) are also on the agenda. That’s not exactly keepin’ it real, but regardless, the variety is actually more simple and less silly than it sounds; it turns out that even doing weird bee stuff quickly becomes repetitive. Still, this family-friendly look at a bug’s life is bolstered by a sincere love of nature, as well as some smooth flight mechanics and a surprisingly large open world for younger gamers to explore.
Set in a Central Park-like expanse, Bee Simulator definitely takes on a more edutainment vibe right off the bat (Goat Simulator this ain’t) with a prologue that offers up some info on the ecological importance of bees to the planet. That protective attitude is a constant throughout the game’s short campaign and side quests, as the well-being of these hive heroes is constantly under threat by those goonish wasps, the bitter cold of winter, and of course, oblivious humans. Players take control of a newly hatched worker bee (sorry, drone lovers) who dreams of a role more important than being relegated to merely buzzing by flowers, and consequently sets out to save the day. However, these crises are portrayed in the thinnest terms possible, resolved quickly, and summarily forgotten, leaving little of narrative interest.
So then, it’s up to the gameplay to keep players engaged, and in this area Bee Simulator is a bit of a mixed bag. On the good side, flying works really well, and gives a nice sense of scale to being a little bee in the great, big world. Winging it close to the ground offers a zippy sense of speed, as flowers and blades of grass rush by in colorful streaks. A rise in elevation makes travel seem slower, but provides a fantastic view of the park, showcasing a lakeside boathouse,a zoo filled with exotic creatures, as well as various restaurants, playgrounds, picnics, pedestrians, and street vendors scattered about. Precision is rarely a must outside chases that require threading through glowing rings (a tired flying sim staple) or navigating nooks and crannies, but the multi-axis controls are pretty much up to the task, and make getting around a pleasure.
However, that sense of flowing freedom doesn’t quite apply to the limited list of other activities. Though the world is large, the amount of different ways to interact with it is very small, revolving around a few basic concepts: fighting, racing, dancing, retrieving, and collecting. And with the exception of the latter, these actions can only be performed at specifically marked spots that initiate the challenge; most of Bee Simulator exists purely for the view. It’s somewhat understandable in its predictability — how many different things can a bee actually do, after all? — but the gameplay is still a bit disappointing in its shallowness. Fighting plays out like a turn-based rhythm mini-game, those aforementioned races follow uninspired routes, dancing is simply a short bout of Simon, and collecting pollen employs a ‘bee vision’ that does nothing more than verify that players know their colors.
It’s very basic stuff that can’t really sustain motivation for those used to more creativity. The roughly 3-hour campaign seems to support this idea; Bee Simulator knows it doesn’t have much going on for veteran gamers. However, as a visual playground for younger kids to fly around in, free from any real danger, there is something a bit magical about the world presented. There are loads of little vignettes to happen upon, such as a family BBQ, a small amusement park, and a bustling kitchen. What exactly are those lonely row-boaters thinking about out on the lake by themselves? Where is the flower lady going in such a hurry? Discovering new places — like a lush, sprawling terrarium — creates the impression of a massive world with plenty going on regardless of whether the player sees it or not, and can serve to spark the imagination.
In addition to racking up that pollen for the winter, info on various flora and fauna can also be be collected and stored in the hive’s library, where 3-D models can also be purchased with ‘knowledge’ points earned through completing quests. These texts detail some interesting facts about brave bees and their relation to the environment, and can definitely be a fun teaching tool for wee gamers.
Grizzled fans of the open-world genre may want to buzz clear, however, as well as those hoping for some zaniness. Though Bee Simulator offers some solid soaring in an attractive environment, it’s a sincere, straightforward attempt to promote bee kind that doesn’t offer much more than a relaxing atmosphere and repetitive actions.
20 Years Later: ‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Took the Franchise’s Next Evolutionary Step
The legacy of Johto lives on in what was Game Freak’s next evolutionary step in the world of Pokémon.
Two regions to explore, 16 gym badges to collect, two Elite Four runs to conquer, a battle tower to climb, a previous champion to best at your own game, and 251 pocket monsters to capture. There is no denying that the Johto region of Pokémon Gold and Silver had- and still may contain- the most amount of content to dig into for any player when it comes to everything outside of filling up all the entries of Sword and Shield’s Pokédex.
Pokémon Gold and Silver released in Japan 20 years ago today on November 21st, 1999. The Johto region still stands as not only one of the most renowned Pokémon games in the franchise but a contender for one of the top Game Boy and Game Boy Color games to be released on the handheld systems. No matter which entry is your favorite, there is no denying that Pokémon Gold and Silver was the next evolutionary step on Game Freak’s stairway to fame in what is now currently the largest franchise in history.
A Daunting Next Step
Pokémon Gold and Silver’s development was greenlit immediately after Red and Green had launched in Japan. The untitled sequels at the time were slated for release for the holiday season of 1998. However, during this time frame, Game Freak had also been working on a multitude of Pokémon projects including the Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Stadium and a rebranded companion version to Red that would replace Green for the overseas release of the games. The majority of the small staff team of programmers had already been occupied once the development of Gold and Silver truly began.
What was originally intended to be one year of development slowly turned into three and a half due to a lack of on-hand resources and major programming difficulties that inevitably delayed what was to be the company’s most ambitious release yet. Game Freak found themselves in a troubling situation as the independent company had to balance out time for overseeing the entire Pokémon brand that had expanded into an anime, cards, toys, and even soon to be movies. The worldwide phenomenon was continuing to expand faster than Game Freak could keep up with.
Late into Gold and Silver’s development, Game Freak’s team of programmers called upon star-man of the industry Satoru Iwata as the developers were having trouble with various coding bugs and fitting all the game assets onto the small memory storage of the Game Boy’s cartridges. Iwata stepped in immediately and saved yet another second-party Nintendo project from disaster. At the beginning of Gold and Silver’s development, Iwata had single-handedly recreated the entire battle system code for Pokémon Stadium by just simply playing the games and analyzing some internal coding. Iwata’s trustworthy knowledge instantly skyrocketed him to become one of the company’s most valuable informants. Nintendo’s future president returned to his all-star team of programmers working at HAL Laboratory to create graphical compression tools for Game Freak to use. This allowed the company to combine both the Johto and Kanto regions onto a single 1-megabyte Game Boy cartridge and meet their latest home territory release deadline.
The Next Phase of Evolution
Gold and Silver continued to build off of Red and Green by introducing the next region in the Pokémon world that would naturally set trends for the series going forward. One of these trends was the reoccurring introduction of a new region inspired by a different area of the world for each game.
Johto was the western half of a landmass shared by the previous game’s location. While Kanto had been based on the Kantō region of Honshu, Japan, the nearby Kansai region would become Johto’s core source of inspiration for its landscape as seen through not only its general location on the map but its architectural features. For example, the sharp shapings of rooftops and gateway entrances to towns known as torii are littered everywhere throughout Johto; some of Kansai’s most common building aesthetics.
Gold and Silver gained several new features that would ultimately become some of the most crucial and missed aspects of the mainline games. For starters, one important new feature that would solidify its place in future entries was the inclusion of a real-time clock. Multiple in-game events, visuals, and even Pokémon variety in the wild areas would alter depending on the time and day of the week. For example, the psychic owl species of Pokémon, Hoothoot and Noctowl, would only appear in the wild starting in the late afternoon. Eevee could only evolve into Umbreon at night, while the Bug Catching Contest was exclusively available at certain hours on weekdays.
Suicune, Entei, and Raikou became the first trio of legendary creatures to start what is now known as “roaming Pokémon.” Rather than traditionally entering a dungeon-like area, players would randomly encounter these three minor legendaries in the wild grass areas of the game after they had witnessed them book it from the Burned Tower of Ecruteak City during the story. When in battle, the Pokémon will attempt to flee immediately on its first turn. If any of the three are killed in battle, the beast will never be able to appear again on your save file.
The competitive scene for the series would begin to take its modern shape because of the introduction of both breeding and the move deleter. Breeding opened a new floodgate of multiplayer strategies by allowing specific Pokémon to obtain moves they would naturally not be able to learn through technical machines and evolution. Meanwhile, the move deleter finally allowed Pokémon to be rid of their HM moves that previously could not be overwritten, allowing players to freshly design their move-sets at any given time.
The most notable feature, however, would never see a return in a future game. Being able to journey across two different regions is by far Gold and Silver’s most proclaimed component. As stated before, Kanto and Johto share an extremely close geographical connection. Because of this, players can explore the entirety of Kanto after defeating the elite four- more than doubling the amount of content the game had to offer. Outside of the Johto games, this feature has never once returned to another Pokémon game.
The Legacy of Johto Lives On
At the time of its release, Gold and Silver received a highly positive reception from both audiences and critics. The most notable features praised by critics in reviews were the inclusions of more mechanics and typings that deepened the battle system along with the designs of the lineup of new Pokémon receiving all-around praise. During its lifetime on store shelves, the two versions nearly recreated the success of their predecessors as both combined with the sales of their later third enhanced entry Pokémon Crystal sold a total of 23 million copies. Today, Pokémon Gold and Silver are still regarded as some of the best Pokémon games, but not in their original form.
In 2010, trainers had the opportunity to return to the Johto region for the third time in the tenth anniversary generation two remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver for the Nintendo DS. Following in the footsteps of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, the generation two remakes not only attempted to streamline and fix the problems found in the original Game Boy entries of the series but they added a hefty new amount of content for both retuning veterans and newcomers on top of a gorgeous graphical overhaul.
Building off of the engine used for Pokémon Platinum, the enhanced remakes envisioned what is arguably the greatest interpretation yet of the Johto region by continuing to build off what the other DS games had already successfully established. HeartGold and SoulSilver contained nearly every feature found in a Pokémon game up until that point. It sought to continually expand upon modernizing the series through making needed accessibility changes and improving on the Nintendo Wi-Fi connectivity abilities that Diamond and Pearl had a rather shaky start with. Several lost features from previous games outside of Gold and Silver even managed to return for the remake. The beloved idea of having an interactive Pokémon partner to journey around the world with from Yellow, for example, made a comeback but this time any Pokémon could follow you as long as they had been placed in the first party slot.
While still being one of the Nintendo DS’s most commercially successful games, HeartGold and SoulSilver were not able to reach half the amount of sales their original incarnations had achieved. However, the games have averaged the highest critical reception of any mainline Pokémon game released in the franchise. The game notably received spotlight due to its included pedometer accessory the Pokéwalker. The device allowed players to place one Pokémon in the device. As a player walks in real-life, their Pokémon could collect experience, find items, and even catch other creatures that could be transferred directly back into the game.
Today, the original versions of Gold and Silver can be purchased on the Nintendo 3DS Eshop alongside the first Pokémon games- Red and Blue- that had released on the original Game Boy. Alongside the original generation two games, its counterpart successor Pokémon Crystal can also be purchased currently on the Eshop. 3DS home screen themes (as depicted to the left) can also be obtained through gold and silver points through the MyNintendo website.
‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’: The Force is Strong in this One
A new hope…
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the more propulsive and joyous games released this year. The latest from Respawn Entertainment (the creators of Titanfall and Apex Legends) is sure to satisfy fans who have impatiently waited almost a decade for a single-player action-adventure Star Wars game, and one that is actually good. In fact, Fallen Order is better than good— it’s great and worthy of standing side by side with the best Star Wars games ever made. Save for an incredibly bland protagonist, Fallen Order delivers what any fan could hope for.
We’ve been waiting a long time for a good single-player Star Wars game and thankfully Respawn has come through with a narrative-driven adventure that calls to mind the best of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls and even God of War while also embedding itself in official universe canon. If that isn’t enough, Jedi: Fallen Order drops you into Metroidvania style environments and features incredibly tough boss battles and a skill tree that lets you unlock tons of new abilities by accumulating experience and skill points. Jedi: Fallen Order is an ambitious game, to say the least. It features the fast-paced action the developers have become famous for and while the result isn’t groundbreaking (nor original), it’s a solid space opera spectacle with enough nostalgia to overpower even the most jaded gamer.
The story takes place sometime between Star Wars: A New Hope and Episode III, when most of the Jedi Order are either dead or missing in action. You assume control of Cal Kestis, a promising young Padawan in the Republic who following the events of Order 66 (which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jedi) was forced to abandon his training and seek a solitary life on the planet Bracca. In order to survive Darth Sidious’s purge of the Jedi Order, Cal removed himself from the Force, concealed his identity, and took on a job working for the Empire. Unfortunately for him, a squad of professional Jedi hunters led by Second Sister have tracked him down, leaving him with little choice but to fight back.
The Story is Canon
Fallen Order kicks off with a powerful and emotional sequence as Cal decides to risk his own life and try to save his friend. In doing so, Cal reveals himself to the Empire, setting in motion a cat-and-mouse chase that sees him team up with former Jedi Master Cere Junda and a Latero pilot named Greez Dritus. Armed with Jedi powers, a lightsaber and the trusty aid of BD1 (a droid designed to assist with exploration in remote and dangerous locations), Cal blasts his way through hyperspace discovering ancient tombs, freeing Wookie slaves, hijacking an AT-AT and basically fighting the Imperial Army.
Jedi: Fallen Order is a step forward for the franchise – an exhilarating ride, filled with exciting battles, non-stop action, soaring emotions, and performances that can be described as legitimately good, rather than just good, for a video game. It’s also a rousing introduction to new characters who will likely carry this world forward (I expect a sequel or two). There’s seriously a solid story here and one that adheres to the spirit and tone of the Star Wars universe. The supporting players, for example, are all great. Cal’s droid, BD-1, is particularly captivating, and the game does an admirable job of building up Cal’s friendship with the droid in both the cinematic cutscenes and in the actual gameplay.
Story-wise, BD-1 is crucial to the plot since the droid is entrusted to guide Cal on a dangerous mission assigned by Master Cordova who left behind a list of the missing Jedi children who he believes will one day restore the Jedi Order and defeat the evil Empire. Without BD, there is no adventure. With the help of the droid, however, Cal is able to travel to various planets and discover and unlock important messages and clues left behind by Cordova. Aside from guiding Cal across various planets, BD-1 also serves several support functions in gameplay. He can function as a zipline, hack certain droid enemies, unlock doors, project holographic maps and even provide Cal with “stims” that allow him to heal himself during combat— something you definitely need since a number of gameplay mechanics are lifted from the Soulsborne genre; in other words, the game can be hard.
Truth be told, the first few hours of Fallen Order are a bit generic as players are slowly introduced to the world, but it doesn’t take long before the game starts to shine thanks to the relationships Cal forms with his colleagues who he meets along the way. Jedi: Fallen Order is a story of rebellion and finding hope, but it’s also a story of friendship and braving adversity and the game really excels by investing in the interpersonal dynamics of its entire cast, and not just the good guys but the villains as well. BD-1 is without a doubt the scene-stealer as he certainly adds some much-needed levity to the journey, but every character serves an important role (big or small) in moving the story forward. Of the entire cast, I have to make mention of Actress Debra Wilson who does a superb job in her motion-capture performance as Cere, a warrior who is wounded and haunted by her past. She is the moral center and becomes Cal’s mentor as they desperately try and survive in a world that seems entirely devoid of any hope. As the plot unfolds, Cere relives her darkest moments and confronts the mistakes of her past. In these scenes, Debra Wilson shines so brightly, you’d be forgiven for thinking she deserves an Oscar.
Jedi: Fallen Order is a fun, polished space odyssey that embraces the appeal of the Star Wars universe.
Given that Respawn Entertainment worked closely with Lucasfilm, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jedi: Fallen Order is officially part of the Star Wars lore. And despite operating in the shadow of the immensely popular series, it understands this and hardwires that understanding into its own DNA. And like the best Star Wars games, it borrows ideas from the films (and other reading material) while inserting flashbacks to flesh out the heroes and the conflict at hand. It certainly helps that the latest game in the canon explores new characters and new corners of the galaxy while remaining faithful to the core themes of the franchise and even if some of these storylines seem recycled from past stories, the new additions and the central mystery keeps the story engaging from start to finish. And while this story is much smaller in scale than the blockbuster movies, Jedi: Fallen Order raises the stakes in every chapter thanks to the omnipresent threat of the Inquisitors hunting Cal, who always seem like they’re one step away from closing in on the kill. And if you know anything about the future of the Star Wars universe, you know that Cal’s future isn’t looking too bright. All in all, the team at Respawn did an incredible job of exploring and expanding the universe of Star Wars, especially considering the dark time in which this story takes place.
It’s clear when playing Fallen Order that the team was interested in creating a more nuanced, character-driven tale and in order to achieve that goal, they carefully crafted a story that weaves the player’s actions and interactions into Cal’s evolving journey. What we have here is a coming of age tale which sees Cal growing as a person while strengthening his relationship with the Force. Unfortunately, Cal Kestis is also somewhat of a dull protagonist. Sure, he has a tragic past (who doesn’t in this universe) but he’s also a blank slate, predictable and devoid of layers. Given that the story takes place after the Great Jedi Purge, you’d figure the writers could have used that trauma to create a far more complex character and inject Cal with a bit more life— a bit more personality— and/or a bit more fight; instead, he’s just a quiet, brooding loner. In the end, it feels like a missed opportunity, especially since actor Cameron Monaghan, who plays both the younger and older Cal, delivers the best performance he could with the writing he was given. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination but Cal is surprisingly the only disappointing factor of the game.
Jedi: Fallen Order’s best quality is exploration. What at first seems like a standard linear experience quickly reveals itself to be so much more. Levels are immense with plenty of shortcuts to unlock and puzzles to solve— and to help you navigate, Cal is given a handy 3D map that highlights which areas you can and cannot yet pass. Much of the game is spent exploring and it helps that each planet feels distinct and features various set pieces that liven up the proceedings. Although you do spend some time backtracking through these environments, it never becomes tedious as most areas are filled with tons of secrets such as new outfits for Cal to wear and additional stim canisters, which become valuable when facing off against a dangerous foe. As the level design quickly opens up, Cal gains new abilities that allow him to run along walls, jump higher and push and pull large objects that help him navigate through the treacherous ground.
Jedi: Fallen Order Kicked My Ass
The combat in Fallen Order which has frequently been compared to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is easily the biggest surprise. Fighting relies heavily on blocking and carefully timed parries and the decision to make combat more focused on defensive strategy heightens the spectacle as well as the flow and pacing of the game. Jedi: Fallen Order requires patience and relies less on mindlessly button spamming and more on strategic mastery. You have to look at your surroundings, understand your enemies and identify their strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about timing, and exchanging lightsaber blows during riveting boss encounters is incredibly satisfying. And it’s not just with the boss battles either; even encounters with regular stormtroopers and alien creatures take precision and care, each battle becoming a ballet of blocks and dodges as you patiently wait for an opening to attack so you can inflict more damage. Playing in the Jedi Master mode is tough and I do mean tough. Jedi Grandmaster seems downright impossible, at least for me. You’ll die. And then you’ll die again; rinse and repeat. And did I mention that when you do die, you lose whatever XP you’ve gathered toward skill points and have to return to defeat whoever killed you in order to reclaim it. Fans of the Dark Souls series will love it; for the rest of us, you can always dial down the difficulty setting because unlike those From Software games, you do have a choice over which difficulty you want to play. Whether you’re an action game veteran or a casual Star Wars fan, the game has four difficulty modes that should accommodate everyone. That said, if you’re familiar with action games, I highly recommend Jedi Master for your first run; Story Mode and Jedi Knight are too easy and don’t provide enough of a challenge.
Jedi: Fallen Order may not receive points for originality, but Fallen Order is still one of the most entertaining games of the year.
Jedi: Fallen Order feels like a direct response by EA to its fans who’ve been very vocal about their disappointment with the company’s previous Star Wars games. Or maybe EA was just trying to please Disney who has made it clear they have no issue in parting ways with collaborators who don’t deliver quality products. Whatever the case, EA was wise to hand over the license to Respawn Entertainment who’ve proven they have a real talent for making spectacular single-player action/adventure games. In spite of some minor performance issues, Fallen Order does exactly what it set out to do. Not only does it feel like a genuine Star Wars game but it pumps new energy and life into the franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions. Fallen Order is great. Not groundbreaking. But one of the very best games of 2019 and one of the best Star Wars games ever made.
Jedi: Fallen Order re-awoke my love of Star Wars video games and turned my inner fanboy into my outer fanboy. Here’s hoping they make a sequel.
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