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Joy-Conspiracy Theory: From NES Classic Edition to the Switch

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Before its announcement, codename NX, the Nintendo Switch was one of the most eagerly awaited pieces of hardware in recent memory. The rumor mill was turning out countless theories as to what the console would be, the media was in a frenzy constructing click-bait articles, and everyone and their mom was waiting to see what the next Nintendo console, the one that in their eyes would truly make or break Nintendo for real this time, not like the Wii U, or the Wii, or the DS, or the GameCube, or the N64, or any of the other consoles that the public thought was heralding the end of Nintendo.  Nevermind that the Wii U, if underselling, was turning a profit and Nintendo owned the portable console market with the sensationally successful 3DS.  Fans and haters alike waited with baited breath to see what Nintendo’s next project would be.  And then, when everyone was anxiously awaiting any information on NX, Nintendo did something unexpected…they took to social media and announced the NES Classic Edition.

No one saw this coming last July, and the internet was bubbling with anticipation.  With a scheduled release date of November 11, it was slated to be the perfect holiday gift.  Between the NES Mini’s announcement and release, the Switch finally emerged from the shadows, at least in part, and once more the internet was manic.  Then, continuing our journey through time until the present, November 11, 2016 finally rolled around and no one was able to get their hands on the new NES.  It seemed like Nintendo had only shipped five worldwide, and Target, Walmart, and GameStop were only getting measly unit counts under ten, or, in more cases, under five, with each progressive shipment.  Questions arose and still persist: did Nintendo not anticipate how popular the product would be?  Were their resources too divided amongst existing products, the upcoming Switch, and this surprise project?  Or was Nintendo nefariously under stocking for the sake of building publicity and artificial demand for a product resulting in the unceasing buzz around the console, not unlike some people’s claims about early Amiibo sales?  Put your tinfoil hats on because the truth is far more odious…Nintendodious…

Nintendo used the NES Classic Edition as bait when in reality it was fishing for something much larger, Nintendo Switch adopters.  By intentionally sacrificing sales of a smaller project priced at only $60, couldn’t Nintendo drive preorders for the Switch?  I know, it sounds scandalous, ludicrous, ridiculous, but look at all the evidence.  Before the NES mini launched, Nintendo revealed the Switch.  Then, the NES Classic is impossible to come by all through the consumeristic holidays.  Days after winter break, the NES Mini still evasive as ever, the Nintendo Switch presentation reveals the price and release date of the console and preorders go live, at least in North America.  What’ll be truly telling is once the initial waves of Switch consoles have sold if NES Classic Editions start showing up on shelves, once the Switch sales inevitably slow and the Big N has finished milking the initial hype all consoles generate upon release.  And if it does happen, it won’t be because Nintendo, having finished the monumental task of launching a console as well as shipping house developed games for said console, are suddenly more available to address other products and market issues.  Nor will it be because Nintendo doesn’t want a smaller project to interfere with potential sales of a larger venture, oh no, it will be because they’re market masterminds and there’s more money to be made.  The audacity, a business wanting money!

I’m totally kidding with all of this (or am I!?!?!), but the Switch’s upcoming arrival on the market leaves a lot of questions about how Nintendo will proceed with other projects, namely the NES Classic, potential future “Classics” label products, and the portable market.  Beginning with the NES Mini, can Nintendo afford to adequately stock the still red hot retro console when its sales might obstruct Switch sales with the console launch under two months away?  Nintendo couldn’t have developed the Classics label for the NES Classic alone, so when would be the ideal time to launch a second Classics product, perhaps the SNES Classic Edition?  Hopefully, Nintendo has considered this and has developed some reason to purchase both products or one over the other.  Perhaps if all of these titles are purchasable on the Switch for the same price or owners of the NES Mini can somehow re-obtain them on the Switch, allowing them to suddenly be played on the go and co-op to be performed with both Joy-Cons, the NES Classic won’t be a hindrance to the Nintendo Switch, but a supplement.  The same can be said of any future Classics project, which is hopefully in development.

In terms of the portable market, in an interview with Wired, NOA President Reggie Fils Aimé claimed the “3DS has a long life in front of it,” with many major games in development for the handheld.  He continued, “in our (Nintendo’s) view, the Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo Switch are going to live side-by-side.”  He reiterated that the Switch, while portable, is, at heart, a home console.  While that may be Nintendo’s intention, one doesn’t have to look further than the transition from the Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo DS to see a time when Nintendo presumed it was generating another pillar in its company, when, in reality, it was replacing one.  While Nintendo might not want to give the impression of exiting the home console market in favor of the portable, the Wii U did sell notably fewer units than any previous home console while the 3DS continues to own the portable market.  Is there a future where the Switch is rebranded as a portable console that you can play on your TV so Nintendo can continue to dominate that branch of gaming?  Hopefully, that’s never necessary and Nintendo can convey adequately to the consumer its vision for the Nintendo Switch.

While nothing is certain, in the past, Nintendo was probably overly modest over duplicitous when it came to projected sales, and presently the developer is probably in less jeopardy than the exaggerative public tends to believe; but undoubtedly the future of Nintendo is a fascinating one and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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Games

The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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