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How Nintendo Won E3 2017

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One of the biggest draws of E3 is the drama that unfolds between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. These companies grapple for consumer’s wallets every June, and only one can emerge victorious. This year, Nintendo unequivocally routed the competition. They offered compelling reasons to buy into the Switch now, set the system up for a brilliant 2018, and took advantage of relatively weak shows from their competition.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important to define what it means to “win E3”. While Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo indeed clash head-to-head, their goals are dramatically different. The key to winning E3 is doing the best job of achieving the goals you set out to do. 

With that being the criteria, you have to consider every company’s current objective. Microsoft set out to sell the Xbox One X, while the current leader Sony wants to show that the PlayStation brand remains superior. Nintendo sought to flesh out both the short term and long term vision for Switch and convince people that their console deserves the attention this holiday season.

Nintendo hit that goal easily by making the Switch’s software lineup the best on the market. Only the staunchest Nintendo hater could fail to see the console’s appeal. It’s 2017 release schedule may be the best yearly lineup I’ve ever seen. This holiday, players will be able to experience Super Mario Odyssey, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Pokken Tournament DX, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. That’s not even mentioning one of the greatest games ever made, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, complete with two impressive DLC packs, and the classic Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Every single one of those games oozes quality, and Nintendo did a great job of showing them off.

Super Mario Odyssey stole the show, much like Breath of the Wild did last year. It’s another outside the box game from Nintendo that shakes up the Mario formula in a very Breath of the Wild-like way. Look no further than the delightful trailer for proof.

Seeing Mario jump out of a T-Rex?! Who could have seen that coming? Just about everyone who has gotten their hands on Odyssey at the show floor has come away with nothing but great things to say. The concept of Mario possessing enemies, giving players control of some iconic Bowser minions like Bullet Bill and even wild creatures like the T-Rex and a frog, opens up so many gameplay possibilities. The love that Nintendo pours into their first-party exclusives couldn’t be more apparent. From the return of classic characters like Pauline to the goofy new wedding planner bunny bosses… Mario Odyssey stood out in a sea of gritty shooters and CG trailers.

Having that ace-in-the-hole that neither Sony or Microsoft had pushed Nintendo over the top, but the rest of their 2017 roster was masterfully showcased at their Treehouse Live event. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 opened their digital spotlight, and it looks like another masterpiece from Monolith Soft. Fire Emblem Warriors won’t set the world on fire, but it has incredible appeal to modern Fire Emblem fans. Hyrule Warriors performed well on the Wii U, and it seems like Fire Emblem Warriors will offer slightly more strategy and varied gameplay.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle deserves the title “Best E3 Surprise”. We knew it was coming, but seeing it’s XCOM styled gameplay still shocked me. That game looks incredibly fun, reeks of charm, and clearly comes from a place of passion. Ubisoft looks like they’ve done the gaming icon justice, and that may be my second most anticipated 2017 Switch game. A fun little tournament featuring eSports and prominent YouTube personalities did a great job of selling the competitive world of Pokken Tournament DX, as did the Splatoon 2 and ARMS Invitationals. Third-party offerings like Fifa 2018, Skyrim, Rocket League, Sonic Mania, and Sonic Forces fill out the calendar with unique experiences as well.

This year couldn’t be better for Switch owners, and yet somehow it seems that 2018 may manage to top it! Metroid Prime 4’s release date wasn’t confirmed for 2018, and neither was the upcoming core Pokemon entry on Switch, but if both those games hit next year the entire gaming universe very well could explode from the hype. A new Yoshi game, with all the adorable charm you’d expect, also will arrive in 2018. Nintendo’s most underrated mascot, Kirby, will join in the fun as well in a co-op adventure that allows players to control some classic Kirby enemies like Knuckle Joe! That’s four major Nintendo franchises seeing new releases next year, five counting the confirmed Fire Emblem title currently in development. Nintendo has the best upcoming games lineup out there, and unlike so many other companies you know those games will have high quality.

With all of those games coming to a home console you can play on the go, the Switch is easily the most intriguing console for gamers that Nintendo has launched since the Super Nintendo. It’s not built on a gimmick like the Wii, has games that appeal to everyone’s tastes, and has a well-defined future. At $299.99, Nintendo made their console a must own this E3. The competition just couldn’t compete with that.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, despite a solid overall show, failed to achieve their goal of justifying the Xbox One X. They marketed it as the strongest console on the market, which is absolutely true, with no new features aside from improved visuals. The One X has no exclusive game you can’t play on any other console, doesn’t change the way you experience games, and is on sale for $499.99. That’s almost double the price of a PS4 slim, and all you’re getting is improved graphics. Tech junkies may love it, but the average gamer or parent isn’t going to spend twice as much for a console that only offers improved visuals. At the end of the day, the One X seems like a cool product released at the wrong time. Microsoft walked away the clear loser this year.

Sony was playing defense this year. With over 60.6 million PS4 consoles sold, they’re well ahead of the competition. Showing off cool exclusives, reminding players that all models of the PS4 are cheaper than the Xbox One X, and pushing their VR headset would further secure their stranglehold on the hardcore market. They did that, although their show lacked any real firepower. The first 50 minutes of the press conference were almost painful. No Final Fantasy VII trailer, no sign of The Last of Us 2, and no big surprises. God of War and Spider-Man both looked incredible, however, and that really salvaged the show for them. PS4 owners still have some nice games to look forward to, but PSVR didn’t gain any momentum nor did the PlayStation brand as a whole. They didn’t fail, but objectively they played it safe this year and definitely didn’t come close to blowing anyone away. Nintendo blew people away.

Of course, there’s no way Nintendo could be the winner in everyone’s hearts. Different gamers desire different things, and if you were bored by Nintendo but loved Microsoft more power to you. Everyone has different tastes, but objectively Nintendo did the best job of achieving their goals at E3. They stole the spotlight with Mario Odyssey, hit it out of the park with scream-inducing reveals with Metroid and Pokemon, and spelled out clearly why everyone should own a Nintendo Switch come Christmas. After two years of laying low, Nintendo came out and dominated E3 this year.

Tyler has been a gamer since he was old enough to hold a control. When Sonic made his way over to GameCube, Tyler was forced to renounce his SEGA fanhood and fell in love with Nintendo. His favorite game series is the Fire Emblem series, and he's a formidable Marth main in every Smash game. When he's not gaming, you can usually find Tyler yelling at his TV watching a Red Sox or Sixers game.

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Games

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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Games

How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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