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Sonic Mania Review – Written by Jose Vega Product provided for this review by SEGA. Special thanks to them. For more than 25 years, Sonic the Hedgehog has been one of SEGA’s flagship franchises. It had humble beginnings during the 90s console wars between the Genesis and SNES but after SEGA went 3rd party, the journey got a bit shaky. 2006 would be the year Sonic would enter a dark age with many of their titles getting mixed to negative receptions. Things would pick up in the following years, despite some flops, and last year SEGA announced that Sonic would return with 2 more titles. One of them, Sonic Mania has been hyped for some time. Does the hype pay off? Sonic Mania takes place after the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The plot centers on Sonic & Tails returning to Angel Island, learning that a strange energy source was sighted there. Unfortunately, a legion of Eggman’s robots has got there first, getting their hands on the Phantom Ruby. However, it whisks Sonic, Tails, Knuckles (unexpectedly) and the Egg Robots to a familiar locale. Seeing the danger & the evolved Hard-Boiled Heavies off with the jewel, Sonic along with Tails and Knuckles must team up to prevent the Phantom Ruby from falling into Eggman’s hands. It’s simple Sonic storytelling. Eggman enacts another of his world domination plans and it’s up to Sonic and his friends to stop them. Surprisingly he’s not the only threat they have to deal with. Eggman’s personal squad, the Hard-Boiled Heavies are also involved. This makes things a bit intense but what do you expect in a Sonic game. I have no complaints with it honestly. Sonic Mania brings Sonic back to its 2D side scrolling roots and it’s one that works, taking inspiration from the 16-bit Sonic games that made Sonic what he is today. If you’ve played many of the old school Sonic games, you will feel right at home here. You have three playable characters: Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. All of them play the same but with a few differences. They can jump, run, spin dash, etc. You get the idea. Sonic has a peel out move that lets him be on the move quickly. Tails can fly to avoid enemies and find hidden secrets and Knuckles can glide, climb walls, has a jump that isn’t as high & can access areas that Sonic and Tails can’t go through normally. You will need their strengths to conquer the game’s 12 zones. As far as length, you can beat the game in just a couple of hours and with three playable characters, it adds a lot in terms of replay value. There’s also Time Attack where you can race to get the fastest time and Competition where you and a friend can go head to head offline to see who can reach the end of a stage first. It’s great. There are 12 zones in this game, each with two acts. More than half of the zones are classic levels from previous Sonic games but they’re given a revamp when it comes to level design. The rest are brand new to the game and offer so much to the experience. What’s interesting is that each level offers many paths for the player to come from. It’s still simple enough going from start to finish but how you go about it depends on the player. Sometimes there are secrets you can find such as item boxes or giant rings. Like the classic games, there are bonus stages and by hitting checkpoints or finding giant rings, you get access to them. Checkpoint bonus stages are of the Blue Spheres from Sonic 3 & Knuckles and completing them net you medallions and they’re used to unlock various secrets. The Giant Ring bonus stages have you chasing after a UFO that carries a Chaos Emerald. Your skills will be tested, as you must collect blue spheres to increase your speed and rings to extend your time. Beating them will be a challenge but worth it in order to get the Chaos Emerald. There are 7 of these and they get harder as you progress. At the end of each act, there is a boss. Many pay nods to previous Sonic bosses. If anything SEGA really puts a lot of heart when it comes to the game and it shows. It also helps that Sonic Mania has a truly stellar presentation. The graphics are just what you expect for a retro 16-bit game and they did a job keeping it faithful to them. All of the levels offer something different and they are vibrant, full of colors and if you look hard enough, there are many nods and references to various SEGA related stuff. Sprites are detailed and authentic as well. They’re also expressive. Controls are very precise. Perfect would be too appropriate of a word to describe how good the game plays. I mean it. It’s perfect and easy to pick up and play. Whitehead Productions should be praised for giving us a Sonic game that feels like the old school games but in a new environment. I only hope SEGA can get him involved in a possible Mania sequel. Although I want to praise the game for its presentation, what really nailed it in for me was the music. Tee Lopes went in and delivered a soundtrack that is godly. I kid you not. All of the music in the game is amazing to listen to. Whether it’s remixed versions of Green Hill & Flying Battery or songs from the new stages like Studiopolis and Mirage Saloon, this game has it all. A game that has a stellar presentation, topped with a superb soundtrack. What more needs to be said? I do have one minor issue with the game and it can be quite a challenge. The game feels like the old school Sonic games and new players who may experience this can find it to be one that requires them to get good. The difficulty is a bit balanced but there will be some moments of unfairness. It shouldn’t dissuade anyone though. Sonic Mania has a lot of content and high replay value that anyone can be able to enjoy no matter what. But yes, it is challenging but there’s a good amount of reward for those looking to complete everything. It’s surprising how fans of the Sonic franchise were given the go ahead by SEGA to produce a game that’s not only fun but serves as a love letter to the Sonic franchise, it’s fans and SEGA as a whole. Sonic Mania is a special kind of game. Being at around $20 is enough to convince anyone that it’s worth a definite buy. Everything about the game whether it be its presentation, controls, music, etc. delivers on all fronts. Sure it can be a challenge for those that have little idea but it shouldn’t dissuade anyone otherwise. If you haven’t played a Sonic game or if you feel you want something that reminds you of the good old days, Sonic Mania is THE game. The blue blur isn’t going anywhere and this game proves that he’ll be around speeding through for many years to come. I give Sonic Mania a 9 out of 10. I want to make it a perfect 10 but I feel this rating is more than enough.
Splatoon 2 Review – Written by Jose Vega Product provided for this review by Nintendo. Two years ago, Nintendo released Splatoon for the Wii U gaining high praise across the board. At first it didn’t had much content but as time went on, Nintendo added features and modes while refining the game and making it a satisfying experience. From then on, it became a game that anyone who owned a Wii U should play. When Nintendo announced a sequel for the Nintendo Switch, expectations were high. Now that the game is released, does it meet up to all the hype that fans were expecting? For starters, Splatoon 2 is a huge step up compared to the first. The presentation is spot on, capturing the feel of the first game but in a much broader scale. Having it on the Nintendo Switch helped considerably. The soundtrack is great with tunes that are fun to listen to. As far as its plot goes, it takes place 2 years after the first game. It’s single-player campaign has you taking the role of an Inkling, which you can create by the way, encountering Marie one day in Inkopolis. Marie asks for the Inkling’s aid in finding her cousin Callie. It’s a simple plot but with Splatoon, it has a sense of humor and it’s done well. I only wish that there would be a bit more backstory in regards to the two Squid Sisters and what happened to the two in the two years between the two games. Like many other games Nintendo has made, it follows an adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you played the first Splatoon, you will feel right at home in this one although to a degree. Yes there are motion controls in the game but it’s more used towards aiming your weapons. You use the left analog to move, ZL to turn to a squid so you can traverse faster, ZR to shoot, R to use secondary weapons and B to jump. Clicking the right analog lets you use your special attack. It’s just as good as it was in the previous game and with the improvements it makes the experience better. But for anyone that feel motion controls aren’t for them, the game gives you the option to use analog control just like in traditional shooters. A welcome feature since the first game didn’t give you the option to turn off motion controls. It shows that Nintendo is listening to feedback and that’s a good thing. In addition you have access to over 20 different weapons with some being brand new like the Splat Dualies, Herobrush, Hero Gatling and many others. In addition there are new secondary and special attacks that add a lot to the game. Splatoon 2’s single player campaign has you going through six areas each with up to 6 stages. In each stage, you go from start to finish taking out enemies, solving puzzles and finding secrets such as Sardinium and pamphlets. In some levels, you are given a weapon to use and you need to beat the level with said weapon in order to unlock it. There are 8 weapons in all and using Sardinium and small fish eggs, you can be able to upgrade them so they can be stronger. The best part is that you can replay any of the levels, including the bosses with any weapons that you unlock. This adds a lot of replay value to the campaign, for those that want to beat every level with every weapon. There are bosses here and some can be a challenge but if you know what you’re doing, you will manage. Checkpoints are there, including boss fights, making the trek a bit of a reprieve for players. Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of Splatoon 2, the multiplayer. Splatoon 2 online is just as good as the first. It’s split between three modes: Random, Ranked and League. Each of the three modes put you in one of two maps that change every two hours. You play with 7 other players and are split between 2 teams of 4 players each. Random (or Player) battles have you and other players compete to see who can cover the map with the most ink in 3 minutes. It can be really addicting but also it requires you to be alert since your opponents will spare no expense in ensuring you go down. Ranked and League Battles take things up a notch with various goal-based types such as Splat Zone, Tower Control and Rainmaker. Splat Zone is straightforward, Tower Control focuses on teams battling over a moving mobile tower and Rainmaker is like capture the flag except you have access to a powerful weapon that can turn the tide. What makes this better is that all three have their own ranking system and they change every few hours making things fresh and exciting. For those that want to team up with friends, you have Salmon Run. You and three friends (local or online) team up to get golden eggs from enemy Salmonids in a set time limit in each wave. Teamwork is key but what makes it fun is that in each wave, you start with a different weapon and you need to adapt not only with what you have but with your teammates as well. It can get crazy and really fun plus playing with friends is always a blast. Plus you get paid whether you succeed or not and you can use the bonus from it to unlock new gear that you can use to customize your Inkling. My only complaint is the fact that the mode is available at certain times. Upsetting I know but I wish in the future Nintendo could allow this as a permanent mode. Customization is aplenty in Splatoon 2. There are shops where you can buy weapons and gear. Using currency that you earn by playing online, you can use it to unlock new weapons for online matches and gear that gives your Inkling various bonuses. Not only that but if you feel that the bonuses aren’t to your liking, you can speak to Murch to gear scrub your gear and put new abilities on it. It’s incredible. Also with the Nintendo Switch app, you can be able to buy gear that you can transfer into the game. That’s cool. Splatoon 2 has Amiibo support just like in the first game and using them allow you to save data for your weapon, hairstyle and gear. They can be used to set up, even on another console. Plus they unlock new gear and exclusive weapons for your Inkling. Like the first game, there will also be Splatfests where players choose a side and they work to see who will win. Additional content is coming down the line adding more to an otherwise intense game. If I had any negatives, I feel that in regards to the online maps, they’re chosen at random. It doesn’t hurt the game as much as I thought originally but I wish they would allow it at least for private battles with friends. Also like in the first game, there’s no voice chat but in truth, there is but you need the Nintendo Switch App and a Splatoon 2 headset to actually do it. I find it to be cumbersome, unnecessary & a step backwards. Yes, I know that Nintendo values safety but I wish they would get with the times and try incorporating voice chat in the game without the need for anything ludicrous. Overall, Splatoon 2 is a big step up from the original. Huge amount of customization, a good single player campaign and addicting online multiplayer provide so much for your money’s worth. Negatives aside, the game offers so much. With the Nintendo Switch already being a big success for the company, if there is any game that is worth a full purchase price, it’s this one. Becoming a squid kid has never been so much fun and I couldn’t have it any other way. I give Splatoon 2 a 9 out of 10. This is a must-buy game and I highly recommend it. It also earns my personal seal of approval.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review – Written by DestinyDecade Product provided by Nintendo for the sake of this review. Three years ago, Mario Kart 8 was released on the Wii U and though it was a great game, it was on a console that not many people bought. When Nintendo announced their new console back in 2016, it was hinted that there would be a possible Mario Kart. Those hints prove to be true when it was announced that a port of the game would be coming to the new console. But it isn’t just any port. This is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, taking the original Wii U game and adding a whole bunch of new features. Is this game worth getting on the Nintendo Switch? The answer is yes. Absolutely. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is filled to the brim with content that is fun with friends or solo. You can take part in the Grand Prix, consisting of 12 cups spanning 48 courses. Many are new, some are revised classics from previous games and the rest are of the DLC cups that were in the last game. As you play through each track in the cups, you can collect coins that can be used to unlock new stuff. In Mario Kart 8 you would unlock new characters and parts. Deluxe makes this less of a grind by having all the characters unlocked from the get-go. For one thing, it’s awesome that you have everyone unlocked including the DLC characters. What makes it better is that MK8 Deluxe introduces some new ones: Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, King Boo and the Inklings from Splatoon. It raises the character count to 43, which makes this the biggest cast for a racing game. You also have access to difficulty modes from 50 to 200cc, unlocked from the start, including mirror mode. There’s also Time Trials for those that want to test their skills and Versus where up to 4 players can race each other. Also in races, you can now hold up to 2 items, similar to Double Dash. It adds another level of strategy but at the same time it leads to some crazy shenanigans especially in multiplayer. One of the biggest negatives Mario Kart 8 had was its battle mode being lackluster. Nintendo seem to get the message and decided to do a complete revamp. Battle Mode in this game has been redone, implementing a scoring system and providing players with 8 battle courses, 5 new, three retro. In addition there are 5 mode types: Balloon Battle, Renegade Roundup, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners and Shine Thief. Renegade Roundup is like “cops and robbers” where players are split into two teams. One are the cops, the other are the robbers. All of this now adds more to a game that truthfully feels like a complete package. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also has Online Racing where up to 2 players can race together against players from all over the world. You can compete either in Worldwide or Regional in both Racing and Battling. As far as stability goes, it’s good. There are times where connection errors happen but overall it’s a pleasant experience. Players can set up online tournaments easy and up to 12 players can take part in races or battles. A lot to take in and the replay value for the game is at an all time high. No joke. Also you have access to three different control schemes: Switch Pro Controller, Joycon Grip or individual Joycon. With two Joycon controllers, they count as having two players. That’s incredible but a little tough to adjust for some people. Compared to the Wii U version, this port of Mario Kart 8 delivers an improved presentation. It looks a lot better with the game now running at 1080p at 60 fps. A big improvement compared to the original running at 720p. With the improved 1080p, the visuals get an upgrade where even the small details can be seen. Loading times are reduced from 22 to 9 seconds. Better if you just want to race and have fun. The music is still a delight to listen to with many tracks having very good tunes. The controls are refined and spot on. Fun to use whether using a Joycon or a Switch Pro Controller. There’s also wireless play where with 2 Switch consoles, you can have up to 8 players playing it. Though it isn’t easy to do, having a lot of people together for a game makes it truly a delight. Like the previous game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has Amiibo support where you can scan them to get costumes for your Mii. This time around, they now expand beyond Mario & Smash characters and into stuff like Splatoon. It’s simply cosmetic but nice to see. In conclusion, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes everything that makes Mario Kart 8 great and turn it into something better. Containing all the DLC, an improved battle mode, good online, tight controls, great music, amazing presentation, what else is there to like? Everything. If you haven’t gotten a chance to play it on the Wii U and you have a Switch, this is a must-buy game. Since it is now the fastest selling Switch title, you can’t deny that it’s good. In fact, it’s excellent. Get some friends, buy this game and you’ll see just how amazing Mario Kart can be. You won’t regret it. I give Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a perfect 10 out of 10. It is worth the full purchase price.