Spending Power

How can we spend a better way?

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A year ago (roughly) I made a list. More on that in a minute. Following a surprise swag bag of previously unpaid wage arriving in December 2017, I picked up a long-time target purchase: a 4k tv. My launch PS4 made a Cinderella-esque HDR transformation and I enjoyed the final third of Horizon Zero Dawn in eye-blistering graphical glee. Anyway, this made me reflect on what I had bought that year and compared that to my actual mental ‘wishlist’. The conclusion I made was that I was more prone to dipping into an impulse buy as opposed to the more desirable purchases. I’m not talking about cars and motor boats; I mean games, geek-toys and other media. This was personified by Horizon – a game I had courted since its launch – that had to wait until Black Friday and a significant price drop. Thus, the list was made.

As well as video games and films/boxsets etc I also collect Transformers so these made up the majority of the list. The highlights were a PS4 Pro to fully appreciate my new 4K setup, most of the biggest games of the year I knew were coming (God of War, Spiderman, Pokemon Lets Go, Smash, Starlink) as well as a few on the backlog (Injustice 2, Skyrim Switch, Mario+Rabbids).

2018 came and has nearly gone and astonishingly, I’ve only got one item left on the list. In the first half of the year, I mopped up most of the games – waiting for offers to sweeten the deal: £21 for Injustice 2 legendary edition, £31 for Skyrim on the eshop plus using Zeek vouchers for an extra 7% discount on credit, £26 for Rabbids on eBay…and by the summer, most games on the list that had been released were signed, sealed and delivered and mine! This had two added bonuses: my focus then switched to the larger purchases and I had a little extra left over for the impulse buys (£4.99 Shovel Knight amiibo was the highlight).

Just after the launch of Spider-Man in September, an eBay 15% discount code plus a very attractive PS4 Pro bundle finally persuaded me to pull the trigger. Raising £170 on eBay for my launch PS4 gave me a net spend of £105 on my Pro. Not. Bad. At. All.

I guess the moral of the story is budgeting and being objective about your purchases pays off. We all have digital service backlogs (especially on Steam…) and even games that have remained untouched. I feel like I’ve achieved something and when the Christmas dust has settled, I’ll start to think about a new list. This time though, everything on it – as Sheldon from Big Bang Theory once said – ‘hasn’t been invented yet.’

Guardians of the (Mario) Galaxy?

On the verge of E3 2018, game announcements – and cryptic viral marketing – are flying at us left right and centre. Buried beneath the Pokemon avalanche of the last 24 hours, Fallout 76 and even Team Sonic Racing is the recent rumour that Starfox is being reimagined as a kart racer. Only Mario, Zelda, Smash and Mario Kart can truly be described as being on top form at the moment: Starfox devoid of its star status since the N64; Metroid Prime 3 is a decade old and perhaps worse of all F-Zero is stuck on the GameCube. The space between the high points of these franchises and where they stand now is vast but is also the thing which binds them: space…

These franchises – all set in the black – have struggled for a variety of reasons. Starfox has struggled to push past the reality of it being a plastic – yet furry – Star Wars. Metroid has never had the commercial appeal of its peers; F-Zero also has failed to reach Mario numbers. It is worth noting that Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the first real mega-success in terms of units sold. Although beloved by a hardcore army of fans, many Nintendo’s franchises beyond the aforementioned and Pokemon are in need of radical reform. What if Metroid and F-Zero and Starfox became one?

Banding together the unlikely heroes in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy could be the inspiration for this. Captain Falcon – who many would be hard-pushed to associate with his franchise – needs a reboot/revamp in personality. Think 90s Tomb Raider to the PS3 era series or more recently God/Dad of War on PS4. Give him an edge. Give him a purpose other than winning races. Make him Starlord.

Obviously, the small mammal role goes to Fox McCloud. Star Fox’s plucky captain would make a good fit to the group as well as competition to Falclord (you.are.welcome.Nintendo). It also gives a narrative excuse to cut some of Fox’s anthropomorphic ensemble cast. Contrastingly, Samus Aran of Metroid fame has struggled to hold down a meaningful supporting set of characters. Samus brings an air of mystique, a sense of duty and also prevents this being a fully male team. It would be easy to call her the Gamora of the group but Samus is far too incorruptible as a renowned yet straight- laced bounty hunter. She is the boy-scout (girl guide?)/Superman (erm..Supergirl) of the group.

That uses up the A-list characters from these franchises; there are still two places to fill. Drax and Groot are the two (MCU lineup) guardians remaining. This is where it gets weird.

Groot is a fairly easy character to cast. Petey Piranha from the Mario series is an obvious candidate. That would be a like-for-like switch. Another possibility is a Pikmin. It stands to reason that this group could have stumbled across these creatures at some point. Finally, a Deku Shrub from Zelda could fit the bill if we really wanted to connect the UNESverse (that’s either a TM or a cease and desist…).

In the role of the muscle, there are more limited options. Who is this crew’s Jayne? There’s only one answer: Waluigi! This would add a criminal element to the ensemble whilst giving this cult favourite a chance to shine at last. If not, insert your choice of Pokemon here.

Now that we’ve got a lineup, the genre needs nailing down. What would be the game style of choice? A 3rd person Tomb Raider/Witcher/Uncharted style adventure would possibly fit best. With the unique abilities of the characters co-op or squad mechanics would add variety to each play through. Perhaps there are branching areas and secrets only specific characters can access. It would be a great addition to Nintendo’s online portfolio. If we really want to dream, adding in Strikes and Raids – in addition to a story mode – would give Nintendo their games as a service title. There would definitely need to be racing and Arwing battles to pay homage to previous games.

On a quick note, the antagonist could easily be one of the many previously seen in the individual series. Or a newly created character. Or Earthworm Jim…

Back in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, we are introduced to each character in a police lineup as they are processed ready to send to the kyln. Imagine the Nintendo equivalents in that lineup (probably not having Falclord giving the middle finger).

Nintendo Indirect

Evaluating the hidden clues in the recent Nintendo Direct

Last Thursday’s Nintendo Direct was the one which finally met – and probably exceeded – all expectations. However, there’s a few bits and pieces of subtext to what Nintendo announced:

1. GameCube Virtual Console isn’t happening

Basically any title Nintendo releases in 3D post 2001 is game for a HD/3DS remake. Expect Mario Sunshine and Wind Waker/Twilight Princess to fill in the gaps between the next original incarnations of the series. Why charge £7.99 on virtual console when you can charge £49.99, right? If the games come with modern advancements like wide-screen that’s fine with me.

2. Samus Aran

Smash Bros usually has the most recent iteration of Nintendo characters in its roster so we can expect a few subtle hints to what Nintendo’s underused bounty hunter will be up to in Metroid Prime 4. It would be unthinkable to fathom a Smash game without her; I anticipate more than one tease for her next adventure.

3. Wii U 2019

With Captain Toad, Hyrule Warriors and Donkey Kong hitting Switch this year already – joining Mario Kart 8 – Nintendo seems to be drip feeding the Switch’s predecessor’s back-catalog out over the next few years. Mario 3D World, Mario Maker, Yoshi and New Super Mario Bros will no doubt pop up later in Switch’s lifecycle. OG Wii re-releases are conspicuously by their absence though…

4. E3 is all about Holiday 2018

The Switch has a healthy selection of support going to the end of July. June’s E3 events (whether they be Directs or Treehouse Live) will be all about the holiday season. We know Smash will be there but expect at least three more titles to pick up in time for Christmas. One of those will likely be Labo based and with Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon looking like 2019 games, we might see HD re-releases or spin offs from these series. Plus we’ll know exactly what Virtual Console/Nintendo Classic/Nintendflix will look like too!

Possibly the most important and exciting piece of information from the Direct was how bullish Nintendo is prepared to be. Q1 was clearly just a chance for everyone to catch their breath before the big guns came out. Crash Bandicoot, Okami, South Park and No More Heroes are the right types of games for Switch: ideally suited to the versatility of the console. Expect even more at E3 to wrestle attention from Spider-Man and (yawn) Crackdown 3. It’s good to see the kind of swagger Nintendo has seldom been willing to share.

10 Nintendo Predictions for 2018 – Reflection

Football rules here: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw (half-happens) and diddly-squat for a loss.

1. Q2 Zelda – this will be a smaller title and/or remake of a previous game

Nearly! Skyward Sword HD rumours will continue into 2019.

2. 2D Mario – a new iteration (leaving the ‘new’ name behind) in a new art style.

Nope.

3. Virtual Console HD – all releases are HD, with online features and 2018 comforts (this includes GameCube games)

Nope (sob).

4. Nintendo flicks the 4k Switch – Games look a bit better

Will the rumoured Switch 2.0 fulfil this??

5. 3DS HD lineup revealed – cue classics ported to Switch

The 3DS continues to survive in its senior years.

6. Smash Bros Switch Edition – remixed Wii U and 3DS game

Yep and then some.

7. Video streaming comes in full force – enter Amazon and Netflix

Does YouTube count?

8. Gameboy Pocket Classic – contains 20ish games from OG Gameboy with Color games saved for a future retro console

We will defo see this when NES/SNES classics have been fleeced thoroughly.

9. Super Mario Odyssey dlc – extra worlds to explore

Scratch that; Odyssey 2 (a la Mario Galaxy 2) will be a 2020 game.

10. Wave of 3rd party ports hit Switch from Q2 – some will be shameless!

Not as many as expected but Okami HD and the upcoming flurry of Final Fantasy/Resident Evil Games lead the way.

Game of the Year 2017

What is 2017’s best game?

It’s been a bit quiet at pennilessdads as real-job commitments have dominated October and November. Hopefully I’ll be a bit more active in December – starting with my picks for game of the year 2017. This article will be updated every day this week until number one is revealed.

5. Sonic Mania

The success of this game can be quantified by two pieces of evidence:

I) how poor Sonic Forces is in comparison

II) how long it has been in the Switch eshop charts

Sonic Mania is all things: nostalgia-evoking; stylish and modern yet retro at the same time. The cutscene at the opening positions the game in exactly the right place – the continuation of Sonic and Knuckles. It is also the genesis of one of the best Sonic fan theories ever regarding a certain upside down boss fight!

4. Horizon: Zero Dawn

A truly amazing game which firmly holds the title of ‘best looking game’ of this generation. The DNA of Horizon can easily be sourced from the likes of Tomb Raider, Phantom Pain and even Skyrim – plus many more. What it does exceedingly well is mix the mechanics it iterates on into a beautiful odyssey for protagonist Aloy to embark on. Everything about this game screams AAA. Even on my launch PS4 and 1080p tv the game is head and shoulders above any other current-gen game visually.

3. Destiny 2

After sinking hundreds of hours into the original, Destiny 2’s challenge was making millions of lapsed guardians care again. Destiny 2 has an epic campaign, clear, uncomplicated progression and great – great – multiplayer. The game is polished and is the definitive video game fps. Nothing feels as slick as Destiny and – despite a few minor controversies – everything it does is with the type of confident swagger Bungie can deservedly show.

2. Super Mario Odyssey

This makes number one obvious! Super Mario Odyssey has been a rollercoaster for me. It started with a gradual climb, followed by a dip before a thrilling second-half campaign kicked off with New Donk City. SMO, which scales to all abilities, is another game perfect for the Switch. The sense of wonder and “I bet there’s something cool around that corner” feeling oozes from every corner of this game. The cherry on the cake is the endgame grind which is perfect for dipping back into – comfort food – after a hard day in the Real World Kingdom.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

When you start Ocarina of Time on N64, a subdued background cutscene plays before going to the traditional Zelda file select screen. Wind Waker and Twilight Princess unspectacularly imitate this and by Skyward Sword the opening formula to Zelda felt tired. Breath of the Wild does something bold, confident and new: a blank, white screen – quiet yet striking – then it simply says in crisp black letters ‘The Legend of Zelda’. You quickly embark on Link’s most epic of adventures – there’s no knight school politics or fishing tutorials this time. Just like the introductory screen, everything this game does can be described as bold, confident and new. There’s plenty of nostalgia for those who want to seek it but what this game does so well is evoke the spirit of adventure in the player. It’s Frodo leaving the Shire where a daunting, unknown world awaits. BotW’s stylised graphics, true open world progression and creative use of physics enhance it above most games. Although stunning, the underpowered Wii U and Switch game doesn’t quite pop and impress visually as much as Aloy’s amazing PS4 masterpiece. However, what sets BotW apart from all other games this year, this generation and all time is the feeling created by it. The weekend this game came out was 48 hours lost in the ruins of Hyrule’s wilds. Away from playing the game, I dreamed of climbing those mountains and what wonders lay ahead. God help the next Zelda game as it has a lot to live up to. For me the new benchmark has been set; it’s a great time to be playing video games!

Mario Odyssey Ranked Kingdoms

What’s the best Kingdom?

Just because!

  1. Metro Kingdom
  2. Mushroom Kingdom
  3. Bowser’s Kingdom
  4. Moon Kingdom
  5. Ruined Kingdom
  6. Lake Kingdom
  7. Cascade Kingdom
  8. Seaside Kingdom
  9. Sand Kingdom
  10. Luncheon Kingdom
  11. Cap Kingdom 
  12. Snow Kingdom
  13. Cloud Kingdom
  14. Wooded Kingdom (awesome music btw!)
  15. Lost Kingdom

Mario dlc? Yes-ee?

What next for Mario?

Super Mario Odyssey Spoilers ahead!!!!

After THAT ending, can we expect dlc/expansions to Nintendo’s odyssey? Going in, I knew the endgame was blowing people away but my initial thought was ‘they’ve remade Mario 64 in-game!!!!’ which isn’t quite an accurate description of what happened. The Mushroom Kingdom is an amazing part of Odyssey but not quite as mind blowing as I hoped. 

Demand is high for a full HD Mario 64 – as well as Sunshine and the Galaxy twins. However, what if these games were part of Odyssey’s expansions? Instead of completely remaking the games, choose the best bits – like the throwback galaxy in Galaxy 2. Three expansion packs: 64, Sunshine and the Galaxies combined. Perhaps 3D Land and 3D World can be involved too. Given the size of these it would come with a £10-£20 price tag per pack but may be better received than HD remakes and/or Virtual Console releases. 

The capacity for Mario 64 is already in the game if you’ve seen the credits roll. In the Seaside Kingdom there’s a blatant FLUDD mechanic – meaning the code is in there – which would mean simply building the assets. Bosses aside, most of Sunshine could be constructed from Odyssey’s existing building blocks. Finally, combining the two Galaxy games into one super expansion would be a similar job. 

Despite the clamour for these games, full retail, HD remakes would pale in comparison to Odyssey; playing them could be a chore not a joy. If you can’t beat them join them. Odyssey would be the perfect playground for its predecessors to descend upon.