The King of Video Games
The King’s Decrees…

I got to the 9th key on my Hallmark Pac-Man Christmas ornament…        

The Princess is in my Castle…

When I go to the arcade, games pay me to play them…

I am the “you” Nintendo refers to by Wii “U”…

I once beat every game at Chuck E. Cheese with a single token…

I’ve been beating video games since my mamma was a baby…

The King does what Nintendon’t…

I don’t get Pac-Man fever, Pac-Man gets “the King” fever…

My thumbs are insured for $1,000,000 by Lloyd’s of London…

Whenever video games blow out candles on their birthday cake, they wish that they could beat me… 

As soon as I pull into Funspot’s parking lot, the employees begin screaming, “There’s a Donkey Kong kill screen coming up!”…

I relax by playing 4 player death matches in Goldeneye 64 against myself…

A winner is me…

Mr. Game and Watch asks me for the time…

The first time I played Golden Tee, I got a hole in one on every hole…

I have a 4DS…

I jumped so high on Konami’s Track & Field high jump event that I knocked a bird out of the sky… 

Contra, Moon Patrol, and Dig Dug are all based on my life…

Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower were afraid to come to the USA ‘cause they knew I would beat them… Earthbound 2 is still afraid

I had to register my Dualshock 3 as a lethal weapon…

Geometry raised the white flag and surrendered to me…

Madden NFL waits outside my house until midnight on release day…

Every Labor Day I give video games time off, from getting beaten by me…

Video Games New Year’s resolution? To stop getting beat by me… It doesn’t even last one day

I play videogames better than “Flynn”ybody…

I have been declared “President for life” of Donkey Kong Country

Review- Madden NFL 15 (PS4)

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I have been playing Madden since the beginning. I take “Maddenoliday” off and buy it every year (back in the day I also picked up a copy of Gameday or NFL 2K). Even though Madden has been a mainstay in my life for 2 1/2 decades, it is not my favorite game, it is just a game I buy every year. The days that I could recite from memory every cover athlete began to fade away a few years ago. Matter of fact my interest in the series has been fading as well. I can think of two solid reasons for this; I thought last year’s offering was nothing more than a cash grab and the single player experience gets weaker every year.

I like to play Madden thusly- vicariously experiencing the Green Bay Packers season by playing each game on the schedule the night before the real thing actually occurs. 99% of the time I will finish the year undefeated and win the Super Bowl. Then I sell my copy on eBay, wait for August, and repeat. I also create player representations of my friends, my son, and me. Then jack up the stats, and put us on the Packer’s roster. This is my “fantasy football.”

image                       Create a player is as clunky as it has ever been.

Madden NFL 15 still makes my fantasy a reality. A hard fought reality but a reality nonetheless. Do not expect to create players even close to the level of detail that was reached years ago by Fight Night and WWE on the Gamecube and PS2. Madden NFL 15  gives us the same old tired templates and limited options we have seen for years. It is still a chore to get your players on a playable roster (what ever happened to “season mode” anyway?). Why can’t we have some kind of a “Madden Mii” stored at EA.com? Oh yeah…. there was something like that for a brief time… and then it just disappeared. I digress. Once you get past the seemingly endless menus and sub-menus, the game looks and plays just fine.

image           Some visuals are still a Magi’s journey from the uncanny valley.

How does it look?

Compared to last year’s game, this year’s Madden makes the same visual leap and splash that Madden 06 made on the XBOX 360 in 2005 and NFL 2K did over the every other football game ever made upon its release in 2000. Sure, certain aspects still leave a lot to be desired. Stadiums, especially the grass (every field looks like Astroturf), and facial features won’t fool anyone into thinking they are watching a TV broadcast but the on field action looks better than ever. The use of actual video in player announcements blends quite well and the player animation works feasibly.

How does it sound?

The “sounds of the game” are fine but the stadium music will have you longing for the days of custom soundtracks. You will also still hear a flub or two by the broadcast team in every game.

How does it play?

Like a “mid-level” Madden. There is nothing revolutionary about the gameplay or controls (the defensive “tackle cone” is pretty milquetoast) and anyone who has ever played Madden will be able to jump right  in. The only real noticeable addition to the gameplay come via community suggested play calls during the game.

The bottom line: My personal favorite Madden is still Madden ‘93 Championship Edition. Madden NFL 15 just barely breaks the plane into “at least I got my 60 bucks worth” territory.

7/10- Thus Saith the King

Click to see the King’s review of Soon Shine at wiiuonly.com!

Click to see the King’s review of Chubbins for wiiuonly.com!

Review- Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

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Over the past 22 years we have seen a total of 11 games released in the Mario Kart franchise (8 for consoles and 3 in the arcade). That amounts to an average of a game every 2 years. Although I never considered each new iteration to be a sequel to the previous title, Mario Kart 7 and now Mario Kart 8 have decided to start such a trend. There is certainly some hype for this sequel. Will it be as good as the rest of the series? Will it be the best of the series? Will it save the Wii U? I can attest that the answer to the first 2 questions is a resounding yes. As to the 3rd… I did see people in line at a department store buying the MK8 bundles at 3 in the afternoon on release day. Also, there were some pretty sweet pre-order bonuses and the free game download from Club Nintendo as well (just avoid looking at the rest of the world’s offers if you live in North America like me. It will only induce envy and  jealousy).

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                          If you like Koopalings, you will love Mario Kart 8 

 Mario Kart 8 has gameplay elements from all of its predecessors but most closely resembles Mario Kart 7. Perhaps, this is why Nintendo decided to stick with a numerical moniker rather than something like Mario Kart U. Customizable karts, underwater racing, and hang gliding are the most obvious carryovers from MK7. Of course there are new characters (MK8 has the most of any MK game), new tracks, and a few new power-ups. The most significant additions are the online options. Not only are there plenty of races, battles, and tournaments but the new MKTV ups the Miiverse ante with video uploads and editing.

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                           MKTV makes a bigger bang than a blue shell

How does it look? Since every new Mario Kart game comes out on a new console, each one inevitably looks better than the previous game. However, Mario Kart 8 is a quantum leap in the graphics department. Every single inch of the game is gorgeous. Even the online waiting screen is stunning. Mario Kart games have always looked good but Mario Kart 8 is the  first one to be a legitimate showcase for its console.

How does it sound? Every track has its own specific (and perfectly suited) music. The familiar sound effects fit well, too.

How does it play? Anyone familiar with the series can jump right in and play. The Wii Remote/wheel option, along with Nunchuck, Classic or Controller pro, are joined by the Gamepad (using the analog stick or tilt). The Gamepad display is effectively used with maps, race order, and a tactile horn. Every control option is tight and flawless. Game modes are “kart race game 101.” In other words, the standard modes created by Mario Kart.

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The Bottom Line: I was a bit concerned that Mario Kart 8 would be a bit antiquated since the release of the excellent Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed. Not only does MK8 survive the challenge from the new kid, it surpasses it. That’s not to say it makes S&ASRT obsolete. Matter of fact, I believe both games have enough merits of their own to share the shelf of any Wii U owner. But MK8 is a statement. It reminds us that it is the granddaddy of all kart games and even the concept of kart games. Heck it is even responsible for the pivotal moment in the movie Wreck it Ralph.  What would that movie be without a kart race? I once had a friend tell me that if I did not like the song “You got another thing comin’” by Judas Priest, I did not like music… Well, now I am telling you- if you don’t like Mario Kart 8, you don’t like videogames.

10/10: Thus Saith the KIng 

Review- NES Remix 2 (Wii U)

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Springtime. A time to celebrate all things new- baseball, resurrection, flowers in the ground, leaves on trees, and a fresh batch of retro craziness with NES Remix 2. One thing is certain; no one can accuse Nintendo of neglecting “sequels.” For better or worse, the big N has churned out many throughout the years. Does NES Remix 2 rise to the occasion like Super Mario Bros. 3  and Super Metroid or is it merely a shadow of its namesake like Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards?

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            I can finally play a “new” hockey game on a Nintendo console…

First things first- the line up of games in NES Remix 2 is better than that of its predecessor. There is no Wrecking Crew in the mix this time. Anyone who grew up blowing on cartridges will be familiar with all of the titles represented in NES Remix 2.  

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          Just like a gamer’s collection in 1990 (minus SMB/DUCKHUNT ) 

How does it look? If you have played the original titles (and who hasn’t ?) and/or NES Remix, you know what to expect. Iconic old school visuals emulated for HD displays and remix modes which add icing to the cake. Even the clipping that became a norm as the NES aged and its games got bigger is represented in all it glory.

How does it sound? Not much to mention here. All the classics sound great and the NES Remix theme song makes a welcome return.

How does it play? Many of the titles represented are platform games. So, the challenges tend to be a bit longer and more in depth than the experience in NES Remix. The games control perfectly and every controller option is available from the get-go (I believe this was patched in on the first game after release). You can now watch videos of other players completing each challenge. This is a welcome addition to the excellent Miiverse support the first game offered. Speaking of the first game, if you own that title you will also get Championship Mode and Super Luigi Bros. when you purchase NES Remix 2. Championship Mode gives you a glimpse of what the 1990 Nintendo World Championship was like without having to spend a bazillion dollars on a time machine (or the original NES cart). Super Luigi Bros. carries the spirit of the “Year of Luigi” into 2014 by presenting the original Super Mario Bros. in its entirety… only this time you run right to left. Of special note, the opening demo videos have been removed from each game and replaced by including “watch the demo” as a challenge on certain titles.

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               Okay Nintendo, I challenge you to make Super Luigi Kart…

Bottom line: The NES Remix universe has officially become “tangible.” In the first game it seemed as though classic games were “invaded” by bringing new twists to them… Now it seems as though the games have been brought into the world of NES Remix, instead of vice/versa. I struggled for an analogy to better describe this and the best I can come up with is the difference between the movie Gremlins and its sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch. I gave NES Remix a 10/10 and selected it as the best retro game remake ever on liketotally80s.com. Perhaps, I am still a bit woozy due to the impact of the original game; because even though NES Remix 2  does have a stronger “gene pool” and a few cool new features, it doesn’t quite pack the wallop of its predecessor. This may be a case of “too much too soon.”

8/10- Thus saith the King.

Review- Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

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Believe it or not, we are fast approaching the 20th anniversary of the original Donkey Kong Country. While the series may not be the as prolific a franchise as it once was in Nintendo’s arsenal, the fact that Retro Studios has been given the reigns indicates that the Big N is taking the old ape seriously… Perhaps a bit too seriously.

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              DKCTF Looks good, like a Donkey Kong Game should

Nearly 2 decades ago Donkey Kong Country hit the videogame world like a ton of bananas. I vividly recall the display monitors in the local Software etc. running the game on a loop. It was leaps and bounds beyond anything anyone had ever seen, either on a home system or an arcade. Matter of fact, the only other event I can compare it to would be the release of Dragon’s Lair. Both games redefined our expectations as to what a game should look like. To this day I maintain that the original Donkey Kong Country is one of the best looking video games ever released. In an earlier era the people at Rare would have been tried for witchcraft, having somehow turned the Super Nintendo into a machine capable of sorcery and magic. Today, rightfully so, the franchise belongs to Nintendo’s current wizards at Retro Studios. Their track record is growing stronger with each release. Metroid, Mario Kart, and Donkey Kong Country, have each benefited by spending time brewing in their caldron.

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            “Kong Pow” is one of the handful of new moves in DKCTF

How does it look? Simply put- great. The game does not disappoint when it comes to visuals and does a good job continuing the tradition of great graphics in the franchise. Matter of fact, Donkey Kong’s fur finally reaches the “realism” we were promised years ago in early images of Crash Bandicoot on the PS2 and XBOX. The level designs are clever and highly interactive, too. The game manages to break the fourth wall a bit for all of us caught in the polar vortex. There is a unique satisfaction in battling back the forces of winter in order to maintain a jungle paradise.

How does it sound? This is a touchy area. The original DKC has a soundtrack that is beloved as much as those from Super Mario Bros. and Zelda. Although Retro Studios can readily make a game that looks better than it predecessors (due to advancements in technology), music is another art form. The music in DKCTF holds up but don’t expect anyone to put it in the same regard as the first game.

How does it play? Retro Studios took a lot of flack over the control scheme in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Some complained about the “Wii waggle” and longed for more options. Unlike  these critics, I had no qualms about the control. Nevertheless, Retro Studios listened to the critics and there are a multitude of options in DKCTF. Personally, I preferred the Wii U Pro Controller. But be warned- if using the Gamepad or Pro Controller, you may begin to take a shine for the “shake to get DK to roll” option provided by the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Perhaps, not enough to get you to make the switch but enough to make you understand why it works.

It must be said that this game reminds us of what “Nintendo Hard” really is… We may have had a small taste of it in recent titles like NES Remix and Super Mario 3D World but DKCTF is difficult enough to make even Cranky Kong run for the tissue box. Be prepared to die a lot. Be prepared to miss completing bonus levels by either one banana, one second, or both. Be prepared for trial and error gaming. Be prepared to redo levels over and over for the sake of completion. Be prepared to believe you have discovered some great secret in the game only to be rewarded with a single banana. DKCTF is “Nintendo Hard.”

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   “Checkpoint Pig” is back. I hope he will be in the new Smash Bros. too.

Bottom Line: Not  striving to be the breakthrough that the original DKC was (but could any game ever duplicate that feat?), DKCTF plays it cool this time around. Yes, it is a great game, but when compared to the revolution that was Super Mario 3D World it comes off just a bit too safe. I realize we are talking about two different franchises but the shadow of SM3DW is going to loom large over every WII U game for quite some time. However, Donkey Kong fans will not be let down and that it the most important thing.

One final note- The load times in DKCTF can be quite long at various times. So long that I nearly reset the console a few times. If experiencing a long load time, let it ride.

8/10- Thus saith the King.

 

Review- NES Remix (Wii U)

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Nintendo has been full of surprises this year. The much delayed (and criminally overlooked) digital release of Earthbound may have been the biggest eShop shocker… until today. Fresh off its Nintendo Direct introduction, NES Remix became available for purchase. What is it? Is it any good? Let’s find out…

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                                      Old dogs can learn new tricks

Comparisons between NES Remix and the Warioware series are bound to be made. But to be honest, such comparisons do not do justice to either game. NES Remix does have bite sized moments but they serve a greater purpose that is revealed as you play through the game. Matter of fact, playing the game not only reminds you of Warioware but also Pacman Championship Edition, Galaga Legions, and Frogger Returns. The games in NES Remix are more than a new backdrop (such as the “arranged” versions of Namco classics) they present new ways to play old games. Fortunately most of the titles represented in NES Remix are strong enough to make a great foundation for this new venture. The lesser-loved titles manage to get new life, too.

How does it look? Most of the titles represented in this game are timeless classics. They are presented in all their 8bit glory that is so well known and loved. The only additions to the graphics are some shadow and color effects in the remix modes, a few on screen hints, and border artwork. Otherwise, even the menu screens are simplistic and colorful. The game looks excellent on the Gamepad, even better than on an HDTV (much like the NES eShop offerings).

How does it sound? Just like it should. The original music, blips, and beeps are all intact. Even the “boxing bell” sounds at the start and finish of each level fits well and sets the atmosphere perfectly.

How does it play? Like Nintendo took every suggestion they ever received in Nintendo Power’s mailbag and put them in this game. Basically, you have game specific challenges presented at a rapid pace. For instance, you will be asked to squash a certain number of Goombas in Super Mario Bros. or jump x number of barrels on Donkey Kong. Most stages culminate in a challenge to “clear the board.” Successfully completing each challenge opens up new games, remix levels (think longer challenges with crazy plot twists), and in game stickers. Considering the very premise of the game seems birthed in after-school one-upsmanship, the stickers will certainly make for great Miiverse fodder. Control is well done and the addictive nature of the game will have you coming back for more.

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It is the videogame equivalent of Crunch Berries “Oops All Berries” cereal

Bottom Line: It’s as though someone at Nintendo was playing the excellent Retro Game Challenge on their DS and thought, “Hey we could do this.” This is the Nintendo I grew up with. This game reminds us of what the Big N can do when at its creative finest. NES remix is only 15 bucks and the perfect way to spend your Christmas vacation. Oh, and the top of my Christmas list for next year now officially reads ”SNES Remix”… Bring it!

10/10- Thus saith the King

Review- Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

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Due to Nintendo’s somewhat confusing practice of using similar names for their consoles and games (I still think they should have named the Wii U the “Future Nintendo”) we need to set the record straight right off the bat. Super Mario 3D World is not a port of the 3DS’ Super Mario 3D Land. In fact, it is a completely new title and one which fits quite nicely into the “Mario Universe Canon.” New powerups, enemies, levels, and playable characters merely scratch the surface of all that is introduced in this excellent videogame. 

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 For better or worse, the catsuit is destined to become a cosplay mainstay

There once was a time when Mario games were killer apps, system sellers, industry innovators, and primary sources for ammunition in the console wars. Ladies and gentlemen, that time has come again. SM3DW is by far the best videogame I have played in several years. Matter of fact, it has reminded me of what a great videogame is supposed to be.

How does it look? When Nintendo “gets it right,” something almost magical happens. The best way I can describe it is that even the characters in the game seem to enjoy their new digs (think about Bowser in the final battle of Super Mario 64, the Super FX Chip morphing enemies in Yoshi’s Island,  and the Koppalings in SMB3). Well, every object in this game breathes that magical personality… just the right amount mind you, never over the top. If you are a long time Mario fan, think of this game’s visuals advancing from Super Mario Galaxy in the same terms as you would the leap from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario World and Super Mario World to Super Mario 64. For those who want to talk “next-gen” graphics; I assure you, I have spent extensive time with the PS4 and XBOX one and there is nothing on either of those consoles that compares to this beauty. The game is breathtaking… period.

How does it sound? Music has always been a highlight of the Mario series and Nintendo has managed to up the ante in this game. The soundtrack is eclectic and original. It helps to calm the nerves during the more difficult stages when there is sweet jazzy goodness pouring out of your speakers. If there was a Grammy award for “Best Video Game Soundtrack” (and for crying out loud why isn’t there?) both this game and A Link Between Worlds would be nominated.

How Does it Play? You can use any controller from the Wii or Wii U. It may take a bit to get acclimated to jumping on target in the “3D realm” but once you get the hang of it, you’re good to go. A few single player stages require the Gamepad (as does posting in the Miiverse). Personally, I found the Pro Controller to be the most comfortable option.

The multiplayer is great and people can drop in and out at any time. Although players must be local, there is extensive use of the Miiverse in the game. Ghost Mii’s, comments, artwork, and helpful hints abound every step of the way. The combination of multiplayer and Nintendo Network features present in this game fuel the fire for my long awaited “dream game.” I wish to play as a Thwomp in an online Mario game. Doing nothing more than crushing passersby all day long.

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                      Mario has aged much better than any one of us

Bottom line- There has been a lot of lip-jackin’ about Nintendo since the release of the Wii U last year. Now they have made what could be the best Mario game ever. This game is a killer app and a system seller. Anyone who plays it will want a Wii U.

11/10- Thus saith the King

Review- Knack (PS4)

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Launch titles tend to be a precarious lot. The “killer apps” blow us away and instantly justify the several hundreds of dollars invested in a new console, accessories, and games (think of Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast, Super Mario 64 on the N64, Halo on the XBOX, and Castlevania Circle of the Moon on the Gameboy Advance). Other launch titles have left much to be desired and perhaps even been the cause of buyer’s remorse in many gamer’s consciences (Fantavision on the PS2, Altered Beast on the Genesis, and Steel Diver on the 3DS come to mind). So where does Knack fall on the spectrum of launch title history? Not quite on either extreme but most certainly closer to the “killer app” end of the scale.

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                  Knack’s appearance reminds me of Clockwork Knight

                        (kudos to those of you who got that reference).

We’ve been getting Knack news for about as long as we’ve gotten PS4 news and for good reason; Both have been developed by the mind of Mark Cerny. Any longtime gamer will instantly recognize Cerny’s signatures in Knack… it sounds a little like Crash Bandicoot, looks somewhat like Sonic 2, and plays a lot like Spyro (this list could go on and on). Cerny’s resume is indeed impressive and while Knack might not be the pinnacle of his work, it is a worthy addition to it.

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                                       In Knacktion (I couldn’t resist)

How does it look? Knack isn’t going to blow you away visually. Matter of fact, I found myself searching for eye candy that would not be possible on the PS3 and was hard pressed to find anything that definitively signified “next-gen.” However, that is not to say that Knack is a bad looking game, it is just not revolutionary in the graphics department. Brightly colored, well animated, and often beautiful, the game’s visuals manage to serve their purpose just fine. The overall look of the game reminded me of Kameo on the XBOX 360. The main character (fittingly named “Knack”) reminded me of Sackboy… he even has an eerily similar running animation in the corner of the screen while the game loads.

How does it sound? It sounds like a Mark Cerny game. The music fits each stage quite well and the sound effects do a ham and egger’s job throughout. The cut-scenes have decent voiceovers and although it is a bit startling to hear Knack speak at first you get used to his voice quickly.

How does it play? Like a typical 3D platformer. Knack doesn’t really cover any new ground as far as gameplay sans one thing- there is no player control over the camera and it ACTUALLY WORKS! It was off-putting at first to not be able to flick the right stick to adjust the camera (the right stick is used for dodging) but I soon noticed how well the camera operated on its own.

The levels are predominantly linear but consistently fun and that is what really matters. In-game combat takes a page from the Batman: Arkham games and works very well. The game is not easy so be prepared to die often. Fortunately, there is no limit on lives and there are frequent auto-save checkpoints.

Bottom line: In the midst of the PS4’s launch titles, Knack sticks out like a 50 foot robot/thing (or whatever he is). Unpretentious, fun, and overall pretty cool- Knack is the game you’ll find yourself coming back to. Also, on a personal note, Knack deserves some sort of style points for being the first game I have ever opened that did not come with an instruction manual. Nor did it have a clumsy tutorial when you first boot up the game.

Knack is a nostalgic throwback to the games of yesteryear. It may not have the magic of Super Mario Bros. 3 but it beats the slacks off Gex.  

9/10- Thus Saith the King.