‘Nintendo Systems’

Contra Review

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Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Arcade, Console – NES, PC – Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX2, ZX Spectrum

Contra is one of those games folks can’t help but talk about. Comments circle around its high difficulty as well as the infamous Konami code which grants players thirty much-needed lives. The thing is, I never even touched the original Contra before. The closest I came to understanding its hectic 2D action was through playing the spiritual successor Hard Corps: Uprising

Thanks to a shiny new Raspberry Pi 3 in my possession (and watching the “This is the Run” video series on Giant Bomb), I decided it was finally time to take on Contra. Don’t worry, the NES cart is also in my possession. Unlike most players, this meant I was already armed with knowledge of how to defeat bosses and what challenges lie in wait. None of this made the experience a cake walk.

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When people say Contra is hard they mean it. The earlier stages aren’t quite so bad, but once you reach the middle there are bullets flying every which way as enemies constantly run onscreen. The challenge is compounded by one hit kills and a piddly default gun (which resets all power ups upon death). Securing a better weapon such as the spread gun is awesome – but often short-lived.

Contra is also super weird thematically. Despite being named with relation to the Iran-Contra affair, it bears little resemblance to real life events past the introductory level. Very quickly players move beyond the jungle setting with army-looking dudes to huge monsters, alien space ships, and more. None of this detracts from it being a white knuckle, badass experience. Anyone up for the challenge should definitely try their hand at Contra.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Pokémon Shuffle Review

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Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Platform: 3DS, Mobile – Android, iOS

It’s funny how much I’ve begun to embrace the idea of mobile gaming (though I obviously still vastly prefer consoles and handhelds). I used to be extremely against mobile games for a variety of reasons, but I finally caved sometime in the last year or so and begun playing several different ones. Pokémon Shuffle is my most recent mobile game obsession, and for a good reason.

Basically, Pokémon Shuffle is a match 3 puzzle game. You must match the same Pokémon in order to deal damage to your opponent and beat the stage. Pokémon Shuffle keeps things interesting by allowing you to use a bevy of different Pokémon on your team. Furthermore, you must keep in consideration the attack power, types, and skills of your Pokémon in order to assure victory and high stage rankings. Some stages are pretty simple and easy, especially in the beginning. However, they eventually become more complex and require a bit of critical thinking due to opponents creating “disruptions” that can make things quite hectic. There are also “expert stages” that are timed, and as such, really test your puzzle skills and dexterity!

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Now, I tried to play the original version of Pokémon Shuffle on the 3DS, but I just wasn’t feeling it after trudging through the initial tutorial stages. I decided to give Pokémon Shuffle a second chance when it released for mobile devices, and boy did I instantly like it much more on my phone than 3DS. Maybe it’s because of the vertical one-screen layout, or it could be because it’s easier to use a mobile device’s touchscreen versus the 3DS’s. It’s also way more gorgeous and vibrant.

Unfortunately, the mobile version of Pokémon Shuffle retains some of the same annoyances that were present in the 3DS version. For one, the wait time between regaining hearts (or energy) is ludicrous at 30 minutes. Another issue includes absolutely ridiculous stages and capture rates that pretty much require you to spend your precious coins on power-ups and great balls. Alas, this is a freemium game, so such problems are expected and have to be tolerated.

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Even weeks after release, I’m still fervently playing Pokémon Shuffle. It’s just too addicting and fun, and has me hopeful for Nintendo’s future on mobile platforms.


Pink Score: 4
4 out of 5 alpacas


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Girls’ Fashion Shoot Review

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Developer: Alchemist
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Platform: 3DS

I was excited about trying out Girls’ Fashion Shoot. I had tons of fun with Style Savvy and its sequel, and Girls’ Fashion Shoot looked to be more of the same fabulousness that anyone would be able to enjoy.

As the name implies, Girls’ Fashion Shoot is a fashion game. You can play dress-up, do modeling, and edit a fashion magazine. There are hundreds of clothes and accessories, too, so the possible combinations of outfits are endless. Unfortunately, it’s not exciting whatsoever and becomes boring almost immediately.

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To progress in Girls’ Fashion Shoot, you must complete all the jobs at Rising Star Magazine headquarters that are offered to you each month. This usually entails you composing an outfit that matches a certain theme. Other tasks include designing nails. Whatever you end up having to do, it results in posing for a photo shoot that will go on a magazine cover that you must arrange as well. It is the same process each time, with your boss saying the same sentences each time.

There’s very little to do when you want to get away from your monotonous work life. You can buy new clothes and makeup, learn new poses to use in photo shoots, or get your nails and hair done. Not very appealing, huh? There’s not even very many hair styles or makeup options, either.

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Girls’ Fashion Shoot is definitely the sort of game that is marketed towards young girls. Unfortunately, it has no redeeming features. Everything that it offers, Style Savvy: Trendsetters does better.


Pink Score: 1.51 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Pokémon X Review

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Developer: Game Freak, Inc.
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS

Oh, Pokémon. You have been with us throughout most of our lives, through thick and thin. And as I near 20 years of age, you show no signs of easing up on game releases. You would think that after all of that time and after so many generations of Pokémon, its quality would be slowly diminishing. After having played through Pokémon X, I can assure you that is quite the contrary.

As soon as you start your journey, Pokémon X and Y immediately try to impress upon you the 3DS’s prowess. A little cutscene with one of the new Pokémon, Fletchling, flying in to wake you up. Then you’re able to venture about, free to explore this intriguing new world. Everything is in 3D! Dramatic camera angles! Free movement (when you’re skating, biking, or swimming, anyway)! There are so many little things that Game Freak has thought of to make Pokémon X and feel interesting and new.

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One of the elements of Pokémon that has undergone a heavy visual change are the battles. No longer are our favorite pocket monsters in 2D. Instead, each Pokémon is now rendered in 3D (while still mimicking the old pixel art style). They also have unique idle animations and various animations for different moves. Add in some pretty environmental backgrounds and crazy camera action and each battle will feel different from the last. If only some battles, like double battles and horde encounters, weren’t marred by drops in framerate! Hopefully this is fixed with a patch or doesn’t happen in the first place with future Pokémon releases.

What I think is one of the best new features that Pokémon X and introduce is the customization of your character. Yes, you can finally play dress-up! There are quite a bit of clothing pieces and accessories to collect, so the combination possibilities are endless. You can even choose the skin color of your trainer, change your eye color with contacts, and get a new hairdo.

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There are also other new features such as Pokémon-Amie and the Player Search System. Pokémon-Amie allows you to interact with your Pokémon and form even closer, stronger bonds with them. You can pet them, feed them, and play games with them to your heart’s content! This isn’t just for fun, either. The higher your affection with your Pokémon, the “better” it performs in battle. This means boosted experience points, being able to dodge attacks, and so forth.

As for the Player Search System, that brings every multiplayer aspect of Pokémon X and Y into one easy-to-access place. Located on your bottom screen, this is where you initiate global or local battles, trades, and more. No more having to trek to a Pokémon Center! Also included in the PSS are new features called Wonder Trade and O-Powers. Wonder Trade is incredibly fun and allows you to trade one of your Pokémon for a random one. O-Powers, on the other hand, allow you to give buffs to your friends, acquaintances, or passers-by. Such power-ups can range from increasing a Pokémon’s attack in battle to granting a 50% discount in shops for three minutes. Engaging in multiplayer activities in a Pokémon game has never been better.

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I wish I could be as enthusiastic for Pokémon X and Y‘s plot as I am for the rest of it. As usual, you’re a young Pokémon trainer that has just begun his or her journey and the region’s professor wants you to fill out the Pokédex. But wait! Some evil mastermind with a team of goons wants to destroy the world with the power of a legendary Pokémon (the bad guys this time around, Team Flare, aren’t exactly imaginative either)! Thankfully, you’re able to stop them and be off on your merry way to kick some Elite Four butt. There’s also a metaplot going on throughout all this, but it feels like something that isn’t quite explained fully. Perhaps we’ll see more of that in a Pokémon X and sequel?

As for postgame content, there’s very little to do, unfortunately. There are new areas unlocked such as the Battle Maison and Friend Safari, but compared to previous Pokémon games, it’s not much. 

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Pokémon is a series that I hold very dear to me. As such, with all that Pokémon X and brings to the table, I am insanely pleased despite any problems I do have. Whether you play every Pokémon game you can get your hands on or if it’s been a while since your last one (or if you’ve never played one at all!), it’d be a shame to miss out on Pokémon X and if you’re a 3DS owner.


Pink Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Rune Factory 4 Review

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Developer: Neverland Co.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: 3DS

I remember when the very first Rune Factory game came out. It was touted as “A Fantasy Harvest Moon”, which immediately caught my interest. I bought it as soon as it released and played a bit of it, but found it a tad too difficult and went on to other games. Of course, I still found the concept extremely fascinating and continued to follow the series. After hearing that Rune Factory 3 improved upon the series’ formula, I decided to give it a try and absolutely loved it. So, it was only natural that I would be looking forward to Rune Factory 4.

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Like Harvest Moon games, you’re able to grow crops, raise livestock (which are monsters that you tame rather than actual farm animals), and woo potential lovers. Rune Factory focuses much more on plot and RPG aspects, though. And there’s a lot of that packed into Rune Factory 4. The two main story arcs take a good 40+ hours to play through. That’s not all, though! There’s also a bonus arc that has quite a lengthy and cumbersome dungeon. I have over 70 hours logged into Rune Factory 4 and I have yet to finish the last arc.

Tired of fighting and need to take a break from the main story? Then embrace your social life! There’s plenty of well-developed characters to talk to and lots of festivals to attend. And don’t forget about the six bachelors or bachelorettes that you can date. Although it’s a smaller selection versus those of other Rune Factory games, the dating/romancing aspects in Rune Factory 4 are much more expanded. The best part is that you can totally have a harem of lovers (which made choosing a husband in Rune Factory 4 the hardest decision of my life).

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There’s also a new feature to the series, which is performing orders with accrued Prince/Princess points. These orders vary from bettering the town with new shops and festivals, to expanding your farm. Heck, you can even change your character’s portrait to that of anyone in the game.

In terms of localization, the Rune Factory series’ new home at XSEED is definitely a good one. It’s as if they’ve been taking care of publishing Rune Factory games here the whole time! I loved every bit of writing in the game and the voice acting is perfect.

The only complaint I have about Rune Factory 4 is how evil the RNG can be. You see, there are “town events” that can happen often (these were really nice for building the characters of NPCs). Whichever one may pop up is totally random. Unfortunately, bachelor/bachelorette events, and even the one needed to start the plot’s bonus arc, are included in that very large pile of randomness. You might need a lot of patience to activate some of these events.

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I had so much fun with Rune Factory 4 and I can’t recommend it enough. If you’ve ever considered jumping into the series, now is definitely the time.


Pink Score: 5

5 out of 5 alpacas


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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity Review

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Gates to Infinity Featured

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Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS

The main Pokémon games always receive lots of love. The spin-offs, however… They can be hit-or-miss. Usually miss.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is one of those series that appeals to a very small audience. Others dismiss the games as too repetitive. Sure, Gates to Infinity can feel very tedious at points. But it’s a dungeon-crawler; what do you expect? In any case, I didn’t mind the repetitiveness much — Gates to Infinity offers a lot to take the edge off of that. The construction of your own customizable “Paradise” is especially appealing. You’ll spend quite a while playing Gates to Infinity trying to perfect your Paradise and make it beautiful.

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One big thing that’s a problem for most people is the small selection of Pokémon to select as your player character and recruit. The previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games offered almost every Pokémon known up to that point to be recruitable. It is quite a shame that Spike Chunsoft wasn’t able to meet expectations, but I assume it might be an issue like having to create every Pokémon in 3D and animating them.

Gates to Infinity also offers some pretty gorgeous graphics and animation, as well as a touching plot (the ending seriously almost made me cry).

I enjoyed every minute of Gates to Infinity and there’s still so much to do. If you liked the previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles, then give Gates to Infinity a shot.


 Pink Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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