The other day I stopped into my local GameStop to see if they had any of the San Diego Comic Con exclusive Funko Pop!s available. What I discovered when I walked in, however, was much more exciting. Recently, Mega Construx released a line of Pokémon-themed building block sets. Being the Pokémon fan that I am I was at first embarrassed that this line had completely flown under my radar when it was announced back in February, but at least stumbling on them the way I did was validating.
There were about twelve sets in total, roughly six larger boxed sets and six little minifigs sort of that come in a Pokéball. I bought a little Eevee Pokéball on the spot. I figured I’d get one of the small ones to dip my toe in a bit, see how I like them. When I got home, it took me about ten minutes to put together (which really only took that long because I kept dropping all the pieces.) Once the figure was complete, I was hooked. At first it looked a little janky with the thick little legs and awkward tuft of fur on its chest but eventually all that became part of its charm.
A couple of days later I went back to the store and pored over which of the larger sets to buy. What I like most about the line is there are a few different themes; besides the smaller figures, a couple of the larger Pokémon are represented, like Charizard and Gyarados. The line also includes the starter mid-evolutions, Charmeleon, Wartortle and Ivysaur as their own stand-alone sets. Each of the starters, Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, along with Pikachu are paired off for battle scene building sets.
After much, much deliberation, I decided to go with Charizard. I also picked up Abra and Magikarp, a couple of my favorites, from the line of smaller sets so I can display next to little Eevee.
Again, the little ones were quick to assemble; total time for both of those was about fifteen minutes. Charizard, on the other hand, took roughly an hour to build. The build instructions were slightly confusing as the way they’re drawn isn’t as clear as what you’d get from a LEGO manual. I managed, though, and I’m really proud of myself.
I’m also really proud of this Charizard, which turned out to be a nice display piece. A lot of the articulation is really good, especially around the head, legs and tail. I would have liked if there was a bit more articulation, like maybe if the arms moved a little better and get some moveable fingers and jaw in there but I also realize that those features would impact the price, which may turn off a few potential fans.
As far as quality, it’s easy to tell why LEGO is the cream of the crop. That’s not to say Mega Construx are bad; in fact, they’re intricately designed and really capture the likenesses of the Pokémon they’re meant to replicate. However, the building aspect of the set was difficult at times. I found myself struggling to click blocks in place, having to rely on using my teeth to get the amount of pressure that I needed. This could have been due to some microscopic defect in the stud that made it just too big to fit. In fairness, though, it could have just been small parts and sweaty hands (it was a really hot day, you guys.)
If you do manage to get them clicked into place and realize you put the piece in the wrong spot, good luck getting it apart. Unlike LEGO, Construx don’t come with a handy separating tool so, once again, I lucked out that I had a mouthful of teeth to do the job. In fairness, though, I don’t fault Construx for this. It took LEGO years to realize a tool like this was a necessity and since they likely have a patent on it, Construx will need to design their own.
As I mentioned earlier, in addition to the larger sets, the series offers a few single figures, such as Pokémon’s mascot, Pikachu, and a few other fan favorites, like Eevee, Magikarp, and…Zubat. What I like most about these are the packaging; they all come in a plastic Pokéball that can be used as a display base once building is complete. And at around $7 each, they’re a pretty good deal. Considering LEGO minifigure blind bags can retail for right around $5 and only have about 5 pieces each and a substandard display, these Pokémon characters are basically a steal.
Even the larger sets are a good value. At this time, the biggest set was Gyarados, with a total of 352 pieces retailing for $30. Compared to some of LEGO’s franchised sets, that’s an amazing deal. The LEGO Batman Movie Riddler Riddle Racer playset has 254 pieces and is regularly priced at $35 (though was on sale for $24 at the time of this writing, for whatever that’s worth).
Then again, you get what you pay for. With LEGO being the Cadillac of building blocks, the Pokémon Mega Construx don’t size up to quite that level. Sure, the models are well done and really capture the likenesses of the Pokémon, but the builds aren’t as sophisticated as what one would expect from LEGO.
It was a great choice for Mega Construx to jump into the Pokémon arena, especially given the mainstream popularity of Pokémon GO. Building sets like these now appeal to a wider audience since they are familiar with the characters. Even though they aren’t perfect, they are fantastically modelled and offer great playability.
Bottom line: I want more. Not just “I want to buy more sets,” which is definitely true. The low price point and great showcaseability really make these sets a good value despite their shortcomings. When I say I want “more,” I mean more sets. I want this line to do well so that Mega releases additional sets, like maybe the Generation 1 legendaries, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Mewtwo. Even a tiny little Mew hovering over a Pokéball would be sweet.
Also, I want to see some from the later generations of games: Tyranitar, Hoot Hoot, Lucario. There are so many great Pokémon that would make amazing display pieces that this could go on forever…just like the games!
** NOTE: During the time of writing the SNES Classic had yet to be announced, and as such Nenedamus was still awesome and ahead of the game **
Nostalgia is wasted on the young. So many things in gaming these days are sequels, or updates, or HD special editions, or whatever the hell most companies feel like repackaging to sell to the old folks like me. And thankfully for something refreshing from that formula, the NES Classic was released – a mini console that thanks to today’s technology was able to pack 30 classic games from Nintendo’s 8-bit era into one convenient unit. It opened for $59.99 and it sounded pretty good at the time. Classic Nintendo IP like the Mario and Zelda series along with Metroid were now plug and play, with many other popular titles rounding out the 30.
And those positive vibes lasted for roughly 38 seconds.
There was absolutely no way in the infinite 8-bit hells that this price was going to remain steady. Just like all other re-issued nostalgia it was going to be bought in bulk, stocked out, and sold to gouge the highest bidders for profit. I saw the device go as high as $600 on eBay (a 1000% price hike for those playing along at home) and people jumping at the opportunity to have one. 1.5 million units were sold in just a couple months on the market. Which turned out to be… well, all of them.
So now we come to the recent development in the NES Classic saga. Recently Nintendo, without any warning or heads up, stopped production on the mini console a couple weeks ago. They have since announced that they would cease production in not only the North American region but in Japan and Europe as well. What happened next, though, surprised the hell out of Old Man Nene though for such a simple thing – the gaming community, at least what I’ve seen on social media, lost its damn mind. But it didn’t make any sense to me. Most kid gamers my age still have our NES and games intact. Younger gamers have online emulators and ROMS. Why was this such a big thing in the gaming community that I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about? What was the draw? Well kids, to all you Aging Gamer faithful that listen to Old Man Nene in his rocking chair tell you how it used to be – I can only offer the immortal words of DJ Khaled:
Congratulations. You played yourself.
It’s basic economics and mindshare. Firstly, Nintendo never meant for this to be an ongoing product – why would they when the Switch was just around the corner? This was always going to be special edition and never a permanent offering. The number of units manufactured was set to reflect that. Look at any supply and demand scenario – the second the “super rare” tag gets slapped on an item the price spikes like a rocket, and people are willing to pay more for a scarce product. What Nintendo did was create an artificial demand and gamers responded precisely the way they were supposed to.
It’s like some small restaurants that have lines for blocks leading to their front door. Sure it’ll draw more people and generate more demand, but they don’t tell you that there’s only 10 seats inside and that’s what causing the line.
[Side note: that was an angry morning in Philadelphia for Old Man Nene. I just wanted some pancakes.]
Secondly, they created an environment where gamers would have Nintendo control every free thought in their brains for the foreseeable future. The NES Classic dropped in November 2016. The Switch hit shelves four months later in March 2017. Look at the timing of those events, including the NES Classic price gouge in the middle. This is not a coincidence. It could be argued that hands clamoring for the NES Classic could ultimately lead to a Switch sale. Bummed that the NES Classic is done for? That 8-bit longing, along with murky rumors about a virtual console on the Switch, could be enough mind control to have gamers shelling out fistfuls of cash in the future for games they bought already via the NES Classic. I mean it’s not really that far a stretch… I’m sure there’s a bunch of Square-Enix fans that have 7 different versions and releases of Final Fantasy IV.
In the end, my prediction is this: The NES Classic is dead, but I can see a SNES Classic in the not too distant future.
So go ahead and be mad that you couldn’t get an NES Classic. Celebrate and rejoice if you managed to snag one. But remember this kids – in the end we’re all just logic boards in the gaming machine.
[And while I cannot condone a workaround that theoretically involves easily constructing a Raspberry Pi powered RetroPie DIY unit, legend has it (seriously you guys) would only take an hour to get together, be ultra cheap and allow you to play your old 8 and 16 bit games. I can also neither confirm nor deny such things exists.]
The Nintendo Switch has had a successful launch and is definitely the real deal but Nintendo’s newest console is not without it’s issues. Skepticism is healthy and it comes very easy to people who have yet to actually try the system out for themselves, but for those of us who have had a little more hands on experience it can be hard to see past the hype. It is important to point out that this new hardware is amazing in the many things it sets out to do while at the same time being grounded in the reality that nothing is perfect at launch. Here are some of the more prominent issues to look out for before you decide if you want to sink north of $300 into the newest gaming trend.
Battery Life is Laughable
For what is being touted as a hybrid system, your total time on the go will add up to 2.5 – 3.5 hours. That barely gets you anywhere when playing The Legend Zelda: Breath of the Wild, just trust that your Switch can and will die on you. Even on medium brightness! The controllers thankfully have such a long battery life that I have yet to find myself with a live system, and dead sticks. Make sure you are carrying around the charger if you leave with your Switch.
You Will Need a Screen Protector!
The Switch’s dock will scratch up the screen of your Switch if you are not careful with sliding it in. Now this is mostly user error, as if you do sloppily put in the Switch, the screen will scratch. How to combat this? Treat it like your cell phone or expensive handheld device. Buy a screen protector and be sure to place the Switch into its dock very carefully every time. Ya know, treat your expensive hardware correctly! All screens on all devices, be they plastic or glass, are not immune to damage. It may be common sense, but its in need of pointing out.
Limited On Board Memory
If you plan to download a lot of games and extras on your Nintendo Switch, it is in your best interest to grab a SD Micro Card! 32 gigs of space with over 5 uses on the Operating System leaves you with very little extra room. I’d suggest spending the extra money to get more memory!
Lack of Release Titles
I currently have 3 games on my Switch. A racing game called Fast RMX, an old game called Shovel Knight, and the main event of course being The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While Zelda may be a solid contender for one of the greatest games of all time (seriously, I’ve put over 20 hours into it and there is nothing like it), it still only is ONE game. The other two titles work well as pallet cleansers, but beyond these there just are not a lot of offerings currently.
Reported Dead Pixels
If you have a Switch that is suffering from dead pixels, take it back to the store and make them return it. These things happen in all products and while Nintendo is saying “it is not their issue,” you can certainly still return it to the store you bought it at. Make sure you do a good inspection before keeping the system for too long. Dead pixels will be pretty obvious pretty quickly.
Joy-Cons Can’t Charge Without Being Docked
Now this is just a classic Nintendo maneuver. This just screams of, “Hey this is okay, just buy our 30 dollar proprietary peripheral to place your Joy-Cons in to charge your controllers while you play!” To add more insult to injury, this purchasable peripheral looks exactly like the controller cradle that comes with the system – except it is unable to charge, which seems like a standard feature. This may be among this most frustrating things about the system and accessories.
Controller Syncing Issues
Though they are meant to be used together, the Joy-Cons themselves are standalone controllers and there have been multiple reports of the left Joy-Con un-syncing. It seems many things are interfering with the signal and there is talk of a possible a firmware update to fix this, however it is still an unacceptable issue to have at launch.
No Virtual Console
This is a subjective issue but many were anticipating virtual console, so I imagine its absence currently is a deal breaker for some. This addition could have padded out the Nintendo Switch’s, launch but they were unable to deliver. This service is coming, but for now it is not present and no idea when it will become available.
No Party Chat
Party Chat currently does not exist – and when it does, you will need a phone app to use it. Um what? I will reserve any more judgment until this feature comes out and I get hands on time with it. Because that’s what you do, use something before forming an opinion on it.
Friend Codes Are Back
The friend codes are still used to find friends online. This is old, archaic, and there has to be better ways to do this by now. But I quickly got over it as I filled out my friends lists with help from previous Nintendo apps to help find people I have interacted with, or putting in your 75 (not a real number) digit arbitrary code to find somebody specific.
The Nintendo Switch kickstand is flimsy and it feels like the console is always on the verge of tipping over. I suggest some sort of case that props it up if you plan to play it on the go and upright.
Game Saves Locked to System
Unlike other consoles, the save data for your games is currently locked to the system. Now this seems like it will be something that is addressed in a firmware update but for the moment I hope you are not planning on continuing your gaming adventures on a friend’s console. It is a traveling system, though, so there should be little to no need for save data transfers outside of upgrading to a new system or extracting data off of a broken one. Here’s to hoping this is fixed soon!
No Ethernet Port
What is this the 90s? Sure I get everything is wireless now but for online gaming, internet speed is paramount and Wi-fi does not always cut it! How much cost was cut from excluding this? its a big omission but thankfully I have had zero issues with the wi-fi, connecting online, or being unable to update my games or get into a quick race in Fast RMX.
Some of these issues with the Nintendo Switch will be deal breakers to some while not even being a blip on the radar for others. For now if I had to impart advice to anybody who is on the fence, I would say that all early adopters for any piece of hardware are basically glorified beta testers. There will be kinks, there will be issues, and oversights in the first batch of these systems, but that is not exclusive to this product.
My take on it? Wait for a few months. Watch the catalog of games grow, watch some of the issues be addressed, and when it feels right for you, pull the trigger, because there is nothing in the world like never having to stop playing. There is something so novel about grabbing the system and continuing your session at work, on the bus, or on vacation, while never feeling like the limitations of playing cell phone game or handheld device. This is true hardcore, triple A gaming on the go which was the mantra of the Nintendo Switch. In that regard, they nailed what they set out to do.
I hate to dwell on the negatives, but being objective about the shortcomings of a new product is important! Stay tuned to a future feature about all the things I loved about the system, and strap yourself in because there is A LOT to love!
Monster Boy started as a Kickstarter project called “Flying Hamster.” Since then, the team welcomed Ryuichi Nishizawa and turned the game into Monster Boy, based off the Wonder Boy in Monster World, a mashup between the Wonder Boy and Monster World series. Please go look those up if you have no idea what we’re talking about.
The player takes control of Jin, a boy who can transform into five different monsters to solve puzzles and take down enemies with a variety of abilities. This platformer hearkens back to old school platformers in the 80s and 90s — simple gameplay, peppy music, bright visuals. Like a Saturday morning cartoon video game that you set your alarm for.
Monster Boy is simultaneously releasing on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One later this year.
Some game developers try to emulate the style of classic pixel games and achieve something between nostalgia and amusement. Then you have a game like Warlock’s Tower, which just looks like it’s always been a Gameboy game and dares you to tell it otherwise.
The graphics of Warlock’s Tower look exactly like an original Gameboy game being played on the Super Gameboy player, complete with being able to change main color from green to orange yellow. All of that helps Warlock’s Tower in the charming area, but the underlying gameplay is really cool, too.
At it’s core, Warlock’s Tower is a puzzle game in which you take control of a mailman trying to avoid monsters and deliver a letter to the warlock of the titular tower. Each move you make takes away one life, but there are tokens on each floor to increase the number of lives you have. It’s a puzzle to be able to figure out which tokens to get at what time and using what directions. The game even has Twitch integration so you can interact with your chat while you play.
Warlock’s Tower is out now for PC.
Has Been Heroes
Has Been Heroes is a Roguelike inspired by Plants Vs. Zombies.
Oh, what, you need more?
In the game, you’ll take control of three characters, each with their own lane. Each character has a different number of attacks, attack power, and control of spells. It’s up to the player to time their attacks accurately, swap characters, and utilize spells cleverly to fight back hoards of enemies.
At first, it takes a bit to get used with character switching and the concept of enemies having points with which to block your attacks, but very quickly, you’re pausing the game less, attacking with one character, swapping another in after the shield is broken to follow up with a health attack, and using spells on the fly. It’s satisfying to feel in control, but also like your heart is in your throat trying to figure out if your abilities will be off cooldown before the next enemy reaches you.
Has Been Heroes comes out March 28th for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
If you watched our live stream of the Nintendo Switch announcement, you will know that we did not have a kind word to say about Arms.
After having played the demo at PAX South, I may as well be Shrek – because now I’m a believer. For a game with such a strangely picked title and looking like the least fun game on Wii Sports, Arms has no business being as good as it is. The controls are responsive, the customizing of characters feels good, but isn’t overwhelming, and above all else, the game is really fun. I also have a feeling the developers knew it was kind of a goofy game. I mean, it’s called Arms and one of the characters is called Master Mummy. Someone is in on this joke.
The game is also surprisingly deep with strategy, given how much jumping, dashing, cancelling, and your special can really make or break a fight. Overall, it’s quite fun and actually gives you a bit of a work out if you’re competitive. The only downside is you need two pairs of Joycons to play it, and jeepers, those are expensive.
Arms will be out at launch for the Nintendo Switch on March 3rd.
Did you like the first Splatoon? Good, because Splatoon 2 is just like that, but slightly better.
Remember when Left 4 Dead came out, then a year later Left 4 Dead 2 came out and it was almost identical, but had better stuff in it? That’s exactly what’s happening here. Splatoon is a great game that just didn’t reach a wide enough audience because the Wii U’s sales were so poor, so it’s actually a great idea to add some stuff to it and release a sequel on the Switch where the user base will be, presumably, much larger.
There’s not much different between the two games, other than the addition of the Splat Dualies, dual pistols that focus more on PvP than painting the ground. They give you the ability to dodge roll, which is pretty powerful especially if your opponent is using the gyroscope and having to contort their torso just to see you.
Splatoon 2 is out this Summer for Nintendo Switch.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s hard to say anything new about Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That being said, videos don’t quite do it justice.
We’ve watched trailers and gameplay videos showing the opening scene of Link coming into the world for the first time. It was impressive seeing it the first few times, but actually experiencing it live, immersed by the sound, experiencing that transition into the cut scene is like the first time you realize Final Fantasy VII doesn’t just take place in Midgar. Seeing Death Mountain way in the distance and knowing you can go there is mind boggling.
The game isn’t without its faults — some button mapping could use some work and if we’re being nitpicky, the lines on the edges of textures can be a little jagged — but none of it even comes close to tainting the sense of adventure, freedom, and wonder felt from the first time you pick up the controller.
In the short demo, we only activated a tower, fought some bokoblins, and did part of the magnesis shrine, but the world felt alive. The concerns about it maybe being too open and sparse may still prove to be correct, but at the present, no Zelda game has given us this many goosebumps since Ocarina of Time.
You can play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on either Nintendo Switch or Wii U March 3rd.
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
Monster Boy, Warlock’s Tower, and Has Been Heroes
Prisma and The Masquerade Menace, Sundered, and RiME
Minit, Beat Cop, and Strikers Edge