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Pokémon Unite Review: A Charming Take On MOBA

Colin Edge

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Pokémon Unite has been out on Nintendo Switch for a few weeks now, and has surprised most of us with how well Pokémon could translate into a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game. Unite has done a wonderful job of making the MOBA platform simple, charming, and accessible. And battles are genuinely fun. But as a free-to-play game, it’s marked with a nagging margin for unfairness. Multiple confusing menus can also be a headache.

 

Pokémon Unite is a standard MOBA: two teams of five players each duke it out on a two-lane battlefield. Players gain points called Aeos energy by defeating opposing players and wild Pokémon, then dunking the Aeos into the enemy’s goal like LeBron. Standard games are on a ten-minute timer, and whichever team has the most points at the end wins. The magic of the little pocket monsters gives this MOBA color and personality.


With a current roster of 21 Pokémon (and more coming), players can improve their mons mid-game, including a chargeable ultimate attack. Cramorant’s Gatling Gulp Missile is especially deadly. And the characters range in abilities, from attacker, to supporter, to speedster. Developers have already updated Unite to fix some early issues with game balance, increasing the damage dealt by almost every move. 

But with most free-to-play MOBAs, the possibility to buy your way to victory through in-game purchases lurks behind the scenes. While every team can access the same Pokémon (whether through play time or purchases), “Held Items” can be maxed out with a quick swipe of the credit card. Maxed-out items don’t necessarily guarantee a win, but can certainly affect gameplay. While this disparity between free/paying gameplay isn’t egregious, it’s also not quite 100% fair.

While Unite is colorfully simple in battle, multiple menus can get messy when you don’t know your way around. It’s really useful to be able to customize your playstyle, but between gems/tickets/coins and menus galore, the bureaucracy of the game’s organization can feel draining.

Despite all-too-common MOBA shortcomings, Unite shows us that Pokémon can do anything. It infuses the platform with Pokémon magic we’ve come to expect across the franchise. As a multiplayer game, it’s delightful. If you’re a fan of Pokémon, or MOBAs, or both, you won’t regret giving Pokémon Unite a few (or hundreds of) hours of your life.

I’m a writer and creative professional who loves pop culture, music, games, and anything else that allows people to express themselves and share their passion.

Nintendo

7 N64 Games We’d Like to See on Nintendo Switch Online

Colin Edge

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In Nintendo’s latest Direct presentation, we were thrilled to find out that N64 and Sega Genesis games will be coming to Nintendo Switch Online. And in their abounding generosity, Nintendo even gave us a sneak peek of the first wave of titles that will be available on the service.

With quintessential mega-hits like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and even Banjo-Kazooie, it’s a solid list. We’re certainly pleased. But the N64’s catalog is vast, and there are so many more titles that simply have to make it onto NSO. 


While some of these games non-negotiably need to be added like yesterday, others are items of the more “wish list” variety. So, just like our Game Boy/ Game Boy Color NSO wishlist, we have some thoughts. Here are seven titles we’d love to see on Nintendo Switch Online:

Donkey Kong 64

Donkey Kong’s first and only 3D title (for now…) was a silly game. Chucking pineapples and hitting bad guys with trombones – it was a real clown car. But Donkey Kong 64 was also an indisputably elegant platformer. With a few quality of life improvements like more frequent save spots, the game could really get a second wind and bring joy to a new generation of gamers.

Diddy Kong Racing

Now, for Donkey Kong’s smaller primate nephew. It takes real chutzpah to release a kart racing game in the long, looming shadow of Mario Kart. But Rare Ltd. was on fire in the ‘90s, and they pulled off an imaginative, innovative gem in Diddy Kong Racing. Not only did the game implement planes and hovercraft, but it also sported a challenging and captivating single-player adventure mode.

Super Smash Bros.

The OG. It’s hard to imagine a version of Super Smash with only twelve characters and nine stages, but that’s how we did our smashing back in ‘99. They were simpler times. And with Sora bringing the Super Smash Ultimate lineup to a close, it would be fun to go back to where it all began.

GoldenEye 007

Who can forget the way that screen turned red when you got shot? What was meant as a fun accessory to promote the latest James Bond film turned out to be a masterpiece. Also developed by Rare Ltd., GoldenEye was a stellar first-person shooter, and arguably set the stage for games like Halo. This title would be the toughest to get rereleased, due to licensing red tape. But oh how we wish it would!


1080° Snowboarding

This popular snowboarding game actually preceded Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater by one year. Extreme sports were on the rise in the late ‘90s, and 1080° Snowboarding capitalized on it with a game that was graphically sharp and mechanically smooth for its time. Customize your ride at the lodge, then hit one of the trickiest slopes. This one would be a blast to play online with friends.

Mario Party

Yes, Mario Party Superstars includes boards from the original N64 game. But, like Super Smash, Mario Party has been reinvented and added-onto considerably since the first entry. Revisiting this zany series’ inception would be a pleasant trip down memory lane.

Pokémon Stadium

The N64 era was so exciting for so many franchises because it brought our favorite characters into the world of 3D. Consistent with this phenomenon, Pokémon Stadium took those cute monsters and gave them a dazzling three-dimensional makeover. This tournament-style strategy game let you transfer your ‘mons from the 151 Pokédex of the Game Boy games and fight them. It was a pivotal title in Pokémon and Nintendo’s illustrious joint history.


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Nintendo

Metroid Dread Delivers

Colin Edge

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If you ask anyone who’s played Metroid Dread what they think about it so far, you might hear something like “to be honest, I had my doubts, but…” This game has been surrounded by immense hype. Metroid is a series with a deep history and deeper fandom. So the more cynical among us could see the propensity for the fine people at Nintendo and MercurySteam to rest on the laurels of this franchise and create a rote, victory lap of a game. Fortunately, they didn’t do anything of the sort.

Metroid Dread is the final chapter in the mainline, 2D Metroid story; a story development that’s been in limbo for almost two decades. And the title could not have been chosen more accurately. From the start of the game, Samus feels less the hunter and more the hunted. She’s been sent to the planet ZDR to research the malevolent X parasite, following a band of E.M.M.I. drones originally sent for the same purpose. 


The evil-turned E.M.M.I. robots contribute to a defining characteristic of Dread: its punishing difficulty. As the title’s name suggests, you feel like you’re always on the backfoot, struggling for survival. And it’s an adrenaline-juiced thrill. Besting the agile, wall-crawling bots takes navigation through each of the seven E.M.M.I. zones, defeating a mother-brain-esque central computer, and using its power for one blast to rule them all. It’s a challenge of pace and prowess.

Developers seemed to go through the Metroid formula with a fine-tooth comb, enhancing what we love from this game series. It’s the best a Metroid game has ever looked, with sharp, vivid graphics (especially on Nintendo’s shiny new OLED Switch). Controlling Samus is impressively smooth and snappy, with new moves and suits to boot. But boss fights are the highlight of this game. 

The bosses in Dread have to be studied. They can’t be outgunned. They can’t be outlived. You’ll have to go to school. While they’re tough, they’re also exceedingly rewarding. With variety and intuition, these boss battles keep you on your toes. It’s sure to afford Dread “gamer’s gamer” approval. 

Along with legitimately challenging battles, Metroid Dread also achieves a near-perfect balancing act in many ways. The characteristic nonlinear gameplay neither holds your hand nor leaves you hitting your head against a wall. The game balances narrative cutscenes with platforming action. It balances classic Metroid elements with new innovations. It keeps momentum building steadily throughout. And in true Metroid fashion, there’s a big twist at the end. 

You could argue that the developers of Dread drilled down on perfecting the game’s mechanics so much that it short-changed on some of the more atmospheric characteristics for which Metroid is beloved. But ultimately, fans of the series are just so glad that Nintendo did justice to this “final” installment of the mainline Metroid series. Dread reminds us why this game has an entire subgenre named after it. It’s an apex of 2D platforming.


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Nintendo Switch

The 10 Best RPGs on Nintendo Switch in 2021

Colin Edge

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Since its release in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has racked up an immense collection of exceptional games. Games of almost every type. Included in this number is a solid lineup of RPGs. 

It comes as no surprise that the Switch is an apt console for RPG titles. It’s versatility allows you to continue your character’s story on the go. Why wait ‘til you get home to quest, when you can do it on your commute, at the park, or in the coffee shop (and maybe sometimes at work when no one’s looking)?


In any discussion of RPGs, it’s pretty easy to fall into a brain-taxing dilemma of genre definition. With so many modern games stretching genre boundaries and mixing elements of several genres, the RPG is defined more loosely than ever. JRPGs borrow features from Western ones, and vice-versa. Then there’s the action RPG, the strategy RPG, and on and on until before you know it a game of “go fish” can somehow be described as an RPG.

So, to allow the spotlight to shine on games other than the blockbuster genre-mixers (I’m looking at you, BotW), this list will stay away from games better described as “action RPGs” and stick to those with more classic elements of the role-playing genre. With that said, everyone’s definition of the RPG will differ, as will everyone’s favorite titles. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the top RPGs for the Nintendo Switch that most gamers would consider quality.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

This game is creative, massive, immersive, and many other –ives. The same team from Monolith Soft that designed this game helped create the open-world greatness of Zelda’s Breath of the Wild, so you know it’s good. A gripping story with a JRPG flavor and an open world of epic proportions make this game a standout title in the Xenoblade series, and a worthy RPG for the Switch.

Pokémon Sword and Shield

Pokémon and Nintendo are a dynamic duo. The Sword and Shield games uphold the Pokémon reputation for exciting exploration, adorable monsters, and pure joy. It’s almost easy to miss the fact that these games are also legit RPGs. From NPCs to turn-based combat, Pokémon Sword/Shield packs role-playing goodness beneath that fluffy exterior.

Bravely Default II

With Bravely Default II, the folks at Claytechworks/Square Enix nailed the textbook RPG. As mentioned earlier, many games cherry-pick RPG elements, while tossing out others. But this JRPG shows how much quality you can fit within the lane of the role-playing game format. Sprawling open world, deep story, beautiful art, character customization, and intricate combat; this game delivers, and it’s a must for any RPG fan.


Undertale

In a genre with so many epic, stress-inducing, world-hanging-in-the-balance scenarios, a lighthearted take on the RPG is uniquely refreshing. This indie fave from Toby Fox is the game where “nobody has to die”. Full of humor, charming characters, and 8-bit aesthetic, this underworld adventure places emphasis on the choices you make for your character. And it’s a hell of a good time.

Octopath Traveler

This Nintendo Switch original is eight stories (hence the name) that weave in and out of each other in countless and captivating ways. From path actions, to battle, to talents, this game is heavily character-based and rich with content. The art is gorgeous. The orchestral score is gripping. The narrative style is extraordinary. Octopath Traveler is certainly a standout.

Golf Story

You’d be surprised how much narrative depth you can fit into a game about golf. From task completion to character interaction, Golf Story is hole-in-one (you had to see that golf pun coming). Borrowing from Mario Golf on the Game Boy Color, this Switch exclusive game stirs the competitive athlete inside even the laziest of us. Also, the sound of that putter hitting the ball combined with the Switch’s HD rumble is zen-ly satisfying.


The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is a dutiful homage to the classic JRPG. And it’s brilliantly executed. It’s the 3rd installment in a running series, rather than a standalone. So for max enjoyment, play the first two. While that may seem daunting, it’s worth it. Following this dynamic cast of characters over the course of all three games is a long haul, but rewarding. Like a crockpot dinner.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

A video game collab with Studio Ghibli?! Yes please. Naturally, you’ll be stunned by this RPG’s art and immersed in its story. From Ni no Kuni’s fantastical world, to its stellar soundtrack, this game is entrancing. It’s like playing a part in a movie. But what else would you expect from Studio Ghibli?

Child of Light: Ultimate Edition

With grace and nuance, Child of Light offers up an accessible and charming brand of RPG. Unlike many of the genre’s titles, this one isn’t overloaded with content or unnecessary complexity. But don’t confuse simplicity and brevity with inadequacy. Aurora’s story is a compelling one, and the gameplay is gorgeous.

Final Fantasy IX

C’mon, did you really think we’d make a top RPG list without Final Fantasy? You can literally swap any FF title of your choice for this one (they’re all great), but IX is special for several reasons. This is a classic JRPG that outlined what a quintessential role-playing game looks and feels like. The zany characters are unforgettable, with some serious customization to boot. From stat-influenced battle mechanics, to delightful Japanese animation, this one will forever hold a place as one of the RPG greats. 


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