What does the future hold for 2D side-scrolling revivals?

As I recently completed my first playthroughs of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection and Shantae and the Seven Sirens, a thought occurred to me. Games like this have suddenly started appearing left and right over the course of the last few years. While indie devs began to fill the gap of side-scrollers with games like Shovel Knight and Freedom Planet, Nintendo, Capcom, and even Konami have begun stepping up with revivals of their own.

Developed by fans and published by Sega, Sonic Mania Plus sets the example of an ideal revival for 2D side-scrollers.

And yet, before you knew it, they were gone. Just fizzled back out into obscurity after a few years without a peep since. E3’s coming up next month and it’s given us hope that we’ll get to see more of what we love.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010). Developed by Metroid Prime team, Retro Studios, this was a prime example of how to do a revival.

However, that’s not to dismiss the claim that a number of these revival titles could be more than what they are. After all, that’s one of the main reasons they develop sequels, right? I would love to see more of our familiar favorites coming out from our favorite developers. And I can think of a few games that come to mind.

Mega Man 11

One of the predominant side-scrolling series across the past 35 years, Mega Man deserves a place in every gaming generation. Returning for the first time since 2010, the Blue Bomber geared up for a new adventure to take on his nemesis, Dr. Wily. Featuring new fusion abilities, Mega Man 11 set a new standard for trademark copy abilities and gave you new ways to progress through levels.

Unfortunately, Capcom’s mascot took an unwarranted leave of absence after the release of Mega Man 10. Shortly after its release, series producer Keiji Inafune left. Ambitiously attempting to replicate the success of Mega Man at his new studio, Comcept, his next game left disastrous results to say the least.

Mighty No. 9 (2016) featuring pizza explosions.

Meanwhile, Capcom finally decided to cave under the pressure of demand and, after a seven-year absence, developed Mega Man 11. The very notion that Mega Man had returned had people leaping for joy. This new title brought Mega Man into HD and looked much better than Mighty No. 9 could ever hope to be. The Nintendo Switch release even featured an exclusive amiibo.

Future of Mega Man

However, it comes with a few issues that could be tackled. It’s a good Mega Man title but one that could always use more. While I feel the soundtrack wasn’t as much of a hit as past games, it still did its job. But where are the extra playable characters akin to Mega Man 9 and 10?

Mega Man 10 featured Protoman and Bass as playable characters. But the real question is when will Roll become playable in Mega Man?

In addition to Mega Man 12, fans continue to demand Mega Man X9 as X8 came out on PS2 in 2004! While Capcom has been on fire with its recent Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Monster Hunter releases, here’s hoping they haven’t forgotten their beloved mascot either.

Metroid: Samus Returns

When Nintendo announced Metroid Prime 4 at E3 2017, they announced a side-scrolling 3DS title alongside it: the reimagining of Metroid II: Return of Samus for Game Boy. Metroid: Samus Returns is the first 2D Metroid title to come out since 2004’s Metroid: Zero Mission for Game Boy Advance. Developer Mercury Steam took the reigns and gave Samus Returns a 2.5D remake playing similar to the hit title Super Metroid. Adding a map, new abilities, and some mighty battles, the developer took cues from past Metroid titles, including Prime, and delivered a hit Metroidvania on the 3DS.

Now, I can’t vouch that Metroid: Samus Returns was the prettiest looking game on the system. While its animations looked great, I feel its character models and backgrounds looked rather bland. Call me spoiled by the 2D sprite work used in Metroid: Zero Mission but I feel the art could have used a bit more polish. However, it’s at least passable and the game itself still delivers a solid experience. I should also mention, however, that Samus Returns looks gorgeous on the Citra emulator.

Metroid: Samus Returns is a remake of 1991’s Metroid II: Return of Samus.

Samus Returns added the new Aeion abilities which allowed Samus to use powerful rapid-fire abilities or stop time. The final boss fight also took a massive swerve from the original Game Boy title in the best possible way. However, unlockable images in the gallery showed the potential for a sequel. Despite being released in 2017, this has yet to surface. It goes without saying Nintendo is long overdue for releasing another Metroid title.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection

When I beat this game, I can’t say I was as satisfied as I’d hoped to be. Instead of taking the balanced level design and double-jump options from Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, it was more of an enemy mob rush akin to the original arcade and NES Ghosts ‘n Goblins title. As such, I found myself unsatisfied with several design choices.

This comes despite its awe-inspiring artistic work. The animations, colors, and gorgeous level backgrounds spoke of an epic fantasy adventure worth your eyes and ears. The new skill tree system gave Arthur new abilities and spells to help him survive using skills like Doppelganger to double or triple his attacks.

Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins (2006). Before Resurrection, Capcom waited 15 years to release a new title in the series.

However, even despite my critique, that doesn’t mean I want the series to go away. If anything, I want Capcom to continue digging back into their vault and reimagining their franchises for the modern era. Ghosts ‘n Goblins already took a decade and a half before coming back to the forefront. I would love to see it since there’s another certain demon fighting game series by Capcom which has yet to see a new game.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained is interesting in that it’s essentially an indie title but one by a former well-known producer from Konami. The former producer of the Castlevania titles from Symphony of the Night onwards, Koji Igarashi, created Bloodstained as a spiritual successor to his titles. The game included much of the same gameplay as his Metroidvania titles and even featured his game’s composer, Michiru Yamane, at the helm.

Through and through, Bloodstained is heavily inspired by Koji Igarashi’s last mainline Castlevania title, Order of Ecclesia, which was released in 2008 for Nintendo DS. The 1800s setting consists of demon attacks on villages while the female protagonist enters a castle and absorbs enemy shards to gain their powers.

Sometimes it feels a little too close to Order of Ecclesia, but that’s also not bad. However, it leaves less of an impact than Symphony of the Night, which practically defined its own genre. It also doesn’t feel like a polished refinement or evolution, like Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, but rather serves as a love letter to the series’ fans.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (2008). This title featured a female protagonist named Shanoa who could absorb glyphs for enemy powers.

Pros and Cons of Bloodstained

My gripes with Bloodstained came from its visual style and some pacing issues. Even though they fixed the game’s lighting and backgrounds, something about the game still looks rather stiff in comparison to past Metroidvania titles. Another problem stemmed from its disastrously long loading times should you get killed.

In one instance, you also have to kill an aquatic enemy to gain the power to swim. Yet you’re given no hint to this and in past games underwater travel was unlocked through a nigh-unmissable item you could obtain after a boss fight for instance. Plus, while previous Castlevania games unlocked Boss Rush and extra character modes after clearing, these were free DLC pieces that came months after the main game came out.

Speaking of extra character modes, I feel Julius Mode in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow did it best for having actual dialogue and an alternate final boss battle. I feel IGAvania titles rely too much on the “swap character but have no storyline” formula that they’ve done since Richter Mode in Symphony of the Night. In addition to a game rounded out with unlockables from the start, I would love to see the next Bloodstained title look prettier and offer more to the extra character story.

Getsu Fuma Den

Finally, on the subject of Konami and Castlevania, the developer actually unveiled a trailer featuring the remake of a title never released in the U.S. While Nintendo delved deep into their vault to remake the NES title, Famicom Detective Club, Konami figured they would do the same. In a time where the aforementioned titles gained success from longtime fans and newcomers, Konami decided instead of releasing a new Castlevania to dig into their own NES vault to release this mystery title.

Konami initially showcased Getsu Fuma Den: Undying Moon was initially via DLC in 2011’s Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. The multiplayer dungeon crawler’s final level featured a metal remix of one of the game’s themes, an 8-bit level from the game, and a new character: Getsu Fuma. The game’s theme also came to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

As such, Konami has hopped onto the retro remake bandwagon to capitalize on a franchise previously unreleased to the west. While Konami has been under heavy scrutiny for the past decade, their release of Super Bomberman R has at least shown some promise that they might begin developing actual console games. The announcement of Getsu Fuma Den certainly does not disappoint!

Final Thoughts

I could go on about games we would love to see. By no means am I disappointed to see how many 2D side-scrollers we’ve received since the latter half of the past decade. Even if Capcom keeps releasing Resident Evil 4 HD and Okami HD, that doesn’t mean we might not get Viewtiful Joe HD someday.

Viewtiful Joe (2003). A stellar platformer and beat ’em up hybrid.

But it also goes to show the progress that fan demand has made in getting developers to release these long-standing series with a glorious HD makeover. Whether it’s through their art styles, new music, creative game mechanics, or just a nice throwback to the past, these quality gaming experiences prove they can last as well now as they did in the 80s and 90s.

Before a cease and desist order from Nintendo, fans created their own remake of Metroid II titled AM2R.

With E3 coming up, I really hope to see what else developers will throw at us. 2D side-scrollers deliver some of the most enjoyable experiences gaming has to offer.

What’s your favorite 2D platformer or Metroidvania revival of the past decade and what do you hope to see? Let us know in the replies below. As always, be sure to Like our main page and follow our social media accounts for more quality gaming content.

Until next time!

Castlevania: A History of Boss Fights and Their Best Era on Nintendo DS.

Konami’s illustrious Castlevania series is one of the most well-known and beloved side-scrolling series in gaming history. Starting with the NES Castlevania, the series evolved from a difficult 2D platformer into a Metroidvania which invited exploration and RPG elements. Not only is Castlevania known for its stellar soundtrack and gameplay but features a remarkable history of boss battles as well.

However, it’s worth noting that the series’ boss battles evolved over the course of decades. While Castlevania was always known for its difficulty, the boss fights themselves only offered a simplistic variety of attack patterns. Rather, once the series debuted on the Nintendo DS, Castlevania boss fights quickly became tougher.

Note that this list will cover the 2D Castlevania titles from the NES (1986) to Harmony of Despair (2011). This list is meant to cover the evolution of the boss fight creativity within the Castlevania series over the years. With that being said, please be mindful of the Castlevania series spoilers below.

Traditional Platformers – NES

1986’s Castlevania featured boss fights from horror novels, movies, and even the Christian Bible. Among them included Vampire Bat, Medusa, The Creature, the Mummy, Death, and Count Dracula himself. Each boss featured considerably simplistic patterns. However, Simon Belmont’s limited movement made evading their attacks difficult.

Without Holy Water or Cross, you were screwed.

Castlevania III featured several characters including Grant Danasti. This agile pirate could freely control his jump movement in midair. In the Japanese version, he could also throw Knives while also equipping another sub-weapon. Grant could trivialize most boss fights including Dracula.

Haunted Castle’s Dracula featured a sinister yet contrasting visual style to the rest of the game.

Traditional Platformers – 16-bit era

Super Castlevania IV gave Simon free movement control. However, unlike Grant, Simon was considerably larger and thus not quite as agile. Boss fights still played as they did in past games with large health bars but limited movements and simplistic patterns. Despite some bosses being tougher, they could still be trivialized with proper methodology.

Castlevania Bloodlines featured two characters – John and Eric – while Rondo of Blood also featured two characters – Richter and Maria. In Bloodlines, the final boss fight was blocked with a major gauntlet of boss battles including Death, Elizabeth, and Dracula himself. Rondo of Blood also featured a boss gauntlet against the original four bosses from Castlevania before fighting the dark priest, Shaft.

Metroidvania Era – Symphony of the Night

When Symphony of the Night came to PlayStation in 1997, players gained control of a new character: Alucard. Son of Dracula, who originally appeared in Castlevania III for NES, this revamped design of Alucard could equip swords, magic spells, and summon familiars. The Metroidvania era meant the game progressed akin to titles like Super Metroid which featured a map and free exploration. However, you needed to gain certain powerups or keys to gain access to another part of the castle.

Alucard’s free movement, his equipment, the item inventory, and RPG leveling mechanics gave the player new ways to conquer bosses. While some could pose a challenge to the player, proper equips and well-timed dodges could trivialize most of them. Particularly, weapons such as the Valmanway (aka Crissaegrim) or the Alucard Shield + Shield Rod combo effectively rendered all challenge null.

Granted, it took a bit of time and work to even access these items. Symphony of the Night allowed the player a bit of a challenge up until a little past the first half of the game. But with such equips, even the game’s superboss, Galamoth, could fall within seconds.

Metroidvania Era – Game Boy Advance

I found the Dragon Zombies to be among the hardest fights in the game.

Years later, Circle of the Moon, which came to Game Boy Advance in 2001, offered a bit harder of a challenge. I daresay you needed to grind levels in order to take out Adrammelch, Zombie Dragon, Camilla, and Dracula. Nathan needed to find DSS cards in order to cast magic and summon creatures. In my case, I just used a DSS glitch to summon Cockatrice to level the playing field against the bosses.

Neither Harmony of Dissonance nor Aria of Sorrow presented much boss challenge in their Normal difficulty modes. Bosses still moved with their stiff movements. Rather, only the rival battles against Maxim and Julius, respectively, could really be considered challenging for the player. Julius in particular dealt out harsh damage and could use multiple sub-weapons in his boss battle.

Metroidvania Era – Nintendo DS

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow continued the Game Boy Advance titles onto the stronger hardware of the Nintendo DS. Dawn of Sorrow was in fact a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow. However, the spritework and use of 3D backgrounds, thanks to the stronger processor of the latter handheld, ran more in line with Symphony of the Night on PlayStation.

Portrait of Ruin featured Dracula and Death in the final battle.

However, what stands out here is the particular design of boss battles. Players who failed to read and memorize its pattern would end up punished and lose tons of health compared to past games. Whereas it might be easy to be a bit overleveled in the GBA titles, the DS games knew how to punish the player’s mistakes and give them the right challenge for their approximate level in line with their location.

Flying Armor, the first boss in the game, could pose a serious challenge to the newcomers. It set a standard for much tougher bosses like Abaddon.

Order of Ecclesia took it a step further. Released in 2008, the final true Castlevania title by series producer, Koji Igarashi, offered an even more difficult challenge than its predecessors. In addition to bosses that dealt hard damage to the player, hoarding items was scarcely an option.

Eligor was a colossal boss which had several phases.

Players needed to rescue the villagers of Wygol Village and complete side-quests in order to unlock shops and items from them. In addition to the challenge, you could kill bosses using unique methods as well. Climbing an elevator to kill a giant enemy crab or fighting several phases of a powerful mech golem painted Castlevania’s noteworthy boss fights in a new light.

Extra Modes and Other Titles

The result of the bad ending included a fight with Dracula in Dawn of Sorrow’s Julius Mode.

While players may debate on the difficulty of Symphony of the Night, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow, keep in mind it offered unlockable character modes. Richter, Maxim, and Julius could all be unlocked from these respective games. Moreover, they could not take advantage of the RPG elements such as inventory and equipment. While they could dish out powerful attacks, they were also subject to greater limitations than their respective game’s main protagonist.

Harmony of Despair

Finally, Koji Igarashi’s last game for Konami was Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Playing as an online multiplayer dungeon crawler, the 2011 title featured a series crossover involving protagonists and stages across multiple games in the series.

Largely taking cues from the DS titles and Symphony of the Night, these bosses required proper strategizing among teammates thanks to their high HP count which could take minutes of dealing damage to finally slay. Furthermore, certain bosses, such as Galamoth and R.Count (from the retro Castlevania stage) could even send out projectiles to attack players outside of the boss room!

Final Thoughts on Castlevania

Castlevania and its boss fights evolved with the times. Throughout the years, it went from bosses with fairly predictable and stiff movements to boss fights against powerful demons and even mechas. Their ever-changing patterns and high damage punishment made games in the latter titles even greater than their predecessors. Furthermore, the boss battles against rival characters, such as the Belmonts themselves, usually ended up being among the hardest.

No matter if Death was facing Richter or Maria, he would yell out, “face me, boy!”

Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained Series

Koji Igarashi formed his own studio, ArtPlay, after leaving Konami. Having developed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, you can find more of his genius designs in this game. Additionally, Inti Creates developed two 8-bit retro spinoffs, the Curse of the Moon series, to accompany Ritual of the Night.

These games offer their own twist on the Castlevania boss formula with a more elaborate pattern akin to something like Shovel Knight. WayForward also developed the Classic Mode in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night which featured a major throwback to the original NES Castlevania.

There’s nothing bad to take away from the original boss fights. However, after the fairly easier titles in the original Metroidvania (or IGAvania) titles, the DS titles easily had some of the best boss fights in the series. I daresay they set a new standard for boss fights in platformers thanks to their challenging, yet balanced, level of difficulty. Their quality spritework, animations, and creative ways of defeating them left DS fans some of the best boss fights in gaming history. But until Konami ever revives the series I recommend investing time into IGA’s Bloodstained titles.

Which Castlevania game do you believe had the best boss fights overall? Let us know in the replies below. Finally, be sure to Like our main page and follow our social media channels for more quality gaming content!

Until next time!

Rango’s Smash Column – The Fascination of Spirits and Trophies.

Hello and welcome to Rango’s Smash Column! In this edition, I want to step back from the competitive scene and talk about one of the most fun aspects of Smash: Spirits and Trophies. The lore behind spirits and trophies details some of the finest aspects of the history of the series represented in Smash. Each Trophy and Spirit has a story to tell and invites you to their world.

Trophies gave you brief history lessons on games exclusive to Japan.

With that being said, I’ve been doing a little bit of research into the Spirits and Spirit Battles of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. By connecting the dots, I wanted to compare the Spirits represented by other characters. To my surprise, I found some fascinating parallels among several of my favorites.

Resident Evil once had a Spirit Board event.

I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of collecting Spirits. Honestly, I buzzed through World of Light in a few days, cleared it 100%, and that was it for me. However, I still can’t help but appreciate the work it took to get thousands of characters into the game. Although the Spirits replaced the fully rendered Trophies from games before, I still appreciate the representation that went into them.

The Allure of Trophies

Trophies became a thing in Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001. Originating from the character bios in Super Smash Bros. for N64, Trophies featured fully-rendered models of characters, stages, and items in Smash.

Donkey Kong’s bio in Super Smash Bros. for N64.

These not only included in-game references but those outside of Smash as well. That is to say, a multitude of characters and other references from Nintendo’s history appeared as unlockable trophies.

Famicom Detective Club, released for Nintendo Switch, debuted in the west only recently.

Players could decorate their collection, add background filters, or just spend minutes reading up on Nintendo lore. To be absolutely honest, the appeal of Trophies had me wanting to play dozens of Nintendo games. Metroid was among the many titles I badly wanted to play from reading Trophy lore.

Look at that detail. How could you not want to try Metroid after that?

While Melee offered several third-party trophies, such as the Proximity Mine from Rare’s Perfect Dark, Brawl began to take more cues from outside of Nintendo’s universe. Trophies from Sonic the Hedgehog and Metal Gear Solid debuted in Smash. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was the first title to offer HD Trophies and brought some of the most beautifully rendered designs in Smash history.

The Appeal of Spirits

Unlike previous Smash titles, Ultimate does not include Trophies. The absolute multitude of having to design thousands of characters into fully-rendered Trophies sounds absolutely maddening. However, the Smash team still opted to give multiple characters representation detailed as images with custom passive abilities or stat boosts. The World of Light mode harbored Spirits across different worlds.

How about an entire area dedicated to Street Fighter II?

Despite the scaling back to Spirits, one of the most interesting facets is how many non-Nintendo franchises are included even in spite of previous third-party representations. Rayman, Shantae, Shovel Knight, Resident Evil, Octopath Traveler, Bravely Second, and the Mana series number among the many titles which received representation within Smash in some capacity.

Persona 5 Strikers and Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection save data netted you these Spirits.

One of the best things to happen to the Spirit Board came from Sephiroth’s inclusion in Smash Ultimate. Unlike Cloud’s inclusion in Smash 4,  Square-Enix decided to compliment Sephiroth’s release with several new remixed songs and open the door for Final Fantasy VII Spirits as well.

Spirit Representation

I still think Ike should have represented Olberic.

Another interesting facet is how the Spirit correlates with its respective fighter. For instance, they represent Ike with other heavyweight swordfighters including Magnus from Kid Icarus, Sigurd from Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Hendrik from Dragon Quest XI, and Ephraim from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Ike shares traits with these Spirits including their similar tank stats for HP, Attack, and Defense. Plus they all have something in common with their never-back-down personalities.

Meanwhile, Spirits represented by Chrom largely include Swordmasters from Fire Emblem titles.

Another favorite, Cloud, represents two characters from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and one from Astral Chain. While I already liked Kyle from Astral Chain, his intrinsic connection to Cloud only resonated with me further. Plus, I noticed Cloud was represented by Zeke even before meeting him in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Despite this, Cloud and Zeke contrast heavily in personality!

Despite his recent inclusion to the roster, Sephiroth would represent Jin better at this point.

If you’re interested in checking who represents who as Spirits, I recommend checking SSBWiki and searching for your favorite characters. The connections might surprise you and might even lead you to discover a new favorite character.

Final Thoughts

Spirits and Trophies always fascinated me. Even today, I’m discovering series I’ve never played before and learning new things about them. Trophies helped get me into tons of Smash series through their fascinating descriptions and Spirits continued the tradition.

Remember when Pyra wasn’t playable?

I always found it fascinating how Sakurai would determine who goes with who. Like why Roy represents Garet from Golden Sun or why Chrom represents Matthew from the same series.

Smash has always been a museum of sorts for Nintendo history. It later gained its status as a massive library for gaming history with its addition of many third-party universes. It’s astounding to see how far it’s come and how many players discovered new franchises just because of a Trophy or a Spirit.

Until Pyra/Mythra came to Smash, Pneuma from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 never had official art.

Do you have a favorite Trophy or Spirit? If these influenced your decision to try a new game series, share your story in the replies. As always, be sure to Like our page and follow our social media channels. Keep up with our quality gaming content and be sure to Like our main page!

Until next time!

It’s a Fine Time to Play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The Champions’ Ballad.

It’s 2021 and the gradual decline of the COVID pandemic has incentivized Nintendo back to releasing titles on a regular basis. The first Nintendo Direct in over a year was followed by the announcement that Nintendo would be at E3 in mid-June. With Nintendo preparing to release some quality first-party titles, I took a step back to finish what I started. The Champions’ Ballad.

Although I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on its 2017 launch, I managed to clear all 120 Shrines shortly after I beat the story. I gave the Master Trials a quick attempt before putting it down for the next four years.

In that span of those four years, however, I’ve come across an interesting game that captured the essence of Breath of the Wild. I’m talking especially about Genshin Impact, the free-to-play Action/RPG by Chinese developer MiHoYo. Borrowing heavily from Breath of the Wild’s visual aesthetic, exploration, combat gameplay, loot, and cooking system, Genshin Impact became a worldwide smash hit over the course of several months. In just under the year, Genshin Impact has grossed over $1 billion in revenue.

Playing Genshin Impact

I’ve enjoyed my fair share of the game despite how short of the time I’ve played it. However, my busy backlog has kept me from investing in it as much as my friends who have long soared past my progress. Yet I appreciate the obvious combat similarities such as the continuous spin attack of the Greatsword weapons. Unlike Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact lacks a lock-on mechanic, feels decisively easier, and focuses more on character stat-building than procuring survival weapons and timing dodges and parries.

Genshin Impact (2017)

Now with that being said, I appreciate Genshin for what it’s done. I’m not remotely upset at how much it borrowed from Breath of the Wild. Seeing people protest the game just looked ridiculous. This does not mark the first time another developer used Zelda as an inspiration. For instance, compare the aesthetic of Secret of Mana to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on SNES.

Secret of Mana (1993)

Square-Enix borrowed the art style of A Link to the Past using Secret of Mana as a basis before carrying the style over to Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Trials of Mana. With that being said, Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series sets a perennial example that continuously inspires other game developers.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992)

Playing the Champions’ Ballad.

Now, having gone back to Breath of the Wild for the first time in over four years, it took some time to remember the controls. Well, more like a few minutes really. I don’t really know what came over me to finish this quest besides a bug telling me to finish this part of my backlog. Perhaps the release of Age of Calamity made me want to see the rest of the tale of the Champions of Hyrule.

Well, the Champions’ Ballad ended up giving me a reasonable challenge starting with draining all but 1/4 heart of health with the required weapon, the One-Hit Obliterator. While this feels daunting at first, keep in mind the Great Plateau isn’t exactly known for flooding you with enemies. Moreover, only one shrine had mini-guardians for you to slay. Once you finish the last shrine, you can put the weapon away and restore all your hearts to normal as you enter the next stretch of the Champions’ Ballad.

The One-Hit Obliterator drains nearly all your health. But you can one-shot enemies as long as the weapon lights up.

Once you’re done with the first half, you can travel once more to Hyrule’s mainland to enter four different quests. Relative to the Champions and their Divine Beasts, each region featured a triangle of monoliths detailing three shrines each. You had to decipher where each shrine was or you could do what I did and use a guide.

The Second Half

More than anything, Kass wants to finish his teacher’s song. Hence the Champions’ Ballad.

Each shrine offered its own puzzle thematic and no two shrines were alike. It brought back fond memories of solving the 120 shrines of the main game and evoked that feeling of wanting a challenge once more. For what it’s worth, the Shrines offered the best part of the Champions’ Ballad.

After each series of shrines, you would enter a Divine Beast to fight an EX version of the Blight Ganon bosses you encountered before. Each one featured a new form and you were limited to the weapons you could use. To be honest, I didn’t find them any harder than before. The new forms offered a puzzle element to figuring out their weakness. But once you learned it, they went down quickly.

Once I finished each boss fight, I was awarded an upgrade to a Champions’ power. Each one could now cool down much faster than before. After which, Kass would play a song that would stir a flashback featuring Zelda recruiting one of the Champions.

 

The Proper Sendoff to Breath of the Wild.

I enjoyed the puzzles and combat throughout the game. To include some extra content, Nintendo included various armor pieces based on the Zelda series’ past, I have next to no interest in collecting them. They’re side-quests for the sake of side-quests. I feel little reward is given for collecting them especially when I already have the fully-upgraded Tunic of the Wild.

The Champions’ Ballad successfully unifies the Zelda timelines by bringing together armor from every era.

Once I finished the Champions’ Ballad, I received the Master Cycle Zero. But I think the real reward was learning more of the backstories of Princess Zelda and her Champions. Getting to experience the world of Hyrule once more sent me back to enjoying Breath of the Wild for the first time four years ago. It was a fun little challenge and excuse to revisit the title once more. This made for a wonderful sendoff until Nintendo finally, and hopefully, showcases the sequel to Breath of the Wild at E3 this year.

Your final reward is literally the successor to a reference from Mario Kart.

It’s not perfect but despite its imperfections, Breath of the Wild still sets the standard as a defining Action/Adventure title of the current gaming generation. I think the dungeons in this game were quite a good challenge even though I prefer the traditional dungeon layout of previous Zelda games. I also found the game’s single-biggest flaw to be the lack of enemy variety especially compared to past Zelda games. I’m hardly fazed about the breakable weapons especially considering the abundance at which you receive new ones.

Final Thoughts

Breath of the Wild proved to be one of the best games in the Zelda series, a top-level title for Nintendo Switch, and a must-play for any fan of the series. Champions’ Ballad provided a cherry on top that gave players one more reason to explore the world once again.

Until the sequel comes out, I’ll be chugging through my backlog and playing a little bit of Genshin Impact here and there. I won’t play anything to fill the void of Breath of the Wild, however, because it’s a wonderful game on its own. While I might finish Age of Calamity to close the circle on the story of Breath of the Wild, that might be a while to come. Given the size of my backlog, I can’t promise I’ll finish it before the sequel to Breath of the Wild comes out.

Give Champions’ Ballad a try if you’re looking for an excuse to jump back into Breath of the Wild. It might seem daunting at first but it comes around as a solid, level challenge for anyone to enjoy.

Have you tried Breath of the Wild or played its DLC? Let us know in the replies! As always, be sure to follow our social media links for our exclusive content and coverage. And be sure to Like our main page!

Until next time!

Rango’s Smash Column: Georgia Smash Tournaments Return!

Disclaimer: If you play competitive Smash in the state of Georgia and want to come to one of these tournaments, 4o4 esports is located at 6035 Peachtree Rd Suite C-220, Atlanta, GA 30360. Every Thursday, 4o4 esports hosts a Smash Ultimate tournament and adheres to the COVID CDC guidelines. Visit their page to learn more.

Welcome to Rango’s Smash Column and what a week it’s been! While I initially planned to write a column on salt, frustration, and how to deal with it, I feel a more pressing matter has come to mind: the return of Georgia Smash local tournaments!

While 4o4 esports has been hosting smaller-level local tournaments in an attempt to bring back the offline competitive Smash Bros. scene, last week’s April 29th tournament brought in 64 entrants and 720 viewers in its Twitch chat. Among those in chat included tournament organizers and talent  across the country, including Benny, 2GG Strides, and Dabuz. Meanwhile, players in attendance included Fatality, LordMix, Kola, and Mugen (formerly known as HyperKirby).

You can watch the full tournament here.

What it Means for Tournaments to Return.

The most pressing part of this tournament comes from two factors. One, the return to offline tournaments in other regions draws nearer. Tournament organizers and players will surely take note of this successful event. Following COVID guidelines, such as wearing masks in the venue, other scenes across the U.S. will surely be able to run tournaments safely before long. Thanks to the rising availability of the COVID vaccinations, players should be allowed to attend and compete in tournaments sooner than later.

However, the more pressing and long-term consequence of this tournament comes from all the eyes on the stream. Years ago, during the Smash 4 era, the most prominent scenes in the country included Tristate (NY, NJ, PA), SoCal (Southern California), and Florida. The Midwest, NorCal, and Texas began to grow in strength over the course of Smash 4’s prominence and into the dawn of Ultimate. However, Georgia was considered a state with limited talent with the outside looking in. Save for the most prominent members of the Georgia’s Power Rankings (PR), Georgia had some talented players but was largely overlooked as one of the major threats in the Smash scene.

Georgia’s Rise to Prominence.

Although Georgia had incredibly daunting players, such as Fatality and ScAtt, the state’s talent quickly began to grow during the beginning of Ultimate. Kola (formerly known as SaltOne) and HyperKirby began to take out the state’s PR players. Among these also included Sonido who quickly rose in the ranks as a top Sonic main. Several of these players were either considered for the Panda Global Rankings or entered Area 51 which heralded the honorable mention section. Before long, numerous players across Georgia began challenging the top players of the state and landing upsets in the process.

Numerous players called the 4o4’s tournament stacked. After all, the bracket included 64 players including a number of proficient players. But perhaps even more pressing was the number of times I saw “Georgia is the best scene in the U.S.” While the state’s top-level talent has proven to show effective results in national tournaments, such as Fatality’s #2 placing at 2GG Civil War in Smash 4, these same players are laying it on the line against the new standard of competition within the state.

Long story short, Georgia’s talented players are constantly on the rise. The current PR extends to a Top 15 with an honorable mentions section. However, this only showcases the tip of the iceberg among the Georgia state talent. Previously, it was not uncommon for state scenes to have roughly 5 high-level players ranked before a skill gap separated them from the rest of their state’s talent. However, as time went on, players practiced the game, got better, and continued to enter competitions. Compared to the mid-to-late 2010s, Georgia is brimming with talented, high-level players.

Moving Forward.

Among the notable rising talent in Georgia includes Kevetex, a Chrom main, and Fallen Thunder, who mains Steve. Both of these players successfully eliminated Fatality in Winner’s and Loser’s bracket, respectively. Preem, an Inkling main, also made his way to Top 16 and took a game off of Mugen in Winner’s. Meanwhile, Dusk, a Roy main, brought his way to Top 8 before his elimination by Vivid, a  Toon Link.

Despite the rise of new talent in the scene, both Winner’s Finals and Grand Finals featured Mugen vs. Kola. The two players that dominated the Ultimate tournaments in the first year of Georgia tournaments retained their reputation by making it to the final match in this tournament. Two of the greatest rivals in Georgia’s history, also quite possibly Georgia’s best doubles team, continue to pave the way forward for the rest of the state’s rising talent to follow.

However, Mugen and Kola only number two of the dozens of players rising up the ranks in Georgia. Among the many players that competed, worked their asses off, and achieved the highest results they have in their tournament careers, the crown is up for grabs. It’s anyone’s game and if there’s one thing Georgia players do well, it brings out the best in each other in competition. We love to compete and we hate to lose.

The Key to Victory.

As long as Georgia players continue to foster growth, we can become the greatest Smash scene in history. With the spark ignited by 4o4 esports’ tournament, this state could become a major hub with new eyes set on Georgia’s Smash events. As a competitor myself, I feel excited returning to tournaments as well.

Are you keeping up with Smash Ultimate tournaments during the pandemic? If you keep up with watching tournaments or compete in them, let us know in the replies below. Keep up with All Cool Things on social media to stay updated with the latest content. We’ll keep you posted on the Georgia Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament scene!

Until next time!

 

Please be sure to Like our main page, too.  Just click here.  -HERETICPRIME

Game Corner May 2021: What Are You Playing This Month?

Hello and welcome to the Game Corner. These entries will feature site editor Rango’s gaming backlog. If you enjoy Nintendo, JRPGs, and fighting games, you’ve come to the right place!

I’ll be covering a bit of my gaming blog each month and include my thoughts on each game as well as a bit of progress I’ve made. If you’re a fan of Nintendo games or Japanese titles on PlayStation, then you’ll surely enjoy what’s to come! By all means, feel free to post your play log in the comments as well.

This month, I’ve been covering a smaller selection of games thanks to my recent Pokémon addiction. Since the Game Corner was named after the slot machine mini-game areas of the Pokémon titles, perhaps it’s apropos that I finally add a Pokémon game to the lineup.

Unfortunately, I need to get a move on with filling out my Pokedex. Resident Evil Village is right around the corner, Famicom Detective Club comes out next month, and Capcom recently announced The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles coming out later this year.

Well, with that being said, let’s get to the games!

Pokémon Sword

I haven’t been this addicted to Pokémon since the first two gens. While my love for Pokémon Silver could not be topped for the longest time, I hate to admit that I also found Gen III underwhelming and skipped both Gen IV and V on the DS. People tell me I picked a fine chapter to omit since Platinum and HeartGold/SoulSilver are community favorites while the Black and White titles are said to have some of the best stories in the series.

Feel free to add my League Card: 0000-0005-F6DG-P1

While I found myself returning to the series with Pokémon X and Y, I had a passing interest in the 6th and the 7th gen titles, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Good games to play and beat, but for some reason, I never felt compelled to fill my Pokedex. This might be due to their limited postgame campaigns.

However, Pokémon Sword hooked me since I started playing it. While I’m more than aware of the many complaints regarding the National Dex and other minor issues, I found myself loving it far more than I expected to. But most importantly, perhaps the timing to which I played the game – after the DLC released – might have played a factor in my favoritism.

This good boy helped me catch many Pokémon. Teach Boltund Nuzzle and it will paralyze your opponents for minimal damage.

Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass

The Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra both provide lengthy campaigns across new regions in Galar. The dozens upon dozens of Pokémon to collect, the interesting characters you meet, and the more challenging battles you face not only add more to the game but make the overall experience more enjoyable. While you could get by with the limited postgame campaign and Pokedex adventure in the base game, the DLC more than supplements the title. Crown Tundra alone adds Dynamax Adventure allowing you to catch rare and legendary Pokémon with friends or online players.

Legendary Pokémon appear at the end of these 4-battle campaigns. However, they will not appear on your Pokedex.

I’ve already caught all the major legendaries from both campaigns and finished their storylines. With 76 hours in and 244 Pokémon captured, I’m spending most of my time now in Dynamax Adventures. In addition, I finally tried out the Battle Tower for the first time. I missed these in past generations and already know it will be quite the challenge.

Final Fantasy XV: Comrades

Unlike Pokémon, I can’t say I’ve spent much time in Comrades yet. Over the last couple of weeks, I managed to clear both the main storyline as well as the DLC episodes. Like Pokémon Sword and Shield, I’ve found XV to have a concerning number of complaints from players only to end up enjoying the game far more than expected.

Comrades offers a multiplayer campaign and allows you to customize an avatar character before starting your adventure. It takes place after the party lands in Altissia but before the timeskip.

I hate to admit that I’ve been a bit slow in entering this adventure. Part of me feels burned out from playing Final Fantasy XV and all of its campaigns. Worse yet is that NieR Replicant, another Action/RPG by Square-Enix and prequel to one of my favorite games of all time, NieR Automata, just came out. Hopefully, I get to it sooner than later. On the bright side, by the time I finish this campaign, Final Fantasy VII: Intergrade will come out for PS5. I’ll be playing that, finishing the playthrough I started, and hopefully will be ready for Final Fantasy XVI to come out whenever it does.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Hooray! I finally got 20 million Zeni and the last trophy! After owning this game since launch, it took a bonus event with a daily 200,000 Zeni bonus and a few romps through the Tournament of Power mode to finally grind out that last trophy. That’s quite possibly the dumbest and most time-consuming trophy requirement I have seen in a fighting game since My Kung-Fu is Stronger in Mortal Kombat.

As far as the game itself goes, I’ve been off-and-on playing it as a hobby title. While I doubt I will end up going to tournaments in FighterZ, I will say I’ve found myself favoring it over Tekken 7. Previously, I’d been dabbling in other fighting games to play alongside Smash Bros. FighterZ has not only held my attention long enough for me to play at least weekly but I also have several friends who also enjoy the game regularly.

Since we’re all playing together, I might end up showing a bit more action and playing it a bit more. I finally found a team I can get behind as well. Since Goku and Vegeta are my obvious favorite characters, and I can’t pick between the two, I figured I should learn them on the same team. Even though I love Vegito and Gogeta, I want to start with these guys, plus Adult Gohan, before I move onto other fighters. Playing FighterZ has also got me wanting to try Street Fighter V again down the road.

Fire Emblem Heroes

I can’t believe I actually hit Tier 26 in Aether Raids last season. I didn’t even understand how to boost my score until recently. I’d just been fighting with my base team, a bonus unit, and hoping for the best. But now I think I’m finally understanding how to build a proper team and get a move on to climb up the ranks. Sadly, I can’t say I’ve had as much luck this week. On the bright side, we got a new legendary banner.

The recent banner released features child units of the major characters from Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones including a duo unit of Eirika and Ephraim. While I thought last year’s child units, based on Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, was a one-time deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an annual banner now.

I think my new favorite unit of the week is my Brave Hector as well. I’m now using him for Arena Offense and might even try him in some Aether Raids Offense and Defense as well. Time to try and see if that works.

Borrowed from the Gamepress build with a little help from r/FireEmblemHeroes.

I also managed to conquer another Abyssal map. Seiros’ map was giving me some serious trouble. But with a quick tweak to my main all-purpose team, we got the job done. A defense tanking Claude who can take out flyers really makes the difference.

I’m looking forward to how the story advances. We’ll have new units coming out likely next week. Any suspects on who might be showing up? Your guess is as good as mine!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Even in spite of its bad netcode made even worse with the recent patch, I can’t peel myself away from Smash. Since Georgia’s 404 local offline tournaments are coming back, it’s only a matter of time before offline events in general return. I need to continue training and stay ahead of the curve.

I think I’ve finally narrowed down my characters.

While I continue to master matchups and my secondary characters, especially Roy, I’ve also found myself using Cloud a ton again. Arguably a high-tier character at this point, Cloud has a toolkit for nearly any matchup out there. His Blade Beam projectile, Climhazzard out-of-shield option, Limit Charge to force approaches, and his overall reach, damage building, and KO power still make him an excellent choice for players at any level.

I can’t say he covers any matchups that aren’t already covered by the Top 3 characters I use. However, he’s definitely one of the most favorite recent choices along with Roy.

I look forward to returning to the competitive scene once more. I can’t say I’ve had an interest in entering WiFi tournaments or streaming and becoming a content creator. However, I still regularly play Smash online and find the occasional strong opponent in Elite Smash. Sometimes when you find a strong opponent on random matchmaking, you end up building bonds on Twitter. You never know who you’ll find next.

That’s a wrap!

That’s all for this week’s Game Corner. I can’t say I’ve had much variety outside of my usual suspects and a heavy abundance of Pokémon. I’ll continue catchingPokémon and try to fill up my Pokedex before the next update. I’m a little over halfway to 400 so it might not take much longer. In the interim, I will continue to farm Dynite Ore and hit up the Battle Tower.

What are you playing this month? Share your play log in the replies below! As always, be sure to follow our social media account for the latest and greatest from All Cool Things!

Until next time!

The Game Corner: March 2021. What are you playing featuring Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Welcome to the Game Corner! This month, I’ll cover a bit of my backlog featuring Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and a few other quality titles. If you like JRPGs and Fighting Games, you’ll surely find a favorite here!

Thanks to Pyra and Mythra’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Fighter Pass 2, I hopped back onto the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 hype train. Having played them a bit, I gotta say I enjoy their playstyle. They may have what it takes to become my new secondaries. But in addition to trying them out on Smash online, I figured it would be worth exploring the stories they’re from as well.

In the meantime, I also managed to beat a Zelda title after a 10-year span and even jumped back into an old fighting favorite: Dragon Ball FighterZ. In the meantime, I continue my playthrough of Final Fantasy XV. Though to be fair, I haven’t touched it in a week so I’ll be omitting it from this list. Rest assured, I will have it beat before Final Fantasy XVI comes out.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, I postponed my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Since I’m less than halfway through the game and Square-Enix announced the Intergrade and PS5 version enhancements, I’ve decided to wait until its release to resume my playthrough.

For those of you Final Fantasy fans looking to bite into a classic type experience, though, I recommend checking out Bravely Default II for Nintendo Switch. I watched my girlfriend beat this game and it really strikes the right chord for classic Final Fantasy fans. If you love the Job system of Final Fantasy V, you’ll surely want to sink your fangs right into this one.

With that being said, let’s get into this week’s Game Corner, shall we?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

While I’ve been regularly playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 since the beginning of the year, the Pyra/Mythra Smash release hype bug bit me. I’ve only just now reached Mor Ardain, however, and am about 30 hours in.

Can I just stop to say how much I love this official artwork by Matsusugu Saito?

When Shulk was announced for Super Smash Bros. 4, it prompted me to finish my long-delayed playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii. I guess you could say history repeats itself here. Speaking of which, my girlfriend also started her playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch. While I’ve beaten the original game and don’t intend to play it, I look forward to watching her discover the worlds of Bionis and Mechonis for the first time!

While I intend to finish the storyline of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however, I don’t see myself finishing the side-quests. I’ve heard they become quite repetitive and to the point that it would lose my interest. However, since I purchased it pre-emptively, I have a mind to do the Torna – The Golden Country DLC episode once I beat the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Beating Spirit Tracks was an adventure 11 years in the making. Having gotten this game in 2010, I never beat this game on my DS. I ended up losing it in late 2011 and never found it until recently. Or rather, my girlfriend found my lost copy several months ago. With that said, I finally got to beat the one Zelda game that I never finished. Despite my last entry being in the Fire Temple, I picked the game back up relatively quickly.

Spirit Tracks really brought me back to another era. The blocky, low-resolution character models still charmed me with their glorious facial expressions and animations. The dated touch-screen controls were fairly gratuitous with Link being able to tap-and-hit enemies. I do recall it being a quality improvement over its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and it held up even a decade later.

Overall, I wouldn’t say it was the most special or must-play Zelda title by a long margin. Despite the long train rides and some annoying padding, though, Spirit Tracks can win over any Zelda fan.

The beautiful soundtrack harmonized perfectly with the unique story and writing in the final chapter of the Wind Waker era. However, in spite of the good dungeon design, boss battles, and funny moments, I would be okay with Nintendo never releasing another Zelda game with touch controls.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

What’s this? I’m playing another fighting game? Since several of my friends are doing it, I figured I may as well join in. Dragon Ball FighterZ resonates with largely balanced gameplay, long-strung combos, and entertainment to all player levels without ever being BS. Though if you follow the competitive scene, you might disagree after the release of the latest DLC character: Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta.

While I’m playing online in worldwide matchmaking, I’m  rather upset that casual battles aren’t sorted by rank. This makes fighting people on my level more difficult outside of friend battles. In other words, either I get bodied by players well above my level or I fight a player who ragequits after losing one character.

I’ve been experimenting with a number of characters and team choices. But to make it short, basically any variation of Goku, Vegeta, Gogeta, Vegito, Gohan, and Trunks are on my team along with the occasional Piccolo. While I said I would main Vegito or Gogeta at one point, I’ve been chugging along at my own pace. I’m trying out Blue Vegeta right now and some of his combos make me feel like I might have a future in this game after all. On top of that, I’m also only 4,000,000 zeni away from unlocking the final trophy!

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection

Speaking of challenging titles, this one brings me back. You love 2D platformers and Capcom games, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection sends the perfect love letter on Nintendo Switch. It brings me right back to Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on SNES albeit without a double-jump ability.

Despite that, it’s way more forgiving than most of the past games. You have no lives or continues and multiple checkpoints. You can adjust the difficulty between deaths and use a skill tree to learn new magic spells.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m playing on Squire and enjoying it just fine. I don’t even play this series for getting destroyed repeatedly. I love the art style, music, and overall gameplay. Dying a dozen times per stage is just a side-effect to me.

Speaking of art, this has some of the creepiest yet most charming artwork, monster design, and backgrounds you will ever see in a side-scroller. And despite what I’ve seen from some reviews, this game isn’t really any cheaper than past entries and, like I said, a bit more forgiving. More like Contra than Castlevania, it does rely greatly on pattern-recognition and memorization. But if you’re fine with that, I think you will like this game.

Pokemon Sword

Finally, after all these years, I’m back on Pokemon once again. I think the 25th-anniversary presentation struck a chord with me to get back into Pokemon. I loved this series as a kid, grew out of it as a teen and came back into it as an adult. Granted, I was never as obsessed and hype about it as I was back then. Still, I like to keep up.

The upcoming releases of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, as well as the Pokemon Legends Arceus, got me wanting to finally start my run of Pokemon Sword. Well, I’m in Galar with my Raboot, Stufful, Corvisquire, and a few others. I’m on Route 4 and about ready to enter my first gym battle.

I’m not saying I’m partial to Fire-type starters, but…

As it stands, I’m not sure when I’m going to transfer my Pokemon to Sword. Part of me wants to finish my Pokedex in past entries while the other says to just transfer my favorites to the game, like Sylveon and Pangoro. Not like I would be able to use them until I get gym badges but I still want to build a team around my favorites.

Anyway, the game is quite fun so far and I like the open-world landscapes of each route. It’s structured much better than the samey, minimal paths between major areas like in other JRPGs such as Tales of Xillia. Battling moves fast, character design remains strong as always, and I’m looking forward to my next Pokemon adventure!

Final Thoughts

Believe it or not, I also started a playthrough of Yakuza 3, Last Window: Secret of Cape West, and Persona 5 Strikers. I also started up The Champion’s Ballad DLC in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Since I finished Twilight Princess HD and Spirit Tracks, I figured it was time. But I suppose discussion on those will have to wait till next time.

Right now, I want to focus on clearing a number of backlog titles. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Final Fantasy XV top my list of games I want to finish before moving onto others. Plus I want to keep my skills in Smash polished. Since I got my first COVID vaccine, I’ll be getting my second one next month. I would love for tournaments to return around May or June.

Until my next entry, feel free to share your journal in the comments. Whether you’re playing a new hit or an older classic, or you’re keeping your skills ahead of the curve in a competitive game, share your current play log in the replies!

Also, be sure to follow our social media links and stay up to date with our gaming and anime features. Until next time!

Watch Baki If You’re Looking for Your Next Combat Anime Fix

I recently finished the Netflix anime series Baki. Recommended by the good guys who run the Manime panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta, my girlfriend picked this one out for us. She picked this right after we finished Kengan Ashura, another stellar combat anime series I recommend.

With that being said, Baki has its ups and downs. But I will say those downs don’t really hit until the end which I’ll get to shortly. For what it’s worth though, this anime kicks ass. The animation, the music, the character design, and even the narrative history on martial arts and other tidbits of trivia hit a high note.

You’ll enjoy the grossly exaggerated feats.

For those wondering, this adaptation of Baki does not take place at the beginning of the manga. This anime begins with the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc. The previous tournament arc is essentially recapped right in the opening.

With that being said, I would love to get to the point on why I recommend Baki.

What to Expect from Baki

Baki the Grappler is a martial arts shonen manga released in Japan in 1991. It features the young martial artist, Baki, who seeks to defeat his father, Yujiro Hanma, also known as the Strongest Living Creature. Having murdered Baki’s mother, he seeks revenge while training and fighting against many powerful martial artists.

Yujiro Hanma is also known as The Ogre.

Compared to your contemporary shonen anime, however, Baki is a great deal more violent and geared towards a more mature audience. Think more like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in terms of violence because it pushes on horror levels of gore. On the flipside, Baki also offers insightful trivia on martial arts, history, as well as some grossly exaggerated anatomical feats such as surviving bullets to the face.

The fighters can engage each other anywhere at any time.

The Netflix arc focuses not just on Baki but on a myriad of fighters. The Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc features five fugitives who escaped the death penalty and traveled to Tokyo in order to seek defeat. These convicts fight against Baki as well as his fellow martial artists including Doppo Orochi, Kaioh Retsu, and Gouki Shibukawa, among others.

Stellar Work of Animation and Narrative

Being released in 2018, Baki features some of the most cutting-edge animation. Many of the fights feature some incredibly hard-hitting blows and fast-paced fighting. Along with the stellar character detail, I can’t say enough good things about it.

Every fighter in this series is a true badass. Fighters like Biscuit Oliva and Jack Hanma are among the most intimidating people introduced alongside the already frightening Death Row Convicts. Not to mention some of the convicts are just downright sick in the head, like Spec, who will surely disturb you.

I enjoyed watching the dub which featured prominent voice talents like Steve Blum as Doppo Orochi. However, feel free to pick whichever language suits you.

Baki brings a wonderful notion of dread especially throughout the first part of the Death Row Convicts arc. The villains are seemingly unbeatable at first and the fights involve a number of grotesque sequences. For a martial arts series, I daresay the level of violence might blow your mind.

A Couple of Drops in Writing

However, Baki isn’t a perfect anime. I feel there were a few studders here and there with the writing. Naturally, whether it’s the same as in the manga or not, I’m not sure. I certainly don’t fault the anime production team for bringing this to life. Regardless, the writing dips once during the first arc and essentially the second half of the last arc.

**SPOILERS BELOW**

For starters, Dorian’s defeat egged me a little bit. He was soundly defeated by Doppo Orochi. Yet he retaliates in a sneak attack against Orochi only to be defeated quickly by Kaioh Retsu. As such, he loses his mind and regresses to a childlike persona. I don’t know why that was ever necessary when it could have ended at Orochi.

This problem also extends similarly to my least favorite arc, the Muhammad Ali Jr. arc. While the manga pays great tribute to Ali, his son initially starts off as an incarnation of Ali, but younger, in the Baki series. Beating down tough fighters using Ali’s skills, Ali Jr. quickly becomes a dominant fighter. Where does that lead us?

I will say, however, that the series pays tremendous respsect to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

After his utter defeat, he is rematched by and loses to the 3 competitors he previously defeated. Suddenly, he’s going to challenge Baki Hanma and expect to win? After his inevitable defeat, he’s reduced to a crying mess. While I’m all for an arc where a powerful character is humbled and grows from it, nothing came of this ass-whooping that Ali Jr. received.  It felt like a pointless direction. And to make matters worse, the arc ends on the cliffhanger of Baki and Yujiro finally going to battle.

**END SPOILERS**

The Ali Jr. arc in itself wasn’t terrible. But it didn’t live up to the Raitai Tournament and certainly not the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc which I found epic. It still had plenty of gorgeously animated visceral scenes but it lacked the tension of the previous arcs as well as building up a prominent fighter just to drop him like a basket of eggs.

Final Thoughts

I especially enjoyed the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc. I loved the premise of a life-or-death tournament where a battle could happen at any time. These frightening convicts with superhuman strength were fighting to kill and the series wasn’t afraid to gross you out with it. The latter arcs were endearing with their fights and animation but nothing quite hit like the first one.

With that being said, Baki isn’t perfect but it’s certainly worth watching. For shonen and martial arts enthusiasts, definitely give this one a watch. If you’re interested even further, seek out the manga or the older anime series to catch up on what happened before the Netflix series.

If big muscles, hand-to-hand combat, and gory deaths excite you, Baki will surely deliver. While I would disagree with the direction of writing in a couple of places, I still found myself entertained throughout. The Death Row Convicts and Raitai Tournament arcs were surely exciting.

Keep up with AllCoolThings on our social media links below to find our latest updates. Also, check out Kitsu.io for a new anime profile experience where you can link your MAL account.

Rango’s Smash Column: March 2021. How Are Pyra and Mythra Looking?

Welcome to Rango’s Smash Column!

Earlier this month, Nintendo released Pyra and Mythra to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. As part of Fighter Pass 2, this duo-unit can swap on a dime akin to Zelda and Sheik in past Zelda titles. However, more in line with the Echo Fighters of Smash, Pyra and Mythra share a similar moveset albeit with major differences in frame data, properties, and their Special moves.

After a week to try them out, how do Pyra and Mythra fare in the competition? I’ve been playing them online against a number of players and I gotta say they handle incredibly well. As someone who generally favors swordfighters and melee-type battlers, I think this is one of the best DLC characters I’ve played as!

I’ve given myself a few days to work out their mechanics and understand the fundamental differences between the two. Overall, Pyra hits harder and launches much sooner. Meanwhile, Mythra moves faster, can combo off of nearly anything, and her recovery is marginally better. This is thanks both to her Side B, Photon Edge, moving across wide gaps while her Up B recovery moves can briefly launch her upwards.

Together, with her faster air speed, she’s the better choice when moving back to the stage from a disadvantage. But take note not to get launched as her weight is 92 compared to Pyra’s 98, making her easier to KO as a result. With that said, I want to take the time to cover my findings with you and show you a bit of what the latest Smash DLC fighters are capable of.

Mythra, the damage dealer.

The Aegis’ true form wields a light-elemental blade. Mythra boasts minuscule damage and KO power for an incredible combo game and her ability to get away with nearly every button press. Imagine Marth without a sweetspot but moves with Meta-Knight’s speed. Plus she has Foresight, a dodge-counter ability similar to Bayonetta’s Bat Within.

Mythra is most fond of staying up in the enemy’s face to rack up as much damage as possible. Her frame data all but ensures that she will get away with whiffs while stuffing most offense attempts with her priority. However, she won’t get a KO with anything but FSmash which, at best, kills around 90% on the ledge. While you can hit a Forward Throw tech-chase mixup into this, her KO ability feels quite limited.

In the early Mythra meta, players have found a way to use her Neutral B move, Lightning Buster, into mixups. She can use it to ledgetrap as well as followup from a platform hit. While this will boast her damage dealing a little more, Mythra is best suited to building up damage until she switches out to Pyra.

Pyra, the killer.

Whereas Mythra plays more akin to Marth and Meta-Knight, Pyra feels more comfortable to the Roy and Ike player. Her heavier weight, slower speed,and flame sword attacks will feel right at home to any players of Roy and Ike. It also goes without saying that her impactful KO game contends among them as well.

Pyra has better range on her flame sword and multiple ways to KO an opponent. Her Up Aerial can KO off the top while Forward Aerial is better suited to edgeguarding. Back Aerial can also KO off the top, as well as auto-cancel, while Down Aerial can spike opponents using a large sweetspot.

In neutral, Pyra can end matches with Foward Smash within 70%. Up Smash and Prominence Revolt, her Up B, can also end matches under 100%. Dash attack can punish landings at a distance and a charged Flame Nova will not only end stocks but break shields.  In short, Pyra will end matches with among the most reliable KO ability in the game.

And that’s not to say her combo game isn’t without strength either. Pyra’s best starters come from Down Tilt and Down Throw. Plus her Side B, Blazing End, makes for a fantastic projectile. It starts relatively quickly and lingers for over a second making it ideal for camping and ledge-trapping. In the air, it will also KO around the 130% mark to punish landings.

Final Thoughts

Until I see their meta continue, I don’t think I’m going to switch over to them as secondaries, or at least not yet. They definitely give me everything I could ask for in a fighter, or pair of fighters rather. However, given that I have most of my bases covered with Pyra’s strength, Mythra’s speed, and a little of both with my current swordsmen, they’ll largely be my casual fighters to use online.

Make your own here.

However, that’s not at all to discount their ability in competitive Smash. All DLC characters from Fighter Pass 2 have proven to be relevant choices in the meta. Pyra and Mythra, right now, I would place in A-Tier. The only things really barring them from S-Tier are their lackluster recovery. Now, while bad recovery hasn’t impeded strong characters in the past, such as Wolf or Smash 4 Cloud, Pyra and Mythra don’t have a Limit mechanic to improve their recovery either.

Pyra falls like a stone with a single vertical option which you can punish. Mythra, speaking of Cloud, does not auto-snap the ledge off of her Side B. Overshoot the ledge and you’ll land on the stage and die to a ledge-trap. Undershoot it and you’ll fall just shy of the ledge-snapping point.

Their strengths, collectively, come from their range and their incredibly useful Special move options. Their Side B moves, in particular, cover various options. Photon Edge can punish nearly anything while Blazing End functions as one of the strongest projectile damage-dealers in the game. Even though Pyra becomes unable to attack during Blazing End, she can evade enemy attacks and move freely.

I see them hitting Ike and Roy’s level being not-quite top tiers but good enough to contend with most of the roster. They might lack recovery and edgeguarding options but while Mythra deals damage without punishment, Pyra will put the competitive meta on notice with her ridiculous KO power.

Keep up with All Cool Things for our latest Smash coverage. If you enjoyed this article, consider following our social media accounts!

Until next time!

Guilty Gear Strive: A Look at the Open-Beta and What to Expect from the Full Release.

Guilty Gear Strive is a 2D fighting game being developed by Arc Systems Works for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC. The latest entry in the series will follow Guilty Gear Xrd. Among the most defining elements of this title includes the addition of rollback netcode. For those looking to try a prime fighting game online experience, longtime fans and newcomers can expect to try the game later this year.

I tried the Strive beta this past month. As a fan who played Guilty Gear XX back in the day for PS2, I can’t say I’ve followed this or BlazBlue closely by any means. While I always liked the music and aesthetics, Arc Systems Works’ games have always pushed me away due to being too complicated for me. I always preferred Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and other traditional fighters. However, my time spent with Dragon Ball FighterZ has given me an avenue to try an ArcSys game that doesn’t feel intimidating.

Feeling a little more warmed up to it, and thanks to all the hype, I went ahead and tried Strive’s open beta. Just before it ended, I got to get a few online matches in and play around in Training Mode. As a casual fighting game fan, though, this one might begin to capture my interest. Not only does the rollback netcode seriously entice me, but I daresay it looks much more user-friendly than any game ArcSys has put out before. If I can play a Guilty Gear title and not feel overwhelmed by all the menus and options, I feel I could definitely add this into my lineup.

What to Expect

When I played the beta, I was given the tutorial, training modes, and online lobby. Now, since this was a beta, I could forgive the fact that I was taking more disconnections than I was actual matches. Despite that, when I did play matches, it felt incredibly smooth like I was playing offline.

The fast-paced fighting action that Guilty Gear is known for will not disappoint veteran fans. Furthermore, newcomers who may have played other fighting games will surely feel welcomed in the tutorial mode. You can also learn about techniques, such as Roman Cancel and Psych Burst, on the official website.

Strive seems to switch around several mechanics and gives them to you without a lengthy and intimidating tutorial. As someone who didn’t play ArcSys games often before, I feel geared up to try this one. Strive might be the fighting game that defines the next generation. However, since I downloaded the beta late, I only played it for a day before it disappeared.

Unless they release a second beta, your best bet to learn some of the game mechanics will come from videos such as this one.

Despite Guilty Gear Strive being delayed, discussions run rampant about a second open beta before the game’s release. Be sure to stay tuned with us for that announcement should it happen!

Final Thoughts

I love fighting games. I primarily keep up with Smash Bros. but have always wanted to jump back into traditional fighters as well. I’ve been eyeing my “secondary” tournament fighter to play and have bounced around a number of titles. Right now, Dragon Ball FighterZ has my attention. But even then, people will tell you the netcode is outright bad.

Guilty Gear not only excels in its music and fast-paced gameplay but will come out with rollback netcode as well. For those wondering, rollback netcode is becoming the standard in online fighting games especially during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Developed by the same studio, Arc Systems Works’ next game might be the best fighter they’ve ever released. I feel many of the FighterZ fanbase would jump ship to Guilty Gear Strive just to get an optimal online title to play. With that said, I may well do the same.

Even though I’ve spent years avoiding most of ArcSys’ games due to them being comparatively complicated, I feel this one is warmer towards your casual fighting game fan. The user-friendly introduction and tutorial certainly help and I am willing to give this one a try. Plus Sol Badguy’s one of my favorite characters so it goes without saying I already have a character I can jump right to using.

With that said, look for Guilty Gear Strive to come out on PS4, PS5, and PC on June 11, 2021. Keep up with All Cool Things by following our social media links. We’ll keep you up to date with Guilty Gear Strive news as it becomes available.

Until next time!