Rango’s Smash Column: Week of 1/18/21 – Are Roy and Chrom Top Tier?

Welcome to this week’s Smash Column!

Lately, I’ve been sorting around my secondaries in Smash. I love up-close-and-personal brawler combat. As such, I base secondaries to cover the bad matchups of my main, Ike, using similar playstyles.

I main Ike and use the rest online or in tournaments.

However, as I’ve been mulling about it and discussing matchups with users on various Smash Discords, I’ve been reconsidering the use of Roy and his Echo Fighter, Chrom.

Roy and Chrom

These two Fire Emblem lords fight similarly to Marth and Lucina. Roy, much like Marth, was introduced in Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, from Smash 4 and Ultimate, Roy’s fighting style deviated more from Marth’s and became its own identity. Likewise, Chrom became an offshoot of Roy in which, like Lucina, his sword damage is based evenly around his blade.

In the competitive meta, Roy and Chrom both garner dominant results in tournaments. HyperKirby and Kola (formerly known as SaltOne) were two of the pioneers of the Roy meta in Georgia. Meanwhile, Rivers, from New Jersey, is considered the premiere Chrom in the U.S.

Long story short, from my experiences and from viewing various tier lists, Chrom and Roy are commonly viewed as high tier characters. I’ve also seen tier lists that arrange them into the top tier.

How Roy and Chrom Fit Into my Gameplan.

Full disclosure: While I love using both, I feel Roy fits me slightly better. His extra damage on sweetspot and better recovery really win it for me. On the flipside, my girlfriend enjoys watching me play and especially prefers Chrom. That being said, I can’t let her down.

Since they both play fundamentally similar, it’s good practice to learn both characters. As an Ike main, however, I feel like my character struggles heavily against the likes of Roy and ROB. In terms of matchups, I would also say he loses to Palutena, Fox, Zero Suit Samus, Pac-Man, and Mega Man. They’re all winnable matchups but they must be played with great respect to the opponent’s character due to some competitive advantages such as zoning or advantage state.

I learned my lesson from Smash 4 not to solo-main a character that isn’t top tier. While I will never not main Ike, I’ve learned to cover my bases with characters that can take on his weaker matchups. As such, I’ve proven my case: counterpicking wins sets.

Now, let’s say I need a counter against Mega Man, Palutena, or Pac-Man. Roy and Chrom are considerably even or winning in these matchups. I can use their superior mobility and KO power to my advantage to turn the tides using tools that Ike is lacking. Why fight an uphill battle when you can learn to use new tools? Plus, if I’m being honest, Roy and Chrom are just fun as hell to play.

Fun Trivia About Roy

Believe it or not, Roy was always considered poor in the earlier games he was in. He was a low-tier in Melee, a low tier in Smash 4, and both of these performances stemmed from his home game, Fire Emblem: Binding Blade. In Binding Blade, Roy was seen as one of the worst Lords in the series, in terms of stats, and only became viable near the end of the game. Once he promoted and could wield the Binding Blade, he was fairly viable, but not before spending 20 chapters being carried by stronger units like Lilina.

Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (2002)

Fire Emblem Heroes gave Roy promise, however, in the form of several units. Among these include both a Brave and Legendary variant which made him a considerably tough Sword unit. Meanwhile, as mentioned previously, Roy maintains strong results in tournaments thanks to several talented players. As a Roy fan myself, I’m finally glad to see him doing well in both Smash and Fire Emblem.

Is it Time to Use a New Secondary?

Since I will always main Ike, there’s no debating on whether I would drop him. Not only that, but he’s one of the few characters who does well against the infamous duo, Pikachu and Pichu, with the latter being argued as the best fighter in the game.

I’ve been moving among secondaries. With the graphic I posted above, there’s no way I wouldn’t use these characters. I’ve been warned about “spreading myself thin” and I’m aware that some people still prefer to solo-main. However, I don’t think I would enjoy the game if I could only play one character.

Despite my grievances with Terry, such as botching my inputs, SDing, and landing from his godawful disadvantage state, there’s no way I can stop using him. He’s too fun not to use and has won me big matches in the past.

Sorting My Secondary Fighters

With that said, Cloud, Incineroar, and Lucina are more or less my hobby characters. I don’t plan to bring them out in tournaments save for the few times I’ve done so in the past. I’ve also been using Mario less online since I’m not sure if I want to keep using him for competitive play.

Therefore, that leaves me with Roy/Chrom, Bowser, and Wolf. I’ve been told Wolf does well against Palutena and, if I’m fighting a Roy, I have Bowser at the ready to take them on as well. Counterpicking is a viable strategy that can save sets and win matches.

Does that mean I will use Chrom and Roy as my official secondaries? Right now, I’m not sure. I enjoy playing as them online and I’m definitely learning new things each time I play. But as of this moment, I can’t say for sure if this means I will bring them out in a bracket set. If had to pick 3 characters to use, and two of them were Ike and Terry, their chances of being 3rd would be on par with Wolf and Bowser right now.

As much as I would love to save some clips and post them here, I’ve been having problems with my Switch. It will not read my MicroSD for recording matches and hasn’t been able to do so in months. However, if I do happen to get replays uploaded again, I’ll happily post them here.

I’ll be following up with another Smash Column next week. Be sure to follow our social media links below. Stay well and see you next time!

Super Mario 3D World: Nintendo introduces Bowser’s Fury in a new trailer for Switch.

Earlier today, Nintendo unveiled their latest trailer for Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. While Super Mario 3D World, a port of the 2013 Nintendo Wii U title, was showcased last year, Nintendo has now featured Bowser’s Fury mode. This new campaign seems to feature an open-world structure and all-new challenges for players while accompanied by Bowser Jr.

Bowser’s Fury seems to show a new, powerful form of Bowser. Fans of past Mario games know of Bowser’s ability to grow into a giant. That also extends to the Smash Bros. series where Bowser can become Giga Bowser. However, this new form is a darker, spikier, and more menacing form of Bowser. Not to mention it’s not often you hear a symphonic metal track playing in a Mario game.

The Bowser’s Fury campaign also features new goals such as collecting Cat icon medals, enemies like Cat Piranha Plants, and even features Bowser Jr’s Magic Paintbrush from Super Mario Sunshine return.

What makes Super Mario 3D World charming?

Super Mario 3D World spawned from its 3DS predecessor, Super Mario 3D Land, while making a number of improvements to the formula. It takes the 4-player co-op of New Super Mario Bros., adds Peach as a playable character, and is designed by the team behind the Super Mario Galaxy titles. Peach’s addition marks the first time she’s been playable in a mainline Mario title since Super Mario Bros. 2.

Another reference to Super Mario Bros. 2.

The stage design in 3D World is nothing short of perfect. There’s a stage dedicated to Super Mario Kart, a snow stage where you can wear a Goomba’s Shoe variant with skates, and even explore a Boo Mansion with a haunting filter. Every stage in the game caters to 1 to 4 players without sacrificing mobility, pacing, or design choices that could compromise the enjoyment based on the player count.

The lush visuals, stellar level design, and enemy variety, awesome soundtrack, boss battles, and powerups offer some of the single best gameplay in a Nintendo title to date. The multiple suits, including Tanooki, Cat, Boomerang, and even Gold Cat, bring back the days of hunting down suits in Super Mario Bros. 3!

The release of this software on Nintendo’s failed Wii U console does not do the software justice. As with past Wii U hits before it, this amazing title finally finds its way home on Nintendo’s Switch. Every attention to detail, from the controls to the secrets, were polished with the finest care and made the game enjoyable from start to finish and beyond.

With that being said, I would daresay that it was the best game on the console. As such, this upcoming release should be missed by absolutely no one. If you were a fan of Super Mario Galaxy, I cannot stress this enough: You will absolutely adore 3D World.

I assure you the soundtrack is just as good as in the Galaxy titles.

Release Date

Super Mario 3D World comes to Nintendo Switch on February 12, 2021. You can preorder the title from retailers as well as the Nintendo eShop. Nintendo is also releasing a specially themed Mario edition Switch releasing on the same day.

Also, be sure to check out these Cat Mario and Cat Peach amiibos coming out on the game’s release date!

Follow us on our social media links below. Be sure to keep up with us as we update you with the latest info on Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury!

Datamine reveals upcoming Nintendo Switch model featuring 4K and OLED display.

Earlier this week, a report surfaced that a datamine revealed an upgraded Nintendo Switch console. The source comes from ResetERA and was leaked by SciresM. While the rumors have spun for months about a “Nintendo Switch Pro” console, this datamine is the most decisive evidence regarding its existence.

I’ve been following Nintendo for decades and have seen my fair share of rumors. I’ve seen dozens of threads regarding leaks for Super Smash Bros. rosters and I’ve also seen roster leaks that were confirmed upon the game’s release. The Smash community is no stranger to fake leaks created for building false hype and trolling the scene. However, datamines are a different story.

What makes a datamine legit?

Unlike the rumors and leaks, which may or may not be legit, datamining comes from a digitized source. These come from game code or even system code. Unlike the hearsay spread through forums, datamining comes with evidence.

One example comes from Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. Back in 2015, Roy from Fire Emblem and Ryu from Street Fighter were found in a datamine. This includes name files as well as voice files. Rather than to assume this was needless hearsay to stir up the community, it was only a matter of time before they came to Smash. Interestingly, what was not known was the inclusion of Lucas, who was released on the same day.

Another prominent datamine comes from their mobile title, Fire Emblem Heroes. Shortly after the game’s release in February 2017, dataminers found files of a holiday-themed Tharja and Robin in the files. During December, these characters were indeed confirmed in their release.

Case in point, datamines should be taken with more than just a grain of salt.

What’s in Store for the Upcoming Switch Model?

According to the report, this Switch model features 4K display in docked mode. That is to say, it will render graphics at a resolution rivaling the PS4 and Xbox One. Furthermore, it also features an OLED screen. The OLED screen is familiar for anyone with either an Android or PlayStation Vita. Furthermore, the report speculates the enhancements of both cooldown and battery life.

Truly ahead of its time.

The Nintendo Switch is no stranger to the latter issues. The battery on the Switch, depending on the model you own, lasts between 2.5 hours at worst and 9 hours at best. The Switch’s ability to keep up with PS4 and Xbox One multiplatform titles also comes with a noticeable drop in visual quality.

It’s worth noting that, at one point, Nintendo’s console, the GameCube, outperformed the PlayStation 2 during the early 2000s. Ever since the era of the Wii, Nintendo’s visual quality and performance has never quite caught up to the speed of its competitors. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X out, at least the Switch may at last catch up to the PS4 and Xbox One. As releases for last-gen consoles will continue to go strong, this might also invite developers and publishers to release more multiplatform titles on the Switch as well.

While Nintendo consoles have seldom received timely upgrades, their handheld line always featured revisions of some sort. The Game Boy received the Game Boy Pocket and the Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance received the SP, DS got the DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL, and the 3DS received the 3DS XL and New 3DS XL. That’s also not mentioning the budget choice, the 2DS. As Switch is a hybrid portable console and has already received the Switch Lite revision, it’s all too possible that Nintendo is preparing for an upgraded console this year.

We will keep you posted on more info as it becomes available to us. Be sure to follow our social media links below to keep up with our latest updates!

Rango’s Smash Blog: I Still Play Competitive Smash and I Do Not Understand Why.

Welcome back to Rango’s Smash Blog! If this is your first time here, allow me to introduce myself.
I’m a competitive esports player and part-time Smash coach. I’ve been playing Smash since 1999 and playing competitively since Brawl came out on the Wii. My offline tournament journey began in 2014, upon the release of the 3DS and Wii U titles, and I’ve been competing ever since. As a previously sponsored player who traveled to tournaments across the country, I made myself a name as both as a ranked Georgia player and one of the best Ike mains in the world. If you’re interested, you can read a bit more about my tournament history.

2020 and Online Tournaments

Ever since COVID started, I’ve been inactive in the tournament scene. With CEO Dreamland, hosted in March, being the last major offline tournament, many players have resorted to playing in online tournaments. Moreover, even Nintendo has made bare-minimum efforts to improve online. With that being said, however, I’ve had no interest in playing in online tournaments.
 
I’ve done my fair share of entering a few online tournaments. Waiting around for matches at home isn’t the same as actually being inside a venue while interacting with people. It just feels like sitting in a waiting room, in your house, when you could be doing something more productive. It honestly surprises me how many players participate in online tournaments.
 
However, I also notice that the online rankings differ vastly from the offline rankings. Perhaps a number of top players have just as little interest in entering online tournaments as I do and prefer to focus on content creation and other endeavors.
I cite MKLeo and Fatality as two people who place much higher on the offline rankings. As such, I find this ranking to be subjective either to how online meta works, Or perhaps this is due to top players’ lack of interest in online tournament play.

Why I don’t enter online tournaments.

With that being said, why not enter? They’re easy to find and, I know if I wanted to, I could enter and do incredibly well. I not only main Ike but use several characters proficiently to cover his bad matchups. The online tournaments I’m aware of don’t even have a buy-in, so it’s basically entering for free and getting paid for placing high.
 
But truth be told, I’m not interested. While I take my offline tournaments seriously, I’ve always been someone who plays Smash for fun first and foremost. The same guy who enters 1v1 tournaments to win is also the same guy you’ll spot playing 8-player matches with items on. I’ll sooner go to a convention and play fun matches with groups of people than go ham when I’m trying to have a good time. I’ve won my fair share of con tournaments and even won free badges to southeast anime conventions such as Ichibancon and Triad. However, the pacing of a con tournament, coupled with its casual ruleset, no longer interests me.
 
With that being said, part of me wonders if it would be a good financial endeavor to enter online tournaments. It’s hard to find good training partners in Smash online. I struggle to find matches on Anther’s Ladder and even Discord. In fact, most of what I really do is just end up playing on Elite Smash, the random matchmaking mode. This leads me to play against players with poor habits, use annoying characters, or end up leaving after one match.

Nintendo’s Online and Fighting Games

This is mostly Nintendo’s fault for not only having poor netcode but also for offering poor matchmaking options. Joining an arena is a potluck of players of various skill levels which include those lower than what I seek. Even though a more recent update added Elite Smash to play with higher-level players in Arenas, it’s totally empty. I kid you not that searching for high-level players on arena matchmaking leads to no results. It’s just as empty if you host arenas too.
 
All-in-all, I want tournaments to come back. I’ve tried filling the void by playing more viable online fighting games, like Tekken 7. But nothing hits quite like Smash. It’s my favorite game by far and the one I still play online in.

Getting Back into the Game

For some reason, though, I just can’t stop playing online. Even if I’m tormenting myself on Quickplay, it feels good to just play my characters, practice, and feel some level of improvement. Sometimes I’ll find a good challenge on Discord and we’ll host arenas to play sets in. While it doesn’t happen often, those are some of the highlights of my day.
 
More than anything, I feel like I’m just prepping right now for offline tournaments to return. Once COVID goes away, perhaps thanks to the new vaccines, we might be able to venture out and compete once more. I would love to become a sponsored player again and travel the country in search of new challenges. I definitely want to become a better player than I am now and I certainly look forward to what comes once we get back in full gear.
 
Right now, playing online is just to prepare for offline tournaments. I might consider an online tournament if it conveniences me and falls into my time slot. Whether I do or do not, however, I’ll still be playing Smash online and getting ready for that day when we can compete offline once more.

The Game Corner – What Are You Playing? Week of 1/4/21

ACT Game Corner 1/1/21

Welcome to the new year! Now that we finally left 2020 behind, we’re looking forward to a much brighter and better year! With that being said, welcome to the Game Corner!

ACT Pokemon Game Corner

What is the Game Corner?

Named after the Pokemon series’ casino, the Game Corner is a column where I cover my gaming backlog. I’ll also include activities in the games I regularly play, such as Fire Emblem Heroes and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If you’re fond of JRPGs, Nintendo series, PlayStation hits, and a hint of fighting games, you came to the right place!

We encourage you to share your backlogs with us in the replies as well. Hopefully, this column will give you some ideas on what to add to your backlog. If you’re looking for new games to play, you might find something you like!

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

ACT Super Mario 64

Yep, I did it. I cleared Super Mario 64 with 120 Stars. I’m no stranger to this game and I got into it when it came out on the Nintendo 64 back in 1996! I’ve cleared through this game many times to include on the DS with 150 Stars! Despite being many years since I’ve last played through this game, though, it’s a blast to play no matter how many times I replay it.

Surprisingly, as well as it’s held up, it’s become easier to identify some of the design flaws in the game. Perhaps it’s because Super Mario Galaxy spoiled us. But when it comes to finding 100 coins, redoing a long mission because of a death and no checkpoint, or clearing Tick-Tock Clock, some of the missions were actually frustrating! It’s one thing for Mario to be challenging but when you have to go all the way back through the Hazy-Maze Elevator because you feel once, it admittedly becomes tedious.

ACT Super Mario 64 Tick Tock Clock
Tick Tock Clock was heavily redesigned in the DS remake. The level design was much more tolerable.

Still, I gotta say it was hard to put down even today. As long as my backlog is, I’m honestly surprised I decided to stick with 64 till the end and clear it over the last week. Believe it or not, going over some of the 3D platformers I’ve played in my life, I can’t say I’ve played one better from a series that wasn’t Mario. 64 isn’t just revolutionary but a polished monument to some of the best and most enjoyable gaming experiences imaginable.

ACT Super Mario 64 low-poly
Did you know that Mario’s model becomes low-polygon when the camera zooms away from him?

Judgment

ACT Judgment Yagami Kaito

Ah, good old Yakuza. The franchise that received a huge boom in the mid-late 2010s thanks to Yakuza 0, Sega’s been a master at marketing this title. The Yakuza series is known for its hilarious, serious, and clever writing, combining strong storytelling with over-the-top humor. Any fan of shonen anime and Japanese culture will fall in love with Yakuza. It’s got those Fist of the North Star and Jojo vibes in combat with just a hint of pro wrestling.

The beat ’em up gameplay in Judgment is just as smooth and fluid as the Yakuza series could possibly deliver. This spin-off, however, also features a murder mystery. You’ll be solving puzzles, searching for clues, and even defending people in court just like in Ace Attorney. I also like the streamlined sub-quests which are now featured on corkboards for you to pick at.

Look. No touch!

Yagami’s truly a likable protagonist and Kaito’s an amazing side-kick, you could say! They differ from the series’ protagonist, Kiryu Kazuma, in many ways with Yagami being a little more coolheaded and Kaito being a little more cocky. Now that I’m on Chapter 9 I feel like I’m just a bit over halfway through the game at 30 hours.

Having beaten Yakuza 0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2, and Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, I look forward to continuing my journey once I clear Judgment. I’ll play through Yakuza Remastered Collection, Yakuza 6, and finally, get to try Like a Dragon once I’m through.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Believe it or not, I’m still on the grind here. Still playing competitively, I find it hard to put Smash down. Even in an era without offline tournaments, I cannot put down my favorite game. I just gotta keep practicing for that time the tournaments return.

I’m still learning new things with Terry, Mario, Cloud, Chrom, Roy, and others. I honestly just love learning multiple characters. Even though in all practicality, you’re supposed to keep a small character pool in tournaments, it’s incredibly hard not to want to play more than a small handful of 78 characters. I even dabbled a bit with Sephiroth when he came out. Unfortunately, his zoning playstyle really isn’t for me and I just found Cloud to be more enjoyable personally.

I found a new YouTube channel, called 1437 Ultimate, with some sick plays by other top players. I’m already getting some inspiration from Zenyou’s Mario. If I find any more goodies, I’ll be sure to include them in my next column!

Fire Emblem Heroes

As always, I’m logging into my only gacha game regularly. I love Fire Emblem Heroes too much not to play it and care too little about other gacha to play anything else. I don’t even follow the meta anymore. I just look up guides on Gamepress, build my characters optimally, and send them out into Abyssal Maps. Don’t get me started on Aether Raids either.

Duma’s Abyssal stage. I still cannot beat this effing map.

Been running Fallen Ike, Brave Dimitri, Peony, and Brave Camilla lately. Unfortunately, I ran into a roadblock trying to conquer Abyssal Duma. Yet one switch from Camilla to Brave Claude and, within two tries, I clobbered that map like it was nothing. You gotta adapt to your changes and when you see a map full of fliers it’s time to get the bow out.

The new year banner is coming so I’m looking forward to that. Much as I would love a summer banner of the Ljosalfheim faeries, this gracious New Year banner gives them beautiful kimonos to wear and fly around in. However, I can’t say I’m ready to commit to the New Year’s banner when I could still possibly get Winter Sothis and Winter Fae. Just maybe!

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

That’s right. I’m back to playing an old favorite Zelda title. Having beaten it on Wii (2006) and the GameCube years later, I had to pick up the HD remaster. One thing that drove me to this release was the addition of a harder difficulty.

Barring A Link Between Worlds, I’ve never been a fan of the Hero Mode difficulty in Wind Waker HD or this one either. However, with the use of the Ganondorf amiibo, I could boost enemy damage x2 and still collect hearts in the field. Unfortunately, I have to use my amiibo every time I load up the game.

I’m at the Lakebed Temple now which is the Water Temple of the game but on steroids. For those unaware, the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time was infamously difficult the first time we played through. Lakebed Temple is that but even bigger and more intimidating. That being said, I’m looking forward to getting this one over with.

Despite how much I enjoy this game, I always thought it fell short of the N64 classics, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. A large part of that reason was due to how easy combat was. Enemies dealt 1/4 heart of damage and you could get by them without even trying.

While the HD version’s difficulty gives me the incentive to beat the game, I have little doubt that Nintendo will release this game for Switch as part of this year’s celebration, Maybe we’ll see Twilight Princess and Wind Waker as part of Zelda 35th Anniversary. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can use the Wolf Link amiibo to help me with the DLC in Breath of the Wild.

Wrap-up

Well, here’s hoping I can clear Judgment before the next Game Corner. It’s probably around 60 hours and I’m doing side-cases like mad. Eventually, I do want to finally start my copies of Nioh 2 and Ghost of Tsushima, both of which I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about. But I’m also trying to be good and not scatter off to too many games at once. I say this as I haven’t touched my half-finished copies of Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII Remake in weeks.

Share with us what you’re playing in the replies below. Stay tuned with us for next time’s Game Corner. And finally, be sure to follow us on our social media links below. Happy New Year, everyone!

Retro Review – Ys Origin: An Epic Action/RPG Worth Your Time

Ys Origin

Ys Origin was developed by Nihon Falcom in 2006. The title would later be published by XSeed in the west in 2012 coming to PS Vita, PC, PS4, Xbox One, and finally Nintendo Switch.

The Ys series (pronounced “Eess”) features hack-and-slash RPG gameplay with real-time combat, puzzle-solving, and challenging boss battles. Ys Origin features three playable characters with the last one being unlocked by clearing the other two routes. With that being said, I found Ys Origin to be quite enjoyable from start to finish.

ACT Ys Origin Rado's Annex

Despite being released in 2006, its gorgeous character sprite work, boss design, and incredibly fast-paced and intuitive gameplay held up more than well enough. While I think it could use a few more exploration routes, this title was an absolute blast to play in all three playthroughs.

Story

Ys Origin takes place 700 years before the start of the series. Taking place inside of the enormous Darm Tower, it features a group of heroes seeking the goddesses – Feena and Reah – to inquire about their departure and the arrival of powerful demons.

The game features three playable characters: Yunica, Hugo, and Toal. Each one follows their own route, interaction, and even a few unique boss battles. They all have their own writing as each character experiences their own growth and development progressing throughout the story. Despite being only 10 hours long, I’m surprised at how much the protagonists grew in such a short span of time.

ACT Ys Origin Hugo Epona

One thing I absolutely love is a major twist that’s only featured in the final playthrough. It brings everything together in a way that could not be explained in Yunica or Hugo’s route. Along with the surnames of the characters (Tovah, Fact), veteran Ys players will meet familiar faces in the series. Fortunately, Ys Origin makes for a perfect entry point for series’ newcomers as well.

ACT Ys Origin Saul

Audiovisual

If there’s one thing the Ys series excels at, it’s music. The rock and smooth jazz accompany such amazing beats and bass lines thrown throughout the soundtrack. Anyone will also fall in love with the heavy metal riffs that play during boss fights. Falcom’s sound design is as sterling as ever. For some reason, the soundtrack gives me major Castlevania: Rondo of Blood vibes. Some of my favorite pieces include “Dreaming,” “Oboro,” “Tension,” and “Beyond the Beginning.”

Despite being overlaid on a 3D plane, Ys features 2D sprites. Yet they meld surprisingly well, hand-in-hand, akin to some of the older PlayStation JRPGs like Valkyrie Profile, Star Ocean, and Tales. Both the sprite animations of the characters and the bosses look magnificent even today. Plus the character art looks gorgeous and detailed and the characters feature different expressions. Falcom truly cares about the artwork as much as their music and it shows by how well it’s held up today.

Gameplay

Like past Ys titles, Origins features real-time hack-and-slash combat. You can jump, slash with combo attacks, and also use magical relics to deal additional damage. The puzzles within the game are enjoyable and nothing too hard. Rather, you’ll find additional relics that will either function as keys or new abilities which can open new paths or increase your movement.

ACT Ys Origin Yunica Boss

You’ll get three playable characters. Yunica, your battle warrior can use an axe while Hugo, the mage, attacks exclusively at long range. When you clear their paths, you’ll unlock Toal’s story. He can also attack at close range but is much faster and deals incredible damage with his claws.

ACT Khonsclard Ys Origin
Several bosses take cues from bullet-hell titles.

Each stage has different layouts. You’ll encounter plenty of different enemy types and stage obstacles. Even though it’s confined to a tower, each floor offers plenty of variety. Quicksand, lava, water, and powerful enemies help make up this game’s 25 floors.

ACT Ys Origin Mantis

If you ever find yourself struggling, it’s worth leveling up a bit. As much as I dislike level grinding, thankfully it never takes more than 2-3 minutes tops to get to a new level. You can save right before a boss room, grind levels for a few minutes, and end up at a high enough level to take them on. Ys Origin is quite forgiving by allowing you to continue at the boss fight if you lose.

Final Thoughts

Ys Origin offers solid replayability in spite of its short length. With 3 stories, it totals up to around 25-30 hours of solid writing, character development, and even tragedy. When you clear the game, you can also unlock boss rush and trial modes which in-turn unlock secrets.

ACT Ys Origin Roo

I enjoyed the game’s thematics. I enjoyed Yunica’s story of feeling held-back for not being capable of using magic or even the goddesses’ own human nature and flawed existence. Meanwhile, both Hugo and Toal fought against their own fate. They’re human and they’re written in a way that seems to defy a game released in 2006.

ACT Ys Origin Toal Reah

I feel like they could have opened up more avenues to explore. Granted, for exploring outside of the beaten path you will get better armor and accessories. However, as much as I love the game, I could always use more. It’s like a cross between the original and Metroidvania titles of Konami’s Castlevania series. While it moves on a linear path of stages, each stage offers a chance to explore a bit. Ys Origin is not perfect as it does feel quite linear. Yet it’s also well-written with some beautiful aesthetics and a fantastic soundtrack to boot.

If you enjoy classic 2D gameplay akin Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda titles, enjoy hack-and-slash games, and want a solid story that paces itself well, Ys Origin is a great choice. It’s a definitive hack-and-slash title and one of the best games in the series out there. Even if you don’t play other games in the series, it’s a quality standalone title that will make a solid entry in your library no matter what system you’re playing on.

Score: 8.5/10

ACT Ys Origin Feena Reah Yunica

 

5 Best Switch Games to Play with Friends During the Holidays.

With the holidays here in full bloom, now’s as good a time as any to look at the best choices to play games with your friends. While you’re quarantining at home and want to play online, or offline, you’ll find a number of choices you can enjoy. If you have family to play with at home or you’re hanging out with friends for a day, you’ll find a few games here, older and newer alike, which will certainly add to the mood!

Unfortunately, the release of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury just can’t come soon enough. Until Nintendo releases this magnificent 3D platformer on the Switch, check out these 5 games that you’ll definitely want to spend time playing your friends with during the holidays.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2

This 8-bit retro Castlevania throwback offers 2-player co-op with 4 playable characters in the initial playthrough and even more when unlocked. Players can change to any character as well as play as a clone of the main character, Zangetsu.

The co-op gameplay in Bloodstained plays well despite the otherwise classic stiff 8-bit controls. Also, the levels pace themselves well, and you’ll certainly get a strong challenge out of it if that’s what you’re seeking. You can also set it to Casual if you’re just having fun with the game.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

What makes Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity special is that it’s the prequel to the beloved 2017 title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. More than that, however, this Musou title features fast-paced hack-and-slash action with an epic metal soundtrack.

It’s quick and easy to pick up and play. Pick your favorite Zelda characters, join up with a friend, and get ready to clear missions as you take out hundreds of enemies at a time.

Streets of Rage 4

The long-awaited return of this beat ’em up franchise appears on Nintendo Switch with online and offline co-op play. Offline play can support up to 4 players while online can support 2. Streets of Rage 2 is often heralded as the best beat ’em up in existence and Streets of Rage 4 carries that legacy to a T.

With its gorgeous new hand-drawn artwork, the catchy soundtrack and hard-hitting action evolve with a new combo system. Nothing feels quite as bonding as helping your friend dish out damage to enemies in a combo strung from what you might see in a fighting game. Streets of Rage 4 is one of the most ideal titles to add to your library if you love a fresh take on a 2D classic in one of the best co-op games of the past decade.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart remains an irreplaceable part of multiplayer gaming and fun. 6 years after the original MK8 released on Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still maintains itself as the best-selling Switch title. Featuring over 40 tracks, Battle Mode, and a ton of racers and customization options, the fun never ends.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the ultimate racing experience. It’s a thoroughly polished title without a single bad track in the game. Every single track feels incredibly fun with gorgeous visuals and some of the most catchy music heard in a Nintendo title. Whether you want to race or battle, you can play against friends or even join up in Team Battle online or offline, handheld or on TV screen. This should not be missed by anyone.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Smash Bros. is as flexible as Mario Kart when it comes to the number of ways you can play the game. You can join up with a friend in Classic Mode co-op and take out CPU enemies together. You can also join up with a friend online, or offline, for some doubles action (2v2). You can even play offline with a group of friends and enjoy some Squad-Strike as teams or using multiple characters. Plus you can also try Home-Run Contest when you want a slight change of pace.

Whether you’re teaming up or competing against your friends, items on or off, the fun never ends with Smash Bros. It’s hard to keep track of the time and makes for the ultimate party experience.

Sephiroth Invades Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

The One-Winged Angel

This past week, The Game Awards hosted the latest character reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The opening trailer showed World of Light villain, the angelic Galeem, about to vaporize the cast. In an instant, a flash of light streaks across the creature, slicing it in two with a single swipe.

As soon as his figure appears where Galeem once appeared, “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII plays. The familiar boss theme from Final Fantasy VII kicks in as the camera pans to the powerful swordsman who confronts the Smash cast and declares war on its fighters, especially one Cloud Strife.

Who is Sephiroth?

Sephiroth is the main villain of Final Fantasy VII. Formerly once considered the strongest SOLDIER alive, he became corrupt and chose instead to expunge the world. This powerful fighter was infused with the cells of the alien being, Jenova, giving him his incredible strength. However, upon learning the truth of Jenova in the library of Nibelheim, he went mad and sought a new path. Rather than fight as a hero, he chose to fulfill his role as Jenova’s heir and absorb the Planet’s Mako to attain godhood.

Sephiroth is intertwined with Cloud as an adversary. Sephiroth burned down Nibelheim, Cloud’s hometown, and in doing so, killed his mother and wounded his best friend, Tifa Lockheart. Cloud suffered an accident prior to Final Fantasy VII leaving his mind in a hazy state and, thus, prone to seizures. Oftentimes these came from Sephiroth tormenting him from within.

Even after Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth continues to torment Cloud. Most notably includes his appearance in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the movie sequel to the game, where he appears once again to battle his rival. Sephiroth has also squared off against Cloud’s friend and SOLDIER predecessor, Zack Fair, in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

Why is Sephiroth so important?

Final Fantasy VII left a supernova impact on the gaming scene. It was a revolutionary 3D Japanese RPG, for PlayStation, which released in 1997. The title featured exceptional CGI visuals and over 40 hours of gameplay across 3 discs. It was considered a masterpiece of its time and offered players a fantastic soundtrack, a memorable cast, and a story that would follow them for decades.

Sephiroth, being the main villain, quickly gained popularity for his strength and handsome looks. His exceptional sword prowess made him an extremely dangerous foe. This became apparent in titles, such as Kingdom Hearts, where he appears as a superboss who can end Sora in a single hit. In addition to Kingdom Hearts, Sephiroth has also appeared in the fighting game spin-off, Dissidia: Final Fantasy.

Not only can Sephiroth wield his amazingly long Masamune katana with exceptional ease but he is also a capable practitioner of powerful black magic. Heartless Angel can instantly kill a character or reduce their HP to 1. He can also use attacks like Shadow Flare to deal heavy damage. His ultimate move, Supernova, deals heavy damage and can kill the opponent.

Sephiroth’s impact echoes Cloud’s impact in Super Smash Bros. 4 when his trailer was revealed five years ago. Both are iconic Final Fantasy characters and, through the course of over two decades and various series, Cloud and Sephiroth are destined to clash once again. This also adds to the relatively small pool of villains in the game as well.

Analyzing the Trailer

Galeem was the powerful angelic being who started World of Light by vaporizing everyone in the Smash Bros. universe with the exception of Kirby. This powerful foe was later fought twice in the World of Light storyline. Thought to be some kind of powerful angel, Sephiroth could simply one-shot the being and end its life in an instant. This speaks echoes for the kind of power Sephiroth wields which runs in line with his power in the story.

You could sum up his entrance like this.

The trailer makes allusions to several scenes in Final Fantasy VII. Cloud confronts him as Sephiroth says he shall “give Smash despair” while conjuring storm clouds. This is the first of several references to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.

After his splash screen appears, Sephiroth is shown in flames and in the Ganon boss stage. This is a reference to the iconic scene where he burns down Nibelheim.

The trailer introduces a new stage, The Planet’s Core, the final dungeon in Final Fantasy VII. This is where Jenova is fought one last time before the final battle with Sephiroth. This was also the Final Fantasy VII stage in Dissidia.

Sephiroth is scene entering a dark portal as well as attempting to downward-stab Zelda. This is in reference to a particular scene at the end of FF7’s Disc 1. However, this is not the first time series creator, Masahiro Sakurai has had fun referencing this little scene.

One of the Challenge screenshots unlocked in the game.

Sephiroth appears on Termina Great Bay watching the Moon fall. This references Meteor which he summons to destroy the Planet. It also shows renders of him overpowering much of the Smash roster to include the powerful Umbra Witch, Bayonetta, who’s thought to be the strongest Smash character. The trailer comes near its end when Sephiroth nearly impales a hapless Mario.

Afterward, Cloud and Sephiroth duel once more with Cloud gaining a new Final Smash: Omnislash Ver. 5. This is how he defeated Sephiroth in Advent Children and is also one of his techniques in Dissidia. Whether this means Cloud will get buffs or not is, of course, yet to be determined.

The trailer ends as Cloud and Sephiroth recite a quote from the end of their battle in Advent Children.

How Sephiroth will play in Smash Bros.

Sephiroth wields the Masamune which is an ultra-long katana. This alone will already give him more range than Shulk, the swordsman who wields the laser-blade Monado. At a first glance, it seems that Sephiroth should be a slower character with exceptional range. However, given Sephiroth’s history in Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, that will likely not be the case.

His range will accompany almost certainly off-the-charts speed and strength. He uses magic attacks such as the previously mentioned Heartless Angel and appears to use a Counter as well. Sephiroth also demonstrated a form change where he will grow a singular wing. How this will affect his moveset remains to be seen.

There’s no telling what else he’s capable of. The trailer already showed him using a wall-cling with his sword which will add to his recovery abilities. In Kingdom Hearts, Sephiroth was shown to be an exceptionally agile and powerful warrior. Plus, with his dense muscle, it’s entirely likely he will be a heavyweight character who can take a beating.

On that note, Sephiroth ends the trailer by transforming into Safer Sephiroth. In this form, he fought Cloud and his party in one last battle in Final Fantasy VII. Here, he unleashed his ultimate move, Supernova.

Final Thoughts

As a sword user myself, I’m all about Sephiroth entering Smash. I beat Final Fantasy VII back in the day and I’ve always been a fan of the game and Cloud. I’ve kept up with Advent Children and Crisis Core and whooped Sephiroth in the first two Kingdom Hearts games. I’m quite familiar with this fighter and I expect him to be a massive threat to the competitive meta.

I main Ike and I’ve used Cloud a bit myself in Smash. While I don’t see myself maining Sephiroth, I’m eager to try him once he comes out. Sephiroth had the best reveal trailer of any character I’ve seen so far and he looks absolutely lethal. Smash needs a villain and Sephiroth will deliver.

With that being said, Sephiroth will release later this month in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Sakurai will reveal an in-depth look at the character on December 17th. Stay tuned with us at AllCoolThings as we give you the latest on Sephiroth’s next showcase.

As always, make sure to hit up our social media links below to keep up with the latest for your gaming needs. Take care of yourselves this holiday season and enjoy this bonus video!

How Nintendo Discontinuing the 3DS Will Impact the Future of Video Games.

Nintendo recently discontinued the 3DS. Earlier this week, the handheld, which debuted in 2011 and succeeded the Nintendo DS, was officially placed out of production. While the Nintendo 3DS garnered two re-releases – the 3DS XL and New 3DS XL – all variations of the system enjoyed nearly a decade of bringing some of the best games in history to players worldwide.

The discontinuation of the 3DS, however, will leave an impact on gaming as a whole. Simply put, this means that games that rely on dual-screens will be difficult to re-release in the future. While Nintendo did their math and surely came to the right conclusion to press forward without the 3DS, fans may wonder how Nintendo will ever bring them back onto the Switch and beyond.

Furthermore, in 2020, without a second system for Nintendo to support, during the COVID era, scant first-party releases may have negatively impacted the company’s reputation and certainly the Switch’s 2020 as a whole. While Nintendo is no stranger to year-long droughts with the Wii and Wii U, this is the first time they’ve supported only a single console since the early years of the NES. Overall, the end of the 3DS, for better or for worse, came with a number of consequences.

Retrospective: Best Games on the 3DS

Nintendo’s 3DS offered some fantastic games on the 3DS. For starters, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was the sequel to the beloved SNES title, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Fire Emblem: Awakening was the Fire Emblem series’ return to form and succeeded in putting the series on the map in the west.

3DS also featured some wonderful experiences to include from Masahiro Sakurai and his company, Sora. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS made its handheld debut. Ultimately, the title would be short-lived in favor of the console release on Wii U, which was better from a competitive standpoint. However, prior to Smash, Kid Icarus: Uprising revived the Kid Icarus series from a 25-year slumber and offered a fantastic touch-screen experience.

The 3DS offered visual novels and puzzle games, like Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, and Zero Escape, all of which have yet to appear on the Switch. Furthermore, Kirby Triple Deluxe, Kirby Planet Robobot, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, and Metroid: Samus Returned offered some of the best quality 2D experiences in handheld gaming.

Anyone who enjoys fun party games would get an easy pick-up-and-play experience from Rhythm Heaven Megamix and WarioWare Gold. Plus anyone who wanted JRPG action would find Pokemon, Bravely Second, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, and Dragon Quest VIII to be quite endearing titles. Finally, in the minds of many players, Animal Crossing: New Leaf remains synonymous with the handheld.

Re-releases

Games like Kid Icarus: Uprising rely entirely on the touch screen for movement. Many other games used the two screens for a touch-screen inventory setting or a map display. Depending on the game, this ranged from a convenience to a necessity.

Some games, such as Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, came to PS Vita which didn’t feature a second screen. The UI was placed similarly but anyone could access the menu from a separate in-game screen. Many games can be played like this and don’t require a second screen to be played. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido was released for both 3DS and Switch. Unfortunately, the Switch version was vastly inferior to the former simply because the 3DS’ dual screens and touch-screen interface, with a stylus, made the game much easier to play.

Nintendo already has a history of locking up some of their popular titles away in their vault, such as F-Zero GX, which never see the light of day since their initial release. They don’t really need the excuse of having to rework controls for conventional screens or reworking a game’s UI to not re-release a game. Most likely, any game that needed reworking of any sort would be remastered onto the Nintendo Switch.

However, bold to assume, number one, that Nintendo has any interest in re-releasing their 3DS titles to begin with. Secondly, unlike single-screen ports, like Game Boy Advance titles, they can’t just be simply re-released. It’s because of the system they were built on that they need to be remastered or even rebuilt from the ground up. Let alone having to remaster each game, it’s entirely unlikely Nintendo has any interest in ever re-releasing these titles.

The “third pillar”

The 3DS was initially said to be supported alongside Nintendo Switch. However, any gaming forum-goer from the mid-2000s could tell you what Nintendo was planning to do from the beginning. The 3DS was meant to be a fall-back option in case the Switch somehow backfired.

Nintendo already used this strategy back in the days of the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. When the DS came out in 2004, Nintendo urged that the DS wasn’t the successor to the DS but rather a third pillar. This meant it would be a new branch of system that fans could enjoy.

However, the visual upgrades and new buttons all but indicated that Nintendo had planned to make the DS the Game Boy Advance’s successor. But with the picky nature of the gaming industry’s fanbase, Nintendo prepared the possible scenario that the DS would never catch on and could still rely on the Game Boy Advance’s single-screens. Sure enough, once the DS caught on, Nintendo prepared to discontinue the Game Boy Advance and move all development onto the DS.

Final Fantasy VI Advance (2007) was the last major Game Boy Advance release.

No second system.

As mentioned earlier, Nintendo has seen its rough years. They’ve maintained a horrible history of going through lengthy droughts on the Wii and Wii U. These two consoles were meant to bring in a broader audience. Ultimately, their inability to keep up with PlayStation and Xbox’s superior specs alienated third-party developers from bringing their best games onto the Wii and Wii U. On the flipside, they chose to develop for the Nintendo’s handhelds instead.

However, when Nintendo chose to release the Switch as a viable system, developers once again felt invited to develop hit titles for all systems including the Switch. Games like Mortal Kombat 11, Team Sonic Racing, Crash Team Racing, and Dragon Ball FighterZ found their way to the Nintendo Switch. As such, the console has proven viable for both home use and portable.

Unfortunately, COVID meant 2020 would be a dry year for Nintendo releases. While it seemed all but certain that E3 being canceled meant no Nintendo Direct, nobody was prepared for the dreadful lack of releases coming from the Nintendo. This year’s Nintendo Direct choices have revolved almost exclusively around third-party and indie developers. Even for DS/3DS fans who went to handheld for more games, this has left quite an impact.

Save for the Nintendo Direct Mini which introduced Paper Mario: The Origami King, Nintendo has next to nothing new to show for the upcoming year. Save for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, they’ve remained quiet on development of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, and anything else that could possibly be in development.

The upcoming Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity will be developed by Omega Force.

Where are the games?

Mario’s getting his time to shine thanks to the recently released Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The compilation title upscale three of Mario’s greatest hits into HD for Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is also releasing not only the much-wanted Super Mario 3D World Wii U title to the Switch but is also including a new campaign called Bowser’s Fury. This brings fantastic news to both the Wii U fans of 3D World as well as Mario fans who never played one of the greatest games in the series’ history.

However, it also goes to show that Nintendo has not had a string of successful first-party releases throughout the year. Outside of Animal Crossing and the Xenoblade remaster, this has been the driest year for Nintendo since the mid-2010s.

The reason this is important is because, while many players remember those droughts, the DS and 3DS offered something more to players. In addition to third-party developers supporting the handheld systems, Nintendo released plenty of games across the worst years, like Kirby, Zelda, Mario, Rhythm Heaven, and Pokémon. The handheld systems offered an alternative for high-quality games without the budget of a home console game. This meant faster production, more releases, and successful all-round years. Unfortunately, without a second system supporting Nintendo, this is the first time their fans have had to endure a quiet year from the company.

Final Thoughts

Nintendo made the right call by discontinuing the 3DS altogether. They’ve successfully upgraded from the 240p screens to a gorgeous HD experience that can be played at home or on the go. However, anyone who saw the DS succeed the Game Boy Advance already knew that Nintendo would plan to do the same with the Switch in due time. The 3DS offered nearly a decade of enjoyable games before running out its lifespan. Owners of the 3DS would be wise not to sell their systems in case they want to go back and enjoy these classics. Also, the 3DS XL fits much better in the palms than the Nintendo Switch ever will.

Switch Lite owners get a dedicated handheld experience. That is if they’re not playing JoyCon titles or Smash Bros. competitively.

Between the unique nature of the dual-screened handhelds and Nintendo’s unwillingness to re-release a number of their classic titles, for any reason possible, it’s unlikely we’ll see the likes of A Link Between Worlds again for a long time. People who emulate games on their computers will not only have no problem playing these games but get to enjoy the 4K upgrade as well.

Given the Nintendo Switch’s success, its current library, and its viability as a console-hybrid handheld, it was only a matter of time before it succeeded the 3DS. At the end of the day, the quality of a game isn’t determined by the number of screens you play it on. The DS and 3DS offered unique experiences with some fantastic games. But they weren’t going to be around forever and that’s completely understandable.

Rather, the bigger concern is once again addressing Nintendo’s stubbornness to ever re-release the titles. If re-releasing 3DS titles ever became a possibility, Nintendo would at least have to start by re-releasing their Game Boy Advance and DS games outside of the Wii U eShop. Whether they ever remaster their titles or not, it’s definitely worth holding onto your 3DS. If you never owned one but are interested in trying these classic games, and you’re not emulating, it might be best to grab a New Nintendo 3DS XL now before they start going for absurd prices on the internet.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review – More of the Same, But Better.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a side-scrolling platformer released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The sequel to 2018’s Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, this Castlevania-throwback experience features new characters, stages, and even 2-player co-op. Having recently beaten the game’s Final Chapter, I’ll briefly discuss the best and not-so-best parts of ArtPlay and IntiCreates’ latest title.

For anyone wondering, Koji Igarashi‘s studio, ArtPlay, developed the spiritual successor to Castlevania, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Inti Creates, known for Mega Man Zero and Gunvolt, developed the 8-bit Curse of the Moon titles. While they feature similar characters and settings, Curse of the Moon’s storyline spins off from Ritual of the Night’s. Thus, the two are not interetwined.

While I find CotM 2 to be quite an improvement over the first game, I think it still clings to some of the previous title’s fundamental flaws. For one, I don’t really need an excuse to replay a game just for a few different gimmicks. If I want to replay the game, i would rather do it on my own terms instead of being cheesed into unlocking the true ending. That aside, however, its presentation offers a stellar job with boss battles, levels, and gameplay.

Story

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 follows the plot of the first title. However, Zangetsu is now accompanied by new companions. These include Dominique, the exorcist from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a sniper named Robert, and a mech-piloting corgi named Hachi.

The story’s straightforward narrative involves going to a castle and slaying the demons to save the world. However, it takes some interesting twists within the game’s replay formula. Each one follows an ending, a new chapter, and an opening. Each of these chapters also affects the lineup of your party.

While little changes regarding the level designs, the final boss will be altered in both Chapter 2 and the Final Chapter. There are four different chapters and the final one features the true ending. Additionally, some of the dialogue among party members ends up rather humorous. Between that and the cutscenes that play between chapters, it becomes a bit more worth replaying the chapters with a slight change of pace.

Audiovisual

Much like its predecessor, Bloodstained follows the classic NES Castlevania aesthetic. The 8-bit title features an array of gorgeous colors and boss animations. Similar to Shovel Knight, the game presents various levels, bosses, and design choices far surpassing the NES’ own capabilities.

The chiptune music provides a selection of fast-paced music fitting for a Castlevania-esque title. I found the tunes to be catchy and at times quite engaging, such as The Demon’s Crown. I was also quite fond of the boss theme.

Gameplay

The 2D action gameplay features platforming, the ability to switch between multiple characters, and exploring non-linear stages. This means you can choose different paths to clear the stage depending on the characters you have available. Additionally, each character has their own playstyle.

Unfortunately, I was not at all fond of using Robert. While he served to be a sniper with long-range capabilities, he had no way of protecting himself up close. He felt woefully out of place in this game since his mechanics made clearing stages or bosses extremely difficult if not impossible.

Another slight issue I had was with Zangetsu. He gains a more powerful sword later in the game which gives him vertical slashe and multi-strikes. After Chapter 2, however, if the player didn’t hunt down the secret sword, they would lose it to the basic Zanmatou in the EX Episode. I feel downgrading abilities from a player is a big no-no.

Bloodstained also once again goes the route of “beat game and replay” ad nauseam. They try to write a different chapter of the tale but you’re really just repeating the game again with a slightly different roster in the 2nd chapter or the CotM 1 cast in the EX Chapter. By the final chapter, you have everyone, albeit briefly, to collect parts to reach the final level. But you’re just doing the same stages over again.

The developers would benefit greatly from creating more new stages to go with each stage rather than force the player to do the same game four times to get the final ending. Sonic Heroes is one example of a game that makes the player replay the exact same game, with slight differences, just to get the best ending.

Final Thoughts

I will admit that I greatly enjoyed the co-op in this title. The 2-player co-op allows players to jump in and exit anytime. While it’s limited to offline play, it still offers players to work together to defeat bosses or even access hidden areas.

Another good part was the difficulty level. The Veteran difficulty was tough as nails. Casual Mode offers its own challenge as the stage layout and enemies don’t change. After Episode 2, I switched to Casual Mode because I didn’t feel any need to play the same game again. I just wanted to finish the story. Furthermore, the bosses just become HP sponges on later chapters and it’s no longer enjoyable to fight them and mimic the same pattern each time.

Bloodstained does a great job of presenting a classic 2D platforming experience. However, it still relies heavily on gimmicks like forced replay or unbalanced characters in a side-scroller. Even compared to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, it was at least possible to solo the game with Trevor, Sypha, Grant, or Alucard.

Despite these mild shortcomings, Circle of the Moon 2 is well-worth the purchase. Even if it’s just one playthrough, you’ll surely find an enjoyable challenge and experience through the title. If you’re missing classic 2D Castlevania action or just enjoyed the first Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon title, it’s recommended giving it a try. I found the level designs to be vastly improved and more varied than the first Curse of the Moon title.

Whether you decide to continue with the replay chapters or not is up to you. However, I recommend at least playing through it once to all classic gaming fans who seek a real challenge.

Verdict: 8/10