Thoughts on the NES Classic

I first wrote thoughts down about the NES Classic when it was announced last summer. Like most gamers my age, I was hyped for a chance to play not only some games that I owned a loved as a child, but some of the titles that I missed. With the updated system, we get a small sample size of the existing games catalog, but in that regard the packed-in titles are worth every penny. At the $60 price point that was announced, that is. In typical Nintendo fashion, demand outweighed supply so when the console released in November 2016, they sold out rather quickly. I know I looked everywhere I could think that sells games around the release date and had no luck. One of my friends camped out and got one, but he was the only person I knew that did. Nintendo’s next press release said that they would have more consoles out to retailers soon. Units were still available online, but prices soared and it seemed the best bet was to wait until they got a handle on the demand and produced enough units to meet that demand.

Just last week, Nintendo made another announcement, and this time it was to say that the new shipments were on their way but that the console was officially discontinued. They didn’t say why, but the rumor is that an SNES Classic is on the way. Time will tell if that’s correct, though I’d be interested in that console as well, mainly because I never owned an SNES but there are plenty of games I’ve played that I’d like to play again. I’d wish for a Genesis type version as well, but I have already collected those games on other platforms due to Sega being smart about licensing their products. Anyway, with the demise of the NES Classic I knew it was time to make a decision: Tempt the fates and attempt to get one for MSRP, or pony up the extra dough and buy one online, now.

I think you can guess what I did.

It cost me nearly $200 to pick up the console, an additional controller, two cable extensions, and a carrying case. My Prime membership netted free shipping. Was it overpriced at that point? Yes. Do I have regrets? Nope.

It’s so cute sitting on my PS4! I’m going to have to invest in an HDMI splitter or switch to use it more efficiently though, as my TV only has 2 ports that are both currently being used. Outside of that hassle, I fired it up and took a trip back to the 80’s, in which ironically I also played my original NES in this very room! I played several games and had a blast, but there are titles that are going to take some time to play through that I really can’t wait to get into. I also look forward to introducing my girlfriend’s son (he’s 9) to games I played when I was his age, because he’s a little gamer in training and needs to learn to appreciate the classics!

Overall I was impressed with the console’s construction. The controller looks and feels just like the original. I was disappointed with the look and feel of the secondary controller that I picked up, not realizing it was some 3rd party knockoff, but I will live with it, or maybe I’ll go pickup one of the official controllers later on, I know I’ve seen those in stores. The carrying case was official and will do the trick. I’m satisfied with the purchase, and I think you would be too, but try to get it on the cheap if you can!

Mini Impressions: April Humble Monthly

Another month has passed and another new bundle of games has been unlocked from Humble Monthly. The early unlock for April was The Witness which I already knew wasn’t my thing so I gifted that copy away to my sister. The remaining bits of the bundle unlocked earlier this month, and I finally had a chance to check out some of the pieces of the puzzle. I didn’t play all of the games but I still have thoughts to share, so let’s take a look at the list:

Black Mesa
Kingdom: New Lands

Layers of Fear
Tumblestone
Event Zero
Slime-San
Jawns

I’m not sure why, but I basically never play any of the Humble Originals. They’re always DRM free copies and I just don’t install games that aren’t via some sort of launcher. I don’t know why that is, but you can bet that I didn’t play Jawns for this reason. Same goes for prior months. I also didn’t play Event Zero which is one of those narrative games that bore me. Slime-San falls into the same uninterested category, as it was a pixellated platformer and I’m just not that into platforming these days.

Layers of Fear looks interesting. I get more of a Amnesia or SOMA vibe to it, but I haven’t played either of those titles despite owning both. If I remember correctly SOMA was in a bundle a few months back. Having just completed Resident Evil VII, I thought it might be worth jumping into right away to keep up with the creepy vibe, but I have yet to jump into it. Still on my to do list.

Black Mesa is a remake of the original Half-Life that is supposed to add some modern convenience along with better graphics to the beloved title. However, it’s still in Early Access and apparently the tail end of the game is not present just yet. I had my eye on this one for a while and wish to play it, but I think I’m going to let the developers finish it before diving in.

Now, on to the games I actually did try out. Kingdom is a cute little side scrolling base management game that came out a while back. I remember friends talking about it and I almost picked it up myself a couple of times. The bundle came packed with both the Classic version of the game, and the expansion “New Lands,” Though having experimented with them both, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of difference between the two. Let me show you what I mean:

Kingdom Classic
Kingdom: New Lands

I mean honestly, do you see a difference? All I noticed was that my character went from having light skin to dark skin, and now there’s some clouds. I’m sure it’s one of those types of expansions that adds new stuff, I did notice that the tutorial was more fleshed out in the latter game. Both install and play seperately though, despite not being a sequel. They both had their own Steam cards and whatnot too, so it’s probably more like a directors cut or additional bits added in. You guys that have played more of the game could probably clear that up for me. Overall, it’s a fun little time waster but not a game I’d spend a load of time with.

Lastly, a little puzzle game called Tumblestone. It’s got match 3 elements, but you match bricks that are already existing, and don’t add to it. You also have to clear bricks to get to bricks behind them, so each puzzle has one or more ways to solve it, rather than being more like traditional match 3 games where you can add extra bricks and then clear them later. It seems alright as far as puzzle games go but nothing super engaging.

That’s it for this month’s games. The early unlock for next month was Dirt Rally, and if you’ve been paying attention, both Dirt 3 and one of the other titles in the series were free on Humble Bundle’s site over the past few months. So plenty of rally racing to be had. Apparently the 4th game in the series is coming out soon as well. Inside was the other early unlock (two this month, which is different) and it looks like a little platformer with some cool art direction and a mysterious story. I’ll check these out and get back to you next month. Until then.

Early Access Gem: Shardbound

Games that combine multiple genres into one are becoming a trend, don’t you think? We’ve had plenty of CCGs developed over the years, both in physical and digital form. Tactical, turn-based games are also nothing new, with various iterations spanning multiple generations of consoles and PCs. We can come up with many examples of genre-bending or melding just in the last few years, with standouts like MOBAs and the new Hero Shooter genre taking center stage. The free to play model itself has also gone through various iterations, though the lockbox has taken precedence, and despite these differing costs to speed up progress, typically you can play the full game without spending anything at all (at least with the fair developers).

Enter Shardbound. A free to play title that has a cash shop, that is a combination of CCG and tactics, that sounds like it would be a little on the weird side but works fairly well. In the above picture you can see a bit of everything, and that will allow me to explain. So, just like Hearthstone and other CCGs, you’ll have a deck of cards to take with you into battle. You also have a Hero unit. This unit will have its own special ability, along with being a representation of your life total. They start with 25, and if they die it’s game over, no matter how many minions you have left standing. Like Hearthstone, you’ll get one mana per turn. More like Magic: The Gathering, cards have various effects and you can play from your graveyard. Like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force et al, you’ll be using turn based tactics to eliminate the enemy. That’s the main gist of it. The tutorial will do a better job explaining things than I just did, but if you’ve played any of the games I’ve mentioned here you will likely understand things rather quickly.

Deckbuilding looks like fun. You’ll use a hero and their color cards (think class specific cards) and then flesh out your deck with various neutral cards. I rather enjoyed the purple deck, being graveyard focused. Some of the Heroes feel better than others, but their decks tend to make up for their own shortcomings. As of now the game is in Early Access so it has a bunch of temporary artwork and is definitely not complete but it is very playable in this state.

The game provided me with 30 chests right off the bat. In them, I received cards of different rarities, and that seems just about the norm. Buying chests seems a little steep and probably unnecessary at this point, but the welcome pack comes with another 30 chests for $5, so that’s not bad. I’m sure you will have ways to earn or craft the cards as well as the game is further developed.

 The interface is nicely done. Rather than having a series of menus, the devs decided it would be cooler to have your character represented by a space ship, and a series of floating islands represent the various menus. You have a home base of sorts, where you can train, build you deck, buy stuff and form a “house” which I assume is just like a clan. From there you fly to other “shards” where the PvP battles take place. I did well in my first couple of fights but there is definitely a learning curve as to how all of the mechanics work. Overall though, I think this one is worth checking out!

TWD A New Frontier Episode 3

The most recent chapter of the newest Walking Dead series from TellTale Games released this past week and I took an evening at home to play through it. I must say, I love the way cameos from the show and comics appear through the series. One season we saw a glimpse of Glen, Michonne got her own spin off series, and now we have Jesus making his own appearance. It also feels that the game has matured, and I don’t just mean because it has graphic elements, but moreso in the story telling itself. It feels wretched when the bad things and the tough choices come about, but there is that sense of following your own personal instincts in guiding the story. I grew tired of the same ol’ formula with TellTale games, just like I did with the same old Call of Duty every year, but because of my deep investment into this series (comics, show, multiple games) I still enjoy this one. It’s of particular note, and I’m not sure if I mentioned it in my last post about the new series, but the game runs much better on a PS4 compared to the first seasons on the PS3. I’m sure PC users don’t have this issue. I chose to stay on console because I played the originals on console. But I digress.

I’m sure that you can infer just from the choices above that there was some difficulty in what to do throughout episode 3. It seems that choices were fairly evenly split if you consider that only two were very far from center. I don’t want to spoil anything further, but just wanted to share some thoughts on my continued playthrough of the game.

The War Report: Commander Zombies

The routine has been pretty regular as of late, the boys and I have gotten together about once a week to get in some Commander games and we have been honing our decks to the point that they are vicious. I started off with a Commander 2015 premade deck, and then picked up one of the 2016 premade decks as well. I made a few purchases of singles and also picked up a few packs of Modern Masters 2017, which are cards designed for the Modern format (which goes back about 15 years or so) and are usually reprints of useful cards for that particular set up. However, with Commander being all encompassing, you can definitely use some of the power cards out of them. Recently, I decided that I really wanted to expand the usefulness of one of my standard decks and turn it into a commander deck instead. Having honed and played with two different decks I’ve come to realize all that needs to go into a good commander deck, and I felt that I already had a big chunk of the puzzle put together. Here’s a partial deck list of what I had to start with:

x1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets (Planeswalker)
x1 Geralf’s Masterpiece
x1 Relentless Dead
x1 Gisa and Geralf
x1 Noosegraf Mob
x1 Diregraf Colossus
x1 Galvony Unhallowed
x1 Voracious Null
x1 Ghoulsteed

Some of these I had used more than one copy of, but the highlander rule of there can be only one applies in this format, so I only took singles of the above creatures, along with scouring through my black and blue cards to pick out plenty of card draw, creature removal and counter spells. Gisa and Geralf were the obvious choice for commander, and you’ll see why:

There are several cards in the deck that will mill my deck and put cards into the graveyard. Having a ton of zombies in the deck means I can play them from the graveyard as long as my commander is on the battlefield. It’s awesome too that it’s a 4/4 body, because it won’t succumb to most cheap removal spells unlike most 2/2 commanders. The synergy with the rest of the deck is too good to pass up. I’ve made a purchase of singles to beef up the remainder of the deck, and I wanted to go over those now:

I took the liberty of picking up more counter spell options, just so that I can pick and choose the best of them. It’s also cool to be able to pick up old ass cards from back in the day, like this Ice Age counter spell, printed way back in the 90’s.

I also picked up older card draw options, which allows me to churn through my deck for the best cards. Having the right card when you need it is a matter of life and death sometimes.

I thought it was a good idea to include a couple of artifacts that get rid of my max hand size, so I don’t have to discard if I manage to draw a bunch of cards.

It’s also prudent to have some board clear, and I already had a Deadly Tempest in one of my other commander decks so I picked up another, along with finding another with the added benefit of cycling. Artifact hate is also something necessary to have on hand, for meekstones, puzzleboxes, disks and other pesky artifacts people might pull out.

Of course, there is also the need for mana fixing, and these are some decent staples, though I did pick up several other dual land options. And then, there’s some of the kick-ass zombies and other synergistic creatures:

Nice way to clean out some of your opponents’ land and a big body to boot.

Fitting for a Zombie deck, but also has the added benefit of allowing spells to be played from the graveyard. He does have a steep downside but that utility is phenomenal.

A simple pumper that will likely die off quickly. But the amount of zombie tokens I can make can speed up his immediate impact.

Despite being a Kraken, this just feels like a great card for the color scheme. Being able to steal spells is nice too.

Cheap, big body. But it does have the downside of being attached to the artifact, so if it goes so does he.

This guy is vicious, especially when he’s in the graveyard.

Another awesome power card, that will ultimately be a big hit but requires tokens to sacrifice to be useable.

Another pumper with an added bonus.

This guy is great to mill myself or someone else, and he comes back to life stronger at least once.

A tricky bastard, this one. Being able to copy whatever big bads hit graveyards is nice. Also a commander option.

A cheap planeswalker addition, this guy has some nifty tricks.

I ordered two of this guy, because he’ll fit right into my B/W Enchantment Commander deck, but also into this zombie deck. Exiling cards from graveyards so they can’t be played again is nice.

You had me at Zombie Dragon… he can also come back out from the graveyard, so bonus. This helps with the lack of flying creatures I had when the deck was standard legal.

I’ve got a couple other Eldrazi in my commander decks for shits and giggles. This is more of the same, keeping with the themes of the deck with some card drawn and counters built into a big body. Takes a bit to cast, but he’s a big bad.

Another flyer to add to the ranks, this one has the ability to come back to life as well, which is nice.

All in all, I think these additions synergize well, and having already play tested the deck lacking these cards, it was holding its own already. This deck is going to be a monster in a few days.