Backlog: Smashing Season edition

It's another quiet week here, but now that the Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS demo has hit North American shores, that's about to change pretty quickly. Our friends in Japan have already been playing the full game for a week, but with any luck this five-character demo ought to alleviate some of our anxiety.

In other news, Nick's crunching through a few crucial games before this fall's influx of AAA nonsense starts to flood in, and Doug's knee-deep in Brawler Country. Let's go see what they've been up to.  – Nick Cummings

Nick

My Dragon Age 2 crew, somewhere between looking bad-ass and bored. It’s a delicate balance.

My Dragon Age 2 crew, somewhere between looking bad-ass and bored. It’s a delicate balance.

Ah, mid-September. The calm before the storm for games writers. With a massive deluge of big-budget, high-bombast games set to arrive in the coming weeks, I've got precious little time remaining to play through some of the most-significant games released so far this year. After all, our Game of the Year feature is something we take maybe a little too seriously, and I don't want to walk in to those marathon talks without feeling prepared.

What's on my schedule to knock out in the coming weeks? Quite a few games, actually:

  1. I need to wrap up Jazzpunk, which so far defies any attempts I've made to describe it but trust me, it's wonderful.
  2. Then there's that second season of The Walking Dead, which I wrote off after a lackluster debut episode. However, most of the other Sasquatch guys insist it warrants consideration, so I'm gonna make sure I get plenty of sunlight and vitamins before setting myself up for another bout of abject emotional ruin.
  3. And then there's this game called Divinity: Original Sin. It's an RPG, which sounds nice, but I might need to put this one off for a while because...
  4. ...I still need to finish Dragon Age 2 in time for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I loved the first game dearly, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the massive changes to the sequel's look and feel. Aaron insists it's worth the trip, but after five hours I'm still not sure it's right for me.

There's this problem, though, when I have games that I know I need to play. It siphons the fun away, at least a little bit, and so I hem and haw and distractedly switch over to something else.

So what've I been playing instead? Well, lots and lots of Destiny and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. No surprises there; they each get substantially better the deeper I get into them.

But the most fun I've had all week is hanging out and watching my girlfriend play through Mass Effect for the first time. As far as I know this is her first western RPG, and she's loving the depth of consideration that goes into dialogue choices and the massive amount of contextual information BioWare included to flesh out the galaxy. It's a joy to revisit the first game in the series for the first time in years as a spectator -- I'm reminded of why this game had such a profound impact on me, despite its many rough edges. The audacity of space exploration, of humankind picking itself up out of its worst faults and learning to adapt to a rapidly expanding universe -- and its own rapidly expanding knowledge of what's out there. It's exactly what draws me in to Star Trek -- that contemplative, adult, sincere exploration of themes and ideas that could shape our future in some way and reflect on the world we live in today.

Still, I can't wait for her to finish this one and start up Mass Effect 2. Between some vastly improved combat systems and a certain illustrious performance of an illusive character, there's a lot to look forward to.

Doug

The cell shading of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS helps make the characters – including the Animal Crossing Villager – look crisp against the backdrops.

The cell shading of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS helps make the characters – including the Animal Crossing Villager – look crisp against the backdrops.

First, let me address the important news of the week: there's an update to WWE Supercard and it includes cards you unlock after certain amounts of games played. I unlocked so much, you guys. So much. If you listen to this week's podcast, I talk a little about this current addiction. It's really just a rasslin'-flavored version of Progress Quest -- click buttons, make numbers bigger, level things up arbitrarily, run an endless treadmill, try not to spend money on the stupid thing.

No, no. It's time for something you guys probably really care about: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DSAfter also audibly hemming and hawing about whether to pick it up on that last podcast, I decided that my willpower could not withstand the eventual purchase of the game so I said "screw it," grabbed enough Nintendo points to make the purchase, and let the 3DS download the title last Sunday night.

Let me clarify two things: I'm not a huge Smash Bros. fan, though I have played all of the titles at parties with friends, and I haven't spent a ton of time playing it this week. I'm also playing it in Japanese and though I'm pretty good at the language, I still need to learn what some of the modes do and where some features are. What I can speak to the most is the gameplay and some of the new additions and stages.

This may be a 3DS game and the graphics may not be perfect, but it absolutely feels like a full-fledged Smash Bros. title. The stages are lively, the animations and graphics are crisp, and at least in single-player mode it hasn't hitched or stuttered at all. It's quick to load and I'm looking forward to tracking down my friends online or in the same room sometime soon. The new characters are all interesting and fun -- I think I've settled on Little Mac as my guy for the moment. He has a separate special feature in that he can charge up a KO Punch that is pretty devastating (and can really blast people out of the park) but if you whiff, it's gone. It's a fun gambit to play. I've tried to just do AI fights to learn the mechanics and try a variety of characters and see who I like, and it all feels like a solid version of Smash. I think that's justification enough for the game, but I'm still interested in trying out multiplayer (especially local multiplayer) to see how quick it is to fire up a game. If it's simple to gather a group of people around a table and get to kicking each other's heads off, that bodes well.

Lastly, I'm excited to head out and see the Tokyo Game Show this weekend. It was a bit too much of a trek to come up for it from Nagasaki, and now that the show is just a train ride away I'm looking forward to seeing the spectacle of the event. I'll be taking my camera with me, too, so hopefully I can do some writing on the state of the industry here very soon.