There’s always video games on my Christmas list. Ever since I can remember I’ve always asked for a game (usually more than one) for Christmas. Year after year I am always delighted and truly grateful each time I pick up a package that’s in the shape of a game and wonder what it could be. Like a kid with any new toy, after I open up each present all I can think about is how fun it’s going to be to actually play with my new gift. This past week I’ve been lucky enough to not only have some time off work, but also extra free time to sit down and play several of these games already. Check out my latest Sunday Roundup to see each game I so graciously received as a gift for Christmas, but before then check out below how each game I’ve played so far is shaping up.
Mario Tennis Open
In perhaps the best example of a game inspiring youth, I was first introduced to the actual game of tennis by Mario back in 2000. By chance (and likely something read in Nintendo Power) I picked up Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 and fell in love with the sport. Oh, the game itself was pretty grand too, with the perfect blend of realistic tennis and Mario-like zaniness.
Fast forward 10 years and I’m still playing tennis outdoors, though not nearly as much as I’d like, and I’m still a fan of the Mario Tennis games. The 3DS’ Mario Tennis Open is the newest iteration of the game and is more or less the same thing I’ve come to expect from Mario and gang on the court. One key difference is the way you return shots. I’m not talking about the horribly implemented Gyro controls which should just be left off, but rather the colored rings that show where a ball will land and help you determine the best shot to hit in return. Instead of just hitting topspins, lobs, and slices wildly, the incorporation of these colored rings tells you that the best shot to return your opponent’s slice is a topspin. It’s not incredibly deep, but it is a nice addition that adds more visible strategy to the arcade style sports game.
I completed a handful of tournaments with little obstruction, and actually played a few rounds online via the Nintendo Network! I was surprised by 1) how easy it was to get online and play, and 2) that I actually won more times than I lost! I’ll likely pop this game back in eventually and hit up a few more rallys before calling it quits.
A solid tennis game and a good 3DS game to boot.
The Walking Dead
Oh man, The Walking Dead! One of the games I was most excited to receive as a gift is also one of the best games I’ve played in recent memory. The sublime storytelling and how it adapts to every choice you make has me thinking just how the game would look had I chosen to save Hershel’s son instead of Kenny’s. This might be one of the few games I actually play through twice. I know!
A lot of praise has already gone out to this game, and I think I understand why.
Seriously, her inclusion in the game alters every single aspect of the game. Every choice, every action, every word you say is now judged by the eyes of a young, innocent little girl, and the game is all the better for it. Clem and Lee’s relationship is not only brilliant in terms of player interaction, but also is drawing out true emotion not felt in other titles. For that the game deserves all the compliments it has received.
I’m about halfway through episode 4 now, and plan on finishing this game before moving onto anything else.
Highly recommended, indeed!
Mario Hoops 3 on 3
Haha, yes! I’ve been eyeballing this game for years now, thanks in part to Square Enix’s hand in development and the ability to play basketball with Final Fantasy characters.
Mario and the group are apparently afficiandos in any and all sports, basketball being no exception. But the type of basketball Mario plays isn’t the type of basketball Lebron James and the NBA plays. Mario’s game is all about amassing coins. As you dribble over “?” blocks and pick up coins, they’ll be added to your bank of coins (100 being the max you can have at any given time). Should you get hit by a random turtle shell of have the ball stolen away, your bank coins will deplete by some odd amount. But should you score, you’ll get 20 points on top of one point for every coin in your bank.
So what that means is you can win games by over 500 points. Which is what I did the very first time I played.
Mario Hoops isn’t a great game, but it is a unique take on the sport and something very different with regards to other Mario sports titles. It follows the same formula as Mario Tennis Open, actually, with tiered tournaments with varying degrees of difficulty blocking your access to more characters, novelty balls, and other goodies.
Out of all the games listed here, I’d recommend this one last. That’s not saying it’s a bad game (far from it), but it just speaks for the quality of the other games!
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
It says enormous things for a game series when you can make an entire spinoff game solely about the series’ music, but that is exactly what Square Enix has done with Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. Featuring memorable tracks from each of the numbered installments in the series, Theatrhythm is a musical love letter to all Final Fantasy fans.
The simple controls are a breeze to get the hang of, and the rhythm-heavy gameplay feels a bit like DDR meets Rock Band. Not relying on complex gameplay means you can play the game while still enjoying the series’ classic musical scores. Every song is presented in its original form, meaning the theme from Final Fantasy on the NES still sounds just as it did on the original NES, while more current titles in the series are fully orchestrated affairs. For a game all about music, it certainly hits the nail on the head and delivers everything promised. The ragdoll-like animation style are charming, and the light RPG elements have kept me very entertained.
If you’re a Final Fantasy fan and a 3DS owner, you need to play this game. Seriously. Just go buy it now.