The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review: Compelling story, but little annoyances hold it back

Nintendo has plenty of revered franchises: Super Mario, Metroid, Pokémon, hell, even Animal Crossing is well-liked. But no other franchise has garnished the type of respect and admiration that The Legend of Zelda has in its existence. With 19 titles spanning across numerous Nintendo systems, gamers have battled against countless evils on their quests to save the kingdom of Hyrule and Princess Zelda. Due to so many entries and seeing other properties evolve with the times, Nintendo properly gave the franchise a much-needed breath of fresh air (pun intended) in the latest entry, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Before I begin pouring my thoughts about this game, I would like to mention that while there have been 19 titles, I have only played one Zelda game. I know, it’s blasphemy. Luckily, that one game was arguably the greatest game of all-time in Ocarina of Time. Now that we’ve addressed that elephant in the room, let’s dig into what makes and breaks Breath of the Wild.

First and foremost, the story was amazing. Waking up in the Resurrection Shrine and discovering that Ganon had essentially defeated Link and the other four Champions of Hyrule was a shot to the gut. To make matters worse this is all happened 100 years ago. As I made my way through Hyrule, many inhabitants loved to remind Link how he failed to defeat Ganon a century ago. Initially, I felt this weight of disappointment knowing that I had failed everyone. People all across Hyrule have had to suffer 100 years of Ganon’s evil and Zelda has been in Hyrule Castle fighting the good fight, all while Link slept. Nevertheless, that feeling of disappointment turned into determination. I was determined to save everyone in Hyrule, to save the princess, and to defeat Ganon. At the end of the day that’s exactly what Breath of the Wild is: a story of redemption.

The Legend of Zelda franchise have all been role-playing games; Link goes out into the world, finds weapons and pieces of armor that gradually increase over the course of his adventure to save the day. Breath of the Wild takes that formula and cranks it up a bit. The popular genre nowadays is open-world. Developers are creating worlds that allow players to explore freely and not be restricted to a linear experience. Open-world games aren’t for everyone; some games may seem a bit intimidating and intense. I’m generally a fan of them, but this was an instance where I felt a bit overwhelmed.

After you leave the Great Plateau, you’ll make your way to Kakariko Village to speak with Impa. She tells Link what’s transpired 100 years ago and what he must do to save Hyrule and the princess. Impa explains how there are four Divine Beasts being controlled by Ganon. These Divine Beasts were colossal machines that were intended to be used against Ganon, piloted by the four Champions of Hyrule. Before the beasts could engage Ganon in battle, his calamity killed the Champions and took control, wrecking havoc with the beasts throughout Hyrule. Impa instructs Link to seek out each Divine Beast and restore them from the calamity infection to help in the final battle against Ganon. There is no “correct” order of Divine Beasts to restore, so you can pick whichever order you’d like (I went Zora’s Domain, Rito Village, Gerudo Town, and Goron City).

Exploration throughout Hyrule is where Breath of the Wild shines, but fails. At the beginning, the map is blacked out until Link activates Towers across the kingdom to reveal sections of Hyrule. Unlocking the sections doesn’t necessarily mean you can fast travel to other areas (you can only fast travel to Shrines and Towers), but it’s a nice sense of accomplishment to fully unlock the map by the end of the game. Along the way, Link comes across many cooking pots in Hyrule. This where you can combine various materials to produce health-regeneration food items and elixirs to buff stats or provide resistance toward certain weather elements. Breath of the Wild does a horrible job explaining how exactly to create elixirs. Most times I found myself compiling random items together to see if I got lucky; it never worked. Sometimes you may come across a book of recipes or someone will tell you how to cook a certain item, but the overall cooking experience was very frustrating.

Many people tend to compare Breath of the Wild with Sony’s exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn, because both games are “in the wild” and feature two characters that happen to wield a bow and arrow. The big difference between the two, other than that they are nothing alike to begin with, is free climbing in Breath of the Wild. Link has the natural ability to climb near any surface in Hyrule, any explorer’s dream. There are some restrictions: if it rains Link will slip, and Link is unable to climb the walls in Shrines. Link will also slip and fall if his stamina wheel runs out. I understand the notion behind the stamina wheel, to try and bring realism to the game, but why? Yes, you can increase the duration of the wheel (at the expense of possibly gaining a heart), but it feels like Nintendo is being sticklers about it. If you’re going to let players free-climb nearly any surface, then let them. You got the realism when it rains and Link slips, which happened to me many times, so why continue to put handcuffs on the players?

Going back to what I said before, The Legend of Zelda games are role-playing games where Link finds weapons, shields, and armor. This might be the first game I’ve ever played where weapons and shields break and disappear when fighting enemies. Again, just like the stamina wheel, I understand the attempt at realism. But at what cost? The only way players can acquire weapons is from picking them up after defeating an enemy. If you don’t have a weapon, then Link has to resort to most likely using bombs from the Sheikah Slate. Not that using the bombs aren’t effective, but why include a mechanic in the game that destroys the players weapons when fighting enemies but have the main method of obtaining weapons be through enemies (weapons can be found in chests). I’d be more receptive to this mechanic if Link was able to purchase weapons, but the only thing that can be purchased are arrows. The only weapon that cannot break is the Master Sword, but there’s a catch. While the Master Sword cannot break, it can “power down”. Once the Master Sword powers down, it’ll take 10 minutes to recharge. However, if you complete the Trial of the Sword DLC the Master Sword will stay powered up forever.

In a year that’s been blessed with high-quality games, Breath of the Wild deservedly has a seat at the table. Link’s journey on the road to redemption is an epic one. Essentially coming back from the dead 100 years later to defeat Ganon might go down as Link’s greatest triumph. While I still believe Ocarina of Time is the best game in the franchise, Breath of the Wild gave it a run for its money. If not for little annoyances that stunted my gaming experience, such as, the stamina wheel, weapon degradation, and lack of cooking instructions, this game would be high on my list of the all-time greats. Regardless, Nintendo has added a quality title to its treasure trove and delivered yet another compelling tale in this storied franchise.

Final Score: 8.75/10

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Destiny 2 Review: Incredible improvements, still a ways to go

Three years ago, Bungie introduced an interesting, but somewhat empty, world in Destiny. Players were tasked with defending mankind against enemies such as the Vex, Fallen, and Hive on various planets in the solar system. Over the lifespan of Destiny, the developer addressed these concerns and added appealing new content, starting with The Taken King. Many had high hopes for Destiny 2, but still felt the need to have some reservations about the sequel so they wouldn’t get burned again. Luckily, Bungie has continued to learn from their early mistakes and Destiny 2 is in a much better starting point than its predecessor.

The biggest improvement, and quite possibly the most important, is the campaign. There were countless times during the first game’s campaign when I questioned what exactly I was doing and how this helped the overall story. Why did the Traveler select humankind to guard? How did the Vex, Fallen, and Hive come to our solar system? Why do they hate humanity? Granted, some of these questions might have been answered via Grimoire cards. These cards were meant to provide more in-depth background lore about Destiny, but the problem was that they only appeared on a specific website. Destiny 2 does a phenomenal job of constructing a very fluid and engaging story that makes you actually care about what’s going on.

One major factor in establishing an engaging plot is the villain. Destiny 2’s big baddie, Dominus Ghaul, is the Cabal leader of the Red Legion, hell-bent on obtaining the light powers of the mysterious Traveler. Ghaul believes the Traveler picked incorrectly in bestowing its powers on the human race, and is determined to change its mind. The opening mission, the same mission from the beta, shows Ghaul and the Red Legion utterly destroy the Guardians’ Tower and securing the Traveler. This leaves the Guardians powerless, weak, and virtually unable to mount a counter attack. Not to mention, Ghaul has a Death Star-type weapon aimed directly at the Sun with means to wipe out the entire human race.

The second major factor that complimented the storytelling is the soundtrack. The music from the Tower siege up to the final showdown against the Cabal leader is absolutely engrossing. Not once did the music feel out of place or unnecessary; on the contrary, the sound selection felt perfect for every given scene throughout the campaign. Tremendous credit to the sound team at Bungie for further enriching the experience.

Bungie’s sequel does not do away with all of its faults. An important cut scene in the campaign showed the Speaker possibly being killed by Ghaul’s mentor, the Consul. The Consul was worried that Ghaul was becoming soft after he had insinuated that the Traveler must be reasoned with and not to take the light by force, as originally planned. Subsequently, Ghaul seemingly crushes the Consul’s skull. The main issue here is, we don’t know for sure if the Speaker is dead because they fall to the ground semi off screen. Not exactly sure why Bungie would showcase it like that, especially because the Speaker is a pretty important supporting character. If the Speaker is indeed dead, I wish Bungie would’ve given him a more impactful sendoff.

Once the campaign has been completed, the end game offers plenty of activities for players (much of the side activities, otherwise known as Adventures and Public Events, can be done side-by-side of the main campaign). The downside though? Much of the end game activities are simply not worth doing. During my run of the campaign, I completed a lot of the available Adventures that increased my Titan’s levels exponentially. Players have two different levels: overall level and their power level. There’s a cap of 20 for the overall level and roughly 300-305 for the power level. Around 265-270, it becomes extremely difficult for players to gain additional power level. Currently, the only ways to obtain more advanced gear and weapons is to either get lucky during loot drops in Public Events, completing the Leviathan raid and the Trials of the Nine Crucible mode, or waiting for the milestones to reset every week. The milestones are typically easier to achieve powerful gear, they either revolve around completing Public Events on a certain planet or participating in Crucible.  After those milestones, however, it becomes a bit more difficult to raise your power level. Exotic Engram drops are extremely rare and odds are that the gear or weapon you decrypt from it won’t be useful to you. One solution to this is to infuse different pieces of gear together to increase the level of it, but even that is a bit more challenging than what it seems. Trying to secure loot from the Trials of the Nine mode and the Leviathan raid are equally as challenging. In order to participate in either Crucible mode or raid, you must have a Fireteam of four and six respectively. You cannot simply go into matchmaking and randomly hook up with another Fireteam. This can be very frustrating for players that don’t have any friends who play Destiny, effectively restricting them from playing through important end game content.

Other than the Trials of the Nine Crucible mode, normal quick play and competitive Crucible modes have returned. While I fully expect Iron Banner to return, the Crucible mode where the players’ guns and armor stats take effect, there isn’t much incentive in playing Crucible. While Destiny 2 does incentivize the player in completing Crucible modes through milestones, after those are finished it’s hard to return until the milestones reset. I imagine players can get engram drops, but that’s the same possible reward for completing Public Events. Maybe if Bungie incorporated some sort of ranking system with the competitive Crucible mode alongside the milestones that would make it a bit more appealing, but in its current state I don’t see any reason to spend much time in it.

If there’s one word that I would use to describe Destiny’s existence it would be “evolution”. Bungie did an amazing job of listening to criticism early on with the first game and has built off that criticism to deliver a solid sequel. The storytelling and soundtrack are a major improvement from the first entry. Destiny 2’s biggest fault is the sudden plateau at power level 265-270, especially because it’s relatively easy to reach that milestone. The insistence of completing the Leviathan raid and Trials of the Nine is expected, but the necessity of being a part of a Fireteam is a major downer. Hopefully Bungie increases the level cap, allows solo players to join up with random Fireteams, and ushers in more compelling and rewarding end game content. Otherwise, Destiny 2 might fall into another case of redundancy that vanilla Destiny fell victim to until the release of The Taken King.

Final Score: 8.25/10

Disclaimer: I have not yet participated in the Leviathan raid and Trials of the Nine Crucible mode. Score may change after completion.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review: Racing to the top

Ever since the Nintendo Switch was announced, there was one game I was most looking forward to playing. Surprisingly, it was not The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Don’t get me wrong, with so many people already crowning Breath of the Wild as Game of the Year, I was very interested in trying it out myself, but the allure of Mario Kart will always have a firm grip on me.

My girlfriend, Blanca Garcia, got the first real crack at the game on our way to Vegas, as she spent a good amount of time on the raceways. After she made her first difficult decision of character selection, ultimately siding with the cosmic Princess Rosalina, the real fun began.

We were overwhelmed with the high level of vehicle customization. You can choose between different kart types, wheels and paragliders (first time I’ve ever seen these). An important aspect to constructing your kart, something that would have been great to know in a tutorial, was that each kart, wheel and paraglider has its own stat attribute increase and decrease. By clicking the “+” or “-” buttons, an attribute menu pops up where you can see the different categories being affected: speed, acceleration, weight, handling, and traction.

In addition to not knowing about the attributes, the game didn’t really explain Smart Steering, tilt turning and auto acceleration. While the turning and auto acceleration are self-explanatory, the Smart Steering was something that was brand new to us. Having the option on enables you to stick to the track without fear of falling off, however, it will not allow you to go anywhere but forward. If you spot a shortcut a second too late, you can’t turn around and go back.

Once we learned most of the tracks, there’s a whopping 48 race course divided into 12 cups, we decided to turn off Smart Steering. The difference in racing with and without Smart Steering is tremendous; utilizing the break mechanic and knowing how to drift is detrimental to your success. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not forgiving when playing on 200CC without Smart Steering, so only attempt this if you’re confident in your racing abilities or if you love flying off the sides of the courses. It’s a new dynamic that I haven’t experienced in a Mario Kart game, but it’s definitely something that brings me back to the game.

One of the more frustrating parts of the game is the lack of item distribution. Blanca and I have put in close to 20 hours into the game, and I think out of both of us we’ve only had a couple stars, one Bullet Bill and a handful of blue shells. It doesn’t make much sense to be in ninth-place and get a double fun box, only to be disappointed with a green shell and a bundle of bananas. I’m not entirely sure if the increased level of CC dictates item distribution, but it’s mind-numbing when the CPU is dropping lightnings and red shells while we’re left with the garbage.

Another minor feature in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that I was unfamiliar with is unlocking the cosmetic items. During the race, drivers can collect Mario coins throughout the courses and finish with a max of ten. These coins are used toward an overhead-type wallet that unlocks different vehicle cosmetic parts for further customization.

When playing couch co-op, Blanca and I only used the Joy-Cons with the Switch propped up on a table. We’re still figuring out many of the Switch features and how to exactly connect the Pro Controller along with the Joy-Cons on the actual TV. While playing with one Joy-Con apiece on a 6.2 inch screen is fun, the possibility of playing with full controller functionality on a 40 inch screen is tantalizing.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-own title for any and all Switch users. The roller coaster of emotion from a race that sees you go from first-place to seventh-place and back again in the matter of seconds is an adrenaline rush you won’t find elsewhere. Mario Kart 64 will forever be my favorite iteration in the franchise, but the Switch version is making a serious run for the top spot. The desire to win gold in each of the cups, the remastered designs of past Mario Kart race courses and the seemingly never-ending quest to unlock all the cosmetic items will keep us coming back to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for a long time to come.

Final Score: 9.25/10

Blanca Garcia contributed to this review.

Nintendo Switch Review: Charming, but incomplete, piece of hardware

The Nintendo Switch is a fascinating piece of hardware. Being able to seamlessly transition from playing docked on your home TV to in your hand is one of the most amazing things I’ve come to witnessed in my gaming experience. While Nintendo’s newest console doesn’t go without its fair share of shortcomings, the overall experience that I’ve had with the Switch has been delightful.

Full disclosure: the last Nintendo system that I owned was the Game Boy Advance and the last home console was the N64. So, you could say that I’ve been a bit out of touch with what Nintendo has been doing nowadays. Once I saw a quality bundle, I pulled the trigger and purchased the neon Joy-Con Switch that came with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Arms.

Upon receiving the Switch and holding it in my hand, it felt strangely right. I was surprised by how comfortable it was to hold and maneuver the Joy-Cons. The only negative about the Joy-Cons is how terribly small they are if you play couch co-op. My girlfriend Blanca and I played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe together and holding a single Joy-Con made me realize how it would feel to be a giant. Other than the small Joy-Cons, the only other caveat to having the Switch in handheld mode is the battery life. On average, my Switch has about four hours of battery life un-docked. While that might not seem a lot, especially with the DS having nearly 10 hours of battery life and 19 hours if you turn off the back-light, having only four hours isn’t a deal breaker. The only instances where I would play the Switch for that long a period of time in handheld mode would be on a long car ride or flight.

After seeing how gorgeous the screen looked in handheld mode, I was eager to see how the Switch would look on my normal TV. Before I tested it out though, a co-worker informed me of the high possibility that my dock might be warped. He said many Nintendo Switches have been shipped containing a defective dock that slightly warps the screen. Luckily, my dock did not appear to be a faulty one, but how does a manufacturer release a product like that? With the long list of features missing from the Switch, including the highly-touted Virtual Console, it doesn’t help matters when there are multiple cases of defective pieces of hardware. Various reports have indicated though that Nintendo is making an attempt at repairing consoles that have had a warping issue.

It was important to me that my dock wasn’t warped, because I ordered a Pro Controller for my Zelda adventure. I’d read that the Pro Controller was actually pretty nice compared to Nintendo’s previous controller iterations; possibly, because the Pro Controller a standard gaming controller. Essentially a Xbox 360 controller with the Nintendo stamp on it, the Pro Controller felt really nice in my hands, comfortable and sturdy. I’m glad Nintendo released a more “normalized” controller, it’s a great option from the gimmicky Joy-Cons. But please, to whomever is in charge, can we talk about the button placement? We have three different console manufacturers in Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all using very similar buttons but all placed differently; not like that’s confusing or anything. The big issue with Nintendo’s controller design is how they have the “confirm” button on the right and the “cancel” button on the bottom, while PlayStation and Xbox have their “confirm” buttons on the bottom and their “cancel” buttons on the right. The amount of times I’ve selected something to confirm but canceled and vice versa is a ridiculous amount. I know it won’t ever happen, but how nice would it be if these three companies came together to agree on a singular controller design? Oh well, a guy can dream.

Aside from the controller design, my biggest gripe with this console, the Nintendo Switch is a quality piece of equipment. I was skeptical to say the least when it was first announced, but given my time with it I’ve come to see how unique it is. My personal satisfaction with the Switch might be tailored differently, because I don’t plan on utilizing any online features with it. I’ll stick to my PS4 and Xbox One S for my online gaming experience, but the Switch does an excellent job filling in that premier solo/couch co-op vacancy in my heart. And that’s why the Nintendo Switch is both a perfect, but imperfect system. Put in the right situation, the Switch checks off all the boxes and excels as a high-quality, secondary console. It will not, however, be a primary option for gaming. Even with its killer software, Nintendo has far too many annoying little imperfections that restrict it from achieving true premium console status. If Nintendo embraces this newfound role in the gaming landscape, the Switch will continue on this torrid pace out of the gates and sustain an enjoyable life.

Final Score: 8/10

Destiny 2 beta: Welcome back, Guardians

Bungie’s anticipated follow-up to Destiny, Destiny 2, finished its open beta on July 25. Thousands of players logged in to get their first taste of what’s to come in early September. The beta featured the opening campaign mission, Homecoming, as well as a strike mission and limited Crucible action.

One of the glaring issues with Bungie’s first entry was the lack of a compelling campaign. Many players, including myself, were left disappointed and slightly confused as to the type of story that Destiny was trying to convey. It wasn’t until after Bungie released various downloadable content did the overall story begin to finally take shape. However by then, the Destiny community had already begun to fall off a bit. If the sequel’s campaign is even remotely like Homecoming, Bungie has answered many of its players’ prayers and will deliver on their initial promise of providing a hardcore first-person shooter with fantastic storytelling.

Homecoming opened up with the Tower being assaulted by the Cabal. Players may remember the Cabal as the main enemy you face on the red planet Mars from the first game. While the Cabal didn’t necessarily play a very important role in Destiny, it appears that they will be the main baddies in the sequel. The Cabal Red Legion, led by Dominus Ghaul, is hell-bent on stealing the Traveler from the humans, because they feel they should be the rightful owners of its power.

As you make your way through the burning rumble of what remains of The Last City, Earth, the Red Legion is seen off into the distance preparing to take the Traveler away. Once the mission completes, Ghaul appears and does the typical bad guy routine of having a monologue explaining his intentions, then promptly kicks you off the side of the Tower. The level of desperation and loss of hope right at the beginning is a shot to the gut, but firmly cements the tone for what the rest of the game is sure to bring. I’m extremely excited to see how the Guardians regroup after this preemptive strike on their home, and how they plan on regaining the Traveler and their stolen powers.

The Inverted Spire Strike was a nice addition to the beta. I didn’t participate in many strikes in the first game, but the beta’s strike is a good indication that I plan to change that. Guardians begin by battling against waves of Cabal and Vex as you make your way deeper into the planet. Possibly my favorite part of the entire beta came about halfway through the strike. Players come across a giant drill and you must make your way on the sides of a rocky mountain, trying to avoid the drill. Honestly, I died probably seven times to that damn drill, but they were the most enjoyable deaths I’ve experienced in a game. Not only are you trying to avoid the drill, but various enemies are also trying to kill you. Once you’ve survived the deadly machine, the strike boss appears as Protheon, Modular Mind. Protheon is a giant Vex that can be a handful, because it summons an army of Vex to accompany it in battle. After shooting off pieces of its body, the giant Vex will eventually die and you’ll receive a piece of armor and weapon.

The class system is essentially the same with some slight improvements. Players will still choose between three classes: Titan, Hunter and Warlock. Having played exclusively as a Titan in Destiny, I kicked off the beta as a Titan. The Titan is mainly a meat shield, as they possess increased defense over the other two classes, but deals out an adequate amount of damage. Players can choose to either have a bubble shield as their super attack, meant to protect yourself and fellow teammates from damage, or a Captain America-esque shield. Just like Marvel’s Hallmark hero, you can throw the shield at enemies from afar, or get in close to wreck havoc. Titans can also create a mini wall to crouch behind for added protection.

After completing Homecoming with a Titan, I went back and tried my hand with a Hunter. Hunters are the most agile of the trio, as they have a dodge move instead of the Titan wall to evade incoming projectiles. While I preferred being a Titan, and I plan on selecting the Titan class when Destiny 2 releases, I did like the exotic handgun for Hunters. It’s similar to the Boltok Pistol in Gears of War where it’s a one shot handgun and seems to deal out roughly the same amount of damage as the Gears of War counterpart. Instead of the jet pack that Titans and Warlocks have equipped, Hunters have a standard double jump to reach higher heights. Unfortunately, I was unable to use the fire pistol super attack, I did use the super attack that gives Hunters a long staff to deal solid melee damage.

Final time I went through the campaign mission was as a Warlock. Ultimately, I thought the Warlock class was the most inferior of the three. Warlocks have a jet pack, but it’s a weird suspension jet pack like you’re floating. Seems that makes you an easy target for enemies that can actually hit their shot unlike the Stormtroopers from Star Wars. One thing that was interesting was the Warlock’s ability to create either a healing circle or an empowerment circle to give extra damage to anyone that’s in it. The heavy weapon you use is a sniper rifle, and unless there are far bigger maps than this mission, which I fully expect, it was borderline useless in Homecoming.

My time in the Crucible was short-lived, but I still got the jist of it. The game mode was a defuse and set charges, similar to Demolition in Call of Duty. If you are attacking, there are specific points on the map that you must set a charge on to detonate, and the same goes for defense but to protect. The attacking team can outright win the round if they eliminate the opposing team without having set a charge. The Crucible rounds are now a four-on-four affair, as opposed to the previous six-on-six matches from Destiny 1. Other than the change in team size, Crucible seems to be a typical online experience that you would have in any first-person shooter.

Final thoughts

Bungie’s beta for Destiny 2 did everything that it set out to do. It presented a clear change for the better regarding the campaign, increased the customization of the three classes but still kept much from the first game and reinforced the value of completing strike missions. If Bungie is good at one thing, it’s listening to its fan base. The latter half of Destiny 1’s life showed a completely new experience that vanilla Destiny did not when it released, and it seems that has seeped over into the sequel. The developer is focused on providing players an amazing experience in Destiny 2 and if this beta is any indication of the future, I think everyone is in for a treat.

Destiny 2 releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 6, 2017, while the PC version will release on October 24, 2017.

E3 2017 recap: Nintendo

Nintendo’s Spotlight was much bigger than to simply lay down the groundwork for the rest of 2017; it was about laying the groundwork for the rest of the Switch’s life. The Switch got off to an unprecedented start with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but moving forward, Nintendo can’t rely on a once-in-a-lifetime Zelda game. What they can rely on, are the wide variety of franchises they possess in their library, a library that was on full display at E3.

Super Mario Odyssey — October 27, 2017

Arguably the most recognizable character in all of video games, Mario is back for his next big-time adventure. Originally announced on October 20, 2016, the extended gameplay trailer shown everyone’s favorite plumber traversing across various kingdoms outside of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario commends a hat-shaped airship named the Odyssey. The only story details the trailer revealed pointed toward Mario and Peach being interrupted on their wedding day by Bowser. A new ability added to Mario’s arsenal on his journey to rescue his bride-to-be is the use of his hat. Mario can throw his hat to either collect coins, knock away enemies, use as an extra boost jump or what has just been recently revealed, the ability to possess other objects. The trailer shown Mario throwing his hat onto any object, a frog or car or even a Goomba, and that item grows a mustache and has Mario’s eyes. It seems morphing with things around you will be necessary to progress through certain worlds.

Rocket League — Holiday 2017

A minor surprise from Nintendo: they announced that Rocket League will be coming to the Nintendo Switch. That part isn’t the surprise; the surprise is that players can compete cross-platform with other players. This means players on the Switch can duke it out with Xbox and Windows players. In addition, the Switch version will feature a few Nintendo-based items, like Mario and Luigi styled vehicles.

Kirby (2018)

While given no specific title, seeing a certain tiny pink blob on screen absorbing insanely amounts of mass is a sight for sore eyes. The last Kirby game that appeared on a main Nintendo home console was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse on the Wii U in 2015. The trailer at the direct did not display any real story information, but rather, showed Kirby in action.

Yoshi (2018)

Also without a specific title, Mario’s green dinosaur friend returns in another solo act. The last game that featured Yoshi was 2015’s Yoshi’s Wooly World and 2017’s Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World. Just like the Kirby trailer before it, Yoshi did not give much indication of where the story was heading.

Metroid 4 (TBA)

Nintendo fans have waited a longtime for this franchise to see the light of day again. Finally, that patience has been rewarded: Nintendo announced not only the absolute unknown project known as Metroid 4 on Switch, but also Metroid Samus Returns for the DS. The DS title will hit the shelves on September 15.

Fire Emblem Warriors — (Fall 2017)

Originally showcased in January 2017, Fire Emblem Warriors made a return to the big stage. The trailer showed a typical Fire Emblem game, however with a more hack and slash approach to it. While there hasn’t been a set date hammered out yet, the franchise hopes to make its return sometime this fall on both Switch and DS.

Xenoblades Chronicles 2 — (Holiday 2017)

Following up on the events of Xenoblade Chronicles X that came out on the Wii U in 2015, the new Switch title shows early promise. The trailer showed two people’s journey to reach a floating utopia known as Elysium.

Pokémon (TBA)

Even though Nintendo announced a week ago all of GameFreak’s plans regarding Pokémon, it was revealed during the E3 Spotlight that the company is developing a core RPG Pokémon game for the Switch. No other information was divulged, other than the game will not be out for at least a year.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC — (June 30, 2017/Holiday 2017)

The first piece of downloadable content for Nintendo’s likely Game of the Year is the Master Trials. Contained in this pack comes the Trial of The Sword; imagine Horde Mode from Gears of War where you must defeat waves of enemies in each level. In Breath of the Wild, Link must take down each wave of enemies in order to awaken the Master Sword’s true power and use it in a powered-up state always. Aside from the pseudo Horde Mode, the DLC comes with an increased difficulty known as Master Mode with harder enemies, and also various pieces of new armor. One piece of new armor is specifically interesting, because it shakes when in the immediate area of a Korok seed. The other piece of DLC that was announced is the Champions’ Ballad. The only piece of information regarding this latter DLC package are four new Amiibo that can be purchased.

Wrap-up

Nintendo was riding a wave of momentum coming into this year’s E3. They already released the likely Game of the Year in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild back in March that helped propel the Switch on launch, so following up with sustainable content was necessary. Their conference presented a deeper look into Mario’s next big adventure, which didn’t add any addition hype to the train with the gameplay, but rather the fact that it will release in October. Nintendo showed off other stable franchises in Yoshi, Kirby, Pokémon, Fire Emblem and Xenoblade Chronicles. Not to mention, Nintendo still possesses an assortment of Wii U games the company intends to port over to Switch, specifically Super Smash Bros. Deluxe. Nintendo can wait for the opportune time when there’s not much going on and just dropped a game. Nintendo is in a good spot right now, the only thing they need to worry about is getting the Virtual Console up and running and nail down the online services.

E3 2017 recap: Sony

Sony has reigned supreme for the majority of this generation of consoles. They’ve delivered a high amount of exclusive content that has helped push the sales of the PlayStation 4 to over 60 million units worldwide. Last year’s E3 conference showed more exclusive games that Sony is prepping for release: God of War, Spider-Man, The Last of Us Part II and Days Gone. Gamers were practically drooling after watching Sony’s 2016 showcase, chomping at the bits to play these titles. Coincidentally, this has created a problem for Sony: when are we actually going to play these games? Unfortunately, this year’s E3 did not clear up that cloud of uncertainty.

Spider-Man – 2018

The next big exclusive project from Insomniac, creators of Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive, is an original story about everyone’s favorite web-slinger. Sony presented an extended gameplay trailer on stage that showed our hero taking down a gang known as the “Demons”. The trailer showed Peter Parker, presumably the one under the mask, communicating with an imprisoned Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, regarding the nature of the Demons and their mysterious leader. We got to see Spidey in action for the first time, and the combat looked absolutely flawless and fluid. His moves were precise and being able to incorporate his webbing during fights seemed natural. The trailer concluded with Parker entangled in a helicopter fight with the revealed leader of the Demons, Martin Li, otherwise known as Mister Negative. A special cameo at the end also revealed Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man for you non-Spidey fans. *Special reminder: this game is in NO way tied to the upcoming Marvel movie that is scheduled to release on July 7.

God of War – 2018

Kratos is back and he’s still a badass. Sony presented an extended trailer that mixed gameplay with cinematic scenes for the next installment of the God of War franchise. Last seen in 2010 with the gods of Olympus dead at his feet, Kratos returns but he’s not alone. Kratos is instructing his son on the dangers of the world, and the trailer shows that the boy is not only there to listen. One scene showed Kratos climbing the side of a mountain and when a demon-type enemy emerged from a crevice, the young’un drove a knife through its skull. Another part of the preview revealed that the boy can jump on enemies, temporarily distracting them for Kratos to deliver the final blow. These combat dynamics remind me of how Joel and Ellie interacted with each other in Sony’s other big exclusive title The Last of Us. No additional plot details were revealed, but it appears that Kratos has new enemies to deal with, which shouldn’t be a real surprise to anyone.

Days Gone – TBA

Days Gone is Sony’s version of Microsoft’s State of Decay 2; an open-world infested with zombie-like enemies known as “Freakers”. Not to be confused with “Clickers” from The Last of Us, these baddies resemble more of their zombie brethren. The extended gameplay trailer showed our protagonist, Deacon St. John, riding his motorcycle through woods in the Pacific Northwest and encountering these Freakers. While hiding in some grass, Deacon takes note of how the Freakers are what appears to be tearing apart a corpse. It’s been reported that the weather and time of day will affect the game’s difficulty. The release window for Days Gone has not been announced.

Detroit: Become Human – TBA

Coming from Quantic Dream, the creators of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human has the potential to be a game-changer. Played from the third-person, this exclusive title revolves around multiple playable characters and the choices you make influence the story. Each character has the possibility of dying before the game concludes, but that only adds to the overall story; the death of a character will not ensue a “game over” status. Sony and Quantic Dreams look to push the envelope on in-game choices and how they affect a player’s experience. Detroit: Become Human has been in development since 2013, and there is no release window currently for the project.

Shadow of the Colossus – 2018

Other than conquering the exclusive landscape of games, Sony has done fairly well when it comes to releasing remastered versions of past titles. The next game on the docket, even if it’s the second HD remaster, will be Shadow of the Colossus. Originally a PlayStation 2 classic from 2005, this title was developed by the same team that delivered the previous Sony hit Ico. When I say this will be the second HD remaster, that’s because Shadow of the Colossus was released in 2011 on the PlayStation 3. It seems that Sony thinks quite highly of Shadow of the Colossus for it to receive three separate releases over the course of 13 years.

Monster Hunter World — 2018

Developed by Capcom, Monster Hunter World continues the action-RPG series that began on the PlayStation 2. The line of games eventually made their way over to the PSP, Nintendo Wii and 3DS. Now, the series returns to a main Sony home console for the first time since 2011. Monster Hunter World‘s core concept is quite simple: hunt monsters. Sony’s presentation showed the player hiding, stealthily making his way to a rather scary-looking dinosaur. Once in position, the battle ensued between man and beast. How this new iteration of the series performs on the PlayStation 4 might signify if it’s something Sony will continue to support, or let Nintendo firmly take the reins on this franchise. More information regarding Monster Hunter World should trickle out, as the game is scheduled to release in early 2018.

Destiny 2 — September 6, 2017

Developed by Bungie, Destiny 2 continues the convoluted story about flying dead things that guide you, a giant orb that grants power and quite frankly thinking that you know what’s going on but in reality it’s a great big mess. Luckily, it appears early on that the sequel’s story will actually make sense this time around. A really angry Cabal is jealous that the Traveller, the power granting giant orb, should’ve chosen their race and not the humans to bestow its power. This prompts him to lay siege on the Tower, steals the Traveller, and at the same time effectively destroying all of your gear, weapons and accessories from the previous adventure. Already this story feels like it has some meat n’ potatoes to it that Destiny didn’t seem to have, until maybe The Taken King expansion. And yes, Destiny 2 is not a Sony exclusive, but just like the first game, PlayStation 4 users will receive exclusive content. It was announced that Sony players will receive access to a strike called “Lake of Shadows”, a ship called “City Apex”, an exotic weapon known as “Weapon Borealis” and a PvP map called “Retribution”. Don’t fret Xbox and PC fans; unlike the first game, this content will be time-sensitive until Fall 2018.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy — August 22, 2017

The adventures of Nathan Drake are over (presumably), so Naughty Dog is shifting their focus on, not one, but two new heroes: Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross. Naughty Dog lists Uncharted: The Lost Legacy as single-player DLC for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but the events take place after the fourth game and act as a standalone expansion. The entirety of the game runs for about ten hours.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds — Fall/Winter 2017

One of the early crown jewels for Sony this year, Guerilla Games’ epic Horizon Zero Dawn is set to receive its first dosage of DLC. Surprisingly, The Frozen Wilds will take place in a very, very cold part of the futuristic-primitive world which Aloy resides. It hasn’t been revealed whether the events of this downloadable content will take place during or after the events of the main story. No other information was released at the time of the announcement, but Sony states that the content will drop later this year.

PSVR

It’s almost the first birthday for the virtual reality component of Sony’s console. To celebrate, the company announced new PSVR titles: Star Child, Bravo Team, Moss, The Inpatient, Final Fantasy XV: Monsters of the Deep, and Skyrim.

Wrap-up

Overall, Sony played it very safe this year. They showed much of the same titles from 2016’s E3 conference, but with expanded trailers. The old saying “don’t fix what ain’t broke” definitely applies here, but at the same time it is a bit disheartening that Sony didn’t at least try to surprise us with anything new. Not only that, but none of their top games, Spider-Man, God of War, Days Gone and Detroit: Become Human, are not coming out this holiday season. Sony, nor gamers, want to have broken games released and have to deal with constant patches, but what exactly is Sony backing on for holiday revenue? Third-party support from Destiny 2, The Evil Within and Call of Duty: WWII? Again, it’s a very safe route to take, but not having any first-party exclusives releasing in the most crucial time of year is a risk, no matter what company you are. On the flip side, once Sony does start rolling out these exclusives…everyone better watch out.