Here are my thoughts on two games that are a part of the latest video game console developed by Nintendo … The Nintendo Switch. Let me know if you agree or disagree @ArdaOcalTV
THUMBS UP: ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
You know when you start watching a show (say a “House of Cards,” or a “Breaking Bad,” or “The MSG Hockey Show” for instance) and then after one episode the world just stands still? Time zooms by and suddenly you realize there are several open pizza boxes around you, your couch cushion has a perfectly outlined imprint of your body and you missed the sun entirely because the blinds were shut and you binged an entire season … and you’re not even done watching yet (who cares about waking up at 7 a.m. for work the next day)!
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the video game version of that.
The first five minutes of the game introduces an entire world that gets you so excited, you don’t know whether to explore the entire map or to finish all the quests. All you know is that you want to do both. At the six-hour mark, you realize that you can’t get everything done in one day. This is like one of those “Law and Order” marathons where you have to binge in chunks due to sheer volume.
This game will truly appease every level of gamer. Whether it’s the unbelievable level of detail in the scenery, landscapes and characters, the level of nimbleness to the game (Want to parasail into the next city? Go fishing or chase around fireflies? Cook by the fire and experiment with recipes to create super foods? Pull treasure chests out of the river with a giant magnet? Run around every corner of the map and find random secrets and friends, even enemies? Go ahead!) is unprecedented.
No wonder this game took over four years to make, the detail is remarkable. Breath of the Wild doesn’t box you into a linear story — you can complete quests at your leisure, all while performing other tasks and mini quests that end up becoming a game within the game. If you see something in the distance, you can get there. It may not be easy to get there, but once you get there, the payoff is usually great.
The controls have a slight learning curve but once you get the hang of it, the amount of freedom you have is welcomed. And it doesn’t take very long to feel like you are an expert gamer.
Breath of the Wild is perhaps the most logically impressive game that exists, especially with the details. Grass can be set on fire, apples can be picked from trees, arrows already slung can be picked up again if you missed your target, rocks can be blown up or planks set ablaze to reveal secret areas. Weather impacts your activities, too. For example, when it’s raining, it’s easier to sneak up on enemies, because they can’t hear you as well. When there’s lightning, put away the metal, because you might be struck without any prior warning. Wandering during night and day also makes a big difference. Upon a stroll at night, it brings certain enemies you won’t see during the day, but you may not see special items or animals (like fireflies, which might become handy in your recipes) during the day.
Speaking of which, this might sound odd for a video game, but you will spend a lot of time cooking. That’s right. By a fire, in front of a pot, throwing in up to five ingredients. Why? Because all the raw food/ingredients you collect can be combined to make meals and elixirs which boost your stats. Some combinations will increase a ton of health, others stamina (useful when climbing and sprinting). Others will allow you to withstand the cold or heat for several minutes. And the best part of all? Not every combination gives you a winner, sometimes you’ll get a rotten finished product. But that’s part of the fun.
Put it this way: Whatever you encounter in this game and how you would expect it to logically behave, in this game, it probably does. This includes Link, who needs warm clothes in cold regions and flame resistant gear near lava, and he loses stamina as he sprints and climbs.
Though Super Mario will forever be Nintendo’s most famous character, Breath of the Wild might just be Nintendo’s “piece de resistance.”
THUMBS DOWN: ULTRA STREET FIGHTER 2, THE FINAL CHALLENGERS
Sadly, this game didn’t translate as well on the Switch, but I do understand the appeal of having a Street Fighter franchise game on the Switch. Street Fighter 5 is a Playstation exclusive release, leaving other platforms, like the Nintendo Switch, locked out.
Enter Ultra Street Fighter 2, a buffed-up version of the original game that really brought fighting games to the mainstream.
USF2 has all 16 characters from Super Street Fighter 2, along with Akuma (who first appeared as a hidden boss in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, and playable in the Alpha series), Evil Ryu (basically the Ryu version of Akuma, also debuted in the Alpha series) and Violent Ken (his first appearance in a main Street Fighter game, basically a slightly modified palette swap of Evil Ryu). All three share similar traits, moves and speed improvements over the traditional Ken and Ryu, but you wouldn’t really classify them as completely new characters to play in this game. You basically have three versions of buffed-up Ken and Ryu at your disposal (if you include Sagat, that’s 6 of the 16, or more than a third of the characters in-game with essentially the same moves).
Truthfully, this is by far one of my biggest complaints about the game. It was already a tough buy at the $40 price point. For one, the high definition graphics are impressive, but nothing you haven’t really seen before if you had played Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix on Xbox/Playstation (which was released in 2008 in North America). One cool feature is you can choose between the newer HD graphics and the classic SD graphics, which gives your gameplay a nostalgic feel. You can also do this with the sound effects. My personal favorite setting was new graphics with old sound effects.
There are updated endings as well. Hardcore fans will remember the four boss endings (Balrog, Vega, Sagat, M. Bison) in Street Fighter 2 being very similar graphically with different scrolling text. USF2 meanwhile, has unique nicely drawn out endings for each character. But really, if you’re a completionist, plenty of YouTube gamers online have beaten the game with each character so you can find every ending online.
The game also comes with a mode called Buddy Battle, where you and either a friend or the computer tag team against an opponent. It’s fun a couple of times, but I didn’t find myself spending a whole lot of time in this mode. Another addition from more recent Street Fighter releases is being able to “tech” a throw, which means you can reverse the effects of a throw and land safely, with minimal damage inflicted.
Side Note: Remember how mad people used to get in the arcade when you stunned them and threw them to their death? — “THAT’S CHEAP, DUDE! YOU WON CHEAP!!!” Yeah, but you’re the one spending another quarter to play again, so … Another Side Note: remember when games cost only a quarter?
The most fun part about playing Street Fighter was always the controls. They were fluid, intuitive, and fun to play. Just the act of successfully completing a quarter circle followed by a punch to launch a “Hadouken!” felt like an accomplishment. With the Switch Joy-Con, it’s not as fun to play with. If a pro joystick gets released sometime, that would make it more fun, but will it be worth the extra $200 or what not? Maybe not for a Street Fighter 2 reboot. Now, if Street Fighter 6 were to come to the Switch, that’s a different story.
At the end of the day, the Switch is a marvel in video game advancement. What you can do with the system, and how the Joy-Cons enhance gameplay have been the most impressive improvements in game technology since the Wii (surprise, also a Nintendo product). The problem is, this mode in USF2 is the worst part of the game.
Maybe Street Fighter doesn’t lend itself to actually acting out the motions to execute the moves. Maybe, as advanced as we are, the technology isn’t quite there yet. Whatever the case may be, The Way of the Hado mode, where you literally hold the Joy-Cons in your hand and mimic Ryu’s special moves, is the most frustrating (in a bad way) part of the game. Unfortunately, it’s not consistent, wears on you and gets tiresome very easily. It felt like because the Joy-Con versatility is one of the key features of the Switch, it was necessary to be a part of the game, but sadly the execution isn’t there.
Oh, and if you’re going to play online (which may be the biggest reason people buy the game anyway), make sure you have strong WiFi because a lagging Street Fighter game is the worst.
My Verdict: While Ultra Street Fighter 2 is a pass on the Switch, Breath Of The Wild is worth picking up the system alone. It’s absolutely in the conversation of the greatest video game ever made.
And yes, BotW was also released on the Wii U but are you really going to hold onto that system at this point? Plus Mario Odyssey is coming out later this year, so yeah …
If you’re a fan of retro video games, check out this Wednesday’s #TheApod with guest Mikey McBryan, one of the stars of the Netflix reality series “Ice Pilots” as well as a documentary filmmaker, currently working on “Pixelated Heroes”, a deep dive into NHL 94 and its impact so many decades later.