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Mirby's Reviews!

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Hey all! It's me, your new resident Journalist! As such, this topic is for the reviews I've written. This first post will be where I index all the reviews I'll post here alphabetically, so enjoy!

Adventure Time: Hey, Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?

The DENPA Men: They Came By Wave

Fire Emblem: Awakening


Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask


Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition

Platform: Wii

Developer: HAL Laboratory, Inc.

Genre: Platformer
As I'm sure most of you are aware, 2012 happens to be Kirby's 20th Anniversary, and our little pink puffball got a hell of a collection to commemorate it than a certain plumber did for his 25th. This collection is Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition, a Wii disc that really is something to collect. Priced at just $40, the disc contains all three Dream Land games, Adventure, Super Star, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

There's also a History mode that lets you see what year Kirby games came out, look at trailers for those games and hear a song from each, and read a few corresponding real life tidbits too. In addition, lurking within this mode are three full episodes of Kirby: Right Back At Ya! New to the collection is New Challenge Mode, which builds upon the Challenge levels of the recent Return to Dream Land.

The past games themselves are presented as they were, be it the grayscale of the first entry or the chalky look of Dream Land 3. Borders now take up screen space, but it works. My only gripe is that it's tricky to get back to the main menu; you need to Reset from the Home menu to do that. The games are timeless fun, and still good to this day (well, except for the original, but I'll deal with that).

As for the New Challenge mode stages... they're great. This mode consists of three worlds, and much like in Return to Dream Land, highlighted letters spell out something. In that game, they spelled out CROWNED, but here, it's HAL, a nice nod to the developer. Though the first two worlds hold abilities from Return to Dream Land, the last one contains one only seen in Amazing Mirror: Smash. Yes, Kirby's moveset from Super Smash Bros. is available to use in a few stages in this collection; it's quite fun, I must admit.

Now, this collection isn't just games and nostalgia, no way. Included with the game is a 45-track CD consisting of tracks from nearly every game in the series, along with three new tracks. The song choice is great; though Fountain of Dreams may be absent from Adventure and Nightmare in Dream Land's selections, it is present in its Air Ride iteration, which is probably the best version outside of Smash Bros. The new songs are great too; Electro Kirby took me by complete surprise, I must admit.

There is also a 45-page booklet (weird, I know) that details Kirby's history along with an insider look at concept art and rejected ideas for literally every Kirby game there is. The cover has an exclusive piece of art made just for the anniversary and it only gets better from there. Little tidbits such as an idea for a Guard Bomb triggered by a long block in Super Star or Waddle Dee actually doing something in Crystal Shards just make it all the more special. I wish they'd done the star-shaped track in Air Ride, by the way.

So, in the end, is this collection for anyone who wants a good game, or is it only for die-hard Kirby fans? Personally, I think it's the former; not only does it include 6 of the best Kirby games, but it also is very reasonably priced. Kirby games are also great for pick-up-and-play; you don't need much time to set up at all. And if you like breaking high scores, you get ranked based on total points in the New Challenge mode. There's a little something for everyone in this collection, and you can tell a lot of love went into it. Pick it up if you get the chance; Kirby's still here and he isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Might as well celebrate with such a fantastic collection. Until next time, game on!


THE "DENPA" MEN: They Came by Wave

Platform: 3DS (eShop-only)

Developer: Genius Sonority

Genre: Platformer

Known in Japan as Denpa Ningen RPG, or roughly translated (or rather, Google translated because I'm lazy) "Human Radio," referencing the titular humanoid creatures that ride on the radio waves all around us. For those of you who've played Mega Man Star Force, think Mr. Hertz and the EM beings. Anyways, the game suddenly was mentioned a few weeks back as being localized. The second entry of the series, Denpa Ningen RPG 2 hit the Japanese eShop last Thursday (September 27, 2012), the same day the North America eShop received the first entry, the one you're reading a review for right now.

The game is touted as being an Augmented Reality Role Playing Game, in that you use the 3DS Camera to scan your surroundings and reveal the little Denpa Men floating along like fish in the ocean. For those that don't want to use the camera but still catch Denpa Men, there's a handy Manner Mode which turns off the camera and replaces the background with a blue wireframe. The first thing you'll notice about the Denpa Men is that they're all pretty much wearing a bodysuit, somewhat like a Mii but with arms. The second thing you'll notice is that those suits are different colors.

Here's the fun thing: those colors determine their elemental strengths and weaknesses. Black bodysuits have no strengths or weaknesses. White ones are strong against Dark without weaknesses. Red is weak to water and strong to fire, whereas green is strong against wind and weak against water. Then there's striped Denpa Men, such as the one below. Danny there is red and light blue, meaning he's strong against fire and ice. The third thing you'll notice is that some have antennas and some don't. These determine their abilities; each Denpa Man can only have one ability, but they can grow. Occasionally you'll find a Denpa Man with an Antenna Root; those grow into rare abilities and are rare themselves depending on where you live. And occasionally you'll even come across shiny Denpa Men that appear white on the touch screen radar; these Denpa Men hold rare abilities and are rare themselves.

When you start a new game, you'll get a Hero with a random name like all the others, random facial appearance, and a random color. The hero will always have the Revive ability though. From there, you catch a few more Denpa Men to make your party grow. Your home base is Digitoll (a pun on digital), an island that houses many things. You'll find an antenna which captures Denpa Men, a house for all your Denpa Men to stay in, a shop run by a dwarf, a shrine to revive fallen Denpa Men, a PC to scan QR codes to receive Denpa Men from others, a museum that shows every antenna ability you've seen in the game, a port to see the World Map and head out to other islands, and the first dungeon. The handy part about the World Map is it tells you a recommended level for each island, which is its own dungeon.

When you first enter a dungeon, you'll see its name along with an episode title akin to anime and your hero will talk to you. You explore the dungeon in old-school RPG fashion, which is wandering aimlessly looking for treasure and the next floor. Enemies appear on the map, so you can flee them if they haven't seen you yet or if you're sufficiently leveled to outrun them when they chase you. A handy map is also filled in on the touch screen, useful for the inevitable repeat trips through the dungeons for treasure and experience. Within every dungeon hides a healing fountain (except the first) that restores all your HP and AP and removes all status effects. Occasionally you'll find a dwarf who'll give you a recuperative massage (I think) with the same effect.

You'll also find a warp when you're near the boss of the dungeon. This is useful in most dungeons as it gives a safe way to heal, and you can check out the scenes before each boss battle without triggering them (you still need to walk up to the boss in most cases to trigger the battle) and then run back and leave. The game autosaves whenever you return to the World Map from a dungeon or finish doing ANYTHING on Digitoll, which is useful. When you get into a battle, which you will, there's four things you can do. Let the computer decide, make everyone attack, choose everyone's attacks yourself, or run. The AI is pretty good too; often I'd leave it up to the AI and it usually would do what I wanted, though it also became predictable on some grinding trips so I had to compensate with some manual orders a few times. Overall, it's useful and speeds up the battles. And if your quests go unsuccessful and everyone dies, you can recapture lost Denpa Men with the Shrine. Just be prepared to spend a lot of Offerings if your guys were high-level.

And speaking of battles, the monster designs are great in this; there's a few designs I'm surprised I hadn't seen before, but I'll leave those as a surprise for obvious reasons. I loved encountering new enemies and seeing the clever designs, though the staple palette swaps were in full supply as usual. The game is full of a quirky charm, and a quirky sense of humor in everything from the text to the monsters. One Denpa Man I caught asked me, "Is this some sort of scam?" Another inquired, "Is my beauty a crime?" You can also talk to them in the Denpa House and get some seasonal dialogue based on the internal clock. The music is also quite quirky, handled by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Basiscape. Honestly, I love all the songs, and was surprised he was behind it.

One of the fun things about this game was that within every dungeon you would find some sort of upgrade for something on Digitoll, and after every dungeon the shop stocked new items. It became rather exciting, seeing my home base grow with my Denpa Men, new features coming as a reward for clearing a dungeon. It was also nice being able to upgrade my Denpa Men with accessories and clothes to reflect the changing environments in the game. Yeah, your team of firebending Denpa Men who can't be touched by wind may be good for one dungeon, but you may need to switch that up for the next dungeon; that one has a lot of water, and your fire team will be extinguished. There's a balance, you find, and exploiting that is the best way to survive in this game. It's surprisingly tactical when it comes down to it.

So is this game worth it or should it have stayed in Japan? Personally I didn't even know it existed until I saw the sequel on a Japanese Nintendo Direct, and I fell in love instantly. Everything about it is quirky, and it's a breath of fresh air. It also has some pretty good 3D, if you like using your 3DS for that. There's a free demo on the eShop that everyone should check out; not only can you save your progress at any time, you can save transfer data to the full game. This allows you to keep your progress and Denpa Men intact for the full game, which is only $9.99.

It also has about 20 hours of gameplay for the main storyline. Notice the italics; you probably know what the reason for that is. Yep, once you beat the final boss a post-game storyline consisting of three dungeons with recommended levels ranging from 40 to 60 opens up. I haven't quite started on those yet, but I look forward to seeing what they look like and the enemies present within. And, of course, treasure hunting. I may just update this review when I finish those, and I may not. Either way, I foresee a lot more time with the Denpa Men in my future. Perhaps you'll spend some time with them as well... Until next time, game on!


Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Platform: 3DS (Retail and Downloadable via eShop)

Developer: Level-5

Genre: Puzzle/Mystery

Ah, Professor Layton. Ever since the first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, was released in early 2008 I've been a devout fan. Equal parts point-and-click adventure, mystery, and puzzle game, Level-5 combines them all flawlessly for a cohesive experience that is only bolstered by the rustic atmosphere Tomohito Nishiura's soundtrack provides. After four games on the Nintendo DS, Layton makes the transition to the 3DS with this installment, and he does it flawlessly.

Though this is the fifth game in the series, it's the second chronologically and takes place after Professor Layton and the Last Specter. If you want to get technical, it takes place after the movie, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, as well, but I'll elaborate on that later. In regards to Miracle Mask, this adventure takes place in the thriving desert city of Monte d'Or that is currently being terrorized by the Masked Gentleman and his "dark miracles." Or is it?

The game opens up with a grand parade through the streets of Monte d'Or, a city that's thriving but was but a desert oasis 18 years beforehand. Such is the first mystery to be added to the list; how did this city get so big in such a short amount of time? Before anyone has time to ponder this, the Masked Gentleman appears. The giant clown balloon starts to deflate and falls to the ground. Everyone flees, but not Layton and Luke. They run towards the commotion; after narrowly avoiding being smashed by the balloon, they come across statues... of people... The first dark miracle they are witness to is the petrification of tourists!! Just who is this Masked Gentleman, and how does he hold such power? And what's up with the mask he wears, the Mask of Chaos? Layton isn't fooled though; for every puzzle there is a solution. And this is quite the puzzle.

As for the reason they were drawn to Monte d'Or? Layton received a letter from an old friend, one Angela Ledore. Though they hadn't spoken in 18 years, she knew Layton would be able to solve the mystery of the Masked Gentleman. As such, the game's chapters alternate between the present with Professor Layton and his companions, and the past of Hershel Layton and his friends. It's interesting to see how Layton became who he was in his hometown of Stansbury, and how it all relates to what's happening to Monte d'Or in the present. There are two distinct areas to explore in both time periods, and the story is quite well written.

Naturally, this being a Layton game, there's going to be some puzzles. 150 to be precise, with about 365 more free downloadable Daily Puzzles. There's a good variety too, without as many of the oft-annoying sliding puzzles as in previous installments. I found that though the 3D wasn't used in any of the puzzles for the sake of a solution, the other features were used nicely. There's even a couple puzzles that utilize the internal gyroscope, so you need to move the 3DS like one of those old-school marble labyrinths with the slots the marble could fall in. It's quite rewarding to solve a puzzle on your own, a trend that continues with this game.

However, with the transition from DS to 3DS comes a few changes to the system. No longer will the puzzle itself be always present on the top-screen; instead, you can display the description on either screen or even hide it altogether! In addition, the note feature has been overhauled, allowing even more colors to be used (even purple!) and an undo feature if you mess up. It's quite nice. And the mini-games have been done nicely as well; there's 3 in the trunk and another one you can access but only at night (in-game, not actual nighttime). There's a toy robot that's pretty fun, a shop interface that gets devious in later aisles, and a cute rabbit that you teach tricks and use those tricks to act out plays. Just beware of that rabbit; all reports I've seen call it the cutest thing ever, and I'm inclined to agree.

The exploration interface has also received quite the overhaul. The biggest change is that the scenery is all on the top screen instead of the bottom. As such, you no longer need to choose the shoe to move; you just tap where you want to go on the touch screen and you're there. Instead of a shoe, there's now the magnifying glass; this is necessary to search areas with, as each part of Monte d'Or you explore is bigger than the screen's display area, so you'll need to move the camera around a bit. Hint coins are a bit less painful to find now as the magnifying glass icon will turn orange when over a suspicious area, be it a bit of funny text, a coin, or a collection item. It can also turn blue, denoting an area you can zoom into, revealing even more in that segment of the city and potentially more coins or collectibles. The characters are now 3D models as well, and as Level-5 has proven time and again, these models are faithful to the artwork we've seen of the characters. They move about and have their own mannerisms and everything. It's much more entertaining to watch than just the static poses they had in previous games.

All these systems come together for one of the most riveting Layton adventures I've played, and it all leads into the recently announced Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies. The prequel trilogy that began with Last Specter started an overarching storyline involving the ancient Azran civilization, and all parts of it (including the aforementioned Eternal Diva) are relevant to the end. I recommend playing (and watching) these parts, because they're all great; however, this review isn't about the trilogy, it's about this installment in it. And it's a great installment; it moves Layton to the 3DS perfectly. The cutscenes are crisp, the music is clear, and the world is even livelier than ever before.
Speaking of the music, it's quite good. Tomohito Nishiura's on top of his game with this one; there's not a track in the game I haven't come to love. And it's as clear in-game as you hear in that video; with the transition from DS to 3DS comes better audio fidelity, which this game uses magnificently. Though the backgrounds of each area are actual artwork, there's plenty of other things in front of that to bring it to life, and the random NPCs that litter the area only help that (fun fact: these NPCs are the very same unnamed characters you'll see in the assorted puzzles of the game). And of course, the music only heightens that sense of life, that feeling that Monte d'Or (and Stansbury) is a living breathing world somewhere.

I highly recommend this game, whether you like puzzle games or just want a good mystery (but are good at solving puzzles because, come on, that's a huge part of the game). The music is phenomenal, and ties into each area perfectly. And the ending... once everything falls into place and you see how it all worked out... It's great. Check it out if you want, and if you're interested in the story of the Azran be sure to check out Last Specter and Eternal Diva. Until next time, game on!


Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Platform: 3DS (Retail and Downloadable via eShop)

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Genre: Action/Adventure

Ever since the original Paper Mario landed in America back in 2001, fans have been enthralled by the mystical paper world of the series. After 2004's Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door built on that world in stellar fashion, the series took a platforming detour with 2007's Super Paper Mario. Ever since then, there's been quite the call for a return to the franchise, and E3 2010 gave but a small taste of what would eventually become Sticker Star. Two and a half years later, that game is finally in our hands. However, does it return to the lofty heights of the first two installments or continue the downward path started with Super Paper Mario? Stick around to find out!

As the title suggests, the game revolves around the usage of stickers. The story starts off with the great Sticker Fest, which is going well until Bowser sneaks in and touches the Sticker Comet (which no one should ever ever do), causing it to shatter and scatter across the world. A side effect of this is that six Royal Stickers scatter with the shards, the most powerful of which landing on Bowser causing him to go completely berserk and cause havoc everywhere. When Mario comes to, the Sticker Fest grounds are ruined and a small decal from the comet named Kersti is yelling at him. From these simple beginnings starts a quest filled with adventure, exploration, and hilarity, all to recover the Royal Stickers and restore peace to the land.

Unlike previous installments, Sticker Star has a world map; the reason for this is simply because it's on the 3DS. Being on a handheld system means smaller easy-to-access stages, which works and prevents as much backtracking as in previous installments. Since the chapters are broken up into bite-size chunk, it's almost like each stage is its own little story. Once you look at it that way, it's quite fun. Especially 3-9; you'll see why when you get there. There's also plenty of hidden paths and exploration within these stages, so it's not quite as linear as Super Paper Mario was. I found great joy in looking in every nook and cranny for items and exits; there's also stickers literally everywhere so grabbing those was fun too. Just be careful; you only have a limited number of spaces in your Sticker Album, and if it's full you can't keep picking these up until you either toss or use other stickers.

Speaking of which, stickers are your sole source of attacking. Each sticker is also a one-time use deal; this sounds bad, but as I said above, there's stickers literally everywhere. Regardless, there's several levels of each attack to find, and nearly one hundred total battle stickers in all. These range from varying jump attacks and elementally charged smacks of the hammer to fire flowers and a snowball. There's quite the variety in these attacks, and I enjoyed finding the nuances of each of them and their action commands.

The battle system is also back to how it was in the first two games, sans the stage and audience. Partners are also gone too, though that's only because they conflicted with the stickers too much*. You can normally only use one sticker at a time, but you can use the optional battle spinner for 3 coins to pull up a slot machine. Match two icons to get to use two stickers in a turn; match three and you can use three, in addition to getting a bonus effect from the icons you matched up. You can also spend coins to ensure you get two matches or to slow down the linked panels. However, the more times you use these features in a battle, the costlier they get. The key to using this effectively is making sure you hit the action commands perfectly. If you can dispatch all enemies on the first turn of a battle (unless you were ambushed) you get a Perfect Bonus, which gives more coins than usual. This helps the risk/reward factor of pouring coins into the battle spinner.

In addition to the normal battle stickers littering the environment, you'll also see things. I'm not being vague here, that's actually what they're called. These things are real-world objects such as a fan or a faucet, and are mostly used to solve puzzles. However, you can't use things in their native form; you'll need to go to the main hub of Decalburg to turn them into stickers. In 1-4, you'll come across a windmill whose blades block the door. This is where Kersti comes in handy; she has the ability to Paperize stickers. By pressing Y at any time, you can freeze time and scan the environment for places a sticker might come in handy, or spots where the scenery is peeling away, hinting at another puzzle.

In the case of the windmill, there's a large square to place the Fan sticker, which will conjure a giant oscillating fan in the background to blow the blades out of the way. The cutscenes that play for all these items are very entertaining to watch, by the way. There's plenty more uses for Paperize though, from finding hidden boxes to upgrade stickers to placing hidden door stickers to open secret rooms. Also, you can use thing stickers in battle as well, which serve as summons of sort, each with their own action commands. These are riskier to store though, as they'll range in size and potentially take up quite a bit space in the Sticker Album.
Any RPG isn't complete without a fantastic soundtrack, and this game is no exception. Jazz is the name of the game, and it's in plentiful supply. It also helps to set the stage and fit into each environment you'll visit, whether it's cheerful grasslands a blistering desert, or even a frozen mountain. Each track sounds great and I would buy an official OST in a heartbeat if they released one. The world map also uses the same basic music, but it varies depending on what area you're in on the map with riffs to fit the place. There's also a handful of classic Mario tunes remixed, and hearing each of them redone in the jazzy style was fantastic.

All in all, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a great new installment in the series; though it may not be as fantastic as the first two, it's definitely a step in the right direction. The pop-up book world has never looked better, thanks in part to the 3D effect that actually  adds to the game instead of just being a gimmick. The stages are fun to explore and there's quite a few spots that are deviously hidden; I know I wandered aimlessly several times trying to find something. The music is entertaining, the battle system is simple on the surface and tricky once you brave its depths, and the humor always kept me laughing. There's also several achievements to complete and an entire Sticker Museum to fill up, requiring quite a bit of exploration and gratuitous use of Paperize. Though there were worries about this game, I can safely say that everything about it falls flat. Then again, everything's made of paper, so I wouldn't have it any other way. Until next time, game on!


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