Most of us fancy ourselves as virtual photographers these days. Not everyone is an Ansel Adams, but the tools for taking pictures have never been more accessible, nor as readily available to so many. In most games, it's merely a matter of pressing a button: Share, or F12, or F10 if you're using Fraps. Or saying "Xbox, take a- ah, damn, it moved. Xbo- hang on. Stop listening. Xbox, take a screenshot". (Okay, it's easier for some than for others.)
The cynical view of Planet Robobot is that it's a stopgap. A schedule-filler. It's Nintendo calling a favour from one of its most reliable development partners while most of its internal studios busy themselves preparing games for a new hardware debut. This is, in many ways, the ideal game to buoy the 3DS in its twilight. No one's going to be too heartbroken if Kirby misses NX's launch, and why not take one more opportunity to sell some more of those figures everyone seems to be buying? Necessity is the mother of amiibo, as they say.
At the heart of Pokkén Tournament's battle system is a change in perspective. To fully appreciate it, I needed to adjust my own.
How strange that a game where the happiest player wins should have made so many people so very angry. Only it's not really strange at all, is it? It's hard to think of another publisher whose games are so regularly resented for simply existing, but such is the way with Nintendo. If Nintendo doesn't release exactly what its fans want, boy does the internet make sure it knows. Like Metroid Prime: Federation Force, Amiibo Festival has attracted a disproportionate amount of vitriol for what it isn't rather than what it is. It's not a proper Animal Crossing game, therefore it has no right to be released.
November: not exactly the most auspicious month in the tennis calendar. Sure, you've got the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, with a potential purse of $2 million plus for an undefeated champion. But I doubt that sum factored high on Nintendo's list of reasons to publish such a sunny, summery game at a time of year when it's permanently dark and cold, and any mention of Wimbledon fever is more likely to pertain to an unexpected outbreak of bacterial infections in south west London.
There's a certain tension at the heart of every good theme park. As a park owner, you naturally want your punters to have a good time. But as a currency, smiles and laughter only go so far. At some stage, you're going to need them to open their wallets. "It's like a John Lewis advert, right?" says John Laws, art director at Frontier Developments. "I get the exact same feeling when I see the John Lewis advert at the end of each year: 'Oh, that's really nice production design, better than most other ads'. And ultimately they just want me to spend money. But I don't care, because it's nice to watch."
With Tiger Woods experiencing the kind of career downturn that would have Messrs Torres and Falcao nodding sympathetically, it's no wonder EA has opted to drop the fairway-dodging flop for its flagship golf series, replacing him with the more successful (and marketable) Rory McIlroy. Surely, then, this is the ideal opportunity for a fresh start, and a series seemingly content to coast along on past successes would be revitalised by its prodigiously talented star?
When the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in the mid-70s, the term 'Year Zero' was coined to describe the idea of revolutionary change. Existing traditions would be thrown away, and a new culture would be established. Type-0 similarly alludes to a fresh start: the idea behind the original PSP game, released four years ago in Japan, was to hit the reset button on the Final Fantasy series and begin anew.
For a game that has no pressing reason to be, Mario Party 10 makes a decent fist of justifying its existence. It still suffers from many of the same problems as its predecessors - repetition, inconsistency, outrageously underhand CPU opponents - but developer Nd Cube has at least attempted to inject some fresh ideas into a series that, as recently as two games ago, was beginning to feel well past its sell-by date.
Frontier has been quietly cornering the market in theme park builders of late, with the likes of Coaster Crazy and Thrillville: Off The Rails - not forgetting, of course, the evergreen Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. Screamride, however, has the fingerprints of publisher Microsoft all over it. The fat-headed, projectile puking thrill-seekers of the developer's most recent efforts have been replaced by a series of gawky avatars and a robot narrator who sounds like the love child of GlaDOS and NintendoLand's Monita. These aren't ruinous changes, obviously, but they're part of a sterile, near-future aesthetic that saps some of the life from an otherwise solidly entertaining family game.
At this stage, the underlying game is almost one of the least interesting things about Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Smash (as it shall henceforth be known, for brevity's sake) is a party game in the sense that it is a game that is also a party. It's a celebration of Nintendo; a get-together for stars of past and present to beat seven bells out of one another. Perhaps more significantly, it's a shindig at which we can be assured of having a good time: we know the guest list is strong, we know we'll get to hear some killer tunes. What we're interested in is the finer details. What surprises will our host Masahiro Sakurai have in store for us this time?
Cards on the table: I wasn't too enamoured with the previous LittleBigPlanet games, certainly not to the degree many others were. It wasn't just the floaty, fiddly physics-powered platforming either: I found Stephen Fry's narration overbearing, and never felt it meshed the elements of create and play quite as effectively as it could have. For my money, the raves that greeted Media Molecule's debut and its follow-up should have been reserved for the vastly superior Tearaway.
Conventional wisdom would have it that the Wii U is your archetypal Nintendo console: ideal for kids and families, not so much for the self-identifying 'hardcore' gamer. Conventional wisdom, in this instance, is an ass. If you want a challenge, Wii U absolutely has you covered: from The Wonderful 101 to Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails, Bayonetta 2 to New Super Luigi U, here you'll face some of the sternest tests you'll ever encounter. In that light, Stealth Inc. 2 is a surprisingly good fit for Nintendo's unfairly maligned console - and it might just be the toughest of the lot.
Price and availability
Drakengard 3 is a mess. It's baggy, inconsistent, repetitive, scrappy, tonally iffy and beset by a litany of technical failings. And yet at the same time, it's weirdly fascinating; for all its faults, this is a game that tries something different - several things, in fact - and comes close to pulling them off. At the very least, it's flawed in interesting ways, and it will surely find a niche audience that is prepared to defend it to the hilt.
Note: as ever with episodic games, this review may (probably will) contain spoilers for previous episodes of season two of The Walking Dead. Proceed with caution!
The same caveat applies to just about every mainline Kirby game, but it's worth repeating for those who've never had the pleasure of his company: if you're looking for a challenge, you've come to the wrong place. Triple Deluxe has its moments, but the kind of player who believes that the greatest rewards come from conquering the steepest hurdles probably won't be tickled pink. If, however, you don't happen to mind easy games as long as they've got enough going on elsewhere to compensate, then read on.
At the time of Super Mario Land's release, its producer, Gunpei Yokoi, was one of gaming's most influential figures. The man who invented the d-pad and mentored Shigeru Miyamoto - indeed, it was Yokoi who first brought Donkey Kong to then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi's attention - headed up an R&D1 team that could seemingly do no wrong. Responsible for the likes of Metroid and Kid Icarus, Nintendo's oldest internal studio was given the task of making a Mario game for Yokoi's latest innovation, a handheld device called the Game Boy.
Let's hear it for the three-click swing system, eh? Pioneered by Nintendo itself in 1984 NES game Golf, this simple but effective mechanic has been a staple of golfing video games ever since. It's endured because no one's really managed to better it: some would argue the case for Tiger Woods' analogue control, and Nintendo might point to the remote-based mimicry of Wii Sports Club. But neither quite captures the elegance and rhythm of a perfect swing the way this does.
It's been years since I played a Rollercoaster Tycoon game, but thinking back to it brings forth foggy memories of a challenging yet enormously enjoyable juggling act. It was a series that asked you to balance the value of an amusement park in both business and entertainment terms.
"Making games isn't a process of just adding more and more until you have something amazing. Rather, the aim is to be able to take things away and yet ensure it still works." Satoru Iwata was talking about Nintendo Pocket Football Club with creator Hiroyuki Sonobe, but his words could equally apply to the other football management game of the moment, as Football Manager 14 Classic arrives on Vita.
In light of Nintendo's recent travails, concern about its reliance on treasured brands is understandable. In these circumstances, it's worth thinking of the company not as a creator of games, but as a maker of premium toys. Viewed this way, the aim of its output is clear: its focus is not on past buyers, but on a new generation of players who won't mind that they're getting something similar to what their parents or older siblings played with.
Surge Deluxe is FuturLab's attempt to do to the puzzle game what it did to the top-down shooter with Velocity - namely, to apply the defibrillator paddles and give it one hell of a jolt. It's an unusual approach to take to what is traditionally a fairly sedate genre, but it works. Deluxe, a Vita-exclusive version of a game released a little over a year ago on PlayStation Mobile, throbs with a restless, febrile energy.
Nintendo has published plenty of classic puzzlers over the years, and Dr Mario - the NES and Game Boy game now remade in Luigi's image for Wii U - is widely considered to be one of them. In truth, it's probably most fondly remembered for its soundtrack, by Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka, the guy Nintendo would call upon to compose a catchy melody or two whenever Koji Kondo was busy. Its main theme is the sort of tune you mightn't be able to recall from memory, but after about five seconds you'll be humming along to it, before spending the rest of the day trying to extricate it from your brain.