Nintendo’s Cardboard Toy Builder: Labo

Nintendo announced a collection of do-it-yourself cardboard construction kits and games for the Switch today, they’re called Labo.

They’ll be available in two different kits, each one holds the Switch and Joy-Cons to make something new.

Toy-Con 01 is the Variety Kit for $70 and includes 5 different cardboard projects for building a house, RC cars, motorcycle handlebars, a fishing rod, or a piano.

Toy-Con 02 is the Robot Kit and is entirely focused on building a cardboard mech suit for some smashing mech games. This set will be $80.

Labo looks like a lot of fun for anyone interested in building fun toys, and both kits will be out on 4/20/18 here in the US, and 7 days later in Europe.

Nintendo also has some trials set up in New York City and San Francisco for parents with kids 6-12. Check here for details.

Keza MacDonald got to check these kits out early:

The more complex constructions are a telescopic fishing rod with a working reel, attached to a base with elastic bands and string for realistic tension; a cardboard model of a piano with springy keys; an abstract motorbike, with handles and a pedal; a little house. Each contraption is made out of cardboard and string, and transforms into a digitally augmented toy when you slot Joy-Con controllers and the Switch screen into it. The piano, especially, is quite amazing, and takes about two hours to build. The infrared camera on the Joy-Con controller can see reflective strips of tape on the back of the keys, which come into view when a key is pressed, telling the game software to play the right note. Cardboard dials and switches modify the tone and add effects to the sound.

The principles behind each construction – Toy-Cons, as Nintendo calls them – are explained by cartoon characters, putting a child-friendly spin on coding and engineering. On the Switch screen, you can view a cross-section of each model that illustrates what the Joy-Con camera can see and how it works. This educational element is geared towards curious children, but it’s also illuminating for an adult – seeing how these toys work only increases your appreciation of their ingenuity.

The most complex construction, which will be sold separately, is a cardboard mech suit that transforms your entire body into a Transformers-style robot in the game, translating your punches and kicks into building-levelling virtual smashes.

It’s great that some of these kits can take two hours to build, that’s on the order of some of the more difficult Lego sets. Although, the Switch’s battery might be very low after getting through construction.

The video ad also includes some projects that Nintendo hasn’t talked about yet, like a camera, maybe those will be in future sets.

I’m pretty psyched for these kits, but it’s going to be a few years before my son is ready for playing with the finished projects.

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch) Review

Odyssey

1996’s Super Mario 64 was the first, and the last, 3D Mario game I completed before playing Super Mario Odyssey. 21 years separate these games but they are inexorably linked. I will never forget the first time I saw Mario 64 in motion on a Nintendo 64 kiosk at a major league baseball fan appreciation day. It was an unbelievable triumph of translating the 2D Mario games into a 3D world, even for someone who was in the process of turning into a jaded teenager,

Super Mario Odyssey is a complete continuation, and improvement, on that same exuberant, fun, platforming that impressed everyone, even that horrible teenager, in 1996.

It isn’t perfect, but there are very few meaningful caveats in recommending Odyssey.

The first issue is that while the story is told in fun cutscenes that don’t wear out their welcome, it is just a slight variation on the same tired plot that Bowser has captured Princess Peach, again.

This time Bowser wants to force Peach to marry him, and he has a crew of unlikable rabbits (the Broodals) working as his wedding planners. They’re the mini-bosses scouring every kingdom on the planet for flowers and everything else Bowser wants at the wedding with Peach. Mario has to stop the wedding with his new friend in Cappy, your living hat guy from a kingdom of living hat people. Cappy ends up replacing Mario’s iconic hat, and most of the ranged attacks that Mario would otherwise acquire via pick-ups. When Mario launches Cappy he’ll possess any enemies that aren’t wearing hats (and the occasional bystander frog) in the kingdoms that they travel to.

Mario and Cappy travel onboard a cap-shaped flying machine, the titular Odyssey. It acts like a flying RV on their journey to each kingdom where they will try and cut off Bowser’s minions before they can get everything ready for the wedding.

The Odyssey is powered by collectibles, moons, they’re hidden in each kingdom just like the stars were in Mario 64, except there are hundreds of the moons scattered everywhere. Just like in Mario 64 It’s still a delight to find each moon. My almost-2-year-old son absolutely loves the music and animation that plays each time Mario collects one. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it, but that reaction epitomizes the Super Mario Odyssey experience. It’s almost all fun, mostly all of the time. You’ll only need a very few per-kingdom to move on but I constantly found myself collecting “just one more,” and before I knew it I had collected dozens to hand in to the Odyssey.

Mario is still on the hunt for coins, of course. Each kingdom that Mario and Cappy visit also has a purple currency specific to it. The inverted pyramid desert level has inverted purple pyramid tokens, for example. You can spend these at the shop in each kingdom and get new costumes, gear to decorate the Odyssey inside and out, and some power-ups. All of the costumes are charming and wonderful like the old Doctor Mario outfit, or more appropriate for the kingdom you’re in like the sombrero and poncho outfit pieces. In each world one of the costumes will unlock a special area with at least one moon, but you can also skip the stores if you’re not interested in Mario Teaches Capitalism Jr. It’s 2017 so I should say there are no loot boxes, premium currencies, DLC, or anything with real money besides purchasing the game.

The worst problem for Odyssey is that the motion controls are abysmal. You have to wiggle the controllers in a circle to get your cap to spin in a circle and slam into every enemy around Mario when he’s surrounded, or just aggressively shake them to get Cappy to home-in on a slightly distant target after launching it.

It’d be different if the controllers that come with the system, the Joy-Cons, weren’t attached to the sides of the Switch while you’re playing in handheld mode. But they  are, and it definitely doesn’t feel like you should be shaking the entire system. There is a work-around for the motion controls most of the time. You can spin the left analog stick in a circle, before launching Cappy, to get that spin attack without shaking your system. This takes a bit longer to perform the action but it still gets it done and is more reliable than the motion controls. Although the homing action is only necessary for some of the more advanced platforming areas, there isn’t any work-around for it that I’ve found.

This is one of the few games that also rewards exploration to the extreme. Launching Cappy enables Mario to perform a series of dives and jumps that can be used to ascend to places he wouldn’t normally be able to get to. I’m not that great at doing this, but if you are then you will find that Nintendo stocks all of these off-the-beaten-path areas with coins. The harder it is to get somewhere the more coins you’ll find, and it’s absolutely great that they do this.

More minor explorational feats are rewarded with moons, but you always feel smart just for finding one by instinct, even if it is really just good game design that lead you there.

Most of the kingdoms Mario and Cappy visit are terrifically designed, a few are bizarrely unexpected in a Mario game, and New Donk City ended up being my favorite. It’s very strange seeing Mario interact with a city of humans that look very different from his bizarro adult toddler form, but that level also goes places that I absolutely didn’t expect. There are things in many of these kingdoms that I wish I hadn’t known about going into them, because they’re so incredible and unexpected that I felt like the surprise was spoiled. I’ll say that even after rescuing Peach there is still more to do in the game, and I definitely have spent more time with it, and leave it at that.

I don’t feel like anyone else could have made Odyssey, there just hasn’t been another 3D platforming game that achieves half of what Odyssey does in the 21 years since Super Mario 64 was released. Almost every kingdom has unique enemies to possess and delightful puzzles to complete. I’m not the first person to say it, but, each kingdom feels like it could be the basis for an entire game that another developer would make and drive the mechanic into the ground before the game is finished. Super Mario Odyssey is a wonderful adventure that really made me happy to have the Switch. As a parent it was a fun game I could share with my son around. As an adult human in 2017 Odyssey is some fantastic sunlight brightening up a terrible year.

5 out of 5 musical Marios for Super Mario Odyssey

Mario Odyssey Reviews Out, Game Available Tomorrow

The reviews are almost universally positive. Here is Dan Ryckert’s:

Make no mistake about it, Super Mario Odyssey is a weird game. It’s wrapped around a concept featuring sentient hats, enemy possession, and Bowser making wedding preparations, but actually playing the game feels very familiar. Gone are the polarizing FLUDD from Super Mario Sunshine and the gravity-warping planetoids from the Galaxy games. While Mario may be able to occupy the bodies of numerous baddies and inanimate objects this time around, the experience feels more like Super Mario 64 than any of his other adventures.

The only downside is the motion controls. Chris Scullion talking about them in his review:

One thing that may irk some players is that Super Mario Odyssey tries its very best to make you use motion controls. Every time you start the game you get a splash screen suggesting you try it out because it offers extra moves.

Don’t worry: in reality, you don’t need to play with motion controls. There are three major moves that the game claims can only be performed with motion: throwing Cappy straight up into the air, throwing him down to roll him along the ground, and a spin attack.

Scullion also has a video guide for pulling off that spin attack move without using motion controls.

Super Mario Odyssey is available tomorrow for $60 on the Nintendo Switch.

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp in Late November

Nintendo’s iOS and Android adventures continue late next month with Animal Crossing Pocket Camp.

I love Animal Crossing in general, it’ll be interesting to see if Pocket Camp really gives us a good experience but it looks pretty limited and full of traditional mobile game shenanigans.

There’s a shorter version of the above video at this link. Nintendo has a site to get notified when the game is out here.

The game is limited, because you’re just decorating a campsite and a camping van instead of a multi-story home and village. There’s “crafting” but it looks like just another type of in-game thing to collect and trade for furniture in addition to bells.

The animal characters are more likely to visit if you have the furniture they like best, and your character travels around to different areas trading goods and making new friends.

The shenanigans are countdown timers and in-app purchases for “leaf tickets” that act as a wildcard when you don’t have the right crafting materials, or to speed up those timers.

 

Super NES Classic Edition Stuff

SNES Box image via Nintendo

The Super NES Classic Edition is out for $80, Chris Scullion has a review of the Brit version which looks a little different externally and in the menu, but is functionally identical, to the US version:

The only main problem I have with the SNES Mini is how important the Reset button on the console is. Any time you want to change a game, save your state, load a state or rewind you have press the physical Reset button on the SNES Mini.

[…]

A button combo would’ve been a better way of doing this. It could be a complex one to avoid accidental restarts: most Game Boy games back in the day could be reset by pressing A + B + Start + Select, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t have been possible here.

That niggle aside, I’m happy with the way each game is handled here. They look great – even though it only outputs at 720p, on my 4K TV they still look crisp – they sound great, and they play great.

I think it is odd that in some places Nintendo have decided to straight out call it a “mini,” as Chris’ box shows:

Well at least we get our more hideous miniaturized console with buttons that lack colour.

Eurogamer’s John Linneman confirms that the tech inside is exactly the same as the NES Classic Edition:

The fact that the SNES mini runs on the same hardware as its predecessor has a number of implications. Among them, we can expect hackers to be looking to exploit the system in short order to add new games – exactly what happened with the NES mini. And secondly, the use of what is essentially the same technology makes it much easier for Nintendo to resume NES mini production.

The only game exclusive to the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is Star Fox 2, Christian Donlan has a review:

Star Fox 2 is an unusual game, an astonishingly inventive sequel that built on the combat and visual thrills of the first Star Fox but wasn’t afraid to experiment with the structure. Rather than starting you at one end of a space map and asking you to pick your route to the far side, choosing from missions that can eventually be all but committed to memory through sheer repetition, you’re suddenly protecting Corneria, your home world, from an ongoing attack from big villain Andross and the attack pretty much plays out in real time. Andross builds bases on nearby planets, and he has cruisers headed for you and IPBMs launching every few minutes. Your job is still to get across the map to take out Andross directly, but you have to respond to other things as they happen. Those cruisers! Those missiles! These are all problems that compete for your time and there’s a panicky thrill in knowing that if you head for a planet to take on an entrenched baddy, there will be missiles still snaking through space towards Corneria, launched from other points. Throughout this wonderfully breathless game, you are asked to think on the fly, and to dash headlong between danger zones, constantly prioritising threats.

The hackers are working on updating hakchi2 for the SNES Classic Edition so that you can load your own ROMs on to the system. Legally backed-up from your own cartridges or downloaded and deleted within 24 hours, of course.

I’m waiting for delivery of SNES Mini now, it will be delivered tomorrow. Seems like hakchi and hakchi2 will require some minor changes to work with SNES Mini. So please wait little more.

They might also be able to fix it so we don’t need to get off the couch to reset the console and access save states. Here’s hoping.

But if you’re going to go that far you almost might as well just listen to Seth Macy with his hilarious article titled “Why Spend $80 on an SNES Classic When You Can Install Emulators on a Raspberry Pi and Never Shut the Fuck Up About It?”:

Nintendo’s highly coveted SNES Classic Mini system comes out today and is certain to be a hot item. A word of advice to gamers who aren’t able to land an SNES Classic: did you know you can just buy a Raspberry Pi and remind people at every opportunity how much fucking better you are for it?

After the NES Classic Edition was announced and became immediately  impossible to find I attempted to do exactly what Macy is joking about by setting up a Raspberry Pi with emulators and it is indeed still a pain in the ass. It’s great that these classic NES and SNES consoles have embedded Linux at their core, but Nintendo have done so much work to obscure that core from their users and make things easy.

That hard work is exactly what has always been missing from any Linux distribution on a single board computer like the Raspberry Pi or desktops and laptops. I have the patience to use this software and fix it when it breaks but this is never as easy as using a Classic Edition. Hopefully Nintendo lives up to their promise and produces enough to go around.

Nintendo Promises More Stock of Classic Editions

SNES Box image via Nintendo

Nintendo put out a press release announcing that they would both manufacture more NES Classic Editions this coming summer, 2018, as well as making more Super NES Classic Editions available at launch on September 29th than they had shipped of the NES CE all last year.

It’s good that Nintendo are finally going to potentially thwart some people who are taking advantage of shortages, but this commitment should have happened a long time ago.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is Another Surprise

Ubisoft has developed XCOM: Baby Mode with a Nintendo license for the Switch called Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. It reminds me of my favorite JRPG, Super Mario RPG, because both games were developed by third-parties using a Mario license to get a genre of games out to more people than would normally try them. With Super Mario RPG, that was the JRPG, with Mario + Rabbids, it’s the turn-based strategy from old DOS games brought to life again but this time Mario has a gun for some reason.

Chris Scullion reviewed it:

…the game’s still funny thanks to the character animations. From the way Rabbid Mario poses like he thinks he’s God’s gift to hares, to the way Rabbid Peach takes selfies of herself while one particular boss plummets to its doom (as Luigi looks on disturbed), the cutscenes and animations constantly had me chuckling in ways the dialogue never threatened to.

Ultimately, despite the exploration sections and the writing being slightly underwhelming, the main meat of Mario + Rabbids remains the turn-based combat sections so it’s a good job this is where the game truly shines.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is out now on the Nintendo Switch.

SNES Classic Edition Announced with Star Fox 2; Out September 29th in US for $80

Rumors have been pretty clear that Nintendo would announce a Super Nintendo Classic Edition as a successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition, and it turns out that the reports were true. The SNES Classic Edition will be available at the end of September on the 29th for $80, $20 more than the NES Classic Edition. It’ll have 21 games built-in total, 9 fewer than the NES Classic Edition.

Just like the NES Classic Edition, the SNES Classic Edition will hook up via HDMI, and won’t support cartridges or any other official method of loading new games onto the system. This time Nintendo are including two controllers and one of the games on the system will be the previously unavailable Star Fox 2. Although Star Fox 2 was never released, some footage was available and some versions of the ROM leaked, but this will be the first legitimate release of the game. There’s an old interview on Arwing Landing with Dylan Cuthbert who worked on both Star Fox 1 & where he discusses why the game was never released:

Starfox 2 was fully completed. I was lead programmer and whilst Giles made Stunt Race FX, myself and the rest of the original Starfox team (ie. Nintendo’s artists and designers) expanded Starfox into a full 3D shooting game. We used state-of-the-art technology such as arbitrary plane clipping (which has only been seen recently in such games as Crash Bandicoot 2 & 3) to create some rather spectacular effects. (for the time)

The reason for non-release was the then impending Nintendo-64 which of course was intended to be released a lot sooner than it actually was. Miyamoto-san decided he wanted to have a clean break between 3D games on the SNES and 3D games on the new superior 64 bit system. In retrospect, he could have released Star Fox 2 and there would have been over a year and a half before the N64 came out. But hindsight is always 20/20.

Starfox 64 incorporated a lot of the newer ideas we created in Starfox 2 but it didn’t, in my view, take the genre a full step forward. Starfox 2 really was a different direction of gameplay.

Here’s the full list of games that’ll be in the SNES Classic Edition:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter® II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Yoshi’s Island

This collection looks great to me, Super Mario RPG is still my favorite RPG, but just as I said when the NES Classic Edition was announced you could buy a Raspberry Pi for $36 today. Load up that Pi with all kinds of emulators and use whatever controllers you want. Which feels even more reasonable when Nintendo plans on ending SNES Classic Edition manufacturing at the end of the year, which will probably make it just as difficult as it was to get an NES Classic Edition when that was discontinued.

 

Metroid: Samus Returns on September 15th

You wouldn’t have been wrong to think that Nintendo doesn’t care much about Metroid when it gets largely ignored by Nintendo, until today. Nintendo has a fresh team developing a new game in the Metroid Prime series and this 3DS remake of the Game Boy’s Metroid II: Return of Samus due on September 15th.

Very surprising to see Nintendo’s commitment to the 3DS platform continue. Here’s a longer video with Nintendo revealing the game on their Treehouse stream, interviewing the developers, and showing off about 40 minutes of gameplay:

Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017 Notes

Nintendo is here to finally tell us the backstory about Walugi and Wario. Are they really just old versions of Mario and Luigi that got really shitty?

Nevermind, Reggie has been hiding in our apartment to jump out and tell us about games.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xenoblade Chronicles is getting a sequel and it’ll be out for the Switch later this year. The voice acting is real strange in this trailer.

Kirby

Kirby is still Kirby as heck. He’ll be out on the Switch in this sidescroller next year.

Pokemon coming to the Switch

Nintendo paused the trailer storm to let us know that Game Freak is working on a “core Pokemon” game for the Nintendo Switch. No release date but it probably won’t be out for over a year.

Metroid Prime 4

Speaking of games that are in development and don’t have anything to show. Metroid Prime 4 is being developed by a different team, not Retro. I’m pretty excited to hear that, I just got the Prime Trilogy set for the Wii and am looking forward to exploring some good Metroid-ass Metroid games.

Yoshi

Everyone’s friend that they don’t mind dropping into a pit at the end of a Mario level is back to scroll sideways some more. He’ll be on the Switch in 2018.

Fire Emblem Warriors

Where the hell is Advance Wars? This anime bullshit will be out on the Switch this Fall.

Skyrim for the Switch, Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC

Eiji Aonuma showed up to remind us that Skyrim will be on the Switch with Link’s gear and then to start the trailer for Breath of the Wild’s upcoming DLC:

The Master Trials are coming out June 30th, and The Champions’ Ballad will be out late this year. I’m playing through BOTW on the Wii U and loving it.

Aonuma returned to tell us about more Amiibo coming out based on the champions in Breath of the Wild.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Why the hell does Mario have a gun? I am kind of surprised at how good this strategic and very weird Mario crossover looks. Even if the Rabbid characters are insufferable, it isn’t the kind of game you’d expect. It’ll be out on August 29th for the Switch.

Rocket League

Handheld Rocket League sounds like fun, and it’ll be cross-networked with the Xbox and Steam versions. It’ll be kind of interesting to see platform-exclusive customization items like the Mario hat in this trailer, if they’re displayed on other platforms.

Rocket League will be out on the Switch late this year.

Super Mario Odyssey

Mario‘s Hat being alive is kind of disturbing if you think about it too much, especially when Mario is using it to possess everything in this game including PEOPLE in New Donk City. You can inflict horrors upon the many kingdoms on October 27th if you have a Switch.

Overall

I kind of miss the spectacle of a stage show and seeing people speak live  when this entire video is just pre-recorded and made available online. It’s good that Nintendo is putting out games with a perspective and style that you might expect from their 3DS handheld on the Switch, like Yoshi, and I don’t think they have entirely abandoned the 3DS either, which is good because I recently traded my old 3DS in for a New 3DS and don’t have a Switch yet.

Of course, I’m sure anyone with a Switch who didn’t have a Wii-U is ready for something big to play that isn’t Zelda, it looks like they won’t have long to wait.