Articles

A touchy subject

Today I did something I never thought I’d need to – I went to GAME to buy a fucking stylus. Now, I’m fully aware that gamers must lose styluses (or is that styli?) on their DS and 3DS consoles all the time, but I never thought I’d lose the Wii-U one. It’s a home console after all and it never leaves the living room. Therefore, the stylus that came with the Gamepad should be near the television, under a sofa or most probably, in the hoover. It’s not as if I’d use it to stir a cup of tea in the kitchen, or pick the shit out of my toenails in the bathroom. But alas, it’s been absent for a while now. I’ll admit that I didn’t drive to GAME just for a replacement stylus – I was nearby anyway, but it was a strangely embarrassing purchase for a grown man to make. I didn’t buy anything else, although I’m kicking myself for not grabbing Hitman: Absolution at 99p. That’s less than ONE stylus.  

As a left-handed gamer, this isn't how Pikmin 3 is played...

 

I’d been getting along just fine, tapping away at Pikmin 3 with one finger, like E.T. working a Morse Code machine, but it highlights a simple flaw in the Gamepad design. The Gamepad is a technical marvel, yet my three-year old daughter’s LeapPad has a key advantage to my fancy Nintendo - a stylus that is attached to the tablet controller. Such a simple mechanic that means toddlers will never lose the stylus unless they cut through the cord with a circular saw. It beggars belief that Nintendo have overlooked this feature, unless it is another money-making scheme (3DS XL charger, I'm looking at you, or rather I'm not…). Yet, my visit to GAME showed that Nintendo don’t seem to sell first-party styluses. What I was left to purchase was a £2.99 pack of three which probably cost all of 10p to make. There’s one normal stylus, which slides in to the Gamepad as natural as the original does, but the other two styluses are curious buggers.

After an unfortunate incident with his Gamepad following the consumption of a KFC Variety Bucket and a family pack of Wotsits, Barry ensured he never lost his stylus again.


There is a second stylus in this pack of three that is twice the size of the standard one that fits in to the Wii-U Gamepad, but inexplicably contains a hole in one end. It’s too big to put it on your keys, and the hole is too small to be of use for anything other than a flea’s Fleshlight. In fact, the only thing it could be for is to house a piece of string to tie the stylus to the Gamepad. The third stylus is crazier still, designed as a replica pen, despite being as inkless as Sterile Steve from Splatoon. It even has a clip so that you can wear it on your shirt to work, only to serve as further disappointment when your real pen stops working in an important meeting.

Sat here with stylus in hand (and stylus 3 on shirt) I'm happily throwing Pikmin once again, but next time I lose a stylus I may have to give Doc McStuffin’s latest effort a chance instead. 

I'm glad Mario Kart killed F-Zero

by Grant Jones

F-Zero is probably the most hardcore series Nintendo has; one that happily ticks off the prerequisites needed to throw up unrelenting racing for adrenaline junkies on each system it graces. Brutal difficulty curves, intensely heavy soundtracks and a sci-fi setting all lend Captain Falcon and his unsightly chums a level of superiority over lesser racers. For us fans that endured F-Zero GX’s lenient speed camera policy and suffered mild epilepsy as a result of the trippy 60 frames-per-seconds flashing from a fat 20” TV back in 2004, have we really missed F-Zero as much as we think?

                                                                               "I think I'll deal please, Noel."

                                                                               "I think I'll deal please, Noel."

It was brutal. When you fell off the course you weren’t met with instant confirmation of your failings as a futuristic Lewis Hamilton – you had to wait, watching your ship plummet in to a densely populated urban area. Even then, when it was clear that your character was clearly dead, you were told “Retire”, rather than “Game Over” or “Continue?”. “Retire? You’re saying that my shattered remains and decimated ship should retire from the race?” It was this added lack of empathy for the player that treats you as its bitch rather than a player, that gives F-Zero its hardcore credibility the most. Recently, we’re reminded of this nasty side to Nintendo, by Luigi’s death stare, the common culprit of many an argument - the blue shell, or my personal nemesis that is the cheating AI. Mario Kart 8 knows when to be a right prick – usually just as you look to acquire your fourth 1st place finish on 150cc to get the gold trophy and three shiny stars, it’s snatched away from you on the last corner of the last race.

                             After years of bullying, Snoutface took his repressed anger out on children's sandcastles.

                             After years of bullying, Snoutface took his repressed anger out on children's sandcastles.

F-Zero, as a series, has a place on either of Nintendo’s home or handheld consoles, but deserves to be more than another dazzling, space racer. I’d love to explore the world of F-Zero and get to know the inhabitants – particularly the local council that approved floating death races. Or how about a racing RPG, akin to TOCA Race Driver? Driving RPGs are rare and while car games such as Forza help replicate the sense of achievement and progression as you gradually obtain better cars, it’s never that fun. Perhaps a Metroidvania style game, whereby new upgrades to your vehicle allow you to access new areas or engage in new races? Or high-charged, weaponised death matches reminiscent of Vigilante 8 and Twisted Metal, albeit with 30 competitors and manic gravity-defying levels? There’s so much potential within the F-Zero universe beyond the bog-standard racing. More importantly, an F-Zero racing game in 2015 is near enough redundant thanks to the aforementioned Mario Kart 8. Here’s why:

1.       Ever since Double Dash on the Gamecube helped introduce 2+ lanes on to our roads (hey, they appeared around 2005, it’s no coincidence), Mario Kart has had a gimmick to help justify the existence of a new entry in the series. The Wii had motorbikes, 7 had flying and underwater sections, and Mario Kart 8’s gimmick is the ability to race up walls and upside down, something fellow (and equally dead) racing series Wave Race and 1080 can’t really utilise. This was an F-Zero ‘thing’ until now.

2.       The arrival of DLC. Nintendo can now sell F-Zero levels to fans of the franchise, allowing them to race upside down in Mute City, while controlling a character they actually care about (Toad excluded). Racing as Bowser through Mute City, in a Mercedes? We don’t realise how lucky we truly are.

3.       The introduction of 200cc. This uber-fast new mode is the final nail in F-Zero’s coffin, proving that the levels in Mario Kart 8 have been carefully designed so that they can still be navigated at ridiculous speeds.

4.       It’s only a matter of time before full blown F-Zero DLC is released, with Captain Falcon and his blue ship available to throw shells and bananas at. And yes, he can still slip on bananas despite actually floating above the surface of the road – else how would grit and ice affect him?

The only area that Mario Kart 8 hasn’t superseded F-Zero in is the Battle Mode. Nintendo could easily shoehorn in a Death Race mode (name may need a change – suggestions welcome!) – Rainbow Road is perfect for this, although 30 racers may be stretching the limitations of the Wii-U. If there was DLC for Mario Kart such as this, it could help extend the life of a game that’s already heralded as the best Mario Kart ever, and be used to milk fans later in the Wii-U’s life.

Mario Kart 8: Game of the Year Edition anybody?