Article 005: Nintendo 3DS Redesign rumors

A mock-up of a possible 3DS redesign
Ever since the french videogame website 01net published a news leak about seven months ago about a 3DS redesign, people have been speculating on what such a redesign would be like. The original article says, among other things, that the revamped portable would downplay the 3D, and include a second circle pad. This article purports to include information given to the website by an employee of nintendo.

Things have quieted down until a recent post on IGN with some great ideas about what the revamped 3DS would be like. I for one think this image is spot on, except for the removable street pass. Let's run through some of the ideas circulating about the alleged 3DS redesign.

The redesign will happen: Talk to a lot of gamers out there, and half will tell you that the idea of a redesigned 3DS is stupid, and half will tell you that it is obvious. However, I have to side with the latter group, considering that every Nintendo handheld has had some sort of redesign/revision over the years, and I would suspect that the 3DS is no different. The real question is how drastic would it be?
The current 3DS design. 
The redesign will include longer battery life: Let's face it, battery life is definitely a big gripe for 3DS owners. However, considering the reality of things, beefing up the graphics and processor will also beef up battery consumption. The PSVita is no different it its battery life, and I'd bet if you played an advanced game on an iPad or iPod, you would see similar battery drains. Nevertheless, battery technology is always advancing, and Nintendo could indeed add an hour or two to the battery of the redesigned 3DS.

The redesign will have a bigger screen: This is plausible, but totally uncertain. I for one would like a bigger screen, but you can't always get what you want. A bigger screen will also drain more battery (see above), and this could lead to other complaints.

The redesign will include a second circle pad: I think this is very plausible. The circle pad pro kind of makes the case that a second circle pad is needed, in at least some situations. There are suggestions that the next version of Smash Bros will be playable on both the Wii U, and the 3DS, and given that the Wii U has two circle pads, the 3DS would have to have them as well, unless the circle pad pro will be required for this game. Speaking of the circle pad pro, it also includes additional trigger buttons, so would those be needed for the redesign? Who knows. However, perhaps an included accessory that gives you better grip and additional trigger buttons will be included with the redesigned version of the 3DS. Building extra trigger buttons into the new 3DS would definitely add bulk to it, and limit its portability.

The redesign will update the home/select/start buttons: I would say this update is necessary. These buttons are arguably terrible. They are hard to press, and don't feel right, so new buttons that feel more like, well, buttons would be greatly appreciated.

The redesign may include a name change: The original 01net post suggests that the name of the redesign may include a name change. And the name change could downplay the 3D. When I first heard the name 3DS, I thought it was brilliant. It was a nice way of combining 3D with DS, and sounded clever at the time. However, I can also see now how the name could have confused people. Many people didn't realize that it was a completely new system. What with all the revisions of the DS, it isn't surprising. We had DS, DS lite, DSxl, DSi, it isn't terribly surprising to think that some people may have been confused as to whether the 3DS was a completely new system or just an incremental revision. However, if Nintendo are throwing out what could be viewed as a clever name, what would they replace it with? What name carries as much or more cache with Nintendo fans than the DS? What name is more synonymous with handheld gaming than DS? How about "Gameboy"? Is it possible that Nintendo is considering bringing back the Gameboy brand to this redesigned system? It could for example be called the "Gameboy Pro" or perhaps the "Super Gameboy". This is of course pure speculation, but no other name would carry as much weight for reviving a handheld game system franchise as the "Gameboy" brand name.

Thanks for reading,
Doctor X and the JoystickRobot

Article 004: Nintendo adds more enhancements to Wii U development kits to entice developers

Nintendo relied on innovative game play with its current game system, the Wii, and it worked. Nintendo captured the market and sold more systems that practically both of the main competitors combined--and made a profit from day one. But now, the generation of the Wii is coming to a close, and Nintendo is intensely working on their next system.

Greetings game fans, Doctor X here. The JoystickRobot and I have come across some interesting news regarding the latest Wii U and the efforts Nintendo is undertaking to make sure that they win the next generation.

Nintendo could be facing some stiff competition with its next generation home console, the Wii U. As we reported previously, many other companies, including Apple, will have products that will directly compete with Nintendo's next generation system. As such, Nintendo is pulling all the stops to make sure that the Wii U is successful.

However, two clear things stand out when comparing the iPad and the Wii U's gaming possibilities. One is that the Wii U will almost definitely be much cheaper, with estimates that it will be as low as $250-$299 on release date. The other key point is that the Wii U will have buttons. Shoulder buttons, analog circle pads or joysticks, d-pads and standard buttons in addition to the usual touch screen buttons. This will almost certainly allow for more diverse game play on the Wii U. Nintendo also will have some great exclusive intellectual property of its own.

Nintendo is making great efforts to bring in more developers to its system. It has been recently announced that the Havok physics engine will come as part of the Wii U dev kit for developers to integrate more advanced physics into their games. Also, Autodesk Gameware has been licensed for the Wii U, which will allow for more detailed character creation. In the end, these tools will allow 3rd party developers to create more realistic HD games for the new system.
Will all this be enough? Time will tell. However, I have learned over many years to never bet against a certain mustachioed plumber. Thanks for reading.

Doctor X and the JoystickRobot

Article 003: Wii U Rumor Roundup

Greetings, Friends! Doctor X here. I have now interfaced JR (the "JoystickRobot") into an internet main-frame, programmed to extract and compile all the latest and most credible scoops on the upcoming "Wii U" system. This is an amalgamation of this info, but at this point, nothing is certain until launch, so keep in mind that much of this is still falsifiable.

 Overall, it is looking more and more that the Wii U is turning into an all-purpose device. With the versatility of the touchscreen controller, and the fact that it is hooked up to your TV, the possibilities are endless. Lets go one-by-one through the latest scoops:

The Wii U will be multi-functional: This is old news. The first announcement at E3 showed the Wii U as a drawing device, video chat device, and of course play video games.
Drawing directly on the controller. Old news, but still cool. 
 The Wii U will be an e-reader: Rumor has it, that the Wii U will be able to download books, magazines and comic books and the like, viewable on either the tablet-style controller or possibly the TV itself. This makes total sense, especially given the back catalog of old Nintendo Power magazines that Nintendo has control over. Plus, all the video game guide books for all the countless games that will be sold through the system. It would make sense for the distribution of e-comic books on the system too, given the probably substantial overlap between comic book readers and game players. There is probably room for general books to be sold through the system. Why not? The demographics for the Wii is broad and deep, so the audience is diverse. Perhaps Nintendo can score a similarly broad audience for the Wii U and get solid distribution deals for a similarly broad assortment of magazines and books.
Wii U an e-book reader? Image from SlashGear
The Wii U will be have tons of TV shows, movies, and other videos: Rumor has it, Nintendo has been seeking distribution deals with many content providers. Other rumors suggest that the Wii U will plug directly into your cable outlet (and TV) and work as a cable distribution system. Now, couple that news with the fact that Nintendo announced the end of their current Video service, and then turned around and purchased video codec company Mobiclip (From Cubed3 translated from inside-games). Mobiclip has expertise in creating video players for various mobile devices. Moreover, it is well known that the Wii already has Netflix and Hulu Plus apps, and Wii U almost certainly will too. Combine this all together, and it seems like the Wii U will be a powerful video system, serving up all kinds of TV shows, movies, and video content.

The Wii U will feature a true app store: Rumor has it, Nintendo is planning to launch with a full fledged app store. This could mean that it will allow you to play some of the more basic games like Angry Birds with the tablet style controller in between power-sessions of an HD Zelda game. Others say that Nintendo has approached various iOS app developers. So you could probably imagine that this system will have a Facebook app, Youtube app, Yelp app etc. The possibilities are endless. The combination of tablet controller and TV connection will give a new twist to the usual app. The rumored plan is that Nintendo will keeps the apps simple, and has high standards of quality.

The Wii U will feature NFC functionality: Nintendo is reporting that the Wii U will feature "near field communication" that will allow it to interact with game cards and figurines. It is kind of hard to imagine how this will work, but probably something similar to the new 3DS game Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. Only time will tell what Nintendo has in mind for this. Possibly, it could allow one to place their iPhone or Android smartphone on the Wii U controller, and buy games with the payment systems on the phone (like Google Wallet).

The Wii U may not be called the Wii U: Rumor has it, Nintendo is exploring other name possibilities for the new system. Now, this isn't terribly surprising, considering the Wii was introduced as the Revolution. So perhaps the "Wii U" was just the initial code name. Given the above numerous possibilities for the system, it isn't terribly surprising that they would look to expand the image of the system. On the flip side, the name "Wii" is one of  the most successful brand names in video game history, so it will be tough to abandon it completely. To be honest, I was never big on the name "Wii U". It was always kind of a frustrating name to say for me. It is kind of an oxymoron, and still wasn't a great one. Either way, you know I will buy one on the first day it is available. I still think Nintendo can come up with a completely new, amazingly original, creative name.

All in all, the Wii U will do quite a bit. It will quite possibly be an all pupose set-top-box. However, this will put Nintendo in some stiff competition. Both the Playstation3 and the Xbox360 are big in this space (although they lack a touchscreen controller, which arguably adds more functionality). In addition, Apple has the Apple TV, which could interface with the iPad. That combination could do all that the Wii U could do and likely more, but at a much higher price. It turns out Google is getting in on the action, and has a set-top-box in the works as well. Images of this device cropped up weeks ago, and have since disapeared from the internet. In the end, competition is good for consumers. Hopefully Nintendo can pull all this together and give us an amazing system.

Thanks for reading!
Doctor X and the JoystickRobot

Article 002: Mario Kart 7 Review

Mario Kart 7 (MK7) is a great addition to the Mario Kart franchise. It features quite stunning graphics that rival that of the Wii, a back-to-basics control scheme, and a few very cool new features. The changes in game play are perhaps minimal, but at a great deal of strategy and fun.

Salutations! Doctor X here, bringing you another review for JoystickRobot. This time I am reviewing an addition to quite possibly my all time favorite Nintendo franchises: MarioKart. The JoystickRobot is excellent at playing MarioKart, and having spent many many hours playing on the DS and Wii it didn't take much for JoystickRobot to pick up MarioKart 7 for the 3DS.

The controls are very similar to that of MarioKart DS (MKDS). The main exception is the analog circle pad instead of the D-pad for the DS. Brakes, acceleration, drifting, and items pretty much work the same as with the DS (but lets face it who really uses the brakes, eh?). However the graphics and online play make a huge improvement over the DS version.

The graphics for MK7 are in my opinion, very good. Turn up the 3D to about halfway to see some amazing detail. Peripheral scenery is greatly improved over even the Wii version, as things like flowers and trees really "pop" with great 3D rendering. I genuinely think that the grapics on the 3DS version are better than the Wii, and the JoystickRobot and I have put in many hours into both.
Online play is well done, and very similar to Mario Kart Wii's (MKWii) online play in many respects. Remember the days with the DS? When playing online with MKDS you had to connect to the internet everytime you wanted to go online. Now with the 3DS, online connectiion is part of the built-in system, so that is much easier to engage in online play. The same is true of friend codes--you now specify your friend codes as part of the core 3DS system, making things a little easier to connect with friends for a match.

New additions to the game include the addition of hang gliding, under water driving, and customizable karts. Hang gliding is what you might expect, when you go over certain types of ramps or ledges, a hang glider shoots up out of the back of your kart and you can glide back down to the ground. This gliding mechanic makes good use of the analog controls for the game. It also plays out strategically as you can use mushrooms to boost up into the air to go further into the course. However there are certain restrictions to this that will send you back to the ground for going "out of bounds". Also red shells can now fly and will indeed take you or your opponent out if hit in mid glide. The underwater propeller is an interesting item that allows you to drive under water on certain courses, with little loss of speed. Retro-courses with water-related obstacles such as Daisy Cruiser and Koopa Troopa Beach are renewed with this new game play feature. Driving underwater adds new short-cut possibilities, and makes the courses more complex most of the time, and is overall a meaningful addition.
Underwater driving adds new strategic and short-cut possibilities.
Kart customization allows you to change the wheels and hang glider for a given kart, to alter things like speed, acceleration, weight, and handling. This is a pretty useful feature but could perhaps make it a little more difficult to scan through all the possible combinations to find the kart with the best acceleration, for example, since there are 3 degrees of freedom to tweak.

Another new change in this game is that some courses have "sections" instead of laps. The new version of Rainbow Road is actually kind of fun and less tiresome given that you never repeat any part of the track. Speaking of Rainbow Road, this course has always been one of my least favorite course, but I actually like the MK7 version! It features a moon that you land on and experience "weightlessness" on or at least a reduced weight giving rise to larger jumps. Best rainbow road yet!

Power-ups are as good as ever with MK7. Returning to the mix are the usual banana peels, triple banana peels, green shells, triple green shells, red shells, triple red shells, mushrooms, triple mushrooms,  gold mushrooms, stars, bloopers, bullet-bills, lightning bolts, and bob-ombs (I won't belabor my audience with an explanation of what these items do if you don't know, check out this page). Absent from the game are fake question-mark boxes, and ghosts. The loss of the fake question-mark boxes is a bit troubling strategically, since it was always fun to place them right above the real question-mark boxes, however given that since MKWii you can not block incoming shells with them, it isn't a total loss.

Other power-ups like Mega mushrooms and lightning clouds, which debuted for the MKWii, are not here either. However some new ones have hit the scene. The Super Leaf give the kart a tanooki tail, which allows you to block incoming shells, swat away banana peels on the track, and swipe away opponents that are close by. Actually, the Super Leaf is a pretty great item, and given that there has been a "Leaf Cup" in pretty much every Mario Kart game previous, it only makes sense that the Super Leaf is here to stay as a cool Mario Kart item.
 The tanooki tail obtained from the Super Leaf makes total sense
as a Mario Kart item.

The Fire Flower item allows players to shoot fireballs at opponents, in front and behind, and lasts for a finite time. Contrary to many reviews out there, the Fire Flower is not a new item, and was actual part of Mario Kart Double Dash for the GameCube. The Lucky 7 is a new item that is pretty rare, and pretty difficult to use effectively, but when you can use it effectively it is a great item. The Lucky 7 basically gives you seven items spinning around you. The downside is that they are spinning pretty quick and it is sometimes tough to time the use of them at the right moment. Another downside is that if someone runs into the bob-omb spinning around you, then both of you and all the six other items are goners. The Lucky 7 is nonetheless an interesting item and a cute play on the seven in name of the game MK7...which brings me to the name of the game.

Many people have probably wondered why this game is the first game to be numbered rather than take another name, or be named after the system it is on such as Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii. I actually think that the reason just might have to do with a redesign of the 3DS. There are a lot of rumblings about a redesigned 3DS, possibly with a new name that downplays the 3D functionality, and better distinguishes it from the DS. Calling the game Mario Kart 3DS could have further added to the confusion as to whether this game works in the yet-to-be-named redesigned handheld. Only time will tell.

Anyway, this review mainly focuses on Grand Prix play, and kind of leaves out the Battle mode. I have never been a huge fan of the battle mode, but when I played it I didn't see many differences from previous games. One more feature that is put back from last being seen in the original Mario Kart is the use of coins. Basically, the more coins you collect, you unlock further kart customization features. I didn't find this to be terribly different from revealing new karts based on how many races you have finished, so I don't consider this a big change.

Thanks for reading!
Doctor X and the JoystickRobot

Article 001: Super Mario 3D Land Review

Super Mario 3D Land (SM3DL) just might be a perfect combination of all Mario game predecessors. This game combines 3D graphics with linear, 2D-style game play for a really fun game. While this game is not as challenging as, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2, the special worlds do provide some very challenging levels (some diabolically challenging).

 Greetings! Doctor X here. This is my first review having enabled the JoystickRobot to play games on the 3DS. I am a little late to the party, because it took a little work to get Joystick Robot's fingers adjusted properly, and I will have to update the controls when the new circle pad pro is added, but alas. I'm happy to make my first review for SM3DL.

This game brings back some much loved power-ups from Super Mario Bros 3 (SMB3) such as Super Mushrooms,  Fire Flower, and Tanooki suit and also introduces some new power-ups such as Boomerang Mario and Propeller Box. Some of these power-ups were brought to Super Mario Galaxy, but they had a time limit and "disappeared" after a minute or so. Now with SM3DL you can keep the power-ups until you are hit by an enemy.

That's right. Unlike recent titles that use a power meter to indicate how many hits Mario can take, this game returns to the "old-school" Mario game play where one hit kills Mario. You use Super Mushrooms to turn Mario into "Super Mario" where one hit will turn you back into little Mario, and other power-ups will give you an additional hit (turning you into Super Mario). Although this system is very similar to early NES versions of Mario, those games had Mario turn into little Mario directly even after taking a hit as Fire Flower Mario. Boomerang Mario turns Mario into a boomerang wielding Koopa, much like the Boomerang Bros first seen in SMB3.

Tanooki Mario puts Mario in a Tanooki suit, equipped with a tail that can take out enemies with a spin, and the ability to glide slowly while holding down the A button. The gliding ability is especially useful when maneuvering through difficult 3D courses. Unlike SMB3, this game does not include the ability to fly. Also of note, through out the main game, Tanooki Mario does not turn into a statue (However, SPOILER ALERT: in the special worlds the Tanooki Mario does turn into a statue using the ground-pound controls.).
Boomerang Mario! A great new power-up.
 The Propeller Box power-up turns mario into a little box, the same size as the traditional question-mark boxes. Mario can have an additional power-up, such as the Tanooki Suit, while using the Propeller box. Basically the Propeller Box functions much like the Propeller suit from New Super Mario Bros on the DS, allowing Mario to boost into the air with the spin of a propeller on the top of the box. In the air, you get an additional spin before the box goes falling. Power-ups aren't the only "old school" Mario game feature that returns. The "run" button also returns. Going back to the original Super Mario Bros, where a B button allows you to run fast, with SM3DL you can run with the analogous Y or X button.

You may be wondering how this works with analog controls, since with Super Mario 64 (SM64) the analog stick was used to control running speed. Turns out it works pretty good and may even give a little more control in tight situations. SM3DL does feature a new attack move, the "roll" attack allows Mario to roll into enemies. The JoystickRobot found this move difficult to execute in practice, however, and with manual attempts I also found it difficult. Punching, seen first in SM64, is absent from this game. Other game mechanics like wall jumps are still there and as good as ever.

 This game is perhaps the first game to show how 3D can be used to enhance game play. There are levels, for example, where it is difficult to see whether a cloud or a box is in front of or behind another cloud or box, and in order to properly jump on it you will need to turn on the 3D slider. Levels that use such features are indicated with a flashing 3D icon appearing in the lower left. Other examples are 2D cardboard cut-outs of enemies and 1-up mushrooms that are difficult to distinguish from the real thing without 3D turned on. In general, I prefer the 3D set about half-way. There is no real need to crank it up all the way. I recommend you go out and pick up a copy of this game if you already have a 3DS and haven't already. This game is the first real must-have title for this system, and is a pretty good reason to pick up this system if you haven't already.

Thanks for reading,
Doctor X and the JoystickRobot