Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 5th March 2017.
Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Nintendo Switch, Wii U, £59.99)
IF you are launching a new console then you need a killer title — and Zelda has form on that front. The 19th incarnation in the series is the perfect way to show off your shiny new Nintendo Switch. It does more than enough to make you glad you forked out £279.99 because it shows the true power of the system and highlights some of the Switch’s special features.
Breath Of The Wild is epic. The open world is TWELVE times bigger than the one in Twilight Princess and the focus has changed to more of a survival style. You do still get to wander around the world of Hyrule but you need to think carefully about how you progress because the elements and your stamina can play a huge role in how the action unfolds.
The game kicks off with you waking up as Link after a 100-year sleep. A mystery voice starts you off on your journey but you are really on your own once you leave the cave. Breath Of The Wild is not a game that holds your hand — it’s up to you to find your way. The journey passes an old friend or two, but you will ultimately be fighting to save Hyrule from the forces of evil. The main story easily clocks in at over 50 hours with another 50 hours’ worth of play through dungeons, side quests and solving the mysteries. But fear not — Link’s friends will help you along the way. On top of that Link can use sheikah slate to scan the world and use runes to get different powers. The sheikah slate also taps into some the Switch’s cooler features — the motion controls in portable mode help you spin around the room to see the full world.
The game looks amazing whether you are in portable mode and when you have docked the Switch to your TV. You can see the grass moving and the moonlight shining on water is incredibly intense detail. In fact, the game has an almost magic quality at times but we had a pre-launch copy on pre-launch hardware. When we docked it to the TV we did have a few frame-rate issues, but don’t worry — by the time you charge your Switch up Nintendo’s opening-day patch should have done its business.
The soundtrack is typical outstanding Zelda fare and it really cranks the wow factor up at standout moments in the game. Breath Of The World is a worthy game for a new console. It would have been a hit if it had just been a game launch, but it is actually good enough to make you buy a Switch.
New Zelda Amiibos
NINTENDO have released five new Amiibos for you to use while playing your new Zelda game. There is Princess Zelda, two versions of Link — one in archer pose and one on horseback — and two of the new enemies, the goblin- like Bokoblin and the metal hulk that is the Guardian.
All five are available now, but you can still use other Zelda Amibos like Toon Link or 8-bit Link to unlock new goodies.
Metrico+ (PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS Vita, £5.79)
IT seems like every day there is an indie game making its way from other platforms to the Xbox One. And it has made for some really interesting gaming challenges. Metrico+ is the latest in a long line. It was developed by Dutch firm Digital Dreams and is a puzzle-platform with a striking art style. It seems like you are running through a maths text book.
The game actually started out on the PS Vita and fully embraced all the tech it had to play with — from the back touch pad to the ability to tilt and the camera. However, the jump to the consoles has meant those features are all gone but Metrico+ still has a delicate charm. There isn’t really a story. You have to make choices but you never feel you truly know why you’re there. But that just allows the puzzle side of the game to shine.
Metrico+ is set over six different worlds and you play as a male or female silhouette. You work your way through levels which are a mix of geometric shapes which you have to jump, run and shoot your way though. The developers call this “input morphing” as your movement affects the world around you so every step counts. As you progress you’ll unlock a steady number of new abilities. The core controls have been beefed up from the past versions which is just as well because, in the later levels, you have to pull off some really quick movements.
Metrico+ has a pleasing look. Each level has a different technical feel. It is clean and crisp and it’s a reminder that you don’t need super high- end 4K graphics to stand out from the crowd. Add in the perfect timing of the soundtrack — which really hits in when you pass a puzzle — helps to fuel that high-five feeling . . . especially if you have just spent 20 minutes trying to master a stage. The biggest issue with Metrico+ is the replayability. The first play-through will last a good few hours as levels take anything from 20 to 40 minutes to clear, but once you’ve seen the credits roll additional play-throughs will be a breeze. That said, there are a number of speed run challenges and collectables and they breathe some life back into things.
If you’re looking for a challenging puzzler that stays just the right side of hard then Metrico+ is a smart option. It looks stunning as well.
On The Download
IF you love a gaming challenge, then check out Dark Insight. It throws a light on tough tussles such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Nioh.
It is hosted by Cliff Goldsmith, Charles Turner, Jeremy Greer and Josh Crowe and has a real international feel as the guys hail from Britain, North America and New Zealand. The show is fast, friendly and welcoming with plenty of chat on a variety of topics in the video game world. Each topic can quickly grow as they delve into a particular game or genre. They have built a great community and pride themselves on attracting as many passionate listeners as possible. Find Dark Insight on iTunes or go to darkinsight.net.
Nintendo Switch – review originally featured in the Scottish Sun on Friday 3rd March 2017.
NINTENDO have gone from the jokers in the playing card park to the trailblazers in gaming technology. The Japanese firm raises the bar yet again today with the Switch – a HANDSOLE that combines handheld and home console gaming and with a pick-up-and-play freedom that will change the way we play forever. But while many will recognise Nintendo landmarks like the GameBoy and the Wii – the firm’s taxi company, an instant rice firm, a TV network and chain of LOVE HOTELS are less well known. As the firm’s Shinya Takahashi says:
“Nintendo is an entertainment company first and foremost.”
The story began 127 years ago with Fusajiro Yamauchi in Kyoto. He wanted Nintendo to become the biggest playing card company in the world and even had a deal with Disney to use their characters on cards. In the 1960s there was plenty of diversification. A food company created instant rice. A hotel chain catered for short “bonk-cations”. But toys started the revolution. An extending arm – the Ultra Hand – became the must-have toy for Christmas in 1966.
A decade later the electronic age was born as EVR racers turned arcades into fun palaces. Donkey Kong joined the arcade library in 1981. It was an instant smash and introduced the world to Jump Man. He would later change his name to Mario… and the rest is history. The first handheld Game and Watch sold a mind-blowing 43.4 million worldwide. It seemed there was no stopping Nintendo… until they launched the first home cartridge-based console, the Famicom. It had to be recalled after developing a fault and cost Nintendo $500,000 to sort.
Fast forward to 1985 and lessons were learned. The Nintendo Entertainment System – or NES to the cool kids – saw the brand rocket as the likes of Mario, Zelda and Metroid became instant cult heroes. In true bar-raising tradition, Nintendo had another masterstroke up their sleeves. In 1989 the GameBoy brought Tetris to the world – the Candy Crush of its day. Suddenly the focus was on in-game mechanics as Nintendo refined the gaming phenomenon. While other firms were trying to catch up, Nintendo was changing the rules.
The Virtual Boy in 1995 became the first 3D portable gaming system, but it was a flop and was binned a year later. However,on the games front, they produced Pokemon Red and Blue in Europe – and Red and Green in Japan. It sold a staggering 270 million worldwide. Nintendo hadn’t given up on the games console – the GameBoy evolved from a big grey brick to a small slimmer unit with a colour screen. Then it split into two screens and then went 3D.
At home, NES went to SNES to the N64 and GameCube before the Wii. Suddenly everyone and their granny had one thanks to its motion-based controls. The Wii U may not have hit those heights but it is still the first machine to let you play games while others watched TV in the room. It even had cues for the Switch. So how good is it? It is a well-built quality piece of kit that lets you play at home then, once you spot the fact that you have to go to work, you can just carry on playing on the bus. No saving and quitting needed. You can dock it to your TV, use it like a 6.2in tablet touchscreen or detach the Joy-con controllers. The Joy-con weighs just 50grams and is a mini wonder. The motion sensors are so good they will open the doors for game developers to invent new and interesting ways to play. The Joy-con option also paves the way for two-player action and multiplayer will be at the heart of the Switch’s success.
It is easy to set up – all you need is a WiFi connection. The games are mini SD-style cards. Simply insert them and you are good to go. There is no hanging around for them to load up. It keeps that smoothness when it is docked to the TV. The HD display is spectacular and you can use the Joy-con grip to make a larger controller. The console charges itself when docked and you get up to six hours’ playing time in portable mode. The Joy-con lasts around 20 hours when detached but they also charge when they are connected to the console.
The Switch is the new level for gaming even if it is slightly pricey at £279.99. Now it just needs a strong games library but, with the likes of Mario and Zelda in the bank, it shouldn’t be hard for Nintendo to do what others don’t.
ONCE the first shots were fired in the gaming revolution, the pace of change has been a technological phenomenon. Here, I chart the landmarks…
1970, MAGNAVOX ODYSSEY: The first commercial home video game console. It sold 350,000 units.
1972, ATARI PONG: It was not fancy and you could only play Table Tennis on the Tele-Games Machine but it was a huge success.
1980, PAC-MAN ARCADE: Toru Iwatani created Namco icon Pac-Man. Within 10 years it had eaten more than $2.5 billion in loose change and brought gaming to pubs and chippies at 10p a go.
1989, GAMEBOY: The benchmark for hand-held gaming. Had a vast library of games and a bomb-proof build quality.
2002, XBOX: The first home console to give online gaming… alright, yes, others had the feature before, but it wasn’t until the release of Halo 2 that playing with or against your friends on the other side of the planet exploded. [Knew we couldn’t get through the week without a Halo reference! – Matt]
2006, NINTENDO Wii: No other console to date has had such an impact on gaming. The motion controllers got gamers off their bums and jumping up and down and waving their arms around.
2016, PS VR: Virtual Reality was the talk of sci-fi movies but last year Sony brought it to your living room with the PS VR headset. Not cheap but, if you got one, you were immersed into a virtual world of wonder.
THE FUTURE: The Nintendo Switch’s dual play modes are the next game-changer… until November. Then Microsoft are due to take the wraps off the most powerful games console ever made. It is codenamed Project Scorpio. And it’s just in time for Christmas.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…