Author Archives: lewispackwood

About lewispackwood

The first game that Lewis ever played was "Horace Goes Skiing" on the ZX Spectrum. Yes, he's that old.

My Fire Emblem amiibo set is complete

IMG_2607Good news everyone! With the arrival of Robin and Lucina, my set of Fire Emblem amiibos is complete! At least until they decide to release any more Fire Emblem-themed amiibos, that is.

Lucina, of course, is one of the main characters in the recent Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS, whereas Robin is the player’s character in that very same game – and until Super Smash Brothers for Wii U came out, I had no idea he/she had a name (you usually give the character a moniker at the start of the game). The amiibo is of the male version of the character – although Ms D thought he was a woman. I suppose he is a bit androgynous…

IMG_2610As with the other Fire Emblem amiibos, I’m impressed with the level of detail on these figures – they really look great. Even Ms D admitted that they look pretty cool, even though she’s slightly concerned that tiny plastic toys are taking over the living room. She asked me how many more are arriving.

“Just one,” I replied, “It’s Yarn Yoshi, but that one’s made out of wool, so it looks really cool… Oh, and Ganondorf as well.”

Cue raised eyebrow.

“Well, he needs to keep Link company…”

IMG_2611Anyway, back to Lucina. I was surprised to see her sporting this rather comprehensive support structure, although her legs are pretty spindly, so it’s understandable. To be honest though, the support is fairly unobtrusive – unlike Link’s massive yellow pole. The less said about that, the better. Although actually I barely notice it any more – like a carpet stain that you get so used to that you’re surprised when guests point it out.

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But I digress. The main thing is that Marth, Ike, Robin and Lucina are together at last, and looking rather lovely on my mantelpiece. I’m looking forward to nabbing Codename STEAM when it’s finally released over here and zapping these characters into the game. But to be honest, that’s just a bonus feature – I mostly bought this lot just to look great on the shelf. And I’m fairly sure that’s what most amiibo collectors will say, too.

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From The Armchair: Affordable Fun

ArmchairWhat ho, chums!

Well, what a wonderful week I’ve had. I downloaded Affordable Space Adventures for the Wii U on Saturday, and it has proved to be an instant hit in the Merriweather household, with even the normally video-game-reticent Ms. D singing its praises.

The game is one of those rare beasts – a Wii U title that actually uses the Wii U gamepad’s capabilities. Apart from the launch games ZombiU and NintendoLand, I can’t think of a single game that has properly taken advantage of the Wii U’s unique control scheme and its opportunities for asymmetrical multiplayer, but Affordable Space Adventures does just that to great effect. The gamepad screen acts as the engineering console, an essential display that lets you divert power to various functions of the ship. This is the key to getting past enemies and obstacles – and at some points you need to switch the engine off completely to avoid detection. Steering the ship, on the other hand, is taken care of by the left stick, and the right stick is devoted to scanning. The game even requires you to pitch the gamepad to alter the angle of your ship – if it used the camera and had amiibo support as well, it would pretty much tick off all the gamepad’s functions.

The engineer takes care of the dials on the gamepad screen, while the pilot steers the ship (on the right).

The engineer takes care of the dials on the gamepad screen, while the pilot steers the ship (on the right).

But the really brilliant thing about this game is the cooperative multiplayer, in which one player does steering (using a Wii remote and nunchuk), another does the scanning, and the third acts as engineer (if you’re playing with just two people, the engineer does the scanning too). Not since Trine 2 have I had so much fun romping through a game in coop – having to work as a team adds immensely to the game’s appeal, and leads to some brilliant eureka moments as a puzzle clicks into place (along with some utterly hilarious fails).

“What are you doing? I wasn’t ready yet!”

“TURNTHEENGINEOFF! TURNTHEENGINEOFF!”

“Give me thrust! Give me thrust! Nooooooooo!”

All in all, I can’t recommend this game highly enough. If you have a Wii U, get it now. And if you don’t have a Wii U, why the hell not? Seriously, there are so many unmissable games on it and it’s only, what, 200 quid? Come on.

And speaking of affordable fun, I also downloaded Box Boy! for the 3DS at the weekend for a shade under a fiver. It’s a Game Boy-style minimalist puzzle platformer that does a wonderful job of creating a genuinely charming character from very few parts. Just a box with legs, in fact. It’s also highly addictive, and I’ve been playing it whenever I have a few minutes to spare. In fact, the short levels are perfectly suited for quick bursts of play between bus stops. The game itself isn’t particularly long, or even amazingly challenging, but I’ve loved every minute of it, and like Affordable Space Adventures, it comes highly recommended.

Toodle pip for now!

Box Boy - I love the Game Boy-style minimalist graphics.

Box Boy – I love the Game Boy-style minimalist graphics.

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Yarn Yoshi has been pre-ordered!

NOVEL_ura_0613Success! After the ups and downs of the past few days, I’ve finally managed to pre-order a Yarn Yoshi amiibo.

I received a tip-off from this Reddit forum that GAME are taking in-store pre-orders for old yarn-face himself, even though you can’t currently pre-order through the website. So after confirming this was the case with my local GAME store, I hot-footed it into town and gleefully handed over my £5 deposit to the piercing-adorned sales clerk. He told me that the Yarn Yoshi pre-orders had been “going crazy”, so I’m glad I got in now – sounds like they might not be available for long.

The shop assistant still didn’t have the exact price for the amiibo, but if it follows GAME’s usual pricing it will be a cheeky £14.99, a good £4 higher than the RRP. I’ve noticed that quite a few retailers have hiked up their amiibo prices in response to the demand – as my economics-expert blogging-buddy Sir Gaulian would say, that’s basic economics for you.

I also pre-ordered Yoshi’s Woolly World from GameSeek for a bargain £25. I was originally going to pre-order the version of the game with the Yarn Yoshi amiibo included from GAME at the same time as ordering the amiibo. But seeing as the standalone game has an RRP of £44.99 (and GAME tends to stick with the RRP), my guess is that this version would cost at least £50 in store, so it will probably work out cheaper to get the amiibo and game separately.

Getting that amiibo pre-order in has made me immensely happy. Part of me is appalled that a grown man like myself can get so excited about a fluffy toy that’s essentially for children. But then again, who cares? I’ve got a Yarn Yoshi amiibo, hurrah!

UPDATE: Just after I posted this, pre-orders went live on GAME’s website and ShopTo – typical! Still, looks like I saved a bit of money by ordering the amiibo and game separately – as predicted, the version of Yoshi’s Woolly World including the amiibo is going for £49.99. But the amiibo on its own is a cheeky £19.99! I guess that wool don’t come cheap…

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Has the Yarn Yoshi dream already crumbled?

Regular readers will already be familiar with my current obsession of obtaining a Yarn Yoshi amiibo. Sadly, that dream seems further away than ever this afternoon – I just learned that preorders for Yoshi’s Woolly World – including a Yarn Yoshi amiibo – went up on Zavvi’s site on Saturday and sold out almost immediately. Currently, GAME and Zavvi are the only UK websites offering the Yarn Yoshi amiibos for sale, and it appears that both have already sold out.

It seems there are plenty of people in the UK who are just as desperate as I am to get their hands on one of these woolly wonders.

So, I suppose the only option now is to wait for preorders to come up on another retailer, like ShopTo or Amazon, and hope they don’t sell out immediately. It’s not looking good though – apparently they went on sale on Amazon’s German site a few days ago and sold out within 15 minutes.

15 minutes! Flippin’ ‘eck.

So perhaps my best option is just to convince myself I never really wanted one of these adorable Yoshi amiibos anyway. I mean, I’ve already got Toad, Link, Marth and Ike, with Robin, Lucina and Ganondorf on the way – the living room is beginning to resemble a toy shop as it is.

But then again, Toad’s looking awfully lonely over there next to the Wii U. He could really do with a woolly companion of some kind…

I suppose I could get one of these as an alternative. It's not quite the same though.

I suppose I could get one of these as an alternative. It’s not quite the same though.

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My Yarn Yoshi obsession

OK, so I think I’m getting a bit obsessed with obtaining a Yarn Yoshi amiibo. Tantalisingly, GAME have uploaded pictures of said amiibo, and yet there’s no option to pre-order. Have they gone already? Am I too late? If not, when do the pre-orders start? Why am I so obsessed with a woolly plastic toy?

Because it’s awesome, that’s why.

And I’m not alone in my thinking – just take a look at these crazed Yarn Yoshi hunters tweeting Nintendo. There’s a lot of love in the room for that woolly figurine. Not to mention a lot of crazy fan desperation.

Now excuse me while I continue to scour the internet for clues as to when pre-orders will start.

Yarn-Yoshi-amiibo-790x459

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From The Armchair: The Shorter The Better

ArmchairWhat-ho, chums! Since my last missive back in January, events have continued apace. The expected arrival of Merriweather Junior is now mere weeks away, after which I expect all gaming exploits will cease, at least for a time. So in the run up to the big day I’ve been luxuriating in my precious gaming time, all too aware that my consoles will soon be entering into a period of neglect – but for the very best of reasons, of course.

Junior’s impending arrival isn’t the only big news – Ian of 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better fame got married, and the stag do was suitably gaming focused, featuring bouts of Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter II and Super Ghouls and Ghosts (the latter two thanks to a tiny MegaDrive emulator that plugged into the TV). MK8 proved a big hit, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U mostly provoked frowns and much scratching of heads as everyone playing tried desperately to work out where they were on the screen and what the hell they were doing. After only a few rounds of utter confusion we decided to give up and play Street Fighter II instead, which remains a stone cold classic after all these years. Indeed, long dormant muscle memories were reawakened as attendees – some of whom haven’t picked up a pad in years – suddenly recalled how to execute a Dragon Punch or pummel their opponent with a Spinning Pile Driver. It was gaming nostalgia at its best.

One game that I’d rather see left in the past, however, is Super Ghouls and Ghosts. This game was pre-loaded on the MegaDrive emulator along with Street Fighter II, and it proved utterly infuriating – but we couldn’t stop playing it. We took to passing the game pad from player to player, and alternately cheering as someone got a little bit further and booing as one of the viciously unfair enemies topped our hero. But for the hours of investment, there was very, very little gain – we barely got anywhere, although my blood pressure certainly advanced a few levels. On the basis of this, I’m fairly certain I won’t enjoy Bloodborne.

ghouls_n_ghosts_vcmm_lg

Super Ghouls and Ghosts – utterly infuriating.

Which reminds me, Bloodborne’s spiritual predecessor, Demon’s Souls, was on sale on the PlayStation store over the weekend for the very tasty price of £3.99. I was sorely tempted to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about, but two things made me stop: first, if it’s anywhere near as hard as Super Ghouls and Ghosts I may end up destroying furniture; and second, I’m avoiding any particularly long games for the foreseeable future. With a little one on the way, I doubt I’ll have time for many 60-hour+ RPGs, and I already have several chunky games to finish.

But on that basis I did pick up Zone of the Enders: HD Collection. Both of the games in this collection are notoriously short and easy, which was the reason I never bought them when they originally came out for the PS2. Yet now it’s the very reason I decided to purchase them – I need games that I can quickly pick up and play in the few short hours when I’m not doing responsible adult things. Also, zoomy shooty mech games are right up my street, and I’ve wanted to play ZOE since it came out nearly 15 years ago.

Speaking of short games, I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, and I can’t wait to play through the rest of the series. TellTale’s episodic format is perfect for time-poor gamers like me, and as an added bonus, Ms. D quite enjoys watching me play them too. I also finished season two of The Walking Dead, which was very good – if not quite as good as the first. It began well, but Ms. D and I agreed that the last couple of episodes dragged on for far longer than they should have.

And finally, when I’ve not been playing through TellTale adventure games, I’ve been desperately trying to get to the end of Xenoblade Chronicles before Junior is born. I won’t lie to you – it’s not looking good. I’ve read it takes 60 hours to finish the main quest and around 100 hours to complete all the side quests too – currently I’m only 12 hours in, and the baby is due in less than six weeks. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the game so far, but will I ever get to finish it? Watch this space…

Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic game, but very, very long...

Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic game, but very, very long…

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Amiibo: nice if you can get them

I’ve recently been playing through Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it (well, apart from a few minor niggles, but more on that in a later post). After spending so much time in the company of Shulk and his mates, I began thinking how great it would be to have a Shulk amiibo to put next to Marth, Ike and Link on the mantelpiece. But of course, actually obtaining a Shulk amiibo is easier said than done.

The Shulk amiibo - nice if you can get it.

The Shulk amiibo – nice if you can get it.

Amiibo Shulk has been sold out in every single UK store for some time, and the only way to obtain it is through resellers on Amazon, eBay or similar sites, where it currently goes for around £40 or more. Importing the figure from Japan is slightly cheaper, but it still costs a lot more than the figure’s £10.99 RRP. For a while I seriously considered importing one myself, but even in my throes of mindless fandom, I still couldn’t justify the cost.

I’m sure there are many, many people like myself who actually wouldn’t mind one or two more amiibos of their favourite characters but just can’t get hold of them for a reasonable price. And now, as people cotton on to the fact that their only chance of getting hold of certain amiibos is to preorder them before they come out, the shortages are getting worse. I preordered Robin and Lucina to complete my Fire Emblem set back in February, and it’s a good thing I did – both have been ‘sold out’ for months, even though they won’t be released until the end of April.

If anything, the situation is even worse in America, where amiibo supplies have far, far outstripped demand. This fascinating Wired article sets out the situation over there, warning that the amiibo bubble could catastrophically burst if Nintendo doesn’t do something to deflate it, mostly by creating more stock and ensuring steady supply. This expletive-ridden Gamesradar article gives an idea of the intense frustration that amiibo collectors in the States face every time a new wave is announced.

Yep, I'll take all of these, please. Here, just take my wallet.

Yep, I’ll take all of these, please. Here, just take my wallet.

And speaking of new amiibo waves, there are a couple that caught my eye in the latest Nintendo Direct, not least the utterly adorable Yarn Yoshi amiibo (made of real yarn!) and the Captain Olimar figurine (anything to do with Pikmin is a guaranteed purchase from me). But already I’m stressing out about obtaining these two figures. If previous experience is anything to go by, to stand any chance of getting them I’ll have to check the usual retail sites every day and make a pre-order as soon as possible. Yet these figures aren’t even ‘special editions’! Just thinking about it all is giving me amiibo fatigue…

I hope Nintendo can start manufacturing these things in decent quantities, otherwise many dedicated customers – me included – are going to start giving up on collecting them. Not only that, I’d like to see some better uses for them in games – surely there must be some dedicated amiibo software around the corner? I’m guessing something like Skylanders Trap Team, where the figures are essential to the game. Although of course there’s no point in releasing something like that if the amiibos themselves are impossible to come by…

But enough of this whinging, I’m going to finish with a pic of my newly arrived Toad amiibo. Doesn’t he look happy?

At least Toad's happy.

At least he can smile about all this.

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