Monthly Archives: January 2017

Spiffing Reads: Nintendo Switch, Invisible Warcraft Bunnies and the Worst Game Ever

This week on Spiffing Reads, we kick off with a couple of interesting opinion pieces on the Nintendo Switch…

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Don’t Judge Switch by the Stagnant Competition (Kotaku UK)

This article struck a chord with me, particularly in how it accuses many in the games industry of not being able to look past technical specs. “There are a few problems with how we look at it, the first being the hardware bores who talk tech in terms of upper limits rather than capabilities. The deathly-dull teardowns of components, the red-meat comparisons for the troll brigade, none of it’s illuminating. It’s not that specs or framerates or resolutions are unimportant, just that they’re much less important than the overall experience they’re being used to create, which gets lost beneath meaningless technical gotchas.” Personally, I stopped caring about tech specs once they stopped counting ‘bits’.

Switch’s challenge is unique software, not PS4 competition (GamesIndustry.biz)

Another fascinating article from Rob Fahey, with some really interesting points about the timing of the Switch’s launch in the console cycle in comparison with its predecessor, the Wii U.

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The six worst US presidents in video game history (The Guardian)

I have to thank this article for reminding me that in a gaming world somewhere out there, J. K. Simmons is the US President.

The Invisible Bunnies That Power World of Warcraft (Kotaku UK)

I love this story. It turns out that some of the spells in Warcraft are powered by invisible rabbits – and they’re just one of the bizarre animal-based shortcuts that programmers have used to save time.

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How a Tetris clone on the front of a tape-player led to spiritual enlightenment (Eurogamer)

This is something a bit different – an article from a self-confessed ‘non-gamer’ about how gaming changed her perception of the world. I’ve experienced a bit of ‘Tetrishead’ myself, but nothing like she describes. A great read.

THE PUNCH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

Nothing to do with video games, this one, but a very well written and interesting article about the internet reaction to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched on live TV. Mr Biffo echoes my own feelings – as much as I loathe neo-Nazis, beating them up is nothing to be celebrated. And if anything, it’s only going to strengthen their resolve.

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The story behind the worst game ever made (Eurogamer)

It’s always interesting to hear tales from the eighties gaming scene, which was basically a kind of pixellated Wild West where anyone could do pretty much anything and get away with it. But even then, it’s hard to believe that a publisher could release a game that literally doesn’t work at all and still get away with it. Sort of puts modern day-one patches into perspective.

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The Sin City game that never was (Eurogamer)

My first thought on reading this headline was that Sin City would make a brilliant video game, particularly with it’s stark black and white (and red) stylings, a la the under-rated MadWorld. But then I read how the publisher and writer kept demanding horrible, horrible changes to the characters and script, to the point where it was a mercy that the game was eventually killed.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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The Year of Zelda

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Like pretty much everyone else in the gaming world, I’m very excited for the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After the slightly lacklustre reveal of the Nintendo Switch, I’ve decided to get the game on the Wii U and hold off on purchasing a Switch until there are a few more games. But before I buy it, I want to polish off the few Zelda games I’ve yet to complete.

I’ve played almost every Zelda game out there, but there are still a few that passed me by for one reason or another. I missed out on Minish Cap on the Game Boy Advance, although I recently purchased it for the Wii U. I played Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS, but I never got around to buying its sequel, Spirit Tracks. I got Skyward Sword just after its release, but six years on, I’ve still yet to play it. I’m not sure why I keep putting it off – somehow it just feels like I need to save it for a special occasion.

Well, I guess now that special occasion has arrived. The release of Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be a landmark moment for the series, and I’ve resolved to play through every Zelda game I’ve missed before buying this latest entry. That might mean I miss playing it at release in March, but I can wait – it will only make playing it for the first time all the sweeter.

Changing the season in Oracle of Seasons is key to solving puzzles.

Changing the season in Oracle of Seasons is key to solving puzzles.

At the moment, I’m about two-thirds of the way through Oracle of Seasons, one of a pair of Zelda games for the Game Boy Color that were, uniquely for the series, co-developed with an outside developer, Capcom. I remember the two games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, got a lukewarm reception at the time, but I’m heartily enjoying my playthrough of Seasons. I’d even go so far as to sat that – heresy! – it’s better than Link’s Awakening. Don’t lynch me!

Anyway, here’s the list of Zelda games I’m planning to play through before finally getting my hands on Breath of the Wild, roughly in the order I intend to play them. I’m leaving out Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures and Tri Force Heroes, as really they’re spinoffs (and they don’t particularly appeal to me, anyway).

  • Oracle of Seasons (GBC)
  • Oracle of Ages (GBC)
  • Minish Cap (GBA)
  • The Legend of Zelda (NES)
  • The Adventure of Link (NES)
  • Spirit Tracks (DS)
  • Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
  • Skyward Sword (Wii)

I’m aware that the two NES titles might be a slog to play nowadays, and Adventure of Link is renowned as being the worst in the series, so I may very well just dip into these rather than playing them to completion. Similarly, I’ll probably only dip into Wind Waker HD, as I completed the original back in the GameCube days, but I’m intrigued to see how they’ve tarted it up for the HD generation.

I’m also intrigued to play Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland on the DS, starring everyone’s favourite fairy-wannabee manchild. If I can get hold of it, I might add it to the list.

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Are there any Zelda games you’ve missed out on? I’d love to hear if you’re planning a similar Zelda marathon ahead of the launch of Breath of the Wild.

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Spiffing Reads: Twitch IRL, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Easter Eggs

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start off with a worrying look at what madness Twitch hath wrought.

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How Twitch is turning ‘always be streaming’ into a career with zero balance (Polygon)

Once I got past the slightly baffling headline, this turned out to be a fascinating and slightly scary article about how much time people spend streaming on Twitch in the hopes of making it big. In a way, Twitch is the modern equivalent of scratching out a living as an amateur rock band hoping to sign a multi-million dollar record deal. Some do make the big time, but the majority will struggle to get by – and the price is high. This writer says he spent 6 days a week streaming for 12 hours a day, which is apparently what viewers ‘expect’. It sounds like utter madness to me. And now Twitch has launched ‘In Real Life’ (IRL), a way for streamers to keep streaming on their phones when they would normally be, well, just living their life. We really are living in The Truman Show.

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The big Zelda: Breath of the Wild interview (Eurogamer)

A chunky interview with Zelda director Eiji Aonuma. Probably the most interesting part is that they considered making Link a woman for a while, and they still haven’t ruled out the possibility for the next installment. Sounds like a good idea to me – would be interesting to see how it changes the dynamic of the game.

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The costs of developing Easter eggs (Polygon)

A really fascinating article on something I’ve always wondered – how to developers justify the time it takes to implement Easter eggs when they are usually up against it in terms of simply delivering the game on deadline? Well worth a read.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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A Fire Emblem Bonanza

I started watching yesterday’s Fire Emblem Direct expecting news about Fire Emblem Warriors and the new mobile Fire Emblem game. So imagine my delight when we got news of no less than FOUR upcoming Fire Emblem games – and some sweet, sweet new Amiibo to boot.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a remake of the Japanese exclusive Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game in the series. And – surprise, surprise – it’s being released in May, just a few short months away. Even better, it’s coming with two lovely-looking Amiibo featuring the two main characters, Alm and Celica. I spent much of last night searching in vain for somewhere I could preorder them – goddamn I need these so bad. And just when I thought I had my Amiibo addiction under control.

I NEED THIS.

I NEED THIS.

Echoes looks like an interesting departure for the series, which sounds like an odd thing to say when it’s actually a remake. But Gaiden was unique in that it had free-roaming and dungeon elements, whereas later games stuck to turn-based battles and mostly linear maps. I can’t wait to give it a go.

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The other unexpected game was a new Fire Emblem title coming to the Switch, which marks the first time since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn on the Wii that the series has been released on a home console. The release of that game alone will probably be enough to push me into buying a Switch, I reckon. No real details on it yet, save for the tentative 2018 release window.

Fire Emblem Warriors is looking pretty slick, and the franchise seems like the perfect fit for Koei Tecmo’s musou stylings. The big news is that it’s coming to the New Nintendo 3DS as well as Switch in the autumn, so I’ll almost certainly be buying the 3DS version. I loved Hyrule Warriors Legends, so this purchase is another no brainer.

Finally, Fire Emblem Heroes on Android is coming out surprisingly soon, at the beginning of February (no date on the iOS version yet). I was a bit concerned about the chibi, big-headed art style at first, but it’s already growing on me, and the large character artwork is beautiful.

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I’m a bit concerned about the small play area though – each map is just a tiny one-screen grid. This makes sense in that play sessions can be short, but I feel like it might torpedo the tactical depth of the main series. Also, the free-to-play elements could prove annoying: you can buy orbs that randomly give you a new hero, but the orbs can also be acquired through playing. Throwing money at a random number generator sounds a bit like gambling to me. But I’ll reserve judgement until I play the damn thing.

Anyway, as a big Fire Emblem fan, I’m pleased as Punch with this unexpected Fire Emblem bonanza. Now could someone let me know when I can preorder all this lovely stuff?

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Spiffing Reads: Amstrad Action, Super Mario Run and a Racist Video Game

I was going to post this on Friday, but then the whole Nintendo Switch reveal got me all hot under the collar and I had to write a lengthy diatribe about it. I’m sure further thoughts will be forthcoming… Anyway, we’ve had some cracking gaming articles over the past couple of weeks, now that the December end-of-year list-a-thon is behind us. Here are a few of my favourite Spiffing Reads.

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Seven reasons why grown ups should play more video games (The Guardian)

An impassioned and well-written argument by The Guardian’s Keith Stuart on why video games should be regarded as more than a ‘guilty pleasure’. It certainly made me think a bit more about why we play games, something I wrote about myself a while back. One day, perhaps there won’t even be a need for defences like this – you don’t see articles on seven reasons why grown-ups should watch football, after all.

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How Amstrad Action changed my life (Eurogamer)

Another brilliant article from the wonderful Ellie Gibson. I could probably write a similar feature about how Amiga Power changed my life.  I haven’t, yet, but I did do a podcast on it.

Gaming’s big trends to keep an eye on in 2017 (GamesIndustry.biz)

An intriguing look at what’s in store for the year ahead – the points about mobile gaming and VR are interesting, but the section on harassment at the end really made me think.

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LAB RATS: WHY VIDEO GAMES CAN BE ADDICTIVE – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

A thoughtful look at how, in extreme cases, games can become a substitute for socialisation. Well worth a read. I’ve certainly used video games to comfort myself when feeling lonely before, and I’m sure most of us have done it at some point.

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Super Mario Run is hardcore as shit if you give it a chance (Tired Old Hack)

An excellent review of what makes Super Mario Run so gosh darned good. Toad Rally really is where the Baby Marios get sorted from the Bowsers.

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Developer Says Publisher Sabotaged His Game (Kotaku UK)

There’s been an ugly/cringeworthy online spat going on between Poncho developer Danny Hayes and publisher Rising Star Games. Hayes complains that he hasn’t made any money from the game thanks to the publisher, and Rising Star Games claims that he didn’t hit any of his development milestones. Watching the two air their dirty linen in public is fascinating, if a little lurid and voyeuristic.

How We Accidentally Made a Racist Videogame (Kotaku UK)

A great read about the dangers of ignoring diversity, however innocently it’s done. I had to read the last part between parted fingers of embarrassment on behalf of the protagonist.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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The Nintendo Switch Presentation – A Bit of a Disappointment

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I didn’t get up at 4am this morning to watch the Nintendo Switch Presentation – I’m not a masochist. But I logged on first thing to devour all the juicy information that Nintendo revealed about their new console. And it left somewhat of a dry taste in my mouth.

The main thing I was hoping for was games, games, games. Nintendo have been pretty quiet in 2016, with only a handful of titles trickling out of their studios for Wii U and 3DS. So I assumed, like many, that they’d been beavering away on Switch games and would reveal a bevvy of titles to launch with their brand new console. This doesn’t appear to be the case.

Super Mario Odyssey looks bloody great, even if the ‘real world’ sections seem slightly odd. Watching the trailer made me salivate at the prospect of playing another 3D Mario game, but it won’t be out until ‘holiday 2017’. It was the same story with many of the other ‘launch’ titles. Most will be coming later this year (or probably next year, or even the year after that in case of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which I struggle to believe will launch this year), and only five titles will be ready for launch day: 1 2 Switch, Just Dance, Skylanders, Super Bomberman R (hey, Konami still make video games!) and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Zelda is of course a must buy, but since it’s also coming out for the Wii U, I don’t really feel like I need to rush out and buy a Switch at launch – especially since the other launch titles are somewhat uninspiring. I’m sure many other people will be feeling the same way. There seems little point in getting a Switch until the number of games is at least in double digits.

In general, the games that were revealed were – apart from Mario and Zelda – fairly underwhelming. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Fire Emblem Warriors look great, even if they’re both seemingly very far off. But Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe come across as slightly tarted up versions of the Wii U games I already own, so I don’t feel the need to rush out and buy them. Arms looks fun, if a little lightweight. And the rest… well apart from new versions of FIFA and Street Fighter II, that was about everything of note.

It’s not exactly an inspiring list. What the hell have Nintendo been up to for the past couple of years? Where are all the amazing first party games?

And the price! My god. £280 for a Switch with no games included, and £75 for another pair of JoyCon controllers. Yowch. At this selling point, Nintendo have priced themselves out of the casual market, and they’re also charging a good £80 more than it would cost for a PS4 with pack-in game – yet their console is significantly less powerful than Sony’s machine. As a fan of Nintendo games, I will end up buying a Switch at some point – but I wonder who else will.

Anyway, let’s take a look back at my ‘wish list for Nintendo Switch‘ and see which ones we can tick off:

Battery life of at least 8 hours

Nope, nope, nope. They reckon it will have battery life of 2.5 to 6.5 hours depending on what you’re playing. That, frankly, is rubbish.

A new ‘proper’ Metroid game

Uh uh. We got Mario and Zelda, while new entries in other Nintendo franchises were notable by their absence.

One terabyte of storage – minimum

Pffft, definitely not. The Switch will have 32GB of storage. 32GB. I’m starting to wonder whether Nintendo know what the hell they’re doing.

Game saves on the cloud

Possibly. It’s not quite clear at this point, but they’ve certainly announced a new online service. Speaking of which…

A subscription-based Virtual Console service

Well, Nintendo’s new online subscription service promises a free NES or SNES game each month, so that’s something at least, if not quite the ‘Netflix for old video games’ that I was hoping for. But next to Sony and Microsoft’s monthly free game giveaway, it seems positively stingy. And the wording seems to suggest that the games will only be playable for a month before they get deleted from your hard drive, which seems even stingier. Hmmm.

More amiibo

A big fat no. Corrin is still MIA.

Some sort of crossbuy thing

Nope. Although this one might still be a possibility.

GPS-enabled games

Hmmm, there was no mention of GPS. But then again, Nintendo didn’t reveal hard specs for the console either. Put it down as a maybe?

Improved Streetpass

Again, no. At least, not that we know of. UPDATE: The Switch definitely won’t have Streetpass. Or Miiverse, which seems like a bizarre decision, as the social network is one of the Wii U’s best features.

StarFox 2

Nope. Yeah, I know it was a long shot.

To sum up, I think the Nintendo Switch is a great idea. The idea of a home console you can take with you on the move is very appealing, and it has some neat features. The JoyCon controllers in particular look pretty nifty, and the ‘HD Rumble’ they feature sounds like a great innovation. (Apparently they can simulate effects like ice cubes rattling around in a glass in your hand.)

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Other features sound good, but hardly essential. It’s good to hear the console is region free, but that’s only going to appeal to a minority of people who import games. And the fact that you can play with eight players on one console is great, yet will only be utilised by a tiny percentage of the audience. Especially as the JoyCons cost £75 a pair.

Which brings me on to the two big negatives hanging over the whole presentation like the permanent wreath of cloud around Zelda’s Death Mountain: the price and the lack of games.

Really, the Switch needed to be £200, £250 max. At £280 with no games, it’s already put me off buying one at launch, and I’m sure the same is true of many others. A console seen as ‘underpowered’ compared to its (now ageing) rivals shouldn’t cost nearly a third more than them. And the price of the accessories is eye-watering. The infrared camera on the JoyCon is a nifty idea (apparently it can detect hand gestures and will be able to record video in the future), but it’s also a gimmick that is unlikely to be used often, and we could probably do without it for the sake of bringing down the crazily high cost.

But the main reason for buying any console is the games, and I just don’t see enough of them. Zelda: Breath of the Wild remains the big draw, but that’s already coming out for the Wii U, a console I already own. The rest are either ports of old games, niche titles, reworkings of Wii U games or so far in the future that they don’t even have a name yet (like Shin Megami Tensei – New Title).

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It feels like Nintendo are making the same mistakes all over again by launching an expensive console with poor battery life – just like they did with the 3DS, which saw a price cut mere months after release. And it seems like only yesterday that the late Satoru Iwata was publicly apologising for the Wii U games drought, yet here we are again with a Nintendo console that has gaps in its release schedule so big that you could drive a bus through them.

It was only last year that Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime claimed that the company had learned from its mistakes on the Wii U. Certainly, this time around Nintendo has managed to convey much more clearly what their new console does in comparison to the muddled messaging around the Wii U. But Reggie also said this:

“We have to do a better job from a software planning standpoint to have that continuous beat of great new games that are motivating more and more people to pick up the hardware and more and more people to pick up the software.”

Judging by the sparse line up of Switch games for the year ahead, Reggie hasn’t been listening to his own advice.

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A wish list for Nintendo Switch

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We’re only days away from the Nintendo Switch press conference, and I’m very excited to find out more about Nintendo’s next console. In an ideal world, these are the things I’d like to hear.

Battery life of at least 8 hours

The Nintendo 3DS was hobbled at launch by weak batteries – the most you could expect was about 4 hours of gaming, and turning on the 3D feature drained the batteries even quicker. Thankfully, later editions improved the battery life somewhat, but seeing as the Switch is much more powerful than the 3DS, my worry is that it will drain power like nobody’s business. If they can get it to run for around 8 hours off one charge, I’d be more than happy.

A new ‘proper’ Metroid game

Come on Nintendo, you know you want to. After Metroid Prime: Federation Force was released to the sound of a deflating balloon, Metroid fans like me are more determined than ever to play a new, ‘proper’ installment of the seemingly dormant main series. This could be a long shot though, as the Metroid games have never been huge sellers.

Metroid: Other M was the last entry in the main series, but that came out back in 2010.

Metroid: Other M was the last entry in the main series, but that came out back in 2010.

One terabyte of storage – minimum

The ‘deluxe’ version of the Wii U still only came with 32 GB of storage, and the basic edition had just 8 GB. Considering the size of modern games, this is a piddling amount – and if Nintendo want to encourage downloads from the eShop, they’d better up the hard drive size of the Switch considerably. One terabyte would be about right. But if they go down the route of using SD cards, I sincerely hope you don’t have to unscrew the back of the console to switch them, like you have to do with the New Nintendo 3DS.

Game saves on the cloud

The introduction of the Nintendo Account now at least unifies the 3DS and Wii U eShop experience, and Miiverse works the same on both consoles. But with the Switch I’d love to see all of my purchases and saves registered to the cloud, so I can easily switch consoles and don’t have to worry about losing games – which is exactly what happened when my 3DS was stolen. Not to mention the faff I had to go through to upgrade to a New Nintendo 3DS XL.

A subscription-based Virtual Console service

It seems pretty likely that we’ll be getting GameCube games on the Switch, which is great news – I’ve already picked out the games I’d most like to see. But I’d love to get more out of the Virtual Console. I’d love to play through all those old NES and SNES classics on my Switch, but buying them all individually is not only horrendously expensive, it’s also a waste. For every classic game I’ve bought and loved (Gargoyle’s Quest, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones), there’s another one I’ve bought and pretty much given up on straight away (Mega Man II, Kid Icarus). If Nintendo charged a subscription fee that allowed access to the entire library for a fixed amount each month, I’d be throwing my money at them – and I wouldn’t keep feeling burned by buying old games that disappoint.

More amiibo

Just more amiibo. I love the damn things, keep ’em coming. Preferably more Fire Emblem ones. Speaking of which, what’s happened to that Corrin one we were promised?

What happened to the Cloud, Corrin and Bayonetta amiibo?

What happened to the Cloud, Corrin and Bayonetta amiibo?

Some sort of crossbuy thing

I’ve bought quite a few indie games on the Wii U and 3DS – the ‘Nindie’ scene has been brilliant on both consoles. But I don’t particularly want to buy them all again for Switch. If games like Severed get rereleased, I’d like the option to download them for free without having to buy them again.

GPS-enabled games

Pokemon Go showed just how effectively GPS location can be used in games, and some patents suggest that the Switch will have in-built GPS. I’d love to see how Nintendo could use this in games like Animal Crossing and, well, Pokemon.

Improved Streetpass

I love Streetpass. It’s a great idea, and seeing a new Mii pop onto my console from the 3DS of a passer by is always a treat. But what if rather than simply say hi to other Switch users, your Mii could invite them to do battle? Perhaps you’d both have to accept within a minute for it to start, but before you know it, you’re playing against someone you’ve only just met in a bus queue. The one big failing of Pokemon Go was that it was too passive – huge crowds assembled, but they were all playing alone. An upgraded version of Streetpass with real-time challenges could make gaming more social.

StarFox 2

Come on Nintendo, we all know you finished the game. Why not go ahead and release it? I mean, it’s been more than two decades now…

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