I went to PAX West this year! I didn’t attend as a TiCGN representative because I was more focused on just going around and doing my own thing (though I did have a couple friends tag along). Still, this proved to be a busy weekend for me when it came down to what was present on the show floor. The three days I was there were filled to the brim with game demo sessions and other things that added to the overall trip. I already miss it so much. I wish I was still at the Fortnite mini golf course they had there. Instead, I’m back to being uneventfully confined to my dorm room. Still, I can always recall what I played there like a grandparent yearning for the good ol’ days.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Aw, yea! Super Smash Bros. Ultimate couldn’t have hit a higher peek in my radar. I was hyped for it since the announcement trailer, and getting to play it early felt awesome. Granted, I only got to play the game for about six minutes. There’s only so much I was able to really analyze provided the sheer quantity of characters and stages that made their way to the final version of the game. So what did I do for the demo? I played as Pac-Man, then Snake. The stages I played on were Peach’s Castle from Smash Bros. Melee and the new Splatoon-themed stage, Moray Towers. I should’ve played Kongo Falls instead of Peach’s Castle, though; it wasn’t until after I looked at the photo I took of the stage select where I realized it was there for me to pick.

At first, the mechanics feel close to those of Smash Bros. 4. It doesn’t take too long for the quicker pace and subtler changes to kick in, however. Sora and co. have evidently been hard at work refining the way the fighting works in the game. It feels snappy and great to control all around. My boy Pac is still as satisfying to play as as he was in Smash 4, and Snake is notably improved from his appearance in Smash Bros. Brawl. The stages also look amazing; Peach’s Castle is so crisp, yet so clean at the same time. I don’t think this game will top Melee in the competitive scene (I mean, what other Smash Bros. will?), but I can guarantee this will be a must-have when it comes out.

Super Mario Party

I’ve been curious to see how Nintendo intend to change up the board game mechanics of the Mario Party series for this latest installment. Unfortunately, I am still going to have to wait to see. For whatever random reason, they didn’t have any board play in the demo we tried. The only mode playable was the one where we play a series of minigames. My thoughts? I like ’em. They’re simple to understand and you even get to practice them on the preview screen! That’s an addition that puts previous Mario Party minigame preview screens to shame.

They emphasize using the Joy-con for each of them, mainly since they utilize many of its features. It’s kind of like how Mario Party 8 took advantage of the Wii Remote with the way its minigames worked. The bike pedaling game had you waggle the Joy-con in a way so goofy it’s perfect for Mario Party. The cooking game was genuinely impressive with the way it handled the HD Rumble feature of the Joy-con. Of course, there are a few others where you’d just use the analog stick to move. But hey, they work as well as they should.

Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu / Let’s Go Eevee

Fun fact: Even though Super Smash Bros. is the talk of the town, it only took us less than an hour to get to play it and Super Mario Party. The part of the booth that held Pokemon and the Nindies and third party titles, on the other hand, took us THREE HOURS. My legs ached like heck by the time we were finally let in to play. I did have fun playing what’s there, but mainly as the PAX attractions they were.

I say that because I don’t believe I’ll be buying Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu or Let’s Go Eevee when they come out. The games look fine enough, but the way they handle things makes me feel uneasy. Any wild Pokemon battle (Trainer battles are still normal) is completely replaced with Pokemon Go mechanics where you just have to be able to catch the Pokemon on the spot. Using your arm to “throw” the Pokeball is neat, but a novelty more than anything else. All of your Pokemon also gain the same exp simultaneously, no matter who or if any are onscreen. Kids will definitely eat up this game, but I feel it’s too convenient for its own good.

Weirdly enough, they had me use the Pokeball Plus for my time with the game. This is basically a real life Pokeball that acts as a controller for the game. The white circle in the middle is used as both an analog stick and the A button. It’s so strange how a small thing like this can be used to play the whole game, but that’s what they’re going for. What’s cool, though, is that it can store and transfer data of the Pokemon into Pokemon Go and vice versa. They couldn’t demonstrate it, but their word was enough for me considering this is Nintendo we’re talking about. This ain’t the kind of thing they’d suddenly scrap.

SNK Heroines

I do like my fair share of fighting games, but I’m not a fighting game guru. The moment I tried out the Open Beta for Dragonball FighterZ on the Switch, I got my butt handed to me faster than I could say “This was a mistake”. Maybe it was because I was playing against a staffer instead of a pro player, but that didn’t happen with me when I played SNK Heroines. It felt a lot more like Marvel vs. Capcom in which you can get into easy, but learning and mastering all the moves at your disposal is where the real reward is. I had a good time with this one, although $49.99 is too rich for my blood when it comes to any arcade fighter (unless it’s a collection of them). I’ll be waiting for the price to drop.

Diablo 3

Frankly, I’m not sure why I chose to play Diablo 3. I guess I was interested in the novelty that this is a Blizzard game coming to a Nintendo console for the first time since the N64 era. Still, if I wanted to play Diablo 3, I likely could’ve just gotten it for my Xbox 360. Oh well. Either way, this one’s a dungeon crawler and I didn’t bother sticking around with the other players a lot of the time. I screwed around and went through the rooms as fast as I could, not paying too much attention to the enemies. By the time the demo ended when I was fighting a boss, my thoughts were essentially summed up as “Well, that was a game”.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Since the No More Heroes games are in my backlog and I intend to get them outta there sometime, I was curiously optimistic for Travis Strikes Again. Sadly, the demo I played wiped away a lot of my hopes for the game. It does have funny writing, and the scenarios have good ideas behind them. What good are they, though, if the basic gameplay boils down to a beat ’em up shallower than Pokemon Rumble? I was informed afterwards that the demo was actually set on Easy mode, with the game intending to be more enjoyable on harder difficulties. If that’s the case, then why couldn’t we just get to select the difficulty before playing the demo???

Zarvot

Over at the Nindies section of Nintendo’s PAX West booth is Zarvot. I knew absolutely nothing about the game until I played it. Heck, only at the time of this writing have I heard there’s a single-player campaign in it. The demo seemed primarily for multiplayer purposes. That said, it’s one of those games that’s great for laugh-out-loud multiplayer fun. Imagine if Atari made Combat today and that’s probably what would it have been like, but your cannons can jump like platformer characters. It was a blast to shoot at anything in the game, and I can’t wait to see how the full game plays out.

Treasure Stack

Another Nindie on display was Treasure Stack, which is purely a block puzzler except with treasure chests. It’s not like Tetris or Puyo Puyo where you just control the blocks falling, though. It’s more along the lines of Wario’s Woods where you’re controlling a character to manipulate the space around you. Falling blocks still play a role in making things work, of course, but if you can strategize properly you can dish out some major combos. If nothing else, Treasure Stack feels fresh given how many times block puzzlers can feel the same as each other.

Shovel Knight Showdown

I already played King of Cards last year, but Shovel Knight Showdown provided me a reason to go to Yacht Club Games’s booth. As if Smash Bros. Ultimate wasn’t already going to get blood pumping, Shovel Knight Showdown is a party fighter built from the fundamentals established by Shovel Knight and its DLC expansions. Collecting the most gems was the name of the game, and sometimes it involves beating the crap out of each other!

I’ve already been a big fan of the series since the initial game. It goes without saying that I loved this as well. The way it’s structured seamlessly cooperated with the platforming gameplay I’ve grown to love from the original game. The moment-to-moment action also makes this about as frantic as fellow indie games like Towerfall.

Team Sonic Racing

I am a fan of Sumo Digital’s Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing games. As glad as I am to see that they’re making another one of these for modern consoles, though, I have to wonder why it’s only focused on Sonic characters. Wasn’t the SEGA fanservice part of the appeal? It feels like a weird executive decision to make given how well the other two games have done with the concept.

Still, the arcade racing gameplay is intact. Wisps are used as the items in the game, and you’re racing against various characters from across the main Sonic universe. Maybe the tracks are more creative as you progress through the game, but the demo didn’t particularly go out of its way to impress me. The team mechanics are interesting, at least; teammates can share items, and points are totaled up between all of you.

Untitled Goose Game

This game is freakin’ hilarious! It took me a little while to realize what it was when I first eyed it in a Nintendo Direct, but actually getting to play it made me hyped. The whole idea is that you’re a goose going around and annoying lives, just like a real goose! There is a to-do list full of objectives for you to accomplish, but I spent a lot of my time just goofing around and seeing what nonsense I could pull. The whole time I played the PAX West demo was a grand moment of laughs, to the point where I was tempted to play it again at the Nintendo booth. I didn’t, but I’m definitely looking out for the game’s release.

Little Medusa

From Mega Cat Studios, the people that have brought retro gamers Coffee Crisis, is a new multiplatform game for classic consoles! Little Medusa is a top-down puzzle game for the NES, Super NES, and the SEGA Genesis. The 16-Bit versions still look 8-Bit in a rather odd way, but the game itself does provide an interesting set of levels to take on. There was even a good “A-ha!” moment that got my brain ticking. For a game where you just need to collect all the stars on the screen, it’s got a knack to mentally stimulate.

Logjammers

Also from Mega Cat is an NES game that sounds like a spiritual successor to Windjammers but on logs! Logjammers has you face an opponent on the water as you guys throw a projectile back and forth. That is, until it zips past someone. The quick pace of the game can make for a challenge, but I’m not exactly a fan of the way the framerate performs. Anything less than 60 frames (or however smooth Super Mario Bros. runs) is far from desirable on the NES.

Fork Parker’s Crunch Out

In Mega Cat Studios’s collaboration with Devolver Digital and Take This for the SNES, you control a boss who is forcing his workers to crunch on game development in order to catch up on the next big trend. The way it plays out is a funny take on the formula established by Diner Dash. If something happens to a programmer, you have to rectify the matter as soon as possible. They can even outright die and you’d have to zap them back to life! Fork Parker’s Crunch Out is a kinetic experience that breathes new life into the SNES with its scenarios.

Projection: First Light

This platform-puzzler focuses on manipulating shadows and light. It also follows a tale of a young girl venturing through a mythological world of shadow puppets. This was actually the first game we played at PAX West, and it was interesting to watch the story unfold through both the developer’s and our eyes. The gameplay is simple to understand, but the way the game ups the ante makes the puzzles trickier to solve, as with any good game in the genre. I can’t wait to see how it goes from the point we’ve stopped at.

MapleStory 2

I’ve never played the original MapleStory, but my friends who tagged along were big fans of it. I at least knew the first game was a 2D side-scroller, though. This sequel was in 3D, and everything but the characters was all blocky like in Minecraft. The way people can run around and see other in real time reminded me of Roblox, especially when we got teleported to a minigame room.

I was a gunner character, and he is certainly a sharpshooter. Striking enemies with strings of rapidfire bullets is satisfying for sure. I’m just wondering if the game would prove to be challenging over time. The demo’s areas have been a cakewalk as far as enemies are concerned. Nonetheless, fans of the series probably have something to look out for in this game. I can’t say for sure since it’s all foreign to me, but it wasn’t a bad game by any means.

MapleStory M

This on the other hand? Well…it’s definitely a mobile game. Whether or not it’s a fun one is up for debate. The only part of the game I got to play is where everybody at the show floor’s blasting the heck out of this giant boss creature by spamming the same virtual button over and over again. Not exactly the kind of impression that leaves me wanting more.

Never Give Up

Of all the games I recall during my demo playing spree here at PAX West, Never Give Up is always the name that escapes me until I retrace my notes. It might be because of how it didn’t stick out from all the other reflex-based platformers that have existed over the years. I mean, it’s got Arin Hansen as the narrator. That’s cool I guess. Yet, it also feels like he’s only there for a celebrity name to attach to the game. His voice in-game is just his normal talking voice; given his capabilities, you’d think they’d have him do something better than that.

Bah, I might be getting harsh on this one. Never Give Up isn’t a bad game when you actually sit down and play it. It goes through the motions in all the right ways. The platforming feels good, and the precise challenges you’re faced with are enjoyable to conquer – if relying a little too much on trial and error. I just feel like this game could use more of an identity of its own than what it’s currently being built off of.

Now that you’ve reached the end of my thoughts on these games, here’s a picture of me putting on the Fortnite mini golf course.