Tag Archives: nintendo switch

Nintendo Doubles Super Mario Maker 2 Level Upload Limit

Super Mario Maker 2 has been out more than enough time for the most prolific creators to create tons of strange story missions, Kaizo deathtraps, and classic homages. It’s also been out for enough time to reach the course creation limit. Super Mario Maker 2 is doubling that limit, allowing players to make more courses.

As heard through Eurogamer and confirmed by a quick peek into Super Mario Maker 2‘s notifications tab, the number of courses that players can upload has been increased from 32 to 64 levels. That’s twice the fun and twice the chances to have some fancy livestreamer stumble upon your level.

I hopped in game to check the announcement, and sure enough, there it was.

The notification also states that there are plans to raise that upload limit one more time. Will that mean 128 total courses? Hopefully it’s not just 65 or some other super strange number. Still, this increase is good news for dedicated Mario makers who want to entertain and frustrate the masses with their levels.

Source: Kotaku.com

Report: Nintendo Will Fix Broken Joy-Cons For Free, Refund Prior Repairs

Following continued reports that the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers are “drifting”, a Vice story today claims that Nintendo is instructing its customer service representatives to repair the controllers for free, no questions asked. And anyone who has previously paid to get one repaired will now be refunded.

Speaking with “a source familiar with Nintendo’s updated customer support documentation”, the Vice report says the company’s internal documents now include the lines:

Customers will no longer be requested to provide proof of purchase for Joy-Con repairs. Additionally it is not necessary to confirm warranty status. If a customer requests a refund for a previously paid Joy-Con repair […] confirm the prior repair and then issue a refund.

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Nintendo’s only statement on the issue was earlier this week, and was simply a vague recommendation that anyone affected by the issue visit the company’s support website. If the changes listed in this story have indeed been made, that would indicate Nintendo is now taking the matter a lot more seriously.

“Joy-Con drift” is an issue where the thumbsticks on Nintendo’s Switch controllers detect movement and begin to “drift”, even when the player is not touching the controller.

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We’ve contacted Nintendo for comment.

Source: Kotaku.com

Oninaki’s World Might Be Enough To Get Me Past The Repetitive Gameplay

Oninaki, an action role-playing game from the developers of I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear, now has a free demo on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. I entered into the play experience expecting something generic, and while the combat is a bit mindless, Oninaki’s world is a fascinating place. This short tease has left me curious for more, as its tale of lost souls and strange religions makes for a moody and self-aware story.

In Oninaki, players take the role of Kagachi. Kagachi is a Watcher, a sort of shepherd of wayward souls and demon exterminator. Following the death of his parents at a young age, he and his friend Mayura became Watchers and now lead a life traveling between the world of the living and the dead. Oninaki’s world revolves around the notion of reincarnation. When you die, your soul is eventually reborn to a new life unless your spirit is weighed down by some type of grief. It’s a Watcher’s job to find ways to ease the souls unable to reincarnate and escort them into a new life. It also means beating up monsters and evil spirits.

That’s the less interesting part of Oninaki, as least in the early part of the demo. Combat is mostly a hack-and-slash affair, with a few special powers thrown in. Watchers have the ability to bond with spirits called daemons. Each daemon that players find has a different skill such as a powerful sword dash attack or a Final Fantasy-esque Dragoon jump attack with a spear. These can add a little bit flash to combat but felt limited in the demo. The ability to swap between daemons in combat might lead to interesting tactical options as players find more spirits, but these early sections were a bit one-note. Slash, slash, special attack, dodge, slash some more.

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What’s far more interesting is how Oninaki presents its world’s complex spirituality and the day-to-day work of Watchers. From a nervous lover offering his girlfriend a charm that is supposed to keep them reunited in the next life to cults promising different forms of salvation, Oninaki is clearly interested in exploring the social implications of its cosmology. The earliest part of the demo focuses on Kagachi and Mayura’s efforts to help the spirit of a recently deceased child, culminating in a powerful and shocking decision by his grieving parents to allow the Watchers to kill them so that they might join their son in the spirit realm. While the plot is sure to grow beyond these moments—dialog hints at a dangerous monster who can kill so completely as to deny souls reincarnation—it’s the world-building that’s captured my attention the most.

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This split between the real world and the spirit realm applies to the overworld exploration, where it’s possible to travel between the two realms Twilight Princess style. Can’t cross that gap? Hop into the spirit realm and use a portal. It’s a cohesive mixture of narrative and gameplay that’s really exciting.

My experience with this demo has left me cautiously optimistic. Kagachi is a bit of a grump as far as protagonists go, and the combat is nothing to write home about, but Oninaki has a strong concept and world. It’s a place I want to experience more of, and if that means putting with some repetitive combat in exchange for exceptional world-building? I’m more than willing to deal with the hacking and slashing.

Source: Kotaku.com

Meet The Pixel Artist Recreating Breath of The Wild Scenes In 8-Bit

Image: ncxaesthetic

On Tuesday, Instagram user ncxaesthetic began uploading a series of “screenshots” in which he took iconic scenes from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and rendered them in the 8-bit pixel art style of the Game Boy Color Zelda games like Link’s Awakening DX. Here, for example, is a scene from early in the game, where Link meets the “Old Man” shortly after awakening at the start.

Dig back further into ncxaesthetic’s profile, and you’ll see he’s been working at this for a while, remaking scenes from almost every 3D Zelda in the style of the 2D Game Boy entries.

Turns out ncxaesthetic—also known as Nate, 20—began making these pieces as a way to get better at something he loved doing: making pixel art.

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“Around January of this year, I was replaying Link’s Awakening DX on my 3DS and out of nowhere I just thought to myself, I wonder if anyone has drawn up the bosses from the 3D Zelda games in a 2D format?” Nate wrote to me via email. “So I did some digging around and much to my disappointment, I found none.”

So Nate decided to do it himself. He started with Gohma, the first boss from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and began using a 7-year-old laptop with a cracked screen and an old copy of Photoshop CS6. Soon, he had fashioned every Wind Waker boss in pixel art.

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“I found that project very fun to complete,” Nate said, “so I just continued making content from there and now here we are.”

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Nate began making pixel art four years ago. He had been on his way to a convention and planned to attend a signing by one of his favorite actors from The Walking Dead. As a gift, he had brought a pixel-art representation of the character.

“The artwork was absolutely terrible and I give him props to this day for acting like it was good,” Nate says. “It truly showed me how talented of a performer he is.”

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It took Nate two years before he returned to pixel art, recreating scenes the iconic finale of The Walking Dead’s sixth season and its seventh-season premiere with Mega Man sprites.

Image: ncxaesthetic

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“At a certain point I realized I really did enjoy making pixel art, however I was still terrible at it and that bothered me,” Nate says. “I told myself I’d make at least one pixel artwork per day as a way to keep practicing and keep getting better, so that’s what I did. I took a few breaks here and there, but currently I’m on almost a nine-month streak of making pixel art every single day.”

Thus Nate began working his way through 3D Zelda games. It’s a task that he says is much harder than it looks. He walked me through how he translated the entrance of the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time into 2D.

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“My first step was to take a look at the room from the original game and to see the basic layout of everything. The entrance lies south, a door to the north, two dead trees symmetrical to each other on both sides of the room and a climbable wall to the right that provides access to a chest and key. The Game Boy Color is a very limited system, so my biggest challenge here is to figure out how to incorporate that climbable wall into my piece. I save that for last because it helps me to visualize things better when I have something to look at; so I create the room, add the trees, the door, and the entrance. To add some extra flair to the room I add symmetrical pillars to either side of the north door. Now I approach that challenge I mentioned earlier. In Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages, there are two ways to create “height” in a dungeon: either by adding an interactive staircase texture leading up to a whole other floor or by adding a plain staircase texture paired with a wall below which takes up quite a lot of room on the screen. The latter isn’t an option given the size constraints of the room, so I opted for the interactive staircase as my method of translating the climbable wall into a 2D format.”

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To Nate, the placement of different objects and textures on the limited amount of space you have when recreating a Game Boy screen is a challenge akin to a good puzzle game, one that he says is only enhanced by the limitations of his old equipment.

“The crack near the middle of my screen slowly grows larger week by week, however I find it humbling in an odd way. There is a common notion that to make decent content you need decent tools. However, here I am making content with a less-than-decent piece of hardware that even sometimes gets in the way of me trying to work,” he says. “It’s almost poetic—a reminder that anyone with a creative mind can still create no matter the quality of the tools they work with.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Meet The Pixel Artist Recreating Breath of The Wild Scenes In 8-Bit

Image: ncxaesthetic

On Tuesday, Instagram user ncxaesthetic began uploading a series of “screenshots” in which he took iconic scenes from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and rendered them in the 8-bit pixel art style of the Game Boy Color Zelda games like Link’s Awakening DX. Here, for example, is a scene from early in the game, where Link meets the “Old Man” shortly after awakening at the start.

Dig back further into ncxaesthetic’s profile, and you’ll see he’s been working at this for a while, remaking scenes from almost every 3D Zelda in the style of the 2D Game Boy entries.

Turns out ncxaesthetic—also known as Nate, 20—began making these pieces as a way to get better at something he loved doing: making pixel art.

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“Around January of this year, I was replaying Link’s Awakening DX on my 3DS and out of nowhere I just thought to myself, I wonder if anyone has drawn up the bosses from the 3D Zelda games in a 2D format?” Nate wrote to me via email. “So I did some digging around and much to my disappointment, I found none.”

So Nate decided to do it himself. He started with Gohma, the first boss from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and began using a 7-year-old laptop with a cracked screen and an old copy of Photoshop CS6. Soon, he had fashioned every Wind Waker boss in pixel art.

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“I found that project very fun to complete,” Nate said, “so I just continued making content from there and now here we are.”

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Nate began making pixel art four years ago. He had been on his way to a convention and planned to attend a signing by one of his favorite actors from The Walking Dead. As a gift, he had brought a pixel-art representation of the character.

“The artwork was absolutely terrible and I give him props to this day for acting like it was good,” Nate says. “It truly showed me how talented of a performer he is.”

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It took Nate two years before he returned to pixel art, recreating scenes the iconic finale of The Walking Dead’s sixth season and its seventh-season premiere with Mega Man sprites.

Image: ncxaesthetic

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“At a certain point I realized I really did enjoy making pixel art, however I was still terrible at it and that bothered me,” Nate says. “I told myself I’d make at least one pixel artwork per day as a way to keep practicing and keep getting better, so that’s what I did. I took a few breaks here and there, but currently I’m on almost a nine-month streak of making pixel art every single day.”

Thus Nate began working his way through 3D Zelda games. It’s a task that he says is much harder than it looks. He walked me through how he translated the entrance of the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time into 2D.

Advertisement

“My first step was to take a look at the room from the original game and to see the basic layout of everything. The entrance lies south, a door to the north, two dead trees symmetrical to each other on both sides of the room and a climbable wall to the right that provides access to a chest and key. The Game Boy Color is a very limited system, so my biggest challenge here is to figure out how to incorporate that climbable wall into my piece. I save that for last because it helps me to visualize things better when I have something to look at; so I create the room, add the trees, the door, and the entrance. To add some extra flair to the room I add symmetrical pillars to either side of the north door. Now I approach that challenge I mentioned earlier. In Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages, there are two ways to create “height” in a dungeon: either by adding an interactive staircase texture leading up to a whole other floor or by adding a plain staircase texture paired with a wall below which takes up quite a lot of room on the screen. The latter isn’t an option given the size constraints of the room, so I opted for the interactive staircase as my method of translating the climbable wall into a 2D format.”

Advertisement

To Nate, the placement of different objects and textures on the limited amount of space you have when recreating a Game Boy screen is a challenge akin to a good puzzle game, one that he says is only enhanced by the limitations of his old equipment.

“The crack near the middle of my screen slowly grows larger week by week, however I find it humbling in an odd way. There is a common notion that to make decent content you need decent tools. However, here I am making content with a less-than-decent piece of hardware that even sometimes gets in the way of me trying to work,” he says. “It’s almost poetic—a reminder that anyone with a creative mind can still create no matter the quality of the tools they work with.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Nintendo Announces New Joy-Con Colors, Which Look Pretty Damn Nice

This morning, in addition to a new Switch with longer battery life, Nintendo announced some fresh new Joy-Cons. As a plebeian stuck with drab grey controllers, these neon wonder-cons have literally brightened my day.

The new Joy-Cons will come in two colors: the somewhat less impressive Blue/Neon Yellow combo and the actually super great Neon Purple/Neon Orange mashup. Since I’m perpetually jealous of my co-workers’ various colorful Joy-Cons and cool transparent custom controllers, that purple and orange combination is looking pretty fantastic.

The Joy-Cons will retail on October 14 for the somewhat dubious price of $79.99. Hopefully, in the time between then and now, maybe Nintendo can solve the dreaded “Joy-Con Drift” issue. Because what good are some dope controllers if Octopath Traveler’s Ophelia keeps running to the left randomly?

Source: Kotaku.com

Playing As Luigi In Super Mario Maker 2 Probably Won’t Help You Complete Levels Faster

Last week, after a few individual level records were broken in Super Mario Maker 2 using Luigi, a question began to form: Was Mario’s lanky brother somehow faster? Was playing as the Big L essential for getting records? After some investigating, there’s now an answer: probably not.

Questions about Luigi’s efficacy started after Mario speedrunner and record holder Kosmic (alongside runner Andrick) floated the possibility on Twitter that he might be a bit faster. It was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion without much breakdown, but it was enough to cause some curiosity. After coming short of records on two levels, Kosmic and Andrick managed to beat the records by 0.002 milliseconds or sometimes 0.006. Runners weren’t convinced it necessarily had to do with their character selection.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with character selection,” Andrick tweeted. “I’m still confused as to a run can be faster or slower than another that both end on the same frame.”

“What have I done,” Kosmic said on Twitter at the time. “This has virtually no testing done at this point for the record rofl.”

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Indeed, what did you do, Kosmic? Here at the Kotaku offices, it was enough for my boss Stephen Totilo to demand answers. After some investigation from Kosmic and others, it turn out that the runners were right: Luigi is probably not some magic speedster required for getting the best times. It does, however, confirm a speedrun community meme: “lol, just wait for Kotaku to write about this.”

Picture this is Luigi or something, I guess.

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“Bismuth9 and I tried testing out this theory by making various levels,” Kosmic told Kotaku via email. “We thought maybe different characters could cause more or less lag than others. In the end we didn’t find any differences between the characters. At this point I believe all of the characters play the same.”

We reached out to Nintendo via email for information about Luigi’s mechanics in Mario Maker 2. For now, it’s unclear where the 0.002 time save came from, but Kosmic speculates that it might be “something to do with the way you hit the end card or goal tape.” So don’t worry, friends. Play as whoever you like.

Source: Kotaku.com

Joy-Con Drift Is Becoming A Real Problem On The Switch

For months, Nintendo Switch users have been plagued by what’s become known as “Joy-Con drift.” Although they’re not touching the joystick on their Nintendo Switch controller, the console still thinks it’s moving. With no permanent fix being offered by Nintendo, they’re just sick of it.

Recently I’ve been doing nothing but playing the upcoming Switch game Fire Emblem: Three Houses, to finish the game in time for my upcoming review. I, too, have started noticing something funny about my Joy-Con. When I was in the combat screen, where the stick on the right Joy-Con controls the overhead angle of the camera, the camera angle would slowly drift until it was directly overhead. In the school phase of the game, the camera would do the same thing, drifting away from the optimal position unless I kept my thumb on it.

I thought it was just me. Then four other Kotaku staffers mentioned that they’ve also been having problems with Joy-Con drift. That’s about a quarter of us.

It’s a lot more than just the four of us, as it turns out. Two days ago, a thread on the Nintendo Switch subreddit about the issue was upvoted over twenty-five thousand times. This player had started getting issues with drift on their Joy-Con after only four months of use.

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“And before someone says ‘Contact Nintendo and have them repair it,’” they wrote, “I shouldn’t have to spend $4 and two weeks without my Joy-Cons for them to just come back and break again in 4 months.”.

“And before someone says ‘Then buy a do it yourself repair kit for $1,’ again there is absolutely zero reason for me to do that on a luxury controller,” they continued. “And yes I consider $80 a luxury controller because my PS4’s DualShock 4 doesn’t drift for years for me and my Pro controller which has had all of my extensive ‘rough’ playtime on it is also perfectly fine.”

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He also linked to examples of other people having the same problem, like this person who tweeted a video at Nintendo of America.

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That certainly rang true to me. I don’t play many games that require especially rough usage of the Joy-Con on my Switch. I’m not slamming it around playing first-person shooters. Fire Emblem: Three Houses certainly doesn’t require more than gentle movement. Although I’ve had my Switch since it launched in early 2017, the Joy-Cons I’m currently using are newer ones that I bought after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out in December.

When you search for “Joy-Con drift” on Twitter, you get dozens of users complaining that their controllers are effectively broken, or asking Nintendo when it thinks this issue will be fixed. It’s similar on the Switch subreddit, where threads about the issue and some possible fixes have been highly upvoted, even as far back as 11 months ago. Fans have taken their controllers apart to try to diagnose the issue. Kotaku reached out to Nintendo for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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Right now, I own a PlayStation 4, a Switch, and a gaming PC. Out of all of them, I think I use my Switch the most, especially if I have friends over or am just playing for pleasure, rather than work. There is so much about this console to love—the portability that allows me to play games on the subway, how easy it is to show my friends how to use it, and the fantastic games that come out on it. My drifting Joy-Con is making me question my previous devotion to the Switch. If I’m having a hardware issue that affects gameplay on controllers that are only a few months old, is my Switch really everything I told my friends it was?

The games may be great—Fire Emblem: Three Houses sure is—but a drifting controller is at best a significant annoyance and at worst a serious impediment to play. When the camera angle changes on the battlefield in Fire Emblem, I lose sight of certain enemy units, leading to what should have been avoidable deaths. In more active games like Super Smash Bros., a drifting Joy-Con could mean that the game won’t register your inputs correctly, causing you to lose matches.

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Fans have not found a permanent fix for this issue, beyond simply tearing out the joystick in the controller and replacing it with another. At least I know what I’ll blame the next time I lose at Mario Kart.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Battle System Is Elegant In Its Complexity

Screenshot: Nintendo

At its best, combat in Fire Emblem games is like an elegant game of chess. At its worst, it’s a morass of numbers that don’t feel like they mean anything. Three Houses leans more closely to the former than the latter, though it’s also easy to get lost in statistics and variables. Allow me to explain the building blocks of this game’s combat, an understanding that will take you pretty far once the game comes out next week.

In general, what you will need to pay attention to are your characters’ abilities and their Combat Arts. Abilities for particular kinds of weapons can be learned through weapon mastery, which is done either by teaching a particular character about that weapon during the teaching phase of the game, or through just using it. You can also learn abilities for a particular character class as your characters master that class. That class-based mastery can only be achieved through combat.

Abilities are passive, meaning you won’t have to do anything special to trigger them. Marianne, who I’d been using as a healer, recently learned the ability Miracle, which allows her to sometimes be able to survive otherwise lethal attacks, albeit with only one hit point remaining. This is pretty nifty, but in order to make sure that will actually happen, you have to equip that particular ability, and you only have five slots for equipped abilities. Through both teaching and combat, your characters will quickly learn more than five abilities, so it’s best to take a look at what your characters have every once in a while and change it up according to your preferences. You will also always have the option to adjust your character’s loadout right before a battle, which includes their equipped abilities.

It is within abilities that you’ll find the familiar Fire Emblem concept of the weapons triangle, which is a rock/paper/scissors-esque delineation of which weapons are strong or weak against others. As characters gain mastery at certain types of weapons, they’ll sometimes earn abilities that make them stronger against particular weapons. If your axe-wielding character has learned the ability Lancebreaker, it’s probably a good idea to equip that before any battle where you know there will be a lot of enemy lance users.

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Screenshot: Nintendo

Combat Arts also have to be equipped to be used, but instead of being passive abilities, these are special moves to break out during combat. The move Curved Shot, for instance, allows bow users to hit targets that are farther away. Some moves are effective against particular enemy types, like Helm Splitter, a move your axe-using characters can learn that has a bonus against armored units. The thing about using Combat Arts is that it leads to your weapons breaking faster.

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Weapons in Three Houses have a limited amount of uses before they break. Cheaper weapons have about thirty uses, while more expensive ones have much more. If you’re not using Combat Arts, you can make it through a lot of battles with a regular old Iron Sword, but if you are, you need to keep a close eye on each weapon’s durability.

Combat Arts use up more of the weapon’s durability—anywhere from three to five points—which adds up if you’re not keeping track. You can attack with a broken weapon, but your attacks will be much weaker, and it could also result in an enemy counterattack. Later in the game, you’ll unlock a blacksmith who can repair your weapons, but until then, you should keep a close eye on how many more uses they have until they break, and buy more weapons as needed.

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On top of all that, the game’s main character also has the ability to use Relics, which are super powerful weapons. Most of the time, hitting an enemy with a Relic kills them in one hit. These weapons also have a durability stat and will still break when they run out, though this can be reset by resting during the school phase of the game. That only works for Relic weapons, though. Other weapons’ durability can’t be recharged through resting.

Your characters can also bring Battalions into battle. Think of these as being like an extra attack you have in your back pocket. When you have a Battalion, you can use an ability called a Gambit to attack an enemy. (Gambits aren’t always attacks, but most Battalions will have offensive rather than defensive Gambits.) Pairing Battalion abilities with characters can give those characters an extra option to attack or support your other units. The kind of attack that is available to you will depend on the Battalion. Some have ranged magic attacks, while other types of attacks will need you to be up close. Sometimes attacks will even affect the environment, like Battalions that have the attack Blaze, which sets the surrounding environment on fire. Some Battalions can be used to heal adjacent characters. Battalions also have a limited number of uses, but that number can be replenished between battles.

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Screenshot: Nintendo

If all else fails, you have the Divine Pulse, which allows you to turn back time during a battle. People who plan to play on casual mode might think they won’t need it, because it’s not as necessary in the early game, but it’s worth your time in the long run to learn how to use the Divine Pulse. There are extra missions you can do to earn more Relics and Battalions that will require you to keep certain characters alive, and using the Divine Pulse tool makes that a lot easier to pull off. On top of that, getting everyone out of a battle unscathed will result in more weapon and class mastery boosts, as well as more experience and support between characters.

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The Divine Pulse is mapped to the left trigger. You can use it to turn back time as far as you want, but you can only use the Pulse for a limited number of times per battle. Later in the game, you can earn more Divine Pulse uses, but you’ll have played dozens of battles before you get to that point. Using the Pulse can teach you a lot about strategy, as you’ll learn how and why characters die, and then immediately get the chance to correct whatever mistake you made. Often I would send out a character who I thought could handle it into a situation with too many enemies, and that character then died. I’ve since learned to be more cautious, and I’m glad I didn’t have to save scum just to get better outcomes in my battles.

Combat in Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a lot of moving parts, but the game also does a very good job of introducing concepts one by one and giving you enough time to master them before moving on to another new concept. Once you wrap your head around everything that you have to keep track of during battle, you’ll feel like a strategic genius. Or at least that’s what Claude, my house leader, calls me.

Source: Kotaku.com

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Will Test Your Heart And Your Mettle

Fire Emblem: Three Houses perfectly balances tactics-based combat with an anime high school simulator. I’m fifteen hours in, and I can already tell it is going to break my heart.

This Fire Emblem game reminds me a lot of classic otome games like Princess Maker 2, or even their more modern antecedents like Long Live The Queen. In some regards, it is a raising sim. Just as those games asked you to raise a young woman into a princess or queen (or in Princess Maker 2’s case, the Queen of Hell), Three Houses places you in the role of a teacher at Garegg Mach Monastery, which is a school for young knights.

After you pick one of the titular three houses—I went with the Golden Deer—you devote time to training and raising students in the ways of knighthood, as a teacher would. The game also still has the tricky tactical battles for which Fire Emblem is known, but creating bonds between characters and raising their skill, takes place as much off the battlefield as it does on it.

At this point, Fire Emblem as a series can be broken up into two eras. There’s the era of older games from before 2012, many of them taking place in the same world and tending to be centered around the combat. These early games, for the most part, forced you to play with permadeath on, meaning that once a character falls in battle, they’re gone forever. The series took a radical shift with Awakening, which introduced American audiences to casual mode. In that mode, allies that fell on the battlefield wouldn’t literally die, and also, the game was much, much hornier than the previous games. So much of Awakening, and also the next game in the series, Fates, was centered around love, marriage, and your babies from the future. As a result, fans who wanted more of the same thing from the earlier era of Fire Emblem didn’t particularly love the newer games. That tactics element was still there in Awakening and Fates, certainly, but some fans felt the series lost the thing that had drawn them in: really tough combat.

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses does a much better job at balancing the horny anime wife simulator of Fates and Awakening with the serious, puzzle-y tactical combat that drew in fans of the early games. There are a lot of things to do in Three Houses, but also a lot of ways to avoid the things you don’t particularly feel like doing.

Take teaching your students, for instance. You can instruct them manually, choosing each student and then picking which areas to instruct them in. I like to do this whenever I decide to change up my characters’ classes a bit. My student Lorenz started out with a lance, but then I gave him some points in Reason and realized that he could be a powerhouse mage. I’ve recently gained the character Cyril, and while he normally uses an axe, I’m trying to see if I can make him into a sword user, since I don’t have a ton of them. Teaching your students can also be done automatically, but I like to check in on them and progress certain characters one by one.

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Three Houses still has some similar elements to Fates and Awakening, like the weapons triangle—a rock/paper/scissors system that made certain kinds of weapons more powerful than others—and breakable weapons. In Three Houses, your weapons still break, and users of certain weapons will eventually earn abilities that give them an advantage over other weapons. Both these elements are both much less important than Combat Arts, which are new to this game. Combat Arts are special moves that degrade your weapon quality. Regular attacks won’t contribute to how busted your weapon is, just Combat Arts. Some Combat Arts are particularly powerful against certain enemies. Knightkneeler, which is a Combat Art for Lance users, is more powerful against mounted units. Meanwhile Helm Splitter, a Combat Art for Axe users, will straight up destroy units wearing heavy armor.

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The biggest change to combat is the addition of the Divine Pulse, which is a special ability that allows you to rewind time during battle. You can only use it a couple of times per battle, but on normal difficulty, I haven’t had to use it much. I’m not currently playing on the harder difficulty because I just wanted to get to know everyone my first go around. On a later playthrough, where I’ll be playing Classic mode, I’ll probably spam that pulse like a motherfucker.

Three Houses excels at connecting you with the characters, and it’s all because you are their teacher, so you’ll spend a lot of time teaching them and getting to know them. These characters mostly fall into familiar anime archetypes—a shrinking violet with pale blue hair, a cocky womanizer, a pink-haired girl who pretends to be stupid to get other people to do things for her—but by exploring the monastery, teaching them, and talking to them, you learn new unexpected facets that underly these archetypal personalities.

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Marianne, the shrinking violet, has become one of my favorite characters. Usually, these kinds of nature-loving women of few words irritate me a little, but she’s got hidden depths that I’ve discovered after talking to her more and completing quests for her, such as returning her lost items that can be found around the monastery. (Apparently, none of the kids at Garreg Mach can keep their hands on their shit; she’s not the only character that I got to know better by picking up after them.)

If two units spend time on the battlefield next to each other, or supporting each other by healing, they’ll also become emotionally closer to each other. Once they get close enough, you’ll have the option to watch a little skit between the two characters in question, which is called a Support Conversation. The end result is that these characters will then be stronger when they fight together, but these skits also help you get to know the characters in question.

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Recently in my play-through, Marianne made it to the lowest tier of a support conversation with Leonie, a girl from a poor village who idolizes a knight who once studied at Garreg Mach. Watching that scene, I realized that I learned a lot about both those characters. Leonie wanted Marianne’s help picking out some supplies for the women at the monastery, but Marianne declined, assuming she would just be a bother. It isn’t just that Marianne is shy. She has debilitatingly low self-esteem, to the point that you can tell that there is some deeper trauma bubbling under the surface. For example, she sometimes mentions that her father wouldn’t want her straying from the monastery. In fact, she mentions her father’s expectations for her a lot, usually when she’s declining offers of friendship from her classmates. You really have to wonder what happened to her, to make her so afraid of other people.

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I thought Leonie would react with the same empathy that I was feeling, but instead, she was furious. Her reaction still made sense to me, though. Leonie doesn’t come from nobility, like the other characters, and she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She’s resourceful and frugal. She makes her own towels from fabric scraps, and she makes her own soap from used cooking oil. Marianne’s adopted father is a well-known noble. For Leonie, Marianne’s rejection felt like snobbery.

The depth of these character relationships, which flourish in a school setting, is ultimately what’s drawing me into Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I love the tactical aspects of the game, and Three Houses manages to keep the same level of polish in combat as the series has always had, while also changing things up a little. Best of all, Three Houses also does a better job than Awakening or Fates of connecting you to the characters and their interactions because it gives you the job of caretaker, the person helping these students reach their full potential. I’m not just shoving pieces around a board. I’m their teacher, and I want to guide my students through whatever troubles they may face in the future. Based on the sketchy goings-on at Garreg Mach, well, I would say that trouble is soon to be afoot.

Source: Kotaku.com