The X Button
Cat Fantasy

by Todd Ciolek,
You'll notice that the X Button has a new time slot. It's airing Thursdays, right between Battery Park and The Weber Show! We're in Must See TV territory now, folks! Actually, this new spot shouldn't affect The X Button much, though I'm open to any suggestions readers might have. Unless you suggest that I talk less about Valkyrie Profile. I have a perfectly good excuse this week.

But before anything else, I promised you a rundown on the video-game stores of Dayton, Ohio.

Some people will tell you that Dayton is a moribund economic sinkhole, but it has a lot going for it. You have the Dayton Dragons, owners of the best mascot in minor-league baseball. You have Marion's Piazza, which everyone calls Marion's Pizza. It's pretty much the pizza parlor of your childhood, right down to the square-cut pies, the brown glass tumblers, and the Ninja Turtles arcade machine in the playroom. And if you want old video games, you sure have a lot of options.

In the surrounding suburbs you'll find a Half-Price Books, a 2nd & Charles, a Buybacks (which might not be a chain), two or three comic shops, and the usual gamut of thrift stores and GameStops. You'll also find three flea markets within a half-hour of the city. For two of them, head south on I-75. Go just past the church that had the giant Touchdown Jesus statue before it was struck by lightning and replaced with a smaller one. There you'll find Treasure Aisles and Trader's World arranged like dueling banjos on either side of the highway. Trader's World is known for its spacious buildings, Cracker Barrel décor, and anatomically correct horse statue, even if it has only a few video-game dealers. Treasure Aisles is far more sparsely decorated, but you'll see a game vendor in nearly every hall. The third flea market is Caesar Creek, though it's further away and has only one game seller.

Dayton hosts two dedicated game stores. To the north, there's Vacs N' Videos (and More!), which offers the tangential combination of vacuum repair and video games, plus the Retro-Mania arcade on the side. To the south, there's GameSwap. It sells old movies and toys as well as games, so you'll find Battle Beasts and Kissyfur VHS tapes and Blackstar video discs all in one stop.

Just about every location, whether it's a flea market stall or a full-scale store, observes standard retro-game pricing. That means you'll pay roughly what you would on eBay. The days of finding Little Samson in the Funcoland bin or haggling some tent-sale regular down to ten bucks for Lufia and the Fortress of Doom? Long gone.

I found the best deals at Second Time Around. It started as a music shop, but games and DVDs have taken over more space each time I visit. The proprietors aren't fools when it comes to old games, so anything remotely valuable goes into a display case. Yet they also maintain a section of common titles, all of them priced a little under the going eBay rate.

So what did I buy? Not much. I've finished up my hardcore game collecting, and prices get more ridiculous every time I check. At Second Time Around, I nabbed Legacy of the Wizard, a long and complicated action-RPG that hits my nerd buttons. It's a Falcom game, ported by Compile, and it has five playable characters—including a monster that can walk on other monsters' heads.

My GameSwap visit yielded Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, which I think is the only intriguing Super NES game still widely found for less than ten bucks. Many notable titles, whether they're Dragon View or Super Metroid, will cost you good money—but not Pac-Man 2, a delightful point-and-click adventure game wherein a cartoony Pac-Man endures constant pratfalls and misery at the player's hand. Now I'm prepared for the day Pac-Man 2 acquires an Earthbound<.i>-caliber following and every copy on eBay commands twenty times what I paid.

NEWS

STREET FIGHTER V ADS ZANGIEF, LEAKS LAURA
The most obvious Street Fighter V addition? I would've guessed Blanka, who's been a big green mainstay of the series in most of its pop-culture forms. Zangief might be even more important, though. He had lines in Wreck-It Ralph, after all.

So Zangief is in Street Fighter V, with his spinning lariat, piledriver, throws, and Russian bravado. His V-Skill lets him absorb damage and gain health, and his V-Trigger is a Cyclone Lariat move that pulls an opponent forward.

It's too bad that Zangief's inclusion was overshadowed by the leak of an all-new character. Famitsu slipped some additional screenshots into their coverage of Zangief's Street Fighter V debut, and before long everyone knew that the next character would be a green-clad Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert named Laura. She electrocutes opponents with many of her strikes, and her most elaborate specials involve rolling throws that bounce all over the screen. Is she Blanka's daughter? That would make as much sense as anything else in Street Fighter canon.

Design-wise, Laura seems a little on the generic side. Her hairstyle is kinda neat, but her outfit, with its big pants and ridiculous pseudo-thong, isn't very inventive. No matter. I'm sure CAPCOM will give her much sillier costumes as extra options. And I'm glad the designers made her an aggressively sexy woman. Heaven knows Street Fighter games don't have any of those yet!

What does her debut mean for the remaining two spots on Street Fighter V's initial roster? Well, it sorta rules out Blanka, who is also green, Brazilian, and electrified. Rumors have it that the last all-original entrant will be named Zen, which could apply to just about any archetype (even the computer from Blake's 7). That leaves one spot for a returning Street Fighter character. So my pick is…eh, let's say Juri or Hakan. They haven't brought back any of the Street Fighter IV newcomers yet.

PROJECT X ZONE 2 LOOKS FOR SAILORS, MECHON, OBSCURITIES
I am impressed by Project X Zone 2's reach. It remains to be seen if it'll improve on the sluggish pace of the first game, but I suspect that the developers are hedging their bets. They know that a big lineup of characters both obscure and popular will be enough to get a bunch of fans aboard. In fact, that worked on me in the original Project X Zone. And it might work on me in Project X Zone 2, which now has Ingrid from Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Ryo from Shenmue.

Ingrid is an interesting choice, as she's fairly obscure by Street Fighter standards. She first appeared in CAPCOM Fighting All-Stars, a 3-D fighter that never saw release. Fortunately, she slipped out into Street Fighter Alpha 3 on the PSP and CAPCOM Fighting Evolution. I can only hope that Project X Zone 2 will throw in her All-Stars comrades D.D., Death, and Rook. They haven't been seen since.

Ryo's appearance coincides with the recent Shenmue III Kickstarter success. The first screenshots of him show no forklift attacks, though I assume he's asking Chun-Li and Xiaoyu if they know any Chinese people of the Three Blades. As someone who prefers laughing at Shenmue to playing it, I suspect I'll enjoy Project X Zone 2 more than Shenmue III.

The game also added Estelle from Tales of Vesperia to the playable lineup, while the villain ranks swelled with M. Bison from Street Fighter, Black Hayato (who should probably be called Evil Hayato or Cyber Hayato) from Star Gladiator, Ranmaru from Sakura Wars V, Pyron from Darkstalkers, T-elos from Xenosaga, and Metal Face from Xenoblade. The non-playable characters now include Ada Wong in her Resident Evil 6 getup (as though people want to remember that game), Miles Edgeworth from Ace Attorney, Garigliano from Resonance of Fate, Tarosuke from Yokai Dochuki, and Tiki from Fire Emblem: Awakening (who I wish were playable, since she's sort of a dragon). Yes, Nintendo is now in the Project X Zone mix, though their contributions stick to nerdy selections like Xenoblade and Fire Emblem. Will we see Mario and Kirby bantering with Morrigan and Gemini Sunrise? Probably not.

SKULLGIRLS CREATORS LAUNCH INDIVISIBLE CAMPAIGN
I saw the Indiegogo page for Indivisible, read as far as “inspired by classics like Valkyrie Profile,” and decided that I'd pledge money for it. Some of you may require more details, though.

Indivisible is the work of Skullgirls developer LabZero, now turning their knack for smoothly animated cartoon art toward an RPG instead of a fighting game. Clearly based around the wonderful Valkyrie Profile, Indivisible lets heroine Ajna race, climb, and leap through side-view dungeons, with battles arising when she touches an enemy. Ajna holds the spirits of other warriors within her, and three of them emerge during combat. Attacks are handled by tapping buttons for each character, and timing them right results in mid-air hits and other combination attacks. Yes, it's a lot like Valkyrie Profile. And that's great.

Valkyrie Profile isn't the only inspiration here, of course. The dungeons expand as Ajna gathers new allies and their weapons, suggesting a Metroid-style progression. The soundtrack will feature Hiroki Kikuta, the talented composer of Secret of Mana, Koudelka, Soukaigi, and Seiken Densetsu 3. His contributions to Indivisible recall his best work. “Girl of Destiny” seems straight out of Soukaigi, which might have the most underrated game soundtrack in history.

The playable Indivisible demo is fun and the gameplay pairs the complicated and the reflexive very well, but the surrounding details seem bland. The temple background is gorgeous but lacking in atmosphere, and the Indiegogo pitch's story synopsis sounds drab and clichéd. Ajna is a spirited tomboy hoping to save her village from evil warlords and…uh, well, she has people inhabiting a psychic city within her soul. That last part is the only memorable angle. Indivisible lacks punch in its narrative and design, as though LabZero overcompensated for the sexist pandemonium of Skullgirls by making their next project a little too dignified. Still, I expect there's more to the story than the Indiegogo page tells, and I hope it'll raise enough to bring the game to life.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: SEPTEMBER

MONHUN DIARY: POKA POKA FELYNE VILLAGE DX
Developer: From Software
Publisher: CAPCOM
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
A.K.A.: MonHun Nikki: Poka Poka Airu Mura DX

The newly announced Monster Hunter Stories may be the latest spin-off in CAPCOM's series, but MonHun Diary: Poka Poka Felyne Village DX predates it by a good stretch. It arrived on the PSP in 2010, and now it's back on the 3DS. And as the title implies, it's all about Felynes, the huge-headed catfolk who serve as Monster Hunter's most marketable creatures.

Poka Poka Felyne Village has players create a Felyne avatar and dress it in hunting gear, and the little munchkin gets his or her own house to customize like an Animal Crossing residence. The Felynes venture out on quests, most of which involve stalking monsters in cuter simulacrums of typical Monster Hunter hacking and butchering. Battles take a side-view angle similar to Patapon, as players give their Felyne hunters commands and try to arrange everything right. It's possible to befriend creatures as well, and you can ride a Poogie through the forest or race it against other cat-eared jockeys. Felynes also go fishing, catch bugs, and mine for valuable ore. It's a little like a National Geographic special about a native tribe of polygon cat-people and their watermelon pigs.

The DX version of MonHun Diary is mostly the same as the PSP edition, but CAPCOM wrangled some crossover trinkets for the 3DS outing. Felynes can wear outfits based on Mario and Animal Crossing characters, and in the latter case, it's entirely fitting.

Import Barrier: There's a fair dose of Japanese text, and you'll need to navigate some menus just to set up your character.

Domestic Release: Minimal chance, as it seems overshadowed by the major Monster Hunter games and the Stories spin-off. CAPCOM's more likely to localize those instead of an all-Felyne game.

Cats: Plenty of them.

TOKYO XANADU
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Nihon Falcom
Platform: PS Vita
A.K.A.: A Stately Pleasure Dome

Some will look at Tokyo Xanadu and see Falcom's mimicry of the Persona series, as both share modern teenage heroes and monstrous dimensional breaches in the heart of urban Japan. But Xanadu is an old, old hand at this. The original Xanadu sprang from Falcom's voluminous Dragon Slayer series back in 1986, well before Persona and its Shin Megami Tensei source came along. So who can complain if Xanadu wants to dress itself up as a modern RPG full of high-school demon hunters?

Tokyo Xanadu's lead hunter is one Kou Tokisaka, a helpful teenager who just so happens to witness his classmate Asuka Hiiragi battling extradimensional monsters one night. He soon learns that she's part of a larger organization that investigates Xanadu, mysterious dungeons somehow connected to a place known simply as The Other World. So Kou, apparently having no other extracurricular activities, becomes a Xanadu dungeon-delver alongside other teenagers who range from young geniuses to innocent martial artists. True to the Persona connection, the player builds up the bonds between characters with special scenes. Tokyo Xanadu unfolds in the fictional yet entirely familiar city of Morimiya, where kids have Xiphones instead of iPhones, but its setup may as well be in the same realm as Persona, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, or Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy.

As any Falcom fan will tell you, the real meat of the company's RPGs lies in gameplay. Tokyo Xanadu grants its characters Soul Devices as weapons, including grappling anchors, swords, and gauntlets. Each has three different skillsets: long-distance attacks, aerial moves, and charged-up strikes. Combat moves at a quick pace, and the Xanadu depths present traps and obstacles well beyond the typical angular dungeon hack. It's possible to swap characters in the middle of combat, and dodging, rolling, and mid-air attacking come easily. Even if those Xanadu dungeons lead to no interesting plot points, they're fun to explore.

Falcom's soundtracks usually stand out, though Tokyo Xanadu's elegant battle themes have to share space with the pop songs of Spika, an idol group that aids the characters on their dungeon dives. One of their songs even teases the Falcom connoisseur with a heavy intro. That comes with modern RPGs, I guess.

Import Barrier: The basics of battles aren't hard to grasp, but you'll need to know some Japanese to work out the storyline and the apparently important social-skill scenes.

Domestic Release: It's very possible. XSEED Games announced nothing so far, but they've helped themselves to a good chunk of Falcom's recent catalog, with several The Legend of Heroes games coming and a Xanadu Next license showing up. Tokyo Xanadu might take a while to get here, but I suspect we'll see it in English.

Cats: Not many, apart from some catlike monsters.

UTAWARERUMONO: ITSUWARI NO KAMEN
Developer: AQUAPLUS
Publisher: AQUAPLUS
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation 3/ PS Vita
A.K.A.: Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception

I remember Utawarerumono among those anime series that American companies bought for no apparent reason during the waning years of the past decade's anime bubble. Like Gad Guard or Innocent Venus, Utawarerumono had little cachet among Western audiences. It had grown from a visual novel and strategy RPG hybrid into a little series of drama CDs and spin-off games, but none of them ever came to North America. And yet Utawarerumono stuck around longer than most of its questionably licensed contemporaries. It has a sequel in Itsuwari no Kamen, and an anime series to go with it. As before, you can see the anime show in English while the actual game sits in Japan.

Like its anime counterpart, the Itsuwari no Kamen game begins with an amnesia-plagued dope wandering a snow-covered fores. A beastlike woman named Kuon narrowly rescues him from monsters. She takes him in, names him Haku, and introduces him to Utawarerumono's world, where Ainu-like villagers with big furry ears and tails live in a monster-populated ancient Japan. Of course, Utawarerumono isn't really set in old Japan, and Haku gradually meets more allies…including one in a familiar-looking steel mask.

Itsuwari no Kamen remains a mixture of visual-novel conversations and strategic battles, but it's noticeably tilted toward the former. The combat proceeds on grids where characters position themselves, attack, and perhaps add extra moves during their turn. For every enemy encounter, you'll sit through a half-hour of dialogue and character cutouts. Some might prefer that sort of thing in full anime form.

Import Barrier: For all practical language purposes, this is a full-blown visual novel. Enter with some Japanese proficiency or risk button-mashing through reams of chatter.

Domestic Release: There's little to no chance of a company officially localizing the console and Vita versions of the game, but fan translators took on the original Utawarerumono game. Maybe they'll tackle the sequel.

Cats: The beast-folk of Utawarerumono have catlike tails, but their ears might remind you more of dogs. I'm sure there's a forum debate about that someplace.

THIS WEEK'S RELEASES

It's time to play catch-up with the games I didn't cover during my time off, and there are several of them. We're headed into the busy holiday season, and the rush of new games starts earlier every year. This time around, I expect the deluge to run out just after Thanksgiving.

Sega released Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax earlier this week for the PS Vita and PlayStation, with a bonus soundtrack and alternate covers. I wish more companies did that. Anyway, the game is a 2-D fighter that invites characters from all sorts of Dengeki-affiliated light novels and their attached anime series: Asuna and Kirito from Sword Art Online, Taiga from Toradora!, Misaka from A Certain Magical Index, Shana from Shakugan no Shana, and at least a dozen more. You'll see plenty of Sega references in the backgrounds, and the game even has a few characters from Virtua Fighter and Valkyria Chronicles (what, no Burning Rangers?). The lineup of supporting characters expands even further, and you'd have to be a pretty grumpy nerd not to find at least one series you like represented here (mine would be Kino's Journey and Boogiepop Phantom). It's not exactly a balanced fighter, but there's nothing quite so effectively targeted at anime fans.

The problem? Sega released an updated version of the game, entitled Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax Ignition, in Japan this past July. It has more characters, including Emi from The Devil is a Part-Timer!, and those gameplay tweaks that high-level fans usually demand. The home versions won't be out in Japan until December, but North American buyers are still missing out.

Also available now is Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance. The series is a cynical vision of a netherworld plagued by legal technicalities and bribery as much as demons, and that holds true here. Our hero is the mysterious but nonetheless vengeful young demon Killia, and our heroine is the wealthy, more cheerful Princess Seraphina. Both are out to destroy the dreadful Void Dark and his billion-strong army of souls, whose conquest spans dimensions and various Netherworlds.

Disgaea 5 also maintains the strategic grid battles of previous games, with a few enhancements. Revenge Mode lets characters boost their stats and whip out powerful attacks once they and their allies take enough damage, and characters join up for new combination moves if they're bonded by romance or rivalry. The item-crafting minigames, unavoidable for modern RPGs, include a curry shop as well as a farm for the Innocents, creatures that enhance items and weapons. Yeah, they're called Innocents. Disgaea is like that.

Nintendo's Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash comes to the 3DS tomorrow in both a regular set and a special Amiibo edition. It's a side-scrolling platformer in which Chibi-Robo wanders backyards and wall interiors that seem fantastically large from his perspective, and he gets around through creative use of his plug. It functions as a grappling hook and weapon, grabbing onto various surfaces and allowing Chibi-Robo to reach new areas. It's not exactly Bionic Commando, but...wait, maybe it IS Bionic Commando and a little robot Hitler's head explodes at the end.

And the Amiibo? It turns Chibi-Robo into his super-powered form and helps players unlock new capsule toys within the game. Some might predict that it'll be a sought-after collectible, but the whole Amiibo craze seems to be dying down. It's easy to find all but a few figures now, and no one's mounting crazed campaigns to buy every last Rosalina toy these days.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

CORPSE PARTY: BLOOD DRIVE
Developer: Team GrisGris / 5pb.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: October 13
That Kind of Party: No, it's not
MSRP: $49.99 (special edition)

I'd devise some metaphor about how Corpse Party, a series that chronicles restless spirits and dark magic, turned itself into a paper-thin ghost by revisiting the same characters. But I'm not that clever. Besides, horror movies get intrusive, dubiously merited sequels all the time. Why shouldn't horror games go through the same?

Blood Drive picks up two months after Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, drawing occult aficionado Ayumi Shinozaki back into unpleasant things. Her family apparently protected the titular Book of Shadows from falling into evil clutches, so Ayumi's compelled to visit her great-aunt's home and set things to rights. Yet she's also plagued with guilt over the deaths of her friends in previous games, and she learns of a spell that might bring them back to life. Ignoring just about every implicit warning from stories about resurrecting the dead, Ayumi plunges into Heavenly Host Elementary, and most of the surviving characters from previous Corpse Party games are along for the ride.

Blood Drive follows the earlier Corpse Party games in its viewpoint, as players navigate Ayumi and other characters from an overhead perspective. Yet it's much darker here. Floorboards turn into pulsating viscera with eyes, monstrosities creep just outside of your flashlight's beam, and your best defenses are hiding, running, and perhaps defusing a trap. This is a horror game all about unarmed frailty, and the desperation comes from running helpless through a hall of blinking arterial hellslime, not from having only one shotgun shell left when three zombies crash through a garage door. Even if Blood Drive treads on the thin logic of a sequel, it offers plenty for fans: eleven main chapters, eight bonus stories, and unlockable interviews. And then they can move on to Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient.

DRAGON QUEST HEROES: THE WORLD TREE'S WOE AND THE BLIGHT BELOW
Developer: Omega Force / Bird Studio / Armor Project
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: October 13
A Slime Draws Near: Command?
MSRP: $59.99

Well, Dragon Quest, you beat Final Fantasy to the punch. Your prime RPG rival put out plenty of action games over the years, but never was there a Final Fantasy adaptation of the Dynasty Warriors style. So Dragon Quest is first to turn its history of heroes and monsters into a huge battlefield brawler. Well, Gundam and One Piece and even The Legend of Zelda did it before this, but at least Final Fantasy didn't.

Dragon Quest Heroes begins in the nation of Arba, where the local monsters suddenly ran amok and threatened the populace…and the terribly important World Tree. Players pick heroes, outfit them, and set them loose in cities and fields teeming with recognizable Dragon Quest beasts: slimes, drackies, skeletons, bubble slimes, giant cats, golems, cyclopses, actual dragons, and many others. The playable characters include newcomers like guard captains Luceus and Aurora, the sturdy King Doric, and inventor Isla, but these games are all about giving fans their old favorites. So the roster has Dragon Quest IV's Alena, Kiryl, and Maya; Dragon Quest V's Bianca and Nera; Dragon Quest VI's Terry; Dragon Quest VIII's Jessica and Yangus; and…well, a healslime named Healix, who's technically a new character. That's not a particularly large lineup when you consider Dragon Quest's expansive history, but we'll see more in the sequel. It'll arrive in 2016.

For this year, however, Dragon Quest Heroes is a nice-looking playground for fans of the series. Characters band together in parties of four, and it's possible to switch between them whenever you like. Their attacks specialize in scattering legions of enemies before them, and the game plays true to Dragon Quest with its status ailments, weapon upgrades, and habit of resurrecting comrades at churches. Heroes is also fully voiced, marking the first time that characters like Maya and Bianca haven't been silent. It's a little unfair that Square Enix didn't bring over the PlayStation 3 edition as well as the PlayStation 4 release, but at least the PS4 handles the hordes of monsters with less slowdown.

THE LEGEND OF LEGACY
Developer: Grezzo / Furyu
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 13
Best SaGa: Frontier II, I say
MSRP: $39.99

All right, I think we can dispense with the cute titles that poke fun at Final Fantasy in both contradiction and alliteration. The Last Story gets a pass, since it actually was a self-contained tale from the creator of Final Fantasy. The Legend of Legacy, however, sounds like a disposable parody instead of an actual game. And it has more in common with Square Enix's Bravely Default and SaGa games than it does modern Final Fantasy.

In appearances, The Legend of Legacy indeed looks like Bravely Default, as they share the habit of making elaborate character illustrations into squat in-game munchkins. Here it's Tomomi Kobayashi's artwork that turns into the game's noseless, big-headed heroes. Players select a protagonist from noble adventurer Liber, amnesiac milquetoast Bianca, elementalist Meurs, single-minded paladin Garnet, elite mercenary Owen, frog prince Filmia, and scheming, vain alchemist Eloise. The actual story seems closer to the wide-roaming approach of the SaGa games. A mystic isle called Avalon appears and numerous travelers head there, but the plot focuses less on a strong, straight-line narrative. Pick a lead character and his or her story will unfold, with the other cast members encountered as allies here and there.

Emphasizing exploration, The Legend of Legacy opens new areas as the player purchases new maps, and Avalon's only town provides a base of operations. Monsters are visible on the overworld, and touching one brings up a combat system where players direct party members and their stances. Characters can switch between eight different weapon types and forge contracts with elementals, and both figure heavily into battles. The whole thing could be a fun bracer for RPG fans waiting on an English version of Bravely Second, but the SaGa games always were...acquired tastes, to put it kindly.

YOSHI'S WOOLLY WORLD
Developer: Good-Feel
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: October 16
Yoshi: Yoshi!
MSRP: $49.99 / $59.99 (Amiibo edition)

The cover of Yoshi's Woolly World has an adorable yarn version of Yoshi riding an even more adorable yarn version of Poochy, Yoshi's loyal pet. It's pretty much the cutest thing you'll see on the shelves at any game retailer this year, and it's not deceptive about what lies within.

Yoshi's Woolly World envisions the happy isle of Yoshis in yarn, with everything from the clouds to the mountains to the capering Yoshi dinosaurs themselves cast in crocheted style. The nefarious Kamek appears one day to turn the Yoshis into little yarn packs, with only one or two Yoshi adventurers surviving to rescue the others. It falls in line with the Yoshi's Island series, as Yoshi trudges through levels, using yarn balls as weapons and squeaking with each jump. The side-scrolling stages challenge Yoshi to ride platforms, outrun giant yarn monsters, solve puzzles, cling like a ninja to fuzzy conveyor belts, defeat regular enemies made huge by Kamek's magic, and transform into a race car or an airplane or even a mole machine. Nintendo promises a great amount of bonus items to find in every stage, and two players can tackle them together. Putting an Amiibo on the Wii U gamepad will give Yoshi the palette of Samus Aran or Donkey Kong, and the game comes with its own woolly Yoshi figure.

It looks charming, but Yoshi's Island sequels have disappointed before. Yoshi's Story was one of the first major letdowns on the Nintendo 64, Yoshi's New Island is just average, and even the considerably better Yoshi's Island DS has some annoying hiccups. Will Woolly World be the best Yoshi's Island game since the original? I'd hate for all of that yarn to go wasted.

Also Available:
The Arland Atelier Trilogy packs together all three games in Gust's PlayStation 3 sub-series: Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori, and Atelier Meruru. This doesn't have the improved Plus version of Rorona or the elaborate packaging of the special editions, but it works out to forty bucks for three long, item-crafting RPGs.


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter if you want.


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