Monday, September 11, 2017

Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition Review (Nintendo Switch)

Written By: James Nicolay

Title: Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Price: $39.99

I have played this game for probably more than 300 hours already. No, that's not a typo. In 2013, I played the first release of Rayman Legends on Wii U, where it was originally announced as a console exclusive, until Ubisoft angered the fans by announcing later on that it would also be released on other platforms. I did love the Wii U release, and I played it again on my PS3 a month later because I thought I wanted to get the platinum trophy of the game. After I achieved that, I went on to play it on PS Vita and PS4, all getting those platinum trophies after grinding the daily challenges multiple times—collectively on all four consoles, that took hundreds of hours. And through out those times, I was able to enjoy the Kung Foot local multiplayer game in countless video game parties I hosted and participated in. So after exhausting this game on four different consoles, why still bother getting it on Nintendo Switch?

Simply because it is the best version of the game. Ubisoft calls it the 'definitive' edition--and I agree that the additional features make that 100% accurate.

Rayman Legends is a perfect platformer game for our generation. The art style, stage design, and music are glorious--the gameplay is tight and very fluid--the overall package is worth more than the money that Ubisoft is asking for. Playing this handheld was nothing new, as the Vita version was able to also do this--but playing Kung Foot Tournament mode with local co-op of your Switch will definitely appeal some fans who loved the game already to go double/triple/quadruple/quintuple-dip with this best version of an outstanding game.

My first introduction to Rayman was just in Rayman Origins on PS3. Being a Super Mario fan for two decades, I was, at first, intimidated and confused with how the game mechanics work. Platforming games always rely on two things: the definite and limited moves of the character and the architecture of the environment where the characters interact with and explore. In Super Mario games, another element stands out, which is not much present in Rayman games: power-ups. Each installment in the Super Mario platforming series reinvent Super Mario in different suits and introduce new skills in doing so. In Rayman Legends (and Origins), there is almost no power-up except for transforming into an animal (surprise!) and getting what looks like a punch pellet (in Legends), and there are a few stages where he gets to ride an insect combat ship (in Origins). In their deficiency of power-ups, Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends shine in the architecture of every stage. The environments are carefully structured, timed, and even choreographed. Every cliff, bouncy dewdrop, placement of the enemy and collectibles is PRECISE and meaningful in achieving the goal. To complement to that perfectionist edifice, the music complements the mood of each stage. True, I did miss the craziness and quirk of the strange sounds of Rayman Origins (those random la la las and do bi doos), in Rayman Legends, the music is much more refined, utilizing genres from simple Spanish guitar music to synthesized rock and roll, to classical pieces, to disco music. These background symphonies are meticulously laid out all over the stages. So this is ultimately where Rayman Legends shine: the game design, choreography of elements (particularly music) is superb, precise, artistic, quirky, and meaningful in achieving the perfect way to reach the goal. And I haven't even discussed the gorgeous graphics of this game. It's one of the best-looking 2D games on all the consoles this game has appeared on. If this is your first game in the series, worry no more about not having played Rayman Origins as many of the defining stages of this previous game are unlockables in Rayman Legends. Merci, Ubisoft! Playing the Rayman Origins stages will make one feel and realize how the Legends stages are much more refined in their design. There were some frustrating moments in Origins and these were almost absent in Legends where there's more fluidity and more acceptable level of difficulty and ease of completing the collectibles.

The skills and set of moves of Rayman and the other characters might need some time to master if you are coming from Super Mario games. Once one becomes familiar with the control mechanics, the fun and riot begin. What I love about playing each stage multiple times is that a micro-movement of your fingers will affect the result of the game. These micro-movements result to either an error that slows you down or rewarding shortcut that makes one achieve the goal faster. Reaching a goal in a short time is very rewarding in many challenges, especially when once has already mastered every particular nook where one must jump, spin to accelerate, float to go further, etc. Best of all, one may also see how one fares compared to the other players all over the world. There are daily and weekly challenges where you compete with other players around the world as well. What will keep one from trying again and again is that sometimes to unlock all the three trophies, one almost always have to master a combination of special micro-movements with perfecting timing.

There are five types of platforming stages in Rayman Legends:
  1. the normal Rayman Legends 'explorable' stages where one can freely roam the stages without much running and free/discover ten Teensies (strange, adorable blue-like asexual creatures); 
  2. the unlockable Rayman Origins stages, this time restructured to have the ten Teensies as well (with more lums to boot); 
  3. the "Invaded" stages, where one has to reach the goal in 60 seconds or less, or 40 if you want to get all trophies; 
  4. the Murfy stages, which really make fantastic use of the Nintendo Switch (handheld mode) in order to direct a character in the entire stage; and 
  5. the musical stages, where one runs and jumps to the beat of an original or (surprise!) familiar music while still collecting lums and freeing three Teensies.

Not to mention that there are still Daily and Weekly challenges, normal and extreme, to collect more lums and trophies! Boy, there are so many things to unlock even after one sees the credits roll. In all stages, you maximize the number of lums, you collect and Teensies you save in order to get extra trophies and clover leaves. Reaching a certain number of trophies, lums, Teensies, and clover leaves will unlock certain characters, creatures, Rayman Origins stages, Awesomeness level, other Legends stages, etc. And this makes Rayman so much worth your money as you will be able to play again and again until you unlock almost every little feature there is. But the most fulfilling experience is not really unlocking the unlockables--it's being able to outdo yourself each and every time you play the same stage.

How does the touch capability of the Nintendo Switch screen work in Rayman Legends? Quite well, actually. The Switch definitive edition borrows the control scheme of the Playstation console editions when you play the game docked. Undocked, however, you can play the new Murfy's Touch area, which features the same stages that were originally meant to work with the Wii U gamepad. The Nintendo Switch screen can be used for directing Murphy to tap out enemies and access a few things for your Rayman character. Some features and the Murfy levels are all cleverly designed to make use of the Wii U's gamepad and Nintendo Switch's screen. To be honest though, having played the Playstation ports of the game make me not really say that touch input with Murfy's stages are quintessential to the overall experience. It's an okay addition to the game, but the game is equally enjoyable with it. Hence, I understand Ubisoft's decision to stick with the Playstation control scheme for the Switch's main game levels, and just do the Murfy touch-input levels as an added bonus feature of the definitive edition.

The biggest flaw of Rayman Legends game is actually something that might sound unfair--it is Rayman himself and the other characters. They're just not very likeable. Heck, after four years of having played Rayman games, I still don't even remember the names of the other characters. You will be able to unlock very different variations to Rayman and the other characters, but you will not really care about them. I'm still not quite sure if it's just similar to unlocking costumes in other games, but these costumes don't necessarily add anything new to one's gameplay. Anyway, it might not matter to some people, but I really want Ubisoft to make Rayman more appealing. For a gaming achievement that Rayman Legends is, Ubisoft has to popularize more the Rayman characters. Although, Rayman characters have been around for a long time (and as I initially mentioned, Origins was my first introduction to Rayman), normal non-gaming people won't recognize him. The appeal of Super Mario games (which has been criticized heavily by anti-Nintendo critics) is that they're too simple, easy, and there is very little difference from one generation to another. I think Mario is universally liked because of those things: Mario games are very accessible even to new batch of gamers; and the fact that Mario games' designs work on nostalgia is a salute to tradition and origins of video gaming. Strange enough, Rayman actually does somewhat the same thing--refining the stages in Legends but with almost the same gameplay as Origins.

While Mario is universal, I say Rayman is mostly designed for regular to hardcore gamers. The difficulty can be unforgiving, but the gameplay and achievements are highly rewarding. This makes me think that Rayman does not really unseat Super Mario in his throne, but he is actually building his own modern platforming kingdom. Rayman Legends pays homage to a lot of what the Mario series have established, but it builds its own identity. I am really hoping that in the future, Rayman will also achieve the same type of fame and legacy that Mario is now enjoying.

The best new feature of Rayman Legends Definite Edition is a new feature for Kung Foot Tournaments. This simple addition of having a simple, easy to follow tournament set-up for Kung Foot is definitely amazing for people who love playing Kung Foot in the other editions. You can register up to eight teams, with up to five rounds per match. Very nifty.

Right now, I think Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition is the BEST platforming game on Nintendo Switch so far. Despite the not-so-popular characters of Rayman series, Rayman Legends deserves to be played by everyone who has the Nintendo Switch. Is it justifiable to get it again for those people who already have it on their Wii U or Playstation consoles? Maybe--if you are up to playing this on the go, with possibility of hosting Kung Foot tournaments on the go, then this is a good buy. Furthermore, it is the best version of Rayman Legends, which in my personal opinion, is the culmination of everything that we love in the platforming genre and more: with absolutely gorgeous visuals, amazingly precise stage structure and gameplay, hundreds of unlockables, collectibles and hours of replay value in the daily challenges, countless fun times with local player sessions with the Kung Foot tournament mode, and the sheer experience of having fun and outdoing yourself in every exposure and playthrough in this sheer quirky, musical, spectacular and almost-perfect Rayman universe, Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition is a must-have game.

 SCORE: 5/5