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GoNintendo Review - SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated (written by NintendoJam)

"If you are (or ever have been) a Goofy Goober, don’t skip out on this nautical nonsense."

While it doesn't make for the best day ever, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated serves up plenty of smiles with hours of F.U.N. and imagination.

Growing up playing many video games based on Nickelodeon's most iconic franchise SpongeBob SquarePants, I was excited to hear that THQ Nordic was publishing a remaster from developer Purple Lamp Studios. Not only is Battle for Bikini Bottom widely considered to be the best in the SpongeBob series of games, but also the best licensed title in general. Games based on previously established IPs from film or television tend to be nothing more than shameless cash-grabs, but this one in particular is truly something special.

Surprisingly, the original Battle for Bikini Bottom was one of the few SpongeBob releases I didn't play during the 6th console generation. Most of my time was spent on prior point-and-click adventure titles on PC like "Operation Krabby Patty" (2001) and "Employee of the Month" (2002), but I also dived into some other BFBB-like 3D platformers on GameCube like "Revenge of the Flying Dutchman" (2002) and "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" (2004). While the 2003 release of Battle for Bikini Bottom completely flew past my radar (taking away any nostalgia that I could have had for the remaster), I'm glad that almost 20 years later I finally got to experience a rehydrated version of what everyone has been so bubbly about.

Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a very faithful remaster built from the seabed up in Unreal Engine 4. Most of the original’s gameplay mechanics and level design remain untouched, with the biggest difference being a gorgeous new coat of paint. While this is mostly a good thing, certain issues from the original (such as Clancy Brown not voicing Mr. Krabs) are still disappointingly present.

The art-style is now much more reminiscent of modern SpongeBob, and while some may see that as a negative due to growing up with the original, it definitely adds much more color, expressiveness, and overall life to the undersea world. Many references from the first two seasons of the cartoon can be found in both the original game and the remaster, with nods to the later seasons added exclusively for Rehydrated. Recent internet memes like “Surprised Patrick” and “Mocking SpongeBob” can be viewed through idle animations, and you can even catch an NPF (non-player fish) dabbing if you pay attention to him long enough.

The Switch version of the game has plenty of undeniable issues, most of which are based on the console’s limited hardware and/or poor optimization. Throughout my playthrough, I experienced no less than 3 random soft-locks, blacking out my screen, leaving only the UI and pause menu functional. You’ll likely come across plenty of other slightly annoying issues, including but not limited to; slow and frequent load times, occasionally blurry and illegible graphics due to dynamic effect resolution, over-pixelated shadows, and very unstable framerate. Portability is definitely the main selling-point for purchasing the title on Switch, as it can’t really compete with other platforms graphically or technically. In handheld-mode, the game looks beautiful on the Switch’s 6.2-inch LCD screen, but If you plan to play mostly in TV-mode, I’d recommend considering another system for your spongy adventure.

Taking about 10-20 hours to 100% complete, Battle for Bikini Bottom is pure joy for fans of the 3D platformer collectathon genre. 100 Golden Spatulas (the main objectives) and 80 of Patrick’s lost socks are scattered across 10 main worlds and 3 boss battles, all based on iconic and memorable locations/characters from the show. Plankton's army of rogue robots have run amok, and your goal is to stop their antics with good ol' cartoon violence! Most of the game could easily be played by younger fans of the long-running cartoon, but some challenges certainly aren’t for bubble-blowing babies. Many of Patrick’s socks are actually really well-hidden, and platforming in the latter half of the game sometimes requires quite a bit of precision.

SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy all control as smooth as Jellyfish Jelly (Jellyfish Jelly is smooth, right?), each with a unique moveset designed to tackle different tasks. Sandy uses her lasso for long distance hovering, swinging, and attacks, Patrick can carry and throw objects such as watermelon (which is useful for solving most of the puzzles), and SpongeBob can gradually unlock special moves like; the Cruise Bubble (a controllable missile), Bubble Bowl ("Bowl-o-rama!"), Sponge Bowl (turning yourself into a bowling ball) ,and Wedgie Dive (allowing for bungee jumping from various hooks). The characters can be swapped between upon finding a bus stop, but only the heroes needed for the specific area are available for use.

Dialogue for the character interactions, main story, and cutscenes is very reminiscent of the writing in episodes from the show. The jokes are witty, silly, and plentiful, with even some adult humor thrown in too. Most of the voice acting is spot-on due to the cartoon's returning cast, but hearing Mr. Krabs' and Mermaid Man's poor impersonators does take away from some of the immersion. You can expect SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to give a comedic quip with every robot defeated and puzzle solved. While this can get pretty repetitive once cycled through, it isn't much worse than hearing "Wa! Wahoo! Weehee!" from the Super Mario games.

Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated introduces the addition of co-op multiplayer, which is sadly nothing special and honestly quite disappointing. Taking only about 30 minutes to complete the single map that’s available, the Horde Mode-like experience feels like extra content thrown into the game at the last minute. Traveling from island to island defeating the waves of enemy robots is way too easy, and has practically zero value when compared to the main single-player campaign. Dying in this mode results in a respawn just a few seconds later, failing to provide any real challenge. I suppose the most entertaining aspect is competing with your friends (locally or online) to see who can defeat more robots and collect the most Shiny Objects, but even then, it gets old pretty quickly.

Playing online actually works quite well though, which was a nice surprise. Joining a random room was almost instantaneous, but the community of online players is expectedly filled with a younger audience with short attention spans. I carried every match I participated in, and half the time my teammate left the game before we even got to the end. It’s fun to play as Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Gary, and Plankton for the first time, but it’s a shame they’re exclusive to this admittedly mediocre mode. Hey though, It’s better than nothing.

Purple Lamp Studios really delivered on developing a fun and faithful remaster of the cult classic 3D platforming collectathon. Despite performance and optimization issues with the Switch version, as well as some carried over flaws from the original, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated is absolutely worth the $30 price of admission. If you are (or ever have been) a Goofy Goober, don’t skip out on this nautical nonsense.

Switch sales more than double in the UK for the first half of 2020

Switch is on a roll

There's no doubt you know just how well the Switch is doing, especially in recent months. The platform has been a success since day one, and it continues to find new fans the world over. That includes in the UK, which is typically known as Playstation territory.

According to data from VGC, Switch hardware sales have more than doubled in the first half of 2020 as compared to the first six months of 2019. There was quite a surge in early March, which hit its peak in May. This is all the more impressive when you consider how hard the Switch was to find in the UK. If Nintendo could have had stock at a good level from March to May, sales would have no doubt been even higher.

While the peak was in May, sales continue to remain strong for Switch. Early UK reports show that June 2020 was a significantly better sales month for Switch when compared to the same month in 2019.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons hits 5 million physical units sold in Japan

Tom Nook is ROLLING in bells!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons continues to top the sales charts worldwide three months after launch. Sure, the game has slowed down a bit, but it's still popular enough to regularly pull in the #1 spot in multiple regions. That includes Japan, where the physical release of the game is killing it.

In those three months since launch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has sold 5 million units at retail. 5 million physical copies in Japan alone in such a short amount of time is staggering! Since that number doesn't even include digital purchases, you can only imagine just how much more impressive the sales tally is!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been the perfect game at the perfect time for Nintendo, and goes to show how Nintendo really is the king when it comes to hitting that expanded audience market.

Paper Mario: The Origami King info blow-out (dev team interview, story tidbits, battle system breakdown, and more!)

The biggest info drop yet

Game Informer has just shared a massive feature on Paper Mario: The Origami King, and it's chock-full of new details and interview snippets with the dev team. Check out a complete breakdown of the feature below.

Story info

- Toad Town is hosting a special origami festival
- Mario and Luigi are among the requested guests
- the duo finds that the ordinarily thriving town is ­virtually abandoned
- Peach has been transformed into an origami form, and her normally friendly personality replaced with a detached automaton
- the trouble comes from King Olly, the ­diabolical ruler of the Origami Kingdom
- Mario gets dropped into a dungeon, and Olly wraps Peach’s castle in five massive streamers and places it atop a mountain
- Mario meets Olivia, one of the few origami creations who isn’t an enemy
- Mario and Olivia need to figure out how to restore Toad Town and the rest of the land to its normal
- the two end up helping a ­partially origami’d Bowser along the way
- each of the five streamers encasing Peach’s castle is guarded by a member of the Legion of Stationary
- the Legion of Stationary are realistic depictions of familiar art supplies such as colored pencils, rubber bands, and tape
- the story isn’t chapter-focused, as players can travel from region to region seamlessly in an open-world setup

Kensuke Tanabe talks about development, battle system, supplemental characters, and more

“When continuing a game series, it’s much easier to carry over the basics from an existing game system rather than building new systems for each new installment, but that’s not how you create new experiences or unexpected surprises. As a game designer, I want to deliver new experiences and surprises to our fans, so I always challenge myself to create something new. To be sure, I will sometimes use the same system in a subsequent game to further develop that system until I feel it has reached its full potential. But my goal is to continue to tackle new challenges as much as possible.

Mr. Naohiko Aoyama, who is a member of the staff at Intelligent Systems and the director of the previous entry in the series, Paper Mario: Color Splash, asked for a battle system in which the enemies surround Mario to attack from all sides. That became our starting point when thinking about how the battles would work.

We kept thinking about what to do, until one day an idea suddenly popped into my head while I was in the shower. The idea was based on a Rubik’s Cube. It inspired me to add vertical rotations to the horizontal rotations, so we got the slide mechanic added to the program, and it worked well. That is the moment I was convinced we’d be able to build our battle system.

It occurred to us that one way to avoid introducing a different system would be for the boss battles to be the opposite of regular battles, with the boss in the center and Mario creating a route to the boss from the outside,. I drew concentric circles on a whiteboard, put mock-ups of some panels using magnets with arrows and other things drawn on them so Ms. Risa Tabata [the assistant producer] and I could simulate how a battle would play out multiple times. We felt that we had gotten something pretty good out of that process, so I proposed it to Intelligent Systems.

We never considered whether or not we should implement a party-based system like some other games. As we worked on Paper Mario: The Origami King, we decided we could create more memorable moments if Olivia and the other characters team up with Mario along the way. In other words, we first determine what elements are needed in a game and then figure out how to implement and program them. Bobby, the Bob-omb, was the first character we decided to include, and from there we chose the characters that would be the best fit for the events in each stage of the game. Bowser Jr. was an exception. The director, Mr. Masahiko Nagaya, personally had strong feelings about including a storyline where a son sets out to save his father, so in this case, we decided to include the character before deciding exactly what we would have him do.”

Combat breakdown

- when combat begins, players have a set number of turns in the planning phase to optimize their positioning
- the goal is to line enemies up in groups so that Mario can take them out efficiently
- Mario's stomp attack hits enemies lined up in a row
- Mario's hammer deals more concentrated damage to groups of enemies that are standing side-by-side and one row deep
- you can spend coins to purchase more time to think if you’re running low on time
- Toad friends can give you hints if you pay them
- even if you mess up the first time, you can rearrange the stragglers once both you and the enemies have taken turns

Intelligent Systems' Masahiko Magaya discusses world-building

“One major feature that makes the world where this adventure takes place special is that there are huge maps to explore at every turn. Because the game is laid out this way, we were careful during the design phase to make sure there is always something in the player’s field of vision to catch their attention.”

Gameplay features

- bosses are scattered around the world
- players can see the streamers far in the distance
- Mario can run around to travel, drive a boot-shaped car, and captain a boat
- Mario will also climb aboard an airship, where he takes command of the ship’s defenses to fire rockets at paper plane
- the game is filled with one-off activities and miscellaneous diversions
- Mario will encounter a host of Toads who have been folded into different origami forms
- hitting them with his hammer reverts them back to their normal form
- at this point, they might return to Toad Town, restoring valuable services to the location
- Toads may also join Mario in battle, watching from the sidelines and helping when asked (and paid).
- you can also go fishing
- Olivia is a constant companion throughout the adventure, and other characters join and leave along the way

Thanks to Sligeach_eire for the heads up!

Nintendo ending sale of digital game codes at retail in Europe

Boxed retail and eShop it is

Over in Europe, Switch owners had multiple options for purchasing games. There's always the traditional physical copy, as well as the eShop route, but customers could also purchase download codes for games at select retailers. That third option is being ended immediately, according to Nintendo.

The Big N is squashing digital code sales at retail in Europe for all of their titles, and that decision goes into effect on July 1st, 2020. You can see Nintendo's statement on the matter below, courtesy of NintendoLife.

After careful examination of the evolving European marketplace in recent years, Nintendo has decided to end the availability of download codes for its own-published software via retailers, effective 1st July 2020.

Customers will still be able to purchase Nintendo eShop funds, Nintendo Switch Online memberships, and add-on content such as the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield Expansion Pass, at retailers across Europe. Download codes for Nintendo Switch software from other publishers will also still be available.

We’re always investigating new avenues, and will continue to work on new methods to bring Nintendo eShop content to as many players as possible.

Nintendo's president explains the Switch success, Nintendo exec says Nintendo focuses on fun over tech power

A Switch hit

The Switch has been a runaway hit for Nintendo, amassing millions and millions of units sold, with countless customers continuing to pick up the platform every week. In a Q&A with shareholders, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa explained what's made the Switch a hit.

In Furukawa's mind, The Switch is a success for two reasons. First up, Furukawa believes that the introduction of the Switch Lite has really helped boost the signal of the Switch, opening up the customer base even more. Furukawa also says that Nintendo having just one platform to create games for has helped them focus development efforts, instead of splitting them as they used to do with console/portable games. The goal is to keep creating software and extend the system's lifespan.

Nintendo Director and Senior Executive Officer Ko Shioda chimed in with some thoughts on the platform's success as well. Shioda says that Nintendo focuses on fun experiences rather than the technical power of a console. This has helped woo all sorts of players, including families. In Shioda's eyes, these families coming together to play reaffirms the value of having a dedicated gaming console.

Thanks to Sephazon for the translation!

Nintendo says Nintendo Directs are extremely effective at delivering info, but something could replace them

Directs may not be here forever

Nintendo fans look forward to Nintendo Direct events more than anything else. They're the go-to presentation to learn new info, find out about upcoming titles, and see first-time reveals. Nintendo is quite fond of the Directs as well, but Nintendo's president isn't sure they'll be around forever.

Nintendo's president Shuntaro Furukawa was asked about Nintendo Direct events during a shareholder meeting, to which he said Directs are an especially effective means of conveying new game content and announcements. That said, the company could come up with something that's even more effective in the future. Nintendo has to constantly evolve their way of thinking, so something else could end up replacing Directs down the road.

Thanks to Sephazon for the heads up!

Nintendo's president apologizes for Joy-Con drift issues

Deepest apologies

Joy-Con drift has been an issue that has plagued many a Switch owner up to this point, and Nintendo is well aware of the problem. During a recent shareholders meeting, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa took a moment to apologize to fans for the situation.

Furukawa said he apologizes to Switch owners suffering from Joy-Con drift at the moment. Unfortunately, that's all he could say, as there's a class-action lawsuit here in the states. Due to this, Furukawa decided to hold back on making any other statements on the matter.

Capcom says there are no plans for Monster Hunter World on Switch, teases next game without mentioning platforms

What in the world?!

If you were still holding out hope that Capcom would bring Monster Hunter World to Switch, you can officially let that hope go now. During a shareholders meeting at Capcom, the company was asked about the potential for bringing Monster Hunter World to Switch. The company responded by saying that they have no plans to do so.

After that, Capcom was asked about a Monster Hunter title that was aimed at middle school/high school kids, similar to what was available for the PSP years ago. The team did confirm that they have plans for something like that, but didn't mention any platforms in particular.

Thanks to Dondom95 for the heads up!

Ninjala climbs to 2 million units downloaded

Ninjamania!

Ninjala managed to accrue 1 million downloads in less than a day, which is a pretty considerable milestone for a new IP, even if it is free. Seems like that was just the start of the game's success, though.

GungHo has taken to Twitter to announce that the game has now been downloaded 2 million times so far. That makes for 2 million players in less than a week! To celebrate, all players will receive a free gift of 100 Jala.

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