Friday, June 25, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2: The Simpler Ones

It's been about a month since we last left off on Mario's latest voyage into the stars, and I'm only halfway done.

I can't really say how satisfying that feels. It feels like games these days go by way too quick, but this one just has a perfect pace to it, allowing you to stop playing for an infinite amount of time, and then coming back to it like you've never stopped adventuring.

I'll state the obvious, right now: This game is a masterpiece. But here's something you might not heard thrown around, and that is this game is already the best game of the year. Sorry, Donkey Kong and Kirby, but that's just how the cookie crumbles. In fact, this is already eligible for a "Best Games Of the Decade" list.

And I'm going to prove it right here. We'll be going over a few things before my final review (Mid July at the latest!), but wait! A question arises. If I go on and on about how much I love about the game, wouldn't my review be tedious to read? Me, I would've loved to do a back-to-back feature on my progress through the game, but unfortunately circumstances in the previous month prevented me from doing so, so how about this?

A three part feature on my favorite levels I've traversed throughout the game, and what I've enjoyed/noticed about them. Let's get started!



After an incredibly charming opening to the game, through certain events Mario finds himself launching into space once again. Once he's made a touchdown on his first planetoid (complete with a house!), those adorable Luma stars are pleading our hero to bring back the "Power Stars", beautiful stars that have been the objective of previous Mario games.

And so begins the first level of the game.

I won't be talking about the structure of the level, but I can talk about how much this level already resonates with the original Galaxy. The first level in that game went by the name of Good Egg Galaxy, and it took my breath away. I didn't just blaze through the level, I took interest in my surroundings, which was particularly innovative since it was two halves of a small planet. There wasn't nearly as much freedom as in Mario 64 or Sunshine, but it didn't matter, the scenery alone took my breath away. I wanted to be there forever, and I consistently found myself playing that level again and again.

It's the same deal here, except there's a lot more thrown at you. You are constantly guided by Lumas, who transform into Sling Stars to rocket you throughout the galaxy. Perilous traps and black holes await you, not to mention the onslaught of Goombas and their alien cousins Octoombas. You even take on a gigantic ship shaped as a cylinder, complete with gigantic Bullet Bills. Not everything is meant to be taken so seriously, though. If you find a giant coin with a question mark imprinted on it's surface, you can follow the pattern of music notes to gain an extra life. Sweet!

By the way, I hope you're listening to that music, because it's a huge part of the experience. Doesn't it sound like something out of a Disney film? The production values in this game are insane.



True to its name, you'd expect to find the likes of trees, branches and wood to be the foundation of this galaxy. At the beginning of the level, you find yourself underneath a gigantic, beautiful tree, surrounded by Goombas and hopping spiders. Luckily, our pal Yoshi is here to help you out!

Hey, wait, what's that he's eating?

Oh my.

In this game, Yoshi has the ability to eat different fruits to gain different powers. We'll go over this in more detail in the final review, but I'd like to talk about this one today: Blimp Yoshi. Yoshi expands into a great ball of pure fatness, lifting Mario on his back as he spouts air to travel from one place to another.

We'll be floating from one branch to another, if you don't mind...

So what do I like about this level? Many of these zany levels offer gravity-defying experiences, and while this one offers some of that, Tall Trunk prefers to sit back and let you carry out some good, fine platforming. A nice mix of both elements pops up when you have to search for five Sling Star fragments in order to continue the level, so you enter a "rotating" log of sorts and navigate through its dangers.

Be careful!

Of course, my favorite part of the level is the sliding portion. That's right, fellow Super Mario 64 fans, the slide is back in town, complete with nostalgic music to throw you back to those good ol' Nintendo 64 days!



Puzzle Plank Galaxy

Listen to this music.

I could listen to this all day. I hear it's of the bluegrass variety (OF WHICH I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT THAT MEANS), but I'd like to think it's country.

Anyway, this level's all about switches. And puzzles. And wood blocks! And that all means it's a rootin' tootin' time! You gotta slam down on the switches and figger out how these contraptions work. For example, one of those dang planetoids has an odd function in that when you pound on an embedded block on one side, it raises up on the other. Hmmm..

Of course, Puzzle Plank is not without it's hazardous perils. Those pesky Mandibugs are up to no good, and their top brass serve as the bosses of this domain. Not to mention renegade sawblades are on the loose and are cutting through these flat wooden catwalks, so you gotta move fast! If you linger too long, you'll find yerself fallin' down faster then dat cat scramblin' outta dat tree!

"Be careful, or be roadkill!"

I'd like to mention that I really like how often we see abstract objects floating in the skies in this game. Floating spoons? It's a hoot! And isn't that sky just gorrrgiiiizzz?

...Was the accent necessary? Who cares? I had fun with it.


Alright, two more to go! It'll be an interesting mix.

*Credit to IGN and the Mario Wiki for the screenshots.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story 3

Remember how I said every now and then I'd go off topic?

This is one of those times, although I wish it didn't have to bump my E3 impressions so soon. Please check that out if you haven't already!


Who didn't watch Disney films when you were younger?

No, seriously, if you didn't, you missed out. I watched a lot of their films when I was younger, not to mention all of the Christmas specials and the Disney Channel cartoons. I loved watching the classics, such as Pinocchio and The Sword in the Stone, and of course we had the modern blockbusters such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. By far my favorite of those, however, was The Lion King, and I watched that just about every day 24/7.

But none of them, and I mean none of them, came close to how much I loved 1995's Toy Story. I still don't know how that sucked me in. Maybe it was the CGI, maybe it was the recognizable action figures, or maybe because it was about a bunch of toys. I don't know. But the case still stands I loved that movie to astronomical heights. I had a bunch of the toys, I played two of the computer games (where ARE those?!?), and I watched the movie so much that I could, get this, hum the entire background music from beginning to end without watching the movie. My life's crowning acheivement.

Fifteen years later, I still love this movie. Now that I'm older, I can appreciate the themes of friendship/jealously littered across the film, and all of the parts I used to love the most resonate with me even more today. It's amazing how in this day and age, where 3D/CGI are so commonplace, that the original animation hasn't aged one bit. Buzz Lightyear's first flight is still impressive to watch, as is the moving truck chase scene. And who could forget the toys' revenge against Sid?

Toy Story 2 arrived some years later, but I missed out on the premiere. Unfortunately, I had already reached the age in which most kids deem Disney movies as childish fluff. Having corrected that assumption in the past five years, I sat down with both movies numerous times within the previous year. Not only did I found that that the original still held up after all this time, I found that it had a worthy sequel. Despite it's originally straight-to-DVD origins shining through at some points, the themes found in the original film were still present, not to mention new ones beautifully executed. Oh, and by the way, the heartbreaking moment isn't the flashback for Jessie the cowgirl. It's when Woody sits down and watches the country version of You've Got A Friend in Me with the most pathetic look on his face. Tears were shed.

And now here we are, in 2010, and the second sequel is already upon us. Toy Story 3.

The previews for the movie were surprisingly strong, not to mention with an interesting premise for the story and hilarious snippets from the film. Screenings for the movie reported heartbreaking moments and the recommendation of bringing your tissues. Pixar had broken the chain of bad Disney sequels with Toy Story 2, and they've done it here again.

And now that I've watched the film twice, I can reaffirm that not only have they captured that magic, this is the best film they have ever done.


There's no need to spoil how the movie opens, but all I can say is that a) This is the most imaginative/action-packed way to open the movie and b) Those with the first movie fresh in their minds will engage in flashbacks. Soon after, we find that over ten years have passed, and Andy, the owner of the toys, had graduated high school and is about to transfer to college. His room has undergone a complete makeover, with radios and movie posters plastering the walls. Even Andy himself has changed, having grown more reserved since being a kid.

And the toys have been left forgotten in a box. No matter how hard he tries, Woody finds that he and the other toys can no longer hold the attention of Andy, and is ready to call it quits. Even this particular family of toys has changed, with many of them having moved on to greener pastures (i.e. yard sales), and only a recognizable few are left. Of course, Buzz is still there, as is Mr. Potato Head and Slinky Dog. Rex still suffers from anxiety and Hamm is still cracking jokes, and even the newcomers from Toy Story 2 are present. As they accept their fate of being stored in the attic (Hamm instead ponders how much they'll go for on eBay), Woody climbs onto Andy's desk and takes one long, last look with a sigh.

As Andy's family is preparing the transition, a series of events lead them to being donated to the Sunnyside Daycare Center. After an enthusiastic greeting from a band of toys, the gang is introduced to Lotso, a big kindly old teddy bear who runs this veritable paradise for toys, which is complete with repairment spas and even a Ken for Molly's (Andy's sister) Barbie. Everyone loves the idea of being loved for an eternity by children...except for Woody, who was chosen by Andy to come to college with him.


I dare not speak of what happens next, other then there's obviously a darker side to this facility. What I can say about the positive side of the movie is that all of your favorite quirks are here. From Woody's apprehension in regards to new situations and change (not to mention his limitless devotion to Andy), to Buzz's awkward relationship with Jessie, and even the green aliens' fascination with The Claw. All of the new characters get their chance to shine, most notably the meterosexual Ken, the sophisticated Mr. Pricklepants, and the super creepy Big Baby. Also worth mentioning is the reimagination of the classic Fisher Price telephone, which alone requires a visit to the theater.

The visual gags are as strong as ever, most of which involve...well, I guess I'll tell you this much. There's a "prison break" sequence that is easily the film's comedic highlight, and it all involves the following: a cymbal banging monkey, a Spanish take on a certain main character, and a tortilla. Also, you haven't seen funny until you see Mr. Potato Head's role in the escape.


There's always been dark elements in Disney films, beginning with the poisoned apple in Snow White. We've had our villains, from Maleficent the witch in Sleeping Beauty, Scar in The Lion King, and even the voodoo doctor in last year's The Princess and the Frog. Then there's the bone-chilling donkey transformation in Pinocchio, and the entire situation surrounding, again, The Lion King. In terms of Pixar films, this element has only really been explored in the opening sequence to Up, and to an extent The Incredibles and I guess Finding Nemo. In short, they haven't really focused too much on this.

Until now.

Seeing as how Toy Story 3 deals with the coming-of-age for Andy, it only makes sense that the series itself grows up as well. There's always been a sense of humanity and (obviously) deep friendship in the previous two films, but none of them reach the maturity this film presents. I can't exactly word this, but the wonder and allure that surrounded the first two films is gone, replaced with an ever-present sense of concern. We have the toys wavering between their loyalty to a grownup Andy and spending in an eternity being loved (or thrown around like ragdolls) by a group of preschoolers, and even the simple-minded Rex and Woody's lovable horse Bullseye understand the perils and consequences they're facing. We witness the true reality of Lotso's iron-fisted authority and observe new characters being "broken" for not obeying the system. Lotso himself is a terrifying figure, secretly carrying the weight of a dark past (ever lose your favorite stuffed animal?) and doing whatever he pleases.

But nothing in the entire plethora of Disney films, sans maybe Mufasa's death, reaches the impact of what awaits the toys in the film's nail-biting climax. In fact, I don't even think The Lion King even comes close to accomplishing what Toy Story 3 has up it's sleeve: what is by far the most tensest, frantic situation I have ever seen Disney characters face. My mouth was slowly dropping to the floor as the characters were being assaulted with one hazard after another, and they were finally dropped into one final jeopardy. It was incredibly hard to sit through this the first time, and even more the second time knowing this was coming. This is literally the most horrifying fate I could imagine for some of America's most treasured cartoon characters, and you cannot avoid having tears welling up in your eyes as you helplessly watch the way these toys handle their situation.


Of course, I'm not going to say how the film ends. But I'll just say this.

This ending is perfect. Flawless. Absolutely impeccable. The way the curtain is drawn on the final chapter in the Toy Story saga could not have been handled any better, and in fact, I'd say this is the greatest ending I have ever seen in any medium. I'm dead serious, I can't even hint at it or else I'll have just ruined the entire movie for you. So far, I've seen nothing but agreement.

At this point in both of my viewings, I turned my head around, and I saw people with their tissues out. I saw grown adults quietly sobbing over the fate of pieces of plastic.

I was doing the same thing.

"Woody's no ordinary toy...he's brave. But the best thing about Woody is that he'll never give up on you...ever."


When you watch these movies as an adult, you can't help but think back on your own toys. Which ones you played with the most, which ones flew and which ones walked, which ones you had cast as the villain or the village idiot, and of course, which one was the hero.

Toys never carried the same magic for me as video games did. Like Andy, I too have outgrown them in a way. And yet, I'm too stubborn to let most of them go. They're still there in the back room in the basement, gathering dust and reflecting on old memories.

I went back there yesterday, and took a long look at them. I saw toys from not just Toy Story, but from Pokemon too. I saw stuffed animals my cat had chewed on, my friends' gigantic, left behind collection of Dragon Ball action figures.

And I was talking to them. I told them I was sorry, for playing with them too roughly, or deeming some of them stupid, or having their arms or heads fall off. I was sorry for not being around with them anymore. I told them when I'd get my own house one day, they'd have a special place of their own. Guaranteed.

If a movie can inspire me to do that, then there's really no question. This the greatest film I have ever watched.

Friday, June 18, 2010

E3 2010: My thoughts

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short. These words symbolize anticipation for every gamer out there. The top three gods of gaming (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony) get together for an annual event to show off a plethora of games. Only those involved with the gaming industry, may they be developers, journalists or even Gamestop clerks, may attend this mighty clash of the titans.

The expo, however, has dwindled in impact in recent years. Thanks to a cut in budgets and the rising advent of casual games, shows and booths are now split in showcasing two types of games: those for gamers and those for non gamers. Nintendo themselves have been heavily criticized, particularly in their show in 2008, in which they focused on a non-gamer perspective and only gave us gamers an underwhelming Animal Crossing.

I guess the high brass at E3 realized their mistake and E3 is pretty much back to normal again, and I gotta say this year's presentation brought back some deja vu and familiar spasms of excitement.

So, how did Nintendo end up faring? I guess I'll split my opinions into three sections: What I Loved, Not Sure About, and What I Didn't Like.

What I Loved

The 3DS: The DS, Nintendo's handheld console, has recently achieved the title of the most successful portable platform ever made. It's a bit of an oddity, with it's dual-screen layout and the use of a touch screen/stylus, but that doesn't matter when you have one of the richest libraries in all of gaming. The DS has by far the greatest selection of games that this generation of games has to offer, ranging from Nintendo hits such as Mario Kart and Pokemon to popular third party titles Castlevania and Final Fantasy, and even obscure gems such as Retro Game Challenge.

Nintendo's experimented with new iterations of the DS over the past six years, such as the lite and DSi, but none have nearly been as ambitious as what they're doing with the 3DS. You ever been to a IMAX theater? You know those 3D glasses you gotta wear to get the full effect? Those are a thing of the past, because with this device, you don't need 'em!

Unfortunately, there's no way to present this in a video, but that mishap was compensated in what was likely the greatest trailer I have ever watched, for anything.

Let me tell you, I was dying of laughter when I watched this on the live stream. There's really no way I can justify an explanation of how funny it is to watch Shigeru Miyamoto being eaten alive by a handheld gaming system.

There are a ton of games announced for this beauty, but there was only one that received a full trailer, and it was none other then the aforementioned, mysterious "Project Sora", which is headed by Kirby/Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai. What could it possibly be?


"Bark like a dog!" Please let these lines be in the final game. They are a thing of beauty we have not seen since Star Fox 64.

Kid Icarus was one of the lucky few that were showcased, but there were many titles announced for Nintendo's latest brainchild. Let's go over some of the more interesting ones.

Mario Kart: I played the living hell out of Mario Kart DS, which is by far the best game in the Mario Kart series, and it's a game I'm hoping to go over on here soon. And with this announcement, can you blame me? I'm curious to see how the 3D effects in this title will work, considering how in driving games you're always in the rear view. In any case, let's hope this replicates the success of it's predecessors!

Animal Crossing: Everyone's favorite slice-of-life series returns! The previous handheld Animal Crossing, Wild World, split the fanbase in two as to whether or not it was a worthy sequel to the original Gamecube title. Personally, I didn't see what the big deal was. You couldn't play NES games anymore? So what? I have great memories of late night chats just hanging out at friends' towns over Wi-Fi, not to mention the game itself had a bunch of costumes to fool around with and a little more personality to the animal residents.

Most everyone agrees, though, that City Folk for the Wii was a definite misstep, since it was really just the DS game with a city slapped onto it and the ability to ruin grass. The new 3DS title is taking advantage of Wild World's "Scrolling World" aesthetic, but it's too early to tell whether this will be yet another replica. There is one obvious change, however...

Holy bajeesus! They increased the size of your human character. That's just...spooky. We've always been cast in the role of what was essentially children, so I suppose it's nice that the series is growing up a little.

Paper Mario: FRICK YES! I love the Paper Mario games, and this one is returning to the turn-based format most players seem to prefer after the Super Paper Mario departure. I've noticed how the graphics are just about on par with the Gamecube title, The Thousand Year Door, and that's just impressive. If the previous cardboard/paper effects we've seen in the series are any indication, I think we'll have ourselves a real eye-popper in terms of 3D.
A sign of things to come....OUTTA THE STORYBOOK




Nintendo, I only have three requests.

1. Make the Wi-Fi multiplayer experience more varied then what we had in Command. It doesn't have to be Assault quality, but the multiplayer found in the original title needs much improvement.

2. No Krystal.

3. FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY ON THIS SWEET MOTHER EARTH, PLEASE BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL VOICE ACTORS! If you can make the guy who did Fox perform a recent goofy radio commercial, SURELY you can do this! THE INTERNET IS ON ITS KNEES BEGGING YOU HERE!


Hey, Mimi, if you're reading this, fun fact: This is a remake of the game you got for me at Christmas Eve back in '98. How time flies!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS: Hey, everyone. It's the Ocarina of Time remake you've always wanted! And it looks pretty awesome. Along with Star Fox, I'm wondering what new features they're going to add this time around. Let's just hope it's a step ahead of Super Mario 64 DS (Just didn't capture that same feeling!).

The third party lineup is incredibly strong as well. A Boy and His Blob? Sweet! Super Monkey Ball? Lose the Banana Blitz art style and we'll talk! A PORT OF METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER? YEYEYEYEYEAAHHHHH

So, once again, Nintendo knocks it out of the park with handheld gaming (although I'd like to know the release date/price). But what about a KO on the console side? There's one game in particular that I think guarantees to be a quality title. To me, at least.

SAY HELLO TO DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS! Man, I do NOT know what is up with the revival of 2D gaming on the Wii, but damn is this trend the greatest gift ever, or what?

Donkey Kong Country was a highly acclaimed trilogy of games that are considered by many dedicated fans to be among the absolute summit of quality on the Super Nintendo console. This is asserted by those who remember at what were mind-blowing graphics for the 16-bit system, and what is supported by an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Personally, I really do wish I got to spend more time with the titles, as I only had the first one (It was all about Donkey Kong 64 for me, folks!). Now, I feel like going back and diggin' em out.

That's a story for another time, though.

Anyway, Donkey Kong's been in a bit of a pickle after his Nintendo 64 outing. For some strange reason, Nintendo kicked our favorite gorilla out of the spotlight and since then has been relegated to a second-class, perhaps even third-class franchise. Oh, sure, every now and then, he'd bang some bongos in or star in obscure gems such as Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. But as Mario, Link, Samus and the rest engaged in sweeping epics and ravished much attention, the primate and his family slowly became forgotten, only grabbing reserved spots in various Mario sports titles.

I may not have gotten to experience Donkey Kong Country like many older fans did, but I can tell you that the sheer excitement everyone is sharing over this complete bombshell is by far the most genuine I have seen out of all the games at this conference. Gamers have been begging for a return to the Country for about a decade, now. And now this long-awaited wish has finally come true. Tears of joy are being shed over this. I mean, I can't help thrusting my arms out as Donkey Kong is bouncing from baddie to baddie while swinging on vines and riding on mine carts. Considering that this is being handled by the guys behind the Metroid Prime trilogy, Retro Studios, I don't think we have anything to worry about.

Welcome back, Donkey Kong. We've had fun playing with you in Mario Kart and Smash Bros, but it just wasn't quite the same. Same thing goes to you, Diddy. I don't know why everyone is claiming they've always hated you, but man have I always wanted your shirt.


What I'm Not Sure About

Kirby's Epic Yarn: I can't believe I'm putting this here.

I mean, a Kirby game. For the first time in a long while, I'm unsure about a Kirby game. That's really surreal. I mean...

Geez, you know, I love Kirby. I really, really do. Should I be excited just on the fact that it's the first time he's had an adventure on a home console (the handhelds seem to be his expertise) in ten years? HELL YES. And yet, I'm not excited, and everyone else is raving on how much they love the game's art style and I don't and it's just..just..erghhh...

Let's take a look at the trailer.

It's not that I'm staking my pride as a man. No, seriously, screw that. If I cared about what people thought about what I played, I would've stopped playing Nintendo games a long time ago.
Maybe I'm not obsessed with Kirby games as much as I used to be, but I'm always up for a new adventure with the pink puffball, and I always end up having a great, even nostalgic time. I mean, Epic Yarn gets one thing right: Like every other game in the series, it is absolutely adorable.

It's not that I mind a new spin (no pun intended) on a Kirby game. I mean, hey, you gotta shake up a game's formula at one point or another. And that's exactly what they did in 2005's Kirby: Canvas Curse. So what's the big deal? Why did everyone else fall in love with this from the start, and I didn't? I've been thinking about this all week, and I think I finally realized it today.

I'm too stubborn about changing the look. This requires a bit of explanation, one that I'm going to be incredibly in-depth about in later posts. I've always felt that Nintendo games have this unique, mystical beauty to them that I've never been able to find anywhere else, and Kirby is right up there with the Pikmin series as my absolute favorite in regard to this. Just take a look at the backgrounds for the Super Nintendo/Game Boy Advance games in the series and you are already looking at a piece of art. Kirby games literally take place in a magical wonderland, and the way this is visualized has always taken my breath away. Oh, the fun I'll have talking about this! It is absolutely, hand down, my favorite part of the series and I've always treasured it., it's not present. Is the yarn theme gorgeous in it's own right? Yes, and normally I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. But it's not Kirby gorgeous, and while admittedly it's probably the best series suited to this style (or, hey, how about a new IP?), I just can't help but be skeptical if it can pull off that warm, fuzzy feeling I've always channeled from this series. Again, Canvas Curse not only shook up the gameplay, but also featured this strange Picasso look to the level designs/background, and it worked very well in an abnormally beautiful way. I've also read that in this new title, Kirby can't lose lives (in other words, he can't die) and the theme of the game is to collect beads. Yeah...I don't know. I've never cared much about challenge, but even I have limits on this kind of thing.


This is all eerily familiar to me, and my thoughts are traveling back to seven years ago. Back in 2003, a Kirby spinoff title named Kirby Air Ride was to hit the Gamecube in the fall. I don't exactly remember my thoughts on the previews featured, but all of the impressions were not very positive about the game, and it eventually lead to surprisingly low marks among many critics, such as IGN and Gamespot, who claimed the game was too simple and was not a satisfying racer.

And you know something? I bought that game anyway and I loved it. It had its (minor) flaws, but I played it very heavily over the next few years and my friends and I still bring out it out every once and a while and fool around in the city mode. I remember soon after, I swore that in terms of Kirby games, I would not listen to the scores reviewers would give it and I would buy it regardless of people's opinions.

Will that be true here? Yes, it will be. Besides, the game looks great enough on it's own gameplay merits. And hey, I can't help but get excited for co-op two player! Am I the only one getting some Kirby Super Star vibes? That's always a good thing.

It is growing on me (the music really calms me down), I just need time.

We'll just have to wait and find out what my childhood hero has to offer. I'm putting my faith in you, Kirby. Reach for the sky with this one, and we'll go out for the strawberry shortcake you love so much.

What I Didn't Like

I guess I have room for three things.

I'll be brief with my first complaint. Nintendo, I love you. Really. You're the source of happiness and joy in my life. I guess I can forgive you for pretending the Earthbound franchise doesn't exist in North America (OR NOT), and every now and then you do something that leaves even the most dedicated of fans scratching their heads (HEY GUYS AFTER RUBY COMES OUT LET'S MAKE BORING POKEMON SPINOFFS FOR OVER THREE YEARS), but most of the time they're just minor problems.

Most of the time.

I'm going to be blunt. If you ever, and I mean EVER showcase a trailer of an entry in the Just Dance series (NO ITALICS FOR YOU) and FREAKING ASSAULT THE EARS OF EVERYONE WATCHING YOUR CONFERENCE AND BE PROUD OF IT then I swear to god I am going to find the hideout of the infidels involved with this demon filth and exact my fiery indignation upon those monsters. YEAH. THAT'S RIGHT. MONSTERS. SCREW THIS SHOVELWARE.


We're still cool, Nintendo. But there's a game you yourself are publishing that I am completely unexcited for. In fact, I really have no idea at all why people are going gaga over this.

And that, my friends, is the new Legend of Zelda, known as Skyward Sword.

Now, let me make this clear: I like, no, I love Zelda games a lot. The Wind Waker is one of my all-time favorite games, and I have great memories of entries such as Majora's Mask, Link's Awakening and The Minish Cap. However, I can't help but feel that the series has been entering a decline in the past few years. Twilight Princess, while being an astounding game in it's own right, did not retain the charm the series had established for itself over the years and kind of missed the point. Phantom Hourglass was the same deal (only it was a half-decent game), and I have not yet played Spirit Tracks.

It's not really so much that I'm yearning for "the ol' days" (although that would be really nice) as much as is that I just wish Nintendo would pick up what the series has been missing for the past few years. With Skyword Sword, I can't honestly say they've picked it back up at this point, because it's just....

Watch both of the trailers, I'll explain.

Am I the only one completely underwhelmed? Thankfully, I'm not, as several of my friends agree that there's really nothing to get hyped up about.

This was, unfortunately, hurt by the game's presentation onstage. The game makes use of the Motion Plus, an accessory that enhances the accuracy of the Wii Remote. For example, if you're making the motions for swinging a sword, the game will copy your exact move. Awesome, right? It didn't go so well for the introduction, as wireless interference screwed with the demonstration and almost made the whole thing a joke. Thankfully, it's been reported by countless journalists/recorded videos that it works perfectly on the demos, but you know? That's not what I'm worried about.

I'm concerned about how utterly, thoroughly bland the game's aesthetic presentation is. Once again, it's a style most people dig, but this time I have absolutely no clue why. From earlier hints given by Nintendo, the game was going to retain the realistic Twilight Princess motif, but with more of a "painted" look. Really, I think the game looks like the abnormal lovechild of TP and The Wind Waker's cel-shaded atmosphere, and not only is it a style that doesn't clash very well, it is nearly devoid of any charm or personality whatsoever.

Seriously, it's just boring.

I'll get to more of this in a bit, but this also was not helped by the incredibly boring trailers. Not only did they (mostly) focus on the same area over and over again, it seems the only purpose to these demonstrations was to show off the Motion Plus capabilities and the shiny new weapons, and while that may be satisfying to most people, that's not really what I'm looking for. For example, Miyamoto and I believe Eiji Aonuma, a man heavily involved with the Zelda series, had stated numerous times of their intention to revamp the Zelda formula (Zelda games normally follow a pattern of town-field-dungeon-town-field-dungeon), and yet we see none of that here! It's just things we've, for the most part, witnessed for the entirety of all the 3D Zeldas. I certainly hope the more accurate control isn't the "revolution" we've heard about.

Speaking of "the same area", I'd like to elaborate on the art style I mentioned earlier. For those not in the know, Zelda games generally make the use of fantasy environments, such as fairy gardens, medieval/ye olde villages, sacred temples, and even underwater caverns. Usually, these are presented in that whimsical, Nintendo style that's always given Zelda it's own charm, so it's not nearly always as serious as, say, Lord of the Rings. I really don't see that here. In fact, this is something that's taken right out of Alice in Wonderland, which can work in a Mario setting but definitely not here. Giant mushrooms in a Zelda game? Uhhh...right. It's not like we haven't seen "out there" elements in the series (Jabu-Jabu, anyone?), but I feel that, from what we've seen, it's a really misplaced setup for Zelda.

This is what we're missing.

Look, I get the flaws in my argument. I realize how terrible and ugly The Wind Waker's first teaser was too. I know that the Twilight Princess trailer had some of the elements I mentioned earlier. I know this is a game still in development, which explains the horrible texture jobs. But, you know, at least The Wind Waker was trying something new at the time, and while I understand Twilight Princess had the element of surprise and appealed to everyone who wanted a realistic look, at least its trailer was 100x more exciting then what we have here.

The thing is, I'm going to buy the game anyway. And I'm going to enjoy it to at least some extent, but at the moment I'm just reaaaalllllyyyyyy skeptical. Call me when we have a better understanding of the game's landscape*/structure.

*Yes, I do know there's a connection between land and sky that was announced at the roundtable, but, uh, you know....that would be great trailer material.

Finally, once again, my long-awaited Pikmin 3 is absent. Now, I'm actually a very patient person, but I can't help being somewhat irritated that we haven't seen anything two years after it was subtly announced. It's nice to know that it's on Wii, but isn't it about time we've seen it by now? I want to see the purple fatties.


So that about wraps it up.

Oh, wait, I forgot to comment on the interesting Microsoft/Sony conferences! I guess it must've been because they completely sucked ass. And I'm saying this with no bias whatsoever. Attempting to copy the Wii's motion controls is one thing, and while it is some really cool technology they're showing off, the problem is that what they showed is nothing new. Oh boy, time to go bowling! Oh wait, Wii Sports. All right, time to chill with some pets. Hey, wasn't there a game called Nintendogs? Okay, let's talk about a Tiger Woods Golf game no one cares about for a half hour!

Seriously? I was honestly looking forward to what they'd have up their sleeves, but I, and in fact most others, are left very disappointed.

It's pretty obvious that Nintendo's won this E3. Most people absolutely loved nearly everything they had on there, but as you can see I'm more mixed on it then they are. Really, I didn't like the first half that much, but I think it started to turn around with Epic Mickey (Two games with the word epic in the title? What times we live in!) and of course Donkey Kong Country Returns. It's obviously the best conference they've had in years.

Good job, guys.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Super Mario Bros. ~View 6~ Easing Away Worries

I've been kind of stressed lately.

For starters, there was the whole threat of finals in the past few weeks, and let me be the first to tell you that I hate math more then anything else. It's kind of put a dent into my calm psyche, not to mention there was the hullabaloo of the graduation requirements (they waited THREE YEARS to tell me I was missing three books from 9th grade? Seriously), so it's kind of put a dent into my free time and I swear I would've finished this off much sooner. Add to the fact that I was wondering if something was wrong with my Super Mario Bros. cartridge, that I wasn't playing Mario Galaxy 2 enough, and the approaching presence of this year's E3 conference (more on that, later), and you have one very tired Anthony.

Then the other day, I turned on Super Mario Bros. and let my anxieties fly away.

It was like magic! Everything I was worried about just disappeared into thin air and I just concentrating on Mario's adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Well, in retrospect, it's not so surprsing. Many gamers use video games as an outlet to relieve them of their troubles and stress, to escape from whatever struggles that the harshness of reality has been chucking their way. I remember back in the day, one of my favorite things was to turn on Super Mario 64, travel to the first world, grab a Wing Cap, hop into a cannon and shoot myself into the sky...then just soar.

Of course, you can't always relax in Super Mario Bros., it being a side scrolling action game and all. One of my favorite examples is a stage set right after your first time underwater, in which you set on a seemingly abandoned bridge.....

Cheep Cheeps are leaping and flying all over the place! Nyaarrggh! You gotta dash here and hope you don't get hit!

You eventually meet some more troublesome enemies. Like, for example, Lakitu.

This devil's apprentice takes his time tossing spiked turtles, or Spinies, at you as you run the hell away from him. It's pretty much impossible to do so, unless you manage to take a leap of faith and stomp on him. Lakitu didn't stop his reign of terror here, he's still with us tormenting Mario and taking the role of referee for Mario Kart races.
Those big bullets are known as Bullet Bill, and they really suck. Seriously, if you're tiny Mario, you're pretty much screwed, since they spawn all over the place.

We certainly can't forget the Hammer Bros. either. These cretins throw a flood of hammers at our poor plumber and are hard to get by. When they're on the bricks, I like to smack them from underneath.
And of course, there are the stages in which you have to leap onto platforms that sink thanks to your weight. I've screamed many a curse word at these levels.

It's a tough game, but I've always found that it has a way of encouraging even when things look impossible. I pushed myself to my limits yesterday playing this game, and I howled a yell of triumph upon reaching the final world.

..only to get game over two stages later. Banzai!

That was a short one.

Well, we're at the end of the road with this one. Thing is, as much as I'm enjoying myself talking about a famous game I never really acquainted myself with before, there's much more important things to go over, such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 (oh how I've neglected thee!) and, of course, today's E3 conference. So here's the deal: I'll hold off on my final entry until I beat the game.

My impressions following Nintendo's conference are to follow tomorrow. See you then!

...I guess I'll be honest. Judging from the Microsoft presentation, pretty much anything goes for this year's E3. In other words, don't be surprised if you don't end up playing too much this year.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Super Mario Bros. ~View 5~ The Underwater Waltz

As I discussed earlier, you'll often find that platforming games like Super Mario Bros. follow a set pattern of levels. It's kind of like a required blueprint, in a way. You're always going to traverse through a field of grass, flowers and easily tromped enemies. You're always find yourselves in a desert surrounded by mountains. You might find yourself deep underground, or soaring in the sky. And, of course, you'll find yourself swimming underwater at some point or another.

To the non-gamers out there, here's one rule of the gaming fandom: Most gamers hate water levels! Often denounced as being notoriously difficult, many gamers feel that these stages are too troublesome to traverse in, not to mention sluggish. There's also the employment of obnoxious enemies and stiff controls. In short, they disrupt the pace of action.

Myself? I have to admit I was once partial to them myself. And I can summarize my former opinion in three words: Sonic the Hedgehog.

Back in the old days, we had a Sega Genesis and I found myself playing Sonic games every now and then. Now that I think about it, we had a couple o' games on there. Let's see...there was Vectorman, in which I was convinced he was Kermit the Frog in disguise, and some army game in which my style of play was to get both sides into the lake and drown.

Ah, the joys of foreshadowing and the masochistic joys of childhood. In any case...

It was like any other day. I was playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 at roughly the tender age of five. It was just me, Sonic, and his buddy Tails the Fox. We were running through hills, escaping forest fires, encountered Knuckles the Echidna (Or as I labelled him, "Snuggles"), and fell down a waterfall following the collapse of a bridge, right into a water stage.

Moments later, this happens.

I want to make this absolutely clear: I didn't know what was going on, why this was happening, but I did know one thing. This scared the crap out of me. Immediately the forces of unbridled terror seeped into me and I screamed, ran upstairs and hid in my room. I didn't know what was going on but when the music stopped and I dared to tiptoe back, Sonic had drowned and I lost a life.

To this day, I still don't play 2D Sonic the Hedgehogs for this very reason. My cousin Joe said it would be perfect as an alarm clock, but I'm not willing to take any chances. God damn drowning music.

My water level experiences only got worse from there. In Super Mario 64, there was a GIGANTIC EEL in one of the game's early stages, Jolly Roger Bay, and I refrained from playing any water levels in that game too. There was also the threat of sharks in Banjo Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64 also featured some rather disturbing creatures of the deep as well (FREAKING PUFFERFISH). Perhaps my fear stemmed from an uncomfortable fear of seeing beloved characters die on screen, in this case drowning, which was very possible if you weren't careful enough.

Unagi the Eel, the stuff of my nightmares.

Have my feelings changed? Well, I've certainly gotten over the terror. In fact, water levels are some of my favorite ones now. Water levels contain a nearly unprecedented amount of beauty that always gently enforce the positive effects of warmth and luxury, even though they are not without their dangers. Not only that, but they feature some really soothing music, one of which we'll be going over today. Today's evaluation will be a short one, but I promise you that we'll be going in much more detail about this enigma of gaming later.


So here's your standard Super Mario Bros. water level.

It's a pretty relaxing stage. You're just swimming on by, grabbing the floating coins and dodging squids and big-eyed fish.

The fish, Cheep Cheeps, are pushovers, but the Blooper squids have a penchant for following you around. This is one of the easier stages, but if you aren't powered up by a mushroom, that isn't the case. Those Bloopers can screw you over if they touch you, and they can suddenly reverse into a random angle, so watch out.

I've found that the fireballs especially shine here. Why are the fireballs working underwater? I don't know, but man is it satsifying frying these things.

So long, suckers!

This is actually the only underwater level I've encountered so far, and during my last attempt I was close to the end of the game. I've heard whispers of them being hidden amongst the many warp pipes, so I'll have to look harder.

Over the years, I've found that one is always guaranteed a pleasant experience in a Mario game's underwater level. They're not too complicated, but they're never overbearing on you. Best of all, Mario can't drown in the 2D games, and thanks to the ever-abundant source of air bubbles and coins in the 3D titles, there's a very low chance of succumbing to that threat. In fact, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario's breakout title on the Nintendo Gamecube, had the setting of a tropical island, so you'd always have to encounter a body of water in it's selection of stages. It was a punishingly difficult title, but it usually never had to do with h2o.

You know, for all of it's innovation, that game gets too much flak. You'll learn in future blog posts that gamers are not too welcoming of new ideas and diversity.

Here's another iconic song from the Mario series. We don't see this song as often as the Main Theme from earlier, but it's always been a fan favorite. In fact, whenever I hear people humming Mario songs, this seems to be the one they have the most fun with.

And can you blame them?

Personally, I feel that if they got an orchestra at some waltzing party, this would be a huge hit. I'd just stay in the background and revel.

It's come to my attention that there's been an annoying issue in regards to the comments. Apparently, they won't show up after you post. I've adjusted the posting settings a bit, and it seems to be working out.

So, anyway, what's next....

I've actually been noticing there's a bit of a problem with the game that I haven't noticed on my other NES games. Weird fuzzy lines pop up every now and then and sometimes it freezes the game. The gameprobably just needs to be cleaned. We've only got a couple of posts left, anyway.

Man, I can't wait to move on to Kirby!