Friday, September 24, 2010

Symphonic Legends

Orchestrated game music.

The joy I feel in those words is borderline astronomical. It's something one truly has to experience...having music we grew up brought to life by a vibrant orchestra. We've had Mario orchestrated countless times by numerous concerts over the years. Legend of Zelda. Final Fantasy. Sonic the Hedgehog. Halo. All of these segments were done by various shows such as the Orchestral Game Concert, Press Start, Video Games Live, and Play!, which presented their performances in a multitude of concert halls all over the world.

It is truly the pinnacle of game music.

Yesterday, the latest entry in the Symphonic Games concert played at Germany's Colonge Philharmonic Hall. Last year, these guys orchestrated music from games by Square-Enix (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts, and Secret of Mana), which I haven't seen all of but it was done wonderfully. A few weeks ago, I found out that there was going to another entry by the name of Symphonic Legends, to be conducted on September 23rd....and featuring Nintendo music.

I flipped out when I heard this. Orchestrated Nintendo music is just pure heaven for me. I remember when Smashing Live!, a CD featuring orchestrations from Super Smash Bros. Melee came with an issue of Nintendo Power, and I enjoyed the hell of that thing for about a year. The Mario and Zelda segments in Video Games Live have me howling at the orchestra, and don't get me started on how I scour the internet for Japan's takes on the series I love. It came down to this fact: I was watching this no matter what.

Rushing home from college (Thanks, Gary!), I hopped onto the livestream straight from the official site and invited a couple of friends online to watch the magic happen. The direct camera footage was only avaliable to Germany, but us outsiders had a listening-only option. Didn't matter. We were late for the Star Fox, Super Mario Bros. and F-Zero suites, but thanks to the generosity of Youtube uploaders, it didn't really matter.

Below are my opinions of the pieces, along with videos and comparisons. Enjoy the show!

*Note: The show started out with an original fanfare called the "The Common 8-Bit Hero", which I haven't watched yet due to its irrelevance. Come on guys, surely you coulda used this for something else instead?

Also, apologies if my writing begins declining in quality. Thanks to the utter beauty of these songs, I can't form much coherent thoughts about them*

The first adaption on the list was a beautiful take on the Star Fox series.

What I think is the most interesting about this whole concert is the constant, yet effective use of the Latin chorus. It really does animate the songs into a deeper sense of maturity never seen before, and I think it works out very well for Star Fox in particular, given the series' sci-fi origins. Really does feel like a piece from Star Wars, eh?

Anyway, we have a lighthearted cover of the main theme for Star Fox 64 and an a rather dynamic adaption of the original Star Fox's classic Corneria level. Starts out slow with a chorus, then speeds up. I kind of wish we had the Main Theme from that game as well, but jeez...the second half really gets me going. Fantastic!

Fun Fact: This, along with the F-Zero piece, was arranged by one of the composers behind the One Piece anime. The influence is unmistakable, and one I took much delight in.

Here's a link to one of the original songs; see if you can point it out!


And what comes next is none other then a Mario suite.

It starts off with a gorgeous rendition of the Dire, Dire Docks, an underwater level from Super Mario 64. It continues for well over a minute, then we get treated to Super Mario Bros. 3's athletic theme, which I immediately saw coming in its introductory riff. Then we have a brief venture into Bowser's Castle from Super Mario Bros., and guessed it, the main theme!

I gotta say, this has to be bounciest edition of it yet. In particular, I love the way they integrated with the song from New Super Mario Bros., which is presented in a real suave direction. Had the biggest smile on my face during this part..and that's not mentioning the Mario 64 tribute, which gets you just as relaxed as the original.

Probably the funnest song in the whole concert! Loved it.

Dire, Dire Docks

Super Mario Bros. 3 Athletic

The concert then moves on to the F-Zero racing series.

I might as well get this out of the way: I love the idea of having a drum solo build up the segment. The problem here is that it while it is very talented, it goes on for over two minutes, and it takes up time that would be better spent on the songs presented. If it just went on for a minute, it would've fine. If you want to skip ahead, go to the 2:30 mark.

But, man! Everything else here is great! What makes this so surreal is that F-Zero is a franchise completely immersed in rock guitars, techno and synthesizers...and somehow they made it work in an orchestra! I never thought I'd see the day where I'd hear Mute City played live or the Big Blue theme done so...majestically. It's just powerful all around, and they did a nice job with the derivative from the original songs. I'd go as far to say that in terms of musical achievement, this stands with the Zelda piece as the biggest success of the whole show. Well done!

Mute City
Big Blue
Orchestral Footage


The piece that hasn't been as well received as the others: Metroid.

The controversy is that they went into a different direction for this adaption. Personally, I believe they did a terrific job in making it sound scary and disturbing, which are one of the many themes for Metroid. I mean, by itself, it's a great performance. It'd be suitable background music for a horror film.

As a Metroid arrangement, falls flat. The issue is that it dances too much around the original songs and it's difficult to get a hold of what's going on. Admittedly, I'm no Metroid music guru (I really need to get around to playing more of the games), but the only songs I could recognize was the main theme for Super Metroid and...I believe the Kraid music from that as well? It's all over the place and doesn't make much of an impression.

It is what it is, at least. But if I were the guys in charge, I'd take this as a lesson in that while it's fine to be experimental, it's best not tamper with the main medley so much. I'll just take it as an omen to the future of the franchise...but that's a topic for another time.


For our listening pleasure, we have a piano arrangement of Donkey Kong Country's Aquatic Ambiance.

This is a song that's stuck with me ever since I first heard it, and was the first piece of game music I appreciated the beauty of. Donkey Kong Country always did have a touch of depressed isolation in its music selection, but the way this song evolved was unlike everything else in the game. In all honesty, this is why I want there to be water levels in the new Donkey Kong Country Returns, just so I can have an updated version of this track.

As for this version...I have never heard a more accurate portrayal of not only the underwater depths, but one of reflective solitude. One thing I've noticed is that given the nature of the song itself, it has the freedom of exploring the rest of its own genre, so it has no problem deviating from and sticking with the source material. It's hard to describe it. It's certainly the loveliest piece of music I heard in a long time. Objectively, it may very well be the finest segment in the whole concert.

Readers might remember that I used the original version of this song for my tribute to my brother. Below you can find a link to not only that, but footage of the orchestra.

Aquatic Ambiance

Orchestra Footage

And now, for my favorite piece.

The fact that they were orchestrating Pikmin music already had me jumping for joy, but they didn't stop there. Oh no, they had to go ahead and orchestrate my two favorite songs from the series. They were going to orchestrate the World Map songs! The songs that inspired a sense of hidden adventure, the one I had hummed along to when I was a ten-year old and what always made me want to keep playing.

So, how did it turn out? Well, my reaction is this:

Oh my god.

Okay, I take back what I said about Aquatic Ambiance. This is the most beautiful rendition of the batch. I still can't get over how perfect the first forty seconds are, and its..oh..oh..I'm going to faint from my excitement. They weren't kidding when they said it perfectly captured the innocence of a forest environment. This is everything I wanted it to be!

The thing is, Pikmin music is normally mellow, but they can go either way with these because both songs were originally rather upbeat. Not only that, but it works wonders in its restrictions, and when it does deviate, it's still genuine Pikmin! It really is! And there's this uncanny resemblance to background music in an animated film..I could seriously see this being put into Peter Pan and no one would notice.

Most importantly, it follows the very themes of the series: Discovery, danger, the start of a new day, and success. And it..and it....oh, I'm just typing scatterbrained nonsense! I just can't get enough of it!

Now I want the upcoming Pikmin 3 to be orchestrated! Please, Nintendo?

Orchestral Footage
World Map (Pikmin)
World Map (Pikmin 2)


What's this? Super Mario Galaxy? Yes, please.

I think there's really only one thing I can comment on this.

They integrated a Latin choir into Gusty Garden Galaxy.


This...just...aah...oh...the whole thing was beautiful. Buoy Base. The Festival. Bowser Battle. Everything. But this...this is the best ending I've ever heard for an orchestral piece. Oh. Oh. I slightly prefer the Pikmin piece, but it was incredibly close.

I was unsure about this at first since Galaxy was already orchestrated, but far exceeds the realm of "doing the original justice."


Orchestral Recording


And the finale? A 30 minute segment completely dedicated to The Legend of Zelda.

Given the size of this part, I'll divide it up into three Youtube links. Check 'em out if you have the time. The whole thing's pretty boss. Here's to hoping they'll have orchestras in Skyward Sword!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Some fans cried foul at them taking too many liberties with the original pieces, but I think considering how ambitious they were being with the "Symphonic Poem" style I can let them slide a bit. I just wish it had more variety! I don't know if an actual Zelda game would be over the top like this, but I'd say it'd be pretty close! Come on, if you can do it for Mario, surely Zelda can have it too!

And while we're at it, here's the encore with mixes of songs from Zelda/Metroid/Mario. Nice!


Overall, an awesome show. I kind of wish that they used a Smash Bros. piece to open up the show instead, and I'm surprised they didn't represent Kirby considering how amazing the songs are orchestrated. Ah, well. This show won't be the last of its kind...another time.

Can't wait to grab this on CD! Release it soon, guys!


Earlier, I said we'd be getting into some impressions for Wario Ware D.I.Y.

I kinda realized I needed more time with the game before I got down to writing about it. Not only is college a time sucker, but this game is...really extensive. You'll see when I get around to it.

Next's finally coming. Get ready for a look on Kirby's Adventure on the NES! Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy 25th, Super Mario

I'm aware I'm a day late on this, but I figure I might as well make a post on this. Better late then never, right?

The Super Mario franchise celebrated it's 25th anniversary yesterday, in regards to the release of Super Mario Bros. in Japan. It reached our shores just a month later, and as I've already described, it was a game that changed the face of video gaming forever. Of course, the character Mario's true birthday lies in the Donkey Kong arcade game (we're one year shy of the 30th anniversary), but we're strictly talking about the series here.

Ever since then, Super Mario has become Nintendo's flagship series. It has not only become the most respected platforming franchise in gaming with the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy, but one that spread far and wide into many spin-off titles. One cannot forget Mario's forays into racing (Mario Kart), sports (Mario Tennis), minigame marathons (Mario Party), and yes, even puzzlers (Dr. Mario). Nintendo revealed just the other day that every single one of these titles has accumulated just over 240 million units worldwide, which just goes to show the strength of the Mario name.

And one that shaped the course of my life.

The Super Mario games, I believe, have lasted for so long because the developers focus on only one ingredient: Fun. Despite me having a greater love for the Earthbound/Super Smash Bros. franchises, I can say that without a doubt that Mario games are by far the funnest games in the entire industry. It is so obvious just by playing them that their primary focus for Super Mario Galaxy 2 and last year's New Super Mario Bros. Wii was to give the players as much joy as possible, and this is helped so much by the series' "anything can happen" mandate that defines the games.

Each of Nintendo's other series, such as Legend of Zelda and Metroid, are restricted by their rules and boundaries for the sole sake of keeping their integrity to the fans. And look what happens when you try to break them. Zelda: Twilight Princess received a mixed reception thanks to its lacking atmosphere and bland color scheme, and the recent Metroid: Other M has been bemoaned by many fans as taking the series into an unnecessary cinematic direction and possibly even ruining the character of Samus Aran. There is nothing wrong with trying to shake things up, but you must do so in a way that's not only fun, but retains the very soul of the series.

Super Mario has had nearly almost no problems in regard to this, and maybe this might be because Nintendo doesn't want to risk screwing up their most beloved franchise, but I'd like to think that it's because the series doesn't NEED to change. As long as their imagination tank is full, creator Shigeru Miyamoto has no need to take the series anywhere, especially in 2D form. Again, New Super Mario Bros. Wii's status of being the fastest selling console game ever proves that the public is not tired of playing of Mario.

The only time they tried something different was with 2002's Super Mario Sunshine, in which Mario hopped through a tropical paradise and was armed with a water spraying backpack to clean up the island's sludge. It was yet another game that received a mixed reception, and while I personally believe it is the weakest of the 3D Mario titles, it is by no means a bad game. Many praised the tough-as-nails platforming sections that didn't include the water pack, but I was very much amused sliding through the slime and eventually washing it all away. In the end, it stands with Mother 3 as the most successful of Nintendo's deviations from the accepted formula.

And that's not even bringing up the characters. Maybe they're not as deep as the folks in Final Fantasy or in Nintendo's own Fire Emblem, but those guys all depend on expanding on their motives and backstory. I believe that a great character is not one just defined by their role, but is one that can appeal to the masses with their charisma and charm, as proven with Disney's Mickey Mouse. Instead, Nintendo wisely focused on the character traits they we know them for, such as the aloofness of Luigi, the hysterical greed of Wario, and the adorable ray of sunshine that is Yoshi.

I find Mario himself to be an interesting case. The guy constantly has to rescue the woman he loves and engages in perilous adventures that could end up being with him being burned alive, eaten, crushed, or end up a victim to one of the many bottomless pits. And you know what? He enjoys every second of it. He doesn't resent the situations he finds himself in, he instead chooses to find joy in his adventures. Just listen to him when he soars in 64 or the Galaxy games, he's clearly having the time of his life.

In short, he is what I aspire to be in life. A life that can have challenges, difficulties, and perhaps even overcoming tragedies; but one in which I'm able to grin through it all, laugh through the small stuff and see the best in everything.

Yesterday, I was celebrating by playing a marathon of Mario music on Youtube and playing several of my favorite titles. I mentioned this before, but in Galaxy 2, my favorite stage goes by the name of Cloudy Court Galaxy. It's a beautiful stage, decorated with bush sculptures and accompanied by clouds you're constantly traversing upon. A particular moment has you bouncing on floating drum sets, which you can continue doing as long as you want without consequence.

I love this part so much. Every time I hop onto those drums, I start laughing. It's a very genuine sort of laugh that I don't use very often, and it's one where I'm experiencing true bliss. This time though was different. Before I knew it, tears were spilling out of my eyes. Normal people do not cry tears of joy while playing a Mario game. Maybe it was the occasion of the 25th anniversary. Maybe it was the way Mario was laughing over and over. I don't know. But I loved it.

I honestly don't really know what kind of person I would've become without the presence of Mario and friends in my life, but everyone who's ventured into my life knows how near and dear his titles are to my heart. Maybe Nintendo has too much of a grip in my life, my whole being, but you know what? It's a life I wouldn't dare give up for anything. I am confident that the person I am today wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for a certain plumber with blue overalls and who has earned the title of the happiest man alive.

Thank you. For being there.

*Pictures are from the Mario Wiki and several other sources.*

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Games I've Been Playing Part #1: Of Brave Vesperia and the Inside Story

Man, do I suck or what?!?!? I said I'd like to update more, and it's been two weeks. I mean, I even had a four day weekend off from college. I wasn't lazy or anything, maybe it was just my first year of college sinking in. I dunno. In any case, here I am.

So, how's college? Well, so far I've spent much of my spare time playing games. I've been playing three in particular recently, one of which I'll be giving Impressions regarding it very soon. As for the other two, I thought I'd take the time to share my thoughts on them here and now in my new section, Games I've Been Playing.

It sounds self-explanatory. I'll just be discussing the wonderful pieces of entertainment I've been spending my spare time with and go in length about their strengths and weaknesses. Let's get started!


So I received an Xbox 360 the other month.


I'm still in shock about this. Eight years ago, being a little rabid Nintendo fanboy, I hated the Xbox. Looking back, I was just following the internet bandwagon and I obviously did no research whatsoever on my hatred. In one fond memory, some eight years ago I signed up on the forum of the long-dead website Tendobox and raged on the Xbox board about the system's suckiness. It didn't end well, but I still chuckle about it whenever it surfaces. Ah, the days of being new to the internet community...

Actually, maybe I was just really pissed at all of the Xbox/Playstation 2 fanboys labelling Nintendo games as kiddie. Remember that one, guys? Funny how it's fallen into disuse. Now it's that they've abandoned their gamers. Yeah, right.

In any case, I eventually discarded my nonsensical antagonism and actually enjoyed the console at my friend's house. I still believe the Xbox was the weakest console from last gen (in all honesty, you could find most of its library on the PS2), but it's all water under bridge now.

And through certain circumstances, I found myself in posession of its successor, the Xbox 360. Other then returning to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I honestly have let it languished in the shadows, but now it's been gaining major playtime with my third foray into the Tales series, Tales of Vesperia.

No, that shitty Tales of Symphonia sequel doesn't count.

The Tales games, developed by Namco (Pacman, Klonoa, Katamari Damacy, etc.), has been one I've been very interested in exploring. I regard Tales of Symphonia as quite possibly my favorite third-party video game of all time, and Tales of the Abyss was an inspiring piece of work in that I connected very deeply with the moral/character motivations present in its adventure (Here's one: It's never too late to learn anything!). I knew next to nothing about Vesperia, only knowing that it was on the 360 and many Tales fans were hailing it as the best in the series. It was my driving force to get the console, actually.

I nabbed the Special Edition case (the one above) off of eBay for a somewhat hefty price, but I think it was worth it. Just compare it to the regular one, it's leagues better. Plus, it's shiny and metal.

So how's the game? You know, I'll be blunt: I'm mixed about it so far.

I'll start out with what I love about it so far. The game looks absolutely gorgeous. For those not in the know, there was a technique called cel-shading that was all the rage during the previous video game generation (2001-2006). In a nutshell, it was a form of graphical rendering that made the game appear to pop out right out of a cartoon. Once scoffed at during it's inception, it eventually turned out to be a beautiful artstyle that gave games more vibrance and charm that has never been paralled since. Great examples of this include Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Viewtiful Joe, Okami, most of the home console Dragon Ball Z fighting games, and even the aforementioned Tales of Symphonia. If you ask me, I believe it was the pinnacle innovation of that era.

Tales of Vesperia makes use of this method in an especially eye-popping way. Another bit of background is that the series occasionally employs the use of anime-styled scenes during its cinematic sequences. An animated cutscene served as the intro for the game, and when I was given control of the character, I swear that I thought I was still watching it! Here's a couple of more screenshots to prove my point.

I also have to speak about the battle system, which is funner then ever. What makes Tales games so fun has always been the flashy Real-Time battles, where you can just hack and slash at your opponents with all kinds of exaggerated sword/hammer/chakram/spear/card/whatever maneuvers at your disposal. For those who wanted to go the extra mile, the game also records how many combos you can land on a baddie, which is harder then it sounds.

Maybe I'm still not all that interested in it, but I'll admit it's tempting. It is so much easier to link your ability techs (especially as the main character, Yuri Lowell) and it is so satisfying when you link three of them together. It's just spectacular. Not to mention the super fun "Fatal Strikes" and the very useful "Burst Artes" all add up to a more dynamic battlefield then in the previous Tales. It's by far the best system yet in the series and I really hope they continue to use this one as a model for future games.

..well, actually, I hope they lighten the difficulty next time. I mean, the boss battles in this game are excruciatingly hard, most notably the Gattsuo and Baitojoh monsters. Most, if not all of them, just feel plain cheap and it's incredibly frustrating.. At this point in my playthrough, it seems to have found a nice balance, though. Let's hope it stays that way.

Now, on the bad side..hmm, I'm not sure if I'd call them bad. Just things I'm really iffy about. I guess the most important thing I gotta go over is the roster of characters. Tales games have always had excellent casts, each with their own believable personalities and expanded histories, but it's a mixed pool here. In particular, I'm very fond of Karol, the exuberant young boy armed with a giant hammer (very much in constrast to his self-image), and Raven, a humorous character who frequently mentions his old age at times of danger. Princess Estelle, the female lead, is also a charming character that is dead set on learning about the world (not to mention herself) that had been sheltered from her.
Unfortunately, the rest of the band suffers. Rita, the genius mage, constantly criticizes the rest of the party and seems rather self-centered in her motives. While she has her good qualities, it gets annoying hearing her yelling at Karol and Raven for the umpteenth time. The game also builds up a friendship with her and Estelle, but it seemed to me that it was only the princess who wanted to spark an association with her. Thus, it feels really off when in a time of rescue Rita is the most vocal about getting her back.

There's also Judith, another female character who isn't really anything special. While of a separate race and has an interesting backstory/motivation, she comes off as bland thanks to the game's wayward structure (more on that later). She has her reasons for staying with the party, but it comes across as being there for the sake of being there and as a result I don't really feel an attachment to her the way I do for most of the others. She's simply just not a fun character.

Yuri, the main character, is an interesting subject. He once worked for the imperial knights, but grew heavily irritated with their customs and regulations and embarked on a journey of self-justice. I think what's most engaging about him is that while he is a friendly person that cares for his friends, he won't let the law stop him from he believes is the right thing to do. *spoilers* In a couple of seperate, chilling cinematics, he murders two corrupt government officials in cold blood because he knows that they're just going to continue fucking up the system since the government turned a blind eye to their actions and let them off easy. "Doing the right thing" seems to be this entry's main theme (as opposed to Abyss's "People can change for the better").

My problem with him though is that his motivations for his main actions aren't very strong. He sets off from the poor lower quarter of the city to retrieve a relic that controls the town's water supply, but the issue here is that this takes up the first third of the game and doesn't make for a compelling incentive for a main character (and no, heading off to warn a character we know nothing about isn't very interesting either). He eventually sets up his own guild with Karol, but the only purpose this serves, storywise, is to pretty much follow the whims of the princess's self-discovery.

*Tales of Symphonia/Abyss spoilers ahead!*

This is something I find disappointing given the great track record of previous main characters. Lloyd Irving of Symphonia witnessed horrifying discrimination and human slavery and vehemently opposed all of it. After nearly losing one of his best friends in a selfless effort to save the world, he vows to rid the world of discrimination, forced sacrifices, and exsphere manufacturing so that everyone can live their lives the way they want to. Luke fon Fabre of Abyss was a whiny, spoiled-ass noble who was concerned only for himself. But after his blind devotion to his "master" indirectly results in the deaths of thousands of people, he realizes how much of an asshole he was to everyone around him and vows to redeem himself by overcoming his true origins and, like Lloyd, combating the world's problems.

As of this writing, Yuri chases nothing even resembling those objectives, and I think this might have to do with the fragmented storyline. The other games had very defined goals with minor sidequests along the way, but here the quest spirals off into numerous paths and there is rarely an interesting objective. Go chase this guy, go meet with a dragon, stop this person. And while this is all happening, you're randomly thrust into the "save the world" gimmick, a plot point that was slowly amassed in the other two but has no sense being here given our meager objectives. A friend of mine was watching me play this game, and I honestly could not explain the plot to him because I was going through what was just filler. In other words, it goes nowhere.

And while I'm at it, the villains aren't very interesting either. At this point in my file, I believe I have met the big bad guy of the game and he's not exactly a convincing one. I'm sorry if it seems like I'm comparing things too much, but Symphonia and Abyss both relied on villains that were already established characters and surprised us by taking a complete 180 into their true personalities and motives. Here, it's a character barely mentioned and with absolutely no buildup he's randomly the game's antagonist. I don't buy it. The other villains aren't much better, and it is without question the story's weakest element.

It's not all bad, though. There have actually been some emotionally strong cinematics (mainly a few surrounding Estelle, Karol and Raven) that do tug at your heartstrings. I mean, I still am in the second segment of the game, and Tales games always seem to be separated into three parts. At this point, though, I'm very torn about the game. Believe me, I really wanted to fall in love with it like I did with the other two, but it just hasn't happened...yet

We'll see how it ends up.


Fortunately, I am incredibly positive about the next game I'm about to discuss. It was a game I received last year for Christmas, the crap I was going through at the time diminished my enjoyment of the title and I eventually put it on hold after some of the shit my brother put me through.
That game is Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the Nintendo DS. And I am very much enjoying it.

The third title in the Mario and Luigi RPG series arrived just around this time last year, and only now am I appreciating the true beauty of this game. Mario & Luigi games, along with the Paper Mario series and the oneshot Super Mario RPG, are very much different from regular Mario games in that you aren't hopping through a side-scrolling marathon, but instead explore the locales of the Mushroom Kingdom/neighboring countries and get yourself tangled up the kooky schemes of an original villain. Hysterical dialogue, "timed" attacks and incredibly fun casts of characters are also staples.

The plot here is, without a doubt, the oddest yet in a Nintendo game. While taking out his anger on yet another failed attempt to raid Princess Peach's Castle, Mario antagonist Bowser meets a figure who grants him a "Lucky Shroom" that is guaranteed to defeat Mario. Instead, it flies the Koopa King into a rage and, in a hypnotized state, he begins inhaling the retainers of the castle...including the Mario Bros. and the Princess! It turns out that the figure is none other then Fawful, a previous villain from the series who takes over Bowser's Castle and brainwashes his minions.

Despite being unaware of his inside guests, Bowser is not very happy about this turn of events and sets out on a quest to get it back. Meanwhile, the Bros. realize the predictament they're in, and have no choice but to work behind the scenes and aid their archenemy from within.

The game works by having you switch between the Mario Bros. and Bowser at random intervals. For example, you'll be stampeding within the game's overworld as the Koopa King, but then he'll suddenly find himself lifting an heavy object that requires the use of the Bros. stimulating his arm strength. It's amazingly seamless and neither perspective feels unnecessary.

However, I might as well come out and say it: Bowser is the real star here. Over half of your time will be spent with him, and it's often spent beating the crap out of everything in sight. Out of all his appearances yet, this is by far the most hilarious portrayal of of the big lug yet and I have busted out laughing numerous times at his total disregard for anyone else. His efforts to reclaim his home, of which include assisting a character speaking in a French dialect and participating in Wii Fit knock-offs, are some of the finest escapades yet in the series.

As usual, the writing is by far the funnest part of playing these games and you can just tell by reading the dialogue how much fun the localizers at NOA's Treehouse Branch had putting it all together. In particular, the villain Fawful was a fan-favorite of many Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga players thanks to his grammatically challenged form of speech and it is retained faithfully here, providing the funniest sequences in the game whenever he appears.

The gameplay is addictive fun and it's all thanks to the timed hits often featured in the plumber's RPGS. Say, for example, you choose to jump on a bad guy. It works, but it doesn't feel satisfying. The trick is to hit the A button right before landing an attack on a foe and you can simultaneously rack up more damage and feel the hit connect. This is also used in conjunction with dodging, in which you can leap over their attacks or even deal a counterattack. This is especially fun with Bowser, who throws punches with all of his might and breathing massive bursts of fire. And that's not to mention the immensely amusing repertoire of special attacks.

It just..all of it comes together well. I was iffy whether or not I could stomach a replay of the game, but a friend convinced me to after he finally bought a copy of the game and I gave in. I don't regret it. It feels so much better then when I first played it, and I just have this huge grin on my face whether I play it. I mean, it's a Mario game, what do you expect?

Especially in comparison to Vesperia. I really got to state the truth: I just feel like I'm playing that game for the sake of playing it and getting it over with. Here, I'm having a blast and I don't want it to end. Even though the plot is much lighter, I am endlessly charmed by the wild antics of Bowser and co. much more then Vesperia's loose plot/faint character bonding. It's just..Mario.

I guess this really goes to show you that I'll always be a Nintendo fanboy at heart.

God, I love this company. More than anything else.

In any case, a review of Bowser's Inside Story will be posted after my completion of the game. Can't wait!


There you have it.

So what's that other game I've been playing? None other then WarioWare D.I.Y, the latest entry in the WarioWare series that was released last April, but I only just got around to. Expect a big impressions post later this week!

See you then!