Thursday, May 27, 2010
Despite this, it took a while for Super Mario Galaxy to grow on me. For the third 3D title in the Super Mario series, Nintendo opted for a more traditional approach that was reminiscent of the 2D Mario games, instead of the wide, open areas found previously in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. In other words, the game still had third dimensional movement but you were essentially following a direct path.
For some reason, this didn't click with me. I longed for the freedom offered in the previous games and I felt that was necessary for a Mario in 3D to be successful. In other words, I was being an idiot. I forgot about the game quickly and didn't bother too much with the Luigi mode, but nearly a year after it was released, I felt the game calling to me again. I quickly dropped my foolish disappointment and immersed myself in what was easily one of the greatest games ever created.
And hey, it came out on my freaking birthday. What more could I ask for?
So of course it's going to be a big deal to me when a sequel is announced. When the first trailer was shown last year, complete with a playable Yoshi and a remix of the beloved Gusty Garden music, I could feel my mouth dropping to the floor, and I've bristling with anticipation ever since.
And, now that the game has been in my hands for a week now, it's
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is, more then anything, a retelling of the original Super Mario Galaxy. Through a series of events that send Mario blasting off into outer space, the plumber finds himself teaming up with a race of stars known as the Luma to rescue Princess Peach from, who else, Bowser.
No one plays a Mario game for the plot, so let's jump ahead to what matters: the gameplay. All of the 3D Mario games employ the use of what is referred to gamers as a "hub", in which is the main area Mario uses to access the different worlds featured in each game. Due to their recent focus on casual gamers, Nintendo wisely cut back on these wide areas and smooshed it all on a tiny planetoid known as Starship Mario. The Starship is easy to probe around on, thanks to its circular shape and easy access of the World Map, which is designed much like the 2D Marios in which you pick which level to traverse.
The original Galaxy was lauded for its sense of imagination, but what we have here blows it completely out of the water. I don't need to bore you with long explanations of each galaxy, so here's a brief rundown of what I've encountered:
-A drill you can use that can punch you through planetoids in the blink of an eye.
-A floating windmill village that consists of jumping on clouds and drumsets.
-A galaxy in which you have to jump to the beat of the infamous underground theme of Super Mario Bros., or else you fall to your death.
-Another similar galaxy in which you have to use your spin move to "flip" the platforms.
-Outrunning shadow doppelgangers of Mario, in what ranges from completing the level to collecting purple coins.
-A new suit, Rock Mario, in which you roll around as a boulder and crash into walls and bowling pins
-An art inspired galaxy, complete with brushes and canvases, in which you ride a ball containing a precious star. This is hard!
-A galaxy in which everything is "Super Massive.", from the coins to the enemies. A clever nod to Super Mario Bros. 3's Giant World,
-A 'throwback' to Whomp's Fortress, a Super Mario 64 stage, complete with jazz music.
My favorite galaxies are consistently shifting around...I'll have to make a list, soon!
Of course, by far the most advertised feature of the game is the addition of everyone's favorite green dinosaur, Yoshi. The critter, who lets Mario saddle up on his back to eat baddies, had appeared in another 3D Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine, but the implemention failed to impress, thanks to him DISSOLVING whenever he touched water and the ability to shoot juice from his mouth.
None of that here. Just like in his debut title Super Mario World, you can find Yoshi scattered around the various galaxies, just waiting to be hatched from his eggshell prison. The dinosaur is a valuable, often necessary, asset needed to complete the level Instead of barfing, Yoshi can now use special fruits to use new powers, such as inflating into a balloon illuminating secret pathways. My favorite Yoshi moment so far is a galaxy in which you have digest a pepper and run at what is practically light speed over a series of planks. One misstep, and you fall to your doom. Complete with Super Mario World music playing in the background, this is probably one of the best galaxies in the game.
Many felt that Super Mario Galaxy had only one flaw: Its incredible ease. There were hardly any levels that gave you a real challenge, but the game made up for it in pure fun. This has been remedied somewhat, as there is plenty of difficult spots littered around later on in this sequel. That Flipswitch Galaxy I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of this. When you spin, a pivotal technique, the platforms flip in a vertical fashion. I often find myself spinning after a jump, and this habit led to many lost lives.
The most adored aspect of the original Super Mario Galaxy was by far the music score. In a surprising twist, Nintendo went for an orchestrated soundtrack in order to adapt to the outer space theme of the game, and the result was nothing sort of specutacular. It was unbelieveable how well these recorded songs fit onto the stages, and the experience was akin to that of watching a Disney film. It was only natural Nintendo had to go the same route for Super Mario Galaxy 2
Interestingly enough, at first I wasn't too impressed with the soundtrack for this sequel. While the arranged songs were more catchier then the ones featured in the original, The orchestras did not seem to be as prominent this time around and those that poppped up failed to grab me. As I reached the later stages of the game and got a feel for the overall experience, I realised how wrong I was. While I have yet to experience a song that touches Gusty Garden, many of the new orchestral songs have rocketed to the stardom of its previous descendants, some of which even surpass the original arrangements.
Listed below are some of my favorites.
So, does this newcomer surpass the original? If you asked me earlier this week, I'd have to give the nod to the original Galaxy due to its originality and soundtrack. Now, there's no doubt in my mind that this is the superior game. Is it as unique? Perhaps not, but one cannot deny the sincere effort of what this game has to offer. With the charming homages to previous titles in the series, an (honestly) more explosive soundtrack, and the absolutely superior gameplay, it looks like we might already have winner for Game of the Year. Bravo to Nintendo for yet another game that is likely to be heralded as unparalleled in the platforming genre.
So what's the plan from here?
I plan to wrap up Super Mario Bros. soon in another 3-5 entries, and I'm likely to continue my evaluation of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Pokemon Soul Silver over the summer. Kirby's Adventure is likely to follow up soon.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Really, I didn't like much music at all.
Oh, sure, there was the occasional odd song I'd hear on some preview for the Rugrats films and I'd be singing it for the next couple of days, but I'd quickly forget about it. Well, okay, there was the whole thing with the theme song to the Pokemon animation, but that was about as far as it went. I always found the lyrics to be hard to follow, and I generally just found the whole mediuim to be unappealing and not as interesting as more physical activities. To be honest, music was never really a part of my life.
That is, until Super Smash Bros. Melee, a game that disguised itself as a fighter but was really a celebration of everything Nintendo, was popped into my brand new Gamecube. That game proceeded to rock my world harder then any game before it, but of all the things that made me fall in love with it, the music sucked me in the most. Songs that had first appeared on the NES had been upgraded into bouncy arrangements and beautiful orchestras. Orchestras! One in particular, a Kirby song that played on a stage known as The Fountain of Dreams, engrossed me so much that I would constantly battle on that stage just to listen to that sweet piece of heaven.
Songs like this can make me just die of euphoria.
Video game music? Scoff all you want, but I believe this is hands down the best musical genre out there. Ever since Melee and Kirby Super Star, there have been countless pieces of music from video games that have left a mark on me. It's a love that I often don't share in public, but nonetheless, it is a genre that, if you look around hard enough, respected as much as any other. There are symphonies that play video game music. I have actual CD soundtracks for video games, of which I listen to daily.
Nonetheless, the music for these games are still taken by many for granted, and I don't think I appreciate that. Without background music, just about every game out there would be barren, dead hulls devoid of being and personality. These songs, unnoticed as they are, bring our games to life.
I want to share my love for this underappreciated genre, and what better way than to analyze the most famous song of them all?
I present to you, the main theme for Super Mario Bros.
Creaky, tinny, and antiquated, the sound chips on the NES were quite limited and did not allow for much freedom, but yet managed to introduce the most famous songs in video game history. How did they pull this off?
Take a listen at the Mario theme for a moment. Notice how, despite its obvious technical age, the song itself is bouncy, energetic, and gears you up for a joyous romp through a mushroom-rampant fantasy land. Koji Kondo, the revered musician behind the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda series, had rearranged this song several times during the development of the game due to the game's growth, and eventually decided on a song that would not only suit the game, but would fit nicely into the beginning of a game.
And oh, how he succeeded.
By the way, is that song stuck in your head yet?
Let's talk about the song itself. Animated and vibrant, it's no wonder the song ingrained itself into millions and millions of people worldwide. This song flawlessly compliments the wild, nonsense world of Super Mario, and yet it also sparks a feeling of motivation and adventure. Whenever I stumble into a bottomless pit or fall prey to one of Bowser's baddies, the song starts right up again and without hesitation I dive right back into the action with the biggest grin on my face.
This song is so good.
Above all else, though, it is catchy. Seriously, just hum the song out loud. Doesn't it just hit the right chords? I hum it all the time, and I've caught some of my peers singing it as well. It's just a universal song, you hear it everywhere. My parents attended Video Games Live with me, and both of them still can't get this song out of their heads.
Really, what else can I say about it? It's just an amazing song that everyone loves, and it always brightens my day when I hear it.
Nintendo has revisted the song many times since Super Mario Brothers., and it is often labelled as the series' main theme. For your listening pleasure, here are some of my favorite variations of the song.
Super Mario Sunshine, a game that featured Mario with some weird hosing backpack device, is considered the black sheep of the 3D Mario games due to its strange premise, but just about everyone agrees the best part of the game were platforming sections, sans the water backpack, hidden in the game. These stages were brutally difficult and featured such staples such as disappearing platforms and impossible jumps. Probably the icing on the cake was the above Scat version of the main theme
Here's a laid-back version featured in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. I'd like to chill to this one day. Maybe if the soundtrack didn't cost so freaking much..
Here's an arrangement Koji Kondo himself had produced for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The song is interesting in that it collaborates with the stage it's set on: An abandoned, centuries-old version of World 1-1. Doesn't it sound perfect for radio?
Oh, and how about those orchestrations I mentioned earlier? Here's a clip from Video Games Live, a symphony that performs video game music around the world.
I've been there twice, and this segment is by far my favorite.
And of course, who can forget the infamous dance used during the credits of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show?
There's probably a bajillion more. I mean, what can you expect?
In short, this the greatest song ever. It's up there in my favorites. My top five, for sure.
So, how about that Super Mario Galaxy 2? Man, I can't decide which one is better, the original or the new kid on the block.
What I can say is that it's owning my life at the moment. My impressions are to arrive soon, then follows a double update with Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon Soul Silver.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Notice how there's a layer of bricks on the top of the level. If you play your cards right...
This is actually vital to accessing the most popular secret of the game, but we'll touch on that later. Let's get go through the pipes and get out of here.
Ah, the outdoors...but what's this?
Those are some really weird hills...
This is a type of stage I don't really see mentioned much, which I find odd considering it's one of the first levels in the game. Not to mention that they are HARD!
When you play video games, you always kind of pick up on the rule that you have to take your time with these kind of levels. There will always be levels that will aggravate you, test your patience, and make us scream various curse words at the television screen, but the key is just to take a deep breath and relax.
Take these floating platforms, for example. Some of them ease up and down, but there are times when they aren't so friendly. They might just sink the moment you set foot on them. These things can be the bane of my existence.
I might be saying that a lot.
At the end of each world, you'll find yourself in a massive castle.
Yikes, this certainly looks dangerous. Why, look, there's lava and fireballs everywhere. Just like in the hills, you can't just rush through everything. Otherwise, you might run into these rotating fire bars up there.
All of the castle stages have the same color scheme, but they always spice things up. For example, one of them has a maze in which you have to pick the right route or otherwise you'll be sent back to the beginning. It's a process.
OH MY GOD BOWSER!!!
...or not. If you pelt enough fireballs at him, it's just a minion in disguise. The normal way to beat him is to jump over and use that axe to chop down the bridge.
When the bridge is falling down, his feet wiggle. I like that detail.
Mario heads on over to the other room and rescues a Mushroom Retainer, who says one of video games' most famous lines.
Seven more castles, to be exact. But I won't be talking about all of them.
So now we've got that out of the way, I'd say I'd maybe have about six or seven views left for this game. Man, it's tougher then it looks..
Next up: The Music
...you know, Super Mario Galaxy 2 comes tomorrow. I swear, it is the ONLY THING I am thinking about. If only I had the time to post more this week....
Maybe I can write inbetween the impressions over the game? Ha, maybe.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom Kingdom and return them to their normal selves is Princess Toadstool, the daughter of the Mushroom King. Unfortunately, she is presently in the hands of the great Koopa turtle king.
Mario, the hero of this story (maybe) hears about the Mushroom Peoples' plight and sets out on a quest to free the Mushroom Princess from the evil Koopa and restore the fallen kingdom of the Mushroom People. You are Mario! It's up to you save the Mushroom People from the black magic of the Koopa!"
Also take note of the sarcastic "maybe" when the summary states Mario as the hero. What purpose does this have being there? Is it trying to imply he's a coward? The hell? Out of all the video game characters you could say this about, you'd do it to MARIO? I've grown up with the guy for twelve years, and there's really just no point in saying how lovable, radiant, and friendly the guy is. I mean, geeze, listen to the guy speak! Does he sound like a dogkicker to you? Who wrote this crap?!?
Meet the controller for the NES.It's really simple. In fact, it's probably the simplest controller ever made for a Nintendo console. And it works wonders for this game.
See that weird black thing on the left? That's the directional pad. That's how your character moves around, depending on the direction you're pressing in.
Take a gander at those two red buttons on the right. The A button is required here, as that's how Mario jumps around. The B button can make him run if you're pressing the directional pad to the right. The start button is just pausing the game.
Easy, right? On with the show.
So let's look at this here game.
Super Mario Bros. is a sidescrolling action game. The game works as a platforming action game in which as you move, the screen scrolls along with you and you have to jump past various obstacles in your path.
The Goomba is the basic foot soldier of Bowser's army. Defeating him is a snap. OBSERVE!You jump directly onto him and squish him. Instant one hundred points. There's nothing quite like squishing a Goomba. Perhaps their feeble, yet noble attempts to stop our favorite plumber are why they've won the hearts of many.
It comes towards you. Come in contact with it, and....
Already, Super Mario Bros. has more stuff going on then your average 80's arcade game. There were probably many gamers that made the mistake of running into the first Goomba and losing a life. What does this all mean to the player, especially that strange mushroom? And why is there a random green pipe in the way?
"Iwata: But if you avoid the first Goomba and then jump and hit a block above you, a mushroom will spring out and you'll get a shock. But then you'll see that it's going to the right so you'll think: "I'm safe! Something strange appeared but I'm okay!" But of course when it goes against a pipe up ahead, the mushroom will come back! (laughs)
Iwata: That's the reason why it's designed so that whatever you do, you'll get the mushroom.
Miyamoto: Of course it's because we wanted the player to realize that this item was different from a Goomba."
Another reason why I love Miyamoto so much. More on him later.
Fire Flower Mario! Random? Who cares! I'm blasting away baddies with fireballs!
As I'm mowing down the forces of Bowser, a lone Koopa Troopa approaches me. They look this.
Do you stomp on them? Well, yes, but it's a bit different from beating a Goomba. Once they're hit, they retreat back into their shell, but they'll pop back out if you leave them alone long enough.
So that's when you kick 'em!
Papink! The shell zooms off into the distance as I hit another block that launches a star. Grab this star and...
The shell is a missile like no other, as it gives no mercy even to its comrades. The following Goombas are massacred as my point total begins to rocket. The shell hits a hill of blocks and ricochets back to me, but it can't match up to the star's power. I'm leaping over bricks and blazing through Goombas while I'm rushing to to the endzone. A towering mountain greets me, but I swiftly make my way up and make a great leap to the top of the flag pole.
It's never said what he's doing in there. Personally, I think he's gone-a-plumbin'.
Next up: The Level Patterns
Monday, May 10, 2010
I mean, the first in-depth look I'm going to take is, again, quite possibly the most important title in video game history. How can I do this? What can I write about this game in a way that everyone else hasn't?
But, hey, I took it upon myself. I guess I just gotta do it.
I've played Super Mario Bros. every now and then over the course of my gaming life. I never had it on NES, but I did play it's updated incarnation in the anthology Super Mario All-Stars on the Super Nintendo, and I downloaded the original title for kicks on the Wii's Virtual Console service. For some reason, though, I never sought to complete the game. It was a good game, no doubt about it, but I never was never captured by it in the same way I was by Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. Was it too simple compared to it's subsequent bretheren? Was the game simply stuck in the realm of the 80's, enjoyable only by those who had lived to tell the tale of that famous era?
Was I just born too late?
I wasn't sure.
I do have an (functioning!) NES, and I have a Super Mario Bros. cartridge. Not the version coupled with Duck Hunt. Just the plain old cart. I think that was the one that was originally bundled with the system, right? Whatever the case, I got it on eBay for a buck.
And after spending the past month with the game, I can affirm for myself that the game is anything but simple, and is serving as a very valuable teacher to the 8-bit era of video games; one that I, unfortunately, do not have much experience in.
It's 1985, and things looked quite bleak for the American video game industry. Numerous varying game consoles began to flood the shelves, from the Atari 5200 to the Intellivision. As the number of consoles increased, so did the inevitable swarm of bad games rushed out to the market. Countless money was being spent on pricey acquisitions, the most notable of these crafty locusts was none other then a supposedly horrid video game spin-off of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial released for the Atari 2600, which attempted to ride on the success of the movie, but failed miserably and not only became a huge loss for Atari, but remaining copies of the game were dumped in a New Mexico landfill.
As the shelves continued to be swallowed up, stores ran out of space and game publishers, having run out of money, fled the market and pursued other electronics. As games were dumped in the bargain bin, retailers became convinced that video games were just another fad, and were ready for its replacement; that is, the next hot new toy.
That is, until a plumber and a robot came forward to turn things around.
This is R.O.B.
Pretty cute, isn't it? Like a real life version of WALL-E.
R.O.B's role in reviving the video game industry has often been compared to the Trojan horse. No store wanted to touch anything related to to video games, and considering the crash, who could blame them? Our pal R.O.B came in handy. When Nintendo's american branch was presenting the Nintendo Entertainment System to New York retailers, they made sure to present their secret weapon as not a flashy game peripheral, but a toy.
Somehow, it worked. When the NES launched on October 18, 1985, there were two games compatible with the robot, Gyromite and Stack-Up.
I heard they kind of sucked, but that didn't matter. Having successfully penetrated into the impossible fortress of the video game market, Nintendo quickly abandoned its horse and charged on ahead.
It's all about the money.
Needless to say, R.O.B doesn't pop up too much anymore. If you look around carefully, though, you can spot him making a quick cameo or two in some titles. Recently, he starred as a hidden character in the DS iteration of Mario Kart, which was welcomed with hearty chuckles, and joined Nintendo's all-star lineup in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which caused the internet to erupt in a gigantic shitstorm and forever scarred the hearts of those who would rather have wanted a giant purple dragon or random ass Pokemon to be included instead.
I'm just as confused as you are.
This is Mario.
Does he really need an introduction? Do I really need to tell you how much he's influenced my life? Do I need to tell you that the child in me lives on, wanting to hold on to him tight and never let go?
My very first video game experience was Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo, and ever since then, this man has been an ubiquitous icon in my lifetime. I haven't played all of his games, but I know all of them. I can name them. Super Mario Bros. Super Mario 64. Mario Kart Arcade GP 2. Paper Mario. Mario's Cement Factory. Hotel Mario. I know all about about him. Ever since he became Nintendo's official mascot, he has starred in several cartoons, played golf, tennis, and basketball, traveled into space at least three times (soon to be four! And if you count the spin-offs...!), has briefly held occupations such as a doctor, referee, and villain, thrown ten parties, has ridden a dinosaur the name of Yoshi that can eat anything, took a lesson from Final Fantasy and has entered the RPG arena more then once, has repeatedly broken the laws of nature and physics to do whatever he wants, and perhaps most importantly, appealed to children the world over, including myself, thanks to his shining bubbly demeanor.
In short, he is the greatest man to ever live.
And it's all thanks to this one game.
Mario had previously appeared in two other titles before Super Mario Bros. There was Donkey Kong, in which he was a simple carpenter by the name of Jumpman, and Mario Bros., where he teamed up with his brother Luigi to defeat some nasty critters who had invaded the sewers.
These games did not skyrocket Mario into pop culture. This one did.
And back then, he looked like this.
Do we really need to ask why a plumber of all people is going out of his way to jump on evil turtles, travel through Warp Pipes, throw fireballs, travel the underground, and liberate the Mushroom Kingdom and its princess? Of course we don't, and that's why this game is so much fun.
To make the impossible possible, that's what Mario games are for.
Hey, that was funner then I thought it would be.
I'd better get this thing done before Super Mario Galaxy 2 comes out, though. The moment that game enters my Wii, I might as well be in a comatose state.
Next time: World 1-1, What the Game's About, and How the Game Works.