Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mario Kart DS ~Lap 5~ My Favorite Courses, Introduction of a Big Nosed Dinosaur, and Michael


We all pick them, whether it's our favorite cousins or favorite foods and even favorite vacation spots. And who can blame us? It's important that we know what we enjoy best, which can be useful in numerous ways such as decision making, goal settings, and even impulse buying. It's human nature.

Of course, video games are not exempt from this. All gamers have various favorites, ranging from favorite games to favorite characters to favorite items to favorite game developers, and yes, favorite levels. These are the levels we frequent the most often, and what we can to regard as the very symbol of the games we play.

Now, I think I've discussed this before, but here's something I always love seeing in Nintendo games: references to past titles. Whether it be cameos or a quick reference, it goes to show that Nintendo is just as crazy about their titles as we are and

And I guess that's why my most of my favorite courses in Mario Kart DS are the ones based off of Mario's earlier adventures. Or maybe it's just that they're really fun to race on. I don't know, but I love them just the same. We've already gone over the Luigi's Mansion course, but what are the other ones I love?

Super Mario Bros. 3 fans might recognize that Desert Hills is obviously a homage to that game's Desert Land, which was home to red pipes, Chain Chomps, and an Angry Sun that stalked you for an entire level.

Mario Kart often has an infamous habit of including obstacles in their courses, and Desert Hills is no exception. The cactus Pokeys will lurch around the raceway, and it's not too difficult to crash into them. One must also be wary of the outside sand, which will induce a screeching halt to any speeding vehicle. Even the Angry Sun gets in on the action, spewing out Podoboos (otherwise known as Fire Snakes) to irritate drivers.

Besides using the Star item, probably the best feeling one has while playing Mario Kart is by utilizing a shortcut so efficiently that you find yourself leaving the rest of your opponents far behind in your dust. Desert Hills is chock full of these, and they're by far the funnest shortcuts in the game. For example, who could forget the pyramid near the beginning with a tight strip of land opposite to the main track? If you have speed-boosting mushrooms, then this path is the obvious one to take.

Then there's the twisting series of turns at the climax, where racers must tread carefully. This isn't a problem if you're boosted by Mushrooms/Stars, in which you can skip the path entirely by boosting over the hills for an exciting leap. If not, then powersliders have a big opportunity here to stay ahead of the crowd or to quickly catch up. An exciting course!

Now, question: Could you see the following stage be used as a basis for a racetrack?

Common sense would say no, but they somehow managed to take Super Mario 64's Tick Tock Clock level and actually make it into a racetrack.

Yeah, a racing course designed around a clock.

It might not sound fun, but it's actually quite dangerous. Clock hands and swinging pendulums dot the tracks, and you have to make constant curveballs to make sure you don't get in their way. Perhaps the most exciting moment is when you come across a cascading set of spinning gears, each spinning in a different direction, so you gotta go with the flow. Powerslide here to excel!

You know what's the biggest bummer that can happen to you in a race? And I'm not talking about being hit with the blue shells, either. It's when you bump into something and it takes forever to get yourself back on track. In the meantime, all of your opponents speed away, not caring for your predicament. Thus, your fate in tagging along in last place is sealed.This happens more often on some stages then others, and this is one of them.

But you know, there's something kind of special about that. And as big of a downer that can be, there's nothing more satisfying then using a combo of well thought out uses of powersliding and (ESPECIALLY) items to get yourself back on the top, and that's one of the reasons why I love Mario Kart so much. Even if you're in last place, the game provides enough tools for everyone to get back on track.

I'm still pissed that this isn't a course avaliable to play online.

Now, what's this course from...LOOKS FAMILIAR.

Ah, yes. One of the Airships from Super Mario Bros. 3!

Packed with excitement all the way through, this course is loaded with obstacles that one must constantly be wary of. For starters, Bullet Bills immediately fire away from the ship's cannons at the beginning of the course, so watch out for that. Also, remember the moles that'd pop out of manhole and throw wrenches? They're back here, and while they're out of wrenches, they'll make you spin out of control if you run into them.

You then enter the interior of the ship, which is packed with flamethrowers! And then, you launch out into a destroyed stone tower!


Awesome stuff.

Here's a stage that isn't really based on anything: Waluigi Pinball.

Named after a character no one cares about (sorry, bro), the stage makes up for its moniker by including a ton of fun twists, most notably by letting loose giant black pinballs to crush unsuspecting racers. The best part by far is when you find yourself on an actual pinball board, complete with flippers, bumpers, and pinballs. Gotta be careful here!

Also, I like how the usual sound effects are replaced with slot machine sounds. Bazing!

And now, my favorite stage: Delfino Square.

(screenshot's actually from the stage's appearance Mario Kart Wii, which I was trying to avoid but the internet sucks in providing actual Mario Kart DS screenshots..particularly the ones I need. Sorry about that)

In any case, it's a course based off of the main hub for Super Mario Sunshine. No matter what your opinions may be of that particular title, it has no bearing on the awesomeness of this course. So, why is so great?

To be honest, it's complicated.

I talked about how I could memorize what was going on around me whenever I played a game. If I could do that, then there's no doubt we can memorize what goes on in a game. Truth is, just about every gamer can do that. If a game enchants us, we remember all of the game's nuances, beginning with the gameplay to the sound effects, and right down to the tiniest graphical detail. Then there are, of course, our favorite moments, levels, or music tracks that become the very staple of the experience we had with a video game we loved.

Delfino Square is that staple for me in Mario Kart DS.

I just love this course. I love doing a series of zigzagging powerslides up the slope in the beginning and curving right around the defining Delfino Statue. I love shooting off projectile weapons behind me in the tight alleyway right after and hearing my character give a yell of triumph upon success. I love choosing between the two stairways, each with their own advantages. I love the muddy shortcut right after the halfway point, which is easily taken advantage of if you have mushrooms or a star on you. I love the giant drawbridge with boosters on it that blast me off to the final stretch. Most of all, I love the climatic showdown on the grassy path that leads to the finish line. I ALWAYS have these on Wi-Fi matches, and it is no doubt the deciding factor on who wins or loses.

Maybe it's the aesthetic details, too. Isn't it interesting how it has such a ghetto atmosphere compared to the bouncy town featured in Sunshine? Maybe it's the way Pianta spectators hum "bubudodo-bubudodo-bubudodo." Maybe I just love the music for the track.

Man. Nostalgia right there.

Despite all of the reasons I listed above, I feel as if none are really definitive. I could really have said those reasons for just about any course in the game.

Sometimes, we just grow very attached to things without knowing why. Whether they're characters in a TV show or a specific piece of furniture or a certain swing on the playground, we just like them more then the rest. We just have our ambiguous favorites. I don't know why I love Delfino Square so much, but that's okay. I just love it.

ALSO, remember how in the time trials post when I discussed how I thought I couldn't use my favorite kart, the Mushmellow, on the stage because of its low item stats which meant I couldn't employ the use of a certain shortcut? Turns out I was wrong. I had grown so experienced with powersliding that the advantage of the shortcut didn't even matter! Felt so proud of myself.


This is Yoshi.
Perhaps the most adorable character in the series, Yoshi is perhaps even more affable then Mario and the two have been buddies since childhood. Often accompanying his best buddy on his travels, Yoshi allows Mario to saddle up on him and provides a great variety of powers, whether it's using his long stretchy tongue or his own brand of transforming powers. Yoshi himself has gone on solo adventures, armed with producing eggs and throwing them. Despite being only able to speak his own name, his shining demeanor allows him to get along with nearly everyone. Like the rest of his kind, he gorges on whatever food is avaliable...not including red peppers.

Yoshi shares an affinity with Toad in that he too carries the name of his own species. They all sport a veritable rainbow of colors, including green, red, yellow, dark blue, light blue, pink, white, black, orange, purple, and brown. The Yoshis find their habitat most comfortable in tropical paradises, most notably Yoshi's Island (Yoshi's Island/Yoshi's Story), Dinosaur Land (Super Mario World), and Lavalava Island (Paper Mario). Their roles range from friendly villagers to baseball participants and on one occasion even a member of an RPG party. Despite the genders being split into male and female, they all reproduce asexually. All female video game players have their hearts melted by them and adore them to infinity and beyond.

-Canonically speaking, Yoshi's first appearance was in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. In this game, he and his fellow Yoshis aim to protect a lost Baby Mario and reunite him with his brother Luigi, all of this while trying to find the infant's home. The game, critically acclaimed by most, was a completely different take on the usual Mario sidescroller and lead to a separate series on its own.

-....of which most people believed the subsequent titles that followed failed to live up to the original. Perhaps most notable is 1998's Yoshi's Story for the Nintendo 64, which had a considerable amount of hype put into it but the brain dead difficulty and incredibly short length (despite its style of replayability) turned off many. That, and the graphical art style, despite being an innovation at the time, didn't help the unfortunate stereotype of Nintendo only appealing to kids.

....confession: I've never beaten Yoshi's Story. See, I was scared shitless of the Yoshis dying in the game when I was six/seven, and as such I refused to play the last Castle levels, which were full of spikes and buzzsaws. I've never really picked up since then, sooo....

-Of all the Mario characters, Yoshi is perhaps the one character who has made the most prolific cameos in other titles. Notable appearances include:

-You are able to win a Yoshi doll in 1993's Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The item description notes the character has been appearing a lot recently.

-Believe it or not, another Yoshi doll that's paired with a Mario one appears in the Gamecube remake of Konami's Metal Gear Solid in the character Otacon's office. If shot with a gun, the doll will make Yoshi's trademark squeal.

-My personal favorite: Once you have collected all 120 stars in Super Mario 64, Yoshi will appear at the top of Peach's castle. After you've talked to him, he'll grant you a new triple jump and one hundred lives.

-Yoshi is perhaps the ultimate fan favorite of the Mario Kart franchise. Categorized in both light/medium weight classes, Yoshi's speedster status is well known in the Mario Kart fandom, and is just as easy to pick up as the Mario Brothers. As such he's an incredibly popular pick with both experienced and casual players. In Mario Kart DS, you'll often find him paired with the Yoshi Egg kart, which has devilishly high acceleration/handling, which is perfect for (GASP!) the infamous "snaking" technique, which we'll discuss later.

Yoshi was also Michael's favorite character to use.


I host a ton of regrets.

It's a wide variety, really. I had an awful habit when I was younger of not watching what came out of my mouth and as a result I've said some rather untactful things. Until recently, I never really spent time with my relatives and there was a point where I became so self-excluded from life that they might have well been non-existent. I've let people step over me, most of the time in unfair situations where they were just generally being assholes to me and my lack of social expertise never allowed me to unleash my true feelings.

But my biggest regret of all is not taking my brother's addiction seriously until it was too late.

The announcement of his addiction breezed by so quickly without warning, not even two months after he had entered West Chester. He called me on an October night and listed off everything that had happened, about how he had to drop out of college and how he sold off his iPod and guitar and everything. I just nodded my head, said "yeah" a lot, and that was it.

By then, I had successfully detached myself from the world. To this day, I honestly can't tell you whether or not I cared back then. I had probably written it off as a case of Michael getting into trouble again, and he'd get himself back on track in a month or two.

Despite this, I visited Michael a lot, even if my mind was occupied elsewhere. The first time I visited him in rehab was with my Mom, and I just sat there reading Dragon Ball manga while he and Mom droned on in the background about his treatment. One of his meetings was in a small hall filled with seats. I situated myself with my DS in tow. Before the discussion began, I was playing Battle Mode. A girl leaned over and asked, "Is that Mario Kart?"

"Yes, it is." Michael laughed.

"Haha, I love Yoshi. He's my favorite."

It wasn't always like this. Before I lost touch with reality and he dived into the world of drugs, we were close. I described in my tribute that while we weren't interested in each others hobbies, we still enjoyed being around one another. We watched South Park and Family Guy, engaged into becoming smartasses with our parents (in good nature!), and getting to know his friends.

Michael himself was a figure I looked up to. While friendly and certainly socially active, he was adamant about his beliefs and morals and knew when to be serious. When something pissed him off, he let it be known and described exactly what got him so ticked. He'd often give advice to me, although it wasn't always with proper etiquette. I knew he wasn't perfect, but the fact that he never made himself feel inferior and unheard left a strong impression on me that I still covet.

But our relationship fell apart after his brush with drugs. He was focused on getting his life back on track, moving past drugs, and the Lansdale music scene; I was focused on Mario Kart DS, Tales of Symphonia fanfiction, and reading Dragon Ball/SGT Frog. We had submerged in completely different worlds, him out of the house 24/7 while I was left behind, both in terms of him never being home and moving on with life.

Yet in some way, it doesn't feel right blaming my indifference regarding Michael's situation on the fact that I excluded myself from life. I guess I can assume the main reason why I didn't take Michael's addiction seriously was what I mentioned earlier: Him getting into trouble wasn't exactly uncommon. He had a bad habit of lying or playing dumb, he'd get into conflicts at school, and he'd get into fights with our parents more times then I could care to count. As rigid as he could be with his confronting his pet peeves, common sense wasn't at his side at all times.

To this day I still wonder how my relatives thought about the first stages of his addiction, but I guarantee that they took it way more seriously then I did. At that point, I grew up learning from D.A.R.E officers that "Drugs are bad, don't do them or they'll screw you up." I didn't even stop to think of what could ultimately happen to you if you get tangled up in drugs. The message was that they were bad and as such I stayed away from them. My uncles, aunts, parents, and probably even most of my cousins weren't so naive and probably knew the full consequences of what Micheal had gotten himself into, most likely at much larger extent then I ever did that fall. That alone speaks volumes.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that I started paying attention to Michael's addiction when he started to involve me.

It is the summer of 2007. I recently had my leg undergo Reconstructive Foot Surgery, of which the purpose was to fix an anomaly in my feet. Each foot would had a respective year to heal, and during those periods I lived downstairs in the living on a hospital bed playing Wii all day. As such, I could hear whatever was going on downstairs.

One summer night, Michael was visiting and had an argument with Mom. She thinks he's relapsed and needs to get medical attention; he denies all accusations and thinks she's being a nag. No words were shouted, only statements by my Mom that were incredibly firm. I didn't know what to think of it.

Late in the night, I was on my laptop waiting for the Smash DOJO!! to update with the latest Brawl update when Michael messages me on AIM. He brings up the subject of the argument and assures me there's nothing to worry about. He's never done this before, but I knew he knew that I listened to what was going on. This time, I am not so naive. I tell him I'm genuinely worried about him and that he needs to move on with his life. The conversation goes nowhere, and he eventually signs off.

Mom approached me the next day and asked me if Michael talked to me about what happened the night before. Whether or not it was her scanning my instant messages or a case of women's intuition is up for debate, but the whole experience left a mark on me that I'm not sure I ever erased. Strangely enough, after that we never heard a peep about drugs...for a while.

Michael wasn't done yet.

Eeek, the last part was really hard to write. At least I had fun with the first two. about the new game announcements from yesterday? Holy CRAP, did ANYONE expect a NEW KIRBY GAME THAT WAS A REVIVAL OF THE CANCELLED GAMECUBE GAME?!?!??


God, you know, I LOVED Epic Yarn. I really did. But this is what I need. HAL, just be sure to include the new standards introduced from that game (apartment/voiced cut scenes) along with the partner system from Super Star (FOUR PLAYERS PLLLEEEASSSEE) and you're set.


1 comment: