Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ten Years of Kirby ~Reverie 11~ Kirby: Canvas Curse

2005. With the Nintendo DS defying nearly all projected market predictions and giving the Sony PSP a run for its money, no one knew what to expect from the two-screened handheld. Titles such as Nintendo's own WarioWare Inc.: Twisted! and Sega's Feel the Magic proved the unique hardware--complete with touch-screen play--could stand on its own as a genuine system that escaped the boundaries of mere gimmickry. With much-anticipated sequels for fresh IPs (Animal Crossing and Mario & Luigi) to brand new cult favorites (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Jump Super Stars) just over the horizon, it gradually became evident the DS was no Virtual Boy.

But it wasn't until the three versions of nintendogs hit Japan in April (and America in late summer) did the DS become something else entirely. The whole industry was blindsided that a mere pet simulator--a virtually ignored genre in gaming--exploded in sales overnight due to no part of gamers who grew up with Mario and Zelda, but to a brand new audience charmed by touch screen interactions with virtual puppies. Any traces of awkwardness found in the system's two screens went unnoticed by the game's consumers: the expanded market, affectionately dubbed by dedicated gamers as "casuals".

The Gamecube's eventual slide into neglect and complete irrelevancy during this period was perhaps no coincidence. Nintendo's promises of a Revolution transforming the console market captured the entire industry's attention, and the Tokyo Game Show fall reveal of an outlandish motion-sensitive controller--in the shape of a remote, no less--ignited the minds of gamers and developers everywhere. For once, Nintendo skeptics were at a loss: could the company possibly succeed with marketing this offbeat controller? Could the emphasis on motion taint Nintendo's track record for precise controls? Would this foray into the casual market finally restore the Big N to its former glory, or doom them once and for all?

And what was Kirby doing in all this? He was no longer a cartoon star, for starters; the anime had long since ended in Japan, and 4Kids's subpar Right Back At Ya! localization had just about wrapped up. But the pink puffball wasn't done yet. While 2004's Kirby and the Amazing Mirror had been outsourced to Flagship/Dimps, his home company HAL Laboratory was hard at work on their first DS title. Touch! Kirby--localized as Kirby: Canvas Curse or Power Paintbrush in select Western regions--gained immediate attention from the gaming media for the sheer novelty of its stylus-only concept.

Canvas Curse was something of an anomaly for the gaming world; the title was so divorced from typical Kirby gameplay that any investment into the series wasn't required for enjoying the game, undoubtedly proving to Nintendo and HAL the usefulness of the character's malleable nature (see the Wii's Epic Yarn). But most interesting of all was how it grabbed the gaming media's attention: whereas other Kirby games were quickly forgotten upon their typical 7/8 scores, Canvas Curse was championed as the ultimate proof of concept for the DS, vindicating for many the system's ability to craft compelling unique games.


With a sequel finally arriving ten years later on the Wii U, I suppose there's a hint of truth to the game's legacy.


Playing Kirby: Canvas Curse is an exercise in low-key play. It's the rare sort of Kirby game that boots up with no fanfare on its part, asking only for the player to touch the screen before segueing into a menu host to a subdued, vaguely techno version of the Kirby 64 menu theme. It's a song that already expressed an ethereal solemnness in its source game, yet its being compressed further into a realm of moderated mellowness instantly sketches the world of Canvas Curse.

Indeed, Canvas Curse's dive into an unfamiliar atmosphere could be a cause for concern, but the way HAL Labs blends so many aesthetic and sound styles--be they an addictive techno-based soundtrack, the monotone menus contrasted by fancy touch-operated button and wheels, and gorgeous backgrounds ranging from watercolors to abstract scribbles to CGI-infused galaxies of geometry--all masterfully fuse together to not just craft an alluring atmosphere of its own, but one that coolly complements the already-exuberant world of Kirby (actually, since the game takes place in a dimension parallel to Dream Land, it's even more enticing as a mystifying counterpart).

Even the game's mood is just as malleable as the core series. Just take the first level -- the watercolors paint a familiar combination of blue and green, complete with a Vegetable Valley arrangement (one of the peppiest songs in Kirby history). If it wants to be energetic, it can be, just as it can dip quickly into realms of dreamy euphoria or bone-rattling eeriness. But no matter how many times it shifts tones, Canvas Curse never leaves that chill, sedate realm that seduces us so easily.

Because the game is so involved with touch control, we ease along with its calm no matter where it takes us. Even when Canvas Curse raises the stakes via rising lava, laser-filled corridors, or moving screens of death, we're too charmed and invested to be discouraged. In that sense, we can think of Canvas Curse as channeling the stimulating relaxation of 2010's Kirby's Epic Yarn, but as we'll discuss in a moment, it's far more difficult.

As the first experimental Kirby, its success stems from just how dang compelling its gameplay is. The touch-operated controls pervade everything from poking Kirby to dash, drawing rainbow-colored lines via stylus to guide him along, and operating machinery-based obstacles. It's a concept as fascinating as it is mentally demanding -- there's only so much concentrated rainbow to draw for Kirby, and because he spends so much time airborne, it's not uncommon to flail about in mid-air via hastily drawn scribbles, desperately trying to land Kirby on the furthest of ledges or avoiding spiky/bottomless pit doom from below. Knowing how to manage your paint bar will make all the difference in playing Canvas Curse, calling for a level of concentration that's already captivated by the overall aesthetic and concept.

This is just a fancy way of saying "Boy, Canvas Curse can get tough." A good deal more difficult than your average Kirby fare, in fact. And that calls to be celebrated as a triumph: that such a unique concept constantly demands the player's skill and judgment is rather bold for a series that champions beginner players. This is undoubtedly the key to why Canvas Curse was so successful among many non-Kirby fans, as the game provides bountiful content that's guaranteed to keep players challenged as they come back again and again, not the least of which are four unlockable characters (with his low health, the Meta Knight ball is essentially the game's hard mode).

"Bountiful content," of course, also refers to Rainbow Run--an assortment of time trials and challenges--and the mini-games, some of which are the most taxing affairs in all of Kirby. Rainbow Run alone is enough to give enough to give players aneurysms; so tough are its individual challenges that I have no choice but to leave them unnamed, lest their memory come to haunt my dreams once more. And that's a shame, for it's where completionists and players alike will spend most of their time in obtaining medals. They're all well-designed and engaging and fun and all that, just timed enough to drive players insane. Beware of the Special Courses.

I'm also quite fond of the Boss Sub-Games, particularly Block Attack, a Breakout-inspired diversion that stars the cloud bully Kracko. The "paddles" drawn by the player grant this mini-game a flexible, addictive depth that keeps my OCD in check; much as I'd love to demolish every block in Kirby's path, the time limit's urgency prevents that fantasy. That's not always the case, though, as evidenced by my pathetic high scores and that I've yet to clear Level 3. There's just so much of them, darn it! One day I'll figure out the secret to beating it, but for now it cleverly eludes me.

King Dedede's Cart Run is similarly challenging, although I confess to enjoying Paint Panic more as a concept. Drawing familiar Kirby icons within timed "connect-the-dots" sequences is a brilliant idea, but one that's rendered frustrating thanks to a rigid penalty system. Because you have to connect dots in a specific order, Paint Panic is quite unforgiving towards uneven lines, and an itsy-bitsy curve of the finger can dock off points. It's somewhat easier when meticulously dragging the stylus, but that's not an appealing solution when Bombers are ready to cook Kirby. We can chalk this up as one of the many instances where developers were just figuring out what did or didn't work out on the touch screen, but in this case I dearly wish it was fully functional. In any case, we hardly see the accompanying character (Paint Roller) as it is, so I guess I'm willing to forgive all that.

But all this talk of challenge and difficulty begs the question: has Canvas Curse, in its drive for ambitious utilization of the touch screen, forgotten the ultimate Kirby creed of treating beginners like kings? Of course, this is no concern to the aformentioned non-Kirby fans (if anything, I imagine they'd be delighted), but Canvas Curse is unnaturally tough for a mainline entry in the series. Regardless, fret not, for I can't speak highly enough of how HAL translated Kirby's tropes into the game.

Just look at how they've implemented Copy Abilities. All of them pull their weight and thankfully the developers remembered not to overcomplicate their function in a touch-operated game. That they work with or against the Rainbow Lines adds another layer to the gameplay entirely, be it having Needle or Wheel glide along its surface, guiding Missile to its destination, or finally rendering Spark useful within a mobile context as it summons kickass skyward bolts of deadly lightning. How I dearly wish it'd be able to do that again.

By successfully bringing Copy Abilities into the touch-operated fold, other familiar tropes rush in too. For example, those who've played the game may have noted how the iconic star blocks seamlessly integrate themselves into the levels. They can easily be tapped away, but their original purpose remains intact: to provide exhilaration and empowerment by plowing through hordes of 'em with the Copy Abilities, typically with those just newly introduced. While there aren't too many superpowers in Canvas Curse, the game isn't shy about decorating courses with star blocks for Beam, Spark and Wheel to smash through (in the case of the level Contrast Cave, this is actually utilized as progression. Fun times ensue).

While the deviant cousins that followed Canvas Curse--be they your Epic Yarns and Mass Attacks--are harder to peg down as true Kirbys, there's no mistaking the pink ball's touchscreen debut as a genuine foray. Oh yes, there's the absence of Dream Land's cozy landscapes and the familiar sugary atmosphere, but Canvas Curse echoes those setpieces all the while crafting its own unique, abstract feel. And the bridge between the ensuing gap is quite possibly the best part of the whole package: the music.

Helmed by series veterans Jun Ishikawa and Tadashi Ikegami, both composers dive into parts unknown within the Kirby realm: techno music. Not only that, but nearly the entire soundtrack consists of Kirby arrangements. Criticism could be made for the apparent lack of originality, but who cares when it sounds this good? Moreover, who's to say it's deliberately unoriginal? Even when dipped into foreign mellow tones or accompanied by unfamiliar instruments, the music remind yous "Don't fret, this is still Kirby."

This is perceived almost right away in the second level. Accompanied by the above Bubbly Clouds arrangement, while I'm at a loss to the name of the cartoonish artstyle for the level background, any Kirby fan can discern its alien nature. Such is the case for most Canvas Curse backdrops, but as all rules are off within the alternate world context, Bubbly Clouds is our ever-present lifeline within this bizarre new realm. What should be chaotic and off-putting is instead mellow and warmly familiar.

Again, the late-game level Frozen Fantasy presents an unfamiliar aesthetic, although it hits a tad closer to home. Note how the Rainbow Resort arrangement not only steals the show once again, but the way the background prods at the mind. Examples like Tiny Town's futuristic setting are, in fact, a rarity within Canvas Curse, for context and form are abandoned in favor of wondrous abstraction. Frozen Fantasy is barely discernable -- we could assume it's a frozen cave of some sort, but those weird purple branches and what exactly those rock spires (Is it snow? Water?) are protruding from throw a wrench in that. In the midst of it all lies a mysterious staircase, its destination unknown and its exact placement unclear.

On the furthest end of this extreme lies Collapse Castle. A formation of undiscernible constructs and shapes drift about in an orange abyss, accompanied by cloud imprints and a slow, faint recollection of Float Islands. That we're told its a ruined castle already prods at us; when putting the actual level aside, the stunning artwork above presents no relatable match to castles within reality nor fantasy, let alone fits by itself within the context of Kirby (or Nintendo games in general; its closest counterpart is Sector X's ruined space base in Star Fox 64). Considering this, to choose Float Islands as the level's BGM comes across as bizarre given its tropical origins until you remember it was already one of Kirby's more reserved songs. The end result unites two of the unlikeliest concepts into something that miraculously works: a dreary Kirby level with one of the most fascinating level backdrops in series history.

In that sense, Canvas Curse recalls the best sort of Kirby, the kind where we're so stimulated by both action and setting that our minds are enraptured by nostalgia and wonder. Again, that it establishes a reserved tone is a blessing; Canvas Curse operates as a mobile counterpart to show-stopping moments such as Kirby Super Star's save huts and Kirby's Adventure's silent arenas. Those pockets of awe captivated us as windows into the unknown, compelling us to question as we soak into their reverie.

One of my favorite examples is the above "lived-in" detail rarely found within this realm of abstraction. Dreamy Darkness (as well as Ghost Grounds) is decorated with lightened windows and balconies of all sorts within its landscapes, and I can't help but ask "who lives there?" Who would choose to live within Drawcia's artificial paint worlds, particularly in an area populated by ghouls and gravestones of all sorts?

The answer? Probably no one. All of the Paint World's inhabitants are merely replicas of familiar foes intended to halt Kirby's progress, and I imagine Dreamy Darkness's "homes" were designed so as to tickle Drawcia's aesthetic fancy. Such melancholy would suit the emptiness of her realm, and what a shame that'd be given the beauty found within..

Canvas Curse naturally picks up on this melancholy and enforces it on us at the end of every level, via a Jump Game meant to score points and extra lives as Kirby dashes off on Rainbow Line ramps. This is all accompanied by footage on the DS's top screen, depicting a familiar setting in decrepit sepia. It's the Kirby Super Star iteration of Dream Land, with five Kirbys lined up ready to perform the iconic Kirby Dance. 

Kirby: Canvas Curse arrived at a time where, against my own will, I began drifting away from the idyllic realm of childhood and into that murky transition into the teenage years. That core of nostalgia and imagination I treasured so much was sapped away in favor of a nebulous purgatory, one that would gradually ebb away to reveal a future of dismal hope. From that perspective, Drawcia's interpretation of Dream Land mirrored my own, and these small glimpses into a bygone era--only three years prior into another life--were all I had to look forward to. Even today, where I'm much healthier and now have something resembling potential, do I grow more than a little sentimental whenever I see this.

For all the praise I've lavished upon it, I have difficulty considering Kirby: Canvas Curse a masterpiece. It has all the makings of one, and comes damn close to achieving that status, but makes the mistake of homogenizing nearly all the levels into just three acts. It makes for speedy pacing well-suited for a handheld, but I can't help but wish for more variety in level length. We witness this in Rift Ruin and maybe another level or two, and I'm certain elongating Frozen Fantasy and Mad Mechanism would ensure their outwearing welcomes, but homogenization in general rubs me the wrong way. I'm also still a bit heartbroken over the potential regarding the Paint Panic mini-game, even if I'm entertained enough by the other two.

Kirby: Canvas Curse is the closest Kirby has ever dipped into dreariness (aside from Brawl's Subspace Emissary escapades, if that counts), and maybe that can't quite match up to the feel-good reverie of Happy Kirby at its finest, but who cares? That it sucessfuly carved out its own niche within the series but also bridged together a product both fans and non-fans could greatly enjoy is something to be applauded, and that alone is why I consider it one of HAL's finest triumphs.


You may've noticed this is a tad more condensed than the other Kirby pieces. As we're launching into a new phase for Leave Luck to Heaven, I'm still juggling what should be appropriate length since I'm aiming for a weekly to biweekly model for reviews now. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Evaluating Yooka-Laylee: Some Do's and Don'ts (Nintendojo)

Article Here

Isn't Yooka-Laylee's Kickstarter success the greatest thing? A promising Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor in this day and age is enough to brighten any N64 owner's day, and I know I personally can't wait. I've quite the strong feeling it'll recapture that magic; so certain, in fact, that I've already begun replaying the Banjo games to prepare myself.

Anyway, please the Kirby: Canvas Curse post very soon!

The Morality Behind Amiibo (Nintendojo)

Article Here

Ah yes, this was written up during my brief absence from here in April, and thanks to college I hadn't gotten a chance to post it here until now. In any case, this is an opinion that's been discussed a million times by now, but I still wanted to give my two cents on it.

You know, aside from Ness I've haven't preordered Wave 4 at all...I wonder if I'll ever see Robin or Lucina.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What Could Have Been with Nintendo Land (Nintendojo)

Article Here

I knew the truth regarding this matter would have to be revealed on the blog sooner or later, but yes, I really do consider the Wii U to be Nintendo's weakest console yet, and I still mourn what could've been.

This isn't to say I don't enjoy the console. I play Smash 4 and Mario Kart 8 regularly and still shoot for high scores in Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101, but the overall direction they've gone with Wii U has been quite disappointing, be it the vastly underused GamePad, the utter lack of third-party presence, and the mess that is the Virtual Console. None of this is the fault of Nintendo Land, of course, but that's kind of the problem. What a shame the game remains the system's unsung ideal.

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 24 ~Vs. Mewtwo~ (Pokemon Stadium)

Note: YIKES!!! I thought I published this on time Wednesday, but it turns out I forgot to do so!  Please accept my apologies for this accidently late post!

Origin: Pokémon Stadium (N64)
Plays In: The battle against Mewtwo.
Status: Original Composition
Composer(s): Hajime Wakai, Toru Minegishi, Kenta Nagata

A month ago, I had the chance to get reacquainted with an old friend. We'd crossed paths quite a few times at other venues within the past several years, but never were those experiences as close-knit as they were in the days of old. When I found out last fall he set to rectify that, I could only count the days until he returned to the crossover field of battle.

When the time came, I greeted him as I did the new selection of Smash fighters: test him out on the Battlefield stage, set to Motoi Sakuraba's gorgeous Melee Menu arrangement from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The morning sun shone on his cold exterior, his chilling eyes scanning an arena he hadn't stepped foot in for so long.


As of April 15th, 2015, Mewtwo has returned to Super Smash Bros.
There was a time where my favorite video game character wasn't Mario or Ness or Kirby, but instead the most powerful Pokémon alive: Mewtwo. It was a typical childhood fascination with the strong and mighty, and Mewtwo just oozed badassery as easy as breathing. While it the closest Pokémon had to a villain from its host of critters (perhaps it's no coincidence it looks something like a stoic Freeza?), there was a reserved calm around it that lent an air of sympathy, winning over many hearts.
Naturally, Mewtwo was my favorite character in Melee as a kid. While Ness took over that position in later years, that I could finally be in direct control of my favorite Pokémon was just too much for me. It didn't matter that he was far weaker than he was supposed to be; his attack animations (the beam sword dashes!), his item levitation and general apathy were just too cool.
Outside of Smash, my love for Mewtwo knew no bounds. I lost count of how many times I rewatched the first movie. My youth compelled me to create an embarrassing username (which I'm reluctant to share) for SmashBoards well over a decade ago. I purchased a Mewtwo doll at the New York Pokémon Center (now the Nintendo World Store), of which had weird poppy joints and had the exact look and feel as that of a Siamese cat. When my own Siamese decided to chew him up, I bought another.

I even endlessly challenged the Mewtwo battle event in Pokémon Stadium just for the thrill of battling him, and so I've come to treat the accompanying song as the character's theme. Accompanied by a terrifying set of flutes and guitars, the all-powerful impression of the strongest Pokémon in the world is perfectly expressed in this one theme, and I'm quite saddened it never popped up again.
And yet for all my childhood love for Mewtwo, I'm at a loss as to why I was so apathetic to his removal had in Smash Bros. Brawl, especially since he was undeniably the most unique out of all the cut Melee characters. Maybe it was that within the context of Smash I'd long since moved on to Ness and was scared shitless of his potential replacement by Mother 3's Lucas, or that the relentless onslaught of Melee vs. Brawl flamewars continued to break my heart. Things weren't even the same in Pokémon, as he'd long since been unseated as the strongest Pokémon and I didn't care much for Pokémon Diamond.

It's been seven years since then. I've thoroughly enjoyed every following Pokémon installment, I've learned to longer dismiss what I loved in the past (Melee) in response to undying hatred against something I love (Brawl/Smash 4), and am perhaps still awed that we received two different versions of Smash Bros. in the same year. Maybe Mewtwo's not so tough anymore and those Smash flamewars will never cease, but you learn to move on.

Mewtwo's not in my top five list of characters in Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, but I still play as him regularly. I swear his cranium's doubled in size, maybe some of his Melee sound effects were cooler, and he doesn't have that awesome Beam Sword animation anymore, but I'm just so damn happy to have him back. Hopefully, this time it's for good!


Final Thoughts: I always thought this song would be a great choice for Smash, but the series has never paid much attention to the spin-offs. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS DLC Wishlist Pt. 1: Returning Stages!

Hello, everyone! After reading the title, you might be thinking "Wait a minute, Anthony, I thought you said you weren't doing any more columns!"

Heheh...I only said that applied to game reviews. I'd have shut down Biweekly Music Wednesday! (returning tomorrow!) if that weren't the case, so anything else is free game. And with Smash DLC being a hot topic, I figured I'd throw my thoughts and desires into a few articles.

I can't lie: after the announcement of the Smash Character Ballot during last month's Direct, my mind's been going wild with the possibilities of DLC for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. Well, that and studying like crazy for finals too, of course, but with a dedicated DLC service confirmed to be in the works, I can't help but dream. With Sakurai's arm acting up and the likelihood of Namco wanting its staff back, I figured we'd just get Mewtwo, the Miiverse stage, and Tourney/Photo Sharing modes.

I would've been okay with just that, mind you, but with the reveal of my beloved Lucas (THANK YOU SAKURAI), Splatoon Mii Gunner outfits announced the other day, we know they're quite active working on new content. So for fun, I figured I'd go over my most wanted content and features for DLC over four posts. It's quite possible none of my requests in these articles will happen, as even I've fallen prey to unrealistic expectations! But that's only a natural consequence of unbridled Smash hype, so just sit back and dream with me a little. Feel free to share some of yours in the comments, too!


Requests for veteran stages have been very common since the Direct last month, and while I'd definitely like to see some come back too, I believe there's a certain deterrent many people are forgetting: background music. While many stages from both Melee and Brawl returned in both versions, those that didn't had their respective music tracks divided across the new games' stages.
For example, Brawl's Pirate Ship stage--based on Zelda: Wind Waker--didn't make the cut this time, but all of its music tracks were either moved to other stages (such as Dragon Roost Island, Gerudo Valley, and Song of Storms on Temple) or simply axed (Vs. Molgera, boo!)

Now, I want that stage back badly, mainly since a) it was easily one of Brawl's best stages b) it's from Wind Waker c) Skyloft is pretty shitty, and I'm not saying that just because of my anti-Skyward Sword bias (seriously, those drop-off points only last like six seconds!). But I don't think it's gonna happen, and that's because of this music division. Having the same music play in multiple stages doesn't quite gel with Smash's meticulous design. "Big deal," you might say, but let's not forget how Sakurai prizes cohesion in his games. Even if Smash's music is of little importance to you, remember that presentation and the like are still vital.

Many have also called for certain 3DS stages to make the transition for Wii U, but as much as I'd love to see 3DS-exclusive stages like Magicant and Mute City in glorious HD, I don't think they'll be uprezzed for the same reason (that, and non-stage parity, but that's another subject). Luckily, there are quite a few old stages not affected by this problem, and so from that criteria I've chosen five of my most wanted classic stages for the Wii U version. Take a look!


Much as I'd like to see New Pork City from Brawl return for 8-Player shenanigans, it had much of its music placed into Onett. All of Mother's stages are like my children, so why not bring back the other city stage from the series: Melee's Fourside. While quite inaccurate to the source material (for one thing, it's never at night in EarthBound!), it was still a great stage to play on and one I've dearly missed. Dynamic elements like the slippery UFO and the crane-operated platform really made it stand out, and it was a great stages to practice wall jumps!

Seeing it in HD would be lovely, too, but I fear it'd get the same bare-bones treatment like Onett did. At the very least, could they please fix that...uh, weird spatial rip floor thing on the background's left portion? I still don't know how to describe it, but next time you play Melee, hop on the leftmost building and fool around with the pause screen camera and you'll spot it. It's bothered the hell out of me since forever.

For music, Fourside's in good luck here since it's theme hasn't returned since Melee, and there are two other Mother arrangements from Brawl that didn't make the cut. An ideal tracklist could work something like this:

Fourside (The Melee arrangement, of course.)
Humoresque of a Little Dog (This would've been perfect for Onett, if you ask me. But considering it worked just fine on a city stage, it should be okay here, too)
You Call This a Utopia?! (New Pork City's theme should fit like a glove here.)
Fourside (As per the pattern of several other stages, the original rip. I wonder how well it'd work with the nighttime setting, though...)
Battle Against a Machine (My favorite regular enemy theme from EarthBound could work wonders here, courtesy of the original rip)
Theme of the King P (Brawl had some slightly-arranged versions of songs from the Mother 3i/Mother+ albums. Could Shogo Sakai return to do the same here?)
Natural Killer Cyborg (Mother 3's best boss theme. What else can I say?)
Pokey Means Business! (EarthBound's incredible final boss theme, because why the hell not? Little known fact: this is actually a fan-named title, so I wonder what it's name would be in Smash?)

By the way, you know some stages have music cameos from more obscure franchises? I think something from SimCity could work well on Fourside, although I haven't found the perfect song yet (there was the Title Screen, since it provides the backdrop for a sleepy night city, but it might be a tad too repetitive). There's also the matter of legal issues, but hopefully Dr. Wright's AT appearance might pave the way for future SimCity music.

Fountain of Dreams

What's possibly Melee's most popular stage has never returned for reasons unknown, but there's a very likely guess: technical issues. The springwater reflections of the fighters tend to cause strain on the framerate (try playing a four-player Ice Climber match on there sometime), and as they'd likely have to rework that for the new games, they probably thought it wasn't worth the effort for a past stage. With over fifty characters to work with, it's chances for return become ever more slimmer...

And what a shame that is, for Fountain of Dreams remains one of the most beautiful stages in all of Smash. Just imagining the potential transformation into HD gets me all giddy...and depressed, because those dang reflections are keeping us from achieving the dream. Those auroras and Rainbow Resort circle patterns will never grace another Smash game again...

...and yet, its accompanying song is conspicuously absent from both of the new Smash games! That's shocking enough by itself, considering it's one of the best arrangements in the series.

Fountain of Dreams (I hope we get some more orchestrated arrangements in Smash's future.)
Rainbow Resort (Given the Dream Land 64 music "leak" for the 3DS version, we'd probably get the Air Ride arrangement for this. But the Nightmare in Dream Land version remains the best one. I'd be fine with either this, that, or the NES one!)
Vs. Nightmare (It's related to the setting, so why not? This is the NES version, but either it or the GBA one could work!)
Cloudy Park (One of Kirby's most majestic themes would be perfect on one of Smash's most majestic stages)
Vs. Marx (The original rip would be lovely here!)
World Map (Kirby 64) (This would complement the starry setting well, I feel.)
Nebula Belt (An arrangement of the FOD song popped up here in Air Ride, so why not have the actual course theme return the favor?)
The Beginner's Room (One of Kirby's most heartfelt arrangements is found in Air Ride.)
Candy Constellation (Yet another ethereal Kirby theme. This is the version from Rainbow Curse)
Masked Dedede Theme (I was already disappointed there wasn't any Kirby Super Star Ultra tracks or arrangements, so here's one)
Vs. Yin Yarn (And Epic Yarn, too!)
Aurora Area (Rainbow Resort's something of an ice world, so this beautiful song would be great)
C-R-O-W-N-E-D (What's with Kirby and amazing final boss themes?)
Kirby's History (How's this for an unorthodox request? Also known as Triple Deluxe's Continue screen, this stunning combination of Castle Lololo and Cloudy Park from Kirby's Dream Collection would suit the level well. Should this incredibly unlikely request ever happen, they'll probably use the shorter Triple Deluxe version.)
Moonstruck Blossom (No, really, what is with Kirby's final boss themes? I don't know, but man this would be perfect.)
Revenge of the Enemy (And so would this Triple Deluxe song.)

...did I go a little overboard? Maybe, but when considering Port Town Aero Dive also has 16 tracks, I figured Melee's second-best stage deserved just as much.

Frigate Orpheon

Now, wait a minute. This goes against my criteria for stages! Indeed, poor Frigate Orpheon from Brawl had nearly all of its music plopped onto the ever-controversial Pyrosphere stage, which fuels hyperbolic Metroid: Other M flame wars and has the hilariously cheap Ridley boss continuing to crush the hopes and dreams of the Purple Dragon Faithful.

But all hope is not lost, for one vital track missed the cut entirely: Metroid Prime Opening/Menu. The absence of such an amazing song is saddening enough, but it's enough to build an entirely new foundation on its own: more Metroid Prime representation! Aside from the incredible Metroid title arrangement, both of the new Smash games had a disappointing turnout for new Metroid songs, so not only would we get a fun stage back in Frigate Orpheon, but more incredible Metroid Prime music! Yeehaw! I really suggesting a stage just for more musical representation? Not to mention, the Vs. Parasite Queen was placed on Pyrosphere, so that'd be awful strange should the lovely abomination return alongside Frigate Orpheon. Well, hey, Sakurai didn't put both of the Donkey Kong Country Returns themes on the Donkey Kong Country Returns stage, so there.

Metroid Prime Opening/Menu (As per Kenji Yamamoto's Smash arrangements, this isn't that different from the original, which is actually based off the credits version, but I actually think it's even better.)
Vs. Space Pirates (One of Metroid Prime's many great battle themes, and it'd be perfect thematically.)
Vs. Hive Mecha (I've always thought Prime should've used this more.)
Vs. Thardus (Creepy, just like our Parasite Queen!)
Sanctuary Fortress (Mmm, just feel that.)
Vs. Emperor Ing (Phase 1) (Also creepy!)
Escape/Vs. Dark Samus (Here we'd call attention to the Dark Samus assist trophy.)
Metroid Prime 3 Title Theme (Feel that chorus!)
Vs. Rundas (Metroid's best battle theme? You bet!)
Vs. Gandrayda (Metroid Prime 3 had an amazing soundtrack, in general.)

Hyrule Castle

So if Pirate Ship is probably ineligible for return, why not one of the best stages from the original 64 Smash? Recently, some Smash 64-era Sakurai translations have revealed of the man's dissatisfaction with Hyrule Castle's backgrounds, as they turned out to be inaccurate to Ocarina of Time. Perhaps now is the time for Sakurai to finally fix the placement of the sun!

Or perhaps not? After all, Kongo Jungle 64 was practically untouched for its transition into the Wii U version, so would this stage be left alone? Actually, I suspect the three 64 stages in Melee (Kongo Jungle, Dream Land, and Yoshi's Island) were chosen in that they didn't have a whole lot of polygon action going on, as most of the others would definitely be jarring in their now-ancient graphics. If that's the case, would Hyrule Castle be completely graphically revamped?

Perhaps that might be for the better. Much as I appreciate Sakurai's dedication to retaining the original structure and code for the classics stages, the character's increasing sizes are starting to outgrow them (particularly the Melee ones). If Mario Kart can do it, why not Smash?

Hyrule Castle (The original theme, naturally.)
Hyrule Castle (Alongside the castle's theme from the series. This is the A Link Between Worlds version.)
Death Mountain (Another A Link Between Worlds arrangement.)
Hyrule Castle Courtyard (Okay, probably not likely in the slightest, but it'd be funny!)
Saria's Song (And here's another Melee arrangement we haven't seen since its inception. It'd be fun to see again, I suppose).
Deku Palace (We need more Majora's Mask music!)
Boss Battle (The Four Swords Adventures version of this A Link to the Past theme assures this won't get repetitive)
Minigame (Otherwise known as the A Link Between Worlds song that actually appeared first in Nintendo Land!)
Lorule Castle (Why not another Zelda castle theme?)

Mushroom Kingdom

Both versions of Smash possess their respective Mushroom Kingdom stages, with the Wii U host to the wonderfully dynamic Mushroom Kingdom U while the 3DS has the melancholic Mushroomy Kingdom from Brawl. Now that we know 64 stages are definitely on the table, why not bring back that game's best stage? I mean, hey, the Wii U version has two Mario Circuits, so two Mushroom Kingdoms shouldn't be out of place.

There's also the possibility of the Melee one coming back, but that's not nearly as good as the original, what with its Warp Pipe hijinks and POW Block action. Already are the memories starting to flow back...

Most of the suitable arrangements are already on Mushroom Kingdom U, but that's no issue here.

Mushroom Kingdom (What else?)
Mushroom Kingdom 2 (They may as well make it a haven for NES Mario rips.)
SMB3 Overworld (Why two Super Mario Bros. 3 songs?)
SMB3 Athletic (Because.)
Secret Course (You know, I'm surprised they haven't done a Super Mario Sunshine arrangement yet...)
Underground Theme (This was in the 3DS version, but couldn't find a home on Wii U. While it'd work just fine on Luigi's Mansion, this would be a great fit too!)
Ground Theme v.2 (One of Smash's most bizarre arrangements for sure.)

And that's my five most wanted stages. To tell the truth, there is one more stage I'd like to see return, but that's something I'd like to discuss in a later post.

In any case, you might be wondering why I didn't set the focus on new stages. I figured that the development team is busy enough balancing the new characters, so I imagine they'd rather channel their efforts to porting over older stages. Not to mention, I actually can't think of any I'd want outside of Bowser's Castle, which is long overdue (although several Bowser-centric songs are in a few stages...maybe next time?). Of course, with that Ryu rumor looking very likely, we might end up getting a new stage with a Street Fighter motif...who knows!

Anyway, that's a wrap! I'm looking to finish this feature before E3 pops up, so expect my Smash DLC Wishlist to pop up at least once a week!