To claim that I "hate" any game adorned with Mario's name -- one that personally translates to "God" in no less than thirteen different languages -- is not an action I'd ever take lightly. Not that any mainline games haven't ever fallen below expectations or there haven't been less-than-stellar spin-offs, but my reverence for Nintendo's mascot doesn't stop at his being responsible for getting me into gaming; nay, it's how both the character and his endless gaming catalog represent, to me, wholesome appeals into innate accessibility. However, as crass as I fear such overt distaste would come across, it is said devotion to the portly plumber that requires further diligence and honest criticism on my end, for I cannot possibly turn a blind eye to whenever my idol takes a misstep lest he ever grow arrogant with pride. With both respect and duty in mind, that is precisely why I declare the following:
I hate Paper Mario Sticker Star. I abhor it as if it killed my cats, that it's the source of the suffocating nihilism greeting me every morning with further news of climate change and Orwellian fascism, and that, yes, as if it's the primary culprit behind stealing my pencil sharpeners in 5th Grade. That I'm hardly alone in this opinion is my lone sense of comfort: while the game isn't without its ardent defenders, Sticker Star has drawn no sense of passionate ire following its release; enough, even, to make me steer clear for years after launch, and yet I still wasn't ready for when I finally sat down with it. To claim it is Nintendo's worst modern product might be disingenuous in a world where something as anti-consumer as Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival exists, yet even that vile, tone-deaf consumerist filth has something resembling an easily-gleaned purpose. (That, and well, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones with how they turned its failed amiibo line around with Animal Crossing: New Leaf's Welcome amiiboupdate.) Sticker Star has nothing to justify its impenetrable design, let alone be worthy of the Mario brand: we may laugh at a line or two, ooh and aah at some shiny colors courtesy of 3DS's 3D feature, but any fleeting joys are instantly smothered by patently obstructive puzzles, actively mocking the very ideas of telegraphs and progression as we rack our brains at how anyone in development thought this could provide entertainment.
I'm way late in sharing this here, the reason being I initially wanted to archive it after all the relevant work was complete. However, with the missteps and lessons involved, we still got a ways to go on that, so here we are.
And yet for all our trials and tribulations, we still struck gold -- I'm just as shocked as you to learn our Yoshi's Crafted World guide has, in total, accumulated over 100,000 views. It's a unprecedented milestone for Hey Poor Player, as the site's never reached this level of consistent traffic. Heck it's even earned the site another much-needed Google search suggestion!
I had previously discussed my apprehensions towards this blog's future, but more than anything else, this project has rendered my presence on Hey Poor Player a top priority. Much as my passion lies within meditative escapism and retrospections regarding video games, I'm further recognizing just how vital it is to market myself via a constant presence within the public sphere, and as it currently stands, Leave Luck to Heaven cannot provide that.
Again, this is hardly to say it's curtains for the blog, let alone further contributions for said retrospection -- let's not forget I'm currently covering 80's gaming! -- but for the moment, I'm still evaluating what it truly means to be a gaming enthusiast/blogger, and so I have no choice but to re-prioritize my output here. Putting it this way: when I'm also juggling reading, political studies, exercise, and self-studying Japanese, I can't afford to beat myself up over unrealistic goals for the sake of writing for myself.
What this new direction will entail remains in gestation, but for the moment, you can expect some page re-structuring over the summer. I'll also probably establish a Mission Statement/About Me section or something that'll further outline my goals, so look forward to that.
Behold the new rating found in the tags below: So Bad It's Good. Granted, I don't know if that's entirely applicable to Dragon Buster, but I always kept laughing at its brutally unfair gameplay, so uh, there ya go.
The Nintendo GameCube -- alongside Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox -- wouldn't just represent the next generational shift in 3D gaming, but Nintendo finally stepping outside their comfort-zone. While their stubbornness towards online gaming would endure, their embracing of disk-based media allowed for seemingly countless new possibilities. A flagship game was necessary to prove its power, and with Super Mario Sunshine set to launch the year after, why not go with his overlooked brother?
Enter Luigi's Mansion: initially designed as a tech demo showing off the GameCube's capabilities, the decision to build upon that as a game would render it Luigi's first game -- well, the first one actually involving Nintendo, anyway -- wherein he'd search a haunted mansion for Mario and suck up ghosts with a modified vacuum cleaner. Unlike the 1993 mishap Mario is Missing!, however, Luigi's Mansion would not only deign it fit to put the poor plumber's name into the title, but have actual Nintendo designers, including Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto himself, make it a reality. It would finally vindicate Luigi -- the second fiddle to Mario's spotlight; the eternal understudy to the first player.
Back in the days of Super Smash Bros. Melee when I'd browse its lauded collection of lovingly-crafted trophies, I couldn't help but foster a burgeoning affinity towards one particular replica: Samus's Starship, hailing from Game Boy's Metroid II: Return of Samus. Not because I was experiencing Metroid nostalgia, you understand -- I wasn't yet a fan by Melee's release -- but more so in cultivating a touch of personal pride via its accompanying origin date of 11/91; in other words, my birth date. How vindicating is that? I've always held warm feelings towards Super Nintendo for similar reasons -- perhaps that's why it's my favorite console -- but it surely can't top that. A wonder, then, that Metroid hasn't ousted EarthBound, Kirby, and Smash Bros. from their seats as my all-time favorite Nintendo franchises.
Alas, perhaps it's that the stars only aligned for coincidence as opposed to birthing an outright classic, for Metroid II: Return of Samus never enjoyed the accolades of its successors (Super Metroid, Metroid Prime) or even its own NES progenitor. This isn't due to any untoward experimentation so commonly found in retro sequelization -- if anything, its goals breed potential finally realized in its incredible 3DS remake: Metroid: Samus Returns -- but rather that the Game Boy is ill-equipped to handle such direction; in other words, we're dealing with a game featuring familiar genre pratfalls found in its heyday. As you've likely guessed, the absence of a map system and woefully obtuse level design do little favors for Samus's Metroid-hunting expedition, but I confess my main problem lies within a particularly clumsy bait-and-switch in its music score. I cannot emphasize enough how the opening Tunnel Theme -- one I've written in the past as being a damn good tune -- instills us with urgency and drive, headlining our mission of eliminating SR388's Metroid hives.
Pac-Man is here! For this entry, I included comparisons via the ghastly Atari 2600 misfire and the NES version. I think that's a fun direction I'll be taking many future entries in, but next time will be a little different. See you then!
And so, it finally begins: my foray into a certain video game phenomenon that's ballooned far past its Nintendo origins. In a development still eluding my inner seven-year-old, I've largely cooled on my Pokémon passion. This isn't to say we had a falling out -- my two visits to Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions should be testament enough -- but that I've only just purchased Pokémon Let's Go: Pikachu! four months after release, still have yet to open it, and am currently resisting the smoldering coals of Pikachu's eyes as I type this prove it's no longer my No. 1 video game priority. I confess this as a young man whose Pokémon background mirrored that of every other young boy in 1999 America: I playedPokémonRed-- one of the two versions we're reviewing today -- to death, worshipped the localized cartoon
daily, and collected countless cards, stuffed
animals, books, and toys. Those, too, reflect the ravages of time: the teams I've forged in PokémonRed are
forgotten and erased, I've long since abandoned the (still-running!)
anime, my old cards -- despite my best efforts in preservation binders
-- still pop up in various nooks and crannies, strategy
guides and comic books lie torn and/or lost, the stuffed animals display worn seams and cat gnawed-tears, and toys lie broken, disassembled, and battery-drained.
That it took this long to cover a full-length review for Pokémon -- having previously only covered brief impressions for Pokémon Soul Silver andPokémon White while only reviewing theDetective Pikachuspin-off -- most publicly proves this shift, but make no mistake: while we could chalk up any number of reasons why I've fallen off the Pokémon ride, my same passion for writing, game analysis, and
historic study applied to its Game Boy roots. It is my dedication to nostalgia that keeps me on this path, and what better evidence than playing both Red and Blue
versions via their 3DS Virtual Console re-releases to completion? This was completely unnecessary in itself -- both only differ in version-exclusive Pokémon to catch -- but their infamous balance sparked an insatiable curiosity. If there's any
confirmation a deep love for Pikachu still beats in my heart, let it be
Why I felt like posting this on Twitter, I dunno. Call it me reaching out to people rather than babbling within a bubble.
Regardless, it bears repeating this isn't Leave Luck to Heaven's end. However, it's become clear I need to prioritize what's best for me and my career, and the current developments in the works for Hey Poor Player will decide that. In the meantime, if you exist, dear reader, please bear some patience.
I can, however, promise a new review by this weekend.
Anyone who follows The Promised Neverland in Jump already knows this, but man, this series just keeps getting better and better. Ain't no stopping the Shirai/Pozuka train!
Unfortunately, as I've been cooperating with my bosses to branch out Hey Poor Player's repertoire, I've made the decision to cover only manga granted via review copies, so this means no more Silver Spoon articles. I know, such a masterpiece deserves better, but Yen Press just won't respond to my emails...
Okay, we're getting warmer: Mega Man 2's American boxart is no prize, but maligned as it is, I like to think it's not the catastrophe that was the original. Say what you will about inaccurate character design, but as they feature something resembling actual proportion, I think of it as a relative success in that patented 80's way of box arts fulfilling the template for our imaginations. This fantastic Eurogamer interview with artist Marc Erickson reveals it was a uncoordinated hodgepodge of circumstances -- a hapless art director's interpretation of Mega Man ("he's obviously shooting, so he must be using a pistol"), Erickson simply assuming the character was an actual man, and an overall lack of cooperation between the various Capcom branches in conserving the original character design. Simply put: let us not judge Erickson for simply doing his job.
Nay, we are here to judge Mega Man 2, otherwise known as one of the finest classics of the 8-bit era and what truly etched our Blue Bomber into gaming history. By the same token of the former, it's no stretch declaring it one of the NES's masterworks, and for my money, I consider it the system's finest third-party effort. When consideringhow many Mario knock-offs stumbled and fell in their ill-fated attempts to capture the golden goose, that it can stand arm-in-arm with the actual Marios and Kirby's Adventure is a miracle I cherish dearly. There's no slippery controls, no projectiles nonsensically thrown in arcs, no absurd difficulty for the sake of absurd difficulty -- it's just a damn good video game, one I'd dare even say reaches the vertigo of perfection.
Hello, and welcome to my new Hey Poor Player column: 8-Bit Chronicles, wherein I analyze classic arcade-munchers of the 80's! Giving I already host another column (Sleeping With The Enemy), I'm certain this is rather left-field, so let's break down how this came to be and what it'll entail.
As readers may recall, I announced last fall I'd be coveringArcade/8-Bit video games after 2019's New Year. The reasoning was simple: given their brevity, they'd serve as excellent outlets for maintaining a consistent writing output. As opposed to the 1500-2000 word caps I typically uphold for Leave Luck to Heaven, these would gravitate towards 1000 words -- a reflection of their pick-up-and-play breadth, if you will.
Truth be told, I've been bearing some unflattering insecurities regarding my writing, and Sleeping With The Enemy took the full brunt. With its objective in bearing my soul, I feared my topics bore irrelevant fruit, that I lacked the appropriate prose necessary to convey an effective thesis, or, worst of all, that such hesitation proved my inability to maintain an audience as a game journalist. This caused a significant delay, and it's weighed upon me heavily.
Regardless, here's the next iteration involving Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. True to the subject matter, I hope any criticism paves the road to a better future.
On a lighter note, there's been exciting developments behind-the-scenes for Hey Poor Player! I can't share them now, but you can expect them within next month. I suspect this'll finally be the breakthrough our little site's been waiting for, so I'll be giving it my all!
I'm sharing this for no reason other than that this is the funnest article I've ever written. Yours truly took it upon himself to document the latest feud between Yoshi, tax-thieving extraordinaire, and our own US government.
(In case you were wondering, no, I don't buy the EPA's latest statement -- clearly Yoshi had a hand.)
What, you didn't think a cat manga review was inevitable?
Anyway, expect a steady flow of "one and done" Vol. 1 reviews beginning this spring -- I'm beginning to recognize it's not just about analyzing what you love, but the general influx of what the media produces.
Before I begin this review proper, I must confess there exist two factors that've always dumbfounded me regarding Super Mario Bros. 3, the NES game revered as the system's masterwork. Admittedly, one bears little on the game's quality in itself; mainly, the shock that its original Japanese release was a whole two years earlier in 1988 than its 1990 American release. Technically speaking, that's more so a year-and-a-half (Japan's October 23, 1988 to America's February 12, 1990 -- and that's to say nothing of Europe's August 29, 1991!), but the point is, I just think it's silly 1988 America was busy greeting a reassembled black sheep in Super Mario Bros. 2 while Japan was living it up with the Holy Grail of 8-Bit Gaming. As always with the medium, The Land of the Rising Sun really does have it good.
The other cause -- one immediately more relevant and, as evidenced by this Koji Kondo interview, has certainly confounded others -- is how I am never not baffled by the silent title screen. Anyone who's played the Super Mario All-Stars remake should certainly recall the jubilant ragtime remix of the classic Underwater Theme, perfectly accompanying the game's curtain-raising opening via choreography: the subdued drone introducing Mario and Luigi, the trumpeting eruption of delight greeting not only both the title and the theater's showers of enemies and power-ups, but our joy in playing one of the greatest 2D platformers ever crafted. A disorientation perhaps exclusive to those who played the SNES/GBA versions first (including yours truly), this aural absence unveils our first impressions of Super Mario Bros. 3 as a stunning retcon, its reduction to silent pantomime a bewildering relic.
As mentioned on Twitter, this'll be the last Case Closed review for the foreseeable future. Not that I haven't fallen out of love with the series or anything, the series' rigid formula produced repetition that often impeded consistent critical thought. As I plan to branch out into other manga this spring, this difficulty rendered it prime for the axe. Consequently, I suspect my more ardent readers may notice my wavering conviction throughout this particular review.
Regardless, we'll be back on track with game reviews here soon. Expect to see Sleeping with the Enemy return this month as well.
Okay, now things have just gotten silly. Long have us patient Kingdom Hearts fans weathered wacky names in 358/2 Days and Re:Coded all for the sake of Kingdom Hearts III's ever-nebulous release, but Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue? That's not just absurd -- that's pretentious word salad scribbled straight from theaspiring teenager debuting their Kingdom Hearts/Animorphs/My Little Pony crossover fanfiction into the world. Not that Kingdom Hearts wasn't already a fanfictional fever dream in itself, but how on earth am I supposed to say that with a straight face? Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue -- gads, even just typing thatfeels nasty. Thankfully, our ever-oblivious director in Tetsuya Nomura comes to the rescue with his faux-rocket science:
"This Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance compilation follows the previously HD work 2.5...and is worthy as taking its place as 2.6. Since Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover/Kingdom Hearts Unchained is supposed
to be the first game in the mainline series, that is being represented
as '0' in the collection. And lastly, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is '0.1' and that then leads into Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep."
Where do I even begin? The made-up math? The constant name influx? That despite said collection including Dream Drop Distance -- the convoluted but necessary step into the upcoming finale -- the presence of tech demo Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-and movie Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover only further inflates the baggage of confusing names and superfluous events? Granted, maybe the latter's unfair to 0.2 -- god, did I really just type that? -- but we'll get into that later.
Disclaimer: This article serves as the "main" reviews for Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix, as I possess no interest in importing the original versions.
Now, here's something certainly more bang for your buck: two Final Mixes in one collection. Sure, there's a rancid movie adaption included, but why complain when there's two Holy Grails finally localized into English? To say Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMIX -- the second of the three Kingdom Hearts collections we're reviewing -- chronologically focuses on the post-Kingdom Hearts portion of the saga would be a tad misleading considering the presence of prequel Birth by Sleep, but it's not like 358/2 Days -- a game requiring intimate knowledge of Kingdom Hearts II -- being present in the first collection made much sense either. As we've elaborated countless times, no one really knows what goes on with this series, so let's just roll with it.
So anyway: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Birth by Sleep Final Mix, and a movie adaption of Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. For the moment, let us pretend that last one doesn't exist, and observe the majesty previously denied to us Westerners. True, dedicated PSP owners may've circumvented the handheld's region-freecapabilities for Birth by Sleep, but let's not pretend the English language's presence doesn't produce convenience for everyone else. Yet with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix being the more famed of the two, it's only natural we begin with the collection's main attraction.
Happy New Year!! To celebrate, here's my final manga review of, uh, last year. Coincidentally, this marks the conclusion of Astra Lost in Space.
My goodness, would you look at that sidebar: 81 posts for one year! My biggest yet -- I wonder if I can surpass it this year? Regardless, in all my hard work over the past fall, I've neglected to maintain my Game Journalism/Manga archives, so expect updates around those parts.