I wrapped up my project on December 31. After 365 straight days of playing games and blogging about them, I decided I needed a break. I have the next phase of TheNoyse.com planned out (relatively speaking, as we all know how well I plan things ahead of time), but before I jumped into Phase 2, I needed to recharge my batteries. I never would have thought it, but playing a video game every single and day and writing about each and every one, for an entire year, is actually quite exhausting.
Sure, there were times during the year when I thought I would just keeping going with the blog come January 1, or even start the next phase right away. Then, there were days where the end of the year couldn’t come soon enough, and I didn’t want to play games or write every again. By the end of the year, when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, a sense of relief come over me and I felt like I could breathe. The last couple of weeks of the blog I was running on pure adrenaline and anxiety to finish. At the same time, however, I had an uncontrollable feeling of sadness. This blog was my baby that I raised and nurtured for an entire year, and to see it coming to end was devastating. I didn’t want to let go, I didn’t want it to stop.
But I had to. I was emotionally and mentally spent. I needed to rest and relax, and let it all sink in. I planned on these reflection pieces being written within a couple of days of completion of the blog, but low and behold, I think I started to enjoy the break and time away from it all a little too much. A month later, and here we are.
So this is the finale. The conclusion. My final thoughts and feelings about My Year of Gaming blog project. Instead of writing another 3000 words about everything I thought and felt about what I accomplished in a year, I’m going to do something different, more important to me. Besides, I don’t know if I can ever write enough words to fully describe everything I have felt over the course of the year, and that alone should tell you where I stand today.
This blog started out as a solo project to prove something to myself, about myself. One man, 365 days of video game playing and blogging. If I were to finish my journey, it would be because of me, and for me. That’s how I saw it, at least.
A funny thing happened though. The blog evolved, matured and developed organically, on its own. It changed, and for the best. It wasn’t about me anymore, it was about those reading it, enjoying it and relying on it to be updated on a daily basis. By the end, it wasn’t an accomplishment for me, it was a testament of how many good people I met throughout the year, and the great community out there who just like to play games and be good people.
I started My Year of Gaming blog project for me. I finished it not just for you all, but because of all you. So without further ado, I want to say thank you to all of those people who touched my life in one way or another this past year and helped make the completion of this project possible…
Mana Drake – for making my really cool banner that everyone got to see and enjoy every single day.
AIAS – for hosting that DICE Awards Twitter contest and setting everything in motion to give me the opportunity to say thank you to all these wonderful people.
Eric Bailey – for writing an awesome little article about my project, constantly showing love and having the guts and determination to write a review for every single NES game every released. Good luck bro!
That Damn Pixel – for conducting an interview with me about the blog for their own gaming blog over in the UK, and showing support from early on.
Mike Lynch – for bridging the gap between the sports world and video games with me, if only for a couple of hours a day. Also, your appreciation for “My Week Of Halo” was instrumental in reaffirming that was a nice addition to the blog.
James Carr – for inspiring me to do something greater, and to help me realize that it’s perfectly okay to dream big sometimes.
Seth Saltzman – for always being tied to TheNoyse.com, no matter how far removed you are from it.
Will Gray – for supporting me back when we were two young, dumb kids with dreams of the big time.
Robert Payne – for reminding me how inspirational music can be, on many different levels.
Scott Ellison – for not hesitating to let me pick your brain on the ins and outs of independent video game journalism. We’re all on the same team, and you taught me that.
Timothy Ronkainen – for literally retweeting just about every single automated tweet my blog sent out every time I updated it with a new posting.
Elaine – for being my spirit animal and usually the female version of me, specifically in game choices and opinions. More than that, though, for being there always as a friend when I needed an ear.
Ben Suri – for always being engaging and up for a discussion, especially for topics a little off the beaten path from the trending ones.
Edwin Acosta – for proving that independent video game websites can be important to the community, and for thinking of me for side projects.
‘N D O Tek No – for allowing me to utilize Twitter in every possible way and still not wavering in your support of all my projects.
Gamer Husbands Radio Podcast – for inviting me to join you guys for an episode, even though we couldn’t ever make our schedules sync up.
Geeks With Wives Podcast – for extending the olive branch and inviting me to jump on a podcast with you folks, even though I had to cancel due to my personal issues going down that week.
Video Game Hangover Podcast – for allowing me to challenge your opinions and inviting open discussion about them.
Jordan T & Boom Headshot Podcast – for having me as a guest on your show, and for just being the same geek every week.
AnnieDayNow – for having the best name on Twitter, ever. Oh, and for all your additional thoughts and reactions to my blog posts
E-Z Mode Unlocked Podcast – for playing my voice mail allowing me to talk about my blog, and further speculating what I would do after the year is over. Don’t worry friends, Phase 2 is coming.
Los – for being illusive, and your awesome blog projects for games that you’ve done this year.
Alex – for always having kind words and motivation.
Graduated Gamer – for reaching out and picking my brain about the ins and outs of blogging, and looking to me for inspiration. You’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, and I’m proud of what you have done so far.
Chelsea – for being truly inspirational in your own personal adventure. Your strength and perseverance is amazing, and I’m more than happy to call you a friend. Even if you do hate video games.
The entire Open Forum Radio crew:
Bill/Vladz – for being an amazing podcast producer and constantly showing love. Keep rockin’, brother.
TJ/TMO – for having the best transitions in the podcasting game, and dubbing me “the hardest working man on the internet.” No way I’ll ever be able to live up to the nickname, but thanks for the recognition.
Jimmy/AceBlack – for your comic relief on a weekly basis and backing me up on my assessment of the final boss of Metal Gear Rising Revengeance.
Henry Knox – for being someone that so many other people look up to. Respect to you and what you’ve done in this game, even though I’ve given you some Twitter grief over the year.
Larry/Blue – for taking a chance on a rookie podcaster and inviting me to join the OFR family. Your sheer intelligence is intimidating sometimes, but inspirational as well.
The entire OFR Community – for welcoming me as one of yours.
The entire 40 Cast Crew:
Keith – for never letting the friendly banter about what you’re playing effect you. And for being the silent assassin on the show, waiting for your chance to strike with a rant about something.
Eric – for keeping the streets safe, and for never being afraid to show love to someone when it’s deserved. Your friendship with Jay is remarkable.
Matt – for being true to yourself and your brothers, and for not holding grudges.
Denny – for instantly embracing me as a friend, and giving me a much needed pick-me up when I needed it the most.
Vic – for your constant support right off the bat, and giving me a chance to hang out with you and your friends a few different times.
The entire 40 Cast Community – for being awesome and dedicated to these guys who put out an awesome show every week. From the deepest part of my heart, I truly am sorry for certain things that happened that ultimately led to the current distance between myself and the show. I wish things hadn’t gone down the way they did, but lessons were learned and I think I am a better person for having to experience it all.
My Platform Junkies partners in crime:
Travis – for being an honorary member of our crew, and always filling in when we need you to.
Veronica – for being the spark that our podcast needed, always being humorous and entertaining (even when you are sleeping), and reconfirming my stance against ever getting into MMOs.
Tanner – for always being my devil’s advocate with true, honest, unfiltered opinions and points of view. Also, for being open to the idea of starting a stupid podcast with a guy you didn’t know at all. Despite our difference, it’s scary to think we are more alike than it seems, and I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate your support with everything.
Ben – for coming out of your shell long enough to reach out and shake hands and start an awesome friendship. We may both be introverts of sorts, but everything you have done for our podcast doesn’t get enough credit and I can’t express how much I appreciate it. You’ve been there for me when I’ve needed it, and for that, I owe you so much.
John D. – for being so full of awesome, it took seemingly forever to get us both together on the internet at the same time. Behind the scenes, you’ve been super supportive of decisions and choices.
Jay – for being the talent, and the epitome of what being a good person is all about. If there was any doubt at all about how strong an internet community can be, you are proof positive that good things happen to good people. If I can be half the man in life that you are, I’ll be set going forward.
Eric – for being a key component in helping me reach out and grow my blog, allowing so many different people to read and enjoy it. Your initial kindness in inviting me to your podcast helped put this whole thing in motion, and your continued support throughout the year led to The Noyse becoming an affiliate of Geek Media Network. And despite you always putting my project on a platform above your “30 Reviews in 30 Days” project you did a couple of years ago, I never looked at it as a competition or tried to make my blog better than anything anyone else had ever done. Regardless, I appreciate the admiration you had for what I accomplished and I look forward to working side by side with you going forward.
Chris – for being the man to kickstart this entire thing, essentially. Your immediate kindness helped me get to where I am now, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I know you don’t and would never accept all the credit you deserve for this, but just know it’s there for you regardless.
My ex – for helping me find true happiness in life, despite how unforgiveable your actions and methods were in getting me here.
My kids – for being so amazing, and the reason I always strive to be a better person. I’m doing everything I can to be the best dad I can for you three, and I hope you all will appreciate that one day when you are older. You keep me going every day, and I love you more than I can ever properly express.
James – for listening to me and my crazy ideas for years. Good or bad, you have always supported me since we’ve known each other, and while I’m still not entirely certain what you get from our friendship, I cherish it nonetheless. I don’t know how you sit there and listen to me spout off idea and idea on such a regular basis, but if it wasn’t for your willingness to listen and give feedback, this entire project might not have happened.
Valerie – for showing me what happiness is and can be, and for bringing out the real Josh to the world, the Josh that isn’t embarrassed or ashamed of who he is or what he likes. Crazy to think that I was going through life before you came along, thinking it was okay to hide who I was, and to think that I couldn’t have a significant other that not only supported my hobbies and encouraged them, but wanted to be part of them as well. I want to and try to give you the world, because you gave me so much more. Wherever our path takes us in life, I will always be grateful for what you did for me as a person.
Last but certainly not least…
My favorite pizza guy, Slaterific aka Bill – for being the best fan and supporter anyone could ever have asked for. Seriously, you have been relentless in your support for me and this project, I’m practically speechless thinking about it. There were days I thought about just quitting, but knowing the disappointment you would have in me prevented me from ever getting that close. You would subtly check in with me if something seemed off kilter with me or the blog, and never once hesitated to call me out for slacking or getting something wrong. You picked me up when I fell, and kept me grounded when my heads were in the clouds. You’re the Flavor Flav to my Chuck D, and I mean that in the best possible way. Despite the fact you live half way across the country, I still absolutely consider you a friend, and I look forward to our continuing friendship. Thank you. Thank you for everything. You’re a special person, and I hope you realize what your friendship and support has meant to me.
For all those people who say you can’t have real friends online from the Internet, I would like to point out this last year for me and all the friends I have made online because of this crazy project of mine. To anyone and everyone else I may have forgot or didn’t mention, I truly apologize. I did the best I could. I am proud to say you are all my friends, and I know if I never needed anything, I have an amazing community to turn to. You all deserve way more than I can give you with one final blog post for My Year of Gaming, but it truly is the best I have to offer. My project became part of each and every one of you. The Noyse may legally belong to me, but in every other aspect, it belongs to you all.
I hope you are all willing to support The Noyse going forward. It was built by you, and will fail without you. I honestly believe that. Thank you all.
Phase two, coming soon…
My year of gaming. I wrote about how it all got started already, and while I tried to sprinkle in updates about the progress of the blog throughout the year as I wrote each entry, I really tried my best to keep each blog post about the game I was playing and not focus too much on the inner-workings of the blog. Sure, I talked about it extensively on podcasts I was on, and on Twitter for sure, but for the most part, I kept my blog as just the project, as I didn’t want to bog it down with my personal life, challenges, struggles and everything else behind the scenes that went in to keeping the blog up and running every day for an entire year, but wasn’t directly relevant to any specific posts.
So with that, let me take you on a brief, yet in-depth look at my year in gaming from my point of view, as I peel back the curtain and let you experience what I did throughout the year.
I wanted to get this out of the way early, instead of dwelling on it too much and letting in linger longer than needed. When I started the blog, my personal life was all pretty steady and stable, and I wasn’t worried too much about it getting in the way of my project. As a father of three, I planned on incorporating my kids into the blog project as much as possible, as they like to play and watch video games as much as the next kids. Playing games with them wasn’t going to happen every single day, but it was definitely something I wanted to make sure happened. I didn’t want to be that guy to just shut out my family and play games, ignoring the world around me.
Also, my domestic partner (girlfriend, mother of my children, etc.) wasn’t bothered by the fact I started this blog, even if she wasn’t excited about it. She couldn’t care less about video games, but me playing games and writing about them wasn’t going to affect her or her life at all, as I would get most of the play time in while she worked at nights, and do my writing late at night after everyone was in bed. I can’t say she was supportive in any specific way, but she wasn’t not supportive, which in turn was enough for me.
Long story short, I was just a regular family man. I was gainfully employed and my job wasn’t going to get in the way of this project, so I had no worries there. Other than any unforeseen circumstances or challenges that would come up throughout the year that I had no control over, I couldn’t see any reason why my personal life would get in the way of this blog project. I was committed to not let it ever be more important than my family, and not get in the way of my obviously more important commitments in life, and because of that, I thought for sure nothing in my personal life was going to be a challenge or put my year of gaming blog project in danger.
I was wrong. So, so wrong.
I don’t want to go into details about the specifics, because I’m not here to trash anyone or their reputation, but long story short, I unexpectedly was forced to end my relationship and promptly move out of the house and away from my kids. I was blindsided more than I could ever truly explain, and was completely caught off guard. One day I was waking up at my house, dropping my daughter off at daycare and going to work, and by that night, I was packing a duffle bag to go crash on my cousin’s couch in his apartment. My home was no longer my home, as I was forced to start a new adventure in life, take a new path and try to forget about the course I was already traveling on.
Being a couch surfer for a month was tough mentally, emotionally and physically, and the entire ordeal truly did test my limits for what this blog meant for me. The day it happened – for the first time all year – video games meant absolutely nothing to me. They were the farthest thing from my mind, and quite frankly, it was almost the day I quit blog. I had zero motivation to continue the project, and sadly, it had nothing to do with the blog itself. That first night almost ended it before many of you got a chance to experience it.
So what prevented me from calling it quits that one fateful day? You have my PS Vita to thank for that. For some reason, I unconsciously grabbed the portable handheld gaming system on my way out the door that night and threw it in my bag. I discovered it in there a few hours later and turned it on, with no real intention to play anything specific. I realized I had a handful of recently downloaded titles on the thing and decided to try one out. I played it for about an hour or so, and while it wasn’t a great game, it turned out to be exactly what I needed at that moment – a distraction. The blog post about wasn’t superb by any means either, but it might have been one of the most important posts I ever made. I realized how meaningful video games were to me, in my life, on so many different levels. I also realized that if I could satisfy my daily requirement for the project on that day in particular, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot that could stop me the rest of the year.
That wasn’t the only struggle in my personal life I encountered, but it was the most significant one by far. Early in the year – like, the first week – I came down with the sickness of death. It had been a long time since I had been sick like that, and it took all the energy I had in me to play and write about games. Only a couple of days into the project, and knowing that no one was reading anyway, it would have been incredibly easy to pull the project on the project and start back over once I recovered and had the energy to give my best effort. But, I convinced myself that I might get sick at some other point in the year, and I wouldn’t be able to just scrap what I had done and start over then, so why should I a week into it? I forced myself to push through it, and it was that initial hurdle I cleared that help reaffirm to myself that I was in the right state of mind to complete this mission of mine.
Throughout the year, I took a handful of vacations and excursions away from the comfort of my home (wherever that was at various times of the year), and the ease of not only playing games, but also being able to make my posts. Somehow, someway I did my very best to still post about the games I managed to fit in to my vacations, because I wanted to stay dedicated to the cause. I even made posts from Disneyland, of all places.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up that dedication throughout the entire year. Hear me out. While I did in fact play a new and different game every single day, later on in the year I got to the point where I wasn’t able to stay timely with my posts, occasionally letting a day or two pass before catching up on my posts. What happened that caused my writing to slack off just a bit, you might be wondering? Well, I jumped back into the dating pool, and once I found a certain special woman, my free time dramatically decreased. And not in a bad way, trust me.
Now I don’t want to make it seem like I am in any way, shape or form putting any blame on her. In fact, her coming into my life was an eye-opening experience, as I discovered for the first time that there are women out there who can and will accept guys like me. You know, the geeky and video game playing type of guy, who loves social media and writing blogs. Not only did I find someone who accepted me for me, but I found one who encouraged me to be proud of who I am and the hobbies I have, and let my full personality show at all times. Before she came along, I was always reserved about who I was, and never really cared to share my true self with others out of fear of rejection and persecution. So yeah, when the lovely lady in my life came along and set me free, I couldn’t help but cherish the time I spent with her, which every once in a while meant pushing my blog updates back.
After going on a handful of dates with other women before I found a keeper, I realized how miserable being with someone who didn’t like video games or looked down upon those who played them was and would be going forward. I even had a girl straight up make fun of me for being “so into games.” Needless to say, I tried to keep my gaming hobby down on the list of conversation topics, which was fine, but actually might have helped me weed out some before wasting time on them. In the end, however, the universe corrected itself and I found someone who liked, appreciated and played games, and encouraged my love for them as well as the project revolving around them that I dedicated myself to for an entire year.
It’s funny how things work out. And to think, I thought the year wouldn’t be impacted by my personal life at all when I started the whole thing.
Like I said when I was writing about the process of starting this blog project, I went in to this year with the mindset that while I wanted every set of eyes possible to see my work, I would be perfectly content if not a single soul were to read it, as long as I accomplished what I set out to do. At the start of the year, that’s about how it was too, as I was pretty certain that I was just writing for myself, and maybe a friend or two that I conned into reading it. And while there was a little sense of sadness that my words weren’t reaching anyone, I kept pushing forward, knowing that if I continued the project and did what I could to self-promote, eventually someone would catch wind of it. The only problem was, I am admittedly horrible at self-promotion, and thus put me in a Catch-22 of sorts. “If you build it, they will come,” I told myself. I just didn’t know how to build “it,” as in hype.
Fortunately, my luck would change. I was a runner up in a contest online through Twitter, and I actually won a package of free PS3 games because of it. Well, they announced the runner-up winners via Twitter, naturally, and congratulated all of us together in one cohesive tweet. Well, a guy named Chris from Everyday Gamers noticed my name and website via my Twitter profile, and I noticed he was part of a community himself. We exchanged pleasantries which soon led to a discussion about his community, and my blog project. Needless to say, he seemed thoroughly impressed by what I was attempting. Soon, he was tweeting about my blog, slowly building a groundswell of hype and attention towards my little project. I was honestly overwhelmed by the initial support, but everything that followed was just mind blowing. I had articles being written about me, invites onto podcasts to talk about my project and essentially a VIP pass into the great underground independent community of video games journalism and podcasting.
It was crazy, and felt like a whirlwind for a couple of months. I was proud of what I was doing, finally, and everything that was coming at me was so positive and supportive, I couldn’t help but feel like a kind of a big deal. Now, I know perfectly well that in the grand scheme of things, everything I was doing and trying to accomplish was fairly insignificant for the most part, but at the same time, I started to feel like a rock star of sorts. It was a cool feeling, I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t just happy about the positive attention, but I felt good knowing that my writing was reaching people and that people started to rely on my thoughts about games before making decisions on spending money or time on games I had played. I was earning a certain level of trust with my newfound readers, and I never took that lightly. For some, it would have been a heavy burden to have that kind of pressure while trying to accomplish a solo project, but for me, I thrived on it. It kept me motivated and pushed me to get better, improve my writing, keep it entertaining and try to stay as relevant as possible.
A project that started out being for just my own reasons, evolved into a project for everyone else driven by me. It felt weird, but good. And honestly, without the support from everyone, I wouldn’t have made it, especially when I hit rock bottom.
One thing that seemed to go overlooked throughout the year was the content I was providing. I made it a goal at the beginning to have a healthy mix of all types of content, covering games of old and new, and on as many platforms as possible. I wanted to keep things fresh and interesting, while doing my best to cover as many interests and genres that I feasible could, hoping to have something for everyone that dared venture to my website.
I started knowing that I had plenty of games to make the year possible, especially when considering how many games were coming out in 2013, but I didn’t quite have an idea of how the year would play out. I didn’t go in with a set plan of what games to play and when, I just let the process develop organically. Sure, I had specific games that I absolutely wanted to make sure I wrote about throughout the course of the year, but other than that, I just took it one day at a time. People seemed shocked to learn that, as such a big project would naturally need a lot of planning to ensure its completion, but that’s not how I work or operate.
One of my most popular things I did on the blog were the “Week Of…” posts, and that didn’t even start until February, when one day I decided I was going to play all the Halo games for a week straight and make a “thing” about it. The overwhelming support for that first “Week Of…” instantly made it a sure bet that I had to do one every month. And by the end of the year, I was up to a couple per month, for various reasons.
Another thing I tried to do was change up the styles of posts. Not every single blog post read like another, and I did my very best to keep my writing style different. Not only did I want to make it fresh and entertaining for the readers, but I wanted to prevent myself from getting bored as well. If I stuck with the same article structure day in and day out, I would have gone absolutely crazy in no time. So aside from changing my writing technique constantly, I also sprinkled in some off the wall posts for my own amusement, like photo essays, haikus and very short but bold statements. I incorporated YouTube videos into some posts, to spice things up. Heck, I even incorporated real world events and newsworthy discussions into some articles, just to remind people that there are a lot more serious things in the world to be concerned about than a simple video game. Most importantly, however, is that I never took myself too seriously and always tried to have fun and enjoy what I was writing, especially knowing I was creating content for other people to consume.
Many people mistook my posts for reviews, and while I see some validity in those assumptions, I never set out to fully critique games (especially the newly released games), and instead always wanted to talk about my thoughts and feelings about what I was playing, whether they were new opinions or memories from playing the game in the past. I always tried to relate to the games I was playing in some personal way, and also tried to see the best in each game. I understand that not every game is great, or good for that matter, but I honestly believe that without cynicism encroaching into your opinions, anyone can find something good and enjoyable in every game, despite how bad they might be. This blog was a celebration of games, not meant to be critical of the art form, and I wanted to extrapolate that sentiment with every post I made. Except for a few outliers, I think I did a decent job in keeping the blog mostly positive.
Video games should be fun, enjoyable forms of entertainment. I had fun playing so many throughout the course of the year, and I did my best to convey that. If I didn’t, then I didn’t do my job and “My Year of Gaming” should be deemed a failure.
Looking back, I think it was a success. Don’t you?
Well folks, I did it. My Year of Gaming is finally complete. What started out as a little project for myself grew exponentially in ways I couldn’t have predicted in my wildest dreams, and by the end, I was sad to see it go, despite everything, both good and bad. Yes, my goal to not only play a new and different video game, but blog about each game, every single day for an entire year – that’s 365 days straight – concluded on December 31, 2013, with my 365th blog post. Every single day of 2013 I played a different video game, and then wrote about each one, as I never repeated a single game and didn’t miss a day. I played games on all possible platforms and consoles, everything from the very first ones on the original Nintendo, to the newest games on the newest consoles. I covered it all, and in the end, the experience was remarkable, and one I will hold with me my entire life.
After completely such a remarkable journey, I didn’t want to just end the project with my final post and just be done with it all, wiping my hands clean of the blood, sweat and tears that went into it over the year. Sure, I could have easily done so, and after a year of writing, the thought of riding off into the sunset without another word sounded terrific. But in the end, this blog project ended up meaning so much to so many different people, that I deemed it selfish and unfair for me to just pick up my ball and go home. No, I owed it to you, dear readers, to write up a reflection piece and chronicle my experience over the year. I felt it was important to fully explain how this entire project got started, write about the ins and outs of daily operation of the blog project and everything I encountered throughout the year (even the behind the scenes stuff that I tried to not talk about too much on the blog itself), and finally just reflect on the entire year after completion and try to dissect everything I learned, experienced and felt. Basically, I’m going to try and cram an entire year’s worth of memories into a condensed tell-all reflection article about The Noyse: My Year of Gaming.
So, without further adieu…
First, let’s talk about why I started this crazy project in the first place. I actually had the idea a couple of years ago, as I proposed the project to a friend of mine as a joint venture together. We had a brief run podcasting together, and a failed video game website together, but I couldn’t keep his interest level long enough to keep him around and turn our love of video games into something more than a hobby. I figured that a daily project would be enough motivation to do something on a consistent basis while trying to grow and establish us in the every growing industry.
Well, he wasn’t too keen on the idea, so I left it alone to churn around inside my mind for a while. I never forgot about the idea, but never saw any real reason to start it. Eventually, after a long time of wishing I was doing something in the video game journalism industry instead of just doing something about it, I concocted the plan to put my idea for a year-long blog project in motion. I was looking ahead at the year 2013, and it struck me as the most opportune time to finally pull the trigger on this crazy idea of mine. You see, 2013 was projecting to be an amazing year for gaming, as not only would we see a countless number of big name, triple-A titles coming to consoles at the end of their cycles, but we would see the growth of the new Nintendo Wii U console, but the release of both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles presumably, as neither had officially been announced, but were heavily speculated to be coming out sometime during the year. It was shaping up to be not only one of the biggest years for the video game industry, but potentially the best as well. I wanted to fully experience everything the year would provide, and I figured the best way to do so was to finally attempt my long thought about project.
There is another reason why I decided to start this project, though. My entire life, I’ve been a dreamer. I’ve had dreams of grandeur since I was a kid, always thinking and coming up with ways to better my life, to make a difference in the world in some way, shape or form, and to be remembered for something in the grand scheme of things in life. The problem is, all the great ideas I ever had and projects I always started, I never ended up following through with any of them. I would always quit, giving up on all the dreams and schemes I ever came up with, and quickly moving on to something else. I never had any driving force or motivation to see something to the end. This part about me has always irritated me, as I see myself as a quitter and someone who can’t close the deal or finish what I start.
So this blog project was a way to prove to myself that I could finish something, that I could see something from the start all the way to the end, and that I am not destined to always be a quitter. I had to prove this to myself in order to move forward with my life and start branching out to new and different avenues instead of being complacent with the status quo, and just taking what I’ve been given instead of going out and taking what I think I deserve. Finishing this project with 100% would mean that I could do things others thought were impossible, I could fight through the struggles and I could do whatever was necessary to win. Failure was not an option, and if I did, I knew that my dreams would never become more than just dreams, and that was a tough pill to swallow.
Before I decide to take the plunge and jump head first into this year long project, I had to do a lot of soul searching first. I knew why I wanted to do it, and what completing or failing at it would mean, but I had to brace myself for the challenges I might encounter throughout the year that I could foresee ahead of time. The biggest hurdle that I had to leap over before I was ready to start was convincing myself that this blog would be about me and my personal journey through a year of video games. I wasn’t doing this for anyone else, to please anyone else or to prove anything to anyone else. The project and the end result was all for me. Sure, it sounds selfish, but that was the point. I have always been a people pleaser and always gone out of my way to make others happy, which usually meant making sacrifices in my own life in order to make that happen. I didn’t want this to be another case study of that in my life, and I was determined to make sure I didn’t ever turn it into something for others.
Going in, I knew I wouldn’t have any readers. I wasn’t using Twitter or any other social media platforms at the time, so aside from the handful of true friends and co-workers I had, I didn’t really have many people in my life, especially ones that would help create a readership base for my blog. I have always been somewhat of a social introvert, and tend to push people out of my life instead of branching out and welcoming tons of people inside my small, personal circle. So like I said, I didn’t have any real way of getting the word out about my project or gaining readers, and couple that with my horrible inability to self-promote and I was looking at a very lonely journey through my year of gaming. But I had to get past that fact mentality, and something like this was going to be extremely difficult after a while to not only push through, but justify continuing if I had nobody ready my work. That was actually one of my biggest fears, that I would go as far as I could and eventually would just give up due to a feeling of failure and rejection because I had no audience or anyone caring about what I was doing.
Of course, that all led back to this project being about me, for me, and I finally was able to ease my mind of the worries about no one reading my words. I finally accepted the fact that I could potentially write a blog every day for an entire year and not have more than a handful of people ever read it, or know about it for that matter. Once I got past that, I was ready to go. I went in not caring who and if anyone would read, instead only caring about the goal at hand (to complete the project) and taking every measure to ensure that failure was option.
Let’s be real here, though. While I was finally in the mindset of not worrying about anyone reading my work, I wasn’t dumb to the potential of what I was setting out to accomplish. I searched high and low for any sort of equivalent to this Year of Gaming I was embarking on, and I couldn’t find anything. Not one instance or reference of any sort of comparable feat, and that of course got me excited. Not only was I doing something really cool that I thought people would like if they ever stumbled upon on, but I was pretty positive that my project was unique to the point of possibly being one of a kind. Not only did that add a bunch of excitement, but also a lot of unforeseen pressure to complete it, because the project would only be unique and impressive if I accomplished it, or so I determined. Simply trying this feat wasn’t impressive. I had to finish. I wanted the bragging rights and credentials that went along with finishing the whole thing.
Would this lead to a future in professional video game journalism? Would I be world-renowned on the Internet for completing the impossible? Would it lead to my insanity or at least a mental break down? Would it lead to my second full-fledged video game hiatus from an over exposure to the thing I love? I had no clue where the adventure would leave me at the end, but I was ready to go and see where it would lead. I didn’t know how the year would play out, and couldn’t predict all the challenges I would encounter, but for the most part, I had pre-planned a lot of things. I wanted to let the blog evolve organically and just let the writing flow, as I figured that being flexible would help me persevere past any obstacles in my way.
Mentally, I had prepared for the year several weeks before I started it. A couple of days before the New Year, I started building the site and bracing it. And on January 1, 2013, I played my first game and wrote my first blog. And that was the first time anyone knew what I was doing. My family, my friends – all oblivious to my forthcoming adventure. The way I saw it, once I started it, I couldn’t be talked out of it. So with that first post, about Super Mario Bros. 3, My Year of Gaming was underway. And I didn’t look back … until now.
Quiet Noyse as of late...Read Now
Hey everybody, who may still be checking this site or just linked here due to the power of social media. I just wanted to write a quick little blurb to keep you all up to date with what is going on with TheNoyse.com, now that My Year Of Gaming is complete. I have talked about it a few different times now, on various podcasts I've been on, but for those who haven't or don't listen to any of those great podcasts, this post is for you. Also - WHY AREN'T YOU LISTENING TO THOSE PODCASTS ALREADY?
Anyway, so what's the deal with this little ole blog/website you ask? Well, before I move on to Phase 2 of TheNoyse.com, which I haven't even announced yet what that will fully consist of, I am working on a reflection piece that will go over and highlight the entire year of gaming that I just went through, from the beginning and start-up process, to everything that happened throughout the year, as well as my final conclusions and wrap-up of the year. It will be something truly special, and a really cool way to put everything in perspective for everyone who has enjoyed my blog, whether you've been here from the beginning or just started reading towards the end of the project. More importantly, however, it will give me a chance to sit back and truly put into perspective what I just accomplished, what it means for me and what impact I may have had on anyone else.
Also, I am working on something special for certain people that I have come across in my journey, and that piece I am almost more excited to reveal to you all. But that will come following the reflection piece, both of which I hope to complete soon. Sooner than later, at least. To be honest, I thought I would have been done with both already, but taking a two week break from all this has been nice and refreshing. But that's all it is - a break. I'll be back soon, ready to make some more Noyse for you all to read and enjoy. Don't you worry about that. My Year of Gaming was just the start of what TheNoyse.com is capable of. The best is yet to come, as they say.
Phase 2 is coming soon, I promise. And with it, a whole lot of new awesomeness.
First thing's first. I don't want to write this blog post. I really, truly do not want to do it. I know I have to finish what I started, and trust me, there have been plenty of times throughout the year that I couldn't wait for this day to finally happen. There were days I just wanted to quit the whole project. But there were also days I just pictured carrying on past today into the future, continuing on a wild journey of game playing and writing, with no end date or goal in sight, just because I didn't want it all to come to an end.
But it has to end. The end is here. All good things come to an end. You know, all those cliche statements about things ending probably apply here as well.
I don't want to spend this entire blog post reflecting on the year, because more of that to come after this year is over. For now though, for the sake of my sanity and emotions that are bubbling over at this point, and for the sake of you all, the readers, I want to finish the year the way I started this year, and what I tried to make every day about ultimately, regardless of outside circumstances or more important events. This blog post, the final one in My Year of Gaming, needs to be about a video game, just like every other one. That's what this whole project is about in the first place, right?
So with that, I want to cap off my Super Mario series, and finish off the year, with not only one of the most important and influential video games of all time (especially the Mario franchise), but the single most important, memorable and influential video game for me, Josh Brown: writer, gamer, kid at heart. Of course I'm talking about Super Mario Bros., as if the title of the blog post or the huge box art graphic wasn't enough of a spoiler for you all, like you're sitting there waiting patiently for me to unveil the final game of the blog project.
Super Mario Bros. is the first video game I ever played. Well, to be fair, it is the first video game I remember playing, as I know there was an Atari in the house before I got my NES for Christmas one year, which was either 1986 or 1987. All those early years of my life kind of blend together, but I remember being really young. So whether or not I was playing any of those Atari games before I got my NES is irrelevant, because it wasn't until Super Mario Bros. that I actually acknowledged and understood that I was playing a video game. And oh what a game it was.
I played Super Mario Bros. non-stop, it felt like. As a kid, new to this whole video game thing, I was still trying to work out the kinks of my hand/eye coordination, but I never let my inadequacies keep me from playing more, practicing more, and striving to rescue the princess. Finding the castle where the princess was being held hostage felt like my only goal in life, as every time I felt like I was there, that stupid little guy with a mushroom on his head would tell me "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!" Of course, not having any other video games to relate to, I wasn't totally in-tune with the concept of a final, epic boss battle, so I had no idea what to look for or expect to find when and if it ever happened. I would just beat a castle, thinking I won, only to find out I had to keep going on to a different looking set of levels. There was a point, I remember distinctly, where I thought the game would just go on forever. Oh, how naive I was back then.
When I finally beat the game and saved the princess, I remember how awesome I felt. I went and bragged to everyone. I showed my parents, I showed my grandparents, I showed and helped all my friends who hadn't beaten it yet, and I showed anyone who would let me, whether they cared about it or not. I was so proud of myself, as I should be at that age, and I will forever hold on to and remember that feeling. I've completed and beaten countless game since that first one, and while some spur feelings of pride and accomplishment, none have ever felt like it did when I beat Super Mario Bros. for the very first time.
Another thing I remember distinctly was a babysitter I had at some point after my big accomplishment, who showed and taught me how to "rock the turtle," or whatever else you may know it as, when you jump on the turtle coming down the staircase at just the right time. If you time it perfectly, Mario will land back on the turtle shell bouncing off the side of the step with every hop, essentially performing countless, endless jumps without touching the controller, racking up 1-Ups every time you land on the turtle shell, giving you a seemingly infinite amount of lives. This was the very first time I was consciously aware that you could technically cheat in a video game, and break the established rules of the video game for your own personal gain. This is where the thing I enjoyed playing turned into something more real, more technical, and while I still didn't fully understand how video games worked or what went into making them, I did understand that they were more than just what you saw on the television screen.
Over the 26+ years I've been playing video games, I have never beaten any game more than Super Mario Bros. Actually, I have never bought a video game more times than I have Super Mario Bros, as every platform it is released on, I pick up immediately. Sure, for the most part, it is just for nostalgic purposes, but I truly still enjoy playing the game, over and over again, trying to beat the game each time I pick it up. Sometimes I warp, sometimes I run through straight, but every time I try to Rock the Turtle on my way to saving the princess. Occasionally I will feel inspired enough to play through a second time, with the Goombas and Koopas all turned into those annoying hard-shelled creatures, which probably have names, but I can't seem to remember. Other times I'll just call it good with saving the princess the first time, sitting back and reminiscing on beating the game just like I did all those years ago as a child, so naive, so young, so innocent.
I never, ever could have imagined that all that time put into one video game as a kid would ever lead to something, and while it is debatable whether or not this year-long project constitutes as "something," I still feel it makes sense that Super Mario Bros. is the last game I will play, write about and reflect upon in My Year of Gaming. It's only fitting that this is the last screen I will see, as well:
The only question that remains now is, whether or not I press the B button ... or drop the controller and turn off the system...
-The End... ?
Finally. The Mario game all fans have been waiting for. Super Mario 3D World, for the Wii U, came out last month, and honestly, I haven't stopped playing it since I first got it. It actually was released on the same day as the Xbox One, and as excited as I was for the new console and all the cool new games for it, the only game I really cared about that day was Super Mario 3D World. In fact, after playing so many games all year, new and old, this game was the perfect combination of old and new, and quite frankly, has been at the top of my list for Game of the Year since the first level I played.
I could literally go on and on about how and why this game is so amazing, and while it might make for a great blog post, it just won't do the game any justice. It literally is the perfect Mario game, which is why I am so excited for it to be apart of My Year of Gaming, and to help wrap up My 12 Days of Super Mario series, which essentially is closing out the year for me. Instead of gushing over the game for thousands of words, however, I'm going to just do what my friend suggested I do for this post, and wrap up the entire game in two simple words...
It had been a long time since Nintendo relied on Mario to help sell a system right out of the gate. Over the years, he has been called in to action when the timing was right, or when sales were slumping, or even just to fill a void between Nintendo-published, first party games. But Mario as a launch title? You would have to go all the way back to the Nintendo 64 system launch, when Super Mario 64 was a launch title. Of course back then, it was routine for Nintendo to launch a system with it's most recognizable mascot available with it or an addition to on day one, starting with Super Mario Bros. included with the NES and Super Mario World with the SNES. After Mario 64, however, which wasn't included with the system but available to buy separately, Mario wasn't seen on launch for any of Nintendo's consoles.
Was this because they had a plethora of first party franchises to call upon for launches, or did they just want to make Mario bigger and better than just the launch day title of each generation? What the case was, it would be 16 years before a Mario game was launched with a new Nintendo console. That console was the new Wii U, and the game was New Super Mario Bros. U. That's right, not only did Nintendo welcome it's new console with a Mario game, but it plucked it right from the "New" series of Mario games, which effectively made it the second platforming Mario game in a row to share the style and namesake.
For one, I have to believe that Nintendo worried about the Wii U from before launch, as it would be the only reason to explain launching with a Mario game after being so stubborn about that notion for so long. Of course, they had plenty of reasons to be concerned for the Wii U right out of the gate, as they did a poor job marketing the new system as a new system from the get-go. The general public had no idea it was a brand new console, and not just an add-on to the existing Wii console that everyone had in their living rooms. The messaging is starting to get better now, little by little, but honestly, I still run in to people who think the GamePad controller/tablet is just a new peripheral for the old Wii console. Is it the name of the console, the lack of proper marketing, or just general apathy about Nintendo as a whole? I don't have concrete answers, but I'm sure a little of each plays a part in the struggles of the Wii U.
Also, I'm pretty confident that developing a "New" style of Mario game has to be easier and quicker than any 3D type of Mario game, or a brand new style of Mario game, which is why Nintendo can call upon on it when needed. Now, I'm not saying this is just a cut-and-paste development cycle for this game, and not saying it was super easy and required little to no work, but overall, it has to be easier than other types of Mario games. It's important to remember that this is the very first Mario game developed in HD, for an HD system, so it wasn't just the same old "New" game rehashed for the new system. Even Nintendo came out and admitted that developing for an HD system was actually more difficult than they anticipated, which might explain why is this the style of Mario they chose to go with for launch day.
In fact, this game was originally shown off as a tech demo for the new system early on in the revealing of the Wii U, as it was dubbed New Super Mario Bros. Mii. It showcased being able to play as your Mii character running through familiar Mushroom Kingdom style levels, and didn't really show off too much of a new game as it did what the GamePad could offer and what a Mario game would look like in HD. Somewhere along the way, however, they changed up their plan and turned that tech demo into an actual game, changing the name and focus of the game as well. I'm really curious what triggered that decision - was it out of desperation to launch with a Mario game or out of frustrations from trying to develop a new Mario game for an HD system? Or were they just taking the same approach with this title as they did New Super Mario Bros. Wii, trying to bring the family together on the couch, this time with a fifth player, while still showing off how the GamePad can add different gameplay styles to games?
Whatever the process was or reasons for the decisions that were made, day one adopters of the Wii U were given the chance to take home a Mario game with their new system. And whatever troubles or problems they may have encountered along the way, the final product was refreshing and amazingly gorgeous.
It was the first game I put into my Wii U, and from the loading screen, I could immediately tell how awesome Mario looked in HD. Finally, after so many years of perfecting the look of Mario, and making him look his absolute best with the capabilities available, Mario was now officially in HD. It was about time. Every second of that game is beautiful and makes you smile, as it runs flawlessly and smooth, and just makes you feel good as a gamer.
Playing on the GamePad is something Nintendo has banked on as being a major selling point for the system, and let me tell you, it is still great to be able to play a full console game right on the GamePad while watching something else on TV, or allowing someone else to use the TV for whatever else they choose. There is no lag, no drop in frame rate and despite not having the same graphics as your TV (presumably), the games played on it don't look distorted or lesser versions at all. They look great on the GamePad, which makes using it if need be still super enjoyable.
New Super Mario Bros. U also features something new to the Mario franchise, adding a new challenge mode to the game, which gives you the chance to test your Mario platforming skills in ways you've never experienced before. There are a wide variety of challenges, and types of challenges to choose from, and the more you accomplish, the more you unlock, and essentially, the better of a player you feel like. The first couple of challenges of each group are pretty easy to nail, but the difficulty ramps up quickly, as I find myself stuck on several challenges, despite trying them over and over and over again. This adds replayability for sure, and is fun to watch other people try them as well, especially when they fail horribly and you suddenly don't feel like a worthless gamer.
The game overall is just fun, plain and simple. I understand a lot of gamers and fans felt slightly cheated with this game being the Mario launch title they got, but honestly, it was by far the best launch game for the Wii U. That's not a slight to the launch line-up at all, as there were a handful of quality Wii U games available on day one, but out of all of them, Nintendo proved once again that nobody knows how to develop for Nintendo consoles better than Nintendo themselves. Even if it was just a place holder for the game they really wanted to release or not, New Super Mario Bros. U is easily the best addition to the "New" series by a long shot.
There have always been a few mysteries in the Mushroom Kingdom and the Mario game franchise, especially the Mario platformers, that have never really been answered, much less ever challenged. These things are always just accepted for being what they are, simply part of the game, and nothing else. Other game franchises can't even change the font of the logo without wild internet speculation running wild, but within the world of Mario, fans just take everything delivered to them at face value. Even other franchises that Nintendo has, like The Legend of Zelda, can't get away with anything without people freaking out and challenging them everything, as if everything in a game needs to be fully explained or make sense, because you know, they are more than video games, I guess.
One long-standing mystery is the reason behind the point total in Mario games, as they have zero use at all, ever, but they continue to show up without explanation or reason. Another mystery, that has actually garnered some internet speculation, is why all the bad guys in Mario games seem completely content and happy until Mario comes along and jumps on them or antagonizes them in other ways? Is Mario really the bad guy in this whole scenario, and we've just been trolled this entire time by Nintendo? There might actually be something behind that notion, but that's actually not what I wanted to write about.
You see, one other Mario staple that has never been discussed are all those gold coins thrown all over the place, laying around for Mario to grab, hiding in blocks waiting to be broken open and used as rewards for jobs completed. The only real purpose of the coins has always been to reward the player with an extra life once 100 coins are gathered, and that's it. So what's the deal with those coins? Where did they come from? What use are they to Mario other than the extra life? And over the course of a game, how many coins do you think you really collect, anyway?
Well, with New Super Mario Bros. 2, the second 3DS Mario game to be released, some of those coin questions are answered. You see, aside from the normal quest to save the princess, the kingdom and the day, Mario is also on another mission, one never before seen in a Mario game before, which is exactly what makes this game unique and different than any other game in the "New" series, or the entire Mario franchise for that matter.
Coins are the focus on the game, as there is an overall counter for how many coins are collected throughout the game, keeping a running total for you to admire. While it keeps track of every coin collected, there is a lot more to it, as every level is flooded with coins, multiplying the amount of coins to pick up tenfold compared to the normal amount in any other Mario game. The fact that there are coins everywhere makes it perfectly clear what this game is all about, and it's fun to see so much gold throughout the levels, almost making you forget that there are enemies or an end goal for each level. Seeing your total amount go up after every level is a treat as well, as you can fully comprehend just what kind of coin collector you are.
There are even new power ups that are focused around giving you more coins than you could imagine. My favorite new power up is the gold fire flower, which lets you throw golden fire balls that turn whatever they touch into gold coins, like enemies and bricks. Stomping through a wall of bricks with giant Mario is always fun, but there is just something extremely more satisfying about turning a massive wall into a shower of gold coins with just a couple of thrown fireballs at it.
In the grand scheme of things, however, the coins still don't mean anything. The more coins you add to your overall total, the more coins that appear on the title screen of the game, but other than that, the idea is flushed out very well. Nintendo imposed a challenge to gamers, questioning whether you could get to a million coins, which I initially ate up like the Nintendo fanboy I am. I was pretty set on reaching that goal, until I beat the game completely backwards and forwards and realized I wasn't even half-way there. Then reports started trickling in that reaching one million coins didn't unlock anything special or change the game in any way, which was all I needed to here to convince me to move on to other games at the time.
Don't get me wrong, running through levels and collecting as many coins as possible is awesome fun, but when that turns into the only thing that you are doing, it becomes a whole lot less fun. Mario games have never been about grinding to achieve something, and I'm not about to turn a Mario game into that. Another thing that bugs me is how it completely wrecks me as a person and directly slaps my OCD tendencies in games in the face. I am a collector in games, and compulsively feel the need collect everything in games, and that goes double for coins in Mario games. I can't not collect a coin or two in a Mario level, sometimes going out of my way for every little coin, so when the entire level is filled with coins and so many of them are unattainable in the given time, it drives me crazy. It takes all the willpower I have within to play this game, and even after a while of not playing the game, I still find it hard to just ignore coins and try to grab every single one.
One other thing that Nintendo tried with this game was their first foray into DLC for Mario, in which they offered up level packs for the Coin Rush Mode for a couple of dollars a pop. I think there was even a level or two for free, just to gauge interest, because let's face it, Nintendo has never really been big on the online front. Naturally, I had to throw a few bucks Nintendo's way for these DLC packs, which turned out to be exceptionally fun and worth the pocket change, as the levels they added were challenging, fun, exciting and a nice change of pace to the traditional Mario game play for sure.
Everywhere you look in this game, you see gold, which adds such a different feel to the game, it almost doesn't seem fair to lump it in with the "New" series of Mario games, which only qualifies it for it because of the traditional 2D platforming and charming graphics. And while the self-imposed pressure to collect as many coins may not have charmed everyone as much as Nintendo would have liked, the New Super Mario Bros. series would prove to be a reliable formula for above-average Mario games.
It's no secret, or shouldn't be at this point at least, that when the Nintendo 3DS was released, Nintendo made a crucial mistake by not launching with a strong line-up of games to go along with the brand new handheld system. Actually, having a decent selection of games on launch day would have been enough to garner some interest in the 3DS, but unfortunately, Nintendo banked on the system to sell itself just on the cool, new 3D technology and other innovations added to it. The company that prides itself in being all about the first party games failed to live up to their own standards, as the day one games were bleak and uninspiring, to say the least.
Unless, of course, you're a fan of submarines.
It also didn't help that at the same time the 3DS launched, Pokemon Black and White was released for the DS, which despite being backwards compatible, didn't help convince anyone to upgrade to the new system, when their older handheld systems were capable of playing the newest game(s) of one of the most popular and world-renowned gaming franchises of all time. I would bet it all that if Nintendo could do it again, they would make Pokemon Black and White 3DS games and use them as the maybe the biggest, most popular launch titles ever. But, hindsight is 20/20, as they say.
Anyway, because of the weak launch line-up of games, the 3DS sold poorly out of the gate, and was actually being considered a failure early on, as the units just weren't moving off of store shelves. To keep rabid fans and critics at bay, they dug deep in their bag of goodies and pulled out the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D remake, seemingly out of nowhere, which kept early adopters of the system content if anything, just because they finally had a good Nintendo-published game to play. Unfortunately, the re-release of that game, despite how good it was and how great it looked on the 3D screen, didn't move the sales needle, as the system was still having a hard time selling.
So Nintendo did what it had to do. Maybe it was the plan all along, but either way, the timing was crucial for the all-out assault it was about to unleash in an effort to push systems out the door and in the hands of eager Nintendo fans. Not only did they plan a price cut of the slightly over-priced system, but they also dipped in to two of their go-to franchises, Mario Kart and Super Mario. Super Mario 3D Land led the battle charge, with Kart following less than a month later, and immediately, gamers were finally given reason to own the 3DS system for themselves.
Super Mario 3D Land took a bunch of concepts from past Mario games and mashed them together, all in hopes of showing off the new features that the 3DS had to offer to gaming. It played like the typical 2D side-scrolling Mario platformer, all the levels weren't just flat landscapes to run across, as 3D exploration of the world was essential. It wasn't quite a 2.5D type of game, but it wasn't a full 3D style of game like Galaxy or Mario 64. It was the perfect style of game for a handheld system that still beautifully showed off the benefits of the 3D effect, that critics were already calling a "gimmick." In fact, this was the very first 3DS game that I played entirely with the 3D slider bar pushed all the way up.
Another fan-favorite move in their bag of tricks was the return of the Super Leaf power-up, giving Mario the ability to throw on the Tanooki suit and use that glorious Raccoon tail to his advantage. The Tanooki suit hadn't been seen or heard from since Super Mario Bros. 3, and before it was officially announced, it was merely a simple raccoon tail added to the logo first shown. Of course, Mario fans everywhere rejoiced, as the Super Leaf was always regarded highly by fans. Over the years, they gave Mario lots of other power-ups that allowed him to fly, float and attack enemies from close range, but never did they revisit the Super Leaf - until this game. And I tell you what, it was a pleasure to have it back.
The game itself feels short at first, but after "beating" it, you realize just how much of the game there is to play, which was a nice swerve by the developers. I remember when I first played it, I say there thinking, "After all of this, that's it?", and then was pleasantly surprised by what transpired after that.
It also showed off the 3DS system in all it's glory, which is what finally helped sell the system itself, utilizing the 3D effects beautifully, while also using the gyroscope efficiently, and taking advantage of the StreetPass function in a fun way that only a Mario game could get away with.
Overall, this game was exactly what the 3DS needed when it was released, and has since go on to be the best selling game on the system. Currently, the 3DS is selling gangbusters and has proven to be the epitome of a success story for a gaming console, especially considering it's rough start. It was the perfect mash-up of Mario styles, and would eventually pave the way for a brand new type of Mario game to become a staple of the franchise. But before Nintendo would revisit the 2D/3D style that helped save the 3DS, they would finally do something many fans had been wondering forever, but never got any answers to. They would finally let Mario strive for something more than just rescuing the princess and defeating Bowser.
As I wrote before, Nintendo surprised everyone with New Super Mario Bros. Wii when they released it on the heels of Mario Galaxy, if only because everyone at that point was expecting Nintendo to 1-up themselves and expand on the Galaxy series they established, or at least continue with the 3D style of their next Mario game. But, as I so eloquently pointed out, Nintendo isn't one to cave to pressure, and continues to do things their way, whichever way they feel is best.
I really do think that they were super happy with NSMBW and how it turned out, specifically how it finally encouraged players of all ages and skill levels to sit around on the couch and play a Mario game together, cooperatively, sharing the same gaming experience at once. Despite what they personally thought about the game, however, Nintendo decided to keep true to their philosophy about keeping things fresh and new, and decided not to make another game like NSMBW, instead, going back to their newest bread and butter for the Mario franchise.
That's right, they took Mario back to outer space for another adventure within the cosmos, with a sequel to the best reviewed Mario game ever, simply titles Super Mario Galaxy 2. With the release of this game, Nintendo actually pulled back the curtain on the development cycle of this game, admitting that it was first being designed as an add-on or expansion type of game to the original Galaxy, tentatively to be titled "More Super Mario Galaxy." But apparently, once the development team got rolling on the title, they were inundated and flooded with dozens of new ideas for the game, everything from new levels, to gameplay mechanics, bosses and even power ups. It was then decided to make what they were creating into a full-fledged game and an outright sequel to the original game, which pushed development back another year and a half or so.
Usually, this kind of decision can mean bad news for the title. First of all, when a title is delayed over a year or so, people freak out and usually sour on the title by the time it is released. With Nintendo being so tight-lipped about their development of games, however, nobody knew it was delayed as it was only ever shown off and previewed as Galaxy 2. Personally, I wish more companies would take this approach, as it would eliminate over-hyping a game and just allowing it to organically build momentum, and would actually prevent development teams from rushing their work and stop publishers from pushing out unfinished products for the sake of meeting deadlines. Think about it: how often does Nintendo ship out broken or buggy games that need countless patches after release? Hardly ever, as the only example I can think of is the crazy game breaking bug in Zelda: Skyward Sword, that was promptly fixed when noticed. Other than that, when Nintendo games are released, they are finished products. Crazy notion, right?
Secondly, when studios try to create more from something small, it can get sketchy real quick. If a development team is told to take what is essentially DLC for an existing game and turn it into a full retail game, you better believe that game will be overflowing with filler content, and usually ends up feeling like a rip-off when looking at the what you get in the game compared to the price tag. For Nintendo to do this, they would have had to be absolutely certain they could transform all of their new ideas into a full game, or they wouldn't have ever pulled the trigger. Despite Nintendo liking money and doing what they can to make it, they always strive to deliver what they feel is an acceptable product for what they expect customers to pay for.
So how did they do with Super Mario Galaxy 2? Well, they completely outdid themselves, creating yet another game that proudly sits near the very top of the all-time best highest review scores list on Metacritic. Not only that, but personally, playing Galaxy 2 doesn't ever feel like an expansion or DLC, but feels like a brand new game. Actually, it doesn't even feel like a full sequel to Galaxy, as there are so many new and different things in the game, it could have a completely title and not feel weird or out of place at all. Sure, it is in space like the original, but the game is so good, it deserves to had a stand-alone name, not be in the shadows of the first game.
The biggest difference between this game and the first is the inclusion of Yoshi. Finally, after all these years, Yoshi is back in full form. He doesn't just feel like a power-up as he did in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but rather an additional character, or partner if you will, to Mario on his adventure. He isn't in every level, and doesn't act like a companion character, but when you get him, especially his different versions, it adds a new and exciting wrinkle to the gameplay mechanics that couldn't be possible without the lovable dinosaur friend.
Galaxy 2 also added an increased difficulty to the game, especially when playing additional and bonus levels, or going after those pesky green stars. While the difficulty could be nauseating and frustrating to some, I absolutely love replaying levels of this game over and over again in hopes of finally succeeding. In fact, I went back and attempted the hardest level possibly ever created for a Mario game, which I could never beat before. Well, after a few years of not touching it, I am proud to announce that ... I stilli can't beat the level, despite my best efforts and many lives spent. Oh well, maybe in a couple more years I'll give it a shot once again.
Another thing I want to point out, which I honestly had forgotten about until playing it again, was how amazing the musical score for this game is. The first Galaxy game had fantastic music too, but in this game, there are points where you just want to put the controller down and listen to the music, letting the sound and environment sweep over your senses. What makes it so good, you ask? Well, it's entirely composed by a symphony orchestra, and the entire soundtrack was available in a 2-disc set over in Japan. Yeah, it's that good.
Overall, not once did I ever feel like Galaxy 2 feel short of expectations or failed to live up to the first game in the "series." While a Galaxy 1.5 would have been great, I am so very thankful that Nintendo had the wherewithal and confidence in the development team to allow them to put out a full game, even though it meant a delay in release. And just like the first Galaxy game, this was a statement game for Nintendo, as they clearly set out to prove just how awesome games could look in the console everyone else thought was under-powered and lacking in technical specs.
By the time Super Mario Galaxy 2 was released, there were Wii's in pretty much every living room across America. They didn't use Galaxy 2 to help sell systems, but rather just show off what a development team could do if given the proper time and confidence. It was actually pretty rare for Nintendo to not use Mario to help sell a system, but true to tradition, they wouldn't make it a habit of repeating themselves going forward.
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