The first four Super Mario platforming titles followed pretty much the same formula, as far as gameplay and how you advanced through the game. For one, they were all 2D side-scrolling games, moving from left to right in every stage, all on the same dimensional plane, despite there being some interaction with the backgrounds and landscapes that Mario ran past. Also, every game was linear, meaning the game itself carried you along the path to your next destination.
Sure, with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World there was a world map overlay that acted as hub, and you controlled Mario along the path yourself, even with the option of taking alternate routes or finding secrets and shortcuts along the way. While this gave the player some choice and control over picking one level or another, you always had to go in relatively the same linear path already established in order to get to end game. There wasn't hub world exploration or a free-roam mode, just a map you could move your marker along how you saw fit.
When Super Mario 64 came out, however, it took all that conventional wisdom and threw it out the window. With the higher graphical power of the newest Nintendo console, the Nintendo 64, the Mario development team decided that the only true way to show off Mario on the new system, and help him reclaim his throne on top of the gaming kingdom, was to present Mario in ways that fans had never seen or experience before from this franchise.
For starters, the game was a 3D game with a camera that rotated 360 degrees, allowing the player to move and control Mario in any and all directions they wanted to go. Not only that, however, but they did away with the linear map progression hub, instead implementing open-world style kingdom to explore at your will, with pictures acting as the different levels you would travel to in your adventure. All you would have to do is jump into a painting and be transported to that level. As long as you had enough stars banked to get to that area, you were free to go to whichever levels you wanted to at your own leisure.
Speaking of stars, the actual in-game gameplay was drastically, and radically to be honest, changed up for this brand new Mario adventure. The standard time limit was removed, as was the ever so pointless points tracker. The flagpoles being the final destination of the level was dropped as well, as challenges and puzzles were added to be what the player was after in order to complete the level. Each challenge resulted in grabbing a star to add to your collection. Because of this, each level warranted several playthroughs each, with some levels changing depending on which star you were going after, or dropping you into a previously unknown part of the level.
The star challenges themselves were revolutionary, as you would go from climbing to the top of a mountain for one, to hunting down a star attached to a giant eel under water in another, and everything in between, like racing a penguin in a downhill sliding race or chasing a rabbit around until you caught it for another. Every challenge felt different and unique, and some were just so hard, it was nice being able to go to a different challenge or even a different level if you needed a break from a tough one and coming back to it a later time.
Power-ups were re-imagined also, making them brought on by finding different caps, like one with wings to fly, or a metal one to sink in water and also be protected from fire. It was a nice touch, and even more shocking when Mario would lose his hat, as seeing such an iconic character stripped of something so recognizable, made you look at him in a different way.
Going back and playing this game again, I had to be careful, because it is one of those games that when I start, I don't want to stop. I have Super Mario 64 to thank for my obsessive collector habit, I think, as getting the bare minimum of stars just was never enough. I felt like I was cheating myself out of a portion of the game if I didn't go after all 120 stars, and even now days, despite beating that game a countless number of times, I can't help but get a little anxious knowing I didn't do everything I could in the game.
Man, I need a vacation. I wonder if Mario has ever said that, after all his Princess saving and Bowser stomping?
Well, it's finally here.The stretch run of this blog to the finish line. One full year of playing a new game every day, a different game each day, and then writing about my experience with each game. I have tried over the past year to branch out and write about wide range and broad spectrum of games, because while the dedication and commitment to this blog project has been for myself, the journey and the content I have provided the entire way has always been for you, the readers.
Because of my dedication to provide interesting and non-repetitive content on a daily basis, I have done my very best to not just play and write about games that I like, or my favorites. This has meant I have held back on flooding this blog with Mario games, because while the Super Mario franchise might be my all time favorite of all things video game related, I know they aren't for everyone. Sure, I have sprinkled in Mario games throughout the year, but never more extensively than needed.
But that's all about to change. For the final 12 days of this blog project, I am going to do what I want to do, for me and my own sanity. I am going to present to you, the readers, the gift of Mario for 12 straight days. If you're sitting there grumbling to yourself about this notion, allow me to point out that at one point a few months ago, I was actually considering making the entire month of December a month long celebration of Mario. Unfortunately (but maybe thankfully for you), my favorite pizza guy, Bill aka @Slaterific, talked me out of my Mario insanity, and so, I made some adjustments to the plan.
Given there were plenty of Mario games to fill an entire month, I still felt like Mario should be given his just due. So a few months back, I did a Week Of Mario spin-off titles, to get them out of the way, because I felt Mario did deserve the respect to have his various, multiple spin-off titles recognized for their not only success, but quality as well. And with them out of the way, this paved the path to allow me to spend the final 12 days of My Year of Gaming playing and writing about the Super Mario platformers, and all their glory.
With that, let's start out with the only Mario platformer to grace the Super Nintendo platformer, which easily helped sell the system right off the bat as an included game with the system at launch, and truly showed off how expansive and unique a Mario game could be. It also introduced the lovable green dinosaur, Yoshi, as a companion to Mario, while bringing the entire franchise many new ideas and mechanics that are still found in Mario games today.
Of course I'm talking about Super Mario World, which is still regarded as the favorite Mario game for many people after all these years. Quite a remarkable feat for 16-bit platformer, I should point out.
I remember getting this game when I first got my Super Nintendo system, which was about year or so after it first came out. My cousin first had, so I was familiar with it, so the by the time I got it, I knew what it was all about. Regardless of when I got it, though, I still played Super Mario World like it was my first time. As much as I loved Super Mario Bros. 3, which was and still is one of my favorite games of all time, Super Mario World took my imagination, and Mario himself, into places I didn't know existed.
The established set pieces for the franchise were already well in place, but Super Mario World took the blueprints and made them its own. They created an entirely new map, and essentially a new world called Dinosaur Land, they added new enemies to stomp and lands to explore, new power-ups like the cape feather, and a new companion, Yoshi.
Using the cape feather is trickier than I remember, but once you get the hang of it, it can be quite useful. Regardless of how useful it is, though, I still can't say I'm fond of it. On one hand, it's almost game breaking, as you could essentially fly unharmed through an entire level. On the other hand, it's tricky and cumbersome to use, and while the noise it makes is iconic, I find it quite annoying after a while. Sure, I used the feather when necessary, but only because I had to, not because I wanted to.
Yoshi, however, is a blast to use. Running around and gobbling up both enemies and fruits hanging in the bushes in the background is as enjoyable as you might think, and while he is extremely useful in-game, I really enjoy the challenge of trying to keep him with me, as once hit, you fall off and it takes off running in the opposite direction. Half the time you're doing everything you can to avoid being hit, and the rest of the time is spent chasing the errant-running green dinosaur.
Overall, this game is an absolute classic, and firmly put Mario on top of the mountain for the video game industry. Unfortunately, his reign would be short lived as he would be knocked off his perch for a moment or two in time, thanks in part to not having a true game of his own on a home consoles for several years. Fortunately, however, his next game would revolutionize the entire industry.
I used to have so much respect for the Angry Bird franchise. I really and truly did. I'm pretty sure I made that fairly clear in my official, unofficial week of Angry Birds that I did a couple of months ago. That franchise has offered so much to gamers over the years, and for a mere seven dollars, I was able to fulfill an entire week of games, and more importantly, got countless hours of time-wasting, mind-numbing game play out of that seven bucks since the very first Angry Birds game I downloaded.
I've been a pretty vocal supporter of them as well, recommending it to anyone who would listen at one point, touting all the free updates that included free levels upon free levels as proof that the dollar spent on each game was well worth it, and went far beyond the initial purchase price of the game.
Unfortunately, I think the Angry Birds franchise has finally jumped the shark, as it seems far more important to them to make money than to continue it's reputation of rewarding their fans and supporters with not just good games, but making them feel like their money was well spent. Maybe this transition for them happened a while ago and I was just too jaded or naive to notice, but thanks to the newly released Angry Birds Go! game, their current state of business is crystal clear.
A while ago I wrote about Plants vs. Zombies 2, and how PopCap did micro-transactions as well as could possibly be. They allowed you to play and complete the entire game for free, as all it took was some grinding and skill to acquire and unlock everything needed in the game to fully finish it. Of course, the option was always there to throw some real-life currency at the game to make it easier or shorter of a game if you so choose, but it was never forced. There was never a pay wall completely blocking your path, and there was never timed cool-down periods where you simply couldn't play without waiting a designated amount of time, unless you wanted to pay for your impatience. It was a totally free, 100% complete game, and I hoped at the time that all future big-name micro-transaction games would follow suit in how they did business.
Angry Birds Go! is a karting game set in the Angry Birds universe, featuring all your favorite characters from the series (both birds and pigs) as kart racers. There are a few different race modes, different tracks and customizable karts, which is all pretty much exactly what you want from a karting game. The controls are nice and tight, as you can choose between touch-based or tilt controls. For my iPad, tilt controls work great for me, which was surprising because of the usual lag tendencies with those controls. The game is great looking too, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has played any of the other Angry Birds games.
So why did I have a problem with, you ask? The micro-transactions, obviously.
The game starts out okay, but quickly starts hitting you with micro-transaction options. It stalls pretty quickly, as you have to decide whether or not to give the developers money just to shut them up and let you play the game. There is a cool-down period, where you literally cannot play without spending cash or hard-earned crystals you collected in the game, which if you go that route, means you are going to be replaying the same levels over and over again to grind for the crystals.
Simply put, the game is pretty much unplayable, enjoyable and frustrating if you don't spend money on it, in which case, you probably won't be feeling very good about the game anyway at that point. The thing is, the game does so many different things right as a karting game and an addition to the Angry Birds franchise, I would have gladly spent a dollar or two to straight up buy this game as a whole package and never have to even consider micro-transactions as part of the experience. But instead, they decided they could make a lot more money with this method and way of business, and that's disappointing.
I guess I expected more from them as a company. Or maybe I took for granted all they did for the years leading up to this game. Either way, I'm sad as an Angry Birds fan, but I'm also relieved that I don't have to waste much more time with their games.
I couldn't get away with sitting here and claiming to know that I was going to play and write about this game ahead of time, as if I had it planned out all along, especially considering the recent Nintendo-filled blogs and opinions I've had. While its a fantastic coincidence, it is just that, since no one at all knew about this game until the day it was released, which was the day it was announced as well. Again, Nintendo is full of surprises constantly, and they never cease to amaze me, as evidence by this bomb they dropped on an unannounced Nintendo Direct.
Unlike Sony and Microsoft, who rely heavily on hype and build up and anticipation of games and announcements and such, Nintendo has taken a different approach since the release of the Wii U, really, where they quietly put out pre-recorded Nintendo Direct videos early in the morning for us folks here on the West Coast. In these videos, they release new information about upcoming games, show new trailers and screen shots about future titles, and even, like with this last one, announce brand new games.
Not only did they announce a Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mash-up game coming out next year, tentatively titled Hyrule Warriors, but they also announced Dr. Luigi, which is strikingly similar to Dr. Mario, only with that Year of Luigi swagger we've experienced all year. On top of those announcements, however, was the big reveal of NES Remix, a downloadable title from the eShop for the Wii U, which features hundreds of levels from 16 different classic NES games, The game revolves around getting three stars each level (Angry Birds style) for completing the small and quick challenges on both original levels and remixed versions of the levels you know and love - and probably know backwards and forwards, to be honest.
The best thing about this announcement for a game no one had even heard of was at the moment they did announce it, they simultaneously made the game available to download from the eShop right to your Wii U. Boom, just like that. Hype and instant product within seconds. Because that's how Nintendo rolls.
Like I was describing before, this game is just a mash-up of different challenges set in place from 16 different NES classic titles. The more stars you collect (three per level is possible), the more challenges and different games you can unlock. Aside from the three stars, you can always get three rainbow stars, which indicates a perfect or flawless run for whatever challenge it is. Naturally, the first time I got the rainbow stars, I was hooked and now I don't want to settle for anything less than rainbow stars for each level.
Another cool thing Nintendo seems to be trying out are the stamps, which first really were shown off in Super Mario 3D World, where all the stamps you collect you basically have tied to your account forever, allowing you to use the stamps in any and all Miiverse messages. In NES Remix, you unlock stamps as well as you progress through the game, all of which are 8-bit sprites and looking fantastic, in my humble opinion.
Playing all the classic levels with specific, quick challenges is a lot of fun, and reminds me of a WarioWare game, only with familiar games and franchises pulled from. The Remixed levels, however, are total recreations of the traditional levels and games, built from the ground up and looking better than ever. Each one has a different kind of twist that makes it unique, and it makes you see and play the level in a way you never thought possible.
This game is like a hands-on museum for Nintendo's historic early franchises, and I'm excited to see where this might lead to. Will we see SNES Remix and N64 Remix games eventually? Because let's be real here - no matter how cool and fun this game is, the possibilities are endless and even more exciting than this first step.
Even if plans like that are in the pipeline, however, we'll never know about it. Until, you know, the morning of, of course.
Over this year-long project to play a different game every day and write about it, I have played a wide variety of games. I have played most of my favorites, played old and new games, and even ventured in to some genres I didn't care for to start or just didn't know much about. I've played games I never knew existed, games I never would have pictured myself playing or liking for that matter, and games I had in the back of my mind all along, that I wanted to write about for one reason or another. I've played good games and bad games, games that could hardly be considered games and games I don't even remember playing, if I were to go back and look through all my posts.
Most importantly, I have played the biggest and broadest variety of games possible for me, to give you all, the readers, something new and different each day, each week, each month. I always tried to avoid getting stuck in repeating and uninteresting patterns, and always did my best to keep it fresh and exciting, from day one up until now.
And because of that, I want to throw yet another curve ball your way, with a game that very few people remember even hearing about, and even less actually played. In fact, I would be shocked and surprised to find anyone who has played this game, and I challenge you to write in and let me know if you played it, because honestly, I feel all alone on this one. I have since I bought it, and because of that, I want to share a hidden gem with you.
Endless Ocean: Blue World is a sequel to the original Endless Ocean game, both of which graced the Wii console as Nintendo-published games. If you aren't familiar with the series at all, which I totally anticipate, the game features you as a diver as you explore the waters and marine life. In this game, there is a legit story that progresses you through the game, taking you to diving spots all over the world, even including arctic waters and a fresh water river. While diving, you just swim around and check out the underwater environments, interacting and photographing all the sea creatures you come across.
Of course the collector in me made sure I found and documented every kind of fish and creature, even the "legendary" ones that usually require you to fulfill some act or objective in order to bring them out. There's an aquarium where you are given the power to pick whatever type of sea creatures you want to fill the tanks, and you can only select from the ones you encountered, giving you more incentive to find them all.
In this game, unlike the first one, there are predators that actually pose a threat to you as playable character, like sharks, crocodiles and electric eels, to name a few. This was a nice addition to the game, as it gave it more of a gaming vibe, as the first one literally had not threats to speak of, thus making it feel like a diving simulator as opposed to a "real" game.
For a Wii game, it is gorgeous. The textures and graphics of creatures up close and personal might not be groundbreaking, but the distant views and vast areas to explore and enjoy really are the crowing achievement for this game. For me, falling in love with this series was a piece of cake, as the ocean and animals are my favorite thing in the world. The thought of studying marine biology intrigues me to this day, and I can't always help but wonder what else is out there to explore and discover. We spend so much money as a country on exploring space when we know just as much, if that, about our deepest oceans. They are full of things to discover for the full time, and while I'm not putting on a wet suit any time soon, this is a nice alternative.
Now if I can just get a follow up to this game on the Wii U, with the use of the GamePad, and I would be one happy camper.
It's easy for people to bash on Nintendo these days, laugh at their failures and point out all of their shortcomings as a gaming console hardware company, especially in wake of the Wii U under-performing. While the Wii U does many things right, and has even proven that a second screen on a home console can not only be effective, but in some circumstances necessary, people still don't think Nintendo is viable as a hardware developer any longer.
Well, Sony doesn't seem shy to admit that Nintendo is doing things right, especially with the second screen function of the Wii U. Thanks to the remote-play function of the PS Vita with the PS4, gamers can play whatever games they have downloaded or loaded into their console on their Vita, as it pretty much flawlessly streams right to the Vita screen. This function allows for the television to be used for someone else (watching TV, another game consoles, whatever) while the PS4 player gets the full experience of the console shrunk down to the Vita, without lag or downgraded graphics.
This function, which everyone raved about since the PS4 launch, is exactly what the Wii U offers with the GamePad that is included with the console. Instead of having to buy a Vita separately, it's already built in to the console that everyone loves to hate.
While Sony has taken inspiration from Nintendo and ran with it, there is one particular thing Sony is doing that Nintendo could take some lessons from. Sony introduced the Cross-Buy option for gamers that allowed them to buy a PS3 version of a game and get the Vita version for free. I might be wrong, but I think the first game they did it with was Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, and since then, has adopted it for many of their games. Granted, most games that use it are smaller, PSN titles, but that's only because full versions of PS3 games for the Vita that are exactly the same are hard to come by.
So with these PSN titles, all you have to do is buy one version and get the other one for free, at no additional cost at all. Also, most of the Cross-Buy games also feature Cross-Saves, allowing you to upload your save file to the cloud and access it on whatever platform you choose, at any time. Also, most tiles feature a unified trophy list, but there have been instances of separate trophy lists, allowing you to double up on trophies easily, with one sync of a save file. Thank you, Sound Shapes.
With the release of the PS4, Sony's Cross-Buy program didn't get swept under the rug, but instead upgraded and expanded. Right off the bat, former PSN favorites began showing up on the PS4, which were free if you owned them on a previous console (PS3 and/or Vita). And now, with Doki-Doki Universe, games are seeing the Cross-Buy program spread over three different consoles all at once. Buy this games for any console of your choosing, and get it for free for the other two. Simple as that. It's brilliant, and if Nintendo ever decided to adopt a similar program with the Wii U and the 3DS, imagine the possibilities.
Of course, I can only imagine that Sony started up this program as a way to entice consumers to buy a Vita, as they have struggled to sell themselves. So by making gamers feel like there was a legit reason to own one and that there were tons of perks that came with ownership, they hoped to sell a bunch more. Nintendo is really in the same boat with the 3DS, but I wonder if the Wii U couldn't get a shot in the proverbial arm if it was possible to stream 3DS games onto it. Nintendo is moving closer to it being a possibility, now that they are taking the steps needed to completely unify your 3DS and Wii U accounts, so who knows what could happen in the near future.
Anyway, this game Doki-Doki Universe is pretty rad. Rad? Can I use the word still without making me sound like I'm a child of the late 80's/ early 90's, even though I am? Oh well, either way, I used it. Take it or leave it.
If you have played any of the Scribblenauts games, this game will feel quite familiar. Instead of the complete freedom to come up with any object you can name, all the objects you will need are already in the game, spread out over the worlds you explore, waiting for you to find and collect. Yes, it takes the creative freedom out of the game, which made Scribblenauts so charming, but with Doki-Doki Universe, it doesn't feel like it's missing anything. It feels just as adorable and charming, just in a different way.
It's pretty much impossible not to fall in love with the characters, as they all ooze so much personality and pizzazz. The art style is simple, but somehow it pops extremely impressively. It's crisp and clear and looks amazing, especially considering the style used. The story telling and humor are on-point as well, making the overall package pretty enjoyable. Sure, the game is simple and it's not the type of game for everyone, but if you're looking for a nice, relaxing and borderline cheesy game to make you smile and feel like a kid again, you can't go wrong with Doki-Doki Universe.
Especially if you want three copies of it for the price of one.
Well, after a week of nothing but Sonic games, it's nice to actually get to write about other games for a chance, especially since this year is winding down and there are a few newer games that I want to sneak in before my project is complete. Did you notice that I said that I'm excited to write about different games, and didn't say play different games? Well that's because all throughout the week, I was actually playing a different game as well, but you know, I just couldn't write about it in order to keep the week of Sonic alive and well.
Throughout this year of gaming I've partaken in, my kids have been instrumental in helping me along the way. Granted, they didn't always know they were helping me directly with the blog itself, but they have been along with me all the way, from the first day and beyond. Sometimes they were just innocent bystanders while watching me play whatever it is I was playing. Other times, they inspired me to do an entire week of a series and rode out every minute of it with me. They have played games, suggested games and broke in new systems.with me. Sure, they haven't been around for every game or been apart of every blog post, but I can't help but give all three of them a significant amount of credit for keeping me dedicated and reminding me constantly how special video games were to me as a kid, and how much they still impact children's lives today.
The reason I brought this up is because with my daughter over at my apartment this weekend, in the midst of everything else, we played a bunch of Peggle 2, the newest downloadable title for the Xbox One. And when I say "we played a bunch," I totally mean that she played a bunch of Peggle 2 while I watched on, helping out when necessary. Surprisingly, however, it turns out my little five year old daughter is a rock star when it comes to Peggle 2, unbeknownst to me until this weekend.
She did awesome, plain and simple. I explained to her which buttons to push (simple controls are ideal for small people), and outlined the principle of the game, and she was set. Go for the red pegs, only go for the blue pegs if you have enough extra balls to do so or you need to clear a path to a red one, the purple pegs give you extra points and the green ones give you special abilities for a turn or two. Not only did she understand the concept, but she applied them perfectly. She ran through level after level, mostly without much trouble, unlocking new levels along the way for me.
Granted, she did get stuck on a couple of different levels, where I had to help her out with them, but for the most part, she cleared probably 25 levels or so on her own over the weekend. It was a fun and proud moment to see her just ripping through them, one after another. The best part was watching her face every time she beat a level, as it lit up with joy and excitement, genuinely proud of herself and her accomplishment.
For the record, her favorite character is the troll, mainly because of the giant boulder special attack it has, but also for the goat's head that explodes after beating each level. Yeah, she's my daughter alright.
In this week of Sonic, I have embarked on quite the journey with the most iconic character that Sega has ever developed, and one of the most recognizable and lovable video game characters to ever grace video games. Sonic went head-to-head with arguably the king of all video game mascots, Mario, for years and even held dominance in sales over the portly plumber at one time. Sonic is an icon, a legend and a hall of famer. He has had quite the turbulent past, a roller coasted of ups and downs - the good, the bad and the ugly.
Ultimately, Sonic has had quite the existence, as his games have ranged from exciting and thrilling, to mundane and flat out boring. He's been a system seller at one point in his career, and a mere add-on character to another company's mascot mash-up game.
Regardless of his significance in the current landscape of gaming, or whether or not he is still a major player in the game, Sonic the Hedgehog will always be important to not only games, but gamers as well. And as proof of that, I had to play the newest Sonic game, which calls back the traditional Sonic speed but incorporates a very familiar style of gameplay.
Upon first look, the speed in which the game plays immediately takes you back to classic Sonic the Hedgehog titles. Sure, it's a lot better looking of a game than those old 2D platformers, but still, it feels like a Sonic game. And if there is one important aspect about a Sonic game that needs to be spot-on, it is the feel of the game. Now don't get me wrong, it's not perfect when it comes to how it is handled or how it feels while being played, but it's close enough to not remove you from the experience.
While his speed is prevalent in the game, you can also choose to slow down to a walking pace and explore the terrain at your own leisure, which isn't exactly Sonic-esque, but it allows you to explore the worlds freely without the constant demand of precise timing while traveling at excessive speeds. Needless to say, it makes the game more approachable for gamers who may not like the extreme speed of Sonic in his natural state, who feel like slowing down enough to smell the roses is just as good as flying by those same rose bushes at the speed of sound. You know, supersonic speed.
(Thankfully, this will be the last post with bad Sonic puns. You all can thank me later.)
In regards to the level design and overall gaming experience, well, this Sonic game is extremely familiar. Not familiar in the sense that I've played this kind of Sonic game before, but rather played this type of game before ... as Mario. In short, this game is a either a blatant knock-off or a respectful tribute to two of the most amazing and groundbreaking Mario games ever made, Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, Because Sonic Lost World is exclusive to Nintendo systems (Wii U and the 3DS), I'm going to go with my hunch and guess that Nintendo didn't see the game as a rip-off, but simply Sega just wanting to acknowledge that the Galaxy games are special pieces of gaming history. If Sega was able to capture even a small amount of the magic that the Galaxy titles had, they would be on the right track to finally developing a new, refreshing type of Sonic game.
Well, after playing it, I have to say that they did capture some of the magic. The levels were fun and innovative at times, and when travelling at normal Sonic speed, they can be incredibly challenging. And while the overall aspect of the game is worth playing, to be honest, all it really made me want to do was play Super Mario Galaxy. Truth is, that's all I have really gotten from this week. The more I play as Sonic, the more I just want to go back and play as Mario.
I guess that this week has been inevitable my entire life. And so was the outcome.
A reoccurring theme for this blog over the last year has been my disdain for racing games. Okay, so it hasn't been the only theme this year, not even close, but it's been one that I have tried to avoid as much as possible yet it still keeps popping back up at unexpected times. Trust me, going in to this year, I would have never expected a racing game to make an appearance in the final few weeks of this blog project, much less a Sonic racing game. But hey, that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes, right?
Despite my total and utter lack of interest in racing games, there is and always has been one type of racing game that I don't just tolerate, but actually enjoy thoroughly. Kart racing games are the cat's meow, as far as I am concerned, and more specifically, Mario Kart games. I have wrote about a couple of them, and I think they are always fun, from the very first one back on the Super Nintendo and every one after that.
So when people I knew started talking about how this Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed game was something awesome and a lot of fun, I was skeptical at best. I couldn't tell if all the admiration for this game was because of the Sega characters in it, or the fact that it wasn't a Mario or Nintendo game. You know, some people actually do despise everything Nintendo related, as crazy as that sounds. There was an outside chance that this game was actually a good game, not because of who or what was or wasn't a part of it, but because they actually created something really cool and a worthwhile comparison to the long standing king of the karting mountain.
Because of all the hype around me focused on this title, I had to finally give it a chance. I couldn't say I expected much going in to it, but I really wanted to see if any other company could put together a collection of its mascots into one quality game, a la pretty much every collection of characters game that Nintendo puts out. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Knowing there were alternative vehicles in this racing game, my first thought went to Diddy Kong's Racing, which was okay, but nothing to write home about. What I didn't think would happen would be how seamlessly you transition between vehicles in a race, as it never felt like a gimmick or just a way to make this racing gamer different, but actually added a nice balance to each race, as well as a lot more strategy. Drifting a big part of this game, like most racers, and although I usually suck at drifting, this one seemed to go fairly well for me. Not sure exactly why, but it all flowed pretty well, and to be honest, I actually found myself enjoying what I was playing, which is a bonus for this blog.
Here's the thing, though. While I know most of the characters that are in the game, I don't have many long-standing connections with them. I've played or know of all the games they come from, for the most part, but I don't have deep-seeded memories of them from my childhood, like I would with a Mario Kart game. I just simply love the Nintendo characters, and while Sega did its best to represent the company with the characters they have to draw from, all it did was make me more excited to play the upcoming Mario Kart game for the Nintendo Wii U.
So I liked the game, which was a surprise. And it's a good place holder for the time being, but in all reality, it's just not a Nintendo game. No fault to them, and I applaud them for making me enjoy what I played. But unless you are a long-standing Sega fan, or a racing game fan in general, I can't say it's the best one out there.
I hate continuously comparing Sonic to Mario, but needless to say, that's what this week is all about. Both iconic characters have helped the game industry grow substantially over the years, and before Sega began releasing Sonic games on Nintendo platforms, the two represented not only mascots, but the faces of two competing companies. Now days, Mario is representation for growth and development, longevity and sustainability, while Sonic is merely the epitome of days gone by and all things that were once great and had their time in the sun, but just couldn't do enough to maintain relevance in the quickly growing and transforming landscape of video games.
Over the many, many years of existence, Mario games have constantly evolved and branched out to different genres in order to reach out to different audiences. What once started as side-scrolling platformers, grew to be so much more, usually with great success. The thing with Mario is that as a video game character, all of his powers and abilities come from different power-ups throughout the worlds he is placed in. Because of this, when he is put into different kinds of games and game genres than the standards that most gamers are used to seeing, it still works as a game and is as believable as anything else. More importantly, the games are still fun and enjoyable to play.
With Sonic, however, it's a much different situation. Yes, there is a tried and true formula on how to make a legit and worthwhile Sonic game, and while that has always been Sega's bread and butter for the franchise, it's not like they haven't tried to branch out and try something new. In fact, they deviated from the formula for years as a way to reintroduce Sonic to new generations of gamers, but unfortunately, they always seemed to miss the mark when it came to producing a well-done yet different Sonic games. The problem that Sonic has is that his moves and abilities and overall gameplay mechanics are all pre-existing in the character, as he doesn't rely on PEDs for what makes him Sonic. Because of this, when the core gameplay of whatever game Sonic is in changes, his charm and mystique as a memorable, lovable character disappears.
I got Sonic Unleashed for my kids several years ago, and while neither one of the boys really knew who Sonic was or had any context for his games, franchise or iconic status in the industry, I didn't get it in anticipation of of this game being what would teach them all about Sonic the Hedgehog and the epic rivalry he had with Mario back in the day. To be frank, the fact that this was a different type of Sonic game, one with a twist, is the reason I personally was interested in it and why I thought my kids would enjoy it, because in all honesty, the old and trusted Sonic gameplay doesn't reach new-age gamers.
So in this game, Sonic transforms into a Werehog at night, which drastically changes the gameplay. It goes from hyperactive sonic-speed runs through the daytime vistas (sorry for the pun), to slow and methodical platforming combat. Clearly, that is not the Sonic we all know and love, but oddly enough, I hoped it would be enough to be more than just intriguing. It wasn't until I played it again for this blog that I remember all the things that just didn't work for me.
Sure, the "classic" Sonic speed running was nice and enjoyable, even if they weren't the traditional 2D style. The game looks beautiful at times, which is refreshing for a Sonic game. While I will always favor the traditional Sonic levels, stepping outside of the box - as long as it looks this good - is suitable. That's about where the praise stops for me, however. The whole Werehog mechanic seems fine at first, but it becomes more cumbersome and flat out boring as you go. It never feels like it adds to the game, but instead takes away from the pacing and flow of the game.
Speaking of which, the stupid hubworlds that you visit and have to explore so you can talk to people and advance the game and storyline? Talk about completely taking you out of the game and forcing you to slow down. Playing a Sonic game in a slow and methodical way is not a Sonic game I want to play. Even the exciting daytime levels can't make up for everything else, which is a shame because they had something with those.
It's almost like they wanted to make a different kind of Sonic game, but were afraid of changing up the formula too much, so they only did it half way. Leaving in parts of what made classic Sonic so great into this game just made me want those classic games more, and never forced me to look at the new Sonic as something I could like.
Change is good, as long as you commit to it. If you don't, how do you expect me to?
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
FEEL FREE TO FRIEND ME!
Games played for project : 365