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.
Over this past year on this blog, I have written a lot about Zelda. In fact, I had an entire week dedicated to the franchise, along with a couple of other games that didn't fall into the Zelda week. I've always thought extremely highly of the series, and I did my very best to fully express that during the course of My Year of Gaming. Well, since December is upon us and the final stretch of the marathon has turned into a sprint to the finish line, I want to give The Legend of Zelda one last hoorah before my final send off.
And what a fitting game to write about than this game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. I wrote about the newly released Wind Waker HD game, and while that is an astonishingly beautiful game, it was also a great game many years ago with a new, fresh coat of polish on it.. Skyward Sword, which came out a couple of years ago, was the freshest take on the series in a long time, and while that game had some amazing charm, it was pretty true to the classic format fans were already familiar with. Not that it was a bad thing, because as they say, why fix what ins't broke?
Well, sometimes you have to revisit the past in order to realize that you can always improve on something, even if it isn't broke inthe first place.
As I wrote about before, during my week of Zelda, A Link to the Past is my all-time favorite Zelda game, hands down. In fact, it is one of my favorite games of all the games ever, and if I could only play one game for the rest of my life, it would be a strong contender for the one to choose. It is a game that first got me thinking about the development of video games, way back as a kid. The creativity that the game brought out of me would go on to guide my interest and intrigue in the behind the scenes aspect of video games.
Quite frankly, I never thought I needed more from A Link To The Past. Sure, a remake would have been awesome, but I never sat there and wanted a sequel to it. As I heard on a podcast earlier last week, no one has ever looked at the Mona Lisa painting and thought, "Sure, this is an amazing painting, but I can't wait to see the sequel!" There have been many, many Zelda games since LTTP, but none of them ever tried to recreate, emulate or replicate the formula of that classic game.
That is, until now.
Nintendo and the Zelda team went back to the universe of A Link To The Past, and created another game, A Link Between Worlds. It isn't merely trying to make the same game, but rather add to the story and the world that was created all those years ago. The map is familiar, the enemies are all back from the first one, and the game just takes you back to what you know and love. This time around, however, they have added a new dimension to the game, and I'm not just talking about the 3D effects that work perfectly, even with the slider on the 3DS all the way turned up. No, what I'm talking about it is the painting effect that is introduced early on in the game, where Link can transform himself into a painting on the wall and move about along the walls, slipping in between cracks and experience new sights and perspectives on the world never before seen.
So far from what I have played, the idea works perfectly, and is executed to its fullest extent of potential. Another fascinating twist on the Zelda formula that they decided to add to the game is the ability to go to any dungeon you want at any time, not having to stick to a linear path of progression as you do in pretty much ever other Zelda game. If a dungeon is too hard or you are ill-equipped for it, just leave and go somewhere else. It's that simple. It's a great way to make a non-open world game feel more open and gives the players options rarely found in Zelda titles.
This game is making me fall in love with the Legend of Zelda all over again, which I already thought wasn't in question in the first place. It's taking me back to my childhood gaming, but also reminding me of how great video games are now today. Also, you may not have to fix something that isn't broke, but there is no harm in reinventing the wheel, as long as it is done r
The handheld gaming market has always been a tricky one to figure out. For the most part, developers have always tried to create brand new games that are not only suitable for the handheld consoles they are released for, but perfect for the handheld system. Because of the obvious limitations a handheld, mobile console possess, it's really hard to develop full on gaming experiences that gamers are used to. Gamers want the big, expansive games they are used to on home consoles, not bite-sized, smaller versions of the franchises they are used to.
Because of this, developers try to create new IP's, as they don't want to disappoint established fanbases. New franchises are really hard to manufacture, especially ones that will be around longer than one game, and that itself scares publishers away. Usually, this back and forth debate is what forces studios to fall back on established franchises, and they are dealt with the dubious task of not screwing it up. Usually they do, however, and thus creates the vicious cycle of consumers being weary of handheld games and publishers being afraid to push out games for them.
Sure, there have been good handheld games before Metroid Fusion, but never on the same par as the already established Metroid franchise. Metroid Fusion was proof to all developers and publishers that a game franchise that already was spanning multiple console generations could produce a really good handheld game.
Fusion wasn't exactly the same size as previous Metroid games as far as scope and overall world exploration size, but there will always be limitations when it comes to handheld games. Instead of the large maps to explore and backtrack and forth multiple times throughout the game, Fusion is actually pretty linear for a Metroid game. And honestly, that's OK. The game is pretty much all platforming and puzzle solving, and for me, that's right up my alley.
Sadly, I never got to play Fusion when I was younger. Thanks to the awesome Ambassador program that Nintendo rolled out to all the early 3DS adopters, I got this game for free as one of the twenty free games to make me feel better about buying a new console at its release without any games worthy of being played on it. Playing on the big 3DS XL probably doesn't do the game justice as it looked like on the original GameBoy Advance back in the day, but it's suitable for what it is, and it's still a lot of fun. Really glad I got a chance to experience one of the first awesome console-to-handheld franchise games.
Now, about that Ambassador Program. Think Nintendo will roll something out for all of us early Wii U adopters? Here's hoping!
Gotta catch 'em all.
It's a tagline. It's a challenge. It's a school of thought. It's a way of life. And it's the definition in the purest form of my OCD with collecting things within video games. Sure, it didn't start with Pokémon (I have the coins in the first Mario game to thank for that), but the very first Pokémon games - Red and Blue - exacerbated my digital hoarding tendencies and cemented the obsessive compulsive behavior of trying to collect everything in games that I still fight to this day.
Let's start with a trip down memory lane before we get into the new hotness, shall we? When Red and Blue came out, the first Pokémon games to come to North America (two years after Japan, mind you), I was just starting the 10th grade. My cousin actually introduced me to them, who was a couple of years younger than I, but I immediately fell in love. The idea of an entire world filled with fictional yet still somewhat realistic animals that you had to find, catch, raise and battle against others was fantastic. But honestly, the challenge of finding and catching them all drew me in hook, line and sinker.
I remember how frustrating it was just at the beginning, having to pick one of three starters, as I worried the other two wouldn't be able to be found and caught in the wild. This of course led to the purchase of data cables to trade with others to get the ones needed checked off on the list. And when I realized some were exclusive to the color game that you had, I about lost my mind. Everyone seemed to have Red, for whatever reason, so when a kid with a Blue came around, it was like finding a lost treasure.
The thing with Pokémon is that everyone seemed to see it as a "kiddie game," which made it hard at my age to like it so much. There was a cartoon that was phenomenal that I would watch every day, but it always felt like it was my own guilty pleasure, afraid to let anyone know I was watching it. While normal kids my age were sneaking around trying to watch porn or dabbling in drugs, I was sneaking around with Pokémon. Whether it was wrong or not, justified or not, I always felt like I would be persecuted for my enjoyment of Pokémon.
So I kept it to myself. It was my dirty little secret.
When the Pokémon movie came out, my aunt asked me to go with my two cousins to the theater to watch it with them, acting as the responsible, older cousin. The thought of being caught at the theater with my younger cousins watching Pokémon by friends or peers scared me senseless, so I declined her request. She ended up bribing me with cash, and because I secretly wanted to go anyway, I turned it into a win-win situation. Before the movie started, we went to Burger King which was in the same parking lot as the theater, for dinner. We only went there, as I found out after the fact, because in the kids meals they had Pokémon toys that my cousins wanted, mainly so they could pretend to be Pokémon trainers. At their age, it was totally acceptable. For me, I just had to roll my eyes at them and pretend to hate everything about everything Pokémon.
But man, that movie was awesome. In a totally cheesy, should never really be considered "awesome" kind of way.
Long story short, I grew up being afraid to embrace my appreciation and admiration for Pokémon Because of that, I stepped away from the series for a very, very long time. Sure, I played a couple of the spin-off games, like Snap!, pinball and such, but I always tried to stay away from the core games. That was until I bought my first 3DS when it launched. There were no good games at all at launch, and I think I picked up Street Fighter just to say that I had a 3DS title. So to supplement the lack of games, and to actually make use of the system I just bought, I picked up Pokémon White, the newest Pokémon title at the time. I played through it and enjoyed every second of it, but I felt a bit of disconnect with it. Also, I was judged in my own house for playing it, mocked and belittled for wanting to play a "kid's game like Pokémon."
Fast forward to the present. Finally, us Pokémon fans have what we have always wanted: a good looking Pokémon game, with 3D Pokémon character models and full on battle animations. When X and Y were announced, I knew right away this game would be mine. And thankfully, I no longer have to feel judged or mocked for liking Pokémon I'm free to fly my geek flag and play the kiddie game I've loved for so long, without fear, finally.
I picked up Y because, well, Y's are sort of my thing. Also, I had no interest in the deer-looking Legendary Pokémon of the X version. I went to twitter and everyone seemed to be leaning towards the X version as well, so I felt compelled at that point to go the other direction. When I went to the stores, however, the Y's were all sold out. There were plenty of X's everywhere, but I had to go to three different stores before I was able to find a copy of Y. Take that, Twitter!
Anyway, this game is amazing. It truly is everything I have always wanted from a Pokémon game. Thankfully it doesn't take too long to get started, and you are out and about searching for Pokémon to capture quicker than any other game in the series I can remember. Once I got to that point, I couldn't stop walking around, searching for wild Pokémon to capture. In the four hours I spent playing the game, I only have the first gym badge, but have over 30 Pokémon in my Pokédex. My starter Pokémon is level 20 already, and my team is looking pretty solid and balanced for where I am in the game.
Yes, picking a starter Pokémon was a difficult process once again, as it always is, but staying true to form, I went with the fire element again. What through me for a loop, however, was when I encountered the Professor and he gave me the choice of one of the three original starter Pokémon to keep! Normally I would have went Charmander, but since I was already rocking a fire based guy as my go-to Pokémon. I panicked and ended up choosing Bulbasaur. If I could have a mulligan, I would probably go with Squirtel, because really, anybody who is anybody knows that Squirtel and the Squirtel Squad is where coolness originated. But, as they say, c'est la vie.
Now I just need to find some friends to start trading with, because not having those Pokémon I didn't choose will cause the collector in me to freak out endlessly until they are safely in Pokéballs, in my possession. Gotta collect 'em all, as they say.
Speaking of which...
Nintendo does as Nintendo wants. We know, and it should be no surprise at this point. They put out systems that have technology that no one else is even thinking about doing. They release games on whatever day of the week they want, even though Tuesdays are the widely accepted media release day. They continue to put out newer, updated versions of their franchises, despite the industry begging them to do something new. They decide not to attend the biggest gaming media convention of the year, instead putting out some videos on the internet. They rarely admit when they are wrong or made poor decisions, but inversely, don't brag about success.
They are Nintendo, and they do whatever they want to do. Like release one of the hardest, rarest video games ever made for their 3DS handheld console, the first time it has ever graced the soil of the United States.
Summer Carnival '02 Recca was a game developed for the Summer Carnival of 1992 in Japan, which was a huge gaming competition. It is a top-down shooter, and was purposely created to test the skill and ability of the best video game players of the country. Because of it's specialized purpose when it was created, the game itself was never brought over to the states as an official release, which at the time wasn't a big deal, but as the history of video games became more of actual history, the demand of the game forced the title into the super-rare stratosphere of game collecting.
Well, Nintendo thought it was about time that consumers, fans and gaming historical buffs have the ability to not only play the game, but own it for themselves, albeit in digital representation. They released it on their eShop for the 3DS, at a modest price of $4.99. Before picking up this game, I knew the back story of it all and how it came to be, what it was and how it is highly regarded as one of the toughest games in existence (yes, up there with Battletoads). I've played hard games before, and while they usually get the best of me, I figured a top-down shooter couldn't be that bad.
Look, when people talk about a game being hard, especially if it's a game that very few people have played, and those that did were actually competitive gamers, you shouldn't take the proclamations lightly. This game is HARD, no doubt about it. Your reactions and motor skills are challenged like no other game I can remember, and it's the kind of put-the-game-down-and-walk-away-before-you-throw-it type of game.
It's fun for nostalgia sake, and to know that you have a rare piece of gaming history. Just don't anticipate being great at the game, or even good at it without tons of hours of practice. Just remember to thank Nintendo for being them, in all their quirkiness and uniqueness.
As some of you may know, my 3DS has been hijacked for the last few weeks. I haven't actually had it my possession, as I accidentally introduced Animal Crossing to a friend who promptly asked to borrow it, and between that and StreetPassing for me, she has kept it busy for me. Thankfully, I've had more than enough games to play, both on my consoles and other portable devices, so I haven't exactly missed my 3DS.
Sure, I would have enjoyed checking in on my town in Animal Crossing, playing some of those awesome, new StreetPass games or any number of the other games I've yet to finish over the last couple of weeks, but honestly, if someone is enjoying it, having fun with it and putting more time into it than I would have, then I can't complain at all.
There has been a game that I have a heard a lot of good things about, however, that I've desperately wanted to try out. So when I saw my opportunity to snag my 3DS for a second, I quickly jumped into the Nintendo eShop and downloaded SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt, a quirky little game that has received tons of critical acclaim yet very little hype. But with a few bucks in my online wallet, and the game only being $8 anyway, it was a no-brainer. Maybe it was just my craving to play my 3DS coming through, but regardless, I did what I did, and that's that.
And I don't regret it at all.
The game itself is pretty straight forward. You're a robot placed in an old west setting, and you're job is to dig. You drop down into the mine and dig, just as you would in Minecraft or Terraria. It is a 2D platformer type of game, but the path you dig and explore the underground is entirely up to you. As you go along, you collect different types of minerals, precious metals and gemstones, which you have to take back to the surface and sell. The money you collect has both monetary value and the equivalent of XP, where you level up with every dollar you dig up. (Ha! See what I did there? Sorry, just a little digging humor.)
The more money you collect and levels you reach as a character, the more equipment you unlock and can purchase. You start out with just a basic pick axe, which takes several swings just to break through the basic dirt squares, but as you upgrade your arsenal, you are able to break through all different kinds of stone quicker and more efficiently, thus making your trip through the underground less tedious as you go along. As you dig, you will run into different caves and secret mine shaft entrances, as well as enemies, traps and hollowed out caverns. You can also find upgrade stations along the way, which give you a different new ability with each one you find, such as the ability to sprint or steam-powered jumps.
For a 3DS game, it feels like it has more depth (Ha!) then you would imagine, which is a great thing. It's one of those games where you keep saying, "just a few more minutes, another level down, and then I'll be done." And you just keep on playing. The 3D effects are fine, and add more to the background and environment than the gameplay, which is a lot better than hard-to-look-at 3D. I have thoroughly enjoyed the game for the couple of hours I have played it, and can't wait to play it again.
That is, if I get to to before the new Pokemon game comes out. At that point, I might need my 3DS back then.
Before I get into the game I played, I have to do a little bit of explanation first. Several months ago, I had an email conversation with one of my most loyal readers, followers and supporters of this crazy, year-long blog project - my favorite pizza delivery guy, who you may know as Slaterific, but I know as Bill. We were going back and forth about the future of the blog, more specifically the upcoming "Month Of..." series for the rest of the year. I think the "Week Of..." postings are his favorite, as I first hooked him in to this blog with my epic week-long write up of the Halo series, and ever since, he has been right by my side with every week long series.
I was asking him his thoughts on how I should approach my all-time favorite character and series when it came to doing something for this blog. Of course I'm talking about Mario, and honestly, you all should thank him for talking me out of doing something completely insane that was a sure-fire way to scare off all my readers. I was trying to convince him that my idea of doing a "Month Of..." series for Mario would be a fantastic way to pay homage to the humble little plumber that made me fall in love with video games in the first place. Thankfully, he set me straight and made me realize how ridiculous that was, and while there would be plenty of games to fill that month, no one in their right mind would want to read about that much Mario. It was just simply too much.
So with that, a week of Mario spin-offs was born. Sure, I could write about all the awesome Mario platforming games, but that's almost too obvious and expected. I have to keep you all, my dear readers, guessing and never to the point where you know which direction my next blog post will come from. What better way than to throw a curve ball at you with "The Curious Week Of... Mario."
I called it that because in all of Mario's spin-off games, he isn't the same Mario you know and love. He isn't performing his normal day job of being a plumber, nor is he in constant quest of finding and rescuing the princess. No, sometimes Mario just likes to be different, shake it up a bit and buck the norm. He's kind of a restless soul, when you think about it.
The first game in this week is Wrecking Crew, which was a launch day game for the original Nintendo Entertainment Center along side 17 other games, including Super Mario Bros. Yes, even back then, day-one launch titles were a big deal. Maybe not as big as they are now, but it was clear that without games to push, it would hard to sell a console. Sometimes I wonder how Nintendo forgot about this way of thinking, but I digress.
In Wrecking Crew, you play as Mario of course, but instead of his normal plumber occupation, he plays the role of a one-man wrecking crew. Literally. His job is to demolish the structures set before him, as quickly and efficiently as possible. All he has is a hammer, which he wields like the mighty Thor, destroying blocks, bricks, ladders and bombs while trying to evade the weird creatures sent to make his life miserable. It is a strategy based game, where you need to plan your next move before you make it, because if you destroy a ladder prematurely, you could essentially make completing the level impossible.
The game just continues as well, going from level to level, with bonus levels sprinkled in, asking you to find a coin in a block before the mysterious foreman finds it first. There is speculation that this was the original idea behind Wario, although nothing is confirmed, of course. It if a fun game, that while not very deep or rich in story, makes up for in tense action. OK, that might be a bit of an over exaggeration, but regardless, it's fun for what it is, and I'm sure it was fun back in the day. Unfortunately it probably got lost in the mix among the line-up consisting of Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Ice Climbers and Excitebike, to name a few.
Speaking of console launches, when Nintendo launched the 3DS, it had zero games that people actually wanted to play. There were a few that were serviceable, but most people bought the games because they felt like they needed to play something on it in order to justify getting one, day one. Eventually, people became very vocal about feeling ripped off by the 3DS, and Nintendo heard loud and clear. Of course, the system wasn't selling, so the talking people did was with their wallets, which is apparently the best way to be heard by big business. Anyway, Nintendo got the message and did all that they could to ease the pain of a price drop of the system less than a year later, as telling people who spent the original full price that the price drop was happening was not an easy thing to do. To smooth things over, they created the Ambassador Club, where all the early adopters of the handheld console were rewarded with 20 free games from the eShop Virtual Console; 10 NES games and 10 Game Boy Advance games.
One of these games was Wrecking Crew, which is how I was able to play it, just in case you were wondering. Apparently Nintendo does learn from its mistakes after all, sometimes.
Nintendo knows what it is doing, plain and simple. People question whether or not they actually do, especially with the direction the Wii U has gone, but if you look across the board over to the little handheld that could, the 3DS, it is quite evident that they have a very good idea what they are doing.
They also seem to know what the consumer wants. Despite their early struggles to get off the ground after launch, the 3DS is the top selling gaming console month after month, thanks in part to the XL version being released on the almost overwhelming amount of good games being released, one after another. For many people, despite having other home consoles hooked up and ready to play, the 3DS is their number one gaming device, and you have Nintendo themselves to thank for that.
One of the super-engaging aspects of the 3DS is the StreetPass function, which is coupled with the little mini-games to go along with it. I wrote about Find Mii before, and how fascinating and addicting it really is. But since then, Nintendo has upped the ante and finally gave all those who loved the StreetPass games but had finished them, more of a reason for to continue carrying around their systems wherever they went.
They released four game, almost like DLC, for the StreetPass plaza, that 3DS owners can buy, if they wish, for five bucks a pop, or the whole package of four for only $15. Each of the four games are uniquely different, but they all run on the same principle of using people's Mii characters that you get by walking by someone else with their 3DS.
My personal favorite of the four games is called Mii Force, which is a side-scrolling shooter, where you control a ship piloted by your Mii character. You blast through enemies in the stage, trying to collect as many gems and jewels along the way, while the Mii characters you encountered add weapon upgrades throughout the stage. The game itself is pretty straight forward, but I'm just a sucker for side-scrolling shooters, and well, Nintendo built a pretty good one here. Couple that with the fact I am utilizing my StreetPass function for even more gaming experience, I have to say this is money well spent for me.
See, I told Nintendo knows what they are doing. They like making money, and they are good and making me want to give me mine.
OK, don't yell at me. I know the questions are coming, and honestly, I don't really have a good answer for them. Let's get that out in the air right now.
Yes, I finally got to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, although, I really didn't play it in the way you probably expected me to. Sure, I could have easily played it on my PS3, since it is included with the huge Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection. And that's probably the best way to experience this game. But instead, I took a gamble and gave it a shot on the little ole Nintendo 3DS system. I swear I knew what I was doing at the time.
So this game is the prequel to all prequels, as it is essentially the first game in the entire series. I think; For now, at least. You play as Naked Snake, who is Big Boss, but it's all semantics anyway. At this point, the story line is all garbled and I'm just trying to pull whatever I can from the games for blogging purposes. There is no longer reason to try and figure out the entire story. It's just not possible. I'm OK with that.
This game is interesting, for many reasons. It forces you to rely heavily on stealth, and surprisingly, more so than any other games that came before it (but after it in context of the story, I guess). I suppose a lot has to do with the lack of technology in the time period the game is set it, which is actually cool to think that they essentially went backwards in game development despite the technology being better when they created it.
As Snake, you have to utilize camouflage quite a bit, which is a lot more fun than I thought it would be, switching different suits and face paints to blend in with the environment you are in. The gauge shows how hidden you are, which is fun to play around with, seeing which camos are best.
Also, there is the infamous mechanic of having to actually heal particular limbs in order to fully recover your health, and the fact you must actually eat food to keep from fatiguing too much. Don't eat, and your vision gets blurry and you slow down. You can keep food in your backpack for later, but be careful, because some types of food spoil, thus making it inedible.
Here is my problem I ran into, though. The controls SUCK in this version of the game. And I solely blame the lack of a second joystick on the 3DS for this being the reason why. I understand it was a big deal for Konami to put this game on the 3DS, but I can't understand why they would be OK with making the controls a complete disaster in order to try and compensate for the lack of a second stick. It just makes no sense to me. Sure, you could get a Circle Pad Pro extension for your 3DS to add the second stick, but honestly, you shouldn't have to. It is practically inexcusable for Nintendo to be so stubborn about this stick. And I can't blame developers and publishers from shying away from really good games on the 3DS because of the lack of a second stick.
Bottom line is, my experience was skewed heavily because of the system I chose to play on. Once I catch up with my backlog, I will need to give this game the due diligence and play it properly on the PS3
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
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Games played for project : 365