Handheld gaming has always been something of a novelty for me, personally. As a kid, sure, I had a GameBoy, and then a GameBoy Color, but in all honesty, I just never got that into them. I always saw them as something to do when there was nothing else to do, especially when there wasn't an actual game console around to play. I can't ever remember a time where I would choose a a handheld over a console, just because of how much better the consoles were.
Aside from Pokemon, of course, I never really felt like handheld games were worth serious chunks of my free time, and always treated them as something I would pick and play for brief moments in time, put them down and not worry or think about them until the next situation I was in that called for something to kill time and boredom.
I always appreciated the fact that Mario was prevalent on Nintendo's handheld systems, I just never got into them. I played them, and they were fine for what they were, but I never loved them. For me, they always seemed to be missing something, almost as if there were shells of the full Mario experience. They just weren't Mario as I had come to expect, and for that reason, I don't remember ever obsessing over them as much as I did the more commonly well-known and recognized consoles Mario games.
Apparently, my overwhelming sense of apathy towards handheld Mario games was greater than I thought, as New Super Mario Bros. was released for the Nintendo DS, and I had no clue of its existence at the time. To be fair, however, I didn't even own a DS personally, and if I'm not mistaken, this might have been the only legit Mario game that slipped past my radar while on my gaming hiatus, as it came out as I was slowly crawling out of that dark hole in my life. It wasn't until I got my oldest son a DS Lite and this game for Christmas one year did I really know anything about it, and man, I couldn't have been more impressed by what I played.
How could I have neglected this fantastic Mario game for so long? Finally, a good handheld Mario game that could hold its own with some of the best console Mario games, and here I was, in dark for the longest time about it? I actually felt like I had let the entire company, brand and game franchise down as a fan and customer, and questioned my loyalty to the company I so deeply loved. Was I really becoming that jaded as a gamer? Was I finally growing up and past liking Mario games? Was the apathy I held on to for so long finally too strong to overcome and move past?
I had no answers at the time, and looking back, I can't really pinpoint anything to be true or false. In the grand scheme of things, however, I did play New Super Mario Bros. with my boy, and later on, my second oldest kid when he was old enough to get his own DSi, so whether or not I knew about or liked the game when it first came out is irrelevant. It's not the journey as much as it is the destination, sometimes.
Anyway, going back and playing this game again made me rehash all those weird memories. More importantly, though, is the fact that this game still holds up after all these years. Another thing I noticed was that while the giant and mini mushrooms have been used several times in games since this game, it was still fun going back and experiencing the roots of these cool power-ups. Despite it's critical success, I can't imagine too many people predicted that this format of Mario game - you know, the updated, new age 2D stylized platformer - would go on to be the foundation for many more Mario games to come.
Then again, who really could have predicted where Mario's next adventure would take place anyway?
As a parent, there are tons of life lessons to teach your kids over the many years you have them under your wing. Well, try to teach your kids at least. Sometimes, that's the only thing you can do is try. As they say - whoever they are - you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. I'm pretty sure "they" came up with that saying specifically with being a parent in mind.
One of the life lessons I have always tried to instill in my kids is to not grow up too fast. I always have told them to just enjoy being a kid, and not worry about the grown-up things in life that we as adults have to stress over. Sure, it is important to ready them as they get closer to adulthood to be prepared and equipped to go out into the real world, but they should always try to hold and cherish their childhood for as long as possible. Before you know it, you're paying bills, being responsible and wishing you were a kid again.
I always wish someone had stressed that to me as a kid, as sometimes I feel like I grew up too fast, whether it be to life circumstances beyond my control or simply my personality. If someone had sat me down and warned me of the dangers of growing up too quick, I would like to think I would have listened and maybe slowed down a bit. But most likely, I would have shrugged them off just as my kids seem to do with me.
Why am I bringing all this up, you ask? Well, this is my week where I explore the alternate lifestyles and careers of Mario over the years, which is the perfect time to go back and reflect on when Mario had little to no responsibilities as a character at all. Back when Mario was Baby Mario, and while he had some grown-up things to take care of, like a rescue mission, he was still a chubby little Mario wearing nothing but his trademark hat, and of course, a diaper. We first were introduced to him in Yoshi's Island, but for the sake of thinking a little outside of the box, I decided to play Yoshi's Island DS.
Talk about role reversal. Where people were familiar with Yoshi in Super Mario World as a partner-like character, but more of a vehicle/weapon if anything, in this series we see Yoshi as the protagonist of the game. Yoshi, while being the main character, is regarded as the bodyguard and rescuer of Mario. Mario isn't using him in the sense that we are familiar with. This becomes Yoshi's quest, and Baby Mario is simply going along for the ride.
In fact, there are other babies in the game as well, like Baby Peach, Baby Donkey Kong, Baby Wario and of course Baby Bowser, and each one gives Yoshi a unique ability when he is carrying them that the other babies don't provide. Essentially, Yoshi uses Mario, which has to be the easiest gig Mario has ever had.
This game is ridiculously fun, plain and simple. I had to bust out my old DSi just for this game, as my 3DS is now in the hands in my girlfriend, who is "borrowing" it in order to feed her newly discovered addiction to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which I may or may not be responsible for starting in the first place. At the very least, I am an enabler, and I admit that. Regardless, my DSi worked just fine. Maybe I need to look into getting a second 3DS, for emergency situations, just in case? Better yet, a 2DS!
Anyway, this is spiraling out of control. Baby Mario is the easiest gig he has ever been given by Nintendo, and I hope he appreciated his time in the couple of Yoshi games where he really didn't have to do anything other than be a kid, and just go with it. Unfortunately, he probably took it for granted, not knowing what the universe had in store for him later on in life.
Just like every other kid in the history of childhoods.
Today, I really struggled with which Zelda game I was going to play. I knew all along I wanted to play a handheld Zelda game in the series, but which one specifically is what I had trouble with. There has been seven original handheld titles, all of which played a certain role in advancing the franchise along and reaching out to the on-the-go gaming market.
So after much deliberation, I decided upon the Phantom Hourglass game, which was the first of two Zelda games on the Nintendo DS. The DS is Nintendo's most successful handheld console to date, and one of the gaming industry's biggest success stories. A lot of its success can be attributed to the Japanese market, where being on the move at all times is common place in the land of the rising sun. The DS nailed that market perfectly, and thanks to a couple different upgraded versions to the system, it was able to become king of the handhelds.
It was only a matter of time before one of Nintendo's most successful gaming franchise would make its way to juggernaut handheld system, and when it did, we were blessed with Phantom Hourglass. Being released after Twilight Princess, it was very clear that Nintendo had no intention of keeping just one version of Link and the storyline running throughout the series, as Phantom Hourglass returned to the cartoonish and cell-shaded style that we first discovered in Wind Waker, and continued the storyline that the game had put in place. This of course was in drastic contrast to the Twilight Princess style and story, further pushing the idea that the Zelda universe and timeline isn't exactly linear.
I bought this game for my oldest son back in the day when it was released, as we had gotten him a DS for his birthday before hand, thinking he would enjoy it. Despite my best efforts at the time, and introducing him to several different games of all styles and genres, I could never get him interested in playing the DS. Eventually, my youngest boy got his hands on it and never let it go. He's definitely a gamer through and through.
When we got him Phantom Hourglass, however, I knew the game would be challenging, especially considering how difficult Twilight Princess was at times. To jump ahead of the potential of him quitting the game before he gave it a fair shake, I even bought him the strategy guide so that he could read along with it while playing, preventing him from every getting stuck on a puzzle.
Turns out, he couldn't care about that game or any Zelda game at all. He may have started it up and started it, just to make me happy, but I don't think he ever played much of it at all, much less cracked open the strategy guide. I ended up playing way more of the game then I ever thought I would back then, basically because I felt bad it was getting played - but also because it was a fine game.
I enjoyed it back then, and I enjoyed it again tonight. I really enjoyed it, and probably because I've just been dying to play a good handheld Zelda game since Ocarina of Time was re-released on the 3DS last year, and especially since Link to the Past 2 was announced to come out later this year. Combine that excitement with the Wind Waker remake that's also on its way, and its quite obvious why Phantom Hourglass clicked with me tonight.
Aside from the great story and fun, stylish graphics, the one thing I loved most about this game - and still do, possibly even more so - is the ability to write notes and draw markers on the game map itself, which is super helpful in figuring out puzzles and backtracking to already explored areas later in the game. The game introduces you to the concept of doing this, forces you to try it out, but then it backs off and lets you use it as you so choose. And believe me, with my short attention span and lack of a decent short-term memory, I use this function a lot. I actually started to wonder why more games haven't gone this route.
So maybe handheld gaming wasn't for my oldest boy. Maybe Zelda wasn't his thing. And maybe that is true for lots of gamers out there. I just wish more who agree with that would actually just give it a shot and find out firsthand. If you do decide to take that plunge, especially if you feel froggy enough to give Phantom Hourglass a shot, I have a strategy guide you can borrow. Oh, and you can copy my notes, too. Not like that didn't happen to me enough in school.
Talk about going off the grid for today's game. This one is so out in left field, it even surprised me. But hey, when the gaming gods give me a sign, I have to follow it and see where it takes me. And today, it took me to Brain Age.
We had a busy day with the family today. Actually, it was a busy weekend, with baseball sign ups and tryouts for my two boys going on most of the day yesterday, and then today was spent at the zoo followed by dinner at the in-laws. Why I am telling you all of this? For one, to give you a peak behind the curtains, but also to explain how I came about to play Brain Age.
Digging around in the van this weekend led me to discover a Brain Age cartridge, randomly floating around, most likely the victim of being dropped and forgotten about long ago by my seven year old. Regardless, we randomly found it today, even though we didn't even know it was gone. Naturally, I took that as a sign that it was the game I supposed to play today. Now, I could have played it on my Nintendo 3DS, but I am actually on strike from my own console and refuse to even flip open the screen until I pull the trigger on upgrading to the XL version. After seeing the XL in a store and playing around with it, looking at the small, tiny and cheap looking original 3DS just makes me sick. So, I vowed not to play a single 3DS game until I get my XL, which hopefully, will be sooner than later, as I have a massive backlog of games going on.
So anyway, I played on his old DSi, which he will only continue using until I hand off my 3DS to him when I upgrade. But, Brain Age is a DS game, so I felt it only right to play it on it's native system.
Let's get right to the point. My brain sucks, according to the game. I haven't put nearly the proper amount of training in as I should, apparently. That's OK, though, as the newest version of the series, on the 3DS, actually has intrigued me. I would like to play a game like this, for a few minutes each day, to see if it actually increases my brain functionality at all. I've also had this crazy idea of playing one of the Kinect fitness games every day, for a daily workout, just to see what kind of results that would produce.
Playing Brain Age today, however, confirmed a few things. The DSi was an awesome system, but man, is it dated now. Also, I really need to start brain training again. Maybe I'll start it up ... once I get my 3DS XL, of course.
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Games played for project : 365