After the year I've had, I can definitely say that I could use a nice, healthy break from gaming. It's not that I don't want to play games for a while, but rather just get back to playing the games I want to play, when I want, how I want, without having to worry about satisfying the requirements for this blog. Not that I haven't enjoyed this blog project thus far, as after this year is up I plan on writing a full write-up about my experience this last year, how I have enjoyed it, what I've learned, etc. Still, though, I could use a break from what I have been doing every year for 356 straight days now, as everything can get tiresome after so long.
Just ask Mario. After years of saving the Princess and the entire Mushroom Kingdom over and over again, non-stop, even his job got tedious and tiresome. Being Mario isn't easy, you know, and every so often, the plumber just needs to take a break and go on vacation. Sure, Mario is a fictional character, in a fictional universe within a video game, but regardless, developers never show the behind the curtain of these fictional worlds.
Well, for Mario's one and only outing on the Nintendo GameCube, he finally took his long awaited and much needed vacation, not just from his every day life, but from certain things that Mario games, Mario games. Super Mario Sunshine is the game that took Mario on vacation, and threw conventional wisdom out the window while doing so, implementing ideas and mechanics never to be seen again.
Right off the bat at the start of the game, you know it's not going to be like any other Mario game you've played. For one, seeing Mario kicked back, relaxing on the beach is a new sight to behold, that's for sure. Once you get going though, you are armed with a backpack water gun, an unusual thing for Mario to tote around, as he normally isn't one to pack around gadgets and equipment to get the job done. In this game, though, his job isn't quite like other games, as he is tasked with the dubious task of cleaning off paint that has covered the tropical island, eerily similar to an oil spill. This oil-like paint is making everything on the island wacky and different, taking over harmless creatures and turning them into enemies of Mario and quite simply, putting a damper on the vacation Mario was trying to have.
In his pursuit to clean the island and save the day, he is also searching for magical little sprites, that add sunshine to world and make everything nice and bright. Oh, and there are also a couple of new enemies for Mario to go head-to-head with, one of which is Bowser Jr. who is more maniacal than his pops. There is also Shadow Mario, who is just there to reek havoc and slow you down.
The game takes place entirely on the tropical island and surrounding areas of it, with you playing levels and areas within the island world. All the different locals are fun to explore, as you've never ran Mario around a marine harbor or an abandoned, haunted seaside hotel on the beach. There are residents on the island to interactive with also, who aren't mushroom men, and as characters, they are an enjoyable change of pace. In fact, everything about the game is a nice change of pace, which is why I love this game so much.
Not everybody likes this version of Mario, however. They complain that it's too different from the typical Mario platforming game, and that the water jet pack is just weird in a Mario game. Sure, the camera in this game can get cumbersome at grueling to manage at times, but once you get past that fact, the gameplay remains as fun as any other 3D Mario platformer, before or after. I love the idea of having to clean stuff, and constantly having to find bodies of water to refill the tank of the water pack. I like being able to hover with the powerful stream of water, and finding shine sprites throughout the world.
Basically, I like that it is different while still keeping certain aspects of traditional Mario games in tact. While I wish that F.L.U.D.D. (the water pack) would make its way back into a Mario game at some time, and Mario would return to his vacation island for another adventure, I also fully appreciate that Super Mario Sunshine is a one of a kind Mario game, and will always hold a place within the franchise as being such a unique title.
And after such a big, unique adventure, it's only fitting that the next adventure for Mario would bring him back to familiar places, and bring him back down to size in scale and context, but not necessarily size.
Let me tell you a little story about a boy named Jimmy.
For starters, his name was actually James, but everyone called him Jimmy. At the time this story takes place, Jimmy was only a couple of years removed from his high school graduation. He was itching to move out of his parents' house, and had just recently been hired at a local store called Bi-Mart, which only readers from the Oregon/Washington area would understand. It was his first real job as an adult, and with his new-found income, he was looking to transfer that into a place to live other than with his parents.
He wanted to grow up and be the man he was trying to portray. He wanted to be an adult, and take care of his adult responsibilities. I admired his gumption, but his job wasn't exactly a high paying one, especially for a young bachelor to move out on his own in the big, scary world. So he came to my two roommates and I, who were renting a very nice house at the time. (Yes, it was the party house, and looking back, man we had some awesome parties there, many of which I wish I could remember better.) Anyway, Jimmy approached us about moving in as a fourth roommate, only for a short while so that he could save up and eventually get his own place with another buddy of his, who was pretty much in the same position he was in.
While we didn't have a fourth bedroom for him, he was perfectly fine with crashing out in the living room on the couch, as it was intended to be a short stay. He offered to pay a little bit of cash to us for letting him, so we all agreed no problem. Besides, he worked with my two roommates, so they would be able to keep on eye on him and make sure he traveled on the right path through life. So he crashed with us, and it was good for all.
During his time in the house, he had his twentieth birthday. We all chipped in and got him some presents, including the always inspirational and somewhat subliminal Dr. Seuss book, Oh The Places You'll Go. We thought it was kind of funny, and we all got a good laugh out of it. Other than that and a few other smaller things, we also got him the one video game he mentioned really wanting, which had just came out, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.
At the time, I was going through my now infamous gaming hiatus, and wasn't familiar with any new games coming out, as I was pretty much on a full-on blackout of all things gaming related. So while I didn't know anything about this game at the time, I knew of the series because I loved the first Prime game so much, so I was excited to get the game for him. When he opened the present, he literally almost cried, as I'm pretty sure he didn't think we all were that close of friends. But hey, when you live with me in any capacity, you're as good as family in my eyes. I had no interest in playing the game then with him, and we worked opposite of each other most of the time, so I never really had the chance to watch him or even see it in action.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes would remain a mystery to me until years later, when I went back and repurchased a GameCube and started building my collection of games that I loved before and missed during my hiatus. I, of course, was glad I finally got to play it and wished I had been able to play back when I got it for Jimmy when it first came out.
I really hadn't thought about Jimmy or this game in a long time, but replaying it brought back all these memories of that weird time in my life. Aside from that, however, the game itself is really good, and was a good send off for the Metroid series in the GameCube generation. Dark Samus was an awesome touch to the storyline, and the difficulty was dialed up to make the game feel like a true challenge. There was also a multiplayer mode added into the game, which clearly was just Retro Studios and Nintendo trying to capture a corner of the multiplayer market that was running wild in the gaming landscape.
I'm glad my roommates and I were able to make Jimmy's 20th birthday back in the day awesome with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes as a present. Not sure if it was the game, or our friendship that cemented the awesomeness of that present, but either way, Echoes will always be tied to boy we called Jimmy.
Sometimes, a well-known established franchise has to grow and evolve, despite the commercial and critically acclaimed success of the franchise and games as a whole. Changing the core gameplay mechanics or feeling of a game can be a death sentence for a series, as fans usually have deep-seeded love and admiration for the principle blueprint of what makes the game, and the franchise, so popular in the first place. Even if the change is for the better and meant to take the franchise into the future, fans are fans and don't normally do well with change.
They just don't understand change, even if the reasons are fully explained and justified. It's hard for people to accept that something they know and love is now different, and struggle to embrace and cling to the new game as it is, in the new light and vision of the developers. Even worse than just change, when an already established franchise changes hands and is gift-wrapped for a new developer to handle, meltdowns happen all over. Very rarely can a video game series endure a change of the core mechanics of the game and visual styles by a new and different developer as well.
Of course, Nintendo has no fear when it comes to going against conventional trends, thinking outside of the box and pretty much marching to the beat of their own drum. They got away with it with the Zelda series, although gamers were pretty used to each game being different anyway. Mario is Mario, and fans just saw each new game as an upgrade to the franchise, not a change. So they looked at Metroid and rolled the dice.
And boy did they win big with their gamble.
They banked on gamers wanting a change of perspective, from behind the curtain and on screen as well. They handed the Metroid franchise over to Retro Studios, who was an established and highly successful studio that worked closely with Nintendo, but who had never touched the Metroid series. Nintendo had kept this series close to the vest, but finally decided to hand it off to a third-party developer in hopes of hitting a home run. Thankfully, Retro saw the franchise and the story of Samus from a different point of view, and realized that the adventures of this amazing bounty hunter was better told from the first person point of view. They bet on gamers embracing a First Person Shooter style of game, and they were right.
Funny thing is, Nintendo didn't see the game as a FPS as everyone knows the genre to be. They wanted to drive home the point of while Samus is a bounty hunter, playing as her isn't as simple as run-and-gun. They made sure that gamers still understood that while you played the game from behind the yellow visor now, you're still responsible for exploration, more so now than ever before. Sure, there is shooting and all that stuff, but getting lost, finding power-ups and retracing your steps throughout an alien landscape is really what the game is all about, and always has been. They called this game a First Person Adventure game. Of course.
Sometimes even change can't eliminate the established roots.
Retro did a phenomenal job with this game and definitely didn't drop the ball. Playing the game again only cements my long lasting love for this game, and the direction the series went. As far as story goes, Retro placed this Prime trilogy smack-dab in the middle of Metroid and Metroid II, giving them all the wiggle room they needed to pack in as much plot as they needed to fill in the story they were trying to tell.
This game came out on the GameCube on the same day as Fusion did for the Game Boy Advance. While both games altered the gameplay in some way, Prime almost felt like an entirely new franchise with the same characters. The old Metroid games were awesome, believe me, but the new perspective of the franchise took Samus to heights she could only dream of before.
You know, if Samus could actually dream. I'm sure there's some fan-fiction about that somewhere, right?
Since day one of this year long project I started back on January 1st, there were a few games and series that I was genuinely excited to go back and play. Not only could I not wait to play them, but I was equally anticipating writing about and sharing my experiences with them. I wasn't sure when I would get to the ones I really wanted to play, as anyone should know by now that this blog is pretty fluid and unpredictable. So finally getting to one of the games on my list was quite a thrill.
Yes, Super Smash Bros. is one of those series, and Melee, the GameCube iteration of the franchise was one I was anxious to get to. And I finally did.
This week I have been thinking a lot about the state of Nintendo as a company, especially with the direction in which they are headed. I've also done a lot of revisiting of all the things that has made Nintendo so great over the years, and why they are still relevant in the landscape of video games today. All of this really started when Pikmin 3 was released, as it marked the first big release for the Wii U since its launch, but also the beginning of a busy release schedule for the Big N and their Intellectual Properties.
With Pikmin 3, I see this as the first step for the Wii U to grow legs and begin showing why it is deserving of shelf space in people's living rooms or wherever else they choose to game. Other people disagree, saying that the console is dead in the water and marks a total failure for the company. People argue that Nintendo should completely give up on making home consoles all together, instead just focusing on developing and licensing out their beloved franchises.
Of course, this isn't a new argument, as the same one was brought up when the GameCube launched. Critics marked that system as a failure almost from the get-go, and while it never saw the commercial success that Nintendo would have liked, it was still responsible for putting out some amazing games.
One of these amazing games was Super Smash Bros. Melee, which despite seeing an update version come out for the Wii several years later, is still played by some of the best fighting game players in the world at EVO, which is essentially the World Series or Super Bowl of competitive gaming. Yes, the little console with a lunchbox handle produced a fighting game that is still being played by the best of the best for the title of "Champion."
Good thing the console sucked so bad, huh?
Anyway, enough of me rambling. This game is absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, a fantastic gaming experience. The first Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 produced a fascinating idea of mashing all of Nintendo's best-known characters together into one game and letting them brawl. But this game, Melee, took that seed of an idea and planted it, watered it, nurtured it and let it grow into a superb gaming experience. Essentially, it created an entirely new genre of games all by itself, with others trying to imitate and duplicate, but never fully succeeding in creating what Nintendo did.
Personally, it's not my favorite Smash Bros. game, but it set the gold standard for what to expect from the series, the genre is spawned and Nintendo itself. Playing it just made me that much more excited for the new Super Smash Bros. games coming out next year for not only the 3DS, but the struggling Wii U as well.
But yeah, maybe the haters are right. The Wii U is doomed to fail, right? Well, not as long as Smash Bros. has anything to say about it.
I can't even begin to describe to you guys the level of sheer excitement and anticipation I have for the upcoming Pikmin 3 game for the Wii U. There are equal parts of the fact this is biggest Wii U game to be released since its launch, and the fact that I absolutely adore this series, that all make up the cause for my excitement.
So because I am extremely hyped up about this game, I wanted to pretty much work myself into an anticipation frenzy by playing the original Pikmin game that first came out for the GameCube, then was re-released for the Wii as part of Nintendo's "New Play Control" series that they released a few different games for. If there is one thing that Nintendo does exceptionally well, it is releasing fan-favorites of their amazing franchises over and over again.
It has been a very long time since I played a true Pikmin game. For the NintendoLand game that came bundled with the Wii U system, there is a mini-game in there called Pikmin Adventure, which gives a fairly accurate example of the Pikmin franchise for those unfamiliar with the previous games, but isn't quite the same as the full games. It has most of the basic principles though, trudging through unfamiliar alien landscapes, controlling a space explorer while you direct herds of Pikmin to do your bidding, such as collecting crucial supplies and defeating much larger alien lifeforms.
Like I said, it's a good experience for those interested in the franchise, but not completely accurate as to how the actual games play. For that, you just have to go back and play one of the first two original Pikmin games, like I did.
It was actually quite fun to go back and dive into the original Pikmin game. Sure, the graphics are a little rough (it is a port from a GameCube game, after all), but the adorable visual style and lovable characters truly give this game its charm. While it seems and feels calming and peaceful overall, the looming 30-day timer is a constant reminder that the game isn't just a tourist experience. Your goal of the game is to recover all 30 missing spaceship parts in the span of 30 in-game days, which seems simple enough, but turns the game into a true challenge. You have a limited amount of time during each day, because as the sun begins to set, you have to scramble to get your squad of Pikmin back to the ship safely before the terrors of the night come through and wipe out your entire army.
Essentially, despite the fact that all you want to do is walk around at your own leisurely pace and go sightseeing, their just isn't the time to do so. And that's what I like about the game most. It pushes you into playing how it was designed, even if it relaxes its grip just enough to make you think you're exploring as you wish. If it wasn't for the constant push of trying to complete the mission, it would be a game I could spend countless hours in, walking around and literally accomplishing nothing.
Some people may like Pikmin 2 better, but for me, I like seeing how the franchise all began. This is the perfect example of how a crazy idea from a game developer turns into a video game, even with its rough, not completely flushed out ideas.
While playing this game made me stupidly more excited for Pikmin 3, it was nice to take a trip back to where it all began.
Well, it's June, and that means another "Week of..." series. This month, I chose to start a franchise near and dear to my heart, that I actually planned on writing about later in the year, but figured, hey, why not do it this month? It's not like there is a new game coming out that I'm trying to coordinate with like other months. Yes, I am talking about Resident Evil.
I'm starting with Resident Evil 0, which I realize was not the first game in the series as far as release dates go, but is technically the prequel to the original Resident Evil game. Zero came out for the GameCube, which at the time was an amazing feat because the general public was still under the presumption that Nintendo consoles only featured kid-focused games. For a game coming from a mature franchise such as Resident Evil, it was definitely a rude awakening for innocent Nintendo fans.
I loved it though.
I had been craving something, anything, somewhat mature for the GameCube. Also, I had been craving a new Resident Evil game, and since all previous Resident Evil games had come out exclusively on the PlayStation, I was worried I would miss out since I didn't have a PlayStation (1 or 2) at the time. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was coming to the little ole GameCube!
This game is a fun entry into the series. I understand a lot of people don't like it, but I think that had more to do with it being on the GameCube than anything. Zero was the first time the franchise seemed to take a turn towards the inevitable action-oriented game play that the die-hard series fans would grow to despise. Sure, it still has the puzzle aspects of the original Resident Evil games, but the pace of the game is definitely kicked up a notch from the slow, methodical yet always tense and terrifying pacing of the games before it.
It's not my favorite game of the bunch, let's be clear. It's easily one that's easy to miss or forget about, and one could argue that Code Veronica is more crucial to the franchise than this game. But it was a giant leap for Nintendo to take, and for the sake of continuity of this week, I had to start with zero - since I am working my way up to 6.
Also, it was a great way to showcase a Resident Evil game in an environment other than a mansion or a city, and the local of being on a train would eventually inspire (I assume) Resident Evil Revelations, which takes place on a cruise ship.
Trains still freak me out to this day, though.
With the release of every Zelda game, there was always tons of fanfare and hype. Well, a lot considering that most releases didn't have the benefit of having the internet prevalent enough to create the kind of buzz that Zelda games do now.
Usually, Zelda games are highly anticipated, as everyone is looking forward to seeing which direction and what changes Nintendo will make to the series in order to to it to the next level of awesomeness. After Wind Waker was announced, however, with screen shots and details showing off the next version of Link on the GameCube, Zelda fans pretty much all turned their collective shoulders and pretty much boycotted the very drastic changes. And this was all before the game even came out.
You see, the biggest problem people had was the look of the game, specifically the characters like Link. The game was designed in cell-shaded style, a unique thing at the time of the game's release and definitely a first for the series. Link was still recognizable by all his trademark characteristics, but the fact that the developers went the way of cartoonish art style instead of a more realistic style that everyone was anticipating, really irritated people to no end.
Personally, when I first saw what the game would look like, I was more excited than anyone else I knew. Sure, the thought of a realistic Zelda was intriguing, but I've always seen the series as a story, a fairy tale of sorts, and this new style fit perfectly into the vision I always had for the series.
Sure enough, after the game's release, people started to realize how great the game looked despite the cell shading style, and how well it complemented the story that it was telling, The game has only grown on people more so every day since its release, and just recently Nintendo announced that it was remaking Wind Waker in HD for the Wii U. So much for no one liking the game, right?
Anyway, tonight I played it and it was great. The story is so engaging, as the new cast of characters and settings felt refreshing and different, yet surprisingly familiar. The game still holds up graphically even by today's standards, but with the touch of HD, I simply cannot wait for the remastered version of this game to play on my Wii U later this year.
Everyone usually complains about the sailing adventures within this game, but honestly, I don't mind them at all. The sheer amount of territory to cover in the game, even if most of it is water, is astounding. But hey, to each their own, I guess.
All in all, this is a great game, and one of the best looking games of the series, if only for the unique art style. Thank goodness the Internet wasn't as big as it is today, or the amount of hate before hand might have derailed this series permanently.
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Games played for project : 365