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?
This blog post is going to be confession time, with a trip down memory lane as well. Just wanted to let you all know right off the bat so there is no confusion at all why in the world I picked this game, of all games to play this close to the end of the year. Now with that heads up warning out of the way, let's get down to it.
First of all, I don't like James Bond. I have never liked James Bond, and have zero emotional connection to the character, the actors that have played him or the franchise itself. I've seen a handful of James Bond movies, from all eras and several different actors, and none of them have ever held my attention. I know it's pretty taboo for a guy to not like James Bond, but the movies just never did it for me. The storylines are always pretty cheesy, the action is over-the-top, and I can't seem to get over the fact that despite spanning over half of a century, the character is the same character over all generations it has covered.
I realize that this happens all the time comic books and other fictional stories, but they have never portrayed Bond to be anything other than a spy in whatever day and age it is at the time. It's fictional, but not sci-fi at all, so the fact that the character has been around for over 60 years and there isn't continuity between anything just flat out bugs me.
Also, on a podcast a few weeks back, I told a story about how I flat out refused to play a game my cousin rented for us to play together because I was planning on buying it and didn't want it spoiled or ruined before I had a proper chance to play it. The game was GoldenEye 007, which I eventually got for my birthday from my cousin, which made me feel even worse because of how rude I was to him a few weeks before then. He even got the limited edition version which included a gold-colored Classic Pro controller with the game, which was ideal for first person shooters, if only for the dual sticks. I didn't deserve it from him, but he thought I should have it, especially with how much fuss I put up about the rental copy he picked up. To this day, I still feel bad about it and wish I had enough clarity at the time to realize I was wrong.
But, c'est la vie, as they say.
The reason I was so excited for the Wii game, which wasn't quite a remake, but rather a rehashing of the classic Nintendo 64 game, is for obvious reasons. As a kid, I played more GoldenEye with my cousins and friends than any other multiplayer or co-op game. We would play for hours at each others' houses, always filling up all four slots of players. Special rules, modified matches and arguments about using Oddjob consumed our play sessions. We had a blast playing together, as I don't ever remember playing that game alone. Of course, that was far before the heyday of online multiplayer, back when kids actually went outside and rode bikes to their friends' houses and play next to them on the couch. Crazy times back then, that these youngins nowadays will never understand.
Anyway, when I eventually played this Wii version for the first time, it would be an understatement to say I was severely disapointed. The game itself was OK, as it was Wii graphics after all, but it just didn't feel right. I had my two boys and my cousin all sitting around the television playing multiplayer, and it bummed me out. They didn't care about how cool paintball mode used to be, or how lining an air duct with proximity mines was an awesome strategy. Needless to say, the game just didn't hold up to modern first-person shooters, as the only thing it had going for it was nostalgia, at best.
So this weekend I dusted it off and gave it another shot, just to see how jaded I was then or still was. I'm sad to report that it still doesn't hold up, and might be even worse with each time I try to play it. While Punch-Out!! the other day was a pure gem and a fantastic representation of a classic game, this Wii version of GoldenEye 007 just makes me want to pull out the old 64 version, call up my friends and play, even though that wouldn't help at all to get this bitter taste out of my mouth.
Sorry, Bond. The one thing I liked about is slowly fading away into the sunset, probably for good.
Link. Hyrule Kingdom. Princess Zelda. All in 3D. and that, my friends, is what blew the doors completely off the Zelda franchise.
When Ocarina of Time came out for the Nintendo 64, it revolutionized how gamers looked at the Zelda franchise. The step into 3D realms for a popular Nintendo franchise was already taken by Mario in Mario 64, but what Ocarina did was by far above and beyond the simple leap into 3D graphics. It cemented how important Zelda was not just to Nintendo, but the gaming industry as a whole. To this day, it is still looked upon as one of, if not the best video game ever - which says a lot considering how many games there are on that list.
It's funny, too, because last night when I was playing A Link to the Past, I thought without a shadow of a doubt that it was my favorite Zelda game. Then I played Ocarina tonight, and low and behold, I had to change my opinion. Not because I think of LTTP any less now, but I just realized how awesome and amazing that Ocarina of Time was - and still is.
As I kid, I never owned my own Nintendo 64, but my cousin Jake did. Because of that, I went over to his house a lot to play games. Going over there usually meant spending the night as well, obviously meaning I got to play even more games. While he liked playing games, he wasn't nearly as in to them as I was. He liked the idea of them, liked bragging about having them and showing them off, while feeling like the cool kid for having them all. But I was clearly the gamer of group, and he more often than not watched me play games, while he did ... whatever it was he did.
This was definitely the case for Ocarina of Time. He watched me play a LOT of that game. When he first got it, I was over there every chance I got, each time getting a little further into the story. Every time we got stuck playing it, we had to figure our way through it, eventually, thanks to the Internet not exactly being what it is today. So when we finally beat the game, I remember how epic and amazing it felt, after the countless hours we dumped in to it. Immediately after beating it, however, all I wanted to do was start it all over again. Yeah, it was that kind of game. And really, it still is.
Tonight playing it brought back all those memories. Since playing it back in the day, I have bought several re-releases of this game, which is becoming common ground for great Nintendo games at this point. Tonight, despite owning it on several platforms, I played the Virtual Console version.
Aside from the extremely long opening cinematic that you cant skip and the ridiculously annoying fairy companion (Navi) that follows you around the whole game, this adventure through the kingdom of Hyrule is unforgettable. There are some games that I can play over and over again, and each time I remember certain things about it that I may have forgotten until I come back across them in the game, But with Ocarina, I remember tons of specific things within the game before I even get close to getting to them in-game. It's one of those special games that leaves a permanent imprint on your gaming memory,
The 3D graphics were groundbreaking for a game that big and robust back in the day, and the 3DS remake did an excellent job not just enhancing them, but putting them under a spotlight and showing them off to the adoring public. The game play mechanics worked like a charm, everything from the combat system to riding Epona the horse, and everything in between. Sure, the camera was a little wonky, but most games at that time had a learning curve for figuring out how to properly use the camera in the 3D environment. With so much that the game did right, the hands-down best thing about this game is the story.
The story. Wow. For all the talk recently about how BioShock Infinite has one the best video game stories ever, people need to go back and replay Ocarina of Time for a sample of a time when GREAT stories was a common thing. It's not an overly complex story or one that will make you sit there and ponder the meaning of life after it all wraps up, but it is still fantastic in what it is. It's simple, it's easy to follow, but man, does it rope you in and make you actually care about it, not just enjoy it. In its simplest and most purest form, it is a story of good vs. evil, with love and trust sprinkled in for good measure.
For the most part, this is the basic storyline for the entire Zelda franchise, but for the first time in the series, Ocarina of Time highlighted it, enhanced it and wrapped the entire game around it. The ability to have good cut-scenes in the game certainly enhanced the impact of the story, which is why it remains the absolute best Zelda game to play if you are only going to play one, ever. If you are going to start the series, then yes, start out with Link to the Past. But if you only choose to play a single Zelda game, Ocarina of Time is what you need to be playing. Hands down. No argument.
Ask me tomorrow, though. Maybe I'll change my mind once again.
Looking back at last night's blog post, I realize it was a train wreck. A complete disaster, if you will. I really don't know what came over me, but I realized while I was writing that it sucked, but reading it again, I think the term "sucked" is being awful grateful.
My thoughts were scattered all over the place - maybe because I was more focused about writing about a movie about games than I was the game about the movie about games. Or, maybe I just suffered from spontaneous writing fatigue. Can't say for sure, but hopefully I can SNAP out of it long enough to get a much better blog up tonight.
I would like to apologize for that disaster last night, to anyone who had to read that garbage. But I would also like to apologize for not taking advantage of an obvious opportunity to play my first Nintendo 64 game on the 64th day of the blog project. DUH. Didn't even cross my mind until today. I think I am already starting to plan in the future that the present day opportunities are slipping right by me. So, to make it up, I decided to play an awesome Nintendo 64 game, and one of my personal favorites ... Pokemon Snap.
Now, I can't say that I ever imagined that this game would be the first 64 game I played for this year long project, but that's the beauty of what I have created. The unknown, the mystery ... and not just from you, the reader, but even for myself. Actually, I was inspired to play this game after I posed a question on twitter. I asked if anyone could guess what franchise my next "Week Of..." series would cover, and Chris (@HolyHeadShot) from EverydayGamers.com guessed a slew of franchises, all of which were good guesses, but wrong.
One of the names he dropped, however, was Pokemon, and while that series hadn't even struck me as a possibility, I checked and we are now entering the 6th generation of Pokemon games with the announced Pokemon X & Y games later this year. And since the 4th generation had two sets of games, Diamond & Pearl and also HeartGold & SoulSilver, it is very possible to do a full week of Pokemon games just using the base, standard games (spin-offs, like Snap, don't count). That's crazy to think, that as long as they have been around, does it really feel like there have been 7 different sets of Pokemon games?
So, with my mind on Pokemon and Pokemon on my mind, I decided to whip out Pokemon Snap and give my photographer skills a test.
Yes, the game is still super-easy and anything but complicated. Yes it is still an awesome collection of the old-school, first generation Pokemon that we all know and love. And yes, I freakin' love this game. I can't remember how long after it came originally did I play it, but I remember going back through over and over again trying to get that PERFECT shot. What a blast to not worry about dying, not worrying about puzzle solving ... just taking pictures of amazing looking Pokemon.
I feel like this game has been the gold standard for games using a camera to take pictures, whether the entire game is based around it (Endless Ocean series for the Wii) or just using it as a tool within the game. And while there are much better looking camera games since Snap, this one still has a special place in my heart. The first generation of Pokemon are so memorable, thanks to the groundbreaking Red & Blue (and eventually Yellow) games, the cartoon series, the trading cards and everything else that capitalized on the Pocket Monsters phenomenon. This game was really the first time we got to see the Pokemon in full 3D, and it was amazing. Anyone remember finally catching the surfing Pikachu on camera for the first time? Yeahhhhhh....
Anyway, I enjoyed playing this game all over again. It's a game I like to go back to every now and then, just because. And seriously, if there was EVER a game that was way before its time, this is it. Tell me this game wouldn't be absolutely perfect for the new Wii U system? Seriously, just take this game, HD it up, add some more features, throw it on a Wii U disk and I guarantee this struggling system will start flying off the shelves. I GUARANTEE IT.
Of course Nintendo won't do it, though. They apparently don't like money. Or making good decisions. Or doing the obvious actions to obtain success. They insist on doing it the hard way. More power to them, but there is a legion of Pokemon fans, old school and newer adapters of the series, that would kill for an awesome Wii U Pokemon game. Just saying, Nintendo ... just saying.
So there you have it. My first Nintendo 64 game. And that "My Week Of..." I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that starts Monday. Be ready for another epic week packed full of one game franchise.
Also, on a final note, I am tossing the idea around of taking on suggestions for games to play, and if possible, taking the recommendations and turning them into a blog post. Maybe one a week, maybe one or two a month, I'm not sure yet. And I wouldn't ask for really hard to get, obscure suggestions either, but just something to be more interactive with the readers and keep things even more fresh around here.
I'm hoping things like that would prevent posts like my Wreck-It Ralph blog to ever happen. But sometimes, the tsunami just can't be stopped.
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Games played for project : 365