After such an amazing, awe-inspiring game like Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo put it's self and the developers of the Mario games into quite a pickle. On one hand, they completely exceeded everyone's expectations for what a 3D Mario game on the Wii console could be, and they should be commemorated and congratulated for that tenfold. What they pulled off with that title is nothing short of amazing, and thankfully, the critics around the world universally agreed how amazing it was, thus rewarding the team for their accomplishments with the game. On the other hand, however, they raised the bar so high for themselves for any future Mario games, it almost seemed impossible for any Mario game to get better, or even equal, of what Galaxy accomplished.
So when they announced New Super Mario Bros. Wii as the next Mario title, which wasn't a follow up or successor to Galaxy at all, fans everywhere balked at the news and immediately started judging the game for not being as good or as creative as Galaxy. Gamers seemed to adore Galaxy so much, that no matter what Nintendo revealed, it wasn't going to be enough to satisfy the craving that Nintendo themselves established in the first place. It felt like a no-win situation for the company, and the criticism and negativity started right back up.
The thing is, however, that Nintendo never claimed to want to make another Galaxy game, or a game similar to it. Remember, they like to shake things up, keep things creative and new and fresh feeling, and not dwell too heavily on one style of gameplay, despite how successful it might be, I mean think about it, how often does Nintendo put out back to back Mario games of the similar style? Exactly. Yet everyone, even to this day, continues to say that Nintendo just recycles the same old, tired formula over and over again. Weird how perspective and assumptions can differ so greatly from reality some times.
Anyway, with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, they went back to the successful formula that the DS game established, providing the classic 2D side-scrolling gameplay in a very stylish, modern style of design. With Galaxy, the clear focus was on adventure and 3D exploration of the worlds traveled to, and while it was an amazing experience from start to finish, I can totally see why it isn't a game for everyone. Remember that the Wii was a household staple all across the country, and not just in the living rooms or bedrooms of "hardcore" gamers. The install base had branched out into casual and first-time gamers, and for those not used to controlling video game characters around a 3D axis, it could surely prove to be difficult without the proper hand-eye coordination or years of practice. And just because Galaxy was so successful didn't mean that Nintendo would be complacent and just be satisfied with Mario reaching out to some of their customers, but not all.
With that idea in mind, New Super Mario Bros. Wii was born, hoping to reach out to that audience that was turned off by the complex game play of Galaxy. NSMBW was developed with families in mind, hoping to bring everyone together on the couch for game play sessions in a Mario co-op experience like no other. At first, it's easy to label Mario as a family game, but in reality, no Mario game was ever truly developed with multiple gamers in mind. Sure, they would have a second player option in some of them, allowing two players to take turns playing levels, which are really just two individual gaming experiences, instead of one shared experience. With this game, however, they wanted to change all that, and allow four players at once to share one gaming experience, however hectic it may be.
And when thinking about this game, my first memories are always how chaotic and hectic it was playing with my three kids. We would sit around and play it together, because we could, and because they loved it. Sure, it was as frustrating as you could imagine for a gamer like me, but when you sit back and just experience the game as nothing but fun times with your kids and not worry about collecting everything, or doing the best as possible, it really is a blast. It's pure madness, but it's fun nonetheless.
Playing with my daughter on this Christmas day afternoon, all I could think about was all those times I got to play it with them, and how I may have taken that time for granted. Hindsight is dangerous if you let it get to you, but I wish I could go back and appreciate all those moments I had with my kids while playing games, especially now that my time with them is far more limited, especially for playing games with them.
I remember the younger ones always "bubbling up" on the tough parts of each level, which just encapsulated their character in a bubble that would follow the other players through the level, until popped. This prevented them from dying or getting stuck on jumps they couldn't make, and really made the game playable for everyone of all ages. It prevented frustration from my end, and it kept them entertained and in the game without worry of them getting bored due to difficulties.
It's not the best looking Nintendo game, or the most creative. It's not the most ground breaking game, or at the top of the list within the franchise. But it will always be remembered and appreciated for opening doors to everyone who wanted to experience a Mario game, that wasn't just satisfied watching or playing as a second player, alone. It brought people together on the couch for a full game experience, and while online gaming was climbing higher and higher in popularity, it was refreshing to see a company still value in-person human interaction.
Of course, maybe it was this game that made Nintendo remember that loneliness is tough thing to handle, even for video game characters. I mean, space is a pretty lonely place if you don't have a companion by your side, don't you think?
When the Nintendo Wii was released, everyone flocked to it and wanted to get their hands on it to try out the new motion controllers and see this crazy new Nintendo console that was sweeping the country. Gamers high and low wanted to see what this game system was all about, and why it was reaching out to such a broad audience and consumer base like not video game system ever before had done, as people who had never picked up a game controller, much less liked video games, were clamoring for the Wii. Needless to say, it was a transcendent fixture in gaming history, reaching out and bringing a wide range of people together for the sake of video games.
Once the shine and mass hysteria wore off a bit, through, the true gaming audience began to sit back and pick the system apart, pointing out all the things perceived to be wrong with it as an attempt to knock it back a peg or two, in hopes of fighting the good fight for one of the other systems, Xbox 360 or PS3. The thing is, Nintendo never set out to create a machine like Sony or Microsoft. They wanted to develop something that would bring people together, encourage family time and overall just give players the ability to have fun, without the stress and pressure of online gaming or competitive fanboyisms.
Because of this route, however, Nintendo did deliver a system that was technically under-powered compared to the "competition," and many games that were released for the system looked and played like hot garbage, as they were merely attempts to be cash cows and take advantage of the over saturated market and create cheap, gimmicky motion controlled games to trick the average consumers who were new to the marketplace to giving them money, hoping they wouldn't notice the difference between quality games and "shovelware" games.
These shovelware games completely ruined the imagine for Nintendo among the "hardcore" fans, and they constantly used the poor quality and horrible graphics as proof of how under-powered the Wii was in the current landscape of games. Nintendo never really stood up and stopped the flow of crappy games from hitting store shelves, all but making the "Nintendo Seal of Quality" from back in the day meaningless now.
Despite Nintendo taking a quiet stance on what third party games were being released for their system, they finally took a stand against people criticizing them and their "little system that could." They finally proved, once and for all, exactly what the Wii was capable of from a graphics and technical standpoint, when they released the mind-blowing, incredible Mario game known as Super Mario Galaxy.
When this game was announced and shown off for the first time, people were blown away. Mario is space? At first, the notion seemed crazy, but in actuality, having the freedom of space actually allowed the franchise to open up and grow, giving the developers a chance to try new and creative ideas that just wouldn't or couldn't work in the already established Mario universe. Possibilities are endless up in space, and because of that, Mario was set free to explore levels and worlds like never before.
The game physics are intense and always changing, from planet to planet, which keeps the game and the idea of being in space from ever feeling repetitive or boring. You're able to control Mario in ways you had only dreamed of before, and in some circumstances, ways you couldn't have dreamed up in a million years. Bee Suit Mario, anyone? The way that Galaxy plays was refreshing and fun, never feeling like a gimmick.
Game play was a huge part of Galaxy, but whenever the game is brought up and I'm forced to think about it, I always revert back to just how gorgeous this game is. I understand that so many games these days, especially for the new systems, are gorgeous and great looking, but what Nintendo did with Mario Galaxy were things hardly ever seen in games, especially Nintendo games, even more especially, Mario games. Most of the beauty doesn't come from the big, fantastic looking worlds, planets and moons, ore the enemies that inhabit them, but rather the smaller details in the game. The shimmer of far off galaxies and stars, the space dust left behind in trails as you fly through space, the delicate touches of texture on things you're not used to seeing texture on.
I could gush for thousands and thousands of words about how amazing this game looks, but really, I could never do it justice. It's so breathtaking when you see it first hand, especially when you look over and see that little machine that no one imagined could do anything remarkable running this game, which received perfect scores left and right by critics, and is still near the top of the list for Metacritic as one of the best, highest rated games of all time. Talk about making a statement, Nintendo. Silence can be powerful when used correctly, I suppose.
Just because Nintendo finally took a stand against the nay-sayers, doesn't mean they would change their ways completely, as keeping the industry guessing and catching them off guard is something they will always do, I would bet. Their follow up to Galaxy is not eh
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?
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.
The first four Super Mario platforming titles followed pretty much the same formula, as far as gameplay and how you advanced through the game. For one, they were all 2D side-scrolling games, moving from left to right in every stage, all on the same dimensional plane, despite there being some interaction with the backgrounds and landscapes that Mario ran past. Also, every game was linear, meaning the game itself carried you along the path to your next destination.
Sure, with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World there was a world map overlay that acted as hub, and you controlled Mario along the path yourself, even with the option of taking alternate routes or finding secrets and shortcuts along the way. While this gave the player some choice and control over picking one level or another, you always had to go in relatively the same linear path already established in order to get to end game. There wasn't hub world exploration or a free-roam mode, just a map you could move your marker along how you saw fit.
When Super Mario 64 came out, however, it took all that conventional wisdom and threw it out the window. With the higher graphical power of the newest Nintendo console, the Nintendo 64, the Mario development team decided that the only true way to show off Mario on the new system, and help him reclaim his throne on top of the gaming kingdom, was to present Mario in ways that fans had never seen or experience before from this franchise.
For starters, the game was a 3D game with a camera that rotated 360 degrees, allowing the player to move and control Mario in any and all directions they wanted to go. Not only that, however, but they did away with the linear map progression hub, instead implementing open-world style kingdom to explore at your will, with pictures acting as the different levels you would travel to in your adventure. All you would have to do is jump into a painting and be transported to that level. As long as you had enough stars banked to get to that area, you were free to go to whichever levels you wanted to at your own leisure.
Speaking of stars, the actual in-game gameplay was drastically, and radically to be honest, changed up for this brand new Mario adventure. The standard time limit was removed, as was the ever so pointless points tracker. The flagpoles being the final destination of the level was dropped as well, as challenges and puzzles were added to be what the player was after in order to complete the level. Each challenge resulted in grabbing a star to add to your collection. Because of this, each level warranted several playthroughs each, with some levels changing depending on which star you were going after, or dropping you into a previously unknown part of the level.
The star challenges themselves were revolutionary, as you would go from climbing to the top of a mountain for one, to hunting down a star attached to a giant eel under water in another, and everything in between, like racing a penguin in a downhill sliding race or chasing a rabbit around until you caught it for another. Every challenge felt different and unique, and some were just so hard, it was nice being able to go to a different challenge or even a different level if you needed a break from a tough one and coming back to it a later time.
Power-ups were re-imagined also, making them brought on by finding different caps, like one with wings to fly, or a metal one to sink in water and also be protected from fire. It was a nice touch, and even more shocking when Mario would lose his hat, as seeing such an iconic character stripped of something so recognizable, made you look at him in a different way.
Going back and playing this game again, I had to be careful, because it is one of those games that when I start, I don't want to stop. I have Super Mario 64 to thank for my obsessive collector habit, I think, as getting the bare minimum of stars just was never enough. I felt like I was cheating myself out of a portion of the game if I didn't go after all 120 stars, and even now days, despite beating that game a countless number of times, I can't help but get a little anxious knowing I didn't do everything I could in the game.
Man, I need a vacation. I wonder if Mario has ever said that, after all his Princess saving and Bowser stomping?
Well, it's finally here.The stretch run of this blog to the finish line. One full year of playing a new game every day, a different game each day, and then writing about my experience with each game. I have tried over the past year to branch out and write about wide range and broad spectrum of games, because while the dedication and commitment to this blog project has been for myself, the journey and the content I have provided the entire way has always been for you, the readers.
Because of my dedication to provide interesting and non-repetitive content on a daily basis, I have done my very best to not just play and write about games that I like, or my favorites. This has meant I have held back on flooding this blog with Mario games, because while the Super Mario franchise might be my all time favorite of all things video game related, I know they aren't for everyone. Sure, I have sprinkled in Mario games throughout the year, but never more extensively than needed.
But that's all about to change. For the final 12 days of this blog project, I am going to do what I want to do, for me and my own sanity. I am going to present to you, the readers, the gift of Mario for 12 straight days. If you're sitting there grumbling to yourself about this notion, allow me to point out that at one point a few months ago, I was actually considering making the entire month of December a month long celebration of Mario. Unfortunately (but maybe thankfully for you), my favorite pizza guy, Bill aka @Slaterific, talked me out of my Mario insanity, and so, I made some adjustments to the plan.
Given there were plenty of Mario games to fill an entire month, I still felt like Mario should be given his just due. So a few months back, I did a Week Of Mario spin-off titles, to get them out of the way, because I felt Mario did deserve the respect to have his various, multiple spin-off titles recognized for their not only success, but quality as well. And with them out of the way, this paved the path to allow me to spend the final 12 days of My Year of Gaming playing and writing about the Super Mario platformers, and all their glory.
With that, let's start out with the only Mario platformer to grace the Super Nintendo platformer, which easily helped sell the system right off the bat as an included game with the system at launch, and truly showed off how expansive and unique a Mario game could be. It also introduced the lovable green dinosaur, Yoshi, as a companion to Mario, while bringing the entire franchise many new ideas and mechanics that are still found in Mario games today.
Of course I'm talking about Super Mario World, which is still regarded as the favorite Mario game for many people after all these years. Quite a remarkable feat for 16-bit platformer, I should point out.
I remember getting this game when I first got my Super Nintendo system, which was about year or so after it first came out. My cousin first had, so I was familiar with it, so the by the time I got it, I knew what it was all about. Regardless of when I got it, though, I still played Super Mario World like it was my first time. As much as I loved Super Mario Bros. 3, which was and still is one of my favorite games of all time, Super Mario World took my imagination, and Mario himself, into places I didn't know existed.
The established set pieces for the franchise were already well in place, but Super Mario World took the blueprints and made them its own. They created an entirely new map, and essentially a new world called Dinosaur Land, they added new enemies to stomp and lands to explore, new power-ups like the cape feather, and a new companion, Yoshi.
Using the cape feather is trickier than I remember, but once you get the hang of it, it can be quite useful. Regardless of how useful it is, though, I still can't say I'm fond of it. On one hand, it's almost game breaking, as you could essentially fly unharmed through an entire level. On the other hand, it's tricky and cumbersome to use, and while the noise it makes is iconic, I find it quite annoying after a while. Sure, I used the feather when necessary, but only because I had to, not because I wanted to.
Yoshi, however, is a blast to use. Running around and gobbling up both enemies and fruits hanging in the bushes in the background is as enjoyable as you might think, and while he is extremely useful in-game, I really enjoy the challenge of trying to keep him with me, as once hit, you fall off and it takes off running in the opposite direction. Half the time you're doing everything you can to avoid being hit, and the rest of the time is spent chasing the errant-running green dinosaur.
Overall, this game is an absolute classic, and firmly put Mario on top of the mountain for the video game industry. Unfortunately, his reign would be short lived as he would be knocked off his perch for a moment or two in time, thanks in part to not having a true game of his own on a home consoles for several years. Fortunately, however, his next game would revolutionize the entire industry.
I used to have so much respect for the Angry Bird franchise. I really and truly did. I'm pretty sure I made that fairly clear in my official, unofficial week of Angry Birds that I did a couple of months ago. That franchise has offered so much to gamers over the years, and for a mere seven dollars, I was able to fulfill an entire week of games, and more importantly, got countless hours of time-wasting, mind-numbing game play out of that seven bucks since the very first Angry Birds game I downloaded.
I've been a pretty vocal supporter of them as well, recommending it to anyone who would listen at one point, touting all the free updates that included free levels upon free levels as proof that the dollar spent on each game was well worth it, and went far beyond the initial purchase price of the game.
Unfortunately, I think the Angry Birds franchise has finally jumped the shark, as it seems far more important to them to make money than to continue it's reputation of rewarding their fans and supporters with not just good games, but making them feel like their money was well spent. Maybe this transition for them happened a while ago and I was just too jaded or naive to notice, but thanks to the newly released Angry Birds Go! game, their current state of business is crystal clear.
A while ago I wrote about Plants vs. Zombies 2, and how PopCap did micro-transactions as well as could possibly be. They allowed you to play and complete the entire game for free, as all it took was some grinding and skill to acquire and unlock everything needed in the game to fully finish it. Of course, the option was always there to throw some real-life currency at the game to make it easier or shorter of a game if you so choose, but it was never forced. There was never a pay wall completely blocking your path, and there was never timed cool-down periods where you simply couldn't play without waiting a designated amount of time, unless you wanted to pay for your impatience. It was a totally free, 100% complete game, and I hoped at the time that all future big-name micro-transaction games would follow suit in how they did business.
Angry Birds Go! is a karting game set in the Angry Birds universe, featuring all your favorite characters from the series (both birds and pigs) as kart racers. There are a few different race modes, different tracks and customizable karts, which is all pretty much exactly what you want from a karting game. The controls are nice and tight, as you can choose between touch-based or tilt controls. For my iPad, tilt controls work great for me, which was surprising because of the usual lag tendencies with those controls. The game is great looking too, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has played any of the other Angry Birds games.
So why did I have a problem with, you ask? The micro-transactions, obviously.
The game starts out okay, but quickly starts hitting you with micro-transaction options. It stalls pretty quickly, as you have to decide whether or not to give the developers money just to shut them up and let you play the game. There is a cool-down period, where you literally cannot play without spending cash or hard-earned crystals you collected in the game, which if you go that route, means you are going to be replaying the same levels over and over again to grind for the crystals.
Simply put, the game is pretty much unplayable, enjoyable and frustrating if you don't spend money on it, in which case, you probably won't be feeling very good about the game anyway at that point. The thing is, the game does so many different things right as a karting game and an addition to the Angry Birds franchise, I would have gladly spent a dollar or two to straight up buy this game as a whole package and never have to even consider micro-transactions as part of the experience. But instead, they decided they could make a lot more money with this method and way of business, and that's disappointing.
I guess I expected more from them as a company. Or maybe I took for granted all they did for the years leading up to this game. Either way, I'm sad as an Angry Birds fan, but I'm also relieved that I don't have to waste much more time with their games.
I couldn't get away with sitting here and claiming to know that I was going to play and write about this game ahead of time, as if I had it planned out all along, especially considering the recent Nintendo-filled blogs and opinions I've had. While its a fantastic coincidence, it is just that, since no one at all knew about this game until the day it was released, which was the day it was announced as well. Again, Nintendo is full of surprises constantly, and they never cease to amaze me, as evidence by this bomb they dropped on an unannounced Nintendo Direct.
Unlike Sony and Microsoft, who rely heavily on hype and build up and anticipation of games and announcements and such, Nintendo has taken a different approach since the release of the Wii U, really, where they quietly put out pre-recorded Nintendo Direct videos early in the morning for us folks here on the West Coast. In these videos, they release new information about upcoming games, show new trailers and screen shots about future titles, and even, like with this last one, announce brand new games.
Not only did they announce a Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mash-up game coming out next year, tentatively titled Hyrule Warriors, but they also announced Dr. Luigi, which is strikingly similar to Dr. Mario, only with that Year of Luigi swagger we've experienced all year. On top of those announcements, however, was the big reveal of NES Remix, a downloadable title from the eShop for the Wii U, which features hundreds of levels from 16 different classic NES games, The game revolves around getting three stars each level (Angry Birds style) for completing the small and quick challenges on both original levels and remixed versions of the levels you know and love - and probably know backwards and forwards, to be honest.
The best thing about this announcement for a game no one had even heard of was at the moment they did announce it, they simultaneously made the game available to download from the eShop right to your Wii U. Boom, just like that. Hype and instant product within seconds. Because that's how Nintendo rolls.
Like I was describing before, this game is just a mash-up of different challenges set in place from 16 different NES classic titles. The more stars you collect (three per level is possible), the more challenges and different games you can unlock. Aside from the three stars, you can always get three rainbow stars, which indicates a perfect or flawless run for whatever challenge it is. Naturally, the first time I got the rainbow stars, I was hooked and now I don't want to settle for anything less than rainbow stars for each level.
Another cool thing Nintendo seems to be trying out are the stamps, which first really were shown off in Super Mario 3D World, where all the stamps you collect you basically have tied to your account forever, allowing you to use the stamps in any and all Miiverse messages. In NES Remix, you unlock stamps as well as you progress through the game, all of which are 8-bit sprites and looking fantastic, in my humble opinion.
Playing all the classic levels with specific, quick challenges is a lot of fun, and reminds me of a WarioWare game, only with familiar games and franchises pulled from. The Remixed levels, however, are total recreations of the traditional levels and games, built from the ground up and looking better than ever. Each one has a different kind of twist that makes it unique, and it makes you see and play the level in a way you never thought possible.
This game is like a hands-on museum for Nintendo's historic early franchises, and I'm excited to see where this might lead to. Will we see SNES Remix and N64 Remix games eventually? Because let's be real here - no matter how cool and fun this game is, the possibilities are endless and even more exciting than this first step.
Even if plans like that are in the pipeline, however, we'll never know about it. Until, you know, the morning of, of course.
Over this year-long project to play a different game every day and write about it, I have played a wide variety of games. I have played most of my favorites, played old and new games, and even ventured in to some genres I didn't care for to start or just didn't know much about. I've played games I never knew existed, games I never would have pictured myself playing or liking for that matter, and games I had in the back of my mind all along, that I wanted to write about for one reason or another. I've played good games and bad games, games that could hardly be considered games and games I don't even remember playing, if I were to go back and look through all my posts.
Most importantly, I have played the biggest and broadest variety of games possible for me, to give you all, the readers, something new and different each day, each week, each month. I always tried to avoid getting stuck in repeating and uninteresting patterns, and always did my best to keep it fresh and exciting, from day one up until now.
And because of that, I want to throw yet another curve ball your way, with a game that very few people remember even hearing about, and even less actually played. In fact, I would be shocked and surprised to find anyone who has played this game, and I challenge you to write in and let me know if you played it, because honestly, I feel all alone on this one. I have since I bought it, and because of that, I want to share a hidden gem with you.
Endless Ocean: Blue World is a sequel to the original Endless Ocean game, both of which graced the Wii console as Nintendo-published games. If you aren't familiar with the series at all, which I totally anticipate, the game features you as a diver as you explore the waters and marine life. In this game, there is a legit story that progresses you through the game, taking you to diving spots all over the world, even including arctic waters and a fresh water river. While diving, you just swim around and check out the underwater environments, interacting and photographing all the sea creatures you come across.
Of course the collector in me made sure I found and documented every kind of fish and creature, even the "legendary" ones that usually require you to fulfill some act or objective in order to bring them out. There's an aquarium where you are given the power to pick whatever type of sea creatures you want to fill the tanks, and you can only select from the ones you encountered, giving you more incentive to find them all.
In this game, unlike the first one, there are predators that actually pose a threat to you as playable character, like sharks, crocodiles and electric eels, to name a few. This was a nice addition to the game, as it gave it more of a gaming vibe, as the first one literally had not threats to speak of, thus making it feel like a diving simulator as opposed to a "real" game.
For a Wii game, it is gorgeous. The textures and graphics of creatures up close and personal might not be groundbreaking, but the distant views and vast areas to explore and enjoy really are the crowing achievement for this game. For me, falling in love with this series was a piece of cake, as the ocean and animals are my favorite thing in the world. The thought of studying marine biology intrigues me to this day, and I can't always help but wonder what else is out there to explore and discover. We spend so much money as a country on exploring space when we know just as much, if that, about our deepest oceans. They are full of things to discover for the full time, and while I'm not putting on a wet suit any time soon, this is a nice alternative.
Now if I can just get a follow up to this game on the Wii U, with the use of the GamePad, and I would be one happy camper.
It's easy for people to bash on Nintendo these days, laugh at their failures and point out all of their shortcomings as a gaming console hardware company, especially in wake of the Wii U under-performing. While the Wii U does many things right, and has even proven that a second screen on a home console can not only be effective, but in some circumstances necessary, people still don't think Nintendo is viable as a hardware developer any longer.
Well, Sony doesn't seem shy to admit that Nintendo is doing things right, especially with the second screen function of the Wii U. Thanks to the remote-play function of the PS Vita with the PS4, gamers can play whatever games they have downloaded or loaded into their console on their Vita, as it pretty much flawlessly streams right to the Vita screen. This function allows for the television to be used for someone else (watching TV, another game consoles, whatever) while the PS4 player gets the full experience of the console shrunk down to the Vita, without lag or downgraded graphics.
This function, which everyone raved about since the PS4 launch, is exactly what the Wii U offers with the GamePad that is included with the console. Instead of having to buy a Vita separately, it's already built in to the console that everyone loves to hate.
While Sony has taken inspiration from Nintendo and ran with it, there is one particular thing Sony is doing that Nintendo could take some lessons from. Sony introduced the Cross-Buy option for gamers that allowed them to buy a PS3 version of a game and get the Vita version for free. I might be wrong, but I think the first game they did it with was Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, and since then, has adopted it for many of their games. Granted, most games that use it are smaller, PSN titles, but that's only because full versions of PS3 games for the Vita that are exactly the same are hard to come by.
So with these PSN titles, all you have to do is buy one version and get the other one for free, at no additional cost at all. Also, most of the Cross-Buy games also feature Cross-Saves, allowing you to upload your save file to the cloud and access it on whatever platform you choose, at any time. Also, most tiles feature a unified trophy list, but there have been instances of separate trophy lists, allowing you to double up on trophies easily, with one sync of a save file. Thank you, Sound Shapes.
With the release of the PS4, Sony's Cross-Buy program didn't get swept under the rug, but instead upgraded and expanded. Right off the bat, former PSN favorites began showing up on the PS4, which were free if you owned them on a previous console (PS3 and/or Vita). And now, with Doki-Doki Universe, games are seeing the Cross-Buy program spread over three different consoles all at once. Buy this games for any console of your choosing, and get it for free for the other two. Simple as that. It's brilliant, and if Nintendo ever decided to adopt a similar program with the Wii U and the 3DS, imagine the possibilities.
Of course, I can only imagine that Sony started up this program as a way to entice consumers to buy a Vita, as they have struggled to sell themselves. So by making gamers feel like there was a legit reason to own one and that there were tons of perks that came with ownership, they hoped to sell a bunch more. Nintendo is really in the same boat with the 3DS, but I wonder if the Wii U couldn't get a shot in the proverbial arm if it was possible to stream 3DS games onto it. Nintendo is moving closer to it being a possibility, now that they are taking the steps needed to completely unify your 3DS and Wii U accounts, so who knows what could happen in the near future.
Anyway, this game Doki-Doki Universe is pretty rad. Rad? Can I use the word still without making me sound like I'm a child of the late 80's/ early 90's, even though I am? Oh well, either way, I used it. Take it or leave it.
If you have played any of the Scribblenauts games, this game will feel quite familiar. Instead of the complete freedom to come up with any object you can name, all the objects you will need are already in the game, spread out over the worlds you explore, waiting for you to find and collect. Yes, it takes the creative freedom out of the game, which made Scribblenauts so charming, but with Doki-Doki Universe, it doesn't feel like it's missing anything. It feels just as adorable and charming, just in a different way.
It's pretty much impossible not to fall in love with the characters, as they all ooze so much personality and pizzazz. The art style is simple, but somehow it pops extremely impressively. It's crisp and clear and looks amazing, especially considering the style used. The story telling and humor are on-point as well, making the overall package pretty enjoyable. Sure, the game is simple and it's not the type of game for everyone, but if you're looking for a nice, relaxing and borderline cheesy game to make you smile and feel like a kid again, you can't go wrong with Doki-Doki Universe.
Especially if you want three copies of it for the price of one.
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PSN = the_noyse
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Games played for project : 365