Super Mario Maker — 1Q2016 issue

 

A mas­ter­piece in the making

Super Mario Maker is the Mario game that isn’t quite the stan­dard Mario fare but is the game you didn’t know you needed. It is, along­side few oth­ers, the killer app for the Wii U.
Let’s start with what Mario Maker isn’t. This isn’t your reg­u­lar Mario hop and bop, save the princess adven­ture. In fact, lit­tle story if any exists and Peach is barely men­tioned or ref­er­enced. This is Mario stripped down to his bare ele­ments, show­ing how his adven­tures come together. It’s also really an excuse to revisit Mario’s past and get some of the newer enthu­si­asts up to speed, just in time for Mario’s 30th birth­day.
The stage is set by uti­liz­ing some of Mario’s great­est games. Mak­ing an appear­ance are ele­ments from the orig­i­nal plat­form­ing mas­ter­pieces Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3. Join­ing those are sec­ondary great­est hit Super Mario World and the more recent hit New Super Mario Bros. U. All four games rep­re­sent some crown­ing achieve­ment for the every­day plumber and thus have some merit for mak­ing you revisit these set pieces to cre­ate your own mas­ter­piece.
Cre­at­ing that mas­ter­piece is sim­ple and intu­itive. The level edi­tor focuses on lev­els, not worlds, and wisely makes the process quick and pain­less. Want to make a level with 10 Bowsers under­wa­ter only to face off against a lone Ham­mer Bros. before the end gate in Super Mario world style and graph­ics? That’s easy. But this is also where the only gripe that I have with the game rears its head. While you may want to make that stun­ning gaunt­let of pain imme­di­ately, you’re lim­ited because of the game’s unlock­ing sys­tem. Game styles beyond the initial two and ulti­mately the major­ity of your cre­ation library are unlocked via a time sys­tem that goes by days. You can speed it up, but it’s intended to make you the cre­ator spend sev­eral days try­ing out the sys­tem and get­ting a feel for new ele­ments in a paced envi­ron­ment. I can appre­ci­ate the sense of not want­ing too many ele­ments all at once, but the sys­tem is a lit­tle slow and frus­trat­ing when I have a mil­lion ideas that I can’t fully imple­ment for sev­eral days ini­tially.
Mario Maker looks fan­tas­tic for the most part. The non-level edi­tor graph­ics look great and are crisp. The game runs off the Wii U graph­i­cal power so while your newer game styles and non-editor graph­ics look good on the Wii U gamepad and on the TV, your older graph­ics for most of the styles are going to look a lit­tle bad at 1080p res­o­lu­tion on a newer TV. Nin­tendo took a risk in not jazz­ing up the older game styles and it paid off, quite hon­estly. I’d rather play a SMB3 level in the way that it would have looked on the orig­i­nal NES than a fixed ver­sion that’s been changed.
In addi­tion to the graph­ics, the sound­track is a mix of new and old. The main themes asso­ci­ated with each game style and level type (Ground, Under­wa­ter, Under­ground, Cas­tle, Air­ship and Ghost House) are remixed for use dur­ing the edit­ing process. They are found, though, in their orig­i­nal form when an actual level is played. The remixes are great and bring some­thing new to the table, while using the orig­i­nal ver­sion does a lot for immer­sion. The game’s illu­sions to spir­i­tual pre­de­ces­sor Mario Paint don’t hurt, either. It, too, had a unique sound­track and hear­ken­ing back to that era of cre­ativ­ity in sev­eral places such as the sound­track is a  wel­come inclu­sion.
What I love most about Mario Maker is its sense of Mario love. It’s not afraid to let the gamer take con­trol and it’s also about Nin­tendo let­ting folks in to see the wheels turn behind one of its most iconic fran­chises. Nin­tendo clearly loves Mario, whether it’s from a mon­e­ti­za­tion point of tak­ing its inter­nal level edi­tor and turn­ing it loose on the pop­u­la­tion, or from the stand­point that Mario is Nin­tendo and he’s been given the royal treat­ment for a job well done for the past 30 years. Super Mario Maker is the company’s love let­ter to Mario fans and well done let­ter at that.

LittleBigPlanet — 3Q2015 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamespot.com

A class in mas­ter crafting

There are always games that come with a cer­tain amount of hype. These are the titles that every­one raves about but wind up on your never-ending pile of shame. You’ll prob­a­bly buy it but never actu­ally get around to play­ing it or play­ing it long enough to see what all the fuss is about. Lit­tleBig­Planet is one of those such games.
Quirky is the first adjec­tive I’d use to describe the plat­form­ing game fea­tur­ing Sack­boy, an anthro­po­mor­phic crea­ture that’s fea­tured front and cen­ter at the heart of the game. Sack­boy can be Sack­girl as well, and that’s part of the charm of the game. It can be what­ever you want it to be and do just about any­thing you want it to do, in the name of get­ting from point A to point B. The quirk­i­ness comes in the fact that the envi­ron­ment in which it does so is all about Play-Share-Create. The lev­els of Lit­tleBig­Planet are meant to be user-created and shared for online play among the LBP com­mu­nity, so the depth of the game is imme­di­ately obvi­ous and worth the price of admis­sion alone.
Con­trol­ling Sackboy/girl is sim­ple, yet not with­out its prob­lems. It’s much like play­ing any plat­former of the past 20 years and the con­trol scheme is sim­ple and intu­itive in let­ting you fig­ure out what to do and how to apply it later. Where it fal­ters is the jump­ing mechan­ics. While obvi­ous and sim­ple, the jump­ing does feel slightly off and floaty, which is a prob­lem in a game that relies on that mechanic to carry it. It’s annoy­ing to have to re-do sec­tions of a level solely because of a missed jump, and that detracts from the core expe­ri­ence.
While the mechan­ics could use tweak­ing, not much else needs work. The sound­track is fan­tas­tic and fits the game per­fectly. It’s a good mix­ture of indie folk and pop, and it imme­di­ately reminds of the bril­liance that is Kata­mari Damacy. The graph­ics are also in the realm of per­fect and evoke a cer­tain sort of charm that begs more playthroughs just to see what devel­oper Media Mol­e­cule could come up with next. It’s breath­tak­ing and sim­plis­tic, like a child’s world come to life, and begs to be admired.
Lit­tleBig­Planet is one of the few games of the past few years that demands to be played and war­rants pur­chase of sys­tem just to play it. If you haven’t both­ered to play it by now, you need to stop what you’re doing and get on it. It has its minor prob­lems but they’re noth­ing to keep you from enjoy­ing what’s con­sid­ered a mas­ter­piece. It’s worth every moment of its Play-Share-Create moniker.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom — 2Q2015 issue

Tat­sunoko takes on Cap­com in Wii brawl

Every­one who reads GI knows that I’m an otaku. I’m also a big fan of clas­sic anime that has set the stan­dard for today’s anime. Most of the awesome-level anime old and new has came from Japan’s world-renown Tat­sunoko Pro­duc­tions. So, when I heard that Cap­com was reviv­ing its “Ver­sus” series, I thought that Cap­com was run­ning out of gam­ing ideas. That was until it was announced that Tat­sunoko would play a major role. I thought it was a joke, but I was in shock when the rumors were true and thus the ques­tion came about: What would hap­pen if Capcom’s heroes met Tatsunoko’s heroes in a gam­ing for­est? Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com: Ulti­mate All-Stars for the Wii answered that ques­tion for me.

Devel­oped by Eight­ing and pub­lished by Cap­com, Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com is a 3D game that places var­i­ous char­ac­ters from both com­pa­nies’ top-selling series into a exclu­sive fight­ing game treat. Inspired by the Mar­vel vs. Cap­com series, TvC allows duos from either Capcom’s or Tatsunoko’s ros­ters to fight against other char­ac­ters with the win­ning team going on to face Yami from Capcom’s adven­ture title Okami. If you like to mix a Cap­com char­ac­ter with a Tat­sunoko char­ac­ter, that’s also pos­si­ble as a way to give the game­play more vari­ety. In addi­tion to the orig­i­nal arcade mode, there are sur­vival and time attack modes that allow you to test your skills via lim­ited health regen­er­a­tion and defeat­ing your oppo­nents in the short­est time pos­si­ble. An addi­tional fea­ture includes a mini-game shooter called “Ulti­mate All-Shooters.”

Con­trol is han­dled with three but­tons, which greatly sim­pli­fies the learn­ing curve. It’s sim­pli­fied even more thanks to the Wii’s Clas­sic con­troller, Game­Cube con­troller, third-party arcade sticks and the reg­u­lar Wii remote. You will love the char­ac­ter ros­ter con­sist­ing of each com­pa­nies’ top fran­chises such as Street Fighter, Rival Schools, Viewti­ful Joe, Lost Planet, Darkstalkers/Vampire and Mega Man for Cap­com while Tat­sunoko is rep­re­sented by Karas, Tekka­man, G-Force and Yat­ter­man. There are other char­ac­ters that can be unlocked via use of money (Zenny) earned in each game, which also will allow pur­chase of alter­nate end­ings, cos­tume changes and other unlock­able surprises.

The music is top-notch in each stage, but the intro and end­ings songs are fun to sing and dance to. In par­tic­u­lar, the Gesellschaft (Clear Skies) and the Daigo Tem­ple (Cherry Blos­som) stages are favorites.

Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com: Ulti­mate All-Stars is an answered prayer for fans of fight­ing games and anime. As a first-time con­nois­seur of this type of crossover, TvC is delight­ful game expe­ri­ence. As an otaku gamer, Cap­com can work on my damn nerves at times with their no-thought deci­sions, but in this case, they worked with a renown anime com­pany to bring a qual­ity prod­uct to a sys­tem that was in SORE need of well-rounded games. Now only if Cap­com can make amends with Keiji Ina­fune. They might be respected once more.

2UP EVALUATION

All of the raz­zle daz­zle hype aside, Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com is some­thing I want to play. I’m already a fan of most Cap­com fight­ing prop­er­ties, and I love the Ver­sus series, so I’m going to play what­ever they come up with next to join forces with and cre­ate magic. In this case, it’s anime related as well, so there’s a win­ning com­bi­na­tion all the way around.

I didn’t know much about Tat­sunoko before play­ing the game, but after spend­ing a lit­tle time immersed in the super sen­tai world, I learned that it’s some­thing that’s com­pelling to return to time and time again. Nice mechan­ics, an inter­est­ing ros­ter and gor­geous atten­tion to detail with the envi­ron­ments and sound­track make it a nice pack­age. My only gripes are that the story doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense (really, Yami from Okami, Cap­com? That’s it?), and that not know­ing that much about Tat­sunoko actu­ally works against me. Other than that, there’s isn’t a rea­son why I wouldn’t play this con­stantly, even if it is a Wii exclu­sive. That’s just another rea­son to go out and buy the now-defunct console.

TvC trivia

* The orig­i­nal title for TvC was Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com: Cross Gen­er­a­tion of Heroes.

* While the game devel­op­ers had the OK to add any char­ac­ter from Tat­sunoko or Cap­com, Tat­sunoko did deny some choices because of licens­ing issues; orig­i­nally, Phoenix Wright was sug­gested, but was pulled because of dif­fi­cul­ties with find­ing proper attacks for him.

* Most video game review­ers such as G4’s Adam Sessler and IGN’s John Tanaka were doubt­ful about an outside-of-Japan release because of Tatsunoko’s final approved ros­ter of char­ac­ters. They were licensed in other coun­tries, despite being owned by Tat­sunoko, and the level of recog­ni­tion of some char­ac­ters was a concern.

* As of 2012, Cap­com USA senior vice pres­i­dent Chris­t­ian Svens­son has stated that Cap­com could no longer sell the game in phys­i­cal or dig­i­tal form because licens­ing rights with Tat­sunoko expired.

Devil May Cry — 1Q2015 issue

Capcom’s instant action plat­form­ing classic

In pre­vi­ous install­ments of Otaku Cor­ner, I reviewed manga based on Capcom’s Devil May Cry. Ever since DMC’s arrival in 2001, it has grown from a crit­i­cally acclaimed series to writ­ten and visual adap­ta­tions in comics, writ­ten nov­els and other var­i­ous mer­chan­dise. Orig­i­nally set in the Res­i­dent Evil uni­verse, because of tech­nol­ogy restraints and an expand­ing reverse sto­ry­line from Res­i­dent Evil, the series was ported to the PlaySta­tion 2. Hav­ing enjoyed expe­ri­enc­ing the manga’s action, I won­dered if I would feel the same when I played the first DMC game? I was about to find out.

Devil May Cry has ele­ments that are sim­i­lar to Res­i­dent Evil; the only dif­fer­ence is that you will be deal­ing with super­nat­ural ene­mies instead of those who were cre­ated by uneth­i­cal sci­en­tific exper­i­ments. You assume the role of Dante, a demon hunter/investigator who uses his skills to exer­cise demons for profit and to avenge the loss of his fam­ily from said crea­tures. One night while work­ing, Dante is hired by a mys­te­ri­ous woman named Trish, who after a brief but amaz­ing test of Dante’s skill, hires him to go to an aban­doned cas­tle where Mundus, the demon who is respon­si­ble for the death of Dante’s fam­ily, is plan­ning a return from hell. Unknown to our badass hero, he has taken on a a job that starts out as an oppor­tu­nity for vengeance, but soon will unlock an ancient birthright and his true des­tiny as mankind’s newest pro­tec­tor against demonic forces.

Game­play in DMC is a com­plete 180 from Res­i­dent Evil as the bat­tle style is more melee com­bat that run­ning and hid­ing from zom­bies. I found the con­trols pretty easy to use, thanks to the ana­log sticks that allow plenty of free move­ment to jump and take full advan­tage of Dante’s sweet com­bat moves. You will love it when Dante gets to busi­ness imme­di­ately with use of his twin hand­guns that can infict dam­age rapid-fire style and his awsomely designed sword Alas­tor that can be upgraded to unlock new attacks. He also has a BIG trump card to really make the demons howl with the use of “Devil Trig­gers” (think Goku or Veg­eta going Super Saiyan with an arse­nal of weapons and being in god mode).

The graph­ics are beau­ti­ful as Cap­com devel­oped a great game engine and made great use of the PS2’s tech­no­log­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties to bring out the action with­out using the god-awful cam­era angles found in Res­i­dent Evil. I per­son­ally liked how each cutscene brought DMC’s sto­ry­line together with­out any over-the-top drama. The enemy vari­ety is good, too, rang­ing from demon mar­i­onettes to giant owls and other demonic crea­tures. I enjoyed the voice act­ing because it was not forced, flow­ing in sync with the game’s plot. I am proud to say that I would def­i­nitely replay this game when I’m feel­ing like I want to rip some demons apart.

Devil May Cry is a stand­out orig­i­nal game that is wor­thy of its praise from gam­ing crit­ics the world over. I find this another tes­ti­mony to the fact that Cap­com can do them­selves and their cus­tomers jus­tice by being true to their craft. I was pleased with my first DMC gam­ing expe­ri­ence and await more in future install­ments of this series.

Injustice: Gods Among Us — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Polygon.com

Jus­tice takes a new form

There have been a few DC Comics fight­ing games that have taken advan­tage of its vari­able super­hero and metahu­man ros­ter. Jus­tice League Task Force and Mor­tal Kom­bat vs. DC Uni­verse are among those that come to mind. And because of MK vs. DC Uni­verse, brought to you pre-Midway implo­sion by the com­pany that cre­ated that step in the direc­tion of redemp­tion, DC was able to fore­see the fruits of mak­ing a decent game based on their prop­er­ties. Enter Injus­tice: Gods Among Us.

Let’s get straight to the point: Mar­vel has had the mar­ket cor­nered on fight­ing games involv­ing super­heroes for some time now, thanks to the resource­ful­ness and shady under­tones that are Cap­com. So, for Injus­tice to stand a chance in the sud­denly re-crowded fight­ing game arena, it had to be some­thing spe­cial. Thank­ing those gods among us, it is.

Injus­tice plays much like the 2011 reboot of Mor­tal Kom­bat. The com­bat sys­tem is a lot like it in tone and rhythm and the ani­ma­tion style and fram­ing is much like it as well. If you can play that incar­na­tion of MK, more than likely you’re going to be able to pick up Injus­tice and run with it in a few short hours. And much like the MK reboot, there’s much more under the pretty coat of nos­tal­gia. Injus­tice is deep, with plenty to keep the fight­ing game crowd com­ing back for more and just enough to pique the inter­est of casu­als who don’t know much about fight­ing games but want to see who would win in a Bat­man vs. Super­man battle.

That’s some­thing else that’s going to draw in even the unini­ti­ated: the name recog­ni­tion. Yes, lots of folks now know who the merry band of mutants are over at Mar­vel, but mil­lions more know the names Bat­man, Joker, Super­man, the Flash, Lex Luthor and Won­der Woman. That instant brand recog­ni­tion is what com­pels a cer­tain part of you to come back and learn more about what’s really a good game. While you might not know who Dooms­day is or why the Omega Sanc­tion is instantly fatal to most liv­ing beings, you know the names behind the main char­ac­ters for play, or at least most of them, by sight alone.

That brand recog­ni­tion plays a large part in why the game is suc­cess­ful in its mis­sion: The pack­age around it doesn’t have to be slick and beau­ti­ful, but it is. And it’s enough to make the price to play worth it. Tak­ing into account the work that Nether­Realm Stu­dios pre­vi­ously com­pleted, Injus­tice is quite the step up graph­i­cally. Every back­ground is gor­geous and lav­ish in the game that’s already beau­ti­ful from the out­set. The graph­ics step up from MK vs. DCU in a way that have to be seen to be believed. And while it doesn’t seem like the game could get any bet­ter look­ing, then there’s the char­ac­ter mod­els. Every char­ac­ter is accu­rate, down to the details from sto­ry­line arcs such as Cri­sis on Infi­nite Earths dif­fer­ences. How­ever, while the graph­ics wow, the music isn’t great. It’s not ter­ri­ble, either, but it’s not exactly turn-up-the-volume qual­ity. It’s just there, which is highly unusual for the team known for pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing sound­tracks in the MK series.

I may not be able to tell you exactly who would win in a fight between Dark­seid and Black Adam, but I can make the point that Injus­tice does the DC uni­verse quite a bit of, well, jus­tice when it comes to a qual­ity fight­ing game fea­tur­ing the Dark Knight, Boy Won­der and Man of Steel.

Which ver­sion to buy?

There are two ver­sions to choose from: reg­u­lar edi­tion and ulti­mate edi­tion. Ulti­mate edi­tion, while cost­ing con­sid­er­ably more, is the bet­ter bar­gain because it fea­tures all of the released DLC and char­ac­ter skins. It also comes with Mor­tal Kom­bat com­bat­ant and stal­wart Scor­pion as a playable character.

Titanfall — 3Q2014 issue

Photos courtesy of Shacknews.com

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Shacknews.com

Pho­tos cour­tesy of GameSpot.com

Keep calm and pre­pare for Titanfall

Hello, pilots and wel­come to the Fron­tier. The long-anticipated Titan­fall is up for review

William Har­ri­son, GI con­tribut­ing editor

and let me tell you, I had a lot of fun with this one and so will you. It posts a few unique inno­va­tions as well as an online only style all of its own. And, of course, giant robots … every­thing is bet­ter with giant robots. The cam­paign mode is weird at first but it’s noth­ing that can’t be handled.

Titan­fall takes place in the dis­tant future and in another col­o­nized area of space. Two war­ring fac­tions, the IMC and the Fron­tier Mili­tia, are fight­ing for con­trol of their lit­tle pieces of space and the place they call home. Unfor­tu­nately, the IMC seem to be look­ing to con­trol the area under the flag of Ham­mond Indus­tries, a galac­tic wide­spread com­pany that has its hands in … well, pretty much every­thing. Then in comes the Fron­tier Mili­tia, who believe the peo­ple are bet­ter off with­out the watch­ful eye of the IMC and Ham­mond Indus­tries telling you what to do.

Titan­fall is a very impres­sive and beau­ti­fully ren­dered game. It’s cur­rently out for the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC. I have it for Xbox One and it’s about the only first-person shooter that I cur­rently play. The game­play is pretty much like Call of Duty, but that’s to be expected when Infin­ity Ward closed its doors and reopened to a split in the com­pany not called Respawn Enter­tain­ment and Sledgham­mer Games. Respawn Enter­tain­ment is pretty much made up of the devel­op­ers that made the COD series sto­ries and games what they were.

The addi­tion of the Titans (25– to 30-foot-tall robots) and the abil­ity to either pilot or have the AI con­trol it makes for a new num­ber of things that can be done. There is a cam­paign mode but it is multiplayer-based, mean­ing that the story is con­trolled by the out­come of the win­ning team in some mis­sions. It only allows for 6v6 (12v12, if you include hav­ing the AI-controlled Titans on the map as well) so that the games can remain as lag free as pos­si­ble. Don’t want to ride inside your own Titan, well hop out and switch your Titan to either guard or fol­low to help hold a posi­tion or for a lit­tle backup. I must admit that I am rarely rid­ing inside my Titan when I play. They have a nice selec­tion of weapons for the pilots but only about six for the Titans them­selves, which is fine by me.

The mul­ti­player is done really well, but right now there are only seven play modes, with the sev­enth as a mash-up vari­ety pack that con­sists of all play modes on all maps ran­domly select­ing both. I believe the Xbox 360 ver­sion is miss­ing a mode or two.

Here is how I see it: Titan­fall is one of those games you hear about and think it would be awe­some if they can pull it off right. Respawn did their home­work and came up with a game that is fun and immer­sive. Unfor­tu­nately, it kind of hin­dered itself by being online only, and although the down­load needed to play it on Xbox 360 isn’t as mas­sive as the GTAV down­load (1.3 GB ver­sus 7.9 GB), it’s still a bit annoy­ing. How­ever, you don’t have to delete data to play. A match­mak­ing option that puts you with peo­ple in the same skill level would be a nice idea, too. If you haven’t played it, then you should def­i­nitely “Pre­pare for Titanfall.”