Mario quick hit reviews — 1Q2016 issue

Super Mario Land
Mario’s first adven­ture out­side of the Mush­room King­dom just hap­pens to also be his first in the portable sphere. Mario Land is a ser­vice­able adven­ture filled with the weird and dif­fer­ent (Tatanga, any­one?), but it’s still good Mario. The mechan­ics resem­ble SMB, and the graph­ics keep things famil­iar enough despite space­ships and pyra­mids mak­ing an appear­ance. Keep this early Mario as an option on the go.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
Mario’s sec­ond hand­held adven­ture is a step up in terms of … every­thing. There are more power ups, more stages and more ene­mies to take on, includ­ing Wario, who is intro­duced to the world at large here. The six tit­u­lar golden coins mean more places to explore and more to do, which is always help­ful in a Mario title. The con­trols get a lit­tle crisper and the graph­ics are gor­geous for a hand­held title. This is one to own, even if you’re not a super Mario fan.

Score: 4 out of 5

Mario Kart: Super Cir­cuit
Mario’s first foray into the hand­held kart­ing side of things is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s Super Mario Kart finally on a hand­held sys­tem. That instantly makes it worth check­ing out by itself. On the other hand, the dif­fi­culty and rat­ing sys­tem make it a frus­trat­ing expe­ri­ence. If you’re used to the rub­ber band AI from the two pre­vi­ous titles, you’ll find it well worn here. And good luck get­ting the max num­ber of coins and stars pos­si­ble in the bid to max out the game. But, it’s still decent Mario Kart over­all and the game plays exactly like you’d expect. That’s a win­ning attribute that helps sal­vage this race.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Super Mario Bros. 2 (JP) — 1Q2016 issue

Super Mario Bros. 2 an uneven, heavy-handed sequel

If there were ever a time when Mario was con­sid­ered not to be fun, this would be it. I have always had a major fas­ci­na­tion with Mario and the Mush­room King­dom, but the true sequel to one of the great­est games of all time made me wish I didn’t go down the rab­bit hole.
At first glance, SMB 2 is your typ­i­cal sequel: Improved graph­ics and new con­cepts, such as the addi­tion of the Poi­so­nous Mush­room. But there’s imme­di­ately some­thing off putting about the game. It’s famil­iar yet for­eign. A lot of the same ene­mies are used and the game has a lot of the same story-specific ele­ments as its pre­de­ces­sor. The objec­tive remains the same: Save Princess Peach from the invad­ing Koopa army. But this is where things take sin­is­ter and not-so-pleasant turn.
I’m not going to beat around the bush: The dif­fi­culty level is not friendly. If you didn’t start with Super Mario Bros., stop right now and go back and study up that game. The sequel is designed to be set up and buoyed by the orig­i­nal. If you start here, you’re set­ting your­self up for fail­ure.
The new lev­els were designed to take “super” play­ers to task and show them that Mario isn’t the cake­walk they thought him to be. So, born from that are Sisyphean efforts such as warps that return you to an ear­lier part of the level; or my favorite: The fact that using level warps at all pre­vents advance­ment to the real end­ing of the game. This is Ghouls and Ghosts before Ghouls and Ghosts.
This frus­trat­ing tac­tic of pun­ish­ing the player for being too good is exactly why the fol­low up to Super Mario Bros. would have never flown in Amer­ica and why we didn’t see the game until a full five years after its release in Japan. Peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally play Mario to relax, not be thrown back­ward in a never-ending loop of anger and frus­tra­tion. This doesn’t appeal to the mass play­ers and it’s cheap and per­verse that Mario is used in this way.
While it’s not the same Mario in a lot of respects, the same old charm is present. The whim­si­cal jaunt through the Mush­room King­dom is now fraught with all types of dan­ger, but it’s still pretty to behold. And the music is still the main act of beauty and source of joy in what is a dark skip through the for­est of Mario. Some­how, through all of the anger, Koji Kondo’s mas­ter­pieces never seem to get old.
For the sake of your con­trollers, I sug­gest invest­ing in cheat codes to get through SMB 2. It’s one of the few games I would ever give this advice about to beat.
We Amer­i­cans might be lazy and unchal­lenged (editor’s note: Nin­tendo con­firmed that this is the real rea­son why we received the much-easier-but-still-hard SMB 2 USA/Doki Doki Panic ripoff), but at least our con­trollers remain intact and whole, no thanks in small part to get­ting a far eas­ier ver­sion of Mario 2. Super Frus­tra­tion Bros. would have been a more apro­pos title for the sequel to the great­est game of all time.

Mario Kart 64 — 1Q2016 issue

Mario Kart’s grow­ing pains

Mario Kart has always been an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence. Com­bin­ing go-karting and Mario has and is a recipe for suc­cess for Nin­tendo, quite hon­estly. And, by the time Nin­tendo got around to mak­ing the sequel to the smash hit Super Mario Kart, they knew they had a sure­fire mas­sive hit on their hands.
Mario Kart 64 takes every­thing you loved about the first game and immea­sur­ably increases it. The Mario char­ac­ters, the tracks, the secrets; every­thing about Mario Kart 64 is bet­ter than the orig­i­nal in every respect. Dri­ving has improved with bet­ter steer­ing qual­i­ties for all char­ac­ters includ­ing the bonafied intro­duc­tion of pow­er­s­lid­ing. Mas­ter­ing pow­er­s­lid­ing means a world of dif­fer­ence in race times, espe­cially when you have brag­ging rights at stake. Old mechan­ics, such as the weight class con­cept, are still present but it seems every­one has a bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion with respect to how a class really con­trols. The light­weights feel like, well, light­weights. The heavy­weights actu­ally feel like they’re heavy to han­dle.
While I’m an admit­ted long-term Mario Kart afi­cionado, I have to admit that if you’re going to get into Mario Kart, this is the title to do so with. It’s not hard to pick up MK64 and grasp the mechan­ics. It’s also easy to play with friends who under­stand the nuances of Mario Kart so that you’re not left behind for very long. And it’s the play­ing with oth­ers that makes this one of the best party games ever cre­ated. MK64 has Bat­tle Mode as its ace in the hole and it makes it one of the first quin­tes­sen­tial party games, along­side Gold­en­eye, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Party.
With all that it has going for it, how­ever, there a few minor draw­backs. First, if rub­ber band AI both­ers you, this is not the game for you. MK64’s AI is one of the worst offend­ers of the rub­ber band­ing prac­tice and it gets worse as you go through the sin­gle player race cam­paign. Com­bine that with the pun­ish­ing dif­fi­culty of 100cc and 150cc races and you have a frus­trat­ing, controller-throwing mess. Sec­ond, this is the sec­ond game after Mario 64 where Mario char­ac­ters are vocal­ized. I promise you will get tired of hear­ing char­ac­ters say their favorite phrase long before you fin­ish any of the modes. It gets old quickly and makes one wish they could turn the sound off, except that you’ll real­ize quickly that the sound­track is actu­ally great. This, how­ever, is the game that turned me against Mario char­ac­ters talk­ing.
Mario Kart 64 is polar­iz­ing to some play­ers: Some think it’s one of the great­est kart rac­ing games ever made while oth­ers hate it. I tend to be in the mid­dle; it’s a great entry in the kart rac­ing genre, but there are some fairly major quirks with how it plays to throw a wrench into things. I like to think that the fun and the qual­ity asso­ci­ated with Mario Kart boosts it out of the mid­dle of the pack.

Super Mario 64 — 1Q2016 issue

Mario’s great­est evolution

Most of the gam­ing world would agree that Super Mario 64 is one of the great­est games of all time. I would agree also except for two things: First, the game gives me a tremen­dous headache after about 10 min­utes of play; and, sec­ond, I’m not like most peo­ple.
See, where I have a prob­lem with Mario 64 is where most peo­ple don’t have a prob­lem. Don’t get me wrong; I love the leap for­ward that presents itself as soon as you boot up the game for the first time. I was — and still am — in awe of the won­der­ment that is see­ing Mario in 3D after play­ing 2D Mario games for the major­ity of my gam­ing career. How­ever, I’m not in con­cert with the idea that it’s one of the great­est games of all time. Why? Just because it was the first to fully real­ize a for­merly 2D char­ac­ter in 3D splen­dor? Because it’s Mario and just because it’s Mario?
No, I can’t form my opin­ion or even include the game in the con­ver­sa­tion of great­est game of all time just because of any of those things. There has to be some valid rea­son­ing and while there are some great points for it, I’m not sold 100 per­cent.
Mario 64, graph­i­cally, is steps ahead of almost every­thing for the Nin­tendo 64. Note that I said almost.
Most games don’t hold a can­dle to Mario in fully real­ized 3D and, even with his polyg­o­nal block style as with most early N64 games, Mario still looks like a king. Peach’s Palace is inter­est­ingly laid out and the graph­i­cal qual­ity of the cas­tle still blows away the com­pe­ti­tion 20 years later. Watch­ing Mario run around, run and jump and be Mario but in a non-2D sprite is pure heaven for Mario lovers like myself.
But there’s that block­i­ness that I men­tioned before. It’s obvi­ous through­out and can be jar­ring from time to time. And for motion sick­ness suf­fer­ers like myself, the 3D is nigh unbear­able. It’s all I can do not to vomit after 20 min­utes, so my play­time is imme­di­ately lim­ited because of the visu­als. I should not be want­ing to vomit after play­ing a Mario game.
The sound­track makes up for the illness-inducing game­play. The sound­track is fan­tas­tic and it’s wor­thy of a main­line Mario game, eas­ily. From run­ning around in the plains of Bob-omb Bat­tle­field to tra­vers­ing numer­ous obsta­cles to take on the King of the Koopas, Mario 64 is a dream come true in terms of audio plea­sure.
And, this is, after all, the first com­mer­cial game where Mario actu­ally speaks. It’s a joy to hear him squeal and squawk for the first time as he explores the var­i­ous worlds.
With all of my neg­a­tive sen­ti­ments about the leap from 2D to 3D for Mario, I still appre­ci­ate the mas­ter­piece that is Mario 64. Ground­break­ing and simul­ta­ne­ously frus­trat­ing?
Yes. But it’s frus­tra­tion worth hav­ing even if it takes a tum­ble down my list of great­est games ever.

Paper Mario — 1Q2016 issue

A ser­vice­able tale on paper

The moment you know Mario has gone on too many adven­tures is when you know you’ve played way too much Mario. Paper Mario, the sequel to the hard-to-top Super Mario RPG, is when I knew I’d played way too much Mario and seemed to expect way too much from a Mario game. The joke, how­ever, was on me as I real­ized that an in-depth and long adven­ture awaited, and a story was to be told here that needed to be told after the high­light of RPG.
Paper Mario starts out much like any other Mario game: The princess has been kid­napped and Mario needs to save her. How­ever, there’s a twist in the danse macabre that is Mario and Bowser’s eter­nal strug­gle over Peach. Bowser has man­aged to get his hands on the Star Rod, impris­ons most of the wish-granting com­mu­nity and has lit­er­ally absconded with Peach and her court into the sky. This is the point at which you should be say­ing, “Really Bowser? You just helped save your uni­verse in RPG and you’re back to cre­at­ing prob­lems again?” But, nev­er­the­less, the story must go on and Paper Mario fills that void nicely with an engag­ing tale of team­work and cama­raderie. I was most impressed with the depth of the char­ac­ters and the deft way Intel­li­gent Sys­tems fleshed out the world of Mario and some of his never-before-seen allies who come from all walks of the Mario life.
Another impres­sive part of the tale is the tongue-in-cheek humor sprin­kled lib­er­ally through­out. Paper Mario isn’t afraid to be self-referential or pinch off other games when it calls for shak­ing up the rou­tine “Mario saves Peach” bit.
Spoil­ers ahead: There is a sec­tion that calls for a cer­tain princess to become a vir­tual Solid Snake-like char­ac­ter and it imme­di­ately calls forth images of Metal Gear Solid. That kind of bor­row­ing is the kind of thing that’s allowed and plays well within the con­text that Mario is the king of all that he sur­veys and even in his spin­off titles, he can still run with the best of the best, pay homage and still come out smelling like roses.
In his sec­ond RPG out­ing, Mario still plays just as well as his first attempt in the role-playing sphere. Paper looks like and plays out like a sto­ry­book, which is fresh and invit­ing to old diehards like myself. The mechan­ics are sim­ple to learn and are lay­ered enough that an expe­ri­enced RPGer can jump right in and under­stand what’s going on with­out much expla­na­tion.
If you played the first game, con­cepts such as timed defense, timed offense and first hits will make sense. It’s that kind of ref­er­enc­ing that makes the game a suc­cess: It’s easy to pick up and play, regard­less of your level of famil­iar­ity with the series’ sys­tem.
My main gripe, though, is that the game feels sprawl­ing and slightly dis­jointed at times. That’s a great prob­lem to have actu­ally, but there are times when back­track­ing and the seem­ingly end­less sid­e­quests tend to dis­tract from the main goal. Still, I’d rather have that prob­lem than be bored with noth­ing to sup­port the main story.
Also, as a rather nit­picky side gripe, the final boss fight is one of the most aggra­vat­ing fights I have ever expe­ri­enced.
I was eas­ily in that bat­tle for half an hour solely because of the boss’ abil­ity to heal, not because I was doing any­thing par­tic­u­larly wrong. If, at the end of the bat­tle, I say, “I will never fight this end bat­tle again,” there is a prob­lem there.
It was as if it was pro­tracted and drawn out for the sake of being a hard boss bat­tle.
My issues aside, though, I had an engag­ing and mem­o­rable time play­ing through and I couldn’t wait to work through a new chap­ter in the saga that was Paper Mario. This is a tale you lit­er­ally can’t put down.

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.

Track & Field II3Q2015 issue

Spirit of an Olympic champion

Hear­ing the name Track & Field II eas­ily cre­ates pow­er­ful nos­tal­gia in me. I was a young girl learn­ing the ins and outs of an NES in 1989 when my older brother, Tony, brought home the Olympic con­test title. It was the last year that we lived in the same house and had time to sit down and play video games together. That was the year that I learned what it meant to duel an older sib­ling who had far bet­ter hand-and-eye coor­di­na­tion and reflexes and why teenagers seem to do much bet­ter at games than lit­tle kids.
I’m no Olympic ath­lete so I’d rather try my hand at the dig­i­tal ver­sions. Track & Field II offers a vir­tual bounty of events from which to choose, and all of them are pretty faith­fully recre­ated from their orig­i­nal coun­ter­parts. There are 12 events to choose from, with three that can be cho­sen in dif­fer­ent modes or as spe­cial events.
The events, rang­ing from hur­dles to gym­nas­tics and swim­ming, are fun to try but frus­trat­ing to learn the nuances. It took con­sul­ta­tion with Tony, an NES Max con­troller and many years to get the hang of cer­tain events. This is mostly because there wasn’t a lot of info out there in the days before the Inter­net and because, again, I had ter­ri­ble untrained coor­di­na­tion and reflexes. Even today, with a wealth of tips out there, it’s still hard to get a bull’s-eye in the archery, and it’s been nearly 30 years. Graph­i­cally, there’s a few things to look at, espe­cially for an NES title. It’s not going to set the world on fire but the graph­ics are fine for the time period and don’t detract from the over­all expe­ri­ence.
The music, while not espe­cially mem­o­rable, is still ser­vice­able. It’s not some­thing you’re going to be hum­ming well after you’ve put down that turbo con­troller, but it’s not bad, either. A lot of the tracks are well done and fit the gen­eral mood of the event you’re par­tic­i­pat­ing in. There are a lot of sound effects in the game and they are gen­er­ally what make the game what it is.
The nos­tal­gic fac­tor is what keeps me com­ing back to what is a gen­er­ally frus­trat­ing game. That nos­tal­gia is what turns a poten­tially controller-throwing hur­dles event into a first-place tri­umph over a noto­ri­ously hard A.I. that likes to pun­ish at every chance.
It’s my chance to feel like the Olympic cham­pion that I will never be.

Donkey Kong Jr. — 3Q2015 issue

Like father, like son

I don’t believe there is any­one who reads GI who doesn’t know that I don’t care for Don­key Kong. By now, it should be painfully obvi­ous that I don’t care for the simian’s retro exploits or his more recent out­ings, either. It’s not that I don’t respect what the great ape has done for gam­ing; it’s more that I feel he gets credit for mediocre-to-horrible games. Don­key Kong Jr. falls on the lower end of the spec­trum.
Much the same tripe as the orig­i­nal, you’re tasked with sav­ing some­one by mov­ing across hell and high water. But wait, this time it’s dif­fer­ent! No, you aren’t sav­ing Pauline this time around; no, you’re Don­key Kong Jr., the scion of Kong­dom sav­ing your incor­ri­gi­ble father from the clutches of evil human Mario. The fact that another ape has to save his parental fig­ure from Mario in a com­plete role rever­sal begs sev­eral ques­tions: Where was Junior when his father was kid­nap­ping inno­cent maid­ens and run­ning ram­pant? Why would Mario even bother to kid­nap the great ape in the first place? Sure, there’s the motive of revenge, but you’re never going to get your ques­tion answered, try as you might. You just have to accept that DK needs sav­ing and it’s up to you, his reli­able off­spring, to do the job.
Hop­ing that your adven­ture in sav­ing your father is worth it, the game tasks you in uti­liz­ing a jump­ing and climb­ing mechanic that may or may not work, depend­ing on where you are height wise. Any fall more than a few pix­els high will kill you, which makes about as much sense as the kid­nap­ping caper you seem to be embroiled in. Who­ever had the bright idea to make jump­ing a chore and maneu­ver­ing your ape around impos­si­ble obvi­ously didn’t get that this was a bad design deci­sion imme­di­ately. See­ing as though they are the only skills your ape has, it would have been a lit­tle bit wiser to make those work well.
Instead, you’ll watch Junior repeat­edly get eaten alive by croc­o­diles (we’re not sure why a plumber would employ these dan­ger­ous live crea­tures to kill an ape), nailed by ran­dom falling objects and fall to his obvi­ous and hor­rific death, all because he’s under­de­vel­oped at jump­ing and climb­ing.
And while you’re wit­ness­ing this obvi­ous act of poach­ing, it’d be wise to use some head­phones. The music, much like the orig­i­nal game, isn’t the great­est and it will get monot­o­nous imme­di­ately. Don­key Kong Coun­try this isn’t.
Your best bet is to try the game just for the nos­tal­gic fac­tor in see­ing a pretty rare char­ac­ter; Junior was last seen, by my count, in Super Mario Kart for the SNES. He isn’t putting in too many other appear­ances and maybe, just maybe, it was this trip out of the jun­gle that con­vinced him to let his father do all of the adven­tur­ing in the fam­ily. This bar­rel isn’t full of laughs or a blast.

Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny — 3Q2015 issue

Onimusha 2 has ele­ments of sat­is­fy­ing sequel

Pre­vi­ously, I reviewed the first game in Capcom’s crit­i­cally acclaimed series Onimusha, where his­toric fig­ures and moments in Japan­ese his­tory were mixed with action/adventure gam­ing, third-person com­bat and brief moments of puz­zle solv­ing. After play­ing the first game, I won­dered if the sec­ond install­ment would keep the suc­cess­ful for­mula and raise the bar for future install­ments. When I received Onimusha 2: Samu­rai Des­tiny, I put on my custom-made samu­rai armor and pre­pared to have my ques­tions answered.
Onimusha 2 con­tin­ues the plot of cho­sen war­riors work­ing to pre­vent Oda Nobunaga from uni­fy­ing Japan through the use of demons called genma. Set 10 years after the first game, Nobunaga has risen to power despite the defeat of his demonic bene­fac­tor Fort­in­bras, who was stopped by orig­i­nal pro­tag­o­nist Samanouske Akechi. With Samanouske in hid­ing to per­fect his new demon slay­ing abil­i­ties, it’s up to Jubei Yagu to take up the sword and acquire five leg­endary orbs and use them to stop Nobunaga before his dark plans of con­quest becomes real­ity and demons become the dom­i­nant species of Earth instead of man.
Game­play in Onimusha 2 remains the same but does have some new ele­ments. Dur­ing com­bat with ene­mies, you can still fight through ene­mies, but if timed cor­rectly, Jubei can per­form “Issen” (light­ing slash) on var­i­ous ene­mies, allow­ing him to con­tinue for­ward, giv­ing him a brief minute to defend him­self or retreat. Another ele­ment is the require­ment to solve cer­tain puz­zles to obtain cer­tain items or gain access to cer­tain areas. For these puz­zles, I highly advise uti­liz­ing patience and strong mem­o­riza­tion as they have a much stronger effect in Onimusha 2 than in the first game. The final new ele­ment is role play­ing that enhances the sto­ry­line. Jubei can not only inter­act with non-playable char­ac­ters, but also gain allies who will give infor­ma­tion or assist him in boss bat­tles pro­vided he is in con­stant con­tact with them or if his allies are not involved in their own plans to defeat Nobunaga.
In addi­tion to new allies, you will notice that Jubei is nor­mally equipped with his sword, but can acquire weapons such as bows and arrows, a matchlock gun and other weapons that use the power of nat­ural ele­ments. Jubei does have two other advan­tages to help as well: The abil­ity to tem­porar­ily trans­form into Onimusha with enhanced attack power; and, the power to acquire var­i­ous souls with­out the use of a ogre gaunt­let to upgrade his armor and weapons.
The con­trols will not present any level of dif­fi­culty espe­cially if the Dual Shock ana­log con­troller is used. You can appre­ci­ate the qual­ity of the char­ac­ters’ move­ments in game­play and in the cut-scenes which may make one won­der if they are play­ing a samu­rai adven­ture game or watch­ing a movie.
The music per­formed in this game is excel­lent as Capcom’s sound team always brings their best efforts, guar­an­tee­ing that the music will be a treat. If you enjoy instru­men­tal Japan­ese themes, you’ll prob­a­bly love the sound­track.
Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Des­tiny did exceeded my expec­ta­tions for a game to be con­sid­ered a true samu­rai mas­ter­piece. This not only shows that Cap­com can unleash their bril­liance if they really try, but also shows other devel­op­ers that in order to bring a superb gam­ing prod­uct involv­ing var­i­ous ele­ments of Japan­ese cul­ture, they must will­fully present his­tor­i­cal ele­ments prop­erly while craft­ing a high qual­ity sto­ry­line. I can not wait to start the next chap­ter of the Onimusha series where the next des­tined hero strikes another blow to Nobunaga’s ambitions.

Ultimate NES Remix — 3Q2015 issue

The ulti­mate retro package

It’s one thing to trade off of nos­tal­gia. And we all know Nin­tendo does that often and well. What we don’t often get to see is Nin­tendo using its his­tory to change the way its games are played. Until now. That’s where Ulti­mate NES Remix comes in. The ques­tion is, do you want to play these remixed games again and at what price?
Remix takes a few of your favorites NES titles and adds dif­fer­ent con­di­tions to them in an attempt to spice things up a bit. In Super Mario Bros., for instance, you have to reach the goal in a cer­tain amount of time or defeat a cer­tain num­ber of ene­mies within a time limit. That’s the mun­dane stuff in the begin­ning. Later edicts get harder the fur­ther down a game’s list you go so as to pro­vide more of a chal­lenge. Whether or not you enjoy these chal­lenges depends sharply on whether or not you enjoy play­ing games you prob­a­bly already have played and want to see some­thing dif­fer­ent within them.
While the chal­lenges may be dif­fer­ent, there isn’t much else dif­fer­ent about the games. The music and graph­ics from the 8-bit era remain intact and about the only thing that’s changed is the slick mod­ern pack­ag­ing of the Ulti­mate Remix itself and the addi­tion of leader­boards and cham­pi­onship mode. So, don’t come into this expect­ing depth or some mag­i­cal upgrade to mod­ern day stan­dards of graph­ics.
If you enjoy the days of yes­ter­year and can and will pay $30 for a com­pi­la­tion chal­lenge pack­age, by all means shell out for Ulti­mate NES Remix. The chal­lenges are amus­ing for the most part, and there are a few extras that make play­ing through the mul­ti­tude of games offered (16 in all) a real treat. But take it with a large grain of salt and look at it for what it is: A chance to drag the orig­i­nal NES games out that you loved as a kid, more than likely, to get a piece of your now-adult wal­let. Ulti­mately, this could have been a lot more.