Tag Archives: Nintendo 64

Magical Tetris Challenge — 1Q2017

Magical Tetris Challenge-11When Tetris’ and Disney’s worlds collide

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

Messing with an old and universally loved favorite such as Tetris is a risky proposition. You can get it right or mess it up horribly, where it is forever known as the “messed up version of Tetris.” Luckily, Magical Tetris Challenge by Capcom manages to dodge that label and add a few elements to the main game to refresh an older title.
Magical Tetris is, at its core, a fun game with lots of charm to spread around. There are multiple modes to choose from and the variety helps the replay factor long after the novelty of comboing wears off. The story mode is the other mode most played at GI, and is based off the new Magical Tetris mode. While I’m not fond of the cliffhanger by difficulty level method, the story is serviceable and moves the action forward with a nice added Disney touch. Mainstays such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy fill out the cast, though you can only play as these four.
Magical Tetris earns its bread and butter in the way it builds on the Tetris formula. With Tetris in the name and designed to appeal to a mass audience using that, Magical Tetris starts out with the basics: Create and clear lines using seven letter-shaped pieces. Clear four lines and you get a Tetris.
Ah, but herein lies the additions to Magical Tetris and where the basics end and advanced play begins: For every line cleared, a small amount of energy is added to a magic meter. Fill up the magic meter and you get what we’ve termed at GI as a breakdown: All pieces restructure to create a neat space and a large portion of the well where your pieces fall is wiped clean. Also, clearing lines creates combos, which can be countered until a piece is shaped 10 by 10. Combos and counters creates a back and forth, during which oddly shaped pieces are created and fall into the play field. By setting up the pieces in a decent shape in your well, you can achieve what is called a pentris, or five lines cleared
simultaneously.
Score-4-retrogradeComboing and countering makes the gameplay fun and adds an increasing level of competitiveness and urgency to every match. Even if you’re not the most Tetris-competent gamer, Magical Tetris does an excellent job inviting all skill levels in to learn and get better. The basics are quickly explained and the advanced techniques are made plain as you go along. That helps in the frantic atmosphere of a spirited two-player human match, where anything and usually everything can happen.
The game shines in its visuals, which benefit from that Disney touch. The game is bright and colorful and designed in the way of Disney games and animation, meaning it’s top-notch through and through. The graphics are still good for an N64-era game and haven’t aged badly. The soundtrack has aged well, too, and is still one of the best of the era. Each character’s stage is memorably themed and stands out enough for you to remember it well after your game is over.
Having played the majority of the Tetris spinoffs and creations out on the market for the past 30 years, I need to have something that pushes me to play. Magical Tetris succeeds in adding to the Tetris formula just enough to buy its way in to my library and stick around through charm and ability. This is an excellent Tetris spin job.

Mario Kart 64 — 1Q2016

Mario Kart 64-04

Mario Kart’s growing pains

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

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 longterm Mario Kart aficionado, I have to Mario Kart 64-09admit 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.
Score-3-5-retrogradeWith 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

Mario 64-21Mario’s greatest evolution

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

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, Mario 64-07even 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 Score-4-5-retrogradecan 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

Paper Mario-01A serviceable tale on paper

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

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 Paper Mario-04with 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.
Score-4-retrogradeIf 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.