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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The situation may have changed slightly, but the premise is still the same in Katamari Forever, the fifth game in the quirky series. Whether or not you’re into the “if it’s not broke then don’t fix it” method of gaming will determine if you can stand another trip to the cosmos with a katamari.
Just in case you haven’t played a game in the series, let’s get a refresher. Katamari titles involve rolling up a sticky ball with everyday objects to increase the ball’s size. The larger the ball, the more pleased someone is — usually the King of All Cosmos. That’s because the king is an idiot and routinely destroys something related to his job of protecting the cosmos. His lack of common sense and coordination usually means the Prince of All Cosmos — that’d be you, the player — has to create new stars and reconstruct the cosmos. This premise has worked for the past four games, and it’s really no different storywise except for the addition of the cousins to help in appearance only (added in We Love Katamari) and the fact that the king has been replaced temporarily by the Robot King of All Cosmos. Absurdity thy name is Katamari.
Nothing has really changed, mechanics-wise, either. There are a few additions to the repertoire of the Prince, such as the Prince Hop and the King Shock, but otherwise you’re still rolling along to pick up items to make your katamari grow. The series isn’t known for its growth and this is a major reason why. While it’s easy to control the Prince and maneuver the Katamari, there still should be some innovation at this point, five games in. The soundtrack also suffers from stagnation. Katamari Damacy, the first game in the series, was known for having a great soundtrack. As a matter of fact, we’ve lauded the soundtrack relentlessly throughout our lifespan at GI. But try as we might, we’re still trying to understand why there isn’t as much creativity used in the musical portion of a game that conjures so many different creative thoughts. The music of the first game inspired so much, yet by the time of Forever, it seems that well has grown dry. It’s still a good soundtrack, but I was expecting more from this.
Overall, if you still love picking up a controller to save the cosmos and create katamari, you’ll probably be working to stop the Robot King of All Cosmos. Otherwise, you’re not really missing anything you haven’t already seen. Keep rolling by this one if you want a fresh experience.
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.
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.
MMX5 takes place several months after the events in Mega Man X4, during which the giant space colony Eurasia has been taken over by an unknown reploid known as Dynamo as it was undergoing extensive repairs. As a result, a computer virus infected Eurasia’s gravity control systems, sending it on a collision course with Earth. At the same time, Sigma and his new band of Mavericks have taken control of various areas that have equipment capable of preventing Eurasia’s fall, and he has also launched his own virus across the globe. X and Zero, under orders from their new leader Signas, must go to those areas to acquire the equipment needed to stop Eurasia, and send Sigma back to the scrap heap once more where he belongs.
MMX5’s gameplay remains the same as any regular action-adventure game. You can chose between using X and Zero, who each have unique abilities. I chose Zero because of the option to use his Z-Saber and Z-Buster as more effective combat tools, and also because of his stronger jumping abilities. MMX5 allows both characters to be swapped out during the stage select screen, provided you choose before time runs out. This adds freshness to the gameplay, keeping the game from being too mundane or too comfortable for a chosen character.
I liked the fact that there are new armors in the game that X can start off with. The Gaia armor from MMX 4 is less powerful but still gets the job done. You can find other armor sets that will give you an advantage, with good old Dr. Light providing insight about them. He has also made a special armor for Zero that you will find later on. I also want to note that if players pay close attention, there will be some background scenes in MMX paying tribute to classic Mega Man and Mega Man X games.
The plot of the game, while a good storyline point with stopping Eurasia, may frustrate you because you would have to defeat the first four Mavericks and later be told that two were developed simultaneously without previous knowledge of both plans. I also questioned the developer’s method of stage planning when they placed Dynamo in nearly every mid battle to delay either X or Zero without any strong challenge, and I questioned why, during Duff McWhalen’s stage, it takes a huge amount of game time to fight off a sub-boss that required running and firing just to keep it at bay.
Despite some frustrating issues, MMX5 is a great game to kill time with and shows how — with proper care and fresh ideas — a gaming franchise can still be relevant. Get the picture, Capcom?
A life of farming is never simple. Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you: It’s a tough, tough job that requires before-dawn rising and at-dusk retiring that repeats itself over the course of many a day. There’s also the fear of Mother Nature wrecking your livelihood and outside forces such as other humans stealing from you and running you into ruin. But, thankfully, you can avoid all of that and experience the joy of living off the land at its finest, digitally if you so choose, thanks to Natsume’s Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. And, if you play your cards right and take time to pull yourself away from digging up your ground, you can find yourself a certain Mrs. to share the farming duties with as well.
Back to Nature is the best game in the long-running series. I say this with confidence because it’s one of the only titles in the series to have been remade multiple times with the same setup, just different characters. Every modern Harvest Moon title takes its cue from Back to Nature, as well. The main goal, which stays the same throughout the series, is to take a farm that’s fallen into disrepair and make it into a profitable bastion of hard work and success. Your character works to accomplish this by pulling up his bootstraps and putting in a little elbow grease with little to no help from anyone else, aside from the gnomes he meets tucked away in the crease of the town.
Speaking of the town, you’re tasked with meeting folks and forging some type of relationship with them so that you are considered neighborly. The town’s set schedule makes for interesting interactions and a type of schedule planning not unlike Animal Crossing. While you’re working to save your farm and chatting up the townsfolk, you’re given a third task of finding a suitable lass in town to wife up. If you can manage to put a ring on it by wooing your intended (there are five lovely ladies that you can choose from to pursue with varying likes and dislikes), you’re all but guaranteed to earn your place in the town and be allowed to stay.
Back to Nature is deep, extremely deep. So much so that it takes quite a bit of time just getting the farm up and running in a proper manner that you might make money to sustain it. And that’s mission accomplished for Back to Nature: Get you involved and thinking hard about what it is you want to accomplish in your town. That level of interaction is simple to begin with, and with decent controls it doesn’t get too much harder to maintain. It’s one of the things that I love about Back to Nature. It doesn’t press too hard about mechanics and there’s a wealth of information within the game about crops and caring for animals that can help you maintain a comfortable way of life within the game. But sometimes, the level of comfort you want isn’t always within reach.
While I praise the controls, the effect isn’t always beneficial for you. The game is hard in the beginning, sometimes too hard for its own good. Take, for example, the fact that you arrive in town with basically nothing but the clothes on your back. You’re expected to succeed and settle down there but you have nothing tying you there very much. What’s to say that your player character doesn’t decide that it’s too much, packs up shop and goes home? It’s not very realistic with some of the things you’re tasked with doing, and starting with absolutely no money and trying to rebuild a farm is impossible with no cash flow.
My next problem comes with the cash opportunities afforded in the game. Without cheating, it is nearly impossible to become successful and well off. This leads into a larger problem with the way time is structured in the game as well. While the time aspect has to be different than real time, an entire day should not pass within nearly 30 minutes. It’s extremely hard to get much accomplished in the early going and it demands that you must have a routine in place quickly or risk being left behind. Sure, you’re given a year or two to get things together but it’s hard to make things work on the farm, court a girl and participate in town activities all at once in the short amount of time that passes as a day.
Couple it with the schedule given to the town and there’s a time management problem just waiting to happen. The controls sometimes leave a lot to be desired, too. More than once I’ve had a bucket that I’ve filled with goodies from my plot of land empty just far away enough from a bin that it went wasted. And more than once I’ve been angered by loss of income because it’s on the ground and not able to be reclaimed. But that’s a fact of life in Harvest Moon titles, I suppose.
Otherwise, Back to Nature is a great simulation of farm life. It’s a good way to play a dating sim and life sim all at once with very little consequence for poor choices. Getting back to nature is an idea all of us need to think of at least once, even if it is to digitally pair off and make a fast dollar.
Back to basics
Back to Nature, released in 1999 for the PlayStation One, has been remade several times. The first remake was released for Game Boy Advance as Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town in 2003. Friends of Mineral Town was expanded with a side story, More Friends of Mineral Town — which allows playing from a female farmer’s perspective — in 2005. These were later ported as Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl for PSP in 2005.
You know, once in a while, a game comes along that is just full of fun stuff and guilty pleasures that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Ladies and gentlemen, this is that game. Thief is a game that when I first heard about the original — way back when it was only available for PC — I thought it was one of those games I would have liked to play but didn’t think it would be fun. Man, was I ever wrong.
Thief places you in the role of master thief Garrett as he works his way through a city run by a greedy and bloodthirsty Baron and his guard known as the WATCH. Use the shadows to your advantage and truly make what is theirs … yours.
Eidos/Montreal and Square ENIX put forth a great effort in making this game a reality and bringing it to home systems. Thief is actually the fourth incarnation of the series, set during the time period around the same time as the Black Plague, I think; they don’t really tell you when it’s set or where it is relevant to any time period. I only say during the time of the Black Plague because of the disease that runs rampant called the gloom, which is a lot like it.
The stealth gameplay is the main reason why I’m a huge fan of this game. I like the fact that it’s a major part of the game and there is an achievement for making it through the game unseen. There is the rating system where I seem to always straddle the line between ghost and opportunist in my quest to see if I’m still as sneaky in stealth games as I claim to be.
As of press time, I haven’t finished Thief but the story and the free roaming aspect are awesome. At times, I wander from the story to explore, roam aimlessly and rob people blind just like in real life.
The city and the characters are beautifully designed and rendered but it seems to be missing something. The music — as far as atmosphere goes — is OK but it seems that you can’t really hear it. And, a lot of times the interactions between characters is almost a joke because you can sometimes barely hear what a NPC or yourself are saying. Apparently, subtitles are a bit of a must to catch everything being said.
I’m not quite sure how the old Garrett matches up to the new Garrett since I haven’t played the PC titles but hopefully it’s not too far off. I really do enjoy this game, but it seems that it isn’t really all that long, at least not when you get into the story-specific missions. There is still a free roam element there but there are also points where you can’t go back and that seems like it’s punishing the player and slapping you saying, “You want to explore?! NOW!? The fate of the world is at stake!!”
Thief is a really good stealth, make-you-feel-guilty-in-a-good-way sort of game and should definitely be played by all. The fact that it’s the fourth game but also a reboot of the series is fine, but the fans of the older games may have a problem with the differences. Sound issues aside, this is a hell of a steal.
NBA Jam was — and still is — an experience. No, that’s not some preposterous fluff dreamed up by an National Basketball Association maven like yours truly. It was truly an experience because if you were around at the time that Jam hit the streets, you’d remember the sheer amount of hype that surrounded the arcade release. You’d also remember the hype that came home with it. Was it justified hype? Yes and no.
You see, Jam represented the start of the exaggerated sports game era, the type of game where the player animations were over the top and the action just as extreme. Throw in a plethora of secrets — like playing as President Bill Clinton — and the hype went into overdrive. The game isn’t bad and it mostly lived up to its billing. The simple setup of two-on-two basketball and fast-break basketball helped certainly, and the animation isn’t bad at all. The player interaction is where it mostly succeeds, actually. At the time, there was no other place to get the kind of play that Jam offers: Crazy dunks, the ability to be on fire from great shooting and street ball-type rules. It’s that offering that made it a phenomenal success.
Jam doesn’t stumble in its race to be an in-your-face baller experience. That street ball player interaction means you don’t have to learn much about the game to succeed and play well. The control is simple yet has a layer of depth that means anyone can do well at any skill level. The atmosphere could be a little better with a better soundtrack, but what will make you take notice is the announcer. If there’s anything you will remember about the game, it’s Tim Kitzrow shouting to the top of his lungs that a man is “on fire” or “BOOMSHAKALAKA.”
The graphics, like the soundtrack, are nothing to get excited about. There’s a static crowd except for the courtside folk, and then there’s the players. Jam popularized the over-exaggerated look for players, and it certainly had its uses. It’s not out of place for Jam, and it brings a certain atmosphere to the action that Jam benefits from.
If there’s ever a reason to play NBA Jam, find it in the cartoonish action, sound and look. That’s where the fun is, and the main reasons why the game succeeded in living up to the hype (mostly) that broke backboards in the olden days of 1993.
SSX can get a little … well … Tricky. OK, yes, I went for the easy joke, but it’s one that can be made with a solid title in SSX Tricky. Tricky tends to take the best things about the SSX franchise and make them better. And that’s better for everyone because snowboarding games of the time weren’t exactly freshly powdered experiences.
Tricky settles into its role as a snowboarding simulator with slick visuals and an added bonus of interesting characters. The easiest way to describe playing Tricky is that it’s you versus the mountain, and well, sometimes you versus the other characters versus the mountain. While the World Circuit mode is touted as a main attraction — and it is certainly is for several reasons — the mode that does the most for me is Free Ride. There’s nothing quite like running down the tracks and pulling off tricks without other characters to annoy you. The characters aren’t really that annoying, and the rivalry system is fun, but I preferred my solitude while learning the game and Practice and Free Ride provided that easily.
Those slick visuals are also on display throughout the different modes, and it immediately sets the game apart from its competition of the time. The game flat-out looks great on the GameCube, and the other console versions looked great, too. The GameCube version has an interesting control scheme that lends itself to rolling down the slopes, and it’s intuitive and becomes second nature as you become more comfortable pulling off various tricks. For that increasing level of comfort, you are rewarded with bigger and better items that should help you improve as well as make you look a little better on the track. It’s that drive to unlock these goodies and tracks that keeps you coming back to Tricky.
That’s all alongside the soundtrack, which is excellent, too. There are a few vocal pieces with the instrumental tracks for the different levels, and all are appropriate for the atmosphere EA wants to convey. In particular, the remix of Run DMC’s massive hit “Tricky” is the highlight — as it should be. If it’s the main theme of the game, it should stand out, which it manages to do so. It never gets old to hear the trio’s 1986 hit sampled and remixed (editor’s note: ’80s rap never gets old, in any situation) while throwing down massive tricks on a treacherous mountain. And, believe it or not, the voice acting adds to the game as well. Usually, a fully famous all-star cast of voice actors produces mixed results. However, Tricky is an exception to that rule. Folks like Lucy Liu, Oliver Platt, Patricia Velasquez and Billy Zane deliver solid results.
With three other sequels and a reboot in 2012, Tricky has had the challenge of standing out in a crowded library of titles featuring snowboarding. But it’s not that hard to do when it’s got good mechanics and great atmosphere, a rather tricky feat to accomplish.
Hello, pilots and welcome to the Frontier. The long-anticipated Titanfall is up for review 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.”
Nearly everything game industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto touches turns to gold. The keyword there is nearly. While it might be considered blasphemous in some circles to question the godlike tendencies of Miyamoto-kamisama, there are sometimes valid reasons strewn about his resume. Excitebike is one of those excuses to point to when someone says that Miyamoto is capable of committing no wrong in game design.
Excitebike isn’t a terrible game. In fact, it’s one of the better games to come out of the NES lineup. But that isn’t saying much in the long run. Excitebike takes a simple concept and makes a mountain out of a mole hill. So much so that if you have no idea how the game works, you’re not going to immediately figure it out just by rumbling through a couple of tracks. My personal learning curve stretched from age 8 to age 28, and it was only because I asked someone about the nuances that I became a better player.
That’s the thing about Excitebike, though: I get that it’s a really simple game. You, the dirt bike rider, are gifted and able to challenge a multitude of tracks. You aim for the highest score, stay off the rough patches, use your boost to speed up and attempt to keep your bike level with the course once you make big leaps. That’s the extent of the game. There’s a track editor thrown in for good measure and a second type of race that’s basically time trials. Simple, right? Yes.
And frustrating. No one knows what I would have given to know that pressing A rapidly when you fall off your bike helps with recovery. I would have traded my tiny kingdom in little old Columbia, S.C., to know that. It would have also helped to know that driving over the arrows on the ground reduces bike temperature. Knowing these two important pieces of information might have made a distinct difference in my continued career of dirt bike racing. But, alas, that dream went right out of the window with my inclination to continue renting the cart back in the day.
If you want nostalgia and you can appreciate being forced to learn the ins and outs of dirt bike racing, by all means pop a wheelie in Excitebike. But don’t be surprised with the unimaginative locales, race layout and penchant for keeping you the player in the dark. Simple concept? Check. Simple controls? Check. Mario cameo? Triple check. But Shigeru Miyamoto’s genius touch to make the game a better experience for the uninitiated? Nope. That’s still sitting in the garage with my drive to play the game as a frustrated 8-year-old and now as a more discriminating 32-year-old.