Tag Archives: Mario

I only went and bought a 3DS XL

Yeah, yeah, I’m going back on a promise, but hey. The XL is much nicer than the older hardware and the sexy white Mario Kart bundle coupled with a free copy of Super Mario 3D Land meant getting the hardware with arguably its two best games for a reasonable £160. The fact that I was enticed into spending money on Nintendo hardware and actually getting excited about it shows that the regrowth of my enthusiasm for gaming since taking the freedom road continues apace.

Nintendo 3DS XL

I learnt from the disappointment of getting on board early with the original DS, this time skipping the flawed initial incarnation and the wilderness months when there’s bugger all to play, this time getting the superior hardware right off the bat and having a worthy little library to pick from.

Yes, it’s still region-coded, which I maintain shouldn’t happen on a handheld console and will really hurt if I end up missing out on anything as wonderful as the Japan-only Ouendan on ye olde DS, but overall I’m impressed. I could take or leave the 3D effect and it could really do with a resolution boost on such a large screen – after three years of retina displays, it’s hard to go back – but those are my only complaints. It’s a lovely piece of hardware and the built-in features like StreetPass are impressively forward-thinking for a company as notoriously backwards when it comes to online as Nintendo. The size of this thing does make it a pain to carry in a pocket, but I still find myself making room for it and going out of my way because I want to StreetPass with people.

It’s a shame that idiotic ideas like friend codes and, on newer hardware, time limitations on when adults can buy games keep cropping up to mar Nintendo’s reputation, because the 3DS shows what kind of clever ideas the unlimited potential of networked gaming can bring when coupled with a company with a proven bent for innovation and bringing people together to play.

My next project is to get on Ocarina of Time 3D – and I’m embarrassed to admit this – and finish it for the first time. Get some SNES and GBA games on the Virtual Console as well and I’ll happily put this down as a worthy purchase.

2009’s Honourable Mentions

For every one that made it, many more didn’t, but some came closer than others…

  • F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin – I deliberated whether this or Killzone was more deserving of the final spot for a while, but it was Killzone’s technical advances as well as its fantastic multiplayer that swayed it. Even so, F.E.A.R. 2 impressed me back at the beginning of the year with its intense action and clever storytelling – not so much on the story itself, mind – and it actually had a less intrusive version of that game’s weighty-feeling gameplay, so it deserves at least a little recognition.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City – This was in there right until the end, and it was only the facts that (a) I don’t actually own a copy of this exact game – I downloaded both individual episodes – and (b) I decided that a full game was more worthy than a glorified expansion pack that swayed it. Nonetheless, this is as good as GTA IV – maybe better in the case of the phenomenal Lost and Damned – and gives us more of an adventure in Rockstar’s still-stunning Liberty City. It’s still unparalleled as a gaming environment and it’s going to take something special to top it for me.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 – I have no doubt that L4D2 justifies its status as a sequel rather than DLC; I just didn’t get enough chance to play it. Its proximity to Modern Warfare 2 and the perception that a worthy sequel couldn’t be produced in such a short period of time meant that very few of my usual gaming crowd bought it, and Left 4 Dead is something that you can’t completely enjoy with random people on Live. I think that Valve has the game where it wants it, though, and should it follow the game’s release with a steady stream of good content in 2010, I’ll be sure to give it the credit it deserves.
  • inFamous – This game suffered by not being Crackdown, which remains one of my favourites of this generation so far. Although it was technically far more impressive, this didn’t have the same sense of fun and took itself far too seriously for the ultimately silly subject matter. I enjoyed it – don’t get me wrong – but bolting more stuff onto an existing simple and perfectly good framework isn’t always a recipe for success. inFamous is still great, though, and I hope that Sucker Punch can build on this foundation, whether it’s in inFamous 2 or a returning Sly Racoon.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story – Believe it or not, this was actually the first Mario & Luigi game that I’ve been there at the beginning for, which is strange considering how much I’ve loved the previous ones. It kept me going for a good ten hours solid when I was in transit from the States and it’s everything you can expect from the series: the brilliant, self-aware humour and writing; some of the best animation around; and a way of gently ribbing those well-loved characters without taking away from them. It’s still very much new Nintendo, from the same box of games that would have never happened in the NES and SNES era as Smash Bros, and it’s even more insane than its precursors. Imagine all the gags that can come from being inside Bowser – the title is only the beginning, believe me – and they’ll pretty much all be there. Except that, you dirty bugger.
  • Trials HD – I deliberated for a long time whether this or Shadow Complex deserved a spot more, and the fact that Trials HD was left out shouldn’t take away from it. I knew it was going to be good when I first stumbled across it on PartnerNet and found that anyone who saw it was instantly enthralled, and so it proved because I still see people playing it today and the developer seems blown away by the reception and the boost in profile that its once-niche PC title has received. Proof that retro gameplay – and the insane difficulty that goes with it – isn’t dead. It just got pretty.

As happens every year, there were plenty of big hitters that I just didn’t get to play – Assassin’s Creed II and Dragon Age: Origins to name two – and that’s unfortunate, because I think that at least some of them would have had a good chance. Maybe if some of them had been delayed until early 2010… Oh…

Best of 2007 #2: Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy

Ooh, controversial!

Super Mario Galaxy is a brilliant game, and the best Nintendo game since the almighty Ocarina of Time. It’s a Wii game that feels like that’s what it’s always been. And all without a minigame in sight.

It’s probably best to explain here why it’s not number one. I’ve said in the past that I think Super Mario 64 is almost flawless, and a game that is maybe possibly kind of a bit better (or is it, etc?) should surely then go straight in at the top of the list and all subsequent ones. Well…no. And it’s not you, it’s me.

I just don’t feel it like I used to, and I don’t know how to explain it without sounding really shallow. Mario Galaxy’s story is a bit more prominent than Mario 64’s and the talking stars get on my nerves. The platforming is still as good as ever, basically playing like those suspended play areas that made up the Bowser levels extended to fill an entire game, but the camera hasn’t moved on with the imaginations of the developers and therefore technical issues which were occasional niggles in 1996/97 are now more problematic.

Don’t let my justification of the placement make it sound like I’m entirely down on the game. It just seems that most are putting this at number one almost out of duty because it’s Mario and because Nintendo are the kings of their castle again, and as a result I have to justify my blasphemy. And it’s not because the Wii having almost nothing all year and then stealing in to take its second top spot running would annoy me.

That Mario Galaxy is one of the best games of the year is beyond doubt and, really, the ultimate number is irrelevant. Just knowing that it’s Nintendo’s best in years speak more than any single digit.

Mario & Sonic at the Wii Flat

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games

I think I’m with most gamers when I say that my biggest question regarding this unusual collaboration is what exactly Mario is doping to enable him to match Sonic in a foot race. After having spent an afternoon with the game at the Wii Flat in London, I’m even more confused. Mario was pretty brisk if you held the run button, but when Bowser, Wario, and Eggman can keep up…well…it’s madness!

Once I was over my apoplectic fit and could put aside my inner fanboy, however, I couldn’t stay angry with it. I was too exhausted to…

Continue reading Mario & Sonic at the Wii Flat

Super Mario All-Star

At the risk of attack from the Nintendo fundamentalists, Mario Sunshine really wasn’t that great. It was good, but compared to the almost unimpeachable Super Mario 64 (as far as I’m concerned, the best game of the 32/64-bit generation), it felt soulless and disappointing.

Super Mario Galaxy

So we arguably haven’t had a truly great Mario in over a decade – come on, New Super Mario Bros was hardly Mario 64 – aaand…now that Super Mario Galaxy is here, we do. The hit ratio may have dropped since we had Super Mario Bros 1-3 plus World in five years, but now, even without Miyamoto at the helm, the standards for Mario have been put back as high as they should be.

While I think that those calling this the greatest Mario game ever are simply wrong, the comparisons that have been made between this and Super Mario Bros 3 are apt. Both games took the fairly conservative design of a previous game and just went a bit mental, but whereas the limits of SMB3’s madness were enemies with gigantism, flying raccoons, and a tanuki suit that inexplicably transformed Mario into a statue, Galaxy runs with it.

Such concepts as gravity – surely essential to a platform game – become meaningless. And while the race against the penguin in Mario 64 had some context, Galaxy’s equivalent is to have a community of penguins who surf on a smiling manta ray. It gives no explanation and clearly delights in the bemused expressions that such flights of fancy will induce. It’s a wonderful game that’s gloriously fun to just go with. And the space setting, unbounded by any real level structure (you can get completely different level designs within the same galaxy), has let them take a pile of concepts that couldn’t be expanded into a whole game and simply use them as single, throwaway levels. It seems almost profligate to use some great ideas in such a manner, but really it’s better that they go here than in a minigame compilation.

My one complaint would have to be that the mechanics sometimes can’t keep up with the design. Things haven’t really moved on since Mario 64’s benchmark for a 3D camera, and it sometimes doesn’t work with these far more complex level designs. The camera will more often than not be impossible to move manually – I don’t remember this ever being the case in Mario 64 – and just occasionally this will leave you looking at Mario’s shadow through a solid structure or with an awkward angle on a jump that could lead to oblivion if missed. It doesn’t happen all the time by any means, but it happens just enough to annoy.

Similarly, the human brain (or mine at least) can occasionally seem as incapable of keeping up as the camera. Mario can continually flip and take the controls with him, while I occasionally spent half a second flapping around in an effort to work out whether up was still up. Call it my failing rather than the game’s, if you like, but the fact is there is some inconsistency, such as when one double-sided surface in one galaxy will let you run seamlessly around the edge and onto the other side, whereas one in the next galaxy that is identical in all but theme will dump you off into a black hole if you try the same manoeuvre. As with the camera, it only happens enough to be an irritation.

It would be churlish of me to call this anything other than a great game because of a couple of qualms, though. This is still by far the best game on the Wii (no jokes, please) and, like its forebears, it will stick in the memory well beyond most of the big hits of this generation. This game reminds you what Nintendo can be when they stop thinking about minigames.

A Childhood Fantasy Comes True

Sonic vs. Mario

So Solid Snake isn’t the only non-Nintendo character to make it into Smash Bros Brawl, as Nintendo has announced that Sonic will be pitting himself in mortal combat against Mario for the first time. Now we know how Sega got permission to put Mario into its Olympic game, then.

I was very indifferent towards Smash Bros Melee, probably because it came out at the same time as I was getting into Street Fighter III: Third Strike’s home debut on Dreamcast and, let’s face it, in a battle of fighting mechanics only one of those is going to come out on top. It was an enjoyable little fanwank but I find myself constantly baffled by lists putting it up there as one of the best games of all time. It’s not. Seriously, it’s not. It’s not even close to being the best game on GameCube, and that’s saying something.

As such, my anticipation for Brawl was almost nil. I still need to buy Metroid Prime 3, and that gets the nod over Smash Bros for having a proper single player experience in there. But this has changed things entirely. The original Smash Bros may have been wish fulfilment for a lot of people who grew up with Nintendo, but in making a fighting game with Mario and Sonic, Nintendo have gone and created my most wanted game from about 1993. Seriously, if I’d told 8-year-old self about this game my little head would have exploded.

So what are the odds on Snake slitting Sonic’s throat for that awful next-gen abortion? Don’t go all family friendly on us, Nintendo.