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Pet Names

I’m probably a bit of a weirdo, but I really like thinking up names for pets. It’s kind of a mini hobby of mine, even if it’s a bit pointless, considering I currently have no pets, I don’t plan on getting more, and even if I did, I just know I’ll never have enough critter-companions with which to assign all these names to. Nevertheless, I decided I’d get this surplus of names written down in a post so I could share the fun with you all.

First off, I have found that words for food always make good names for pets. It’s true. Don’t argue. I would like to name a pig Chorizo, but I don’t know what kind of creature should be called Schnitzel…. But, something should be. It would only be right. I also thought it would be rather hilarious to name a pair of pets Wasabi and Ginger, after that weird globby stuff you always get with sushi at Japanese restaurants. I also think Hombre, the Spanish word for “man”, would be a great name for a pet, though that one would obviously need to be reserved for a dude pet. And Clip Clop would be the perfect name for a horse, especially those little Shetland ponies (oh, my gosh, aren’t those adorable?!). And names of books of the Bible would be great, too. Especially 2 Timothy, which is made all the more awesome because I once had a cat named Timmy. So if I got another pet and named it the same thing, I could then dub it 2 Timothy. (I don’t think I’d want to name any pets Revelations, though. That book was far too terrifying.) And I also watch far too much “MST3K” (I’m not telling you what that stands for…), so I would totally love to name another pet pair Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank. Especially TV’s Frank. Is that not the greatest name ever? And yes, sometimes I also enjoy actual human names, as well. Some of my favorites for pets include Gertrude, Gretchen, Myrtle, Edmund, and such names as that. You know, the ones that aren’t used as often.

And my favorite names of all…titles, which I have saved for last. I would love to name a pet the Professor, or the Sherriff, or even the Doctor, which is also great because it’s like I’m naming it after Dr. Who, and who’s to say I’m not? More delightful names include the Colonel, the Lieutenant, Sarge, the General. And Cap’n. Or Captain, but Cap’n’s probably better. And the Duke, perhaps. And Baron Hair would be a great name for a pet adorned with copious amounts of fluff, while a lovely lady critter could be named Ma’am or Mademoiselle. Aw, I can just see dainty, little Mademoiselle now. So cute… Even if she’d probably be a bit snooty.

All right, so there you have it, even if this was a rather weird post. But, it was fun, right? The answer is yes! What about you? What kind of names do you like for pets?

Would it Be Weird to Name a Pet “the Duck”?

How Pokemon Made Me a Gamer

I used to be quite the “Pokemon” fan.  I have since, for whatever reason, outgrown my interest in the series, but it used to be such a big thing for me and has gone on to make a rather large, though somewhat indirect, impact on my life, that I needed to write a post about it.  “Pokemon”, if you’re not familiar with it, is a series that manifests itself in many forms, including cartoons, card games, video games, etc., involving Pokemon trainers that catch creatures called Pokemon, which they use to fight in battles and such.  It’s a rather simple concept, really, but addicting (oh, the countless hours I spent collecting Pokemon and leveling them up in “Pokemon Silver”).  I hear that there are now more than 500 kinds of Pokemon, which I find a bit crazy at this point, but okay.  (For me, the original 151 will always be THE Pokemon.)

The series first caught my eye quite a while ago, when I was rather young.  I saw Pikachu, the most famous Pokemon of all, in a store, and I thought it was quite cute, and when I brought it up to a friend at school, he asked me if I was a fan of the series.  Well, to be honest, I had actually not even heard of it yet.  As I said, this Pikachu thing was pretty cute, but I didn’t know what it was.  It was at this time that my friend enlightened me, and I became an instant fan.  I found the anime on TV, and I made it my goal to learn the names of all 151 Pokemon (yes, that’s all there were back then).  I watched the show and found sites on the Internet (my first major expedition into the mysterious terrain of the world wide web), and I made a list of each new Pokemon I found.  In a way, like Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum, I wanted to collect all the Pokemon…even if only in list form. View full article »

Top Songs from FF8

Behold, another post on my top songs from a “Final Fantasy” game, one series whose music never disappoints. Just another example of the great songs found in this series comes from “Final Fantasy VIII”, including one of my favorite songs played on an organ ever (and I do love me some organ music) and a rather nice collection of epic boss battle music. Enjoy!

10. “Find Your Way” plays in various places, like ruins and such. It is a slower, calm song that I find to be quite pretty. It also manages to make every location it plays in feel mysterious and a bit sad.

9. “Ride On” plays when you, well, ride on…the Ragnarok. It is a very fun, cheerful song, probably because it’s finally actually convenient to get places for the first time since the game began! View full article »

Why Draw Ruined FF8 for Me

Not that long ago, while I was perusing Amazon to see what new games there were for me to buy…I found nothing.  Well, next to nothing.  Sure, I had heard of a few good games here and there that I might like to try sometime, but nothing was thrilling me that much, either.  And so it occurred to me that there are a great deal of old games I have yet to play that interest me far more than those that have been released in recent years.  Most notably, the old “Final Fantasy” games.

You see, I am a fan of this series, and yet whenever I read articles about it, I am reminded of two facts.  One, I have not played a lot of the games.  And two, most of the games that I have not played are considered to be the best of the series.  And for some reason, this made me feel strangely ashamed, like I had no right to call myself a “Final Fantasy” fan, as I had not played a lot of the games and could not really contribute in most of the conversations concerning the series.  Sure, I had played newer games like “Final Fantasy X”, “XII”, and “XIII”, and I did finally get around to the most popular of all, “Final Fantasy VII”, so that’s a decent start.  But, I had yet to play the others, such as “Final Fantasy VI”, “VIII”, and “IX”.  I know, I’m scum.  And so I decided that it was time that I catch up on these games once and for all. View full article »

Day 8: Best Video Game Soundtrack

Today, I return to the 30 day game posts with day 8, the topic of which is the best video game soundtrack.  I thought long and hard on this one, and I decided I’m going to cheat a little bit and choose two games that I think have the best soundtracks because they are so very similar.  These games are the fantastic and unique “Rayman Origins” and “Rayman Legends”, two amazing sidescrollers that are not only a blast to play, but have wonderful soundtracks, as well.  Now, as I’ve already written posts on my top songs from these games, I’m not going to focus on my favorite songs for this post, but you can check them out if you’d like, here and here.

What I am going to focus on in this post is another reason why I think these games’ soundtracks are so delightful, and that reason comes from how unique and varied they are.  There is such a nice variety of songs in these games, and what stands out to me most of all is how different many of these songs are, as well.  One thing that I am just so impressed about with these games is how Ubisoft is obviously not afraid to try new things, both in gameplay and in music, and I commend them for that.  And while some of the music in this game can be rather odd, that’s what makes me love it so much.  They have songs with whistling, songs with gibberish lyrics, and even a song where it sounds like a guy making noises like a frog.  And so for this post, I wanted to share with you all some of these unique songs, some of which are in my top ten for each game, some of which are not, but there is one thing they all have in common, and that is the fact that they are all different.  And so, without further ado, I have listed them below, in no particular order.

Remember the song I mentioned that I said sounds like a guy going ribbit like a frog?  Well, I could not find a video with just the song, so instead I settled with a video that shows the gameplay for the level in “Rayman Legends” where this song takes place.  You can hear it during the first 50 seconds or so.  Weird, huh?

Video from Youtube User: SplitPlaythru

“Nowhere to Run” plays in the Land of the Livid Dead, and it is one of my favorite songs from “Rayman Origins”.  It includes whistling and vocals, and even the undead chime in at one point.  What’s not to love about such a song?

Video from Youtube User: Soniman001

“Lums of the Water” is from “Rayman Origins” and is a particular all-time favorite of mine.  I find the vocals in this song to be absolutely adorable.

Video from Youtube User: Soniman001

“Fiesta de los Muertos” is an odd song from “Rayman Legends” that starts off sounding like people munching on crunchy food, but it really gets started around 0:50, and not long later, there are vocals and whistling, and I couldn’t help but find this song quite relaxing to listen to.

Video from Youtube User: Soniman001

And a particularly great song and a fitting grand finale for this post, Ubisoft’s version of “Black Betty” in the “Rayman Legends” level “Castle Rock”.  Oh, how I’ve come to love songs with gibberish lyrics.

Video from Youtube User: Soniman001

And there you have some examples of the super different music found in these two games.  Not only are they a lot of fun to listen to, but they are something you’ll be hard pressed to find in any other games.  It is Ubisoft’s ingenuity in composing video game music that makes the “Rayman Origins” and “Rayman Legends” soundtracks my favorite ever.  I just can’t wait to see what they do with the next game.

Fiesta de los Ducks

Today’s topic for the 100 theme blog challenge is number 12, insanity.  This sounds pretty easy.  Insanity.  I know just what that is.  It’s when someone is…well, insane.  Crazy.  Bonkers.  A nutter.  But, the more I think about this topic, the more I think about how not-easy writing about it really is.  It’s a single word, but there is so much that can be written on it, can’t it?  And I’m certainly no expert on mental disorders, so I had to think of a different way to write about such a topic.  And then I got it, in the form of a question.  Why is insanity so appealing?

Don’t look at me like that.  It is, in a way.  I mean, they have an entire archetype commonly seen in stories that is related to insanity.  The mad scientist.  No, not angry scientists, though many of them do seem to have some bone to pick with society.  Crazy scientists.  Why was this stereotype even invented if insanity wasn’t in some way appealing or intriguing?  And insanity, as you’d expect, whether they be mad scientist or not, is most often portrayed in villains.  Because you really don’t see that many crazy good guys, do you?  No, it’s the villains that think up all kinds of bizarre plots for such goals as world domination or other methods of obtaining unstoppable power (the terrible movie “The Blood Waters of Doctor Z” featured a mad scientist that turned himself into a fish in his plot for world domination; I have no idea how he thought that would work, however), while the poor good guy always has no choice but to go and stop it.  Our hero very rarely is crazy.  Maybe brave or foolhardy, but it is most often the villain who is deeply disturbed, which is all the more explanation for their wild plots.

And so, to kind of expand on that, when it comes to villains, what kinds does this Duck usually like the most?  That’s right, you guessed it.  The insane ones.  In many stories, I typically like the villain the most.  Or, at the very least, I often find them to be the most interesting, and I wonder why they do what they do.  But, the villains that always interest me the most are the crazy ones.  The weird, eccentric ones.  Because, frankly, villains that got it together (bad grammar on purpose) are boring.  It’s the crazy ones that are obviously in need of some therapy that always capture my attention most of all, and that is what I’m here to discuss, with as few tirades as I can manage.

Let’s take Bowser, for example.  A lot of people know about him, no?  He’s the main villain of the “Mario” series and an experienced princess-napper.  And I don’t think anyone would consider him insane.  Nope, he’s a huge jerk, but he’s not crazy.  He doesn’t like his rival, Mario, which is understandable, as the ‘stached plumber constantly puts a stop to Bowser’s plans.  He also seems to have a thing for Peach, especially in “Paper Mario”, but hey, you can’t really blame him.  And you don’t need to be a villain to understand his desire to rule the Mushroom Kingdom.  I mean, who doesn’t want to rule the world or a kingdom of ‘shrooms?  Antagonist or protagonist, world domination is pretty appealing.  And so, while Bowser is quite the creep, I don’t find him to be that interesting.  His plans are uninspired, but I don’t get the crazy vibe from him.  And that just won’t do.  You’re too sane for my tastes, Bowser.

And then I come to the villains that are nuttier than those bags of peanuts that you get on airplanes.  These disturbed villains can be many things.  They are usually interesting.  They are most often rather…unique individuals.  And they typically range between comical or downright disturbing.  I may like a villain in a more lighthearted series because I think they are hilarious in a way that only someone nuts can be.  On the other end of the spectrum, some crazy villains are scary because of their insanity, and that’s why I find them to be particularly…villainous.  Because they manage to truly frighten me, while at the same time making me curious about them all the more.

Let’s take two examples of some of my favorite villains.  These two are insane by every definition of the word, and they are Dr. Nefarious of the “Ratchet and Clank” series and Lord Ghirahim of “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword”.  Now, this post is in no way intended to just talk about how great I think these villains are, even though I certainly do.  It’s intended to explain my point on insanity.  And explain it, I shall.

Dr. Nefarious is insane in a way that is on the lighter end of the insanity spectrum.  This robotic villain is not someone to take lightly, as his plots have involved trying to turn all organic life into robots and trying to turn back time in order to undo all the times in the past that the good guys have prevailed over evil, which he is more than capable of doing because he’s also a genius (we got a mad scientist here, folks).  And no one can disagree with me that this guy is crazy, from his bizarre plans to his maniacal ranting and screaming.  And I will never fully understand why he hates organic life when he used to be one himself (and don’t ask me how that happened because I’m still not sure).  All I do know is that Nefarious is a nut and seriously needs to be put into an insane asylum.  But, his bizarre behavior is what makes me like him so much, as he is quite an entertaining character in an already rather hilarious group of games.  Few can deny that his cut scenes are some of the best scenes in the series.  And if Nefarious wasn’t insane, he wouldn’t be nearly as great.

And then I come to Lord Ghirahim, another character that is positively crazy.  This guy is just weird.  I don’t know.  Nefarious, I kind of get.  A little.  But, this guy is, well, a lunatic.  Ghirahim is rather flamboyant and, like pretty much all villains, quite enamored with himself.  He can be pretty darn feminine and is known by all to make some pretty strange comments that can make you laugh (probably one of his most memorable lines is, “This news has just filled my heart with rainbows.”), but that doesn’t make him any less scary.  That’s right, this guy is frightening.  Rainbow-filled heart or not, Ghirahim is a terrifying dude in the way he can start off all calm and composed one moment and then threaten to do all kinds of unspeakable things to Link the next.  And seeing as he starts off so much more powerful than our hero at the beginning of the game, this makes his threats all the more frightening because he is more than capable of carrying them out.

Ghirahim is evil and sadistic, and even though he can say some pretty corny things, he is not as laughable as you may think.  He will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and you know what, he actually does.  Oftentimes heroes stop the villains, but unfortunately, Ghirahim manages to be a bit more competent than Link even is.  You may be able to laugh at Ghirahim’s strange dialogue and his goofy victory dance, but it’s his insanity, the same thing that makes him behave this way, that makes him so much scarier than he would have been without it.  I have to give Nintendo credit for managing to create a villain that can say goofy things, and yet we still can take him seriously.  Not everyone can do that, and that’s why Ghirahim is another one of my favorite villains, as he is by far one of the most complex characters I have ever known.

So I was right, after all, wasn’t I?  Insanity is indeed appealing.  At least, it can make certain characters more interesting or entertaining, because it often makes them either funny, frightening, or a combination of the two.  When I try to look for any correlation between the characters I like and those that I don’t, often times it is the weirdos I find the most intriguing.  And most of the time, it’s the villains that are the nutty ones, and that may be one reason why the villains are usually my favorite characters in a story.  Insanity is interesting.  Insanity can make certain characters stand out from all the rest.  The mad scientist archetype is proof enough of that, with such examples as Dr. Eggman, Dr. Nefarious, and Professor Hojo, not to mention the most famous of all, Dr. Frankenstein.  If insanity wasn’t intriguing, then who knows if these characters would even exist.

Not an Insane Duck

Top Songs From Illusion of Gaia

Though I haven’t played the game in quite some time, I absolutely love “Illusion of Gaia”, an absolutely fantastic game overlooked by many, a hidden gem in a sea of games, lovely to all who discover it.  This game is an RPG (at least, it’s close to being an RPG) for the Super Nintendo from 1994 that combines fantasy with real locations of the world, along with fun gameplay and an interesting story.  They didn’t skimp anywhere in this game, and that includes this game’s fantastic music, and so I had to write a post about my favorite songs from this game.  It was quite hard narrowing it down to only 10, but somehow I did it.

10. “South Cape, Town by the Sea” is the theme for the first town where you start your adventure, South Cape, of course.  This song is actually played in other towns, as well, but this version includes seagulls in the music.  (Seagulls that inexplicably flew sideways.)  It is a happy song, carefree at a time in the game where our hero, Will, doesn’t yet know of the trials that await him.

9. “Danger Abounds” is often played in dungeons, where danger truly does abound.  It feels like danger’s busy abounding just by listening to it.

8. “The Guardian” is played during boss battles, and as soon as it starts playing, it feels like something horrible is coming.  (Danger may currently be abounding here, as well.)  This song is especially fitting for the first boss, Castoth, as this horrifying beast arises from the pit in the center of the room.  My, what big hands he has.  I think I’ll hack at them.

7. “Will’s Dream” is a simple, but sad song that plays during a rather sad scene.  Every time I hear it, it depresses me so, but it’s also quite pretty.

6. “Clash of Light and Shadow” is played during the final boss battle against Dark Gaia, and it is quite epic, as a final boss battle in such a delightful game should be.  I like the beginning the best.

5. The Great Wall of China is one real life location that makes an appearance in this game and has some good music, despite the area being actually quite a pain the tail feathers.  (Stupid snakes would bite me and not let go.  I should bite them back.  See how they like it.)

4. “In the Earthen Womb” is played after you save and quit the game, if you don’t turn it off, and it’s such a good song, I often did just that so I could listen to it.  It’s a peaceful, beautiful song.  And I like it.  I like it good.

3. The Sky Garden is a garden that floats over the giant Nazca Lines in the Nazca Desert (a real place, actually; the Nazca Lines, not the Sky Garden) and where this lovely music is played.  I have trouble describing this song.  It was just really good and epic for this garden high in the sky.  So there.

2. Ankor Wat is yet another real location from this game (though I doubt the presence of zombies was accurate…), and the music here is quite awesome and interesting to listen to.  Not easy to hum, though.

1. “Where the Wind Doesn’t Reach” is so crazy beautiful, it’s not even funny.  You must listen to its beauty.  It’s too great!  This song plays in Larai Cliff, located around the Inca Ruins (another real place, but I’m sure you know that; the Inca Ruins, not sure about Larai Cliff).  I love the flutes and the drums in the background.

Illusion of a Duck

Screenshot by Flickr User: JEAN-Louco por Animes e Mangas

Screenshot by Flickr User: JEAN-Louco por Animes e Mangas

United We Game’s February community posts continue, with today being the day the Duck will present you all with my entry on the topic of levels in the “Mario” series.  Gamer or not, pretty much everyone’s heard of Mario, and there’s a reason this squat plumber is so popular even after people have been playing his games for over three decades.  Because the games have something in them for everyone.  They have good, old platforming goodness through a wide variety of environments, an innocent charm that people of all ages can enjoy, challenge (and boy, can they be challenging), not to mention princesses to save and big Koopa Kings to toss.  There are so many “Mario” levels out there, and yet they still manage to find ways to do something new with each one and make them stand out from the rest.  So I decided for my post that I would list my top five “Mario” levels, and to make it fair, I am going to list my top level from each of my five main “Mario” games in order from least favorite to top favorite.  The games I considered for this post span 1991-2010, “Super Mario World”, “Super Mario 64”, “Super Mario Sunshine”, and the two “Super Mario Galaxy” games.

5. Okay, this first one is not strictly my favorite level from a particular game.  I chose it more because I have some good memories associated with this level that I can’t really claim to have with the others.  This level is Stand Tall on the 4 Pillars, which is found in Shifting Sand Land from “Super Mario 64”.  In this level, you go into the pyramid and fight the boss, called the Eyerock (consisting of two hands with an eye on each palm, a surprisingly common boss in games), for a star.  As I hinted at before, the level itself is not that exciting, but the last time I played this game was the very first time in about 10 years of owning it that I finally got 100%.  And this particular playthrough consisted of my very first time through this level.  Ever.  So, for one thing, getting to play an entirely new level in a game I had been trying to beat for a decade was pretty exciting, which is one cause for my fond memories of it.  The other reason is what took place while I was playing it.

I remember I was relaxing in my most comfortable chair one afternoon playing this game.  It was quite a peaceful time, and for some inexplicable reason, my cat, Alex, decided to jump onto the chair with me, which he had never done before and never did ever again.  The chair was much too small for the two of us, so he had to settle with largely laying on my lap, making it that much more fun to play the game.  And this happened to be during this very level, which was also a surprise, considering it was my first time through it and my first time ever seeing this boss.  And so I will forever have pleasant memories of playing this level one lazy afternoon with a comfy chair and a cat on my lap.

Video from Youtube user: MrGamingZone

4. My next favorite level comes from “Super Mario Galaxy”.  This level, despite not being a fan of the fiendish creature called the bee one bit, is Bee Mario Takes Flight, a level in the HoneyHive Galaxy.  And I just love it, for many reasons.  To start, it’s just such a cute level.  It’s so bright and colorful, with cute, cheery music.  And then there’s the bees.  Not just Bee Mario, but the regular bees in the level.  While most bees are terrifying and evil, these bees are just so darn adorable!  I’m not kidding you!  They are so cute!  They are plump and fluffy, and they make adorable sounds when you go up to them.  Honestly, it’s mainly the adorable bees that make me love this level, not just Bee Mario, even though he can be pretty useful, the way he can fly and climb around on certain surfaces.  But, I guess in the end, it’s really the adorable bees that make this level great.  This level and the bees that populate it are the bee’s knees.

Video from Youtube user: Overhazard

3. My next favorite level kind of bends the rules a bit.  This one comes from “Super Mario Galaxy 2”, and my favorite level from this game is, without a doubt, Return of the Whomp King from the Throwback Galaxy.  I’m kind of cheating here because, oh, my gosh, this is actually a level from “Super Mario 64”!  A bit ironic, as I honestly was not a huge fan of “Super Mario 64” (it was so darn hard, and that’s why it took me a decade or so to beat!), but this level was just so great because of the pure nostalgia.  This level is a replica of the second world from “Super Mario 64”, complete with the same delightful music and everything.  And it makes me happy because it was a world I actually liked from “Super Mario 64” (because, unlike most of the game, it was much easier).  Then, you get to fight some Whomps.  I like Whomps.  They look goofy.  (Even though we all know Thwomps are better.)

Video from Youtube user: omegaevolution

2. My second favorite level comes from “Super Mario World”, the Donut Ghost House.  I always liked the ghost houses.  They were creepy, with the spooky music and the dark interiors, not to mention all the ghosts (the big ones were so freaky!), and they were confusing, with all the doors and the strange order in which you had to go through them in order to escape, but that was what made them fun.  And I just love those old-fashioned Boos.  Adorable.  Except the ones that follow you when you look away.  That’s rather scary.  And so, since these levels were my favorites from the game, I just chose this one because it’s the first and because it’s the easiest.  Easy is good.

Video from Youtube user: BURTTtv

1. And my favorite “Mario” level, as you’d expect, comes from my favorite “Mario” game, “Super Mario Sunshine”, despite this one being the most different, but maybe that’s why I liked it.  I love this game, and I always loved Noki Bay most of all, a rather beautiful place with peaceful music and towering cliffs (which are, oh, so fun to climb), and I actually found the water to be even prettier when it was purple and polluted.  This level was so lovely and had such fun platforming that I always loved visiting it.  And as odd as it is, my favorite level in this place was Eely-Mouth’s Dentist, where you go underwater and clean the teeth of this giant eel.  The boss music in this game is quite awesome and epic (even when you’re playing dentist), and I just found it so darn satisfying cleaning up all those filthy teeth (except it was gross when some of them came out).  Maybe I’m a weirdo for getting such a rush from cleaning eel teeth, but I did, and that’s why I found this level to be awesome.

Video from Youtube user: Anon7906

Duck, Dentist of Eel Teeth

Image by Flickr User: ManuelSagra

Image by Flickr User: ManuelSagra

Behold, today I present you all with the delightful community post of Cary, fellow administrator of United We Game and blogger of Recollections of Play.

No matter how many times Mario’s adventures are hashed and rehashed, games that prominently feature that famous plumber, his princess, and that evil dinosaur we call Bowser, remain fresh, fun, and playable dozens of times over. Mario games are level-driven games — you’ve got to make your way through stages or levels in a series of worlds in order to reach the final battle with Bowser. And only a few games, like Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG, have deviated from the platformer tradition started by Super Mario Bros. Despite that fact the games usually contain worlds of similar themes, each is unique in presentation and design. Even so, I will never cheer upon traversing a snowy/icy world because Mario is already slippery enough, no matter how many penguin suits he owns. I will never get excited for those pre-Bowser, fire worlds, as I will never have enough patience with lava and fireballs. So when it comes to my favorite Mario levels, there will be nary an ice storm or fire waterfall in site. But there will be something “big.” Curious? Read on!

Big Island (Level 4): Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

You’re going to find a recurring theme in my list — I like oversized Mario things. I really can’t explain why, but I’m almost certain that the seed for this quirk was planted upon first playing around in Big Island in Super Mario Bros. 3.  So like the moniker says, everything on Big Island, is …well big. The koopas, the goombas, the piranha plants, heck, even the clouds and backdrops are larger than life. I simply find it highly enjoyable to be a little Mario running around a land of giants, and being able to squash those giants as easily as anything!

Video by YouTube user MegamanNG

Yoshi’s Island (Level 1): Super Mario World (SNES) 

Last week I wrote a post for UWG on the importance of any given game’s first mission or level or quest, and in it I mentioned how most Mario games have great lead-in levels. Yoshi’s Island in Super Mario World is a perfect example of this. Not only does this level contain a plethora of Yoshies (my favorite Mario character), but it’s a fun place to be generally. The individual worlds aren’t extremely difficult to traverse and there’s plenty to stomp on and collect. Plus, it introduces some of the best Mario musical theme renditions available.

Video by YouTube user bpblu

Tiny-Huge Island (Level 13): Super Mario 64 (N64) 

Following in my preference for all-large-things-Mario is Tiny-Huge Island from Super Mario 64. But as much fun as it is to take on gargantuan enemies, this level is especially wonderful because it can be played in two different ways, with or without the giants. And it’s not just a matter of choosing to play one way or the other, you must play the level both ways, often switching between the tiny and huge, in order to get all the stars. Tiny-Huge Island occurs somewhat late in the game, and after repeatedly going through static level after static level, the notion of working through a level that changes, if only through the size of the enemies, is refreshing and welcome.

Video by YouTube user Nintendo64Movies

The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba (Level 3): Paper Mario (N64)

I hold the two Paper Mario games I’ve played in pretty high regard as I enjoy not only the turn-based style of combat and the games’ stories, but I simply adore the graphics. It looks like the characters were all colored in and cut out of a coloring book — so cute! The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba level sticks out in my mind because it contains friendly boos. Little, ghostly boos have been haunting and taunting Mario for years, but in Paper Mario, Mario has to help save their town from the clutches of the ghost-eating Tubba Blubba. One ghost even helps you along the way! I love the role reversal, as it was something so in contrast to the traditional enemies in Mario games.

Video by YouTube user luigifan64d

Soda Jungle (Level 5): New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) 

Did you think I wasn’t going to end with yet another ode to the oversized?? I recently completed New Super Mario Bros. U and I think it’s the best interpretation going of Mario’s original Princess-saving story.  The Soda Jungle is a perilous place with acidic seas and other things to avoid, but it’s also got one level with  huge enemies and one level with an enormous wiggler that made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It’s also a level with lots of variety, spanning from above ground to underground challenges. But by and large, that introduction to Giant Brick Blocks, Grand Goombas, and Gargantuan Koopa Troopas really made my day; and I love going back to that level simply because it brings me joy to do so.

Video by YouTube user At the Buzzer

Community Post: Mario, The Innovator

Image from Super Mario Wiki

Image from Super Mario Wiki

Today I present you all with another awesome UWG community post on “Mario” levels, this time written by Derek of Gamer Crash!

My childhood was dominated by Nintendo, it’s fearless red plumber and his crew. My first exposure to the world of video games came when I was very young with the Nintendo Entertainment System and of course, Super Mario Bros. It’s safe to say, I was hooked for life after pushing the jump button on the controller for the very first time. I’ve gone on countless adventures with Mario from his 8 bit days, all the way to modern times so there’s a lot of material to draw from when thinking about what aspects of a franchise you love. Have you ever stopped to think about why the Mario franchise continues to be a force after all these years?

As any person who is invested in games can tell you, the levels themselves are what make these platformer games great. I mean, think about it for a moment. Pretty much 100% of your time is spent running and jumping through them so if the levels are boring or poorly made, the game as a whole will suffer. That’s the key to understanding why Mario is consistently great. It’s the level design that shines through.

The tricky part then becomes trying to narrow down a gigantic list of Mario levels into just a handful of favorites. It’s almost like trying to pick a favorite child, pretty much impossible. So instead, I’m going to look back at some incredible innovations and trends that Mario has started by highlighting some of his bigger moments and legacy. The really interesting aspect here is that for decades, Mario has led the platforming charge. Typically, Mario innovates and others work to catch up.

Lets begin with the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the iconic title, Super Mario Bros. I think we can all agree that prior to this landmark title, the platform genre was incredibly different from what we know. Just booting up the game for the first time, you’re pretty much sent right along without any real instruction. Instinctively, you just know to run to the right and avoid enemies. As the NES ventured on we were also given Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 both of which were extremely different from one another in terms of gameplay and graphics. Each game added additional elements such as new power ups, new enemies, and more diverse bosses. For me, Super Mario Bros 3 still stands as one of the best platformers ever made. Running through those airships and defeating the boss characters for the first time was exhilarating and extremely exciting. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the sun the same way after the second world’s desert and that stupid grinning sun trying to side swipe you.

The Super Nintendo was next and with it came Super Mario World and it’s sequel Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi’s Island to this day remains in my top 5 games I’ve played, ever. While Super Mario World really opened the door in terms of advancing the genre with it’s colorful graphics, tight controls, and engaging worlds, Yoshi’s Island took things a step further with a superior presentation on top of already addicting platforming. For one, the game looks like it was made from crayons and felt pens, giving it a unique and memorable look. What’s interesting in this game is that Mario is no longer the star as he’s pretty much rendered helpless as a baby being transported by a horde of Yoshis. As such, the controls are a bit different with Yoshi’s being able to shoot eggs and flutter jump. I can remember bosses in this game being supersized versions of more traditional creatures such as Raphael the Raven. The objective here was to run around on a rotating sphere and ground pound these pegs so they’d hit Raphael on the other side. It was as unique and different a boss battle as I’ve experienced in a platformer. It’s also the first gameplay moment that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Yoshi’s Island.

If you want innovation, look no further than Super Mario 64. It’s amazing to think where we’d be without this title. Mario 64 pretty much kicked off the 3D platformer generation, as other titles worked to try and capture that magic which Mario had unlocked on the Nintendo 64. Seriously, without this game where would Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Bajo-Kazooie, Rayman and others have gone in this era? It’s a hard thing to imagine. Using Princess Peach’s castle as a hub world, collecting starts to unlock new sections, and jumping into and out of paintings to access new levels was pretty much genius. Obviously, Bob-omb’s Battlefield, the first “level” you’re given access to, stands out because it really marks the first time you’re allowed to experience Mario in a 3D world. I can still remember grabbing the wings which let you fly around the level. For a person growing up in the 2D space with Mario, this moment really blew me away. The genre of “platformer” really evolved after this title.

I’m going to jump ahead next right to the Nintendo Wii as Nintendo delivered one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever played when they released the Super Mario Galaxy games. As usual, Nintendo used Mario to once again push the boundries on what people though were possible with platformers. The twist with “Galaxy” is that Mario is now in space and could visit all of these different galaxies each with their own unique themes. Some were more traditional platform style worlds while others could have Mario running around on a true 3 dimensional shapes. Better yet, Galaxy tapped into a completely new physics system which allowed each celestial object to have it’s own gravitational force letting the player walk sideways, on the ceiling, or run completely around the object. The Honey-Hive Galaxy still stands out not only for the introduction of the bee suit, but because it was the first galaxy to really remind me of a traditional 3D Mario world in this title. It was a nice break from all the planet hoping at that time.

To me, Mario remains timeless because of the thoughtfulness put into each one of his levels. If you’re someone who has played at least one Mario game in your life, I’m sure you can pick out one or two levels that really stuck with you. That’s some incredible magic and a rare quality that Nintendo is able to tap into game after game. Mario has given us some amazing adventures and memories through the years and here’s to many more to come!

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