I just finished Luigi’s Mansion 3, and boy, what an amazing experience it was! As much as I enjoyed the original game, this game completely blows that one out of the water. If you liked the first game, then you don’t even need to read my review. Just go out and buy it! …But, if you’re so inclined to hear my thoughts, a spoiler-free review awaits you below…. Continue reading Luigi’s Mansion 3: So Good, It’s Scary!
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
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!
My earliest experiences with the Mario Brothers were not spent playing, but reading the instruction manual while watching my younger brother play the very first game on our Nintendo Entertainment System. As I scoured over the game controls and characters, my brother would play through this relatively new experience with the ease of a much older gamer. All of Mario’s moves seemed natural to him, as if he had traveled these fantastic worlds for years. The reality of the situation is that my brother has better eye-to-hand coordination than I do, but the level design of Super Mario Brothers had something to do with his genius as well.
Think back to that very first level, World 1-1. There was no tutorial, no overt guidance for the player; only a stubby little plumber standing on the far left side of a screen. Any attempt to travel further left would result in the player hitting a wall, so to the right we must go. Oh no, there’s an angry looking mushroom heading your way. Quick, try one of those red buttons on the controller. Okay, ‘B’ doesn’t do anything… what about ‘A?’ Ooh, you made Mario jump! Try to stomp that mean looking guy. Hey, you squished him, good job. No time to celebrate though; there is a timer counting down up there. Let’s get going.
The design of these early Mario games provided levels that taught players the rules without beating them over the head with exposition and hand-holding. Almost all of the necessary skills could be communicated through visuals and the experience of play. To sweeten the deal, these games had such a reliably steady difficulty curve. Each concurrent stage added new challenges, but they hardly ever put the player in a situation without the resources to learn and grow. This trend of difficult but fair level design has continued in the Mario Brothers series to this day.
Over the years, I have enjoyed many a title in the Mario series. I would consider myself a rather advanced player; not a genius like my brother, but someone who has played enough of these games to acquire skills beyond the average. I have put in the hours, completed dozens of stages, stomped many a koopa troopa. In other words, I am pretty damn good at Mario. However, I recently witnessed a charity event that humbled me to my very nerdy core.
Awesome Games Done Quick 2014 started on January 5th and featured some of the most amazing speed-runners playing games and accepting donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Over the course of seven days, 115+ games were played continuously for charity, including a hearty block of titles from the Super Mario series. I just happened to tune in right at the start of a race between two players in the SNES classic, Super Mario World. What I saw in that live stream blew me away:
Video from Youtube User: SpeedDemosArchiveSDA
Just look at these guys- they never seem to stop running! They are using tricks within the game design that I have never seen before. It seems like every level is not merely a slog from left-to-right, but a challenge to discover new and inventive ways to speed through the game. While they do exploit some glitches over the course of play, the meat of their performance comes from intentional secrets and layouts within the level design. This is particularly noticeable in the stages made up of platforms or mushrooms suspended above bottomless pits. It looks like the placement of enemies was designed to be vaulted upon for a quick trip through difficult spots. It’s as if the designers wanted to reward dedicated players with the means to bypass the usual routes and discover entirely new ways for Mario to travel. This intention from the designers is made even more clear through the Super Play videos included in the more recent Mario titles.
That is the lesson I have come to realize in between the moments of actually playing games with the Mario Brothers. There is an amazing balance in the design of these levels so any player can pick up the controller and have a worthwhile experience. The novice player can discover a new hobby that eases them into the game with intuitive controls and a steady difficulty curve. World 1 will prepare them for World 2, which will prepare them for World 3 and so on. Behind the scenes, these levels have skilled routes carved into the background; perfect paths with a hidden time limit that provides a challenge to the expert who is looking for something new in a beloved game. For every level that made good use of my instruction manual studies, there is a stage that provided a seamless flow of play for my brother. It seems that across the long list of games in the Mario Universe, there is a level for every player.
For the record, the level for me is World 1-7 from Yoshi’s Island: Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy. But that’s just because I am a sucker for trippin’ dinosaurs.
The Duck is still working through the 30 day video game posts, slowly, like an unusually fatigued squirrel, with strength left in its fingers only, creeping towards an acorn, thirty acorns. In winter. When they move more slowly. No, it’s reptiles that move more slowly when it’s cold. Never mind.
And today’s topic, only topic 6, actually, which makes me further realize how pathetically slow I’ve been, is on the most annoying video game character, a rather difficult one for me. Some characters are indeed annoying, like Prince Tricky from “Star Fox Adventures”. But, is he annoying enough? Or Kiddy Kong from “Donkey Kong Country 3”, who is actually more creepy than annoying. Or Lanky from “DK64”, who is also creepy, in an annoying way. There are also bossy characters that tell you what to do, like various sidekicks in “Zelda”, or whenever Professor E. Gadd harasses me in “Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon”. Stop calling me, you creepy, old man that looks like a decrepit child!
Well, many people, I’ve heard, go with Navi, the fairy that helps you in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. Probably because hearing “hey!” and “listen!” every time you target an enemy gets old. And there are lots of enemies. But, is she the most annoying character I can think of? Well, as I often do, because I have no life, apparently, I made a list of annoying characters by console. And believe it or not, I came up with one few would think of. (Well, it would be weird if you didn’t believe it. I never lie to you.) And so the character that annoys me the most is…
Mario. Yes, Mario. From the “Super Mario Bros.” games. Why? Two words. Slippery shoes. I hate Mario and his slippery shoes. Never have I played a game where a character has so little traction on their feet. You’d think the soles of his shoes are made of butter or wet soap or a slick sheet of ice. I have so many unhappy memories of playing the old “Mario” games on the Super Nintendo and having teeny, tiny platforms to land on, and I land on them just fine (after dying many times because I kept missing prior to the times I did indeed land on them), and then Mario slides right off. You know how annoying icy levels in video games are, when your character always slides to and fro, and you have trouble getting them to actually cooperate with you? Well, in a “Mario” game, it’s like every level is an ice level. Thanks to Mario. And his stupid, idiot moron shoes.
I’m serious. It bothers me so much. I seem to have much less trouble in newer “Mario” games, but I still can never get over the amount of pain those old “Mario” games have caused me. If Mario wore some nice hiking shoes or even ran around barefoot, perhaps, the games would have been a different experience. But, no, Mario decides that it is a good idea, when embarking on a treacherous journey to save Peach again, to wear shoes that would get you killed walking in your own house, let alone mountains and forests and all manner of other locations that all like to involve bottomless pits and stick-like platforms placed here and there throughout bottomless pits. Does Mario think he’s funny? Does my pain amuse him? Is he that bent on bothering me that he’ll risk dying due to his slick shoes? It certainly seems that way. Few games are more frustrating than the old “Mario” games, and it is all thanks to Mario and his sadistic (and masochistic, as his own poor decisions harm him, as well) choice of footwear.
And yet, Mario is so dang popular, which only makes things worse. It does! Really! There are constantly new “Mario” games. But, do we see new “Metroid” and “Zelda” and other such delightful things very often? No, we do not. Samus and Link have the common decency to wear proper shoes in their adventures, and yet Mario gets the spotlight. Mario gets all the games. Mario gets everything. And this simply isn’t fair. Not to gamers that are not infatuated with this particular plumber. Not to gamers that would like to see characters that give a darn about their fans (by wearing shoes with traction!) get more games. No, this man named Mario has gotten out of control. Someone ought to rein him in. He is a fiend. A fiend, I tell you. That has the nerve to wear slick shoes, and yet he still stays popular in the gaming world somehow, probably only because he has some unsavory connections, which only funds his ‘shroom addiction.
Mario, you annoy me. You really do. Watching you die a dozen times in “Super Mario World”, due to your bad decisions, not mine, annoys me. If I die in a game, I want it to be because of my own mistakes, not those of my character. Perhaps if you wore proper shoes, maybe Peach wouldn’t be kidnapped so often. You probably run at Bowser whilst he’s in the middle of taking the princess, yet miss and slip right on past, while that dastardly turtle gets away with his crimes once again. You should be ashamed of yourself, Mario. You know what, I bet you want Peach kidnapped, so you can have more games. And more coins, that you spend on your unhealthy addiction to fungi.
And so, my readers, do you not see what a most bothersome, most obnoxious, most annoying person our Mario is? And it all stems from his slick shoes. That he bought. With the coins he didn’t spend on ‘shrooms. Hours of my life have been wasted trying to get him to navigate precarious platforms, only to fail because of these shoes. But, I can’t blame the shoes. I blame the man wearing them. I blame you for my problems, Mario. I blame you.
The Duck That Wears Better Shoes Than Mario and Would Make For a Better Platformer Character, in a Game Called “Super Duck…um…Ducks”
“Super Paper Mario” has some good music, and while I started to lose the love I once had for this game my second time through, listening to the music when I was preparing for this post caused my love to return, as it brought back the feelings I had when I first played the game. Why not take a listen to the delightful songs?
10. “Gloam Valley” is a strange song that I have mixed feelings about. This song plays in a swamp or something, and the music really doesn’t fit. And is very bizarre. And much too thumpy for my tastes, causing me to have to turn the volume down whenever I played in this area. Nevertheless and ironically, I still can’t help but have fun listening to this strange song, and so it still received the coveted spot of #10.
9. “Floro Sapien Caverns” plays in the place of the same name, where the plant people called the Floro Sapiens live. It’s a pretty song, and it sounds…adventure-y.
8. “Memory” plays during the flashback scenes that tell the story (through dialogue only) of two people we don’t know the identities of until later in the game. Their story is one of love gone tragic, as it always seems to do, and each time as their story progresses, the music is slightly different, and this is just the first version. This song repeats a lot, but I like that it’s slow and peaceful. It almost sounds like it’s being played on a phonograph to me.
7. “Sammer’s Kingdom” is home to the 100 Sammer Guys and this delightful song. I think this song is quite lovely and relaxing.
6. “Fort Francis” is the castle of a super geeky dude named Francis (who wears a frannypack…). This song has a different sound to it, and I find it to be a rather fun song to listen to.
5. “The Underwhere” is where people go when their games end, and it is supposed to be like the Underworld from Greek and Roman mythology, complete with a three-headed Chain Chomp (instead of Cerberus), the River Twygz (instead of Styx), Charold the ferryman (instead of Charon), and Jaydes (instead of Hades). I like this song a lot. It’s just…good, and it’s a great song for such a creepy place. Yeah. (It takes about a minute to get started.)
4. “In the Darkness” is a rather strange song that has always stuck with me. It only plays a few times in the game, and I’ve always liked it because of all the feelings I think it conveys. A feeling of being lost and wandering. Mystery and loneliness. I just love songs that really add to the experience of the game, and this one certainly does. (I wrote a more in-depth post on this on “United We Game“.)
3. “Merlee’s Mansion” plays in, well, the mansion…that Merlee lives in. This song gives me the feeling of sneaking around a big mansion, and then it takes a more sinister tone shortly into it.
2. This may spoil the ending of the game, so watch out. “The Ultimate Show” is another great song that plays during the final boss battle. I like this song quite a bit, and it is a bit different for a final boss battle. There’s another version of this that I like, as well, but the title may spoil the ending of the game, through mere association with the first song, so don’t click the link if you don’t want to risk spoiler-y-ness….
1. “Count Bleck’s Plan” is my favorite song by far. It is the best version of Count Bleck’s theme and plays in the scenes with him at the end of every chapter. It’s quite diabolical sounding. I also included the link to the theme for “Castle Bleck”, which is another version of the song I like. This song has a style that makes it sound like it’s from a much older game, but it’s a good song and goes well with the Count’s dark castle. Some parts of this one sound sad, too.
I recently decided to replay “Super Paper Mario”, the third game in the “Paper Mario” series. This game took quite a departure from the games that came before it by making major changes to the gameplay, including the ability to flip between 2D and 3D, having four playable characters, and real-time battles unlike the turn-based ones of the originals. This game appeared to be trying to be more like the old “Super Mario Bros.” (hence the “super” in the title, though I do wonder if we’ll ever have an “Ultra Mario Bros.”), while including the RPG elements of the “Paper Mario” series, such as an interesting story and characters and the ability to level-up whenever you get enough points (as opposed to experience). While I found this game to be a rather good time, I have to admit that there were some disappointing aspects to it, some of which I didn’t really notice until my second playthrough.
First of all, I’d just like to say that this is by no means a bad game. It is quite a good game, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I love the “Paper Mario” series. These games have such a charming style of graphics, with interesting stories and delightful characters. And they always are tons of fun. And so, when I bought this game, so excited to play yet another “Paper Mario” game, I wasn’t happy to find this game is not the “Paper Mario” experience. Sure, the characters are still paper, but that’s not enough to make it a “Paper Mario” game. If we had a “Metroid” game with a paper-thin Samus, would it be “Paper Mario”? No, negative, and a sequence of head shaking. Obviously, this game isn’t that drastic of a departure from the series, but it differs from the previous games in several important areas.
First and possibly foremost, the battle system has changed. I remember the first time I simply jumped on a Goomba, and I wondered, um, is that it? Several battles later, it was confirmed. Yeah, that was it. This game has real-time fighting, not unlike the “Super Mario Bros.” of old, with the addition of Pixl sidekicks to help you, like one that lets you toss things and another that acts like a hammer. And while I prefer real-time fighting to turn-based, “Paper Mario” games always had turn-based battles and a rather fun version of it, too. And so while this did really make the battles more fun and fast-paced, it really took away the feel that this was a “Paper Mario” game. Maybe I’m just a complainer when I whine that the battle system in this game is more fun, but it’s the fact that this makes the game not feel like it’s from its respective series that saddens me.
Plus, it makes the game much simpler, this form of fighting. This game is just too easy, which is disappointing when the other two games were a challenge. The game is also too short and has too little to do. You can beat the game in 20 hours (I did both times), which is good for the average game, but not for an RPG. Then, when you beat it, there is nearly nothing to do. You can beat the 100 Sammer Guys, which is boring and doesn’t get you an award that makes it worth it (I didn’t prevail in this place, as I got to the 80’s or so before I got a Game Over; I simply looked on the Internet to find what you get). There are also two Pit of 100 Trials, which is fun, but again, not all that worth it. Oh, and you can look for useless treasures and do cooking, when you’d be better off buying items that are more useful than what you can cook.
There are also some minor things. The game is not one big world to explore, but a hub world, with various doors leading to other locations. And I don’t like the new artwork style. They did a good job for some things, particularly the villain, Count Bleck, and his minions, but… I hate those people in Flipside. They did nothing to me, but I hate them and all their stupid, straight lines. Look at me and my straight lines! Boo (not the ghosts, though), hiss, thumbs down!
Ahem. This game does have some good changes, though. For example, I liked that you can eventually play as four characters. Besides the obvious, Mario, we have Peach, who can use her parasol to float and to avoid taking damage, Bowser, who can breathe fire, and Luigi, who can jump high and even damage enemies from below. And Mario is the only one that can flip between the usual 2D of the game to 3D. Now, some people say the 3D landscapes are not as interesting as the 2D, and I agree. But, it is an interesting idea I’ve never seen before, and it has some useful applications. Flipping to 3D lets you see items hidden behind objects. It lets you see paths that are perpendicular to the main ones that would otherwise be invisible in 2D. It also helps you to get hints for puzzles, such as hints that appear on the side of objects or objects that look completely different in 3D. My only problem is it’s a pain in the butt, as you can only flip for a limited time before you take damage, and it makes the game way too easy early on, as every time there is an obstacle that may give the game some challenge, you flip and stroll right on past it. I was tempted not to flip just to make the game harder.
And I have one more thing that is a mix of good and bad. The story and the characters. First off, I really like the characters in this game. Besides the good characters we all like, I liked the villains of this game, Count Bleck himself most of all, and I liked his minions to varying degrees, as well. I can’t say the same for whoever the villains of “The Thousand-Year Door” were. I think one was Grodus, but who was the other? I don’t remember. I also really liked the story my first time through. Seeing as I haven’t told you about it yet, well, the rather dapper and rather strange Count Bleck forces Princess Peach and Bowser to marry. This unholy union of good and evil (not to mention, human and turtle, so I’m not sure which is worse) brings about the creation of the Chaos Heart, just as it was foretold in the Dark Prognosticus, a book that contains the events of the future. The Chaos Heart then creates the Void, a hole in the fabric of all dimensions, that will eventually swallow every world. The story involves love and betrayal and, um, brainwashing, and…well, it’s good.
At least, it was. The first time I played this game, the story was so interesting. I had rarely ever been so interested in a story ever. Throughout the game, there are also these memory scenes that involve dialogue only, a love story between two people that we don’t know who they are until much later in the game. And while I usually do not like romance stuff, icky poo, yuck, I couldn’t help but be so enthralled by this game that I played it constantly in an effort to get through it and find out the identities of these two people. I needed to know who they were! Needed! I loved this game my first time through, loved it so very much with a love normally reserved for brownie edges, as I wanted to know so badly what would happen. And then, something happened. Wait, I just used that word in the previous sentence. Let me try again… And then, something occurred!
I played the game a second time. And it just was not the same experience. At all. Of course, the first time through a game is always the best because everything is new, and you don’t know what will happen in the story. But, for this game, once you find out who those two people in the memory scenes turn out to be… Once you know the plot twists that originally made it so suspenseful… Once you know all these things, it really just becomes a rather simple, rather unexciting story. Like I said, I know this is always the case, but it just was worse in this game. Not to say the story is uninspired. It’s not. It’s still good. It’s just that some games still have complex stories even when you know what happens. This one does not. Not really. Count Bleck creates the Void. His minions try to stop you from stopping the Void. This happens to someone. This person does that. And it’s over, and they all live happily ever after until the next time Peach is kidnapped. There. I’m sorry I spoiled the story for you, but there it is.
So, maybe I’m not making any sense, but this game, for me, was just not the same the second time through. To be honest, I didn’t even care quite as much for the characters I loved my first time through, either, not even Count Bleck, who is just not as delightful and charming as I remember (seriously, he’s a villain who’s actually nice to his minions and talks in third-person, what’s not to like, and yet, I’m not feeling the same affection for him that I once did). And this loss in love for the game saddens me. I loved this game’s characters and story so very much, and to have it become such a flat experience (I didn’t even intend that as a pun, but why not, you may consider it as such, if you would like), it disappoints me. I mean, really, now that I play the game over and know the story, nothing much happens throughout. Not as much as I remember, at least. (Having all worlds at risk of total destruction isn’t as stressful as one would think.) So with the game being so short and simple and the story no longer being anything to get excited and do a jig over, the replay value has gone way down. This was honestly my favorite “Paper Mario” until I played it over, and that is not a good thing.
And so, in short, this is a fun game. It is a good game, overall. And it is quite possible that many of my complaints stem from the simple fact that, after loving the game so much my first time through, I probably had such high standards this time that the game couldn’t hope to measure up. But, few can deny that it really is only “Paper Mario” in terms of style and the fact that it has more of a plot than a “Super Mario Bros.” game. This game could have really been something. If the story had been spiffed up a bit, and the game was more like a regular “Paper Mario”, with an open world and turn-based battle system, and if the game was longer and harder, it really could have been great. And that is what is most disappointing of all. (I wish someday they’d make a normal “Paper Mario” game again. I don’t have high hopes for “Paper Mario: Sticker Star”. Guess which word is bothering me most of all.)
Super Duck Mario
Just recently, I have teamed up with several other bloggers (which I secretly have been calling the Q-Force after Captain Qwark’s team in “Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal”, well, it’s not a secret now) for the purposes of
world domination getting more views to our blogs. Those other bloggers are the authors of My Two Caps, Recollections of Play, and Planet Zombo (the last of which is not doing this post, though, as it doesn’t fit in with their blog). We have decided one method of making our blogs just that more awesome would be for each of us to write some posts on one single topic. So that’s what I’ll do. Are you ready?
Our first topic is which character would we most like to hang out with. The characters we decided to pick from are the well-known characters from the “Mario” series, Mario, Princess Peach, and Luigi. I am going with the “Paper Mario” versions of the characters myself because I feel those games show the characters’ personalities a lot more. And they’re adorable.
So ahem, time for my choice. The character I’d most like to spend my time with would be Princess Peach, but like I said, the “Paper Mario” version. Whichever princess you’re talking about, Peach is a sweet and kind person that I’d enjoy being friends with. And she even manages to be a princess without being a spoiled brat, which earns her a thumbs up AND a gold star. But, I like the “Paper Mario” version best, for several reasons.
Paper Peach, while still being the victim of frequent kidnappings, is a stronger person in the “Paper Mario” series. No longer does she sit back and wait for someone to save her. In this series, she manages to find ways to make herself useful and actually assist Mario, whether it was from Bowser’s flying castle in the sky or from the X-Naut Fortress. She repeatedly managed to escape from her room and investigate in “Paper Mario”, and in “The Thousand-Year Door”, she was able to talk to the computer TEC and even disguise herself as an X-Naut. In “Super Paper Mario”, she actually escaped from Count Bleck’s castle and didn’t need to be rescued. In this game, she helped Mario with his adventures. She may often be a damsel in distress, but in her very adorable and very thin paper form, she can be much more helpful than many other distressed damsels.
And there’s one more very important reason why I like Peach. The players once had her make a cake in “Paper Mario”. While that ended up being a much harder task than it should have been, I still like a character that makes cake. I like cake. It’s good. We would both make cakes and have great times.
Now as for why I didn’t choose Mario or Luigi, Mario was the first to get marked off my list. While I like him in “Paper Mario” a lot more than in the regular games (once again, paper people are adorable), Mario has always, well, creeped me out. I’m not sure exactly what it is. It could be his bizarre, stumpy proportions. It could be his terrible fashion sense. Overalls, and red and blue? What were you thinking, Mario? It could also be some deep-seated hatred stemming from how difficult the old games were and how stupid Mario slides when he lands after a jump, resulting in much of the crying and yelling I directed at the old games. I know that’s not the same version of Mario, and I shouldn’t blame poor paper Mario for the crimes of his non-paper version, but I can’t help it. I’ve been wronged by that other Mario too many times to trust this one.
And then there’s the issue of Mario’s mushroom addiction. It’s no secret that the somewhat plump plumber has been addicted to mushrooms for a couple decades now, an issue that even appears in the “Paper Mario” series. He is so desperate for the stuff, he’ll even eat those useless dried ‘shrooms! He’s out of control! Do you see the amount of ‘shrooms he consumes (rhyme) in each of his games? No one loves mushrooms that much unless something more shady is going on. That’s why everything has eyes, even the clouds and other parts of the scenery. You’re hallucinating, Mario! Admit it! Just admit you have a problem. You have people that care about you. Not me, but Peach and Luigi. Yoshi, too. Get help. And I’m not going to help you find any more coins. You’ll just spend them on more ‘shrooms.
As for Luigi, I don’t mind him as much as Mario, but I still couldn’t choose him. Nothing against him, really. Not really, really. But, he seriously needs to grow a spine and stop being a wimp. And step out from the shadow of his younger brother. Seriously, Luigi, Mario is shorter than you, how’d you even end up in Mario’s shadow in the first place? Oh, it’s a figure of speech. But, honestly, do something more with your life, Luigi. And stop wearing the same clothes as your brother! It’s creepy. Maybe it was cute when you were children or something, but you’re a grown man, for crying out loud! Once Luigi gets some semblance of bravery or self-confidence, I’ll consider being his buddy. But, for now, Peach and I are going to eat some cake.
And now that you’ve read my thoughts on the subject, why not check out the other two posts. Cary, like I, chose Princess Peach, focusing on the Peach we see in “Super Mario Bros. 2”, whose ability to float using her dress showed her appreciation for properly functioning knees (it does make sense, read the post). Peach is a sensible lady like that. My Two Caps chose our good, old hero, Mario, who may not have as much concern for his knees, but is still someone who gets to go on all kinds of adventures and never complains about always having to save people (*cough* Peach *cough*) time after time. Mario certainly has the more interesting life of the three. As for Luigi, well, no one chose him. Sorry, Luigi. If it makes you feel any better, I did think “Luigi’s Mansion” was fun.
The Duck Who is Eating Treats With Princess Peach
“Super Mario Sunshine” has some nice music, most of which is soothing, island music. While some isn’t. So here are my top five favorite, with links to Youtube.
5. “Mecha Bowser” is a fast song played when you fight Mecha Bowser, of course. I especially like the beginning.
4. “The Manta Storm” is played during the episode of the same name, where the ghostly manta comes to Sirena Beach. It is fast, with a few strange-sounding parts, that fits well with a battle against a spectral sea creature.
3. “Boss Battle” is the music that plays during most boss battles, like against Petey Piranha. It is fast and fits battles well. (My descriptions are getting lazy.)
2. “Noki Bay” is played in the lovely Noki Bay, a bay surrounded by nearly vertical cliffs. The music is fairly slow and very soothing.
1. “Delfino Plaza” is a town by the sea and is the hub level of the game, from which you can get to all other worlds. The music here is very pleasant and upbeat.
Super Mario Shineduck
I recently played “Super Mario Sunshine” yet again. In this game, Mario and Princess Peach go on vacation to Isle Delfino, but lo and behold, there is trouble. Strange, goopy graffiti has been found all over the island, and the Shine Sprites have fled, causing much of the island to be covered in, well, not quite as much sunshine as usual. Worse yet, Mario has been mistaken for the one who’s doing all the vandalizing, a character we later learn to be Shadow Mario. (Even though Shadow Mario is all blue. I guess the island’s resident Piantas aren’t too bright.) So like usual, because Peach sure as heck isn’t going to get off her royal butt and do something for once, it’s up to Mario to clean the graffiti off the island and get the Shine Sprites back.
Luckily, Mario has FLUDD to help him, a device that shoots water, has a hover nozzle for…hovering, and has various other features that you unlock later in the game, like the rocket nozzle. This is very useful for cleaning up graffiti, hovering to places farther than Mario can jump normally, squirting enemies. And for spraying people just to make them unhappy.
As expected, the entire game takes place on Isle Delfino, and so all the levels are island-themed. There’s the harbor, the beach, the fancy hotel. I guess you can say there isn’t as much variety in this game’s levels as other “Mario” games, but I like it. It’s relaxing. Like a little vacation in a game. I love running around on Gelato Beach (when those stupid Cataquacks leave me be). Climbing around the cliffs of beautiful Noki Bay. Looking at the sunset outside of Hotel Delfino, then going inside said hotel and sneaking into people’s rooms because Mario’s a bit of a peeping tom that way. It’s just fun.
Most of the time. The game can also be quite difficult and frustrating. Especially when it comes to these levels that are not island-themed, but are purely platformer-based. There are these dreadful “secret” levels that take place in this big area of nothingness, and you have to cross all these platforms and stuff. Without FLUDD. It can be quite difficult and is the bane of my existence. (Well, except for that one thing with Yoshi, which I’ll get to.) And those areas just plain creep me out.
My other problem is that I don’t like the story. Sorry if I spoil some things, but it needs to be mentioned. Needs to be. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. There eventually is this thing where Bowser Jr. shows up and says that he kidnapped Peach because she’s his mom, and she seems to believe it. Really, Peach? I think you would know if you were the mother of one of Bowser’s kids. You don’t just find out one day that you’re the mother of a giant turtle thing’s kid. There are so many horrific events I won’t get into that she would certainly remember if that was the truth. That scene was just plain silly.
But, it certainly isn’t a bad game. Stories have never been that great in “Mario” games. Everything else in this game makes up for the strange story. The game is a lot of fun. It also has very nice graphics for the Cube, I think. And that water. Lovely. And I want to live in Delfino Plaza. It’s such a pleasant place. And another thing is that I like how in different areas, you can see other locations. Like you can see Ricco Harbor from Bianco Hills and such, and for some reason, I always like that in games. I don’t know why, but I always have. I guess it makes the locations feel more real when you can see where the places are in relation to each other. I don’t know. All I know is it pleases this bird.
It’s also worth mentioning that Yoshi appears in the game later on, which is mostly fun. You have to bring the right fruit to the Yoshi egg to make him hatch, and then Mario can sit on poor Yoshi to his heart’s content. And then you can go around making Yoshi squirt fruit juice out of his mouth, which is rather bizarre, unsanitary, and a bit ill-mannered. And when the juice is orange, it’s a bit gross…. While I like using Yoshi, one thing is quite annoying. Yoshi can’t go in the water, which can be a problem when the game takes place on an island in the middle of the sea. This resulted in what I believe to be the worst Shine Sprite in the game ever. It was in Delfino Plaza. Yoshi had to wait for these boats, then, ride it to the next boat, but Yoshi’s jumping isn’t good, so you can guess what happened. It filled me with rage like no other Shine Sprite ever did.
But, despite that one Shine Sprite and those creepy “secret” areas, I like this game very much. In fact, I think I like it the most of all my “Super Mario” games (not including “Paper Mario”). I didn’t realize how much I really like this game until now. For one thing, I like that FLUDD’s hover nozzle kind of gives you more control over Mario’s jumping. You don’t have to be so perfect because that hover ability lets you still reach safety if you jump a little wrong. I’ve always been bad with Mario’s jumping, but FLUDD gives you a bit more security. You make me feel safe, FLUDD.
And another thing. I like that the locations are…normal. Y’know, worlds in “Super Mario 64” were strange. That big lava place. That area where you change the water level. They often weren’t like normal places. “Super Mario Galaxy” was really weird. All kinds of floating, random places. Some levels were normal, most were weird. “Super Mario Sunshine” has a town, a beach, an amusement park. Normal. I can’t even describe the levels of “64” or “Galaxy” in one word because they were, not normal. I don’t know if the duck makes sense, but I like that about this game. It makes this game stand out from the others for me.
But, anyway, I like this game a lot. Other than the story, it’s great. And it’s a challenge, which is nice. I would like to mention that I was able to get all 120 Shine Sprites a couple of times. I almost didn’t make it this time. I searched everywhere for one final Blue Coin (ten buys you a Shine Sprite). I searched for hours, then, finally found it hidden in the sands of Gelato Beach. I celebrated when I found the thing. Victory for the duck! I deserve some baklava! Now somebody make me some!
Super Mario Duckshine