I don’t really like Super Mario 64. There, I said it. I understand that the game was a big deal for its time, considering it was one of the first 3D platformers ever made. While that is certainly something to be admired, I never really had the best opinion of this game. In fact, I feel Super Mario 64 might be the reason I bore poor Mario a bit of a grudge over the years. So when I gave it another chance recently thanks to Super Mario 3D All-Stars, was I finally ready to forgive Mario? Keep on reading to find out!Continue reading I’m Still Not a Big Fan of Super Mario 64
Join us for our playthrough of Super Mario 64, one of THE classic Nintendo 64 titles and the original 3D Mario game! It’s time for us to explore the many rooms of Princess Peach’s Castle and defeat Bowser once again!
I just recorded the awful poison river Shine Sprite (the one in Delfino Plaza with the lily pad and 8 red coins) in Super Mario Sunshine for what I predict to be episode 10 of our YouTube playthrough. It took me an hour and a half to record what shall probably be edited down to roughly 5 minutes. I’m super relieved to be done with that nightmare, but seriously, what was Nintendo thinking! And why did I commit to a 100% playthrough?
Mario, Princess Peach, and the Toads were hoping for a relaxing vacation to the tropical Isle Delfino, but they soon discover that a Mario imposter is running amok and covering the once beautiful island in graffiti! With the help of FLUDD, Mario must clean up the island, recover the missing Shine Sprites, and save the kidnapped Princess Peach once again!
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.