Posts Tagged ‘Good’

Mario Kart 8: The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict

 

MK8boxSo, I have written three reviews for Mario Kart 8, but I haven’t been able to really get my thoughts properly out on the page. I’m really torn about the game and how I feel about it. So, I’m going to write two short reviews. One negative, and one positive. Here we go.

 

 

Why I Don’t Like Mario Kart 8

 

Mario Kart Wii was the last time I saw my favorite Nintendo characters drive around in go karts on my TV. Mario Kart 7 was a fantastic diversion, but I have been hungry for more. Sadly, in some ways, Mario Kart 8 takes steps backward in terms of where Mario Kart 7 and even Mario Kart Wii stands.

 

My biggest issues center around the roster of characters and the kart/bike options. While the roster of characters is larger than in the Wii version, there is less depth. There are only 8 sets of characters, and they all share the same stats. So it may appear that Toad and Shy Guy are different characters, but on the track they are exactly the same. This goes the same for kart types, wheels, and gliders. Like in Mario Kart 7 any character can select any kart, and there are a ton to choose from. That said, many share stats, just like characters, and (also like characters) they are not organized together. For example, there are 4 versions of the standard tire but some have one or two options between them when selecting kart options. This really makes it difficult to decipher what’s going on. It’s almost like Nintendo is trying to hide the fact that they got lazy. I mean, Mario Kart Wii had small differences between all of its characters, shouldn’t we expect the same or more for this game? If they were trying to make things more simple in light of being able to choose wheels and gliders for your kart now, they sure did complicate things by not organizing them properly.

 

Also, Metal Mario and Metal Peach (I know she has some longer stupid name) are pretty boring additions. Isn’t Metal Mario just Mario with a power-up? That’s like adding Cat Suit Mario, or Frog Suit Mario- either of which would have been more fun. Also, with a whole chunk of the roster being dedicated to Koopa Kids, how could they blow good roster spots on metal characters and a new baby character in the form of Baby Rosalina? Who the hell cares about adding Baby Rosalina? Why not add Cranky Kong or Dixie or something? They were in the last DK Country, so it kind of makes sense, and we’re down to one primate on the roster.

MK babies

I hate babies.

In Mario Kart 7 we were given the Lucky 7 item, and in Mario Kart 8 we have the Crazy 8. It’s quite obnoxious, feeling more like they ran out of ideas than anything else. It gives me the same sensation I imagine I’d get if I were driving down the street in a hail storm and all my windows decided to roll down on their own. Which window do I roll up first? Where is the button? Never mind, I’ve fallen off a cliff.

crazy 8

You mean to tell me that now I can shoot 2 shells, drop a banana, throw a bomb, rocket myself forward, fire a blooper, get 2 coins, AND activate a super star? FINALLY!

They also got rid of two of my favorite items (the hot-potato style cloud and the giant mushroom, both from the Wii version) but still opted to keep the worst item in the history of the series. I shouldn’t have to say it’s name in my blog, but the blooper has got to be one of the worst, most infuriating things ever thought up in and actually put into a video game.

 

One of my favorite things that Mario Kart 7 introduced was point A to point B races, where there were no laps, just one long race. There are only two in this game. One is a new course and one is the N64 version of Rainbow Road, which seems a little strange to me. That Rainbow Road course is still just a lap, albeit a long one. These were loads of fun in Mario Kart 7, and it looks like developers knew it, but only keeping 2 in there must be pretty confusing for players who missed that installment, and disappointing to gamers like me.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that battle mode has basically been destroyed. Ever hear the expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, Nintendo evidently hadn’t. Now, instead of battle arenas, you’ve got your choice of tracks from the game to choose from. So, you can drive around the track, shooting at people….like you would in a race. Or I guess you could just hide from other racers, but that wouldn’t really matter because NO ONE IS PLAYING IT ONLINE.

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the train Nintendo refuses not to run on it’s fans by way of it’s super-cheap 150cc AI.

death stare

You think this is a game?!

Why I Love Mario Kart 8

 

Mario Kart 8 has got to be one of, if not the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen available on a Nintendo console. And while Nintendo takes a lot of heat for repurposing the same old franchises over and over (Mario games in particular), it’s games like this that add new dynamics and new layers to familiar favorites which keep fans like me happy.

 

While I’m not hot about all the new items, the new item system works extremely well (with the exception of in 150cc when other karts always seem to have the item they need to keep you from finishing that last lap in first). The items seem more balanced this time around and while you can get creamed when in a pack, once you break free you will not have to live in constant terror of a blue shell coming to get you. They’re far more rare this time around and the super horn item can actually save you from losing your 1st place spot.

super horn

Super horn, I don’t know where you came from, and I don’t care.

Like I said before, the game is stunning, and Nintendo knows it. They actually took most of the HUD off of the screen and put it on the gamepad. Sure, it’s difficult to look down and get all the vital info, but everything is so beautiful that it really doesn’t bother me much. I wish there was some kind of option to put some info up on the TV screen, but I like the setup overall. You can even save replays and post them straight to Youtube. You cannot actually edit the videos, but it’s still a nice feature.

 

Here is me, winning by a nose.

The real big stuff pluses come through by way of the tracks, though. First of all, being able to ride on walls and other surfaces make the game way more interesting. Finding alternate routes and seeing which you can make it through the quickest is a lot of fun and makes tracks more rewarding to retread. Also, something needs to be said for the creativity and craft that went into these new tracks. There’s a whole level where you start in the clouds, find your way onto a vine, only to end up on one of Bowser’s flying warships. Visually, it’s the most amazing level I’ve seen in any Mario game in a long time.

 

Even the retro stages have been given a really slick upgrade. The N64 version of Rainbow Road looks phenomenal and even features updated versions of the train and fireworks that made that level so special before. One level that really impressed me was the flat and very straight forward Mario Circuit from the GBA Mario Kart. To give it a taste of anti-gravity, one whole long U turn has been raised about 60 degrees up in the air. As the race starts you actually get to see it getting lifted up off of the ground, and that’s pretty cool.

 

The Verdict:

I’ve got to give Mario Kart 8 a solid B-. It’s the best looking, most fun B- I’ve ever played, and there is a lot that they could fix with DLC in the future (I’m not holding my breath, but they could add some battle arenas, maybe add some depth to the roster of characters, throw in some A-to-B style races, etc). Mario Kart 8, on it’s own, if I had never played the Wii version or 7, would have been an A game for sure, but when you look what Wii and 7 had that Mario Kart 8 doesn’t, you cannot deny that Nintendo took their foot off of the gas with this one (PUN INTENDED).

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: What’s Good

I’m not one to make excuses for movies, but before I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I read some reviews online that were pretty horrible. And while I will admit that the film is far from one of the best movies ever made, one of the best movies of the year, or even one of the best movies in the super hero genre, it did a lot of things right. So, rather than writing a regular review, I will be sharing with you some of the things the movie does right. There ARE SPOILERS below, so I suggest you read this after you watch the movie.

 

spider-man 2

The Rhino wears a track suit and special “Super Crocs” through the whole movie that makes him run faster and jump higher. JK, but there seriously are some spoilers up ahead.

 

First of all, to enjoy this movie you need to back up off the comic books and cartoons that you grew up with. This new retelling needs to be different. Why? Well, we just had a very popular trilogy of Spider-Man movies. Beyond that, the Spider-Man story has been told over and over again more than any super hero story with the exception of Batman. Aside from the Raimi movies, we’ve had a hit cartoon in the 90’s, at least 3 other cartoons since then, video games that take their own liberties with the story, and all the weird stuff going on in the comic books. Being a big Spider-Man fan, it’s hard for me to say this, but even I am getting a little tired of the rehashing of the origin story with Uncle Ben and wrestling, and power/responsibility, and yada yada yada.

 

So yes, this new set of movies is taking liberties that other movies didn’t. It is cherry picking what it wants and is putting it together like some kind of casserole on left-over night, but can we just be honest and admit that sometimes “hamburger surprise” is pretty damn good? I mean, look at all the stuff they’re doing right: they didn’t jump right into Mary Jane, they didn’t make the web come right out of his wrists (which was super weird in the Raimi movies), and they got Spider-Man’s attitude down much better than any of Raimi’s movies ever did. Seriously, if I asked you to picture Toby Maguire as Spider-Man, you’re probability picturing this:

toby crying

Because all that guy did was turn into a bitch every time he took his mask off.

 

The stuff they are improvising about Parker’s dad and mom, and all this stuff about Oscorp basically being a super-villain factory is pretty weak, but at least the latter will serve some purpose. In most cases the first installment in a super hero movie series is the weakest because you need to explore the origin of the character and at this point we have seen most of the most interesting of these stories. No one is really going to care that much about how the vulture got his wings, and no one is going to want to watch someone try to do a better job at being Doc Ock than Alfred Molina. Sony is planning on a Sinister Six movie next, and if we needed to sit through a bunch of back story, it just wouldn’t be possible. Do I like that it looks like they’ll all be cyborg robots? Not really, but if it spares me four hours of back story, I’ll deal with it.

 

sinister six

Let’s see, one guy is a scientist, one dude can turn into sand, the other guy can turn into other people…you know the guy in green…that guy over here has wings, and that Freddy Mercury looking dude is super into killing stuff and wearing it. Done. How long was that?

 

Like I mentioned before, this new Spider-Man is much better than Toby Maguire’s version. Andrew Garfield is nailing it. Top it off with Emma Stone doing a pretty solid job as Gwen and Sally Field knocking it out of the park, and this could be the best cast Spider-Man movie ever. I know Jamie Foxx was a bit of a ham, but compared to James Franco I’ll call it a wash.

 

A big complaint about this movie is that it falls in the “too many villains” trap. I feel like people just like throwing that trope around to show they’ve seen movies before. Sure, other movies have struggled with it in the past, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really has one true villain. The Rhino and the Green Goblin are hardly in it at all. You can argue that before Osborne turns into the Goblin he is also a villain, and that can be true, but if you’re going to say that then I’m pretty sure most Super Hero movies have had the same kind of set up for a secondary villain. Could The Amazing Spider-Man have been better with a focus on simply Harry Osborne or Electro? Sure, but it still did a better job of balancing out the two than some of the campy Batman movies we’ve been forced to watch, or Spider-Man 3 for that matter.

toby emo

I mean, the movie itself was a monster.

Finally, my biggest point is also the biggest spoiler, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie. The balls of this film cannot be denied. Simply put, the death of Gwen, which was such a big deal in comic book history, is critical to the Spider-Man story. I think it is a universal understanding that the appeal of Peter Parker and Spider-Man is that we’re talking about a average kid who is given super powers. The effect it has on his life, and his need to protect those around him is always paramount. So, being unable to save his girlfriend changes everything and rocks him to his core. Being able to build on this loss gives writers that are exploring new directions for Spider-Man in the upcoming films the ability to add a layer of depth that other incarnations could only lob at us like spaghetti at a wall, hoping some of it will stick. The reason Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s whole relationship was so hard to come to fruition was because of Gwen’s death, so if that comes up in the next Spider-Man film expect something with more substance. I mean, “I love you but I can’t have you” just isn’t as strong as “I love you, but I can’t have you because my best friend killed my last girlfriend in a clock tower, and I was right there and wasn’t able to save her. I watched her die and held her lifeless body in my arms. Sorry if all this is ‘too real’ for you.”

spiderman gwen dead

“I guess you could say I’ve got some baggage.”

There is plenty you can complain about with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but for all it omits from the stories it is borrowing from it keeps some key things going that I think will only make the next movies better. This movie had a lot of loose ends to tie up from the first movie (the Peter’s mom and dad stuff was a slog), but it feels a lot leaner moving forward, and I have a high hopes for the next few movies in this series.