Posts Tagged ‘Mario’

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 Joepinion’s Top 10 Games of All Time

NOTE: This is going to be a list that I will continue to come back to and update.  These are MY favorite games.  I have not played every game ever made, nor do I want to.  These are just the best games I’ve ever played.  Feel free to comment and leave me synopsis of your own favorite.

1. Punch Out!! (NES)

punch out!!There, of course, are two versions of Punch Out!! for the NES. One which features Mike Tyson as the baddest boss of all time and one that features Mr. Dream, which was a placeholder for Iron Mike once Nintendo could not (did not want to?) continue billing the infamous fighter on one of its games any further.

The boxers you face are all (almost racist) characatures of different ethnicities. They each have their own style and their own attacks/weaknesses that you will need to learn to win the fight. For this reason, the game is often called more of a puzzle game than a boxing game. I agree that learning the styles and pattens of each boxer is an important key to winning the game, but isn’t that the case for any game? I mean, think about any Bowser fight. Don’t you have to understand his patterns- where he is going to jump, when you can attack, etc., before you can win? It goes the same for any boss in any game, from God of War to Ducktales.

Why is Punch Out!! the best game ever made? It is the most unadulterated, straightforward test of skill there is in video games. Consider that there are no power ups in this game. While other games allow you to enter a boss battle with a mushroom, extended life bars, rocket launchers, or some other type of power that helps you beat the boss, Punch Out!! asks you to beat every boss with nothing going in but your reflexes and trainer that really doesn’t know what he’s talking about half the time. Sure, you can find ways to earn stars that give you a power punch, but this is done by finding hidden weaknesses in each boxer. You need to work to find those during the fight.

Exhibit B in my argument is the fact that this game is centered around boss battle after boss battle. There are no bonus rounds. There are no practice modes. The game simply puts you in front of a new boss and charges you with the task of finding out how to win. You have 3 dodge moves and four punches to choose from. It is 100% pure, beautiful, nerve racking gaming. By the time you get to the next boxer, you have earned absolutely nothing but the mental experience you earned from beating the last boxer. You have absolutely nothing, and you have everything you need to win.

For those reasons, defeating Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream) is the biggest challenge in gaming, and Punch Out!! is the best game ever made.

  1. Portal 2

portal 2When I look at the most loved and successful video games, they usually have a few things going for them. They mostly have characters or at least one character that is iconic or that the player can connect to. They also, in some way advances some aspect of video games. When I was growing up, the big thing people were paying attention to and giving acclaim for was graphics. Games like Star Fox almost made it into the limelight based on cutting edge graphics alone. Somewhere around the time we stopped worrying about bits, the focus changed to story telling.

If someone were to ask me to complete the sentence: “In the future, I hope all games could be more ____,” I would probably either say “cheaper” or “like Portal.” Portal makes you think, it makes you explore, it makes you work out tricky puzzles, and it makes you care. It makes you wonder about the world you are in, it makes you like interesting characters, and it makes you feel like you’ve just been entertained for however long you were playing. It doesn’t do any of this through cut-scenes, and it doesn’t hold your hand through the most difficult parts of the game. It rewards you with a fantastic ending and hidden secrets that reveal more about the story.

The multiplayer, longer play time, and the addition of multi-player inPortal 2 make it better than the original, but the first title would have shown up on my list if it went up to 20 or 30, that’s for sure.

  1. Super Mario World

smwThe Super Nintendo is, in my opinion, the greatest console of all time, and it was launched on the wings (cape?) of Super Mario World. The game took everything that made Super Mario Bros 3 great and turned it up to 11. It introduced us to the next generation of gaming for Nintendo and really set the standard from that point forward for killer apps that would dominate video game console wars to come.

I only wanted to pick one Mario platformer for this list, so I tried to find the best by focusing on what set each game apart from the rest. Super Mario World is full of definitive moments in the franchise, including riding Yoshi for the first time, finding keys and unlocking new pathways out of levels, and a new depth of immersion and story telling that was not possible on the NES. The addition of many other Mario staples, such as the spin jump, Star Road, and Ghost Houses, to name only a few, made Super Mario World one of the last 2D games in the franchise that could really be called fresh and innovative.

Since Super Mario World, Mario has done a lot. He has entered 3D, he has driven go-karts, he has gone missing- but he has never quite matched the greatness that was Super Mario World. Sure, Mario 64 did something similar for the character and for Nintendo- and even for gaming in general, the game did have its glitches, and in my opinion lacks the iconic power-ups that can be found Super Mario World.

For those reasons, Super Mario World simply cannot be topped when talking about the best of the Mario franchise.

  1. Donkey Kong Country Returns

DKCRA Wii game? At number 4? For serious?

Totally for serious. And it might have even beaten out my #3 game if it wasn’t on the Wii, as a matter of fact.  I mean, shaking the controller gets kind of old.

The Doney Kong Country franchise made a lot of waves with its first installment and kind of petered out after that. When I first heard it was returning to its roots with a new game for the Wii, I went banana’s (that will be my only pun, I promise). And to be totally honest, the game had me going ape until the very end (ok, I’m done now, seriously).

I am not going to spend too much time talking about why I liked the game since I already posted a review on the Joepinion about it. Read that review if you’re wondering what makes this game so great.

5. Silent Hill

silent hill

Few games have actually affected me as a human being. I never got PTSD from playing Metal of Honor, and I never checked under my bed for zombies after playing Resident Evil. I mean, really, Resident Evil wasn’t scary. It wasn’t even a thriller. It was cool, but that’s about it. Resident Evil 2, maybe you could call that scary.. Silent Hill, on the other hand, was downright frightening. It gave me nightmares and it introduced me to what kind of terror a video game can deliver.

I mean, come on, the game starts off with you getting killed in a dark alleyway by a bunch of little demon children. Next thing you know, you’re running around a fog-ridden town trying to find you daughter as you bounce between what seems like a twisted version of reality and a world that seems closer to hell than anything else you’ll experience on the Playstation (unless you count Bubsy 3D).

The stuff you see and do in Silent Hill is damn near madness, and in terms of the horror genre in general, it was years before its time. The twisted and freakish look of its villains and the haunting moans of the monsters you are tasked to defend yourself against remind me of more recent and more significant horror movies than the horror movies of its time. Also, the investment you feel with so many of the characters in this game is beyond anything you could probably find in video games of this era, let alone in the horror genre.

This game was built to mess with your mind and really pulled you into its gritty and horrifying world. To this day, it is the ultimate game in survival horror in my opinion.

6. The Legend of Zelda

the legend of zelda

I am in the middle (kind of) of trying to get through Ocarina of Time again. If that game is so great, why the hell can’t I stay interested enough to beat it? Everyone keeps telling me to get past the first 3 dungeons and things will pick up. That’s fine, sure, but it takes hours to do that, and I’m bored NOW.

I never felt that way in the original Legend of Zelda or in a Link to the Past. Both games could have gone here, but I only wanted to pick one, and the most groundbreaking and eye-opening for me was the original. I mean, being able to explore all those dungeons and find all those items- uncovering the unexpected over and over again- it felt so much more special the first time around.

I discovered The Legend of Zelda before the internet was around and before I could go out and buy a strategy guide. Most everything I found in that game was either by accident or by someone showing me or telling me about it. Those were different times, and it made everything feel much more rewarding and individual- like you were on your own adventure outside of the game to try to figure out where to get the next great hidden item.

Other games have tried to live up to the greatness of the original, and some have gotten close, but sometimes you just can’t beat a classic.  It did more with 8 bits than most games did with 32 or 64.

7. Red Dead Redemption

reddeadredemptionRockstar was going to get on my list one way or another, and while most people might have included a GTA game on their top 10 before a Red Dead game, I was honestly most torn between including Red Dead Redemption of Red Dead Revolver in this slot. I remember Revolver taking over my life when I first got a copy. I unlocked everything that game had for me and I loved every minute of it (except maybe for that final quick draw battle. That sucked.).

Red Dead Redemption is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of games from the 360/PS3 era. It was beautiful, engrossing, and full of surprises. Its story was compelling and the characters that populated the landscape were fun to talk to and help out when you could. You could pick flowers or hunt animals or search for hidden treasure. It was the best old west game I have ever played.

Online was even fun, and that’s hard to pull off. I hate multiplayer in these kinds of games, but some of my best memories of this game were online. Like when my friend Max and I found these people in a stage-coach. We rode up, killed their horses and rode off, leaving them alone in the middle of nowhere to rot. Good times. Oh, and the Undead Nightmare DLC was spot-on. Bigfoot could have been my favorite character of that console generation.

By far, this was the most interesting and wonderful world Rockstar has created for us to explore, and that is why it is on my list.

8. Super Metroid

super-metroidThis is an interesting title to land on my list because even through it came out when I was 9, I just played it for the first time. I am going to write a full review for the game, so check back for that soon.

When you stack up Super Metroid to the other games on the Super Nintendo you can’t help be notice all the things that it did so well. Because of the cinematic score, the beautifully designed open-yet-claustrophobic setting, and the great boss battles spread out between power-ups and mini-bosses, the game gives you just enough to let you want to know more.

If you’ve played the original Metroid on the NES, it only makes you appreciate this game more. Just like the upgrades that make the series great, the Super Metroid game is a beautiful upgrade from the original. It improves the already great music, and every area feels even more varied than in the original, which are both great accomplishments.

9. Driver: San Francisco

driver sf

I like to reward people for being different, but when I first saw trailers for Driver: San Francisco, I wondered how the hell they were going to make it work. I mean, hopping from car to car and taking over the bodies of the people driving so you can control different vehicles in the middle of a mission seemed more like a sci-fi game than a driving game. It takes a lot to make me call a driving game brilliant, but this gamble paid off, because here is Driver on my list.

I would have never thought one of the most compelling stories on my top ten list would be in a driving game. Playing as Tanner, a cop in San Francisco, you start to discover you have super-natural abilities, described above. You use these abilities to try to stop a big time criminal from releasing a horrible fate upon the city. If I told you any more about the story it would ruin the game, so I’ll stop here.

I will say that the side missions, the characters, the “Last time on Driver: San Francisco” TV recap of your game so far when you turn it on, and the many Easter eggs to be found make Driver a game worth coming back to time and time again.

10. Tony Hawk’s Underground

thug

Before the first Tony Hawk game, these kinds of sports games didn’t exist. Then suddenly, after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hit shelves, we started getting snowboarding games, BMX games, rollerblading games. I mean, what Tony Hawk did for real life extreme sports he did for the extreme sports genre in gaming. It’s pretty incredible. Now, I know that the last few games that bore his name have been really horrible and literally unplayable, but for a while his games were only getting better and better. At the apex of the Tony Hawk franchise was my number ten game, Tony Hawk’s Underground.

What really set this game apart from others in the franchise was its editor modes. You could make your own park and then make your own goals in the park you’ve made. You could also make your own goals in the levels that were provided on the disk. This made Underground probably the game I have played the most on the list.  The story wasn’t all that bad either, and was probably the best and least annoying of all the attempts made by Neversoft to make a story mode work in a game like this.

Other notable features of the game included being able to get off of your board and climb around the levels. It included some great classic levels as well, including The School II, which is my all time favorite.

3DS

The Nintendo 3DS is simply amazing.  I’ve had it for two days now and I’m still in awe of what it can do.  I don’t understand how it works, I don’t know where Nintendo takes this technology next, and I really don’t care.  After experiencing the 3DS, I’m 110% along for the ride.  The 3DS comes with a lot of stuff preprogrammed.  I’ll outline some of those things and let you know how well it works and how enjoyable each is.  I will also write about the quality of the product and if it’s worth $250, for those of you who are on the fence.

Let me start by saying that the 3D can be a bit overwhelming at times.  My eyes strain and sometimes they can’t focus when playing.  When this has happened I simply turned down the effect, which can be done easily by using a slider on the side of the screen.  This fixes any problems I have and allows me to rest my eyes for as long as needed.

Of all the things programmed into the 3DS, there are only 3 things I’d really call a “game”.  First is the game Face Raiders.  Face Raiders basically turns your room into a shooting gallery.  You take a picture of your face and the 3DS puts it on flying enemies that fly all around you.  They shoot at you if you don’t shoot them down first.  The game forces you to look all around the room through your 3DS like a window that…actually, have you ever seen They Live? It’s like the glasses from They Live.

Only, instead of discovering that Aliens have taken over the world, you discover that Nintendo has just bitch slapped your sense of what is possible through today’s technology.  So, you look through your 3DS and shoot these things down.  There are boss battles and other stuff to deal with in the game as well.  The game actually asks you to feed it more faces for new enemies.  I love it.

(2D picture of 3D Image) Of all the bad guys I faced, none were more fierce and unforgiving than Justin in a lone ranger mask.

As you can see above, taking a picture of people’s Facebook photos works fine with the game.

The second game is part of the Mii Plaza application.  There are two games in here, one is called Puzzle Swap and the other is called Find Mii.  These games are both hard for me to review because the utilize the StreetPass ability built into the 3DS.  When walking around with your 3DS, you might pass someone else walking around with a 3DS.  If you do, your systems will link and share information.  When you get home you can go to your Mii Plaza and see how many people you’ve come across.  These people become characters in your 3DS that help you in these games.  The Find Mii game, for example, is waiting for someone to come along and break me out of a cage so I can continue through these games.  The Puzzle Swap game is waiting for Miis to pop up and give me some more puzzle pieces.  Since I’ve only had it for a couple of days, I’m not very far in this department.

Third, there is an application called AR Games that supports Augmented Reality Cards, or AR Cards for short.  There are 6 AR Cards total.  5 of them have Nintendo Characters on them.  When in the AR application, these cards project characters into the real world when viewed through your 3DS, similar to how you play Face Raiders, only now you can move these characters around the world yourself and make them grow, shrink, and pose in a few pre-established poses.

(2D picture of a 3D image) Ever since Samus got a Dell, she's been really jealous of Link's MacBook.

The only issue with the cards is you have to be able to see the cards to make the characters appear.  You can’t place a card, pull up a character, and then move the card away.  Also if show the 3DS the card and then tilt the camera so you can’t see enough of the card’s surface, your character will disappear.

(2D picture of a 3D image) That said, AR Cards are pretty bomb.

The last AR Card is a ? Block.  This card can turn surfaces into shooting galleries, Marble Madness type terrain games, and fishing ponds.  It can also make a freaking dragon come out of your table.  All together, the AR Cards are an endless supply of WTF and OMG.

For people who got the 3DS early, you can get a system update with a bonus 3D OKGo music video, White Knuckles.  The video looks great in 3D, and really is only the tip of the ice burg in terms of what we can expect in the future on this device since it is the only 3D outlet of its kind.

Remember how I said if you walk by someone with a 3DS and if you have a 3DS, magic happens?  You’re probably wondering why anyone would be walking around with their 3DS.  Well, it has a freaking pedometer built in it.  The more you walk, the more coins you get.  The more coins you get, the more stuff you can unlock in games, the more demos you can download, and the more rewards you can horde.  It’s a great idea all around.  I took it too class today and earned the max I could in one day (10 coins).  The cap suggests that Nintendo gets that you’re not going to take this thing everywhere, which I like.  They’re really not asking a lot of me.

I think I’ve covered all the basics.

Ok, here are my gripes and what I’d like to see in the future.  The 3DS charges on a sweet little dock.  If you don’t want to close your 3DS to charge it (if you want to keep playing a game or something) you can just unplug the dock and plug your 3DS right into the cable.  So…why have the dock?  It’s cool, but it’s basically a waste of space.  I never worried about my other DS falling off the night stand, and honestly this Dock could just as easily slide off my desk.  So, that seems pointless.

The AR Cards are amazing, but I can’t wait to see what happens in the future when this concept is revisited and redesigned.  It would be awesome to not have to see the card in my pictures or to be able to move the characters farther away from the cards.  There are a lot of restrictions with the cards as of today, but the possibilities are endless in the future.

I’m really waiting for some of the key franchises like StarFox, Super Mario, and Kid Icarus to make it to the 3DS, but there are other titles I’d love to see, and which I know would do very well in this format.  I loved the DK Country Returns title for the Wii.  With all it’s jumping in and out of the background on the Wii, a similar title would translate well into the third dimension.  Also, it would be great to see a Punch Out!! game in 3D.  Bald Bull rushing the screen would be epic.  Lastly, how’s about a Smash Bro.s game in 3D?  It would be great to see in 3D, and it would really help build Nintendo’s goal at creating a large multiplayer universe.

All in all, the whole thing is worth every penny.  I can’t get over how awesome everything looks and how advanced this device is.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it before.  I would say that I play with the stuff built into the thing than the games I bought for it.  There’s just so much to see and play with.  I would recommend buying it now, playing with all the cool stuff in it, and then buying a killer game once they start coming out (although, Street Fighter is pretty amazing).  I know a lot of people are waiting for Mario and Zelda to hit the 3DS before they get it, but it’s worth the money now.

I have two games for the 3DS other than the one’s that came programmed into the system.  So look for those reviews soon!  Thanks for reading!