Saturday, September 15, 2012

Collection of Wii U Box Arts from Nintendo's Press Site

Yesterday Nintendo posted a load of official box arts to various launch time Wii U games. These include such titles as New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, ZombiU, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, and many more. Titles like Rayman Legends and Tank! Tank! Tank! have also been included as they appear to also be finalized. I really dig the blue boxes with the yellow stripe. However, the look doesn't quite work with something like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, no? It's important to note that the Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed box art confirms that the bonus edition will be available for Nintendo's new console. (Also important to note that a NeoGAF user named Hero of Legend turned the majority of these box arts into JPG form for everyone's convenience. A big thanks to him!)

Enjoy these box arts after the break, and start making your Wii U wishlist.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wii U: The Good, The Bad, and The Really Ugly

Yesterday the three major branches of Nintendo: America, Europe, and Japan, conducted different events for the true preview of the Wii U console. Now prior to this day, the execution of getting gamers hyped for the system proved futile and were just downright poor.

With my experience of hype, I really had zero for the console after E3 2012. Then, lo and behold, this event came and went and suddenly I am feeling the hype. A Nintendo launch always possesses some form of unexplainable sense of magic for fans, and I, too, am feeling it this time around. Not to say the console will come anywhere near the success of Nintendo's previous effort, the Wii. But then again, I think it's safe to say not a lot of consoles will reach that sales threshold anyway.

Regardless, I have sat through and watched the American media event, the European Nintendo Direct, and looked at the pretty pictures and statuesque Satoru Iwata during the Japanese Nintendo Direct and have dissected what I perceive to be the good, the bad, and the really ugly (and I did need to add the word "really" in there). What parts of the Wii U come off looking strong? What parts come off in a negative light? My answers are as follows:

The Good

- Intriguing launch window lineup

I don't believe the full list of North American games to be released on launch day has been unveiled, much to my surprise. If I am ignorant on this, please let me know. Regardless, I like to believe that I have an eclectic taste in games. I love platformers, arcade racers, fighting games, JRPGs, action-adventure games, easy games, hard games, rhythm games, survival-horror games, etc. The Wii U launch window (a term that can eat itself) is full of games spanning different genres and containing well known franchises alongside some new surprises.

It is no question why a lot of people are disgruntled towards Nintendo Land. It had a poor showing at E3 2012, with too much time devoted to it, and a fireworks display at the end that didn't work, making for some severe awkwardness. However, I am really warming up to the game. It takes 12 Nintendo franchises and places them within individual games. I don't really know if mini-games is appropriate for these activities, as there's much more meat than your typical mini-game. Regardless, after seeing Metroid Blast and Mario Chase, I adored the asymmetric gameplay, the use of the Wii U GamePad and Wii remotes, and just the overall charm. The inclusion of stamps a la Wii Sports [Resort] makes me happy, too. I'm sure it will take quite some time to collect them all. I don't really mind the lack of online. Perhaps trying to organize teamwork would be more difficult? I'm certainly not going to excuse it, though. In any situation, I have friends and family who'd play the games with me, and I'm sure it, like the Metroid game, would be a blast.

Then a duo of 2D platformers, my favorite genre, entered the fray and will be at launch: New Super Mario Bros. U and Rayman Legends. With the former, I already see a bevy of new ideas being implemented, such as Challenge Mode, Boost Mode, level design quirks, a twist on the Bowser kidnaps Peach plot point, and the ability to play as Miis. As an aside, I also like the art style, especially the backgrounds. Though, really, nothing compares to the awesomeness of Rayman Legends. The game is vibrant, colorful, and crisp. It's a living cartoon in HD. I like that you can play the game normally, but there are some exclusive levels that can only be played with the Wii U Gamepad. The rhythmically inclined levels certainly put a stupid smile on my face. It's going to be pure platforming bliss.

- Interesting third-party support

I really wasn't expecting much from third-parties for the Wii U. I talk on a consistent basis on the self-fulfilling prophecy and setting their games up to fail on the original Wii, and how that will continue with the Wii U. But what I got Thursday was much better than expected. We had already announced projects like Assassin's Creed III, Darksiders II, LEGO City Undercover (which looks hilarious, by the way), ZombiU (quite curious about this one), Aliens: Colonial Marines, Madden and FIFA (not my types of games), Rayman Legends, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Ninja Gaiden III: Razor's Edge, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, for starters.

Now we have some new insight on games coming to the Wii U from third-parties. I'm talking about titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, 007 Legends, Skylanders Giants, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (which Warren Spector had previously said wasn't coming to the Wii U, such a doll!), Warriors Orochi 3, and that is all only launch window stuff. Not bad as Nintendo is saying fifty games will be available by March 2013. We'll see if most of these are as half-hearted of attempts as I think they will be, but then again, I'm the eternal pessimist when it comes to Nintendo and third-parties.

- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Speaking of third-parties, remember my article a couple weeks ago about five reasons Capcom left a bad taste in my mouth? I'm sure you thought of many "clever" sex jokes as your answer, but one of the reasons was Capcom of the West's continued desire to lead Monster Hunter fans on about the future of the series and whether or not games would be localized. Well, I am ready to eat my crow. Now, THAT will leave a bad taste in my mouth! Ahem. In any case, Capcom has confirmed that the Wii U and 3DS versions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will be coming to both the U.S. and Europe. The game is based off Monster Hunter 3G, a Japanese exclusive that added more content to the game, based off Monster Hunter Tri. While 3DS owners won't be able to play online on their portables, they can transfer their character to the Wii U and then hop online wirelessly with that version. I'm sorry for ever doubting you, Capcom. Now, where's my Mega Man? #insatiablegamer And yes, I just did a hashtag for comedic effect, whether forced funny or not.

- Nintendo TVii

What is Nintendo TVii? It is currently a US and Canada only feature for the Wii U that enables users to view content from a wide variety of services such as Netflix and Hulu. The cool feature here is being able to chat, comment, and converse with friends during your viewing excursions. Some call it a waste of space on a game console, but they need to understand that game consoles are quickly becoming multimedia machines for the family room. This is a necessity because game consoles that are exclusive to just gaming are going the way of the dodo. It's evolution, and it is a cool feature. I might not use it fully, but it is always nice to have. View the video for this service here:

The Bad

- Must buy Deluxe edition to get Black Wii U

There was a lot of buzz about whether or not the black Wii U would in fact be available to purchase at launch. We have learned on Thursday that there will be two Wii U SKUs. The first will be the Basic edition, coming in white for $300. The other edition is the Deluxe, coming in black for $350 with more storage and Nintendo Land as the pack-in game. (These numbers and information are only intended for North America.) So if a person is not interested in Nintendo Land or cannot afford the extra fifty bucks, they are stuck with the white Wii U. Not saying that is a bad thing, but after six years or so of owning a white Wii, I'd like a change of pace and a change of color. Then again, this might be smart for Nintendo because black might likely be the more popular color choice, getting people to buy the Deluxe edition for the extra fifty bucks just so they can get the Wii U in black. Oh, you are so crafty, Nintendo.

- Most retail games will be $59.99

Okay, okay. This was an inevitability, but I still don't have to like it. The reason I have so many handheld and Wii games in comparison to HD games is the incredible price differential. Now that the Wii U's retail games will generally be sixty bucks, that means that's a tougher sell for me. I won't be as easygoing in my purchasing habits. And I'm usually fortunate on what I buy. I see something that appeals to me, buy it, and I usually end up liking it. With my luck, now that titles are sixty, I'll use that same approach but get burned much more this generation.

And then there's the worry about both Nintendo and third-parties being irresponsible or out of touch with their game pricing. For instance, I am not going to buy Namco Bandai's Tank! Tank! Tank! in its current form for full retail price. The same goes for something that for now looks as limited as Game & Wario. I hope publishers put out their games at smart prices. Something as packed with content as Nintendo Land (laugh if you want, it's easy and understandable to not like it) should not be the same price as something with little in longevity. Also, I don't want to see what will be year-old ports like Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition running full price, despite any new features.

- Limited online details

I really thought Thursday would have been a total blowout of Nintendo's online service for the Wii U. Are they not prepared to show it? Are they hesitant because they know that if they blow it again that they won't hear the end of it and be the laughingstock of the gaming community (though the gaming community is becoming more and more irrelevant, in all honesty) once more?

I wanted to know if the dreaded friend codes were eliminated totally, or if they were still present, how much of a nuisance they'd be. I wanted to know how easy friend invites would be (if they were there at all), making friends, finding friends, etc. There's just a plethora of unanswered questions that I stupidly thought would be answered by now.

And what of achievements? They aren't important to me, but I know plenty of people who live by them. When done right, they can really extend the length of a game exponentially. Being able to see what tasks your friends have accomplished seems to be an important deal. However, I believe Miiverse is Nintendo's own way of doing something similar to achievements. Like online details, we'll see soon enough prior to November 18th.

The Really Ugly

- The reaction to Bayonetta 2 being a Wii U exclusive

I constantly post on this very site and on Twitter that I cannot be more embarrassed by being a gamer, and it seems gamers never fail to prove me wrong somehow. Let's face it. Gaming culture in general sucks. It's full of man-babies, fanboys, and trolls that unfortunately, due to the advert of the Internet, now have a public space to send their opinions out to the masses and be heard. This very site is a fine example of that!

What I saw with the reaction Bayonetta 2 was despicable. It was yet another low point for gamers, who are increasingly becoming no longer a source of comedy but a source of unbridled embarrassment to their hobby and this industry. And why? Because Nintendo is publishing Bayonetta 2, thus making the game exclusive to the system.

I thought exclusives were a good thing. We heard so much about Nintendo lacking intriguing exclusives, and now that they have one (I never thought the original Bayonetta was a must-have or that great of a game, but whatever), the stance has been changed. Now Nintendo sucks for securing exclusives. They really can't win with these gamers, the group that I have grown to loathe and not want to be associated with.

And the argument that "now more people won't get to play Bayonetta 2, so screw you, Nintendo" is a hilariously awful one, too. Since when were these gamers worried about more people getting to play a third-party game? Remember Final Fantasy XIII? Yeah, the Sony camp certainly was happy that Xbox 360 gamers got to play the game when it was revealed it would be multiplatform. If you can't tell, that last statement was pure sarcasm.

People need to realize that Sega canceled Bayonetta 2. It is thanks to Nintendo coming in and offering to publish the game that people are even getting a sequel. Some people would rather the game be dead than it appearing exclusively for a Nintendo platform. If that is not some of the most pathetic ideology I have witnessed (hyperbole intended), I don't want to see how bad things can get.

I hear so much about "real gamers" and I shrug it off, but I am beginning to understand that mindset, though not in the context people usually use it in. "Real gamers" would not take such a stance and say that they'd rather see a game canceled than appear on a console they don't own. And when you start sending death threats to people and awful Twitter messages, you are human refuse, and you are the types of people that will continue to make this industry the joke that it is. No, what is disgusting isn't Bayonetta 2 being an exclusive to a Nintendo console. What is disgusting is the typical gamer I've seen these past two days, a zealot and a person of unbridled hatred through and through.

People should not get so angry over things like this. It was pathetic when Nintendo fans claimed Microsoft "stole" Rare from them. Tough. That's not even what happened. If you wanted Rare's new games, you went to where they were. That's how exclusives work and that's the point of them. And if you really only see Bayonetta 2 as the only game that is worth getting a Wii U for, then I am interested in knowing what types of games you play as I have already stated that the Wii U launch lineup is quite robust in genres and franchises. Perhaps it's really more of a hatred for a game company and console zealotry?

Regardless of the answer, the Wii U has a lot of good things going for it. It also has some parts that worry me. There are some that I did not have enough to write an entry on such as the limited online details and lack of achievements (I don't care about them, but other people live by them). What do you think about Thursday's Wii U day? Did you like what you saw? What did you like the most? What didn't you like so much? Did the Bayonetta incident annoy you at all? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Five

Amidst all of this Nintendo Wii U coverage, I have something that I hope doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Why, it's the fifth and final set of ten of The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games. We've gone through forty of the top titles of what I consider to be the greatest handheld of all time. Now, we have reached the home stretch. It's all smooth sailing from here. If one of your favorite DS games has yet to be listed, perhaps it will be a part of these final ten games! As a reminder, no non-North American releases will be represented on this list. There are great games that missed a North American release date, and seeing as the majority of DS systems out there aren't region-locked, be sure to track some down, too. With that out of the way, let's get to the final ten!

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

It was a long wait between Golden Sun: The Lost Age and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. That lengthy period of time made the wait for the game unbearable and they hype for the third installment to be impossible to satisfy fans. While I did enjoy Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, I do not hold it up to be in the same league as both Game Boy Advance prequels. However, both Golden Sun prior to Dark Dawn were in an echelon of RPGs that were quite high in my opinion, so it's sort of hard to achieve that level of greatness. Regardless, what we got with this sole DS installment was an incredibly capable RPG with wondrous puzzle elements. In the case of exploration, the tradition of using magic (Psynergy) outside of battles to solve said puzzles was a fascinating approach to things, and a cool tradition of the Golden Sun series. One of the main problems people have with Dark Dawn is that for the majority of the game, the battles were relatively easy. I can recall only having a real tough go of it with the final boss, and that was a sharp increase in difficulty from past battles. Regardless, what the sum of all of these parts equaled was a superb role-playing game with lots to admire and enjoy.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

An action-adventure game and a spinoff of the Dragon Quest JRPG series, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime pits players into the form of a Slime named Rocket as he ventures around the wilderness, defeating foes, helping out fellow Slimes, and shipping back important items and objects to his hometown of Boingburg. Rocket Slime consists of two types of gameplay. The first has Rocket moving around outside Boingburg in search of Slimes and objects to send back to his hometown. Slimes sent back to Boingburg reward Rocket with new items and town functionality. The other type of gameplay has Rocket and his tank doing battle with an opponent and his tank. The goal here is to insert ammunition into one of two cannons and fire them at your foe. However, your adversary is doing the same thing. If two objects crash into each other in midair, they fall to the ground. Things can get overwhelming in a jiffy as you multitask between inserting ammunition to fire, protect your tank from being invaded, and coming up with a plan to enter your opponent's tank. In all honesty, Dragon Quest Heroes was my first introduction to the Dragon Quest series. It made me interested in acquiring as many games from the franchise as possible, even if I sadly don't have the time to play them.

Contra 4

Even though this DS entry is named Contra 4, it was actually the eleventh installment of the franchise. The numbering structure was meant to make it the sequel to the NES and SNES Contra games. It also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the franchise in 2007. WayForward, the minds behind Shantae and Mighty Switch Force, were the force behind Contra 4. The game was a wonderful homage to classic Contra games, offering familiar stage and enemy types, the old school means of upgrading weapons, and other clever touches. There were three difficulties to play through, though the Easy mode did not give the player full access to the game's ending or final levels. In addition to the campaign, there was a Challenge Mode, where players completed various levels with the goal of accomplishing certain tasks. Unfortunately, Contra 4 never made it into PAL territories, including Europe and Australia. However, PAL DS owners could thankfully import the game and play it on their systems thanks to no region-locking. While the game is certainly challenging, Contra 4 gives off a brilliant sense of nostalgia and old school game design philosophy -- and I mean that in a positive way.

Dragon Ball: Origins

Before I get into admiring this game, there was some confusion regarding the tagline of my review for Dragon Ball: Origins. If you carefully examine the box art of Origins, you can see Puar (the green cat-like creature) seemingly looking up the skirt of the blue-haired girl, Bulma. Nonetheless, this first Dragon Ball game for the DS featured controls similar to both DS Zelda games. But unlike those two titles, Dragon Ball: Origins allowed the player to move around with the d-pad. I remember being incredibly impressed by the graphics of the game, the 3D models especially. I appreciated the charm and gameplay Origins possessed, and there was quite a bit of humor as well. One particular scene shows Bulma lifting up her skirt, exposing herself completely. However, the space between the two screens of the DS obstruct the player's view of this. Humorous moments like these run rampant throughout the game. Even as someone with a passing interest on the lore of the Dragon Ball universe, I found myself really enjoying Dragon Ball: Origins. A sequel would be released on the same system a year or so later.

Kirby Super Star Ultra

What I think is the ultimate version of the Super Nintendo classic, Kirby Super Star, the Nintendo DS system's Kirby Super Star Ultra contains all of the content of its original game plus several new additions. You still have Spring Breeze to breeze through, Dyna Blade to defeat, the Gourmet Race to run, The Great Cave Offensive to mount, the Revenge of Meta Knight to face the titular character's fury with, Milky Way Wishes to explore the vastness of space, and The Arena to get your inner gladiator on with. Adding to the bargain collection are Revenge of the King, a more challenging Spring Breeze; Meta Knight Ultra, where Meta Knight takes over for Kirby and plays through several of the collection's titles; Helper to Hero, where several helper characters take the lead; and The True Arena, where every boss in the collection is faced one by one. The value of this package is absolutely immense. While I prefer Kirby: Canvas Curse for its pure innovation and interesting gameplay more, Kirby Super Star Ultra is definitely a Kirby game to track down for DS owners.

Super Mario 64 DS

One of the most influential 3D games in gaming ran and jumped onto the Nintendo DS game scene right at the new system's launch, Super Mario 64 DS. It was not a mere port, but instead it was a fully realized remake with thirty bonus power stars to track down, noticeably improved visuals, new playable characters, and several new (but bite-size) levels to partake in. On the matter of new playable characters, players started off with newcomer Yoshi before unlocking new characters like Mario, Luigi, and Wario throughout the game. Each character had their own unique abilities to shake things up and make switching between characters important for the player's success. Also included in Super Mario 64 DS were several multiplayer modes and a sampling of touch screen-centric mini-games. Now that the little caveat of having to use the d-pad to control Mario and friends in a 3D space has been remedied by simply playing the game on the Nintendo 3DS, I consider the DS game to a terrific supplement for the Nintendo 64 original.

Sonic Rush Adventure

Expanding on the ideas of Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure adds some... well, this is too obvious... adventure elements into the game. Rather than simply going from one act or zone to the next, players spend time traveling to each zone via waterbike, sailboat, hovercraft, and submarine. Some might call this padding, but I consider it to be something to add some more longevity to the game. Each of the four aforementioned ways to traverse in or on the water control through different methods, spicing up things. There are two playable characters in Sonic Rush Adventure, the needless to say one because it's so apparent, Sonic, and Blaze the Cat, returning from her debut in Sonic Rush. There are seven or so zones in Sonic Rush Adventure for both characters to play through, and each character has their own set of emeralds to gather. Sonic obtains his through winning races against Johnny, one of the antagonists of the game, while Blaze needs to complete a series of missions to gather hers. Only through obtaining all fourteen emeralds can the player try out the final story elements. Sonic Rush Adventure contains a large amount of high speed platforming fun that shows that Sonic still has some semblance of a groove.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is without a doubt one of the most cherished RPGs in the history of gaming. It offered such a change of pace from other rivaling RPGs of that time period. Rather than run around in dungeons and randomly get into a battle, players moved around maps and could see enemies and decide if they wanted to run into them to battle them. And instead of encounters taking place on a separate battle screen, they took place within the same field/dungeon map. If you've played and/or owned the Super Nintendo version of the game, you might be wondering what is the point of getting the DS version. That is a competent question without a doubt. A fair reason to own this version is the sheer portability of it. Fighting against Magnus aboard the bus to work, or venturing through a fantastical forest while waiting in between classes made for some fun. But most importantly, the DS version brought to the table all of the content of the PlayStation 1 disc, such as anime cutscenes, but it left out the long loading times. A new translation for the game was made specifically for the DS version, as well as dual screen capabilities, showing a map on the bottom screen that fills itself in as you run about, and several new arena challenges. Is it the definitive version of Chrono Trigger? You bet your sweet Lucca it is.

Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver

Remaking a large amount of Pokemon fans' favorite Pokemon games, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver brought the land of Johto to Nintendo DS players worldwide. The game is so legendary  because after you have become a great Pokemon master in Johto, you most likely think your adventure is just about to wrap up when it has only just begun. The entire land from Pokemon versions Red, Blue, and Yellow, Kohto, makes it reappearance for players to traverse, capturing more Pokemon, obtaining more badges, and challenging more trainers. Both versions of this remake of the second generation of Pokemon games contained a Pokewalker within the box. One could grow their Pokemon simply by walking. Trading and battling between Pokemon was also a notable feature within the two games, offering Wi-Fi functionality. Besides the obvious new addition of improved visuals, the other new elements of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver compared to its Game Boy originals make these two games a must have for any aspiring Pokemon master.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Also available on iOS devices (though I do not know if that version has all of the content of the DS game, so please let me know), Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective takes adventure gaming to supernatural heights as players take the role of a spirit named Sissel. Switching between the Land of the Living and the world infested with ghosts allows Sissel to manipulate people's actions and environment and allow him to possess different objects within his reach to give him access to new areas and proceed through the game's levels. While in the Land of the Living, time moves normally, but in the ghost world, time slows to a stop. Sure, there is a lot of trial-and-error involved in the gameplay, but once you get the feel of things and figure out the solution to a given level, a smile will beam from your face. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is exactly the kind of game that I enjoy seeing on handhelds and smartphones. It simply seems sensationally suitable for those types of platforms. If you like puzzling adventure games outside of the norm, Ghost Trick just might do the... trick.


And there you have it. That concludes the fifty best Nintendo DS games currently available on the market. We've laughed, we've cried, and perhaps we've even learned a thing or two along the way. I hope this list has encouraged you to seek out some DS games that you might not have thought about before. As for me, all this list did was make me want to replay a bunch of these titles!

Next Thursday will mark the start of a brand-new 50 Best list. This time around we will be focusing on the Wii, as the Wii U's release approaches. It will be five straight Thursdays of Wii gaming goodness, a console whose library is so often ignored. We'll catch you here later!

Nintendo Direct (Europe) - Wii U Preview

I must admit, I went from severe trepidation towards the Wii U after E3 2012 to "must have" after today's media event and duo of Nintendo Directs. The hype is strong somehow, after being so weak for months. From the two Wii U SKUs, to the footage of games like Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, Rayman Legends, ZombiU, and LEGO City Undercover, to other details, I haven't been this excited for something for a long time. North Americans will get the Wii U on the 18th of November while Europeans will have to wait twelve days, November 30th. 

Nintendo Land (Wii U) New Trailer

Showing off some and not all of the competitive, solo, and team-based games of Wii U launch title Nintendo Land, this brief trailer gives off a great sense of entertainment. I anxiously await seeing demos of the games being played on today's media event's show floor. Are you interested in Nintendo Land? The game can be bought separately or it comes with the Deluxe SKU of the Wii U.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition (Wii U) New Trailer

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 recently released this past Tuesday for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Not one to leave Nintendo's new hardware out of the fun, Namco Bandai is releasing the game on the Wii U, but this time around it has some exclusive features. One such feature is a Mario item-themed mode consisting of mushrooms that grow and shrink opponents as they cross paths with them. The other, and cooler addition in this writer's opinion, are character costumes based on Nintendo franchises like Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Star Fox. If you haven't yet picked up a copy of this 3D fighter, has this trailer made you want to wait?

Nintendo Land (Wii U) New Games, New Screens

As part of Nintendo's media event, the company has released these screens for three of the twelve games as part of Nintendo Land. They are Mario Chase (essentially the tech demo from E3 2011),  Metroid Blast (as seen in the October edition of Game Informer), and Pikmin Adventure. I love the look of these games, and it seems that Nintendo Land will be quite the package in both charm and fun.

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) Box Art & New Trailer

Nintendo's media event is today, and with it they have brought their A game. Included within this is a new trailer for New Super Mario Bros. U. It introduces new concepts like Challenge Mode and Boost Mode, as well as some beautiful backgrounds. This game really excites me, as I have not really been disappointed by a 2D Mario yet. New Super Mario Bros. U launches with the Wii U on November 18th in North America. As for today, there will be much much more coverage of many of the games featured today throughout the course of this fine Thursday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS) Guest Review

Several weeks ago you read my New Super Mario Bros. 2 review. Are you ready for a second opinion on the game? Well, that's exactly what you're going to get now with this guest review from my older brother.

Cashing in Another Winner

After a six-year absence, the New Super Mario Bros. series has returned to a Nintendo handheld device, this time on the 3DS. Much like the development of the first NSMB title, this one was made by relative newcomers to Nintendo's staff in an effort to get them to learn what makes a Mario platformer tick. If this title is any indication of the future of the mustachioed man's 2D adventures, we're going to be in for some rich experiences indeed.

Now Mario and Luigi running around to the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach is nothing new. Most of us have been there and done that countless times over the years. The plot has never mattered to me in a platformer, so don't expect any gripping narrative here. No, what makes this kind of game tick is how the journey is and what gimmicks they throw in to enhance the overall experience. Well, this time around, the goal is not only to rescue Peach but get rich or die trying in the process. Yes, the Mushroom Kingdom has been overrun with coins, and it's up to you to collect as many of them as you can throughout the course of the game's 80+ stages.

Just running around and collecting coins that are floating around or in blocks isn't enough. In NSMB2, there are so many ways to go from rags to riches. Gold rings in stages can be jumped through to turn enemies into gold. By jumping on enemies, you'll earn five coins (more if you can keep jumping on them without touching the ground). Land on a Koopa Troop and kick him away, and he'll churn out the coins in his wake for you to run behind him and add them to your total. Even better, any enemies he takes out also add coins to your score just like jumping on enemies would. If he's able to take out a piranha plant, the pipe the plant was in will spew out coins. Even coin blocks or bricks can be a big benefactor. Say you're able to hit a multi-coin block ten times or more in a pass, it will then become a brick that generates up to 100 coins as Mario runs along pending you don't get hit. Otherwise, the block will fall off, and you'll miss out on adding to your score.

The biggest addition to coin collecting comes in the form of the game's only new power-up, the Gold Flower. This thing creates explosive fireballs that will turn bricks into gold and enemies into massive coinage without you having to worry about missing a jump and losing out on the loot. Still, the game will reward you for proper platforming as you earn twice the amount of coins from jumping on enemies while your Gold Flower, an item that goes away when you finish a level or get hit, is active. A few levels that I won't name in particular are great for racking up well over 5000 coins in one go!

Even if you don't care about the coin collecting aspect of the game, the levels have such a nice level of design. Coins will lead you to where you're supposed to jump or possibly even a hidden block that could take you up a beanstalk and into a bonus area. Even times when the coins aren't there to help, the game makes sure to use small ledges and other platform formations to make you think there's a hidden 1-Up or beanstalk block around. Only on a couple of occasions was I stumped in how to find a secret exit or Star Coin, and when I took a look at a guide after a few runs on my own to figure out what I was missing, I shook my forehead and told myself that I should have known.

It's not just secrets that the game makes use of on the level design either. I found NSMB2 to have some of the most fun usage of auto-scrolling I've seen in awhile. For instance, one level is a vertically-scrolling underwater level inside of a castle. Every now and then, the speed will fluctuate which could trip you up as you have those homing skeleton fish trying to swim right into you. Another level as you running on top of the water thanks to a Mini Mushroom. If you slow down, you'll slam right into a giant fish, but you'll also have to watch out as spikes are placed above the water in positions you'll have to jump over carefully. Even levels without the scrolling have a nice variety of stop and go or just go, go, go to get to the end of levels safely. Bringing back Super Mario Brothers 3's Super Leaf doesn't exactly hurt the level design either as it leads to more than simply going from left to right like the other two NSMB games have mostly done.

There's more to this than just a solo adventure, too. If you have a friend that also owns a 3DS and this game, the two of you can team up in co-op mode that is not unlike NSMB Wii's. Even better, every coin you collect will be worth double to the both of you. On top of that, there's also a Coin Rush mode which will have you running through three levels with one life trying to amass the highest coin total you can get (up to 30,000 in total anyway). You get a Gold Flower in reserve that you can only use once, and you won't know what levels you're going to get until you reach them. Luckily, you can retry should you flop or make the mistake of using your Gold Flower in a level you didn't want to. Hitting the top of the flagpole or beating a miniboss/boss doubles your coins at the end of the level and this carries over into all three that you do. I found this mode to be a lot of fun for those that just want to pick up and play the game for about 5-10 minutes when you're just looking for a quick fix.

While I have a lot of praise for this title, there are a few knocks I have against NSMB2. For one, the audio has mostly been ported over from NSMB Wii with a couple of added "Bah!" noises to just barely change it up. Why the soundtrack couldn't get complete remixes for all of the tunes is a mystery to me because the ones that were altered are pretty darn good. Also, the bosses you'll fight in the middle of the game's six main worlds are all ridiculously easy. Most of the end of world bosses aren't exactly that challenging either. I know Mario isn't on the upper echelon of difficulty at times, but I don't like getting to the end of levels and being able to just rush right through bosses without much of a hassle. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, but it's one that I wish would be worked upon in future installments. The levels while improved in design still mostly base themselves off of the same eight world themes the previous two games have had, too. My Mushroom Kingdom for a gravity-based world or something besides grass/desert/water/ice/forest/mountain/sky/lava again!

Still, I can't be that harsh on this game because it does different things with said world themes and is very fun to play in spite of the been there and done that feeling that this title invokes at times. As a sequel to the original Nintendo DS title, NSMB2 is the perfect example of improving on the foundation that was originally set. It's what a sequel should be, bigger and better. I don't find it anywhere as memorable as the Wii iteration, yet there was enough content here to give me around fifteen hours of playtime... and counting once I feel like going back to it. The replayability factor is strong in this one whether you're just trying to play through the game normally or wanting to go on another coin-collecting spree. New Super Mario Bros. 2 might not be as good as gold, but it's nice to know that a B-Team produced effort still has a higher standard than a B-Team game. I love the creativity in the level design, but I would like to see more with different world themes in future installments. Don't feel like you're getting shortchanged here as this one will give you your money's worth.

[Overall: 8.75/10]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wii U Wishes: Desires from a Longtime Nintendo Fan for Thursday's Media Event

It's no secret if you have been a reader of this site for a while that I do enjoy my Nintendo franchises and games quite a lot. They rank up with the best the industry has to offer (alongside Sony and Valve's wide cast of memorable franchises). People complain of no new IPs while they ignore the ones that are released. That's fine. Their loss. Regardless, being a fan of Nintendo (or a fan of any company's products, for that matter) does not mean that you have to be a fanboy. That is an argument I make on a consistent basis, and it's why I sometimes hate liking Nintendo because they have -- I hate to say this as it is a tad harsh -- some of the most annoying fanatics, and I don't wish to be associated with them. At all.

Nonetheless, speaking of wishes, Nintendo is hosting a September media event this Thursday for the Wii U, much like they did with the Wii and the 3DS before it. The event is supposedly to reveal the majority of the mystery surrounding Nintendo's secretive console. What will the price be? What will the date be? What about the launch games? How about Japanese support? Online infrastructure and other tidbits? Anything has to be better than the Wii, right? This editorial regards all of my wishes outside the obvious ones like "Oh my goodness, I hope the Wii U launches on so-and-so date at so-and-so price with Nintendo Land bundled in." From creating the right marketing message to presenting why anyone should be excited for the console, these are just some of my desires for Thursday.

One of my primary wishes is Nintendo showing that they know what they are doing with the Wii U, and not just seeming to many that they are just throwing anything and everything into a console and controller to see what sticks. I want them to prove to their skeptics (who, let's face it, probably wouldn't care if Nintendo's console cured cancer) and those on the fence that the Wii U is a much needed innovation in this stagnant industry, and that the console and controller serve a genuine purpose for gameplay. Why is the Wii U different, what reason, and why should people be excited for it? What purpose does it have for different types of games? I don't personally care about potential, because the Wii had lots of that, and aside from Nintendo, no one really stepped up to the plate, despite the sales and enthusiasm of the console. Third-parties didn't even try most of the time. A self-fulfilling prophecy for sure, which I hope the Wii U doesn't get.

Very interested to see the full details of Miiverse.
I want Nintendo to be serious about sending the message that the Wii U is not just a Wii with a new tablet controller. They completely botched (and horribly so) the 3DS launch. Hell, a good amount of people are still confused as to why they need to upgrade from their original DS systems despite the games for the 3DS being in a different box. (Though the Wii U boxes are remarkably varied from Wii boxes.) The marketing for the 3DS did not do a strong enough job of setting the system apart from its predecessor. I fear the same thing for the Wii U. Nintendo has been publicizing the new controller, yet they aren't yet pushing that little thing called the console as much. I feel that this will just confuse consumers, and not those who already have a serious invested interest in the platform. Did Nintendo learn their lesson with the initial disappointing sales of their 3DS? Will they alter their strategy for the Wii U? We'll see Thursday, I imagine.

I also wish to see Nintendo really explain why Nintendo Land is one of their most pushed launch lineup games. I sort of have an idea. I saw people on one message board (the one I always call GameFAQs 2.0 is your hint) saying that the latest part of Nintendo Land, Balloon Trip Breeze, looks like an iOS game, and that they wouldn't spend full retail price for it. 1) Nintendo was making iOS-like experiences way before iOS gaming was a thing, and 2) You're not just paying fifty or sixty bucks for it. You're paying or getting 12 packaged games, each tailored to show off one or several functions of the Wii U controller and experience. You get asymmetric gaming with the Zelda, Luigi's Mansion, Metroid, and Animal Crossing games. You get gyro controls with the Donkey Kong game. And you get touch controls with the Balloon Trip game. Balloon Trip Breeze is the only one without the extensive amount of depth as the other games, so it's bizarre that the critics cling to that one as the example of the quality of all of Nintendo Land's games as a whole.

The asymmetry of Animal Crossing Sweet Day.
This final wish comes off as more of a rant towards the industry than the Wii U, but most importantly, I wish gamers and the gaming press would grow up and out of this console wars mindset. I am tired of reading through console zealot and console trolls playing console wars instead of what they should be playing, actual video games. I don't want to see people trolling a console and saying it's "on par" with current gen, and then when the true specs of the console are announced and it trumps current gen, they predictably say, "well, it'd be pathetic if the console wasn't stronger than the PS3 and 360." I wish gamers would stop revising what the term "next gen" means and resist the urge to only consider only updated graphics as the future and "next gen" rather than new features, controllers, and such. I should know about such debates because I stupidly enter them!

Meh, just wait for the inevitable 360 port.
This seeps into the press, too. A fair portion are just as blatant in their fanboyism than the gamers they pander to. I do not wish to await comments from reviewers suggesting people not buy Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition and Darksiders II because they are late ports while telling their same readers to wait for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ports of Rayman Legends and ZombiU. I don't want that kind of hypocrisy. I understand that Nintendo has a tough road ahead of it with Western gamers and the press that panders to them. I know Nintendo has really dropped the ball on getting a significant portion of gamers interested in their console. We'll see if this Thursday's conference and media event actually steps up the interest, or if it will just be yet another massacre of a showing by Nintendo for most people. But I'm sure that certain people (gamers, members of the press, and publishers/developers) have already written off the Wii U, and like an infatuation with political party, no matter what is said, no matter what is revealed, no matter how good the showing, they will never be convinced. Their minds are set in stone regarding what preconceived notions they already had before. As for everyone else, let's hope Nintendo can show us why we should be excited for the Wii U and its future.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Countdown to 200 Edition

As we reach volume 191 of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, next week we will approach the milestone of 200 total VGMs. Since this list started anew in January, we've had 190 different games being represented here. This tradition continues with volumes 191-195. We have music from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Earthbound, and Ice Climber.

v191. Earthbound (SNES) - Because I Love You (Orchestrated)

The theme of the city of Fourside of Earthbound fame, Because I Love You comes from a series of Japanese game concerts that were spread out across numerous CDs. It's a moving piece for certain. The Earthbound series in Japan is known as Mother, probably something a lot of gamers know, but I'm just throwing it out there for those that maybe didn't. Only one of the three Mother games would reach North American shores, Mother 2. A N64 game would be in development, but it was cancelled, much to the chagrin of Earthbound fans everywhere.

v192. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) - Rookie and Popple

A fast and frenetic boss theme for several encounters within Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Game Boy Advance, Rookie and Popple is yet another grand theme composed by the mind of masterpieces, Yoko Shimomura. One of her most recent projects was the Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance soundtrack. Perhaps that will be showing up sooner rather than later on the favorite VGMs of mine. Hint, hint.

v193. Dewy's Adventure (Wii) - An Instrument Called Wind

A peppy tune sporting a pop feel and piano, An Instrument Called Wind plays throughout the first world of the highly underrated Wii game, Dewy's Adventure, one from the creators of Elebits, a near-launch Wii game. Dewy's Adventure had the titular hero, a dew droplet, sliding around the levels, attacking foes with lightning and sharp icicles as his body changed forms. The tilt controls of the game sometimes felt you were moving around a stick of butter on a very slippery skillet, but overall, Dewy's Adventure is a recommended game to look into.

v194. Ice Climber (NES) - Main Theme (Brawl Version)

When a pair of adorable Eskimo children appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee, fans of the game wondered just who these two kids were. Turns out they were from a classic NES game, Ice Climber. The two are generally always tethered together for double the attack power. Their appearance in Brawl was marked with better fur shading on their parkas, a brand-new stage called Summit, and this rockin' remix of the main theme of the NES game, arranged by Toshiyuki Sudo.

v195. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii) - Medley (Orchestrated)

We conclude this edition of the VGMs with a piece that was performed in 2010 at the Press Start 2010 orchestral event, performed by the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra. We have a medley of New Super Mario Bros. Wii music, including the Wii menu theme for NSMBWii, the ground theme of the game, the castle theme, and finally the athletic theme. Some who listen to this piece wonder why the music of the New Super Mario Bros. series doesn't go orchestrated. Well, I am of the opinion of many that it simply wouldn't fit a 2D game. I'm not saying better instruments as seen in Rayman Origins wouldn't work, but a full orchestra is overkill for such a game. What do you think?


Multiple editions of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs down, and our voyage to 200 reaches its destination next week. What will be the 200th VGM? Don't ask me - I haven't decided yet! But I'm sure I'll be able to find something that will please a lot of people. Until then, check out my VGM Database for all songs listed from January to now.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) New Screens

I anxiously await seeing New Super Mario Bros. U in person, as demo players of the game have said the title is truly gorgeous. These screenshots don't really convey such a message as say, Rayman Legends does in still screens. That said, NSMBU remains one of my most anticipated games for the rest of this year. I'll take whimsy over realism any day. I get enough of the latter as it is.