Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn is in the Air: Favorite Fall Areas and Levels

Today is the first, official, full-length day of fall. To many it's a wondrous month of crisper temperatures, jacket weather, colorful trees, falling leaves, hayrides, and more. To others, it's an "OMG the roads are slick because of all of these wet leaves, I can't stop, WE'RE GOING TO DIE!"

...ANYWAY.... I figured today would a perfect opportunity to talk about some of my favorite looking and fun to play fall/autumn levels in gaming history. There's not that many of them, truth be told. It certainly was a harder list to put together than my summer vacation one, that's for sure. After you've read my selections, please feel free to throw out some ones I may have missed!

Eversong Woods - World of Warcraft (PC)

We start off our look at my favorite fall areas and levels with an area from a game I actually have had little experience with. I've simply viewed a friend playing this, and this particular area jumped out at me immediately from the rest. If setting factors into which character race you opt to select in World of Warcraft, then if you're a fan of fall, the Eversong Woods would be an apt choice for you to start your game at. It is the starting point of the blood elf race, and the forest itself contains a heavy feeling of peacefulness to it. A continuous feel of fall rests within the forest, making every day a beautiful autumn one, whether it's the actual season in real life or not.

Maple Valley Raceway - Forza Motorsport series (XONE, 360, XBX)

Not all of the Forza Motorsport series's must-play tracks have real life counterparts to them. In Maple Valley Raceway, this certainly isn't the case. This fictional but well designed course set in New England surrounds itself with natural autumn beauty. It's quite challenging of a track, too, since there are so few places to pass opponents thanks to how narrow the majority of the track is. The latest incarnation of the track in Forza Motorsport 5 greets players with an all-new covered bridge, a spot that is perfect for shutterbugs to take the perfect shot of their sexy ride on this lovely fall track.

Autumn Heights - Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

Generally in games we see a level or two given a fall feeling to it. Seldom do we ever get an entire world of levels. That is exactly what you get with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze's Autumn Heights, the second of six islands in the game. While not every level adheres to the autumn theme, the majority of levels do, such as the Netherlands feel of Windhill Mills, the first level of the island, or a level that has falling leaves serving as actual platforms in Horn Top Hop. The Wii U hardware serves Tropical Freeze well, showcasing an abundant amount of detail in the backgrounds and foregrounds of each island-- Autumn Heights is certainly no exception, and it's why it's my favorite of the islands in Retro Studios' amazing 2D platformer.

Switchboard Falls - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Super Mario 3D World did not follow the rules of worlds in past Mario games. There was no snow world, grass world, or desert world. Instead, each level had its own unique theme, opening up the levee of creativity of the designers. Switchboard Falls is one of the first challenging levels in 3D World, having players step on platforms to get them to move left or right on a set track. The level's visual design is pure autumn with orange trees, grass, and even bee-like enemies, perhaps buzzing around looking for some last tastes of honey before winter rolls their way. Super Mario 3D World's wide array of level mechanics, obstacles, and locales make it one of my favorites on not only the Wii U system but gaming in general.

Maple Treeway - Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

One of many Mario Kart fans' favorite tracks in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7, the latter where it returns as an updated retro track, Maple Treeway is a colorful autumnal course that twists, turns, and makes its home in the red, pink, and orange treetops. Successful races have kart drivers peeling around the large tree branches, blasting off out of a giant barrel through the crisp autumn air, and weaving through humongous Wigglers. It's a track that is as fun to race on as it is beautiful to look at. Maple Treeway is one of the Mario Kart series's best tracks and the fall setting is just one of those reasons as to why.

Golden Grove - Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)

The Summerlands is one of the four main continents within Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It is split up between north and south by the Golden Grove, a forested area that gets its name from the myriad of colorful autumn foliage that hangs from its trees that stay year-round. It's an essential stop if you are traveling on foot, and it connects the Rolling Hills on the north to the Shimmering Sands that are to the south. The Golden Grove is also known as the Forest of Plenty, nicknamed this from its immense amount of mushrooms, plants, trees, and wildlife.

Click Clock Wood - Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

Click Clock Wood is the tenth world in Banjo-Kazooie, a game that I would rate higher than Super Mario 64, but you longtime readers already knew that, didn't you! Anyway, Click Clock Wood shines brightly with a clever idea surrounding it. There's actually four different versions of the entire level, and each represents one of the four seasons. Obviously, for the purposes of this article, we'll be exploring the fall version. Here the denizens of Click Clock Wood-- the beaver, the baby eagle, the lazy squirrel, and the bee colony-- would continue to follow their yearly schedules, preparing ardently for the season that laid ahead. The leaves that accumulated on the ground made way for easier access to higher platforms and once-impossible-to-reach areas. Click Clock Wood was an area with an execution that hit the mark wonderfully, and autumn was just a quarter of the level's brilliance.


Did I leave out one of your favorite fall levels? Hit me up with your most loved autumnal areas in the comments section, whether they be loved from nostalgia or something else!

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