As much as I might not want to admit it, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Y’know, this new compilation of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, that’s being leaked to no end, isn’t due out for another couple days, and has a strange digital-only release window with a “deadline”? Yeah, that’s the one. It’s like, I have a million other things to do, let alone play, and for some reason, my brain keeps telling me that I need this compilation. Well, I know the reason – it falls squarely within the realm of nostalgia, as the original Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES was one of my most favorite compilations of all time. But as much as my neurons might be firing off phrases like “oh, you had such a GOOD time back then, surely you’ll have just as GOOD a time now!”, now is a very different time. Very different.
Without rambling, the fact of the matter is that I haven’t been using my Switch all that much recently. I even let my Nintendo Online sub lapse because I just wasn’t making use of it, even with the “grand” opportunity to replay all the games that were on Super Mario All-Stars. Besides, I know damn well that of the three games on the new 3D compilation, the only one I really liked in the first place, and continue to hold dear, was Super Mario 64.
What follows here, fair warning, borders on ridiculous, and maybe it’s even an exercise in futility, what with me jamming so many words in one tiny-huge (lol) post. But these are the past blogs I wrote on each of the games in Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Perhaps re-reading my own spastic thoughts will put me back in touch with reality, and maybe even provide a few chuckles along the way. To be honest, I don’t remember chuckling much while playing either Super Mario Sunshine or Super Mario Galaxy, but that’s my own problem.
Originally published on April 29, 2012.
OMFG, I am having the worst, worst, worst time with Skyrim right now. I found a couple more hours to play the other day, and I really couldn’t stand it, and I mean everything about it. The insufferable quest that I couldn’t figure out, my character, Lydia, all the annoying NPCs, my inability to navigate, all of it. I’ve barely made the tiniest of dents in the game and I am about ready to give up *sigh*.
This ordeal has me severely questioning my current relationship with video games, so much so that it’s given me a week-long headache (or maybe it’s just allergies). Allow me a few thoughts to clear my head…
Modern action/adventure RPG video games, the likes of GTA IV, Skyrim, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and L.A. Noire, which have consumed my play since at least 2008, require a lot of investment. Developers put tons and tons effort of into these games; and rightly so, they expect that gamers will put tons and tons of time into playing them, and most of us probably, generally do. So when you don’t play one of these games for an extended period of time, it’s easy to loose track of a story that’s so very entrenched in the gameplay — this is where I am with Skyrim. After almost two months of not playing it, I just couldn’t remember what was going on, the warring, who hated who, why I had Lydia, and such, so I just ended up trying to find my way around according to the most recent active quest – it all felt aimless and pointless. In the past, I had had several hours a week to devote to gaming; but life has changed and now I don’t have that kind of time, and it feels like a physical part of me is being torn away and shot into oblivion. It’s painful, confusing, and depressing…like withdrawal. And it sucks. Part of me really, really, really doesn’t want to give up on questing, but I think I have to, for now anyway. Our 360 is nearly dead, so I’m not getting ME3 anytime soon. A change might be good…maybe. I still have yet to figure out my perfect trio in Ultimate Marvel v. Capcom 3, and I still have to work through the Catwoman scenarios in Arkham City. And I’ve got some Wii points to spend. Yes, change. It’s alright. Everything is going to be fine.
Which brings me to a game that usually come to mind to help bring me out of a depressed state: Super Mario 64 – my most favoritest Mario game of them all. I wish I had thought to keep my good ol’ N64 back in the early 2000s when we traded up for a Gamecube. I need a damn time machine, people! Get on it! Okay, okay…I’ll just go to the Wii shop, jeez.
Though Mario has had a good run since (and before) this 1996 gem, no game in my mind compares to its imaginative levels and most awesome gameplay. It is also the one and only Mario game for which I achieved 100% completion. That’s right — every star, every secret, they were all mine.
A few story spoilers ahead, but nothing monumental.
Super Mario 64 told the story of Mario’s endeavor to once again save Princess Peach from Bowser’s horrible clutches Only this time, there was just ONE castle and Peach WAS in it…sorta. She was in one of the many worlds that were accessible from the castle. Peach’s castle served as the gateway to 15 different levels that followed the usual conventions. There was a sky level, a snow level, a desert level, a spooky level, a water level, and so on, and all of them were reachable via secret portals hidden in and around Peach’s castle. But Mario didn’t simply jaunt from one world to the next, jumping on the occasional goombah. Your task in each level was to retrieve the hidden Power Stars, seven in each level, and a total of 120 throughout the game. This meant that you had to visit each level at least seven times because each time you found a star in any given level, you had to start it over to find the next star. Some stars were very easy to find; others took some doing, being well-hidden or tricky to get. You didn’t necessarily have to find the stars in order (some were easy to inadvertently stumble across), and you didn’t have to get all of them to complete the game.
I played through SM64, like, a million times (or maybe just several), and each time the game just got better and better. For me, the best things about the game were the fantastic level designs. Each level contained secret passages and separate sections that were not always readily apparent. There was nothing more awesome than finding a new part to a level and trying to defeat it. It made the game seem new 120 times over (and there were a few secret levels as well)! Of course, some levels were easier than others, and it was easy to find yourself going in circles, but the game never felt impossible. Challenging, yes, because you did have to master every action in Mario’s arsenal to make it to each star. The triple jump, the wall kick, the backflip, they were all there and necessary.
Controlling Mario in the colorful landscape was really just brilliant. SM64 introduced many of us to the world of 3D play, and it couldn’t have been more fantastic! Each level felt open and large. And you could explore with ease. No time limits here – peruse the levels all you liked, over and over and over! The N64’s swanky new controller with an analog stick meant you could move Mario with ease, seamlessly around each level. (And you could make him run in circles till he got dizzy, teehee!) You also had some control over the camera, which was also a fairly new feature in any game at the time. Though it wasn’t perfect, it was soooooo nice to be able to tailor the view you needed to get to a particular spot. Sure, I fell off plenty of ledges and died a bunch, but it was all in the name of fun! fun! fun! My most favorite level was Tiny-Huge Island, because you got to explore the level in two completely different ways! (For those that played the game, what was your favorite level? Did you hate the penguin race as much as me? Did you, upon finally beating it, accidentally let loose your controller into the wall with excitement that knew no bounds? Uh…maybe that was just me.)
Super Mario 64 was an excellent and all-around great 3D platformer; a classic in which all the elements – story, controls, and sounds and music – were brought together in perfect form, and without any flashy stylization or risqué behaviors. As much as I love modern games (and I do…even Skyrim), I wish there were more games like this today — games that are plain ol’ fun, offered a challenge, and didn’t require all the time in the world to play. Only got 15 minutes to spare? Why not find a star? Waiting for your friend to arrive? That’s a good time to find a star. Is the baseball game in a rain delay? Well then, go find a star!
You know you want to.
Originally published on August 13, 2012.
In video games we shoot stuff, save stuff, avenge stuff, find stuff, drive stuff, clean stuff, maim stuff, open stuff…
Wait — clean stuff?? Uh…no?
Uh, yes! I’m not talking about Clean Your Room: The Video Game, but Super Mario Sunshine (2002).
Spoilers ahead…old spoilers, but still.
In real life, if you were to go on a special vacation to an exotic island and all you ended up doing was cleaning everything because it was all covered in goop, you’d probably demand a refund. But in Mario’s case, he apparently doesn’t mind doing hard labor along with getting the perfect tan.
SMS was the Gamecube’s follow-up to Super Mario 64. After Mario’s star-ridden adventures in that game, he and the once-again free Princess Peach decided to take a much deserved vacation. They book some time away on the swanky Isle Delfino, which is inhabited by the Piantas, a strange plant-based race that would make Jim Henson proud. (I mean, c’mon, they had palm trees growing out of their heads! That’s a muppet waiting to happen.) And for some reason, friend Toadsworth comes along for the ride. Because Mario and Peach need a chaperon? Seriously, aren’t they, like, well into grown-up-alone-time by now?
Anyway, the trio make their way to Delfino only to find the place vandalized by goopy “graffiti.” And by the looks of the mess, the artist was no Banksy. In a very strange beginning sequence to any game, let alone a Mario game, Mario meets the Piantas, obtains his main “weapon,” the F.L.U.D.D. device (a super powered water shooter), cleans up the graffiti, gets arrested, and finds a Shine Sprite — SMS’s equivalent to SM64’s stars.
The game’s main antagonist is introduced, Shadow Mario, and the Piantas blame him for the “graffiti.” Mario’s resemblance to Shadow Mario lands him in jail. And cleaning up the mess is what revealed the Shine Sprite. More chaos, cleaning, and Sprite finding ensues before Peach is, super duper surprise!, kidnapped. The kidnapper is revealed as Bowser Jr., the actual identity of so-called Shadow Mario. From there, the game then focused on Mario’s use of the F.L.U.D.D. to clean up Delfino, find Shine Sprites, and save the Princess. Oh, and there’s fruit and Yoshis.
SMS was a game of goods and bads. It was frustrating, but it was fun. It was pretty, and it was ugly. It was easy, but it was challenging. I remember really liking the F.L.U.D.D. device. You could shoot water in almost any direction. Shooting water at the ground sent Mario soaring into the air so he could reach high places or sail over water to unreachable places. I spent a lot of time just traveling around high above the ground without any reason. I also spent a lot of time aiming badly. Chalk it up to bad reflexes, but sometimes I just couldn’t get the F.L.U.D.D. to aim right, like water would go anywhere except on the enemy. Aargh.
The game wasn’t quite as straightforward as Super Mario 64, with its set levels that all had a certain number of stars to find in each. SMS had levels, various playing areas, and you had to complete tasks, like cleaning, and missions to get sprites. Some were easy to find and some were not. Like in SM64, new areas opened when you got a certain number of sprites. Sometimes my brain was just not up to the task of this game –when I played everything either went wonderfully right or horribly wrong/boring. There was never any happy Super Mario 64-like middle ground. But that’s not to say I didn’t try.
When SMS was going right, it went really right. I was on point with the missions, found them easily, was a master controller of the F.L.U.D.D. The game’s bright and fluid graphics were easy on the eyes, though sometimes choppy at points. I liked the Gamecube’s improved controller – the set up of the buttons was welcome relief from the N64’s three-pronged device – though I didn’t like the new position of the Z-button (and still don’t). But when the game went wrong for me, I just couldn’t recover. There was this one mission in particular, that you got to through a pipe at the top of a tower in the main square. It was my dread. I can still see that tower, in my nightmares, and how it haunts me so.
Regrettably, my frustrations eventually got the best of me and I stopped playing. The game sat on “the shelf” for several years – but I couldn’t bear the part with it despite my inability to progress. When we got our Wii, I tried the game again, the same level, with the same, sad results.
I don’t have Super Mario Sunshine anymore, and I really regret selling it. Despite it’s problems and my problems, it’s one of the better games on the short-lived Gamecube. It’s quirky as far as Mario games go, but nonetheless a memorable entry in the series.
Giving up on the ones Wii think Wii should love, or, Super Mario Galaxy was great at first, but then…
Originally published on March 29, 2012.
As much as I try to dedicate myself to loving every game of a particular franchise, the fact is that I’m a fan of video games generally; they usually bring forth lots of joy and happiness. And sometimes they don’t. And sometimes that really baffles me. Looking back, there are still two titles, both for our trusty Wii that is still Skyward Sword-less, that I just didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would. They were surely two of the better titles made for the system, and both came from two of gaming’s top franchises. I was really, really, really looking forward to playing both games till my wrist arthritis set in.
Super Mario Galaxy (SMG) was second reason we stood outside our local Circuit City in the early morning cold of February 2007 – the first was the Wii. Even then, a year after its release, Wii’s were still hard to get. But we had called ahead and were “promised” a unit if we got there early enough to grab one of the few that were schedule to arrive. Needless to say, we were not the only ones standing in the cold – the nervous parents, the best buds, the slightly stoned guy and his girlfriend in goddamned uggs and pajama pants, yes, they were all there too. Thankfully, we were near the beginning of the line and the cold had stunted everyone’s nerves to the point of a quiet if anxious calm. Once the store opened, we hustled in, grabbed and paid for a Wii, SMG, an extra controller, etc., and headed home, prizes in happy hands.
After we got the Wii hooked up, and after the necessary trial of Wii Sports, we popped in Super Mario Galaxy. At the risk of beating a dead unicorn into the ground with a rainbow, the experience was like unicorns and rainbows. The three-dimensional levels, bright graphics, and Mario-filled goodness splashed all over our eyeballs and seeped into our very pleased brains. It took a bit to get used to the remote and nunchuk, but there was nothing but happy happy joy joy all around.
After a few rounds of dual-play, we called it quits and each eventually started up our own games. I didn’t expect that my fiancé would play the game much, and he didn’t. He was pretty sure that I was going to completely monopolize our single TV — and I did, for a little while at least.
SMG was such unique fun that I thought I would never put down the controller. But I did, because that Christmas my very thoughtful fiancé got me The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (TwiP). He had apparently come to terms with the fact that he would never get to watch TV or play the Wii ever, ever again. Mwahahaha! (Not really though, cause he also got a second TV. Evil plan thwarted. Oh poo.)
Anyway, like SMG, TwiP was simply fantastic. Both franchises we re-born all fancy and new and dazzling through the Wii and its unusual controllers. I had convinced myself that the Wii was the greatest invention of all time and that SMG and TwiP were going to be the greatest games of all time.
Or maybe I had taken a severe blow to the head.
Either way, I was wrong.
Because both games eventually ended up on the shelf, that shelf of games that we all intend to play again someday. I ended up giving away TwiP to my brother when he finally got a Wii (even he couldn’t understand why I didn’t finish it); and SMG was traded in.
So what happened? Why did I shelve two of the (perceived) greatest games ever? Why did I come to no longer care about my beloved Mario and Link and their new 3D adventures in their new 3D lands? I’ll offer three reasons, none of which you probably care about at this point. Yes, I feel the hatred flowing in you. I’m just going to step over…here……
(1) In late 2007, we moved to a new apartment. In this new apartment, our game system setup changed drastically and the Wii was moved to a less-than-ideal situation with bad lighting and seating. We tried to make the best of a bad situation (and we knew this was going to be an issue before moving in), but we constantly had trouble with the placement of the sensor bar and finding a good place to view the TV. We didn’t have enough room to actually use the Wii as nature had intended, flailing about and all, but we managed, sort of. I gave SMG and TwiP my best shots, but playing had become annoying and uncomfortable.
(2) Along the lines of annoying and uncomfortable, SMG’s rotating planets and upside-down play started making me queasy. Again, this probably had to do with the poor setup, but I became very displeased with the constantly shifting environments and my inability to properly orient Mario. Suddenly, I was always dying, falling off ledges, or misjudging jumps. As for TwiP, maybe I just wasn’t drinking enough coffee at the time, but I couldn’t follow its story to save my life. I also got very annoyed by Midna’s nagging (Midna was Link’s little steampunk-y tinkerbell helper). I also never quite succeeded as Link in wolf form. Maybe I’m just a terrible gamer.
(3) A bazillion great games for the PS3 and 360 were released around this time. And the thing about those games, Mass Effect, GTA IV, Gears of War 2, and so on, is that they were so story-driven and, well, adult. And by that I mean, well…um…not like “senseless” adult — it wasn’t like sneaking into an R-rated movie as a thirteen-year-old and being all like Teehee! Guns and cursing and naked people! Whee! It was more like seeing that intense R-rated movie about the orphans and their plight against humanity and really understanding where all the drama was coming from. It was like seeing the cruel, crass world in all it’s wonderful, horrible glory. Once I entered the realm of Mass Effect, there was no going back to Mario and his cute wittle stars or Link and his firefly muse. The stories and content were just not on the same level.
In one sense, the old idea “Nintendo is for kids, Sony and Microsoft are for grown-ups” came into play. SMG and TwiP were certainly more geared towards a general audience than most PS3 or 360 titles. And sure, my obsessions with ME and GTA IV further drove that wedge between Nintendo and I. But I didn’t really have a truly good reason for giving up on SMG and TwiP other than I had just found other (better) games to play. I guess I could have claimed that I only *really* liked Mario in his 2D environments and that I only *really* liked the cell shaded Link and his adventures. But, in truth, Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess just didn’t capture my attention as much as other games in those franchises.
P. S. We did get other Wii games during that time to no avail, Resident Evil 5, a Star Wars game…Battlefront or something. And despite all signs pointing to “NO NOT EVER IN A MILLION YEARS FOR THE EFFIN LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY,” my fiancé even gave Tony Hawk’s RIDE a chance, deck and all. We recently saw one of these *still* on sale at the Best Buy. Oh, the humanity. I’m giving the Wii another chance though – somehow, sometime, in some other universe probably, I’m going to get Skyward Sword.
Didja make it aaaaaaaaaall the way down here? Good for you! I don’t have a prize to hand out or anything, but know that you are good person. Likely better than some, if not most.
Also, ha, I forgot that my Super Mario Galaxy post was more a complaint against the Wii’s motion controls than anything. And it was hardly about Super Mario Galaxy at all. How I miss the young days of being a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed blogger, not giving two fucks about how long my random words might stay on this world wide web. Good times, good times.