Category Archives: Mario

Super Mario 3D Land: A Refreshing Take on Mario

Finally got finished with the main part of Super Mario 3D Land.  You know, the part where you go save the Princess?  I used to be able to beat games like this in short order.  I guess that’s what the job, family, and a ton of other great ways to spend your time will do to ya!

The most obvious traits of the new Mario game are of course the 3D effect the 3DS provides, and the racoon tail.  This much we can tell from the box.  Once you actually play the game, you’ll find that Nintendo has put a lot of thought into what has consistantly made Mario games fun, memorable and timeless.  And then incorporated the new technology into that formula.

Plopping down into the first level, my very first thought was, “Whoa, Mario is small!”  It really feels like you’re playing a miniaturized version of Mario at first, but you grow used to the scale.  The controls are very tight and precise and rarely does the circle pad fail you.  I sometimes find it difficult to hit the R trigger for a longjump and keep the 3DS lined up right to preserve the 3D without blurring the screen, but this is more a flaw in 3DS design than in 3D Land.  The 3DS just isn’t the most comfortable system to hold.

You’ll find a lot of throwbacks in Super Mario 3D Land.  Most of them tributes to Super Mario Bros. 3.  The raccoon tail being the most obvious, but there’s P switches, music note blocks, flag poles, and some classic Mario artwork in between worlds.  But it’s not a retro game at all.  Fans who just got in to Mario with the Galaxy series will enjoy this game just the same, although they’ll be oblivious to the games that inspired the setting.  And really, this is what has always made Mario games great!  I think about a couple of my less favorite Mario titles like Super Mario Sunshine.  There is a lot of original content to that game, but in the end, it lacks enough familiarity for me.  3D Land has Thwomps, ? Blocks, and plenty more staples that just make you go, “Hell yes.  It’s a Mario time.”

If I had one balk towards the game, it would be its difficulty.  I kept expecting it to ramp up, but even in World 8 the game is still very forgiving.  I know I’m not that good!  And the tail makes some levels a complete cakewalk.  Though to be fair, the tail had a similar effect on Super Mario Bros. 3 which is my all time favorite Mario game… so perhaps that observation is an unfair one to make.  Just the same, 3D Land is not a difficult game by any means.  If you do find yourself getting stuck, you can go back and pick up a tail from a previous level, or keep trying until the “pitty factor” kicks in and they will give you a floating “Invici-tail” (that’s what I called it) which is basically an everlasting Leaf/Star combo powerup.  This is of course if you want to be a cheater.

When it comes to the amount of content, I think you should be more than satisfied.  8 worlds, with individual levels much like New Super Mario Bros. along with Ghost Houses, Fortresses, Airships and Castles.  There’s a lot of fun to be had trying to get the three gold coins in each level.  The design of each course ranges from novel, to ingenious.  If you’re just tailing up and flying through the courses, you’re really missing out on some of the best platforming fun the little plumber has ever experienced.

It’s cool to see all the classic inspiration in this game, but it’s even cooler playing Mario in a way that you never have before.  This is certianly not the “same old game” it may look like at a glance.  If you’re looking for more difficulty, check out the bonus stages after you’ve “beat the game”, but just don’t be expecting a hardcore challenge.  Either way, Super Mario 3D Land is not only a game worth playing, it’s possibly the best reason to own a 3DS.

Spring Is Here?

This is crazy.  It’s the middle of March and we’re sitting around with all the windows open in the house.  Heck at work we’ve even fired up the AC already.  We always try to hold out as long as we can at home before breaking down and turning ours on.  If this early spring is any indication though, we might not be able to hold out as long as we usually do.  I can’t remember a March day in the past that’s ever had a forecast high of 85.

Lately I’ve been talking about how I need a project to do, and something that doesn’t cost a whole lot of money.  Well I think I found something.  I decided this year I’m going to plant a garden.  I’ve already started tearing up some ground in the back yard, which is some hard work, but very therapeutic I’ve found so far.  I guess it’s kinda my way of communing with past generations.  There’s so much technology everywhere I go, that it’s nice to put some effort into something so primal.  I find it interesting to think about that something I’m now doing for fun in my spare time, was a basic necessity for life 100 years ago.  Pretty sure that my ancestors knew how to cut sod a lot better than I do!

The garden will have quite a bit of diversity.  I picked up corn, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, carrots, and even some watermelon and pumpkins!  I’m going to pick up some tomatoes later in the season too.  If you don’t count the tools I bought, all the seeds cost me a total of $15.  And that should make a LOT of produce.  I dunno what we’ll ever do with 80 onions….

Andrea is not a big vegetable fan.  I was trying to think of something I could plant that she would enjoy, and thought maybe strawberries, but she wasn’t too crazy about that.  I even saw some blueberry and raspberry bushes for sale, thought for a couple moments… then decides I wasn’t ready for something like that!

So I’ll look forward to getting at least the potatoes and onions in the ground this weekend.  I beat Super Mario 3D Land the other night, so I’m officially not working on any games right now, and might take a weekend off of gaming and focus on the rudimentary art of agriculture.  I’ll probably still sit down and write up my final thoughts on 3D Land this weekend though.  One of the best Mario Games I’ve played… since the last one, they’re all just awesome!

TGIFFFA

Thank God It’s Finally Freakin’ Friday Again!

I’m really looking forward to the weekend.  It’s the first weekend since probably November that I will have nothing to do.  We aren’t going anywhere, and I don’t have to work (crosses fingers).  So I’ve got big plans.  Okay, maybe not BIG plans.

Need to do a few odd things around the house.  We want to seal up the windows in the guest bedroom to keep bugs from crawling in this spring like they did last year.  Probably should go a head and bug spray the house while I’m thinking about bugs.  Honestly haven’t seen too many creepy crawlies since we moved in.  But don’t want to give them any ideas.

One thing I’m really hoping to do is a Vanquish campaign in Guild Wars of Kryta, Northern Shiverpeaks and Old Ascalon.  That will take a while, and there will be lots of AFK time as I’ll be bouncing back and forth between the game and hanging out with Luke.  Andrea might even join in.  It’s sure to net a lot of cash and hopefully some good items too.  But that’s something that might take the whole weekend on and off.  Plus I still want to get in some time with Zelda and Mario 3D Land.

I’m also working on another project on the side that I’m not quite ready to disclose yet.  I like the way its starting, but I don’t know if I’ll have the follow through to complete it for one, and two how it will turn out when it’s done.  So if you never hear about it again, know that it must not have turned out well!  Haha.

I hope your weekend is fantastic.  I’m hoping to Livestream a lot of the Guild Wars vanquishing this weekend, so check the Livestream tab from time to time and see what’s up.

I’m taking it easy.

It’s weird.  This past week hasn’t been too crazy, but sitting here this morning relaxing, it sure feels like it has.  Honestly the weekend is going to be more crazy than my week, but I think I’m going to combat that by just going with the flow.

We are getting Luke to the photography studio (AKA JC Penny) to get some professional pictures taken.  One of these days I’m going to save up and get me a nice DSLR camera and just take my own pictures.  A gal I work with got one last year for Christmas, and it’s amazing the quality those things can produce in conditions that the little point and shoot can’t handle.  But alas, it’s lower on the list of priorities.  Of course I’ll be sharing the pictures of Luke once we get them.  To get your complete fill of Lucas pictures, just follow Andrea on Facebook!

I wish I had time to play some Skyward Sword this weekend.  That’s not going to be in the cards, but I will be keeping my 3DS handy and I hope to knock out Super Mario 3D land.  I’m having to go back to some of the early levels and get star coins that I missed so I can progress into some of the later levels.  Apparently there’s a toll on Princess saving plumbers in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out a week or two ago and that will probably be the next game I get after I beat Zelda and Mario.  I’m not in a huge hurry because I still have a decent backlog of games to work on, plus all the old games that I always keep going back to.  It’s not like I really need another new game right now.  I have found that I really can only handle keeping up with one system it seems.  I remember back in the college days when I had the Gamecube, PS2 and the Xbox, there was just not enough time, let alone enough money, to keep up with all the great games that come out.  You just have to let some of them go.  Hopefully XIII-2 doesn’t become one of those games.

Time to get this weekend rolling!

Podcast for reals yo.

Heavy gaming talk in this podcast.  Lots of stuff about Super Mario 3D Land, Guild Wars & Guild Wars 2, plus more Skyward Sword, but no spoilers!

Podcast music as always.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Mario Kart 7: Final Thoughts

I’m going to get this out of the way right at the beginning.  My favorite Mario Kart is still Mario Kart 64.  To be fair Mario Kart 7 never really even had a chance, as I have such a long history with the 64 version, I can’t say it’s even possible to unseat the game atop my list of favorite games anymore.  Objectively though, Mario Kart 7 is without question the most advanced game in the series.

Honestly I wasn’t expecting much from 7.  Perhaps that’s why I’m so blown away by its awesomeness.  Where to start…

Some of the most obvious changes to the series are some of the least exciting to play in my opinion.  Karts can now fly or dive into water.  Flying is somewhat fun as it’s more of a controlled float back to the ground after you launch off a big ramp.  The fun part is aiming for multi-tiered paths on the track.  Some are higher than others and if you miss, you’re forced to take an alternate route that you hadn’t planned on.  The underwater driving though, isn’t as exciting, as you’re still driving a kart on a course, only with far more floaty physics.  While you’re underwater, there’s nothing particularly unique about it compared to driving that it just feels unnessicary.

One obvious new feature that does work well is the 3D display.  For the most part the effect isn’t used in extreme.  The tracks are rendered beautifully and tastefully.  And while driving, especially going around tight high banked corners, you really “feel” the 3D effect.  I use the word feel because it’s not something you’re really actively paying attention to while you’re playing, but especially in certain moments, you get that feeling of “whoa” when you know there’s a different perspective that you aren’t used to getting from a normal screen.  Other 3D effects are pulled off very well.  One of the best executed is Blooper’s ink that splotches your screen.  The 3D brings that ink out infront and on top of the rest of the display, and really gives you that sensation that you get when a big truck goes by on the highway and sprays your windshield.  If only there were a windshield wiper effect to clear the ink.  Over all the 3D effect is used modestly and appropriately.

Kart customization makes its debut in Mario Kart 7.  It’s a novel feature, but one that I appreciate.  I remember when Double Dash came out and I was not excited at all by the goofy kart designs.  There’s always been a more traditional go-kart available, but this time around the classic Mario Kart 64 kart is back as the “Pipe Frame” kart!  Of course you can customize any of the karts with big monster truck type wheels that have better offroad speed, or tiny shopping cart like wheels that have good handling.  I prefer the old fashioned wheels that match the kart.  You also have the option to pick different gliders which have slightly different flying characteristics.  Before each race/cup you select your character, kart frame, wheels, and glider.  It’s not a feature I’d say is mind blowing, but it’s fun to play with and fun to unlock more stuff as you gather coins.

For me, the things that make Mario Kart 7 so great, are the things that have made Mario Kart great from the start, just done better.  The controls on the 3DS are amazingly solid.  It strikes that perfect balance between easy to pick up and play, and skilled finesse beneath the surface.  Turboslides are performed by drifting around corners.  The tighter your turn, the faster you build your turbo, so you are rewarded for taking the right line around any given curve, or punished for not doing so.

The tracks are phenomenal.  16 brand new courses and 16 retro courses.  I always find myself wishing I could pick my own retro courses as my favorites never tend to make the list. (I want Royal Raceway!) But the new courses are absolutely fabulous.  Detailed, alive, and fun to drive.  They take advantage of the 3D screen to its fullest to really make you feel like you’re driving at some crazy angles sometimes.  And everything runs super smooth.  You will be turbosliding, jumping, gliding and boosting almost constantly.  Additionally there are some tracks that instead of running 3 laps, you will actual race a long course from point A to point B.

Graphics are very nice for a portable!

Online multiplayer has been a blast.  It’s fun to know you’re not just racing against the computer, and when you win it makes the victory that much more satisfying.  That said, it’s much harder to win!  Everyone is holding on to those items until the last stretch, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.  Coming around the last corner in 1st place is about the last thing you want to do in Mario Kart VS mode!  The frantic chaos is what makes it so great.  And for me, the most enjoyable part is you don’t get to chat with any of these people.  So they could be screaming adolescents on the other side of the internet for all I know, but I prefer to think that they are all sophisticated folks like myself.  It works for me.

Mario Kart 7 is probably everyone else’s favorite Mario Kart game.  And for good reason.  It takes everything that has made the previous installments great, does it better, makes it portable, and does it in 3D.  But for me, until they release Mario Kart 64HD3D with an authentic N64 throwback controller with analog sticks that don’t grind to powder… Mario Kart 7 will be an extremely close second.

Come on, Nintendo. Look at that ramp, if that doesn't say "Glider" what does?

Maintaining my KartMaster ‘Cred

I can’t believe there’s been seven Mario Karts…  Makes me realize how long I’ve been playing games.

I got this for Christmas from my Brother in Law Josh for Christmas, and so far it’s pretty awesome.  I’m still working through 50ccs and haven’t had a whole lot of time with it, but I can once again say I have every Mario Kart game!  I actually just got the original Super Mario Kart on Wii Virtual console a couple weeks ago for 100 Nintendo Club points!  If you aren’t registering your Wii games at club.nintendo.com, you’re really missing out on some cool bonuses.  And if you aren’t going to make a Club Nintendo account… can I have your registration codes inside the boxes!?

It was really cool though, because my nephew Nik wanted me to open my present so bad.  He even wanted me to open it before he opened up his own presents.  I thought that was just too awesome that he was getting that happy about giving a present, when so many kids you see are just gimmie, gimmie, gimmie.  He’s a pretty awesome guy!

I’ll write some more about the game after I’ve had some time to sit down an play it to a greater extent.  Which will be right after I publish this post!

Nintendo Thumb

Man, this hasn’t happened for quite some time.  I set my N64 up in the bedroom instead of the basement because its just too damn cold down there right now.  I braved the coldness with my little space heater for about an hour before I just said “screw it” moved my basement tv and the N64 up where it was actually above 60.

I played for about another hour on Super Mario N64 until it’s time for bed.  I didn’t realize while I was playing… but once I got done I felt it.  Just that tenderness and almost a feeling like when you just start getting a blister.

It’s the dreaded Nintendo thumb!  An injury known to sideline some of the all time greatest players.  Even in my own prime I was set back a few times by the injury.  Right in the middle of working on world record Mario Kart 64 times.  I would try to play through the pain, but when you realize that you can’t make the same cuts and you just aren’t as fast injured… that’s when you realize you’re better served to sit out and get healed up.  Then you can be close to 100% when you get back into the game.  Happens to everybody, right?

After last night I’m up to 40 stars.  These are the easy ones though.  Some of these later are just going to be nuts.

A look back: Super Mario 64

Well I’m feeling nostalgic. I was reading some old reviews on the old N64.com site. Now IGN.com. I don’t want to commit to calling this a series yet, but I’d like to take some of my old games and revisit them. Share my experiences from a time when I spent WAAAY too much time playing games and a new perspective.

Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 were the first two games we got back on Christmas 1996. I was 14 then, and really not expecting the new Nintendo under our tree. I was still a fan of the old NES games, and still had our original second Nintendo hooked up, but I always just figured I’d be content to play the new Nintendo 64 over at a friend’s house whenever they got one.

All that changed pretty quickly. I remember getting excited looking at the box (not this excited) with a tinge of disbelief that my parents had splurged on such an expensive toy. $199 at the time of it’s release. My thoughts had quickly changed to: “I can’t wait until all my friends come over to see this.” As we hooked it up to our also new 27″ Magnavox TV there was a brief moment where I thought, “Which should I try first? Mario? Or Pilotwings?” But when you have a brand new Nintendo, and a brand new Mario game. You ALWAYS choose Mario!

I still remember quite vividly sitting on the floor amidst the empty boxes and trash bags full of wrapping paper, staring in awe of not only the Nintendo 64 starting up for the very first time, but also the big new TV. For 10 minutes we took turns running around the castle lawn climbing trees, doing handstands, diving in the water and swimming. Running through and interacting with a true 3D world was quite the experience at the time.

 

Little details were impressive like the birds that would fly from the trees, butterflies that would fly away when you approached, and schools of fish in the water. But as I played I was curious where all the enemies were. Every other Mario game plopped you right into the action, hopping on goombas and the like. I finally headed into the castle after exploring every square inch there was to explore outside. Still no bad guys, even inside the castle. But Bowser’s ominous laugh clues that there would plenty of confrontation to come. But to heck with that! There’s walls and balconies to jump off!

 

It actually took a bit of getting used to, adapting to a more open ended approach to the Mario levels. No longer was it weave your way though obstacles and enemies just to make it to the end of a stage. And you didn’t have to beat one level before you move on to the next. You often can do the levels in whatever order you prefer. But despite the differences it was still very familiar as a Mario game, very intuitive and VERY fun!

As a younger kid with the original NES, I had always enjoyed the Mario Bros. games and even beaten a couple of them, but not until after Mom had already beaten them once. Well I was a bit older now and my motor skills were a bit more refined (along with my patience). Maybe lame, but I still remember being a little proud being the first one in the house to make it to the end and beat the final match with Bowser. Quite an intimidating battle the way the new system was able to present the game in a more immersive package. Here you are, little Mario having to take down something 4 times your size that breaths fire, shakes the ground loose when he stomps! I still remember getting frustrated trying to wing Bowser only to miss one of the bombs and have him come right back. But somehow watching the final cinematic ending and the credits with highlights of all the levels, there was a sense of accomplishment there.

 

There’s all sorts of little moments that you just wish you could go back and experience for the first time all over again. Racing the penguin. Chasing the eel and the hidden underwater cave. Metal Mario. Big small world. The list goes on and on. A couple that stick out are some of the stars on the Tall Tall Mountian, where there were several blind jumps, that you either got the star, or fell clear to the bottom of the level, or just plain died! I still remember memorized exactly where to put the star in the cannon sights to hit it every time: Right at the bottom of the circle, where the edge just starts to blur. How do I remember that? Tick-Toc Clock was also one of those frustratingly fun levels, that really highlighted how refined the controls really are.

 

Even today, despite the dated graphics, Super Mario 64 is still a fantastically fun game. Getting all 120 stars is still a challenge and I’m sure it’d take a good memory jog to even remember where all of them are. It’s just a fun honest game that you don’t need to set aside an hour to play. 12 years later it’s worth keeping the N64 around, even if only for this one game.

Wicked Cool.

I made it back from SWK and brought an early Christmas present with me. “It’s-a me! Mario!” Mom got me this sweet neon-ish sign. I decided to hang it in the living room with all my games and such.