Bowser

‘Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’ review

In my earlier review, I gave Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS a 9 out of 10 and predicted the Wii U version would be the superior version. Is Super Smash Bros for Wii U worth 10 out of 10? Hell yes! If there was just one game I would bring to a deserted island, this would be it.

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Ever since Smash Bros. Melee, I’ve dreamed of playing 6-player Smash. I hoped it would be possible one day. Imagine how surprised I was when not just 6 players were announced…

BUT EIGHT.

EIGHT PLAYER SMASH!!!

OH. MY. GODDDDDD!!!!!!

Even the original eight Smash Bros. characters were excited!

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I’ve played 8-player Smash with my friends and it is absolutely insane. Some may think it makes an already chaotic game too hectic, and it certainly seemed that way at first, but overtime you just relax and revel in the craziness. If eight players are too much to you, at least the fourth or fifth person at your gathering doesn’t have to sit out. Nintendo seems to be the only company pushing multiplayer in the living room, and Smash Bros is perfect for the homely gathering.

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The Wii U version has an exclusive mode called Smash Tour, which is quite simply Smash Bros mixed with Mario Party. Your Mii characters spin a dice to move forward to collect stat boosts and extra fighters. The mini-games in this case are the battles where you fight to steal other player’s fighters. At the set number of turns, the fighters compete in a final battle, with each fighter they collected acting as an extra life to play. Just like Mario Party, the outcome is heavily influenced by random events. Just like Smash Run on the 3DS, I’m glad this mode was included but it’s not my favourite way to play.

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Andddd Nintendo’s obsession with extra peripherals continues. I bought the Gamecube adapter bundle plus a super special Smash Bros. Gamecube controller, because I’ve used that controller since the Melee days. However, the Gamecube adapter is only compatible with Smash Bros and not other Wii U games for reasons unknown. I don’t think this will change, because it even said on the peripheral’s box that it’s only for Smash Bros Wii U.

Thanks for that Nintendo…

In addition to the Gamecube controller, you can use the Wii U Gamepad, Wii Remote, Wii Remote + Nunchuk, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro and Wii U Pro Controller to play. So many options available! You can even play the game with the 3DS as long as you have the 3DS version. I don’t think there is a game out there with so many controller options, thus making an eight-player battle not such an impossible task.

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This is the best Smash Bros. to date, but it makes me wonder if the game could have been ever better if they just made the Wii U version. Would we have had more characters, stages and modes if the dev team focused exclusively on the home console version? I wouldn’t say the 3DS version held the franchise back (and that wouldn’t be fair as so many more people have a 3DS), because both versions of the game are incredibly polished. Thankfully, the game physics and character moves are the same on both versions, so the many 3DS owners can still easily go to a friend’s house with the Wii U version and be on a level playing field.

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Don’t worry Brawlers, unlike Smash Bros Brawl, the online is at least playable. As you’d expect, the Wii U performs better online than the 3DS version. Any lag you do experience is generally because of the connection of either you or an opponent, unlike in Brawl where it was just bulls**t. Obviously the usual Nintendo online limitations apply, for example they recommend you buy their ethernet adapter for wired play because they didn’t include an ethernet port on the console. No regional option means that it’s bad luck if I’m battling someone on the other side of the world, which is obviously more prone to lag. Finally, there’s the usual Nintendo lack of online options compared to other games, but the For Fun and For Glory modes were pretty neat ideas, so Super Smash Bros. online is still very, very enjoyable. I’m too competitive at this game to stop playing it, damnit!

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The customisable character feature from the 3DS return intact in the Wii U version. You can create your own Mii character from one of three types (Brawler, Swordplay and Gunner), customise their appearance, their attack, defence and speed stats, and select from nine special modes. All the other characters can be customised too, and have altered special moves to choose from. Aside from the Mii Fighters, Palutena is the only character with completely different special moves to use (but they used the worst ones for her default).

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You can use customs in all modes except online play against strangers, and that includes the Mii Fighters. I think an option to use Mii Fighters in For Fun mode with default stats should have been included.

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Custom is a completely optional mode that you can use to make multiplayer mode more enjoyable or assist in single player modes. Outside of the Mii Fighters I didn’t have much interest in it myself, but a significant barrier to enjoying it was the way custom moves are unlocked. Mii Fighters and Palutena’s custom moveset are unlocked from the beginning, but to unlock the derivatives for the other characters…well you have to keep playing and just hope you get a custom move for your favourite character on the rewards screen. While you can import your customised character from the 3DS version, or export one to it, you still have to unlock the custom moves in both versions. Such a pain.

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Then there’s amiibo, Nintendo’s answer to Skylanders and Disney Infinity, well it was only a matter of time wasn’t it? In Smash, you get the figures of Nintendo characters into the game as customised computer controlled players registered to that Amiibo. I would probably have more fun with them if I had all the custom movesets. You have them battle other players or amiibos to level them up and their AI becomes smarter. Amiibos are a nice but non-essential feature.

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That’s the beauty of Smash. There are so many modes, options and characters to play, that the way you want to play is limitless. You can go through all features, but even if you choose to ignore a mode or two, there’s plenty to do, in both single player and multiplayer.

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This is the best version of the best series ever, making Super Smash Bros for Wii U the best game ever, and obviously my Game of the Year for 2014. The HD visuals look amazing, the online play is functional enough, the variety of game modes is unbelievable and of course the local multiplayer can last forever. The multitude of game options allows so many options and unlockables that it feels meaningful and rewarding every time you pick up and play. You can play how you want. Don’t care for online multiplayer? Despite a lack of story mode, the single player options will keep anyone occupied for a long time.

Man I wish I had this game where was I 8. I was free of responsibilities, yet free of the ability to play video games for hours and hours. Smash Bros for Wii U is a game that can last an entire generation.

Rating: 5/5 – best game ever!!!

This review was originally written for radio. The pre-recorded review was aired on 5th December on the Australian digital radio station SYN Nation, on the show Player One. Unlike the 3DS version review, I’ve revamped this review, because the radio segment aired less than a week after I got the Wii U version. I’ve been playing the game since late November so this adjusted review is the better for it. I paid for the game copy.

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“Wreck-It Ralph” review

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Film adaptations of video games have not gone down too well. In fact, not a single one has a rating of at least 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, original films centred on video games haven’t fared so badly, with Tron, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and now Wreck-It Ralph showing us how it’s done.

The film takes place in the present day in an arcade. During the day, all the video game characters fulfil their roles in the games they originate from as kids play them. During the night, after the arcade closes, the characters are able to travel to other games, all connected via a central arcade hub. For three decades, Ralph has been the bad guy in the game Fix-It Felix Jr and disregarded by the game’s other characters, whereas the titular protagonist has been lauded. Ralph decides he doesn’t want to be a bad guy anymore and leaves his game to prove he can be a good guy, upsetting the state of affairs in the process.

I heard this film was good, but it ended up being much better than I expected. It’s not a Pixar film but resembles one in many ways, with its art style and the general quality of the film itself. The four main characters are voiced by top actors. Felix Jr is voiced by Jack McBrayer of Kenneth from 30 Rock fame. It seems as if McBrayer was just being Kenneth in the role of Felix, which was fine by me as Kenneth is my favourite character from that show. Providing an opposite personality is Jane Lynch, who seems to have become a typecast of that woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Her character, Sergeant Calhoun (the main character from the first person shooter Hero’s Duty), is exactly as you’d expect if you’ve seen Lynch in Glee, Role Models and Two and a Half Men.  John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph creates a straight-forward character we can identify with; he’s a guy who’s not happy with who he is. Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, a young girl from the kart-racing game Sugar Rush, becomes a likeable and charming character later on, which was great as I had a feeling she would be the weak link when she first opened her mouth. While being very different characters, Ralph and Vanellope both have a common goal to be someone special, which is a very familiar theme (not saying that’s a bad thing).

As a fan of retro games, I was enthralled by all the references. I believe that the Fix-It Felix Jr game is inspired by the original Donkey Kong arcade game. The art style and the use of actual existing video game characters result in fantastic fan service for gamers as well as making the video game world believable. This film is full of surprises, so I won’t mention any of the references. In saying that, some of the references are so obscure even a hardcore gamer might not catch them. The plot is relatively simple but has depth, heart and charm, which is complimented by the soundtrack and the visuals. You know an animated film is well done when you’re trying to resist shedding tears, and Wreck-It Ralph did it for on more than one occasion.

If there were weak points, I’d say that the film could’ve been a bit funnier and no cameo by Mario definitely hit me where it hurts. Although I guess it’s good they didn’t just awkwardly include him for marketing appeal.

The 3D is pretty good in this film, and there are some moments where it really shines, however 2D viewers won’t miss out on anything as the movie is great anyway. Watching it in 3D is definitely a nice bonus, but it’s essential.

You don’t have to be a gamer at all to enjoy this movie, as it targets a family oriented audience, but nonetheless gamers will definitely enjoy it the most, especially with the references and the recognisable characters. It would be easy to mistake this for a Pixar film (which is a compliment in the highest form) because it is a real joy to watch. It’s a family film, but adults will still enjoy it nonetheless. In fact, everyone can enjoy it, so go see it!

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Paperman

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Another reason Wreck-It Ralph could be mistaken for a Pixar effort is the short film before the main feature. It’s a love story presented in black and white and features a fantastic use of symbolism to create meaning. A man and a woman encounter each other on public transport and the woman catches the man’s paper caught by the wind and leaves a lipstick mark on it. After they depart ways the man tries to get her attention after spotting her again. It’s a much better love story than Twilight. Ok, to be fair I haven’t read nor seen Twilight but my point is that this seven minute short film is quite lovely and I’m glad that Disney attached it to Wreck-It Ralph for moviegoers to enjoy.

Rating: 4/5

New Super Mario Bros. 2

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New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a direct sequel to New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, and a follow-up to the Wii title, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Like most Mario games, the plot involves Mario trekking across the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach, who has been kidnapped by Bowser. This is tradition, and no-one really cares about the plots in 2D Mario platformers. Gameplay is very much like the other 2D Mario platformers. You run, jump, stomp on enemies, go through warp pipes, become bigger after grabbing a Super Mushroom and shooting fireballs after picking up a fire flower. The goal is to reach the end of the level. There are a number of worlds with many levels in each, with the last level in a world ending with a boss battle. If you’ve played a 2D Mario platformer before, this will instantly feel familiar.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks, feels and plays exactly the same way as the previous games in the New Super Mario Bros. series. The game places a huge emphasis on coin collecting, much more so than previous games. So much emphasis in fact, that all the levels have much more coins than usual and are designed to allow as much coin collecting as possible. You can jump through a gold ring which will temporarily turn your surroundings into gold. So kicking Koopa Troopa shells with this effect on, for example, leaves a trail of coins for you to collect, and stomping on Goombas gives you a bunch of coins. There’s also a gold block that goes on Mario’s head that generates coins as he progresses through the level until it runs dry. The only real new power-up in this game is the Gold Flower that essentially turns Mario into the Golden Child for the rest of the level (unless he takes damage). He fires golden fireballs that turn blocks and enemies into more gold for him to collect. Every coin you collect, even if you die (but not if you quit), will add to a grand total that you can see on the main menu and level select screen. The game’s ultimate goal is for the player to collect one million coins. At least Super Mario 3D Land had the decency to explain why there were so many Super Leaves, whereas this game doesn’t even give a hint to why there’s so much gold. With so many coins around, isn’t the Mushroom Kingdom going to experience a hyperinflation crisis that will easily surpass the Hungarian pengo in the 1940s?

A new mode in the game, known as Coin Rush, is one way the player can collect a plethora of coins quickly and easily. The mode picks three random levels, and the player has to guide Mario through them without time running out and collecting as many coins as possible. The records will be exchanged through the 3DS’s Streetpass feature. Having Spotpass on allows your personal coin total to be added to a worldwide grand total. The Coin Rush was fun the first few times I did it, as well as provided a challenge the rest of the game lacked, but the novelty wore off fairly quickly.

In fact the novelty wore off the entire game fairly quickly. New Super Mario Bros. 1 came out six years ago, and nothing has changed besides a 3D effect and a Coin Rush mode. Oh, and I completely forgot to talk about the 3D effect. I know this is a 2D game with 2.5D graphics, but it could’ve done a lot better, especially as it’s a first-party Nintendo game. All it does is make the foreground three-dimensional and blur out the background. I left it off most of the game to save battery-time. The game is also way too easy. You still get extra lives every time you collect 100 coins, so with the extra emphasis on coin collecting, I had over 100 lives when I beat Bowser. That world was the only time the challenge ramped up, but only a little bit. There wasn’t even a point in having lives at all.

There’s multiplayer too, just like the Wii title but with half the players. You can co-op with a friend for the entire game and have the coins collected added to both your totals. And it really restricts you to following one player, which is strange when players have their own screen! I missed the competitiveness of DS title’s multiplayer. I must admit I enjoyed this game’s co-op a lot more than I thought I would, because it’s for everyone. You can work together just fine, but you can also muck around just fine too (with so many lives there’s no issue there…). It depends on what kind of friends you have. When I played with my friend, we worked together at times but killed each other to get power-ups and it was actually quite fun. Having it online would be cool though, I don’t see why they don’t do it, because then I would have more reason to play the co-op.

I think Mario is officially being milked now. Why now, you ask? And hasn’t Nintendo been milking their mascot since games such as Super Mario Kart, Dr. Mario and Mario’s Time Machine? Well, those games were spinoffs that had their own distinct gameplay from the main series of Mario games, and with the exception of the latter, they were good games. Mario is not just the mascot of Nintendo; he’s not just the most recognisable video game character in history; Mario is the pinnacle of Nintendo’s innovation.

When you think back to the first Mario game, the arcade hit Donkey Kong in 1981 that was revolutionary as one of the earliest platformers, and featured one of the first instances of cutscenes to advance the game’s story. Then 1985 saw the release of one of the best-selling video games of all time, and one of the most revolutionary too, Super Mario Bros., saved the video game industry from certain death. It also had precise controls, huge cast of characters, and was one of the first games to have an ending, instead of just being about how high the score can go. It changed video games forever. Later on, Nintendo revolutionised three-dimensional video games with Super Mario 64 in 1996 and motion controlled action games with Super Mario Galaxy in 2010.

It wasn’t just the main Super Mario series that saw the portly plumber bring innovative, intuitive and accessible gameplay. Guinness World Records crowns Super Mario Kart, the first in the Mario Kart series, as the best game ever (based on initial impact and lasting appeal, apparently). While I wouldn’t place Mario Kart as the best series ever, the series is definitely groundbreaking in its own right. Many of the Mario sports titles, such as my favourite, Mario Tennis, are just really good games. The Mario RPGs made the genre a lot more accessible as well as introducing a number of gameplay innovations that made them so much fun to play. All these games injected Mario flavour to a great extent. The New Super Mario Bros. sub-series has overstayed its welcome however.

New Super Mario Bros. came out in 2006 with a clear purpose, to give the fans a new 2D Mario platformer. It was the first 2D Mario platformer since 1992’s Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the Game Boy. It did leave a big impression on me and the rest of the gaming community, and it deserved all its praise. Sure, it had more of the same general gameplay introduced in the original Super Mario Bros. game, but it had a bunch of new features too, such as a head-to-head battle mode. It didn’t feel like the sequel to Super Mario World, but felt like a tribute to all the 2D Mario platformers released on consoles, by incorporating many from these into the game. It even had some elements from Super Mario 64, such as wall jumping and triple jumping. There were some new power-ups too. The blue shell didn’t add much, but at least it was something we hadn’t seen before. The Mini and the Mega Mushroom were game changers, and I think it’s what that game is remembered for the most. My point is, it was a great game with excellent design that introduced 2D Mario platformers to a new audience and reminded the veteran Mario gamers why we loved these games in the first place.

Then the Wii title came out, I haven’t played much of it, but I do believe it had a reason to exist. Obviously the most significant thing is for the first time you could play a 2D Mario game with 3 other people at the same time. It also brought back Yoshi and introduced a few new power-ups. Other than that, it was really similar to DS game, but it had a good reason to exist as it broke new grounds for the Mario series. The 3DS follow up on the other hand, has failed to convince me it needed to be made.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a great game with excellent controls and level design. The problem is that the core gameplay hasn’t evolved at all. The minor adjustments made it fun for a while, but after 8 or so hours of game-time, I just had enough, with my coin tally sitting at 60,000. C’mon Nintendo, give us something original! I’m not buying the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. U, because it looks just like the Wii title, just with more levels…In the meantime I give New Super Mario Bros. 2, a score of 3/5 because it feels more like a level pack than a fully-fledged sequel and I got tired of playing this game as I’ve played it before. If you haven’t played Mario 2D platformers to death, just for you I’ll give this game 4/5…4.5/5 if you’ve never played one ever and I’ll heartily make a recommendation.

For those interested, here’s my review for the previous Mario platformer on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land https://stefanb33.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/super-mario-3d-land/

Super Mario 3D Land

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Since New Super Mario Bros. 2 just came out this week on the Nintendo 3DS, to celebrate I am going to review it…later. In the meantime, here’s a review for its counterpart, Super Mario 3D Land. It’s great to have a brand new Mario title to play, and Super Mario 3D Land is fun, albeit flawed in a number of ways.

Super Mario 3D Land has a rather simple premise – it’s a “3D Mario that plays like a 2D one”. It plays exactly the way you’d expect, New Super Mario Bros. breeding with Super Mario Galaxy. The graphics are quite reminiscent are those two titles too. Of course, just like most Mario games, there is plenty of nostalgia and elements from past titles. Yes, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, but that’s been the premise of nearly all Mario platformers, and the last thing a Mario platformer needs is a plot.

Gameplay involves reaching the exit in each level, just like the classic games, but you do so in three-dimensions this time as well as in stereoscopic 3D if you hit the 3D slider. Fire Flowers and Super Mushrooms return as power-ups to help you on your way just like all of the traditional Super Mario Bros. games since the 1985 original. If you don’t know, basically if you are hit as regular Mario, you turn into small Mario and if you’re hit as small Mario, you lose a life. Grab a Super Mushroom and you’ll go grow to regular Mario again. You gain an extra hit point if you have an additional power-up. These include the Fire Flower, allowing you to shoot fireballs; the Tanooki Suit, allowing you to hit enemies with your new tail and float in the air; and the Boomerang Suit that gives you an unlimited arsenal of boomerangs to throw.

Most of the boss fights are lame, and evident that Nintendo want to stick to traditions again as you fight the Boom Boom from Super Mario Bros. 3 many times and defeating involves…you guessed it, jumping on his head three times. The Bowser boss battles repeat themselves, but are pretty damn cool nonetheless and at least they don’t involve just hitting him three times in the head. This game seems to be a call-back to Super Mario Bros. 3 in a lot of ways that become obvious as you play. This isn’t New Super Mario Bros. though, so it shouldn’t be resorting to old elements from old titles, it should be in a zone of its own, like Super Mario Galaxy. It takes the special coin system from New Super Mario Bros., so each level features three special coins to find that unlock more levels.

The game is a rather short experience, even when I played through the second quest (not all of it as I couldn’t be bothered finding the special coins to unlock the last few levels), I only put in about 10 hours into the game. Yes the game is fun, which is the most important thing. The problem is the level design. There are some really cool levels here, but a lot of them seem to lack inspiration, especially during the first quest. The second set of levels you unlock, are much better, although some of them are copied and pasted from the first quest with small changes, which is disappointing. The other good thing about the second quest is that the levels are much harder. The first quest is way too easy. If you’ve played a 2D Mario title before, have no fear because you’re almost guaranteed to never run out of lives. Honestly, having a life system at all in games these days is pointless, but Mario games will never remove them because 1-Up Mushrooms are a tradition.

This is hands down the best use of 3D I’ve seen on the 3DS so far. Turning it on does make it easier to see where to jump at times, not that it’s hard with the 3D off. It certainly adds to the very nice visuals too. Despite this, it doesn’t change the fact that 3D is still a very optional thing, and turning it off won’t detract from the experience much at all.

Super Mario 3D Land is fun with tight gameplay and tight controls. It does lack the inspiration of other Marios, such as the wonderful Super Mario Galaxy. It also suffers not just from cutting and pasting from other games, but also from itself. After playing the incredibly innovating and near flawless that was (yes once again) Super Mario Galaxy, I was hoping Super Mario 3D Land would break new ground, rather than turn Super Mario Bros. 3 in three dimensions. I do recommend playing this game, because even though it lacks the spark of other Mario titles, it has more newness to it than the New Super Mario Bros. subseries. The 3D effect works great, but I’ll never use the 3D effect to recommend a 3DS game to anyone because it’s completely optional with such little effect on the gameplay. I rate Super Mario 3D Land 3.5/5, but it would’ve been a 3 if it wasn’t for the awesome second quest.