maanantai 29. elokuuta 2016

R.I.P. Summer of 2016

Summer has ended. Winter is coming. [insert image of a dead Stark here]


[Done.]

A lot happened to me this summer. Some of it bad, some of it worse, some of it quite damn good. Either way, things that occupied my mind for extended periods of time. Summer is always a critical time for me, mostly because of my actual work. Lots of special stuff to sell brings lots of customers. What I'm trying to say is that after the massive reboot of this blog in spring, I haven't been able to capitalize on it. Yet.

I've talked plenty about what happens next, but none of those ideas are even near fruition. Designer's block has not been an exception, it's been a rule - a clockwork rule - for the past months. Luckily I've managed to clock in a couple of reviews, but a couple ain't nearly enough considering how excited I was about restarting this thing. However, just so we're clear, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong marathon wasn't supposed to last that long anyway - I have more games to review on that front, but I'll save them for later. For my own, and your sake - it's not healthy to take on dozens of games from the same franchise in a row. Trust me, I know. Once more, after three more reviews, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong 35th Anniversary Marathon is over. I'll stop when it's still fun.

So, as I was saying, the next three months are all about change. As I was reviewing different layout options last week, I realized that the biggest mistake I made when I rebooted this thing, was deciding on a thorough change all at once, with zero actual ideas for any part of it. So, it will be a gradual one instead. I'll start with the FAQ section - I've already washed the old one out - and by tomorrow night, you should be able to read a more comprehensive and up-to-date bio of yours truly, if you're interested in the man behind the "clusterfucks" and "rock hard controls". I'll then move on to work on the external links, and those which link to my own pages, I'll check that their respective contents are up to date as well. The reviews will once again change to the acclaimed Ups/Downs format starting with the next review. Uh, actually, a bulk of reviews will be heading your way next week, if not before - with at least two reviews which are totally apart from the previous marathon.

As for more marathons, do I have line-ups planned for ya or what? October's the time of Monster Mash as it always was - because of Halloween - and I've already got a couple of reviews written for it, kind of like to pay back for the couple of very short-lived Mashes of the past. I already mentioned The Legend of Zelda 30th Anniversary Marathon, but I'm still not sure whether I want to go at it now or in the distant future when Breath of the Wild comes out. Rest assured, though, it's coming - I've actually been dying to continue where I left off the last time. Never thought I'd say that, at least in public. It's hard to jot down the next RPG Time!, 'cause I'm not sure of the amount of spare time I'll have towards the end of the year. But, both Final Fantasy XV and World of Final Fantasy are coming VERY soon, and I'm playing about three J-RPG's in a very loose tandem on my 3DS. It's not impossible for an RPG Time! to rear its head before 2016's over. In addition, there are a couple of smaller "marathons" coming up very soon; the first one comes right after Mario vs. Donk... OK, just Mario, and the second one is part of the Monster Mash. What comes in between? Hell if I know. I'm going where the wind takes me. :) As a matter of fact, I do know. Sorta.

I made a promise to myself some time ago, that once I had rounded out my Legend of Zelda collection with the two games that were missing - a little over TWO YEARS after buying the first one! - I would stop collecting games for as long as it takes for me to reach total financial security. You see, for the last seven years that I've collected games, even good paychecks have barely left me enough to eat after rent, after bills, and after feeding my inner monster. I have always lived on the principle that I have to get myself something special every month, just to remind myself why I go to work every day and motivate myself. For the last seven years, it's been a game or two. Well, this summer's done a real number on my bank account. Actually, that's a poor choice of words - there are no numbers on my bank account. So, two weeks ago I took the bull by the horns and fulfilled my promise. I bought the last two Zelda games I was missing - Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword - and declared that I will no longer make random game purchases. Anyone who catches me buying a game that's not already on my pre-order list, gets a twenty, no negotiation, until the time I publicly declare to have started collecting games again, which could be years from now.




Seven years is a long time; a 566-game long time, to be exact. Plus, I still have vast ROM libraries for several systems to punch through at will, so don't you worry about me not having enough to go on here. Actually I feel like I have more than ever, now that I'm finally focusing on playing my old games before buying new ones. Who knows what kind of gems I'll find? Or what kind of stinking heaps of overrated horseshit might've I missed during all this time? Time will tell...

...And that time is now.

sunnuntai 7. elokuuta 2016

REVIEW - Super Mario Galaxy 2

GENRE(S): Platformer
AVAILABLE ON: Wii, Wii U (Virtual Console)
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy, as we all know, spread like wildfire in the Wii community. Not only was it named one of the greatest video games of all time upon arrival, it also served as Nintendo's one defining underdog asset at the peak of the last great console war. After its release, Mario creator and developmental manager Shigeru Miyamoto quickly commissioned an updated version of the game to capitalize on its success, and gave the team a year to complete Super Mario Galaxy More. Its updates largely consisted of material that was cut from the original game due to time restraints and gameplay issues. As the game began to take shape, and as the creative designers seemed to come up with completely new ideas by the hour, the deadline of the game expanded by over a year, and it was decided that the game was to be a true sequel to Super Mario Galaxy instead of the intended re-release of the original. Upon its arrival - in the twilight of the original Wii - Super Mario Galaxy 2 was hailed as yet another masterpiece in the exact vein of its predecessor. This one, I missed completely, as even none of my friends were active Wii gamers at that point of time. Super Mario Galaxy proved to be a positive surprise after a lousy first impression from years back, let's see how this one fares now that I've got all the bases covered. It was an update, sure, but were all the black spots that plagued the original truly harvested?

Dinosaurs in outer space

Effectively retconning the events of Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 begins with the Princess once again inviting her favourite plumber for cake (yup) during the Star Festival, a time when comets fill the skies of Mushroom Kingdom, raining down Star Bits. On his way, Mario finds a stray Luma, who immediately takes a liking to Mario and tags along as Bowser, having grown to enormous size after munching on Grand Stars, attacks the castle and snatches the Princess. Afterwards, the villain escapes to the center of the universe. Mario takes to outer space, and finds a stranded planet, which turns out to be mobilized and serving as a starship. The ship's owner, Luma mechanic Lubba asks Mario's help in rescuing his crew along with the usual Grand Stars and the Princess, and in return, he offers his ship.

I hadn't even started with Super Mario Galaxy for the second and definitive time, when not one but two of my friends were already telling me that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was so much better. Well, I'm a completist, I didn't really care all that much, but granted, these sudden praises, as well as the surprisingly good taste Super Mario Galaxy left me with, got me all pumped up about Super Mario Galaxy 2. Firstly, what we've got here is one gigantic game - there are over 240 DIFFERENT Power Stars to collect in Super Mario Galaxy 2 (with 70 once again being the minimum to beat the game), 49 galaxies to explore, a serious multiplayer mode for those who care (whereas Super Mario Galaxy only had the daddy's little helper mode available for a second player), and a hell of a lot of secrets to unravel. Though, once again, most of these secrets are pretty much shoved in your face. Be that as it may, beating Super Mario Galaxy 2 will take a good while. Completing it... will not happen for casual players. I'll surely get back to the game's enormous difficulty level.

Here we gooooooo...
The game definitely looks and sounds the part of what is essentially an update - fucking fantastic. I always thought that design-wise, the original Super Mario Galaxy looked kinda odd. It had occasionally strange enemy and level design, it didn't really feel like a Mario game from time to time. Well, some of the aforementioned designs are up for reprisal in "Part Deux", but to compensate, we have nostalgic, innovative, mostly fabulous designs heavily inspired by some of our all-time favourite games in this franchise. Exploring new, recently unlocked galaxy belts is always a party; there's sure to be at least one galaxy in each world designed to blow your mind if you're a long-time fan. My absolute favourite level in the game spills it all by its name alone: Throwback Galaxy. A throwback to what? That's for you to find out. The music is even better than before. Koji Kondo and Mahito Yokota are joined by Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart composer Ryo Nagamatsu, to work on a massive soundtrack filled with rehashed Super Mario Galaxy jive - those epic outer space adventure tunes we so kindly adored - new tunes, and a whole truckload of remixed stuff from days past, mostly from the original Super Mario World. Just one proper level into the game, we can see why.

He's green, he's lean, he's a digesting machine

Yoshi's back in the supporting role he's most famous and acclaimed for, and as the one key element that really separates this game from its predecessor. He's also a good key to start talking about the power-ups, since he's kind of like a power-up in himself; like all power-ups in the world of Super Mario Galaxy, he's only required for certain, occasionally optional, tasks to be completed. I was kinda frightened how Yoshi's core features would work using the Wiimote controls - the 3D setting, not that much, since I already had experience playing as him in the Super Mario 64 remake. You use the Wiimote to point at stuff to eat and press the B trigger; it's a solution worth tipping your hat for in most situations, in the most precise ones it's a bitch. When you're crossing a raging lava pit using Yoshi's tongue to swing from one connecting point to another, you'll wish you'd had a larger TV - it feels that not even 48" is enough to constantly register a connection to the remote.

Gee. It's Bowser. Oh my God.
Adding to the previous game's list of gimmicky power-ups, we have three more gimmicky power-ups which are only required in few choice situations in few choice levels - and of course, two of them in the final boss level (the final boss level for casual players, that is). First up is Cloud Mario, probably the most useful and easiest to use out of the three. This allows Mario to jump somewhat further by default, and also, to create up to three cloud platforms from thin air to stand on; the energy needed to create those platforms is refreshed each time Mario picks up another cloud. It's utilized quite neatly, and works like a charm. The Spin Drill allows Mario to drill through certain types of soil with his spin attack, to the opposite side of whatever rock he's standing on; to find secret items, solve puzzles or even fight bosses. Finally, the Rock Mushroom turns Mario into a devastatingly fast and destructive rolling rock. It's initially quite cool, as you can smash through all kinds of backgrounds and most enemies in the game - excluding Chomp - but just wait 'til you get to parts where you must actually steer the rock. There's no way to avoid witnessing these situations - time and luck will tell if you actually have to deal with them to boot. We're just a snap away from discussing that difficulty level of the game.

Yoshi has his own short set of gimmicky power-ups, and man, will you rupture a vein or two. The Blimp Fruit allows Yoshi to float upwards for a short spell. The Bulb Berry's a strange one, as it illuminates and "creates" platforms that otherwise aren't really there. The Dash Pepper makes Yoshi run straight forward like crazy, and he's even more of a bitch to control than Rock Mario, not that much if you're going for level completion, but God forbid if you're trying to actually do something in particular, like collect coins or a Comet Medal or something. Which finally brings us to that enormous level of difficulty critics have sometimes blasted the game for - as will I.

Yup. The bosses are huge.
In Super Mario 64, I never had any trouble of finding the 70 Power Stars I actually needed to complete the game. Of course, every time I went for the kill and set on a trip to find all 120 of them, I ended up crying my guts out. Finding the mandated amount of 70 Power Stars in Super Mario Galaxy was almost automatic for the any-player, as long as you had the will to explore, and unlock those secret galaxies. Well, if you're a casual player, you might just reach 50 Power Stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2. You'll really have to fight for the remaining 20. Let's start with the Comet Medals; each galaxy in the game holds one, and by finding a certain amount of these unlocks a Comet Challenge in some random galaxy of the game. The challenges are pretty much the same as in the first game: speedrun challenges and such. In this game, you simply MUST take part in them if you're going for the minimum amount of Power Stars to merely beat the game. You also MUST take part in other challenges that were made for not only 3D platformer veterans, but grand masters of the Wii control scheme, and hope for the best. You will think to yourself, that hey, maybe I can just collect enough coins and Star Bits to feed those Lumas, birth me a couple of new galaxies to explore, and collect the easiest Stars from those levels for compensation. Yeah, that's not gonna work. First of all, the secret galaxies in the game very often just have one easy Power Star - that's not enough to raise the total to the warranted amount. Secondly, the amount of coins and Star Bits those Lumas ask of you are preposterous. The ones that ask for coins, are almost without exception hidden in levels where it's either hard as fuck to collect coins altogether, or waiting at the end of very hard levels, where you'll have probably died a few times on the way, losing all of your coins. The ones that ask for Star Bits to chew on ask for such amounts, that you'll basically be forced to replay levels, preferrably the easiest levels in the game, to come up with such sums. That's not hard - that's boring. Even as an explorer by nature, I ended up having 60-something Power Stars when I reached the final threshold to Bowser's keep, having conquered about 99% of the "normal" challenges the game has in store, plus already a few "optional" challenges. Yeah, the game is hard. If I were a gambling man, I'd say it's even outright unreasonable at a whole bunch of occasions. As per usual in the Super Mario Bros. (and World) series, an extra world is unlocked after the initial ass-kicking is done; why not just give us one extra world to begin with... we could really use one.

Further adding to the difficulty are the controls, which are still not perfect, and make us fear all the new stuff this game has in store. Surprisingly it's the Nunchuk that seems to break more often than the 'Mote; Mario seems to either slow down, or stop altogether whenever you suddenly change direction in the middle of the most urgent run, and both Rock Mario and Dash Pepper-powered Yoshi are almost impossible to keep in some modest form of control. I've lost hundreds of lives in this game just because of the glitchy analog control and that alone. That's not an angry gamers' view, that's a fact which I've had other people see for themselves - people that would be happy to point out that I'm just a bitter, frustrated old gamer, and that there's nothing wrong with the controls. Since the quality of the controls at the very least is a flaw that the player can't do zilch about, "unreasonable" is pretty much the one word to describe Super Mario Galaxy 2...

VERDICT

...But, if only it were that simple. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is also, at its core, a very good and entertaining game, and slightly better than the first one. Hell, let's just say it: one of the best Mario platformers there is, at the very least of the few most recent generations. Whereas New Super Mario Bros. goes for the faithful recreation of the most classic 2D Mario set-up, Super Mario Galaxy does the same to the 3D schtick of Super Mario 64 (adding in the gravity mechanics, of course). Neither one of these arcs never hit the prime of their respective concepts, in my opinion; it was the actual cross (not just an occasional mash-up) between the 2D and 3D realms of the Mario franchise that hit the ultimate jackpot of these times. I guess that one's up next.

< 8.9 >

maanantai 1. elokuuta 2016

REVIEW - Super Mario Galaxy

GENRE(S): Platformer
AVAILABLE ON: Wii, Wii U (Virtual Console)
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2007

You could say that by finally reviewing Super Mario Galaxy, I've come full circle. In the very beginning of this whole blog, in the very first review I ever published in August of 2010 (Super Mario Bros.), I slipped in a little something to bash this game. I've similarly taken advantage of a few later situations just to tell you how overrated I thought this game always was. Just recently, I've gone back to my Galaxy-bashing mode as if to say "a review of Super Mario Galaxy is coming". Just to assure you I've got nothing severe against this game just for the heck of it - or just because it's a Wii game - it's only fitting that six years after my first review, almost to the exact date, I'll finally come clean with what bothers me about this game. Also, all the stuff there is to love about Super Mario Galaxy. Yes, to be perfectly honest, this essentially direct successor to the almighty Super Mario 64 is a great game. Just not quite as amazing as the Nintendo 64 classic was upon its arrival; it suffers from occasional technical slumps and in my personal opinion, in all of its admittedly fresh appeal it often feels a bit too distant from a vintage Mario set-up.

Supernova

In perhaps his most insane fit to date - as an epic update to his stunt in the original Paper Mario - Bowser tears Princess Peach's castle right off its foundations, and into outer space. Mario manages to hitch a ride, but is spotted by Kamek and tossed to another planet, which is actually a giant observatory run by a beautiful enchantress named Rosalina. With the help of her and her "children", and the magic of the 120 Power Stars scattered across the near galaxies, Mario attempts to reach the center of the universe where Bowser's keeping his still as lovely, yet still as unwilling bride-to-be.

Oh gravity, thou art a heartless bitch.
First impressions often are the most important ones, especially in the world of video games. An hour into a game - depending on the game, of course - you'll very often know if it's any good, or interesting enough to see through. Many Mario games, actually the most Mario games I've ever played, have left me with an amazing first impression. Sometimes that impression has stuck with me through the whole game, sometimes they've fallen flat towards the end. My first impression of Super Mario Galaxy was just ghastly. It was a brand new game back then; not the first game I ever played on the Wii, but the first to force the Wiimote and Nunchuk combo on me. I originally found them very uncomfortable. I found the game very uncomfortable, as well, and although I knew very well that it was more or less a Super Mario 64 sequel - that is, a sequel to one of the best games ever made - the first 30 minutes weren't any sign of it. Cutscenes after cutscenes, tutorials after tutorials, the gameplay felt all weird due to the gravity mechanics and the round shape of the playfields... there was nothing about it that justified such praise the game got from just about everywhere. Not to mention getting nominated for the fancy title of the greatest Mario game ever. Then I finally got to collecting Power Stars, and at its best moments, the game really felt like a Super Mario 64 revival. Then, I realized how much I missed that game, and that maybe I should go and play Super Mario 64 instead. So I did, and I never touched Super Mario Galaxy again. Until now. The same feelings lingered, but I was determined to suck it all up and not rest until I'd seen the credits. After the very slow passing of, say, two hours, the hours started to tick away like seconds for a fine period of time. I realized I was always wrong about this game. I was right about a notable sum of things, but the truth is that Super Mario Galaxy has its amazing moments. It's not the best Mario game ever made, but had I missed out on it completely due to my thick negativity towards its oddities and the excessive hype that followed in its wake, I would've died as a very sad Mario fan.

Super Mario 128 (...it was actually called that first)

After the odd and dare I say, humble beginnings of the game, we are thrust into a gravity-based outer space adventure that indeed plays out almost exactly like Super Mario 64 in its core. Serving as a substitute for the castle, we have the observatory - which, unlike the castle, practically shoves its few secrets in your face. The observatory is kind of like a castle in itself, with a terrace, fountain, bedroom, kitchen, and finally, engine room, all of which serve as hubs for galaxy exploration. There's also a library, in which Rosalina tells her and the observatory's origins in the form of an illustrated fairy tale; the more you advance in the game, the more chapters of this darn cute story are unlocked. The story of the game is uncharacteristically deep, and while you're still basically doing the same stuff you've been doing in these games since Super Mario Bros., there's more to it than just saving that damn damsel in distress from the most stubborn old turtle there is. As to how necessarily we needed more than that age-old core plot to keep us entertained, that's another thing completely.

I'm-a Commander Maaariooo, and this is my favourite store on
the Citadella.
The galaxies are the paintings of the game, and they all have a different amount of Power Stars to collect, from one to five, unlike in Super Mario 64 where each painting held seven Power Stars, and the rest were scattered in secret locations and levels all around the castle and its grounds. This allows the inclusion of a whole truckload of different galaxies and level themes to explore, and like I said, the observatory has its secrets, which are shoved straight into your face assuming you're being at least somewhat of an explorer, and are willing to go for some extra challenges which are outright presented to you - you don't have to look for anything special to unlock these, you'll just have to win. If you're not fully comfortable with the control scheme, you'd better get used to it if you're going for 100% completion in Super Mario Galaxy. I'd say fully conquering Super Mario Galaxy is very challenging, but not as challenging as conquering Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or Super Mario 64. Once you get used to the controls, some of it's outright child's play. The final boss level isn't as bad as it first seems, you can skip a whole lot of tough levels - you need half of the Power Stars in the game to finish it, even less than in Super Mario 64 - but it's the different Comet challenges, Luigi rescues and secret racing levels which are the shit, assuming you're interested in the game beyond being able to make it to the credits. Super Mario Galaxy ain't over quickly, not even for the most casual of casual players.

With the strange (and somewhat unbelonging) worlds, comes a bunch of new power-ups. Super Mario 64's health points are back, but so are Super Shrooms which were missing from that game - they now double Mario's health until his first defeat. The Fire Flower has been downgraded to a temporary perk, alongside Starman and the new Ice Flower, which serves a different purpose than in the New Super Mario Bros. series. This item allows Mario to walk on water and lava, and jump between adjacent waterfalls as if they were solid walls. The Bee power-up allows you to fly for a limited period of time, and is cancelled out if you hit water. The Boo power-up allows you to pass through mesh walls and windows. The Spring, now that's a shitlist favourite if there ever was one. This turns Mario into a Slinky, which means he moves by springing up from the ground, and if you push the A button at the exact right time, he jumps really high. You can just imagine the comfort of the controls with that one, especially in a level that is wholly built of narrow pathways. Good thing about these disappointing power-ups is that they're very gimmicky, they're basically novelties needed for one or two levels in the whole game each, with the exception of the Bee item that appears numerous times throughout the game. That's OK, it's definitely the most useful one out of all these crap items.

An underwater boss in a 3D Mario game? ...Not quite as bad
as it sounds.
Star Bits somewhat replace the classic coins, which are now essentially health items - but you only have to collect 50 of them to gain an extra life, and ones that are too far for you to reach, you can collect by simply pointing the Wiimote at 'em. Throughout the game, you meet a lot of Lumas (Rosalina's star children) who actually eat those Star Bits, those damn cannibals, and will grant you passage to extra Power Star challenges within levels, and to extra levels from the observatory. They are pretty cool to keep an eye out for. After Luigi is rescued from a certain predicament in a certain galaxy, he sets off looking for Power Stars on his own, and usually gets his ass lost or captured. He's that brother no one wants to have, but can't live without, so of course you'll go look for him, deducing his whereabouts from a photograph you'll get from the observatory's Mail Toad, for another Power Star. Finally, the Comet challenges - these include speedrun versions of previously completed missions, tricky and precise races against your shadow self (that damn thing from Sunshine and one certain game where he totally ravaged my nerves), daredevil challenges which pit you against a boss with only one health point to spare, just to mention a few. These are quite fun, but completing them all is only for completists who are fully at home with the controls.

Before I let this one off the hook and head into Super Mario Galaxy 2 - which I've heard from many reliable sources to be the real thing, suddenly... - I have to commend this game for one special feat. Super Mario Galaxy is possibly the greatest sum of musical score in a Mario game, ever. The epic, yet still somewhat goofy and quirky soundtrack by Mahito Yokota and Nintendo court magician Koji Kondo is like a cross between Star Trek, Star Wars, even The Legend of Zelda (as my friend wanted to add) and classic Mario. One couldn't even imagine a better soundtrack for an adventure among the stars starring Mario. If it's not the best collective ever, then it's right up there with Super Mario World. It's really refreshing after the disappointing and repetitive soundtrack of the New Super Mario Bros. series.

VERDICT

Super Mario Galaxy is a clever, fresh and stellar platformer, which occasionally stumbles on its own unusual being. The controls aren't perfect, the game starts off very slow, but as it starts picking up the pace, it very often reaches the gold standard of its spiritual predecessor. Like I said, it's still not my favourite Mario game, but I have to admit, it's the most refreshing Mario experience I've had in recent months, and it comes from a mighty fine place, with a mighty fine purpose. All about that snotty first impression all those years back hasn't been forgotten, but most of it has.

8.8

maanantai 25. heinäkuuta 2016

REVIEW - New Super Mario Bros. Wii

GENRE(S): Platformer
AVAILABLE ON: Wii, Wii U (Virtual Console)
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo
RELEASE DATE: November 12, 2009

After the great success of Super Mario Galaxy, Mario creator and producer Shigeru Miyamoto went on to recreate a classic Super Mario Bros. game for multiple players. He had toyed with the idea several times in the past, as far back as in the Nintendo 64's heyday, but found it impossible to create a fully functional game of such premise until Wii had proven its capabilities. Miyamoto's hand-picked "Team Mario" basically remade New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS, heavily revamping the level design to accommodate a 4-player game, the new power-ups and their advantages, and finally the motion detection feature of the Wii. The result, arguably a far more exciting platformer game than the first New Super Mario Bros. title, and another remarkable entry point to Mario's adventures in the 21st century alongside its sequel, the previously reviewed 3DS iteration.

Wee-he-hee

Princess, Mario, Luigi, Toad. Birthday party at Mushroom Castle. Bowser crashes party. Princess gone. Oh yeah, Mario time!

20-something minutes into New Super Mario Bros. Wii - my first touch to a classic Wii game in seven years, I might add - I had made so many observations, that I had to pause the game every now and then to write it all down on paper, it's all very essential review stuff, in better and worse. First and foremost, most importantly, I have to explain my discomfort - in lack of a better word - with this particular series of games, 'cause now it's clear as day. Mario games have always been about something new. Every Mario platformer I've ever played has been notably different from all the others. Even the international version of the NES trilogy was comprised of three totally different games, and I think it was the huge, somewhat unexpected success of Super Mario Bros. 2, that prompted Miyamoto and his followers to strive for a completely different game every time they took on a new Mario project. When we have a game called New Super Mario Bros., we expect it to live up to its name. In the first game's case, all it needed to be was an entertaining platformer. It turned out a bit boring (on my personal account), but it was a Nintendo DS game; it had certain limitations, so everything's OK. When a Wii iteration came along - let's just pretend I cared back then - the expectations were much higher. Those expectations were certainly met, but what we had here was basically a remake of the Nintendo DS game. Oh well, maybe it was all part of the plan. Then came New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo 3DS - the same. Then, New Super Mario Bros. U - up next for a more thorough gutting - basically a remake of a remake. Namely, this game. With two fantastic, not to mention, hella inventive 3D-branded adventures in the between, for the 3DS and the Wii U, one has to wonder why this repetitive series is still widely considered superior. (I'll not even start with Super Mario Galaxy's alleged superiority to just about everything.)

Yoshi's back, but not as much more than a gratuitous cameo.
On a lighter note, which finally leads us to the actual review of this game, I also noticed that there is no better controller for a New Super Mario Bros. adventure than the Wii Remote. Its size and scheme are just right for this game. Motion control is so much comfier with the Remote than the Wii U gamepad - I'll have to replay New Super Mario Bros. U with the Remote before reviewing that game, 'cause I had gotten all ready to bash the game's motion-based controls. The only thing wrong with the Remote in relation to this particular game is the size of the digital pad. I have huge thumbs, been working 'em out for the last 30 years after all. It's very hard to maintain constant speed and momentum in the game - speed and momentum are very often the keys to success in a Mario platformer - as it's way too common to press to all directions at once. Death-defying running jumps - Mario ducks down when he's supposed to jump straight forward at the absolute nick of time with no second chances. Then it's "oh noooooo". Oh well, can't blame the game, or even the controller, for how the world built me up.

Koopa Party Poopa

Move and tilt the platform by moving and tilting the 'mote.
I'll surely return to this subject soon enough.
Instead of just duking it out with Bowser Jr. for most of the game's duration, you are also treated to a huge comeback by his seven siblings, who've been absent from a traditional Mario platformer scheme since Super Mario World. In a bit of a twist, you face all of 'em twice during the main game of eight worlds; first, in the mid-world fortress where they lay down the basics of how to fight 'em, and then in the world castle, where Kamek appears to buff them up with some magical enhancements, and/or manipulate the level itself. The boss fights are pretty clever and exciting, including the few showdowns with Bowser Jr. on the vintage airships, and the final fight against Bowser ain't nothing short of blood-pumping. Two thumbs up to the boss fights.

Another motion-based level where the direction of the
spotlights depends on the 'mote's position.
The power-ups also get two thumbs up. The Mega Mushroom is ousted, perhaps because it doesn't sit well with the multiplayer endorsement of the game - I haven't even tried the multiplayer game, in case you're wondering. I hear it's pretty damn neat, but I don't know... I have enough trouble as it is in the single-player game... anyway. The Mini Mushroom is still in, unfortunately, but I don't remember seeing more than one level where it would be needed for any cause, and they're never found from the field, only won in minigames. So, why am I complaining? Perhaps I shouldn't, 'cause we have 1) The Ice Flower. It's basically the same as a Fire Flower, but instead of outright killing enemies, it freezes them, after which you can use them as platforms or throwing weapons. Additionally, the Ice Flower works on many enemies that cannot be harmed (or killed) with any other type of attack; for example, you can freeze a Dry Bones and afterwards crush him with the Ground Pound, or put a Podoboo's flame out with just one shot. Very handy. 2) The Penguin suit. Now this is just useless on most occasions, but you will definitely see the good in it whenever you're in a water- or ice (yuck)-based level. You can slide across ice killing every enemy just by bumping into them, and swim much, much more fluidly while in this get-up. 3) The Propeller power-up. ...You know, I won't even go into it. All I can say is that it's a God damn lifesaver, and makes good use of the motion detection feature. Good use, as in proves to a stubborn old fool how great such a feature is.

The level design could be better, but then again, it IS already much better than in the previous DS game. It's not just one identical level after another, there's a lot of shuffle going on constantly, and even in the twilight of the game, there are plenty of levels that are thrown in as peacemakers after lengthy stretches of absolute insanity - or elaborately, levels that are easier for a 2D Mario veteran to cope with. I think that fixed statement hit the target much better, after all New Super Mario Bros. Wii is NOT, under any circumstances, an easy game. But it is a fun game, which will please veterans and newcomers, single players and multiplayer enthusiasts, alike.

VERDICT

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a great platformer, a huge improvement over the first game in the New Super Mario Bros. series. Instead of going into more detailed stuff as to how it still lacks the excitement of the very best in the Mario franchise, and how I and the developers still have some slight differences in the creation of entertaining level design, I'll just bow my head, thank the developers for their fine work in recreating a classic Mario game for us who appreciate them over any Sunshine or Galaxy, and take my leave to work on the next one. Thank you.

8.5 

maanantai 18. heinäkuuta 2016

Mario & Donkey Kong: 35th Anniversary!

...Over a week ago, that is. I'm a tad late, but there are plenty of reasons for that, both proper and not so proper ones. I'm a really systematic guy, and after I wrote the review for New Super Mario Bros. 2 all those weeks ago, I found myself in a loop 'cause I had no New Super Mario Bros. Wii to review. I was heading into New Super Mario Bros. U instead, and that just wouldn't do. I had to get that one game from the between on my plate. So I went to a local retro store (I fucking love that shop) and found it immediately; for a very reasonable price, no less. Then, since I couldn't find a compatible controller combo for any sum relatively as reasonable, I turned to a favorable mail order company, and found a Wii Remote + Nunchaku combo for about 60% cheaper than anywhere else. Of course I ordered that set. Days went by, then weeks, then my schedule got filled with all kinds of stuff such as the Tuska Metal Festival and my birthday party, and I was totally hooked on a certain Legend of Zelda game, I kinda forgot the whole Mario and DK anniversary, and that I'm still waiting for the controllers to show up. It turns out they've still got my order, it's just that they had to order a new batch of those controllers and one of the games I ordered along with 'em themselves, which is the cause of the remarkable delay. That's fine by me, I wouldn't have had time to play any other games anyway. Well, I'm returning to my actual day job tomorrow - good vacation, btw - so if I'm going to do this, it has to be done right now. I'll get back to actually reviewing games as soon as I can - and it's kinda obvious my plans are to pay homage to the Zelda series' 30th anniversary as well, and get some reviews, which have been a long time coming, out of the way. But, only through reviews - I'm not that much of a fan of the franchise. These two guys, on the other hand, made up for the best parts of my childhood.

Radar Scope, the game that "evolved" into
Donkey Kong.
By early 1981, Taito's Space Invaders and Namco's Pac-Man had taken North American arcades by storm. A relative newcomer to the video game industry in the capacity of a developer, Nintendo had attempted expansion into North American territories numerous times, most recently with an arcade shooter named Radar Scope. While Radar Scope did become a big hit in Japan, only a handful of cabinets was sold in the West. Instead of attempting to launch yet another game, the company - under orders from the legendary president Hiroshi Yamauchi - recalled the unsold cabinets for reprogramming. 28-year old designer named Shigeru Miyamoto convinced Yamauchi that he's got a gameplay idea that could well be an international break for Nintendo. Hopeful, yet skeptical of the young designer's talent, Yamauchi appointed Nintendo's main designer Gunpei Yokoi as the project's supervisor, and a $100,000 budget for the game's development.

Around that same time, Nintendo had applied to King Features Syndicate for a license to make a video game based on the Popeye comic strip and cartoon - somewhat inspired by the recent feature film adaptation. The game, designed by Miyamoto, was basically done already, but when King Features turned the offer down, the game was basically converted into Miyamoto's Nintendo-saving project. Popeye was replaced with a carpenter called Mr. Video, Olive Oyl with a damsel in distress called The Lady, and finally, Bluto with a gorilla, as inspired by the film King Kong. He didn't want to create a monster, he wanted to create more of a character that was neither a hero or a villain, more of an endearing character with primal qualities that made him a nuisance rather than a manifestation of evil. The game is known as the first ever to have had a storyline written before the actual programming took place. Pleased with the results, Yamauchi laid down one more condition for the game's release: since it was targeted at North American audiences, he wanted it to have an English title. Instead of going over the numerous myths surrounding the title of the game, I'll just go with the most popular one: since King Kong was not an option, Miyamoto came up with the title of Monkey Kong, which he then rephrased Donkey Kong, because he and Yokoi felt that "Donkey" was a proper word to describe the quirky nature of Donkey Kong and his owner's rivalry - the "owner", originally called Mr. Video, then Jumpman, was renamed Mario in North American releases of the game (after Nintendo of America's landlord Mario Segale). His signature clothing and moustache were actually the product of Miyamoto's desire to create a fleshed-out human character as opposed to the matchstick men and formless protagonists of the past; his overalls were painted in the opposing colours of blue and red so players could see his arms move, and the moustache was added in for a distinguishing facial feature.

Gunpei Yokoi with his former apprentice, now master designer
Shigeru Miyamoto in 1994. Best known as the creator of Metroid,
Yokoi passed away in a tragic car accident in 1997.
Although Nintendo of America's sales manager disliked the game - reportedly for being so different from every other arcade game on the market - and even the distributors had doubts because of the game's title, Minoru Arakawa who was in charge of Nintendo of America at the time managed to convince them of the game's impending success, so a few machines were green-lit for testing. The initial turn-out was $30 per cabinet a day. The remaining Radar Scope cabinets were converted into Donkey Kong machines, and put on sale on July 9th, 1981. Thus, the legends of Donkey Kong and Mario were born - as well as the modern platformer genre, in which Donkey Kong is preceded only by Universal Entertainment's Space Panic from 1980.

After this story of how Mario and Donkey Kong were born, I hope to tell you more such stories as I go on doing this celebration of a marathon, until there are no stories left to tell. Needless to say, both characters are still going strong, both together and separate, with well over a hundred releases between them, and I consider myself blessed, having been a fan for over 25 years. Here's to the next 35 years, cheers!

maanantai 27. kesäkuuta 2016

The Legend of Mania: Article of Awesomeness

Fresh off the EPIC season finale of one God damn masterpiece of a TV show known to us sons of the North as Game of Thrones, I really felt like writing something. It's the excessive blood pressure that does that to a man. First, I thought about writing something on Game of Thrones, but it has come to my attention that many of my friends - and readers - haven't even gotten started with the new season at all. (Get a move on, Jon Slow!) Then, I thought about doing a quick review on Telltale Games' original story based on the lore, but it's been a while since I saw it through and I've yet to have found the energy to go at it again. Let's just say the six-episode series in the traditional (and worn) Telltale Games style had its moments, but it was far from being everything I expected from a Game of Thrones game adaptation. Continuing on with the Mario vs. Donkey Kong marathon is certainly a possibility, but I'm not quite ready to do that just yet. But, I will tell you this much: the marathon will continue much further than what I originally planned. There are a lot of games related to this classic rivalry that I suddenly feel the urge to review. But, it will not be a completely straight line of Mario and Donkey Kong reviews - I will certainly need a break at some point. But, I'm almost certain that I will be doing reviews of Nintendo games quite some time; I have a lot of catching up to do.

Which brings us back to business; after going over ideas on what I should write about for about ten minutes, it came to me clear as day. I totally missed E3 this year, focusing on getting accustomed to my new work habitat, getting to know a lot of new people and my plans for the last three weeks of my summer vacation. I certainly didn't forget the expo, though. As soon as I had some spare time, I dug up every trailer and every bit of info on every remotely interesting game presented at E3. Now if you have followed me since the beginning, or at least -ish, you know there was a relative shitload of games from my favourite franchises on show, including what I predict to be the game of the decade by its ten-minute trailer alone: God of War. However, I've written a lot about God of War and that series alone in the past, so I can't base another whole article on it with a good conscience. Let's take a deeper look at the best of what E3 had to offer. (Let me just say that I've pre-ordered all of the main games of this article already, although not every one of them has a confirmed release date... or even year.)

Say what you will about abandoning the
old. As a newborn near-fan, I'm excited.
What I find kind of funny is that some of these games, I first talked about them years ago on this blog, long before I took it offline, and even now they're not even close to fruition. First of these games is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Back then, it was simply known as The Legend of Zelda. Back then, I also said that it's surely an interesting game, but not for me personally, 'cause I'm not a Zelda fan, not a Nintendo supporter and I don't own a Wii U. All of those things have changed. While I still don't exactly consider myself a Zelda fan - I've been overtly critical towards the series since the release of Ocarina of Time all the way back in 1998 - I now own a legal copy of every game in the main series, with the exception of Spirit Tracks, and I've enjoyed many of them. Most notably A Link Between Worlds, of course because of its strong connection to my favourite Zelda game of all time, and Phantom Hourglass, to my complete and utter surprise since it's wholly based on the use of the DS touch screen, which I'm still not a huge fan of. I'm currently on the brink of completing The Wind Waker (the HD version), a great game as well - I'm moving on to Twilight Princess right after, and from what I've heard, that game has the potential of becoming my favourite Zelda right after A Link to the Past. So has this upcoming game, judging by what I've seen. Hell, what we've all seen. You've got to watch the trailer if you ever had so much as any respect for this series...

...But, the trailer's not that good in itself. I'm not a huge fan of these gameplay trailers that the rest of the world seems to love nowadays, 'cause they very often tend to paint a wrong sort of picture about the game. I'm more into the feels of a wholly cinematic trailer. Either way, the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did manage to show off a good deal of all the new sorts of elements that will surely be a large part of the game experience, and not bore me out of my socks like these gameplay trailers usually do. It would seem that this game has a more or less full voiceover track, which will surely divide opinions amongst those who prefer voice acting and those who prefer the random cries of "yay", "com'on!" and "splyysh" of the past. As to what the world looks like - I think I'd better dig up Skyrim from the dust for a warm-up. This is clearly going to be, by all means, the biggest game Nintendo has ever made, and the closest to an RPG they've ever made themselves - not to mention the closest to an RPG Zelda's ever been. At least I think that's a fabulous thing.

It's like meeting an old girlfriend at a bar. You're a bit confused,
but damn, you wanna hit that.
Speaking of gameplay trailers, it's already a good time to talk about God of War. Excuse me... GOOOOOOD OF WAAAAAAAAAARRRR!!! "I haven't forgotten you... or what you did that night." Throughout its span, Kratos' quest for vengeance (for things he brought upon himself, that beloved asshole) was (and still is) some of the best journeys I've ever taken, one which I will certainly embark on yet again in the future, in its non-flawless entirety. Most likely once the release date for this whole new chapter in the strange timeline of the Ghost of Sparta is nailed down. At first, when I heard that a game called God of War was up for release on the PlayStation 4, I naturally thought that they were going to re-release the series once again (which I'm sure they will, sooner than we think) under one title. Then, I heard it's going to be a new game. I didn't even consider the possibility of a new prequel, since Ascension didn't make much sense as what it was. Then I saw just a small weeny bit of the trailer and thought the guy who looks like Kratos is not Kratos at all, but some reborn namesake version of him, a physical piece of fan service. Then I paid attention to THAT scar and some very small details in the background that ensured me that this guy is the very same Kratos. Only now, he's in Norway, battling it out with the Gods of the North. ...How awesome can awesome get, exactly? Or strange?

Well, as we long-time God of War fans know - I love you, brothers - this was one of creator David Jaffe's original ideas, alongside the Kratos vs. brother schtick they used up in Ghost of Sparta, not to have the series stuck in one mythological setting. Kratos, the character, was probably not a part of that idea, but the current creative directors saw that Kratos belongs in God of War as much as Mario belongs in Mario Bros.. Which I totally agree on. I'm not sure how they'll twist this up, seeing that Kratos committed suicide in the end of God of War III, but judging by the gameplay trailer and the simple fact that God of War is coming back, as well as regarding my personal infatuation with Norse myth, I'm very interested in seeing how this turns out. Once again though, I would've preferred a cinematic trailer. This one shows off a little too much, and it goes on for too long. Never thought I'd say that about a sneak peek on a whole new God of War game.

On to another favourite of mine, which still remains an almost complete enigma, after being "shown off" at several expos throughout the last couple of years, and another game I already was going apeshit about a few years back. The developer's most recent title proved that they're still very much in the game, and I actually regret not having reviewed that particular title right before originally pulling the plug on VGMania (I still have the draft, but I'd have to make so many changes that I'd have to start it all over again in any case). The developer I'm speaking of is BioWare, that most recent title being Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the future game none other than Mass Effect: Andromeda. Judging by the very little we've actually seen, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a very logical sequel to Mass Effect 3, although the main emphasis is on rebooting the franchise, and bringing back all that stuff fans of classic Mass Effect love. Well, if the example of Dragon Age: Inquisition is anything to go by, here, I think we'll have exactly what BioWare promises. Alas, very little is still known of this upcoming sci-fi epic, besides some random details on Shepard's replacement Ryder, and the facts we've known since and even before the release of Inquisition. The trailer once again wasn't much of a trailer.

Who in the world is the Coon? Perhaps we'll find out in
December.
Last for the main course, we have the sequel to perhaps the most surprising hit of 2014: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (see what they did there?). Now when they first announced this game, it seemed it would take an eternity for this game to reach gold, but it was later I realized, and especially after hearing the dialogue in the actual trailer, that Parker and Stone were waiting for the opportune moment for a new South Park game to strike at what it was supposed to strike at, just like episodes of the show (and The Stick of Truth) before it. The new game is another RPG, loaded with timely satire (mostly on the Marvel and DC cinematic universes) and a casual, yet exciting and positively hilarious role-playing interface. At least that's what I'm expecting, and I'm counting on it so much that I actually pre-ordered the Collector's Edition of the game. It's the only game in the bunch that's confirmed to come out later this year.

Before I start packing for my 14th trip to the Tuska metal festival in Helsinki, plus getting together with tons of friends to have fun with besides the festival, there are a few more games I simply have to mention. First off, Skyrim is coming back as a new-generation edition with all of Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn in tow. Not much of a surprise there, but a word from the wise! I avoided Skyrim for years, until it was reasonably priced. If you're still in the dark about this game's greatness, do not hesitate to buy the new version right when it comes out. Even if you're not a big fan of RPG's, even if you're not an Elder Scrolls fan, I implore you to get this game. You'll not be disappointed. Batman is coming back not only by means of the Arkham collection, but the previously teased Telltale Games title. Now I know what I said about the Telltale Games style being a bit worn out after all these years, but... it's Batman. Troy Baker-voiced Batman. They're using the Animated Series font, for Alfred's sake. Speaking of Telltale Games, The Walking Dead: Season Three is also coming up. I guess I'll have to get that for completion's sake, but if Michonne is anything to go by, I'm not expecting great results. Square Enix failed to deliver a new presentation of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake (can you say "FINALLY"?), but delivered info on the Final Fantasy XII remaster, the new Star Ocean game, and an intriguing throwback title called World of Final Fantasy, up for release on the PlayStation 4 and Vita in October.

Kojima Productions make their return as an independent developer, following up on the success of the Konami-produced Silent Hills P.T. demo with a game called Death Stranding, also starring Norman Reedus on a quest for... something very strange. We'll have to see how this turns out. Meanwhile, check out the teaser and make your own conclusions on what kind of game it'll be, I don't really care what kind of game it'll be. I don't care whether it'll take years for it to manifest, whether it'll turn out a PlayStation 6 or 7 exclusive. I just hope Kojima is able to fuck Konami violently up the ass. That company has totally lost its edge.

Speaking of (I love "speaking of") losing edge: Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. One of my lifelong favourites in the field of video games, Resident Evil turns 20 years old. There have been a lot of bad spin-offs, and four years ago, Resident Evil 6 contaminated the main series as well. For the first time ever, I was not crazy about a new main series title in the Resident Evil series - hell, I watched the trailer for the first time yesterday. Resident Evil VII seems to pick up where the aforementioned P.T. left off; it's just perfect, Resident Evil bluntly taking what its once-rival almost started. But, I'm still a bit torn about Resident Evil becoming a first-person ghostbusting game. I'll just have to see how it works. Since I'm more adjusted to first-person games these days, I'm not taking anything for granted, and because of my love for (games 1, 2, 4 and 5 of) this franchise, I'm willing to give Resident Evil VII the benefit of the doubt - as long as critics like it. But, I'm not placing my pre-order just yet.

Well, that's about it. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you once I'm ready to take on New Super Mario Bros. U.

lauantai 25. kesäkuuta 2016

REVIEW - New Super Mario Bros. 2

GENRE(S): Platformer
AVAILABLE ON: 3DS
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo
RELEASE DATE: July 28, 2012

Actually, this game should be called New Super Mario Bros. 3; it's actually the third game in the New Super Mario Bros. series, and I don't see any good reason as to why it's called "2". New Super Mario Bros. 3DS, that would've been consistent. Oops, I forgot: it's not a 3D game. OK, so what we have here, either way, is the third entry in the series that started with New Super Mario Bros. for the original DS in 2006. It's another spiritual successor to the very first Super Mario Bros. titles (including what we know as The Lost Levels), featuring a lot of gameplay elements, designs and mechanics that came along long after those classic games. The first New Super Mario Bros. game was a huge disappointment for me, and I have so far managed to miss the Wii game completely (it's actually one of those Mario titles I literally MISSED altogether, as in failed to note its release!). New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a very good game. It's not that different from what we've seen before in this particular series of Mario games, and its extra gimmick is not that interesting, but it's a fluid, extremely entertaining handheld platformer nonetheless, its influences come from the right places, and both its level and enemy design are far beyond what its direct predecessor had to offer - relativity noted - six years back. This is exactly what I expected from New Super Mario Bros. - it's not the best fairly recently released Mario game out there, but it's a damn good entry point to the modern times for Mario veterans and the new generation alike.

Mario '12

Mario and Luigi take off on a coin hunt. Meanwhile, you know who along with his seven bastards get the chance to snatch Peach (Toadstool.) in total peace. Upon discovering that they have YET another princess-rescuing mission ahead of them, the Mario Brothers decide to mix their little game of gold rush with serious work, Not only are they after Bowser, but the kingdom-wide record of finding one million coins along the way.

I can tell you right now, even if focusing on collecting the most coins possible isn't my favourite way to start a new Mario game, I had much better vibes with this title from the start than I ever had from start to finish with the first New Super Mario Bros. game. It's not that different, really - hell, some of the levels are almost identical to some of the levels in the first game. However, it has somewhat better controls, it looks absolutely fantastic, and no matter how much some levels indeed resemble levels found in the first one, the level design is generally speaking so much more innovative, clever and exciting. It's a much more daring game, in a word. After a game like Super Mario 3D Land, it's obvious New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn't exactly push the 3DS to its limits, but it's just as technologically awesome as a vintage Super Mario Bros. game on a handheld can be. I'll give it that.

Things get pretty crazy with the Golden Flower.
What might also jog my curiosity and enthusiasm towards this game, including its sights and sounds, is its variety of influences, that most come from two of my absolute favourite 2D games in this series from ages past - Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. First of all, and most importantly, the three dumb power-ups that almost utterly destroyed a good part of the DS original are (almost) omitted from the fray. and replaced with the classic Super Leaf from Super Mario Bros. 3, and a couple of power-ups that primarily exist to produce a shitload of money - a Golden Flower which lets you shoot fireballs that break bricks into coins, and a very strange curiosity item, a "brick mask" that produces money from every move you make, the faster the better, for a limited amount of time, or until you take damage. There are also some golden rings about, which turn all the enemies to gold, and if you defeat them in that time window, they yield tens of coins upon defeat. It's kinda cool, really, but of course, you'd have to be into collecting coins a bit more than me. Also, since collecting coins is such a focus point in this game, and their primary function is still the same after almost 30 years, it takes no genius to figure out that it's almost impossible to see a Game Over screen in this game. There's a good bit of tension missing - but I guess that's the sign of the times.

What about the children?

The Mega Mushroom is still in, but as even more of a novelty
item than before.
The Koopalings already made their long-awaited return in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but since I missed that game - it's so damn good to have these rascals back! ...And, to be completely honest, these seven confrontations are probably my favourite boss fights ever against this particular collective of henchmen. The order in which you face these guys is a little shuffled up from the past, which is good, and what's even better: some of the Koopaling fights mirror the fights against them in Super Mario World, and some which were just basically harder copies off each other in that game have taken a turn into something completely new, moreover clever and exciting. Reznor returns, as a mid-world boss - that's a little disappointing, 'cause he (they) appears in every single world, and if you've played half as much of Super Mario World as I, he's easily dealt with throughout the game.

Every promising paragraph has ended with a slight downside, and it's true that New Super Mario Bros. 2 isn't the perfect Mario game, but the best thrills it offers are at the very least very close to what I'd expect from a 2D platformer with the Super Mario Bros. brand on it, and at even better times, the game manages to surpass my expectations. However, and still, having been released after such as mold-breaking masterpiece as Super Mario 3D Land (oops, I might've spoiled something there...), I still find this game somewhat lacking of excitement and true innovation. BUT, to a die-hard fan of classic Mario jump-action, I must say that New Super Mario Bros. 2 might very well be the best game in the NSMB series.

VERDICT

I kinda leaked it out there already, didn't I? New Super Mario Bros. 2 is everything that its direct predecessor on the original DS was, only a much better, more flowing and exciting platformer. If you're still in the dark of Mario's more recent exploits like I was a little over a year ago, but interested in how this jurassic icon is doing nowadays, I strongly suggest you dig up this game first. Like I said, it's a fabulous entry point for both young and old.

8.7