By Video_Game_King 32 Comments
Taboo: The Sixth Sense( Wait, you want an actual blog about this?) I kinda wasted all my material in the last blog. Still, I do have a two game rule. Hold on...
Super Mario Bros. 3 ( There we are.) Might as well revisit a game this time. I'd say that you're lucky that I'm choosing a game that you've actually heard of (even though For the Frog the Bell Tolls, like, just got an English translation five minutes ago), but I'm not so sure of that. After all, I hate blogging about big games, especially ones as big as Mario. Why? Everything worth saying has already been said to death, and it's hard to critique something that every gamer has ever played ever (that's why I'm not doing a Pac-Man blog, along with how I can't get one awesome/important joke to work). Plus it's hard to look impartial when you have the protagonist floating in both your banners. That said, news flash everybody: Super Mario Bros. 3 is a decent game.
Logically, I should skip over the story section because of all the same terrible jokes that people have made about it (I'll never understand the psyche of somebody who demands sex for favors). Logically, I should also stop lampshading poor writing tendencies, but when have I ever been logical? THE STORY IT IS! I know what you're thinking: it's just Bowser capturing the princess, right? Well, not really. He also decided to transform the Kings of the land into animals and plants and other random things. Why? It's not like they have armies or give a huge shit about Peach being captured, so I just think that Bowser is the ironic communist hipster of the Mushroom Kingdom (remember the Bowser Revolution in Mario Party?). That's what's I like about the story in this game: all the random, not-so-thought-out crap that Nintendo saw fit to include in this game. For example, the Princess letters. Let's ignore the fact that she refers to every power-up as a jewel (I guess Peach is the free spirit nature-y princess if she considers leaves and mushrooms to be jewels), or that every hint she gives is always useful for the level you won't face anytime soon. Instead, think about how the letters get to Mario in the first place. There's only one explanation: a Mushroom Mailman had to run out of Bowser's castle, past all the tanks and airships and traps, and deliver it to a King who is also surrounded by airships and traps. Where the hell is that game? Why am I playing as a plumber in what has to be the most Japanese game you will ever play? (This is probably the first thing you should think about when you hear the word "Japan.") Give me Super Badass Mailman 3, Nintendo!
Eh, screw it, I'll still play Super Mario Bros. 3. Just look at how much it added to Mario (the only reason I'm phrasing it like that is because of all the minor old school references to the original Mario, like how power-ups only work when you get them as big Mario), like a world map. I know that sounds like a minor thing, but it brings an oddly high amount of crap to the game. Aside from the levels and mini-boss levels and the regular boss levels, you also get a couple of mini-games, another type of mini-game for one world, some asshole Hammer/Boomerang/Fire Breathing Brothers (I guess they're part of the world's weirdest traveling circus), some freebie Toad houses, and (probably) some other things I'm not remembering. Oh, now I remember: the map designs themselves! They start off fairly simple, but over time, they become fairly complex, like navigating underwear pipe mazes or boating your way through the world of Final Fantasy VI. Wow, that sentence was completely useless. Might as well make up for it by describing the levels. Like the world map, they're always doing super creative shit. I'd tell you what types of creative things they do, but I'm sure you already know (I told you that I like blogging about obscure games), so I'll just leave it at World 4. Sometimes, things go by too fast for you to notice how awesome the levels are (Mario was already rolling and dashing through levels a full year before Sonic, apparnetly), but most of the time, it's easy to appreciate things like World 4. The only ones I really don't like are the airship levels. More often than not, they're just a random mishmash of cannons and fires and screws (I guess...fuck the guessing) without a lot of thought put into them. They look like ROM hackers just went absolutely crazy when they found out what ROM hacking allows you to do.
Damn it. That's the perfect place to transition into the power-ups, but I honestly can't think of anything. Pretend that I'm a decent writer (assuming you don't already...dick) and ignore these past few sentences. Anyway, the power-ups in this game are also pretty awesome. Not the standard ones, obviously; those limits you to boring things like growing twice your size, shooting fire from your hands, and flying with a butt-tail. Instead, look at what this game brings to the table...besides the butt-tail thing. You have Mario in a frog suit (furry), Mario in a hammer suit (S&M), a butt-tail that has taken over his entire body (more furry), and about nine hundred other weird fetishes to use in your quest to rescue the princess. I'd complain about how you don't get to see these fetishistic power-ups a lot (Mario's odd foot fetish only appears in one level...and that's it), but Nintendo thought that out fairly well and added an inventory system. I have zero criticisms against the system, so go watch an episode of Zero Punctuation or something if you want to hear complaints. What, you want actual complaints from me? Or at least a link? Fine, I'll cave: I guess the map power-ups aren't really too useful, and I guess that the power-ups aren't always properly balanced. Hell, I was usually able to fly past the sun with the game-breaking power of a P-Wing, and pretty much every boss quickly fell to a few fireballs.
Now that I think about it, this game's really easy. Not Epic Yarn easy (you'll probably hear about that soon), but it's still pretty easy. First up: the bosses I mentioned a bit earlier. Again, they fall to fireballs pretty quickly, but what if you lost your fire flower earlier in the level? Just jump on them three times. It's not particularly challenging, even with the added twist of "causing earthquakes" or "shoot a couple of projectiles." But let's say you die. What then? Don't worry, because there's always an extra life just waiting around the corner. I am not kidding about that. Every three levels, you're essentially guaranteed a 1-up with the game's lottery system. (You don't even have to match them to get a 1-up. The crap?) While that may not sound like much, remember that you can get the same card for the lottery each time if you run like crazy at it. To top that off, the one card you always get just so happens to be the one that gives the most lives. Damn it! I guess it makes up for it with some incredibly arcane secrets (how exactly would I know to crouch on the white block for an hour?), but that's not enough. I want some more challenging gameplay, even if the rest of the game is super awesome. Maybe I should play a masocore game or something. Excuse me while I make a terrible mistake.
- I'd say that there are more cool power-ups here than in Cocoron, but that would be a blatant lie. Super Mario Bros. 3 merely matches Cocoron in that number.
- Imagine if Nintendo retooled Mario to be more like Sonic. Now imagine that they did it in 1990. That's this game.
- Let me put it this way: it was easier beating this game than it was writing about it.
Somebody needs to air this on the History Channel. Maybe throw in something about Nostradamus and alien Nazis or some other dumb shit to entice them, then yank it out before it goes to air. Brilliant.
Aquaria( And so goes yet another game in the Humble Indie Bundle.) Now that I think about it, the end is approaching far more quickly than I had anticipated. I only have three games left (Cortex Command is perhaps the only game to be released as vaporware, apparently, and there are two games I can't run), and Samorost 2 rivals Taboo in terms of shortness, so I should be finished with it twelve weeks ago. It's a shame that it's going to be over so quickly, but I'm not worried. Why? Because if the rest of the games can even approximate Aquaria's greatness, then I'd use Braid powers to fuck with the timestream for a chance to play these games fresh again. (I'm not the type of person to replay games.)
Speaking of Braid, the story! I know that it sounds like a crap transition, but Aquaria shares one thing with Braid: a damn fine story that's somewhat confusing if you examine it too much. The game begins with our randomly British (given how the game plays out, I doubt there's an England in Aquaria) protagonist, Naija, hanging out in a cave. She soon exits the cave to find that the apocalypse has happened, and nobody told her about it. You know, because they all died. Now it's up to Naija to find out why the world went all Fragile Dreams on her lunch break. Normally, that whole apocalypse thing would destroy any chance of a story, and while you could probably make a case for that, Aquaria manages to squeak out a decent story. A lot of it is just Naija wandering into some random area and commenting on what the local people were like before they were raptured or whatever, adding quite a bit of atmosphere to the game (which depends entirely on its world). It doesn't hurt (most of the time) that the narrative manages to write off gameplay elements and player actions as pretty big plot points. That may not sound like much, but there's something satisfying about hearing how Naija felt when she first sang the Song of Storms ("I found it quite troubling that singing the Song of Storms transformed me into a swimming light bulb. Clearly, the irony was lost on the developer."), even if it gives way to some awkward tutorialish dialogue, like how Naija felt when her life force increased by singing to eggs. Yes, Aquaria's isn't necessarily perfect. For example, the non-linear nature of the game can lead to a disjointed story for all of a few areas, meaning that it jumps from theme to theme like Naija jumps from walls (yes, you can somehow wall jump underwater...somehow). Though there is something crazy about it: it still develops those themes rather nicely. When it tried its moral corruption hat on, I could clearly hear Naija gleefully laughing as I launched rockets into a giant jellyfish (more on the rockets later, though); but when it gets bored and decides that loneliness is the next big thing, it makes it very clear that poor little Naija is just a small speck in a giant fishbowl. How?
By making the game world ridiculously effing huge. I'd have prepared a visual comparison of it to Super Metroid's Zebes and Symphony of the Night's Dracula's Castles, but opening up a full size map of Earthbound Zero alone crashes my browser, and Aquaria is (obviously) MUCH larger than a grindy NES RPG. Also unlike what should have been called "A Suckier Earthbound", there's a lot to do in Aquaria. There are ancient warp turtles to find, random mini-bosses to kill for no discernible reason (even after the moral corruption theme part), the children of random mini-bosses to raise, a home to decorate (odd that somebody decided to add this feature in a game based on exploration), races to frustrate you a bit, and a bunch of other shit to discover. Of course, you're more likely to stumble on these things while wandering around the world (it's up to you whether or not said wandering is intentional) than you are to find them through some type of actual effort, simply because exploring the world is so damn cool. Part of the satisfaction comes from the "go anywhere" philosophy that underwater mechanics introduce (to everything that isn't SpongeBob, for reasons that continue to confuse me), but a lot of it comes from how user friendly the whole experience is. For example, remember how in Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night, your best way of knowing where you could now go was by looking at all the dead ends you created? Well, Derek Yu (the fish guy who created the game) thought of that and decided to give you map markers. This may sound like a minor feature, but it really adds a lot to the game. No longer will I be lost in the vast kelp forests of...the Kelp Forest; now I can slowly pound out a bunch of notes whenever I encounter something cool, like "tiny ass passage" and " this area sucks".
Of course, the world isn't entirely open to you right from the start. You want a Metroidvania without any barriers? Go nosecum on VVVVVV; this is a traditional Metroidvania where you have to get different items to backtrack around the world and crap like that. Only unlike the other two Metroidvanias anybody ever talks about because nobody has ever heard of Ufouria, you get all these cool power-ups through the power of song. All you do is just right click t-you know, now would be as good a time as any to bring up the contorls. You can either play the game with WASD or with the mouse, which is odd enough on its own, but the game is clearly biased toward the crapper option: the mouse. Sure, you can hotkey your way through the game...until you have to kill things. Now you need to use the mouse, even though moving with the same thing you use to aim generally isn't a good idea. Anyway, right click (or hotkey) a song (I should also mention that the music is really good and really well integrated with the world and really ripped from Lufia...OK, I'll focus) and you'll turn into a super cool version of Naija, like an evil energy form or a "fuck your physics" nature form. Understand that by "super cool", I'm obviously referring to how they look, because how they're actually used is a different story altogether. Their usefulness can jump all over the place, ranging from the super fast "ripped straight from The Sword in The Stone" fish to the pretty much useless nature form. What purpose does it serve other than to make the level designer cry? Still, though, every form manages to get a decent amount of focus at some point, even if it isn't at all points.
Which points would those be, again? Usually, it's boss battles. Actually, it's a bit inaccurate to call them "boss battles" since in most boss battles, you have to find an easily placed weak point and hammer it to death like a blacksmith on steroids. In Aquaria, the focus is less on casting magic missile on them and more on finding out how the hell you're supposed to hurt them in the first place. Most of the time, it's a pretty unique take on boss battles, but then you have the other times when you just can't figure out what the hell to do. Part of it's due to obtuse puzzles (more on that in a bit), but most of the time, it's just not understanding what the hell you can do. Maybe it's just me (I probably shouldn't say things like that), but I wasn't always able to figure out that I could grab poisonous enemies or that launching crap into dad's brain (according to the achievement) actually did something. Though now that I think about it, this is a bigger problem than just the boss battles; look at all the non-Metroidvania-y puzzles, and you start to realize that they're not that good. Perfect example: near the end of the game, you have to lead a little ghost kid through a maze so he'll open a door for you or something. Near the end of the maze, you have to sing a song to open a nearby door. It seems easy enough, since the song is written on the nearby wall, but then you notice that it wasn't written very well. I'd tell you the solution, but that's what FAQs are for. Wait, are you reading my blog for hints? If you want a Let's Play, give me some time or something. I just finished my first one a few days ago.
Normally, this would be where I transition into the cooking aspect of the game by telling you that it's not as good as the puzzles, but upon reflection, I realize that it's actually pretty cool. But now I remember that Naija has a vagina (maybe; I'm not too clear on how fish genitals operate, let alone fish-person genitals), making the whole thing sexist. Then I remember that more sexism is piled on by making it the simple combination of two ingredients, apparently because things like heat and measurements would be too complicated. (Granted, they would be too complicated, but just enjoy the damn joke.) Then again, the actual value doesn't come from doing the cooking, like in, say, Cooking Mama, but from just how much crap you can make. Hell, why should I tell you about it when I can show you (I'd have posted a better version, but I can't get it to load)? Some of them even heal you! As that sentence implied and this one will overtly yell, a lot of the dishes give you some type of status effect. They can vary in usefulness, ranging from "I just ate Speedy Gonzales" to "trip balls." The same goes for the actual ingredients, if you managed to browse through that FAQ. The only major difference I can find is that you can't eat raw ingredients, which I find to be a bit of a major oversight. Look, I know that nobody has ever just downed an entire bag of flour, but Naija's collecting fish steaks and the eyes of her fallen enemies. Why can't she chow down on special bulbs or rainbow m....
Alright, this blog is getting ridiculously long. I've written reviews that weren't this long. Let me just talk about the achievements and call it a day. Most of them are the standard story-related stuff (albeit with the standard yet cryptic "we'll completely avoid spoilers (or anything, really)" descriptions), but it's the optional ones that are truly worthy of note. No, I'm not talking about collecting everything or exploring every area of the game (though those are in there); I'm talking about riding an underwater bull or killing some random enemy. Who thought these achievements up, and is anybody working on psychiatric medication you can take only through high fives? I haven't even mentioned the weirdest ones, and I refuse to do it openly because of how much they clash with the atmosphere of the game. Instead, let me make sure you understand through the power of a very blunt analogy. Do you remember when Ariel first got her legs in The Little Mermaid? Imagine if when she first got on land, she decided to eat Scuttle and drop kick a monkey (Denmark has monkeys, right?). But launching monkeys into the mesosphere is only about half of what I love about Aquaria (and Pokémon, coincidentally). The other half? How somebody managed to combine Metroidvania with a bunch of cool atmosphere. Why didn't anybody think of this before? Maybe it's all the insanity I listed before. I'll have to look into that.
- "My British accent emerged from a cave to find a fairly decent story. It tried too hard at times, but overall, it managed to do a lot with what it had."
- [INSERT JOKE ABOUT LITTLE MERMAID PERTAINING TO WORLD AND POSSIBILITIES HERE].
- Name one other game where you can drop kick a monkey. No, Afrika doesn't count.