Super Mario 64: Last Impact; A Genuinely Great Mod of a Classic Game

Two weeks ago, a technically impressive mod called Super Mario 64: Last Impact was released. Developed by a guy called Kaze Emanuar and featuring a ton of custom content, the game quickly became a massive phenomenon on the internet and was covered by all manner of sites. Like GoNintendo. Or My Nintendo News or Nintendo Life. Heck, the latter even made a video of it!

Indeed, it got so much hype, some people said it’s the best Mario 64 hack of all time.

But how good is it really? How does Kaze’s work compare with an official game?

Does it make the same mistakes as 90% of ROM hacks and fan games? By featuring a difficulty curve that’s simply broken to hell? An killing players through tricky jumps right off the bat?

Well, no. As the review shows, Super Mario 64: Last Impact may actually be one of the better designed, more ‘fair’ ROM hacks I’ve ever played. It’s not as easy as the original, sure, but it’s also not broken as most of the other mods for the title out there either.

But let’s look a bit closer, in the official Gaming Reinvented review of Super Mario 64: Last Impact!

Graphics

Starting with one of the aspects the game does far better than its source material; the graphics. Put simply Super Mario 64: Last Impact’s graphics are ten times better than those in the original Super Mario 64, and honestly about on par with some of Rare’s games from the era. Indeed, if it was released in the N64 days, this game would have gotten a ton of acclaim for its visuals.

So why does it look so good? Well, three reasons really:

  1. It uses art from later games. Like say, ledges and tileset graphics from the likes of Mario Kart and the Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker. Even compressed to N64 standards, these look a ton better than the equivalents from the original time period.
  2. The themes are interesting and varied enough to stand out. Oh sure, you’ve got a few grasslands, a desert and a beach world, but that’s only the boring stuff here. In addition to that, you then have a space station, a world made of food, a casino and even Rainbow Road from Mario Kart as explorable worlds.

    They’re just more visually interesting and unique locations than say, yet another ice world or yet another volcano world.

  3. Character models seem a lot more rounded and detailed than those in most actual Nintendo 64 games. Yeah, the ones from the original Mario 64 didn’t change much, with Mario and Bowser being about the same as they always were. But the new enemies like the giant Piranha Plants, the space aliens and the Blarggs feel much better modelled than most characters from the olden days.

Either way, it’s impressive, especially for a fan made game.

But the graphics aren’t the only great thing here. Oh no, the soundtrack is pretty good too…

Music

Because damn, the mix of ported songs and original compositions both sound excellent and fit the levels absolutely perfectly.

On the ported front, you have some really impressive renditions of songs from the likes of the Zelda and Final Fantasy series. What’s stranger, these actually fit some of Last Impact’s worlds at least as well as they did their source game. Forested Temple may have been composed for Final Fantasy VII, but it fits Last Impact just as well:

Deep Castle from Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside story works well in Big Beast’s Belly:

And Mario Party’s ‘danger’ theme works just as well in Last Impact’s mini games as it does in the actual game’s ones:

But as good as the ports sound, it’s the original music where Last Impact really shines. Because you see, this game doesn’t just use music from other titles. Oh no, it comes up with many of its own songs, and those are absolutely incredible.

Like say, the two final boss themes from the game, which are brand new for this ROM hack:

Or the Dusky Doomed Dales theme, which really does sound appropriate for a middle ages village in the middle of a witch hunt:

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Paper Mario Color Splash; A Decent Game Stuck Between Worlds

As you probably know by this point, I’ve not exactly been the biggest Paper Mario Color Splash fan since it was announced. I’ve tweeted comics about how Miyamoto killed the Paper Mario series. I’ve posted on the Paper Mario subreddit lamenting the franchise’s direction. Heck, I even used to constantly tweet under the hashtag #MakePaperMarioGreatAgain and wonder whether people should be boycotting the game.

But then, I decided to give the game a chance. After all, no point in complaining about games you didn’t play, right?

So after many hours of playing Paper Mario Color Splash, here it is. My review of the game, from the perspective of an old school Paper Mario fan!

Graphics

Starting on a positive note, the graphics in this game are definitely one of its strongest points. The paper theming shines through in every level, with absolutely everything feeling like it’s physically made out of paper and cardboard. Add such interesting themes as a military base, an old school steakhouse and an archaeological dig site, and you’ve also got environments that are both different from the norm and brought to life brilliantly by the paper art style. Basically, it’s to Sticker Star what Mario 3D World was to 3D Land; a huge graphical step up with more interesting themes and visuals perfectly suited for the Wii U.

starlight cape

The Things look good too. Totally unlike everything else, definitely, but really well animated and (at least initially) really funny to watch as well. It’s like a Family Guy cut out gag or Simpsons title sequence down well.

However, there is one graphical issue here that really hampers the game.

And that’s the character design. Put simply, the general character design is atrocious.

Seriously, how many uniquely designed characters exist in this game? Huey, the Rescue Squads, the Rock Paper Wizard, the pirate Toads and (to a very loose degree) the Chosen Toads and Museum Curator. That’s literally every ‘new’ and ‘uniquely designed’ character outside of the typical Mario cast.

And it really hurts the visual variety here. Indeed, look at the places here, and about 90% could probably have fit well in the original or Thousand Year Door. So you’ve got a visually interesting, varied world to explore that’s worthy of the original titles.

But then it’s let down by the fact no one interesting lives in said world. It’s like a theme park made by a company not called Disney; a fantastic land staffed by employees who don’t actually dress to match the themes of the areas they work in. Except you know, with every employee replaced with a genetically engineered army of clones in slightly different colours.

It’s a good looking game, but one let down by the disappointing lack of unique designs.

Music

Music is where the game truly shines though. Why? Because Paper Mario Color Splash has an amazing soundtrack filled to the brim with great songs to listen to. You’ve got unique songs in every stage (all of which are catchy and fit the setting perfectly). There are songs unique to the Thing animations and cutscenes (the piggybank and battery ones are especially hilarious here) and then there’s the boss themes.

And it’s the latter which are the true highlight of the game. For example, the mini boss theme (named ‘A Fearsome Foe’ by the soundtrack) is amazingly catchy and enjoyable to listen to:

Whereas each of the Koopaling fights have an amazing tune that’s among the best in Paper Mario history. Like Wendy’s one, which is perhaps the best pirate themed song in a video game:
Or Iggy’s somewhat over the top ‘colosseum’ boss battle song:

Or even Ludwig’s somewhat techno sounding battleship song:

It even comes with a nice handy sound test that lets you listen to these songs whenever you want. It’s a little hard to get the songs for (since you have to fill in all the blank spots in the respective level), but it comes with absolutely everything on the soundtrack. The boss themes, the Thing themes, any mini game or cutscene music… heck, even the songs from ‘parallel dimensions’ are included here!

Either way, the soundtrack in this game is incredible, and it’s possibly the best part of the whole title. But as good as the music is, that’s not a reason to buy a game. It’s a reason to look it up on YouTube, but you don’t spend $60 for an interactive music CD. Oh no, what matters is the gameplay, and that’s when Paper Mario Color Splash gets a bit mixed in terms of quality…

Gameplay/General Design

Because on the one hand, the overworld gameplay is really good. Exploring levels is fun, with all the secrets to find and objects to paint around every corner, and the puzzles are really well thought out and enjoyable to solve. For example, how many games make you literally pull tape off the floor to unravel a bridge to a new area? Or paste cards into the background to do things like generate a huge tidal wave, activate a NES system or melt a giant block of ice in a steakhouse’s freezer?

So as far as exploration goes, it’s great. Perhaps even better than Thousand Year Door or Super Paper Mario.

And the humour is worth pointing out too, because damn, this game made me laugh quite a bit. You’ve got the Rescue Squads acting like idiots and saving people in the most unorthodox ways possible. You’ve got jokes about everything from Watergate to the Exorcist.

Heck you’ve even just plain amusing randomness like Mario fighting a steak to cook it:

Because of this, many parts of Color Splash really are fun to play (or in the case of humour, read).

What’s not so great however is the battle system.

Now okay, it’s technically a step up from Sticker Star in a lot of respects. You can attack multiple times with one card in a lot of cases. Cards don’t run out anywhere near as often as stickers, since you can have 99 at once (and they all use the same amount of space in the ‘deck’). And battles do give you actual rewards this time around (like hammer scraps to give you more ink to use in battle), which act like a pseudo exp system.

But it also has serious problems too.

For example, it’s really slow to use. Just to do one attack, you need to:

  1. Search the entire list of cards (in one endless row) til you find the one you need
  2. Move it to the card slots above
  3. Press on the card for a few seconds to paint it
  4. Then finally flick the card to the top screen to actually use it.

That’s four steps before you’re even using any action commands. And that’s on ‘advanced’ settings.

Not using advanced? Well, then the process becomes:

  1. Search the card list
  2. Move cards to slots above
  3. Select ready
  4. Paint cards on a separate screen
  5. Select done
  6. Then flick them up to the top screen to play them.

That’s ridiculous. What’s more, that’s just for one basic attack. Want to use multiple attacks? Then you need to select each card from the deck separately, then paint them all separately on top of all this. So a fight that should take about 30 seconds now takes about 2 or 3 minutes because of the time spent selecting and using attacks.

It’s also got the same ‘Thing puzzle’ bosses from Sticker Star too, which makes it a bit worse. Okay, they’re improved now (most of the battle involves using normal attacks, with the Thing card only being needed for a single specific step), and you do usually now come prepared (the necessary Thing is usually found in the same level as the boss), but it’s still frustrating for anyone who doesn’t know the ‘strategy’ needed in advance. I mean, why should I need the Bone to break Iggy’s chariot? Pretty much every ‘Thing’ hits everyone on the field, so surely they should all work fine here, right? But no. Apparently he manages to dodge an electric fan the size of a planet or a giant fire extinguisher, but not a rolling Chain Chomp going after a giant bone. Makes sense!

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Pokemon GO; A Decent Game Marred By Glitches

It’s been out for a while now, and it’s already become a massive success in the process. And so with all the hype Pokemon GO has been getting, I thought it’d be time to finally review the game as a whole. Does it really live up to the idea of real life Pokemon collecting and battling? Does it do a good job of transferring the Pokemon feel to the mobile app world?

Well, sort of. It’s fun, and it’s certainly a nice way to get people exploring the world around them.

But what’s it like on a more detailed level? Well, let’s find out, in our official Gaming Reinvented review of Pokemon GO!

Graphics

First on the agenda, let’s talk Pokemon GO’s graphics. Which for the most part, are actually pretty good.

For example, the Pokemon models have been designed pretty neatly here. Sure, they’re not Pokken Tournament or Super Smash Bros quality, but they do at least look a bit like what you’d see in one of the Gamecube era spinoffs.

And the menus and interface are a decent quality too. Yeah, they’ve got the same ‘flat’ look present in a lot of mobile games and modern websites. That’s pretty much undeniable.

But it does work well, and it makes finding nearby Pokemon, gym and Pokestops really convenient.

Pokemon GO Pic 2

In addition to these, there’s also the unique style splash screen that’s run when you try and load up the game. You know, the one with a Pokemon trainer walking dangerously close to a Gyarados. This artwork looks really good, though it’s a shame that there’s only one design at the moment. Would have been neat if they’d switched it up randomly with some of these:

Pokemon GO Splash Concepts

Above: They need to add these in. Via Magdalena Proszowska.

So on a graphical level, Pokemon GO works well. But how about the sound?

Music

Well, that works well too. The remixes played in gym battles and wild Pokemon encounters are certainly nice to listen to:
And the game’s main theme is quite catchy as well:

Above: Some catchy songs from Pokemon GO

Yes, it’s not the best in the series. There’s nothing in Pokemon GO that can quite match some of the songs from generation 5 or generation 6, because it’s a simple ‘collect them all’ experience without anything in the way of special boss battles or a main plotline. But it works well for what it is, and you won’t ever really find any of the music irritating here.

Gameplay

But the aesthetics don’t mean anything without the gameplay to back it up. And suffice to say, Pokemon GO’s gameplay is pretty good for the most part.

Now, before we start, I have to mention that Pokemon GO is not a typical Pokemon experience. You don’t fight Pokemon directly to weak them. You don’t go around collecting badges from different gyms and battling the regional league and elite four. There are no gimmicky extras like the contests and studios and musicals or whatever else. Heck, you don’t even have the ability to trade or battle Pokemon with people nearby yet!

But this doesn’t mean the game isn’t enjoyable. It’s just a very different beast from the games on Nintendo’s handheld systems.
Continue Reading…

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam; A Good Game Let Down by a Terrible Difficulty Curve

So, it’s been officially a week since Mario & Luigi Paper Jam was released in the UK and Europe. It’s an interesting little Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario crossover with some new ideas, some interesting additional mechanics and other various extras.

But how is the game, you might be wondering? Is it anywhere near as bad as Sticker Star? Does it overuse tutorials as much as Dream Team? Are there any awkward bugs that the reviewers don’t talk about because most of them are complete idiots?

Well… no, in all three cases. Instead, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam is for the most part, a very good game. It’s got the classic Mario & Luigi series gameplay working down to a tee, with an even more advanced and impressive seeming battle system. It looks and sounds fantastic, with music at the same quality as that in the rest of the series and for the most part, it’s a fun experience.

But with that said, what is the game like on a more detailed level? Well, let’s find out, in the official Gaming Reinvented review for Mario & Luigi Paper Jam!

Graphics

Let’s start with the graphics first. Because for whatever else you may say about the game, there is absolutely no denying that this game looks fantastic, with extremely well animated character sprites and atmospheric, beautiful looking environments. Just look at it for yourself if you’re not convinced:

3DS_Mario_LuigiPaperJam_scrn10_E3 3DS_Mario_LuigiPaperJam_scrn03_E3 M&L_Paper_Jam_King_Boo Mario_&_Luigi_Paper_Jam_File_07 Mario_&_Luigi_Paper_Jam_Paper_Mario,_Mario_&_Luigi_X_Koopalings Mario_&_Luigi_Paper_Jam_King_Bob-omb_Boss_Battle

So on an aesthetic level, there really isn’t a whole lot to complain about. Mario & Luigi Paper Jam keeps up the graphics style from Dream Team and just looks amazing in the process.

Music

Onto the soundtrack next, and as is expected from a Mario & Luigi game, it is an incredible selection of songs that doesn’t ever really disappoint. For example, the boss themes are really well done in this title, and suit the battles they play in down to a tee:

But it’s not only boss songs that are fantastic here. The area songs are equally amazing, with Bowser’s Castle(s), Mt Brr and Sunbeam Plains being notable favourites:

That said, while the music is great overall, there are definitely a few tracks that aren’t up to par with the rest of the soundtrack. For example, the Toad Hunt theme, as catchy as it is the first time, gets extremely grating in very short order. Hear this?

Well, you’ll be hearing it for hours, especially if you get stuck finding that last pesky Toad or two. Perhaps it would have been better if they’d (mostly) stuck with the original area music for the Toad hunting missions instead, since they’re a lot less repetitive and offer a decent amount of variety.

There’s also the matter of the papercraft battle songs. Okay, they were never going to live up to the giant battle themes in terms of their epicness, since the very concept is less ‘epic’ by nature. But they just seem far, far too upbeat and cheery for such dramatic points in the game:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4mi5GwKFYA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI8D6KJoZcA

But they’re not bad songs, just not that appropriate for the points of the game where they play. So in general, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam has a great soundtrack, with all the catchy songs you’d expect from a Mario RPG.

Gameplay

That said, neither the graphics nor soundtrack can save a poorly designed game. After all, look at Sticker Star; it sure looked incredible, and the soundtrack certainly had its fans too. But Mario & Luigi Paper Jam (mostly) shines here as well.

So what’s new and interesting? Well for the most part, Paper Mario is obviously the main addition. Joining the party in a way not too different from Bowser or the Baby Mario Bros, he adds new abilities on the overworld that are used to explore the different locations. Like a spinning drill move to go underground and up walls, a paper plane form to cross large gaps or a giant hand that can grab objects and press switches from the other side of the room. What makes this more impressive though is that these abilities are not wasted; you end up reusing them all throughout the adventure rather than just in the first area or two you learn them in. That’s a nice (and positive) change from the often lacklustre way the overworld abilities were implemented in Bowser’s Inside Story and Dream Team.

In battle on the other hand, Paper Mario acts as a sort of cross between Bowser from Bowser’s Inside Story and Dreamy Luigi from Dream Team. Like the former, he has his own abilities and attacks, like the ‘cloning’ one and the Trio Attacks he can pull off with help from the other Mario Bros. Like the latter, he attacks multiple enemies at once, with only one Trio Attack actually targeting a single opponent. Heck, even his basic hammer attack has his clones split off and attack the enemies at the same time!

But let’s move onto the Trio Attacks now. Requiring all three Mario bros to be active at once, these attacks tend to involve some sort of paper related gimmick that wipes out the entire battlefield in a single impressive attack. For example, Trio Racquet has them batting a ball back and forth onto the background, on which their enemies are stuck on as scraps of paper. Every enemy you hit damages that enemy, and doing it perfectly blasts away the whole wall and hurts every enemy at once.

These are extremely useful in battle, and for the most part, tend to get better and better as you progress. Trio Shuriken and Trio Meteor are especially impressive examples, which can easily be enough to wipe out a boss in a couple of hits.

That said, there are a few issues here. Namely, as fun as these attacks are… they just take too long to pull off. Trio Racquet and Shuriken are fairly quick (though perhaps still overkill for normal enemy battles), but the likes of Trio Whirligig and Trio Meteor take so damn long to use that you’d probably spend less time watching through the animations for Final Fantasy VII’s Supernova.

The Bros Attacks themselves are a mixed bag. Some are recycled from Dream Team, like Dropchopper, Red Shell and Bomb Derby. Some are new and work really, like Balloon Blast, Drill Shell or Rocket Blast. Some… not so much, like Toad Trail.

And then there’s Mega Thwonk, perhaps the best thing the game has to offer attack wise:

Another change comes in the running away sequences in battle. See, like in Dream Team, you’ll get chased in the foreground by certain bosses. But this time, Paper Mario joins in, either as a plane flying above, a boomerang your characters throw at the boss or a trampoline they hold. You have to use his abilities to deflect or dodge boss projectiles and take them down in a way which is interesting, albeit a tad more mentally demanding than the norm.

There’s also the addition of a cursor underneath your characters that lets you know who’s being targeted. It can be turned off (and is forcibly disabled in the Battle Ring), but it’s a nice bit of help for anyone who’s struggling to read enemy attack tells.

Other non battle additions are a bit of a mixed bag as well. Toad hunting is introduced here for instance, and basically replaces the Pi’illos from Dream Team. It’s usually fun due to the different types of challenges introduced (sometimes slow collectathon sections, sometimes basic puzzles or mini games), but it can also become rather irritating in cases where it doesn’t really work out as well, like the annoying stealth section one.

These sections also end up becoming mandatory before every papercraft battle (to give you Paper Toads to carry your papercraft around), which sometimes slows the game right down to a halt.

Talking of papercraft battles, those seem to be the other major addition this time around. Replacing the giant battles from the last two games, they involve Mario and co riding around on a giant paper version of themselves and smashing apart enemies and bosses in a 3D arena, kind of like a weird tank battle/beat em up hybrid. They’re extremely fun in general with some interesting ideas and mechanics, but unfortunately fall into the trap of being far too easy due to how easy it is to spam the same attacks over and over.

Above: These are fun, but they’re just too easy.

So for the for the most part, Paper Jam is a pretty fun game. But hang on, didn’t I mention something about the difficulty in the review title?

Yes. Yes I did. And that’s where the game… kind of falters a bit. You see, a normal game has a reasonable difficulty curve. Easy levels and enemies at the start, moderately difficult ones part way through and difficult ones in the endgame and postgame. Simple, isn’t it?

Paper Jam does not really have this. Instead, the difficulty is basically random, with certain bosses and sections simply being far too difficulty (or maybe even far too easy) for the point in the game in which they’re encountered.

And a good example is found in the Koopaling battles. See, these boss fights all have unique gimmicks (like the enemies using battle cards against you, or them attacking each other when they mess up a counter attack, or you having to defend against them before any chance to fight back), and they’re all pretty damn hard to complete.

Problem is, they’re just littered throughout the game at near random. Roy and Wendy you fight at the one third of the game mark, and are harder than the next few real bosses. Larry and Ludwig… well, you fight those at about halfway through, and they’re difficult enough than many players literally consider them the hardest boss fight in the game.

battlecards

Above: The scariest moment in the game. How come you guys get to use battle cards but we don’t?

Which Is pretty messed up, given that you’ve got about ten boss fights afterwards, and all are generally much easier. Heck, even the final boss can be easier!

And this issue continues with the Toad hunting sections and various mini games. For example, various points have stealth sections where you have to avoid being spotted by a mini army of monsters patrolling around. Unfortunately, they’re difficult as all hell, and one actually comes RIGHT between a fun part of the game and a fun (and much easier) boss fight.   Other good sections include certain fake ‘battles’ on the overworld that end up being closer to mini games (the one with Morton firing cannonballs at Mario and co is getting infamous for its difficulty level) and a few Toad hunting sections which are just ridiculously hard to figure out. The worst of these is the village one on Mt Brr, since the Toads are hidden all around the village in often difficult to figure out locations. But do you know what’s the real kicker?

liars

Above: Oh shut up you lying pricks.

It’s actually semi random where they’re hidden. But the game doesn’t seem to realise it’s semi random. So you get five NPCs who are meant to give you hints to the Toad locations… which are telling you complete and utter crap nine times out of ten because their hints only apply to one possible setup out of maybe a hundred. It’s like a modern version of Castlevania 2, with the NPCs giving you useless and completely wrong ‘hints’.

Add a few difficult puzzles and platforming sections, and you’ve got a game which really, really needed to be rebalanced a bit more before being released. It’s not as bad as Dream Team in some sense (because the controls aren’t a broken mess at any point), but it’s shockingly bad for a difficulty curve in a Nintendo title.

That said, there is one nice helpful addition that does kind of lessen up the problems with the above. Basically, in addition to an ‘easy mode’ which makes you massively overpowered in exchange for not being able to complete the bonus challenges/achievements, there’s a very welcome option to ‘skip this section and continue on with the story’. So if you feel like you don’t have a hope in hell of getting past something and just want it over and done with, there is at least the option to say ‘screw this crap’ and move onto something that’s more enjoyable in the game. Maybe more games should have that option…

There’s also battle cards, which act as a replacement for badges. They let you do things like heal in battle, damage enemies, boost exp, defend from attacks completely without having to counter anything and reduce enemy stats significantly. They’re more balanced than Dream Team’s (no time freezing abilities here, at least from what I’ve seen), but also a tad annoying in how random they are (you have to shuffle the deck to get the cards you want in battle). And as mentioned above, one boss uses them against you as well, which is kind of terrifying.

The other issue is padding. Basically, you know how Dream Team padded out the gameplay with pointless mini games, quests and other random chores? Well this game does likewise, and to an unfortunately often greater degree than Dream Team. For example, the boss battle before the final boss is literally a seven or so stage fight with no save point between, the first three or four parts of which are just fighting random hordes of enemies (and the last three difficult fights against the Koopalings). The last papercraft battle is similar, you have to fight EVERYONE you’ve encountered to that point, as well as at least two bosses you haven’t. In a row, with no checkpoints.

And let’s not even get into the Toad hunt stuff. Basically, every time a papercraft battle comes out, you need extra Paper Toads to carry the papercraft. Problem is, that basically means your adventure has to stop dead in its tracks so you can run around completing irrelevant minigames. It’s not the worst thing ever (they’re still fun), but it’s really bad for the game’s pacing in general.

It’s a good game, but it’s let down in this respect by an extremely badly balanced difficulty curve,

Replay Value

But for replay value, Paper Jam is a great game. Indeed, this is one of the key things that the game does significantly better than Dream Team.

For starters, the boss rush mode has been expanded, with both the normal battles and papercraft battles have ranking systems that give you rewards for doing nearly perfect. Kind of like the item mini games in the last game.

In addition to that, the Toad Hunt mini games and other challenges were made replayable as well. This was a significant improvement to Dream Team and prior games, where most ‘gimmick’ parts of the game were impossible to return to after the first time you completed them. So it was nice to be able to redo the stealth sections, the Koopaling ‘mini battles’, the Boo avoiding challenges, etc, complete with an extra ‘hard mode’ for even better rewards.

There’s also a challenges system, which is far improved from the one in Dream Team. For example, now beating the bosses in the boss ring gets you an in game ‘achievement’, as does getting a perfect S ranking on each of them. Other challenges are now everything from ‘use every item type in the game’ to ‘battle x number of times without getting hit’ to ‘get excellent with a certain attack five times in a row’. It’s certainly something that’ll keep you playing an extremely long time, especially given the high difficulty level of much of the rest of the game.

With all that said, there are some issues here. For one thing, Hard Mode from Dream Team is gone in Paper Jam. You can’t replay the whole game again at a higher difficulty level for a better ending or other extras, which is a bit of a shame.

And there’s the problem I mentioned earlier about padding. Put simply, it’s padded to all hell, and without all the filler content, would actually be shorter than Bowser’s Inside Story. So there’s a significant feeling throughout that the game is just trying to waste your time and delay progress as much as possible.

Story, Characters and Humour

Yeah, an odd thing to mention this one. But given that the Mario RPGs are well known for hilarious, well written scripts with plenty of memorable characters and moments, it only seems right to judge this game by the same standards.

So is it funny? Are the characters as memorable as before?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, there are literally ZERO new characters in Paper Jam. None whatsoever. If you’ve played a Mario game in the last five years or so, you probably know EVERYONE who plays a part in this game.

That’s really disappointing, especially given how previous games have introduced funny, amusing individuals like Fawful, Popple, the Massif Bros, the 1337 Hammer Bros, Midbus, etc. Without anyone like that, the game does kind of feel a bit empty and lacking in personality.

It’s also disappointing that for much of a degree, the game never really does a whole lot with the Paper Mario characters or world. Oh sure, Paper Mario appears, and paper versions of Peach, Bowser, Bowser Jr and Kamek make notable appearances in the game, but what about all the older favourites? Why not have Kamek meet Kammy Koopa instead, given her major role to play in the original and Thousand Year Door? That would have been a lot more amusing.

PaperMarioTTYD

Above: Some characters who are not in this game (bar Mario, Peach and Bowser)

And without characters like Goombario and Goombella and Vivian and Bobbery and Doopliss and Dimentio and Count Bleck and Lord Crump… well, the game doesn’t feel as much of a tribute to Paper Mario as it really should have been. Paper Mario and normal Mario versions of characters meeting is interesting, but the more original ones meeting the more original Mario & Luigi cast is what the game should have focused on, but didn’t.

But there are some good things in the game’s story and characterisation. For example, the Koopalings now actually have personalities, and help each other in battle with all kinds of neat tricks and traps. Like Larry and Ludwig using battle cards against the main characters, or Morton/Iggy/Lemmy using each other attacks in their own elaborate attack sequences.

Other highlights are the two Kameks (who literally bicker right up the very end, even during their supposedly ‘heart-warming’ death scene), Big Bob-omb (who goes from a forgettable first boss to a stern and serious leader on Mt Brr) and King Boo, who’s just as nasty and selfish in this game as he was in Dark Moon (he actually holds Paper Mario in a hostage situation and threatens to beat him up if Mario and Luigi attack him). But there are two sets of characters that really took the limelight here.

First, the two Bowser Jrs. Unlike the other guys, these two actually got along really well with each other, and became best friends throughout the storyline. They fight you in an amusing battle with a paper plane flight contest, troll you by taking Peach away at the last second, try and get rid of the book so the paper one doesn’t have to return to the other world… and then, their defeat scene. Oh god:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Af7ukG6kAs&feature=youtu.be&t=24m30s

They pretty much nearly die there and then, complete with a sad montage and both Bowsers holding their dying children and threatening to kill Mario and co in revenge. It’s quite the moment for a Mario title…

Then, there are both Bowsers in this game. Remember how Bowser’s Inside Story made Bowser into a badass? Or how Dream Team showed he could be a competent villain?

Yeah, this game continues with it, and hammers it home big time. Bowser is not a joke any more, and damn well he means business. He enslaves Toads to mine ore for Neo Bowser Castle’s rocket engines, literally blows Peach’s Castle to smithereens with a giant cannon (nearly killing Peach in the process), burns the old papercrafts you made to a crisp to show how much better his own one is, becomes a nigh godly being in the final battle and actually plans to trap Mario and friends inside the Paper Mario book so he can burn it to cinders with them still trapped inside. Bowser in the early Mario RPGs was comic relief. Bowser in this game makes everyone bar the Shroobs look like amateurs. That’s impressive.

So it’s disappointing that there’s a lack of new characters, but nice that they really fleshed out and improved upon the personalities of the existing ones.

Conclusion

All in all, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam is a pretty good game. It’s got some lovely graphics and music, some interesting gameplay mechanics and boss battles, and in a certain few ways, significantly improves upon Dream Team by forsaking the broken motion controls and overabundance of tutorials that bogged the game down significantly.

It just needs to reign in the difficulty curve to something reasonable, remove some of the obvious filler content and to introduce some more new characters to the world to make it as good as it could ever be. So, a nice solid 8/10 seems a decent score for it.

Super Mario Maker; A Good, if Limited Level Editor

Well, after many level playthroughs, a good few weeks messing with the level editor and all manner of testing, we’ve finally completed Super Mario Maker enough for a review!  Okay, it’s a game that pretty much everyone was going to buy anyone (it’s a Mario level editor, how can any Nintendo fan not care for this title?), but either way, you might still want to read our review to find out what we think of this game.  Does it live up to the hype?  Does the level editor stack up to the hundreds of free equivalents you can find online after a ten minute search?  Let’s find out, in the official Gaming Reinvented Super Mario Maker review!

Graphics

Can I even give this part of the game a rating?  The graphics are mostly from existing Mario titles, so I’m not sure what exactly I’d be rating.  Maybe the quality of the new sprite graphics used for certain enemies, or the menu UI?

Really though, it looks like Super Mario Bros 1, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U.  If you liked the graphics in those games (and I see no reason that anyone wouldn’t), then you’ll like this one.  If you didn’t like them (because you’re not a Mario fan for instance), then there’s pretty much no chance in hell that this game will change your mind about that.

There are a few dozen new character sprites for the SMB 1 style, to go with the new ‘costume Mario’ gimmick; more on that later.

And the UI?

It looks how it should do.  You’ve got the usual tiles and sprites displayed next to the options to use said tiles and sprites.  You’ve got a few pleasant backgrounds for the menu screens to keep your attention focused on the preview window rather than the background and a bunch of random characters join you on the side-lines simply to look cool, like the budgies on the level select screen or the dog that acts as an undo button.

MarioMakerEditor

Above: The level editor looks clean and functional.

Either way, it looks respectable.  Like what a level editor should look like.

Music

Again, mostly taken from the older Mario games that it’s based off of, with a few additions where original music didn’t cover that theme (ghost houses for SMB 1 and SMB 3, airships for SMB 1 and SMW).  That said, the new music does sound really, really good:

There’s also some really nice music used when editing levels.  The castle remixes are especially nice here, with the New Super Mario Bros castle editing theme drawing special attention because of its high quality:

So that’s the music.  It’s mostly from the original games Super Mario Maker is based on, with a few great new songs mixed in and Smash Bros quality remixes for the level editor view.

Gameplay

But this is always the most important part of any game, and nowhere is it more the case than with a level editing tool.  After all, no one wants to make games for a broken and mostly unusable engine, do they?

Fortunately though, Super Mario Maker works fantastically in this respect.  The engine is solid and works well, the physics mostly adapt to the style of the game they’re based on with a few (generous) exceptions (like spin jumping on enemies in NSMBU style) and for the most part, everyone works how it should do.

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