Super Mario 3D Land; A Good Game, but not Galaxy Caliber

Super Mario 3D Land is an unusual game. On the one hand, it’s technically a 3D game made by the same people behind Super Mario Galaxy, and hence has all of the tricks and game mechanics found in those titles, while on the other it’s about as close to classic 2D Mario as you can get, with one hundred percent of the levels revolving around platforming rather than cheap gimmicks. No, it has as little to do with Super Mario Land the Game Boy series as Wario Land 1 did.

As far as the core gameplay goes, this game is great. Ignore the morons complaining about ‘bad’ controls or what not, the controls work perfectly fine. Indeed, if you’ve ever played Super Mario 64 DS in any capacity, you should find the control scheme here about the same, and as much as some big media sites like to complain, it’s not a bad control scheme to use. So how does it work? Well, controls wise, much like Super Mario Galaxy with exactly two exceptions:

1. You have a run button which you must hold to make Mario dash.

2. Underwater controls work like the 2D games (press A/B to make you go up, let go to make Mario sink down). It’s a different experience, but it’s fairly easy to get used to and is arguably a tad more precise than the awkward swimming mechanics found in the Super Mario Galaxy titles.

The gameplay in general is much like Super Mario Galaxy 2, with fairly linear courses that you have to traverse towards a goal flag. It’s always fun, each level introduces a new mechanic of some kind, and none of these take away from the gameplay. For example, one level will introduce swimming mechanics, another a new kind of enemy or two and another platforms that change/flip when Mario jumps. I kind of like this, it’s how a 3D Mario game should be designed, with a bunch of interesting levels (take note New Super Mario Bros series) that don’t stray too far from the core platforming gameplay (see, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2’s pointless gimmicks).

Mario 3D Land 1

Above: All levels in the game all platforming based, hence there’s no infuriating gimmicks or mini games.

What’s more, I like how this game actually brings some classic Mario level archtypes and does them properly in 3D for once. For example, there are now actual ghost houses with puzzles, mazes and well, ghosts. These feel much more like the Super Mario World/New Super Mario Bros school of design rather than the 64/Sunshine/Galaxy one, and are much better for it. Similarly, actual castle levels are in this (see above screenshot), which is rather refreshing considering how they got rarer and rarer ever since the series went 3D.

The game also comes with a bunch of power ups you can achieve, and thankfully, they work well. For one thing, they’re not timed this time around (and you can carry them between levels, which is a huge relief), and they work pretty well. The Tanooki Suit is the main new addition, allowing Mario to whip enemies with his tail, float down slowly to cross large gaps and… oh wait, it doesn’t have flying abilities. Bit lacking in that sense, but it’s understandable regardless, just being able to ‘glide’ breaks about half the game’s levels and actual flight would probably let you reach the end in well under half a minute. There’s also a Boomerang Suit, letting Mario throw boomerangs at enemies, but it’s not quite as useful due to the one boomerang on screen limit. Does let you pick up star medals and collectibles though, which is good.

Boomerang Mario

Above: The Boomerang Flower/Suit is a nice power when you have it, but a bit limited and less useful in platforming heavy stages.

The best power up however is none of those, but the special Tanooki Suit you get in the bonus levels. Why? Statue Mario. Damn that’s the most useful power in the game, seeing as becoming a statue literally turns you into a stone wall. Anything that could normally harm you ignores you or does nothing (even the giant spike pillars in the later airships get stopped dead by this power!), and if any poor creature happens to be underneath you at the time, it gets smashed to pulp. Traps become scrap metal, Thwomps turned to gravel and even giant creatures like the eels die instantly. It’s a very useful power, and you should easily guess why the game never gives you it for the first eight worlds.

That’s the other new thing in this game, you now have far more than the boring eight world ‘standard’ Super Mario Bros 3 introduced. Instead, when you beat Bowser in the final castle for the first time, you unlock another eight worlds on top of that, with new power ups, a new boss (Dry Bowser), new levels and new enemies and obstacles (such as Cosmic Clones). It’s a very nice addition, seeing as so many recent Mario games just stick with the standard eight.

dry bowser

Above: Changing Bowser to Dry Bowser for the special worlds was a nice touch. Said worlds double the games length.

However, there’s a bit of a problem here. The secret levels, while good, are often just rehashed versions of the normal ones. Sometimes this is barely noticeable, or a significant portion has been edited (the elevator clock tower and the green platform levels are entirely new), but other times it’s literally just adding a timer or Cosmic Clones to an already short and easy level. Notable poor examples include the level with timed blocks (the same layout is reused twice, just with different enemies), and the underground levels. However, keep in mind this is a whole new eight worlds you’re getting, and well, that’s a lot better than the poor job Galaxy 2 did with the secret levels (just about ten, more than half of which are reused content from past games)

Technically, the game is decent. It won’t quite blow you away like the Super Mario Galaxy games did (the graphics are fairly standard for a Mario game, and there’s rarely cases of beautiful scenery or the like), but it’s just good all round. Music? Excellent as usual, and always fits the theme perfectly. Could possibly be a bit louder in some cases though, the castle themes seem a bit subdued for the kinds of levels you’re ignoring. If it was more like this:

Or this:

Either would fit perfectly in the castles where you’re chased by Cosmic Clones or on a constant twenty second timer, and the New Super Mario Bros one would do great in the final level if I say so myself. The current castle theme is great in itself, just would work better in the slower paced castles. Other level themes work fine in all instances, the airship music is still great, the haunted house music generally fits the mood of the levels it’s in and the main theme is as upbeat as it needs to be, and extremely catchy to boot.

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Yoshi’s Island DS; A Kaizo Game Made Official

Not in a satanic or literal sense mind you, but more in a ‘this game is actively trying to sabotage your attempts at winning’ one. Yes, Yoshi’s Island DS is pretty much the nearest thing Nintendo have ever made to a kaizo style ROM hack, and seems to be designed by someone who thinks the best measure of game quality is how much it can predict its players behaviour and make their experience a living hell.

That said, it isn’t a bad game in itself, just an annoying one. The graphics are very well done and mostly match the style of the original (while still updating it to look good on modern systems). And while the music is often rather poor compared to the amazing soundtrack of the original title, it’s most bad in a bland and inoffensive rather than ‘ow my ears are burning in agonising pain’ way.

But it does start to falter a bit in the level and game design in general. For one thing, the difficulty curve is basically non existant. It starts out easy for a world or two, then hits about halfway through world 3 and ends up at roughly Yoshi’s Island 1 endgame level. And past world 5-1? God help any player who even attempts it.

You can see this best in how many insta kill elements get chucked in your face as you progress through the adventure. Whereas in the first game the levels generally went light on the ‘kill Yoshi in one hit’ traps and made somewhat logical looking levels that could still challenge the player, Yoshi’s Island DS just chucks them all over the place. Hell, some levels like Moltz the Very Goonie’s Castle:

Above: How many spikes did they shove in there?

And Bowser’s Castle itself feel like they’re made of nothing but spikes as a crutch to cover poor level design. That only gets worse in the secret and extra levels where any pretense of the game being legitimately fair go flying out the window.

Take A Light in the Dark for instance. Interesting secret level, but it’s just too long and too difficult to be even remotely fair. You’ve got a huge maze filled with darkness and spikes, then a blind skiing section with lots of precision jumps to make and then even more platforming before the level’s over. Let there be Light? You have to jump off a switch over a spike pit, something which requires literally frame specific precision. And when you see things like the lava trap in another secret level (of the ‘mess up and go back three rooms and try again) kind or the damn near impossible to predict with any accuracy egg platform in Yoshi’s Island Easter Eggs, you realise that the game was blatantly made by someone who didn’t really know what they were doing.

eggplatform

Above: I don’t think anyone even knows how to beat this room without dying at least once. Heck, I don’t think the likes of Professor Layton could figure out the ‘legit’ strategy…

Indeed, that whole room shown above is just so ‘random’ there’s no real way of even judging it. You fire eggs at the platform wheel, it moves. Fire quicker and it moves/accelerates quicker. Hit the wheels above the spike barriers and they move up. But the control scheme is so imprecise and the ways to mess up so easy that nearly every attempt ends in certain failure. Go too slow and you run out of eggs. Go too fast and the platform shoots straight past the barrier and leaves you stuck in an unwinnable situation. It’s not well thought out or designed at all.

And honestly, much of the game is kind of like that. You’ve got areas and bosses like the first few which are too easy to the point they probably weren’t tested well, you’ve got parts of levels where traps you can’t see or predict in advance get sprung on you at random and a general zero acceptance for minor mishaps (no items here, if you run out of points or eggs, you’re literally incapable of getting a good score or sometimes beating the level).

But despite what I said about poor level design, the game is still pretty fun. The platforming is fun, the basic game mechanics work about as well as they did in the original and there are brilliantly unique ideas in here (like the boss fought in freefall), it’s just that the game is just a little too frustrating for most people.

Above: Probably one of the most interesting bosses I’ve seen in a 2D platformer. Maybe Super Mario Galaxy 3 should use a similar concept except in 3D...

The extra modes are pretty good as well. Time Trial is neat to have, although the whole ‘get items to lower your time’ kind of kills the point of it all, the mini games are fairly decent if you like that kind of thing and the enemy museum is actually pretty cool if you want to see how the monsters act without getting hurt in the process.

And there’s one more important piece of advice for you. So listen up! Time keeps on ticking even as you are reading this message!
Above: The Time Trial messages are… funny too.

And while the transformations and things are fairly rare this time around, some of the new stuff involving them is pretty cool. A rocket that takes you up into the stratosphere and has you avoid planets on the way to the next part of the level? That’s pretty unique for a Yoshi game. As is the kangaroo riding and mine cart related gameplay.

All in all, Yoshi’s Island DS is a fairly decent game if you like difficulty and has some pretty fun concepts. It’s got some good boss battles and levels, some fairly nice music and some clever new ideas in general, so it’s definitely had some effort put into it. Just keep in mind that the difficulty does severely ramp up during the later stages and that it’s not a game for the faint hearted.

If you don’t like difficulty? Just seriously play something else, because this isn’t the game for you.

Note: This review was originally posted on Talk Nintendo before it’s closure, and the opinions of the author may have changed since that time.

Hyrule Warriors Legends Has More New Characters Yet to be Announced

Just a few weeks ago, Tetra and the King of Hyrule were announced as new playable characters in the 3DS port of Hyrule Warriors, titled Hyrule Warriors Legends.

3DS_HyruleWarriorsLegends_char_02 3DS_HyruleWarriorsLegends_char_01

But while both of these are indeed interesting choices for characters with a wide variety of attacks, it seems like they’re not going to be the only ones.  Oh no, Famitsu has revealed that more newcomers are on the way as well, with fan favourites and ‘surprising’ characters soon to join the fray.  Here’s a translation of producer Yosuke Hayashi’s comments about these newcomers and their role in the game:

I can’t go into details yet, but we plan to add new character(s) [can mean one or several] other than Tetra and King of Hyrule. There are fan favorites and surprising characters in the game, so I’d be happy if you kept guessing who will join the fight while waiting for follow-up information.

Seems like we could see quite a possible newcomers in this edition, with a few perhaps not even being from The Wind Waker.

VaatiGroose514px-ALBW_YugaSkullKid

Above: Some of the many possible choices for extra characters in Hyrule Warriors.

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New Pac-Man Glitch in Super Smash Bros lets him drop characters through the Floor

As we mentioned in a previous article, Pac-Man has already been seen as a bit of a glitchy character, with abilities that can be used to cheat in online mode thanks to developer oversights.  But now, it seems like he may have an even more broken trick up his sleeve.

Behold, Pac-Man’s new one hit kill move; dropping the opponent straight through the stage floor:

As you can see in the video by popular Youtuber MasterofHyrule, moving Pac-Man’s trampoline when someone is landing on it seems to send them straight through the floor of the stage.  Which if they don’t have multiple jumps or aren’t prepared, is a pretty quick KO for them.

It’s a pretty good trick to use in multiplayer, especially against characters using a transformation style Final Smash.

What do you think of Pac-Man’s interesting ‘trick’ to effortlessly KO his opponents?

Let’s Super Mario! Nintendo Accepting Mario Videos on the Official Anniversary Website

Got a Mario related clip you just need to advertise to the world?  Want to help Nintendo celebrate Mario’s 30th anniversary by providing them with free content?

If so, Nintendo has just the deal for you!  Put simply, their official website has a section where you can submit videos to feature on the site as part of the anniversary celebrations.  These videos have to be posted on Youtube and a maximum of about 4 minutes long, but can otherwise be anything you like that’s related to Mario and his games.

Here’s the official site for the ‘project’:

LetsSuperMario

Above: On the bright side, Mario RPG content seems to be welcome.

http://www.letssupermario.com/

So, what can we say about this project?

Well to be honest, as a Mario anniversary gimmick, it’s not a very good one.  Showing people pictures of Mario related thing is the job of Tumblr or DeviantArt or Youtube, not a company like Nintendo with an actual marketing budget.

It also makes us wonder what they’re going to do about the inevitable flood of… not so ‘safe’ Mario related videos sure to come flooding in.  Would they want the Brutal Mario or Mushroom Kingdom Trailer on their official site?  Maybe not…

Above: That said, I would probably take something like Brutal Mario over most of Nintendo’s actual E3 announcements this year…

And while part of me wants to submit The People’s Mario video just for kicks, I suspect Nintendo wouldn’t be too pleased with that either:

Above: Somehow, I don’t think it’s Nintendo’s own political opinion…

But hey, while the more interesting kinds of Mario videos will always be found elsewhere, I guess it could be a good for a few laughs if you’re really bored.  What do you think about Nintendo’s Mario video ‘showcase’ website and its announcement at E3?