Tag Archives: mario

Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2: Here We Go!

Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 was released on April 23, 2015. The addition of Animal Crossing’s Villager and Isabelle as well as Dry Bowser don’t do much for me. Likewise, new karts have never been something I glamour for, often selecting the standard kart for every race. (I dig classic!) However, the new Crossing and Bell cups include some of the most gorgeous video game visuals I have come across, Nintendo game or otherwise.

As I was racing through the new and original Wild Woods track, I was itching for Dry Bowser to hop out of his kart and explore. (I’ve experienced similar feelings racing through Shy Guy Falls, Dolphin Shoals, and Toad Harbor.) Likewise, the Animal Crossing track turns the traditionally isometric town into a truly inhabitable world.

A racing game feeling inhabitable speaks volumes.

A breathtaking “open-world” Legend of Zelda is a reality. Likewise, Nintendo has shown stellar execution of HD visuals in Mario Kart 8. This adds up to trigger a craving for the next iteration of 3D Mario games to be set in a seamless HD universe; freeing itself from stage selection and selective star quests and instead opting in for a connected Mushroom Kingdom.

This does not mean an “open-world” Mario game. I am no champion for open-world games. In fact, I often loathe them. I become distracted by side-quests and/or feel forced spend hours completing unnecessary tasks to progress the story or grow the game only to be forced to backtrack or fast-travel to previously completed areas. More and more I feel “open-world” means “lock-in”, encouraging players to invest obscene amounts of time in a single game to the point where they are afraid or ashamed to give it up.

I would love to see the next iteration of 3D Mario games open up into semi-open, adventure style platformers à la Jak and Daxter. No overworld. No stage select. No “painting portals”. Missions are discovered throughout the Mushroom Kingdom in lands akin to Thwomp Ruins, Cheep Cheep Beach, and Moo Moo Meadows, each gated by the traditional “star-requirement”.

I previously posted some thoughts on Iterative vs. Redesigned Experiences:

Super Mario 64 could have just as easily been another side-scroller, albeit with better visuals. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time could have been another top-down adventure. Donkey Kong 64 could have gone a number of pre-existing directions. Sure the Metroid series skipped the Nintendo 64 generation but Metroid Prime could have been another 2D platformer. The fact of the matter is that these titles reinvented their respective franchises. The worlds and characters we loved were shown in a new light and perspective. Sure, they are great games but they reinvented the way we thought about the franchises. This is what makes them so special.

More than just a great racing game, I believe Mario Kart 8 provides a glimpse at the future of the Mushroom Kingdom. Like Super Mario 64 dropped the “3D game design” mic, a fully connected Mushroom Kingdom could bring the 3D adventure-platformer back into the limelight and showcase exactly how it should have been done 15+ years ago.

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The Super Mario Timeline

Speaking of silly dreamers, how about this gem. I like the idea of Donkey Kong leading to Mario Bros. I especially love the part where Bowser throws in the towel and Mario becomes a sports tycoon.

[Via Polygon]

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Captain Toad is Genius

In June 2014, during Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event, a short, minute long trailer for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was tucked between two larger developer interviews for Yoshi’s Woolly World and the much talked about Legend of Zelda for Wii U. Not only was the trailer a bit hidden, it was never verbally acknowledged throughout the course of the 45-minute event. It was a curious trailer, but was the one that stuck with me long after E3. A splinter in my mind.

For those unfamiliar, the origin of Captain Toad is rooted in bonus stages strewn throughout the Super Mario 3D World world map. As players collect stars and progress through the game, Captain Toad stages are unlocked. More from the Super Mario 3D World Wikipedia entry:

Additional Green Stars can be earned in Captain Toad levels, where players control the slow Captain Toad as he navigates puzzle-like stages using the GamePad’s functionality, and Mystery Houses, where players must clear a series of challenges with short time limits.

Not only is Captain Toad slow, he does not have the ability to jump; a staple in the Mushroom Kingdom. The player is forced to keep their wits about them, outsmarting the level design by means of the camera, shifting their perspective over the tiny cube-shaped levels. This imposition of limits is integral to great game design. It makes for gameplay that almost feels foreign amongst the landscape of current shooters and platformers. Strategy becomes the emphasis.

In late August, in an interview with EDGE Magazine, Shigeru Miyamoto made comments about the state of “core” vs. “casual”. The interpretation from Rob Fahey at GamesIndustry.biz hit the nail on the head:

At the same time, though, Nintendo itself has a conception of “casual” and “core” that probably isn’t shared by the majority of sites reporting Miyamoto’s comments. Miyamoto talks not about themes but about enjoyment of challenge as the distinction between the two groups. To him, a supposedly “adult” game full of blood and ripe language could be utterly casual if it spoon-feeds players with dull, linear gameplay. Meanwhile, a brightly coloured Mushroom Kingdom epic could qualify as “core” if it challenges players in the right way. Consequently, Nintendo’s family-friendly IP and the broad appeal of its themes is entirely compatible with a focus on “core games”, to Miyamoto’s mind. What he’s talking about changing is something at the root of design, not the thematic wallpaper of the company’s games; he wants to challenge people, not to force Nintendo’s artists to remove all the primary colours from their Photoshop palettes.

I think this is exactly what we can expect from Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

On top of great level design, the aesthetic design preserves the same gorgeous caliber we’ve seen in Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World. The levels are lush and appear to be brimming with tiny details, animations, humor, and secrets. I will echo my Hail Mario piece and say that “Nintendo is unabashedly gunning for Disney-level aesthetics; a tactic to win over most demographics.”

To add, filling out a Toad with unique characteristics rather than the ambiguous, multi-colored placeholders they have traditionally been known as (see New Super Mario Bros. Wii) brings more definition to the Mushroom Kingdom. And with this new, unique character comes new, unique gameplay. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shows that Nintendo is looking to explore the depths of the Mushroom Kingdom, and proves that there is more there than just simple platformers. We haven’t seen much of dynamic since the Luigi’s Mansion series; a stand-alone IP centered on a familiar character with unique gameplay and design.

When playing Super Mario 3D World, I race for every  Captain Toad level the instant they are unlocked. They are clever, challenging departures from the platforming world Mario inhabits. Something tells me I am not the only one of the few million Super Mario 3D World players to do so. For those unfamiliar with Captain Toad, they will be pleasantly surprised with the over 70 gorgeous, challenging, classic Nintendo designed levels to explore. For those few million that have already had a taste of Captain Toad, you can bet they are itching for more of the playful puzzle mini-game. And assuredly, with Nintendo’s move to DLC (Mario Kart 8) , there will be plenty more to come.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker debuts in Japan on November 13, 2014. Subsequent release dates as follows:

NA: December 5, 2014
EU: January 2, 2015
AUS: January 3, 2015

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If not Disneyland or Nintendo…

Jordan Shapiro, Forbes:

Disney characters are not as familiar to my kids as they were to me when I was their age. Perhaps it is because they have tablets, gaming consoles, and laptops. Their pop culture universe is dominated by Minecraft, Mario, Clash of Clans, and Pokemon. YouTube gamers are celebrities to them. While they (and I) enjoy those new Mickey Mouse shorts on the Disney Channel, we rarely set out to watch something because of the Disney brand.

I love Disneyland. Probably more than most. So much so that my NaNoWriMo novel took place within the gates if the Magic Kingdom. I have long dreamt of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer; brainstorming, collaborating, and bringing to life grand new experiences for park guests. The idea of immersing myself in work that turned imagination into reality (even if it meant laying the brick myself!) always sounded… right.

However, I had an eerily similar thought last night. After setting down my copy of Console Wars by Blake J. Harris, I asked myself if I’d rather work for Disney or Nintendo?

Nintendo is full of characters I grew up, full of characters I love. Being born in 1985, the year the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was brought to North America, Mario, Mega Man (Capcom aside), and Link (rather, the name I chose) were the characters that ushered me into the world, and I them. These characters had no personality, just a mission and they need me to achieve it. They required immersion and connection.

Being raised in a world where the participatory nature of video games was quickly becoming the norm, I’m not sure how much observing a character or watching the moral to a story unfold actually affected me. I was obsessed the Aladdin’s Genie because he made me laugh, but until I really understood the nuances of storytelling and scope of reality (probably somewhere in mid-high school), I’m not sure I really identified with any Disney character. I just knew I wanted to be the good guy.

After spending the weekend enjoying Mario Kart 8 with my fiancée, I thought about how much joy the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom brought me; I thought about how excited I was for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, or how I would jump at the opportunity to buy the next Luigi’s Mansion installment, or how I wish Nintendo would launch a Princess Peach and Daisy centric title.

Don’t get me wrong, working as a Walt Disney Imagineer or in Nintendo’s Treehouse sounds like more than any fan could ever ask for. But given an equal opportunity at both, I’m not sure which I would choose. I don’t think I’m the only one from my generation who sits on this fence.

In a connected society full of massive, customizable, open worlds and bite-sized mobile games, will post-millennials fantasize about either? If we live in a perpetually fantastic world, does reality become the new fantasy?

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Pixel Art

Sam Byford, The Verge:

Instead, pixel art is best thought of as video gaming’s most characteristic visual style, one that was forged throughout the history of the medium and is inextricably linked to it.

A great post at The Verge today. Pixel art is and forever will be the most emblematic representation of the video game medium.

Adam Saltsman, creator of Canabalt:

Pixel art doesn’t always spell everything out. It can be pretty minimalist and evocative that way. Often when you are looking at pixel art you are seeing more than is actually there.

After Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D in 2011 (a remastering of 1998’s original LoZ: OoT), many were quick to point out that it had been rebuilt as the game you remember, not the game it actually was. Our imaginations have the wondrous ability to fill in blanks and fill out details that may not actually be there. This seems to be the reason I have no quandary with the evolution of Mario. I have never questioned this:

8_Bit_Mario

from this:

MarioNSMBWii

Red cap, mustache, overalls? Sure, that’s Mario.

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Webster Goomez the stuffed Goomba

Susan Senator, writing for Cognoscenti, on “Webster Goomez” the stuffed Goomba:

A day or so later, Ben remarked that Webster was ‘kind of adorable.’

Adorable? Did I hear that right? Never had such a word come out of Ben before. I quickly recovered my cool and tried not to make too big a deal out of it, so as not to embarrass him. But inside, I cradled that word, longed to hear it again, hoping I hadn’t imagined it. But no, this was for real. A few days later, I heard Ben describing a different character as ‘cute.’

Cute 🙂

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