Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The greatest Wii games not made by Nintendo

Okay, folks, let's get this train rolling again!

Nintendo's an amazing company when it comes to developing unique and entertaining titles. However, they're not the only ones who've got a good grip on making games for the Wii. A few third-party developers have really mastered developing for Nintendo's latest console, and here are a few of their games that really showed what they can do.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition

Resident Evil 4 was a great game when it debuted on the Gamecube back in 2005, and it was made even better when ported to the Wii this passed June. Featuring all the additional content from the Playstation 2 version and Wii-enhanced controls, it has been called the definitive version of Resident Evil 4.

Resident Evil 4 stars Leon S. Kennedy, a newly recruited secret agent of the United States government. Leon's initial mission is to travel to a remote location in Spain and rescue the US President's kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham. Upon arrival near Ashley's last known location, Leon encounters a bizarre village of apparently insane people. Using his skills acquired from his short service on the Raccoon City P.D, Leon fights his way through the vast groups of villagers. A mission that once began as saving just one person suddenly evolves into a fight for the very survival of the human race.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is an epic action-adventure title with a whole lot of adventure, tons of puzzles and many a chainsaw-wielding psychopath. The Wii remote lends perfectly to all aspects of this game, from aiming a gun to swiping a knife to running from an Indiana Jones-style boulder. All the special features formerly exclusive to the Playstation 2 port of the game have all been graphically overhauled with the Gamecube's superior textures and models, bringing them to life like never before. However, there's still little that can be done for Ashley's incessant "HEEEELP! LEON!!!!"...

In the end, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is a great example of how to port a game to the Wii, and an even better example of excellent Wii development overall.

The Godfather: Blackhand Edition

Yes, I know, I mention this game a lot here at One Duck's Opinion. But you know what? That just goes to show how amazing I think it is. I wouldn't repeatedly mention a game if it were no good, would I?

Anyways, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is, of course, based on the Godfather movies, which are in turn based on the novels written by Mario Puzo. The player takes the role of Aldo Trapani, a man who, as a boy, saw his father murdered by Done Barzini right before his very eyes. From that point on, he swore he'd claim his revenge. Nine years later, Luca Brasi of the Corleone family recruits Aldo into the mob as a favour asked by Aldo's mother, Sarafina. From that point on, Aldo works his way up the Corleone family hierarchy, often participating in key scenes from the Godfather movie trilogy.

Aldo also has a secondary storyline all his own, featuring romancing Marty "Monk" Malone's sister, carrying out hit contracts and ultimately rising to the rank of Don. Aldo's personal storyline meshes beautifully with the core narrative, and it's sometimes hard to tell what's original and what's new.

The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is a port of the XBox, XBox 360, PS2, PSP and PC game The Godfather: The Game. In addition to all the features existent in the original version of the game, Blackhand Edition adds in exclusive motion-controls. Using the Wii remote and Nunchuk, players can jab, grab and toss their opponents as if Aldo's hands were their own, allowing for amazing immersion into the game. The pointer function of the Wii remote can be used to aim the gun, and shaking the Nunchuk loads a fresh clip into your firearm.

Also added to the mix are extra hits, missions, an additional rival family and blackmailing police. The Blackhand Edition has been widely considered the best version of the game, and it's truly one of my favorite Wii titles.

Rayman Raving Rabbids

Rayman Raving Rabbids is probably the zaniest, craziest, most insane video game ever created. The game starts off normally enough, with Rayman sharing a picnic lunch with his little pal Globox. Suddenly, their meal is interrupted by bizarre rabbit-like creatures called Rabbids. They promptly kidnap the picnickers and toss them into a prison. As it turns out, the Rabbids are planning to take over Rayman's world by capturing all who defy them. Oblivious to Rayman's status as a hero, they frequently let him out into their colosseum and force him to complete various insane trials.

This is where the gameplay comes in. Each of these trials plays out like a mini-game, and you often have to use the unique motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii controls to pass these bizarre missions. From pumping carrot juice to running across a beach to firing a plunger gun, the Wii remote and Nunchuk do it all. Slowly, after performing several days worth of trials, you begin to earn the trust and respect of the Rabbids. Your living quarters become less barren and more comfortable, and the jail guard stops treating you so roughly. Day by day and trial by trial, Rayman slowly becomes a celebrity among the Rabbids. But he must not become too comfortable. After all, these guys are trying to conquer the world! So secretly throughout his stay in the dungeon, Rayman formulates an escape plan...

Of course, the story really isn't what's important here. What's important is how incredibly fun and hilarious all the mini-games are. The Rabbids' constant screams are a never-ending laugh riot, and the controls are almost always a perfect fit for the situation. Rayman Raving Rabbids may be little more than a collection of mini-games, but it's one insanely great collection.

Nintendo makes some amazing games for their consoles, but third-party developers can also do one heck of a job themselves. What are some third-party Wii games that you just can't get enough of?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I totally can't think tonight...

Not a single idea is coming to mind... Not one. Even looking at some I have written down fail to spark anything. I might write something up tomorrow instead, but I'm not sure.

Sorry, guys.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poll #18: "What do you think is this year's best Wii game?" results, banner

The results!

"Super Mario Galaxy" 34 votes (80%)
"Metroid Prime 3: Corruption" 2 votes (4%)
"Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure" 1 vote (2%)
"Mario Strikers Charged" 0 votes (0%)
"Battalion Wars 2" 1 vote (2%)
"Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition" 3 votes (7%)
"Other" 1 vote (2%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)

Now who didn't see this coming? I'm somewhat surprised Metroid Prime 3: Corruption didn't get as many votes, but otherwise it was pretty predictable.

And now, you have probably noticed the new banner. It's by me, and I'm quite proud of it. Don't worry, the blog's still called "One Duck's Opinion", I just felt like messing around a bit with the banner this week. Hope you like it!

And make sure to vote on this week's poll, "What is your favourite Nintendo franchise?"! I'm really looking forward to the results on this one! Personally, I can't decide! So many of the franchises have given me endless hours of entertainment...

I'll get to work on tonight's article soon!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mini-article: How different could the next Zelda be?

Okay, decided to whip something up quick for those of you who don't wanna hear about the PS3. Also, I had to write this up while I had it all up in my head.

Before Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, they told us it would be the last traditional Zelda game. Something big is going to happen to make the next installment incredibly different, and I've been thinking up just how the franchise might change...

1: Link no longer being humanoid. Think about it: All these twenty years we've been playing as an elf-like Hylian. But what if that were to all change? I feel Wolf Link in Twilight Princess may have given us a certain glimpse into the future...

What if Link were some totally non-human being? A Zora? A Goron? Or even a real animal such as, for example, a dog? It's never been said that Link needed to be humanoid. The next Zelda could really be something different...

2: No longer medieval?. I've been hearing this one for ages. People are thinking that maybe the Zelda series will no longer take place in the medieval-like era of which we are accustomed. After all, how many generations and centuries of Links can go by before we actually see some technological advancement? Could there be a futuristic Zelda on the horizon?

Or what if it turns out to be the opposite? What if it's some sort of bizarre, pre-history land of caves and proto-humans? What if Link's just some saber-toothed tiger hunting Neanderthal? Or is this just too weird? You really can never tell with Nintendo...

3: What if there's just no more Link? What if the hero's bloodline just dwindles out, leaving only normal citizens to fight against the legions of Ganondorf? It could become an epic story of new-found heroes and unexpected powers. Perhaps another lies inside the land of Hyrule... Another with an amazing power hidden within...

4: What if Zelda becomes the main character? It is called The Legend of Zelda, after all! This could also work in conjunction with the previous possibility. Zelda leading a resistance of make-shift warriors against the tyranny of the evil ruler Ganondorf, fighting with what little remains to make things right again...


Whatever this significant change turns out to be, I'm sure it will be one hell of a ride once it begins. A brand-new Zelda is in the works as we speak, and it could be the greatest thing to ever happen to the franchise.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Mini-article: Tips to Sony: How to sell the PS3

No, you haven't stumbled into the Twilight Zone. Just read on.

I think that everybody can agree that the PS3 is completely floundering in terms of sales. It's no secret, really. Looking at the sales charts, the PS3 hasn't even sold half as many units as the XBox 360, let alone coming close to the Wii.

Looking at the PS3 and how it's being managed, I can come up with a few ideas on how to make it sell better.

1: Stop making PS2s. From the launch of the PS3 to now, the PS2 has sold 10 million units, 4 million more than the PS3. Sony is cannibalizing their own sales! So nix the PS2, and implement 100% backwards compatibility in the PS3.

2: Find a way to lower that ridiculous price. Even your cheapest, $400 model costs way too much. Trim it down to $300 somehow. And make it possible for people who buy the cheap model to gradually upgrade to the full potential of the most expensive unit. None of this "Will never be as good" crap.

3: Show off the PS3's true power. Get SCEA off their asses and tell them to make a game that really flexes the console's muscle. Get every last bit of those processors humming with processing software, and make some good use of that SIXAXIS. Go out, play Excite Truck, get inspired and get working.

In short, Sony needs to cut costs, kill the PS2 and show off what the PS3 can really do. Then you'll see the sales.

I believe the PS3 can be good, but not in it's current state. It'll take some work and a lot of cash, but it can be saved and turned into a winner.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nintendo DS: The best games of it's first three years

Look at this, two Nintendo birthdays in one week! Also, Shigeru Miyamoto just turned 55 on the 18th. Must be a lot of cake at Nintendo HQ nowadays...

The Nintendo DS was a big risk when it launched back in 2004. Two screens? Touch technology? A microphone? It was one weird package, that's for sure. But it all paid off in a big way. Current sales numbers indicate that the Nintendo DS (And it's follow-up, the DS Lite) have sold over 55 million units worldwide.

And what is the main deciding factor in console sales? The answer is, quite simply, the games. When it comes to quality titles, the DS has a seemingly never-ending supply. Here are some games which I truly believe are some of the best the Nintendo DS has to offer.

New Super Mario Bros.

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: May 15th, 2006
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
One Duck's Opinion Score: 9.2/10

New Super Mario Bros. had teased gamers for a good long while. We first saw it before the Nintendo DS was even released, and we don't even get our hands on it until two years later! Without a doubt, it was worth the wait. New Super Mario Bros. took everything that was good about old-school, side-scrolling Mario games and brought it into the new millennium. With amazingly detailed 3D character sprites and beautiful backdrops, it was just as much a pleasure to watch as it was to play. The only problem is it was done far too soon, but that's what playing a game for a second time is for! Plus, you could play as the far superior brother the second time around. Luigi forever!

Review excerpt: "New Super Mario Bros. is an amazing Mario game, and possibly the best platform available for the DS. This game excels in nearly every field, and it deserves a spot in any gamer's collection. If you don't have it, get it. If you do have it, congratulations, my friend, you've made a very wise purchase." Full Review

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: October 1st, 2007
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
One Duck's Opinion Score: 9.5/10

No matter what anybody else says, I absolutely loved Wind Waker. Unsurprisingly, I was very happy when I heard it would be receiving a sequel on the Nintendo DS. Knowing the prestigious Zelda franchise, my expectations were high.

Fortunately, my expectations were filled, and even surpassed. The adventures were great, the story was well-written, and the humour is perfectly suited to the situation. The dungeons were a tiny bit short, but that mattered little to me on the grand scale of things. Phantom Hourglass was an amazing game.

Review Excerpt: "The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is one heck of an adventure. It's more than a worthy successor to Wind Waker, and it's probably even better than the critically acclaimed Twilight Princess. The multiplayer is a total blast, and the storyline really ties into the prequel beautifully. Everything about this game is great, and this is a real candidate for Game of the Year in my books." Full Review

Pokemon Diamond Version

Developers: Nintendo, The Pokemon Company
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 27th, 2007
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
One Duck's Opinion Score: 9.5/10

The Pokemon franchise has been around since 1995, but until Pokemon Diamond, I had never realized how great it could be. Diamond Version took all that was already great about the other Pokemon games, and added so much more to it. The 108 new Pokemon were all well designed, as was the brand-new world they lived in. The land of Sinnoh was the largest world yet in the Pokemon series, and it allowed for so many more environments, towns and events. The ability to trade online added so much to the series, and the Sinnoh Underground was a great way to kill time, with friends or on your own. Pokemon Diamond, in my opinion, is the definitive Pokemon game.

Review Excerpt: "Pokemon Diamond is possibly the greatest DS game ever made, and perhaps even the best Pokemon game ever, too. Every little thing in this game adds up to something really big, something that can't be missed by anyone, fans and newcomers alike. This is a true masterpiece of a game, and it will go down as one of my favorite games ever to grace my collection." Full Review

Final Fantasy III

Developers: Square-Enix, Matrix Software
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: November 24th, 2006 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+
One Duck's Opinion Score: 9.5/10

Final Fantasy III had long been available nowhere but Japan. Originally released on the Famicom in 1990, it never saw the light of day in North America. That is, not until it was released on the Nintendo DS in 2006! The Nintendo DS remake kept the original product almost entirely intact, as well as adding new graphics, new missions and multiplayer modes. The results was a visually breath-taking RPG adventure with plenty of plot twists, battles and a musical score by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. Final Fantasy III is not to be missed by any hardcore RPG lover.

Review Excerpt: "Final Fantasy III is a triumph in nearly every field. From a solid storyline to gripping gameplay to breathtaking graphics, there's very little wrong with this game. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of my five favorite DS games ever! We waited 16 years to get our hands on this long-lost gem, but the time has finally come. Every RPG fan needs to play this game and experience the true Final Fantasy III." Full Review

Sonic Rush

Developer: Dimps
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: November 15th, 2005 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E for "Everyone"
One Duck's Opinion Score: 9.2

It's no secret that the Sonic franchise has been on a pretty steep decline ever since the SEGA Genesis. The games just kept getting worse and worse, but one title appeared to help turn things around. Sonic Rush was the first Sonic game released for the Nintendo DS, and it did so much right that many people ignored the hedgehog's tarnished past. Bringing things back to basics, Rush was a fast-paced, side-scrolling Sonic adventure that took advantage of the DS' two screens to offer double-tall environments. The story was surprisingly in-depth for a Sonic title, introducing new characters and elements without making things seem out of place. The only downside to this game is the annoying sidekicks who never seem to shut up. Well, that's why there's a volume slider on the DS! Besides that, this is a great, fast-paced platformer, and every DS player should own a copy.

Review Excerpt: "Sonic Rush is an extremely exciting, adrenaline-injected adventure, with plenty of levels and unlockables to keep your attention. As a plus, the game's really easy on the eyes, too. Just not so soft on the ears, so you may want to plug in your MP3 player. Anyways, it's an amazing game, and quite possibly the best Sonic in years, if not ever. I look forward to Sonic Rush Adventure with the greatest anticipation." Full Review

When it comes to the DS' game library, these games are some of the best. So go out and play these games, folks! You won't be disappointed!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Wii's first year report card

Yeah, so you've probably already seen a dozen articles like this today. Everyone else was doing it! I JUST WANTED TO BE POPULAR.

So, it was exactly one year ago today I set out on that brisk November morning to grab my brand new Nintendo console. 365 days since I unpacked the brand-new Wii. 52 weeks since I first got my hands on Wii Sports. 12 months to the day since I first experienced The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. But enough chronological mumbo-jumbo. The Wii's been here for a year now. How has it fared? Does it get a passing grade? A respectable score? Or does it get slapped in the face with an F? Here's my report card for the Wii's first year.

First (and most importantly):

The Software

If somebody told you that you could play a brand new game from franchises such as Metroid, Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda all within a year of a console's launch, would you believe them? Personally, I'd call them insane, give them a dunce cap and a swift kick in the butt. But sometimes it's the craziest things that end up true!

Yes, less than a year after the Wii launches, we get The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Three heavy hitters all within twelve months. But it's not just Nintendo that matters here, folks. Since that cold November morning in 2006, we've gotten huge releases from third-parties, including titles such as Rayman Raving Rabbids, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, Trauma Center: Second Opinion and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock! Sure, a few of them may be ports, but they're all amazing titles nonetheless.

Of course, you can't have the good without the bad. For every Super Mario Galaxy and Rayman Raving Rabbids out there, there's just as much Far Cry: Vengeance and Escape From Bug Island waiting in the stands.

In the end, the Wii's software library boasts a pretty decent collection of quality titles, but the amount of crap is quite a worry. Still, I feel the good outweighs the bad, and that's why I give the Wii's software library a...


Online Gaming

Up until 2005's release of Mario Kart DS, Nintendo had never published an online video game. Needless to say, they're kind of new to the whole internet-gaming phenomenon. When the Wii finally went online in July 2007 with Pokemon Battle Revolution, people were a little underwhelmed, to put it gently. Friend codes, lag, lack of player to player interaction... It wasn't exactly a hit with reviewers.

Since then, Nintendo has released two more online games for the Wii: Mario Strikers Charged and Battalion Wars 2. While I've yet to experience Battalion Wars 2 (Damn lack of funds...), I have played Mario Strikers Charged online a few times, and on most occasions, I was faced with quite the inconvenience: Lag, and lots of it. I could hardly take three steps in the game without it freezing. Of course, this led to a whole lot of badly aimed kicks, messed-up dodges and completely screwed Super Strikes. Didn't exactly make the experience very fun.

Furthermore, Nintendo encourages playing online Wii games exclusively with people from the same continent as you. Not exactly the worldwide web any more, is it?

Back to the positive side of things, I've heard nothing but good about Medal of Honor: Heroes 2's online mode, and that's including the insane 32-player deathmatches! As for games such as Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock and Geometry Wars: Galaxies, I really haven't heard anything at all. But people do tend to complain a lot more than they compliment, so perhaps everything has been going so well there's been no need to get angry.

But still, many games that really should be online are released with nothing more than local multiplayer. Need For Speed: ProStreet just came out the other day, and not a single ounce of online functionality is present. There's really no excuse for this to be happening nowadays. If a game is online on the XBox 360, it should damn well be online on the Wii, too. It's things like this that really peeve me off, and that's why I'm only giving the Wii's online functionality a...


Wii Channels

Next to the Wii remote, one of the Wii's most defining features has to be the Wii Channel system. Probably my favorite format for a main menu I've ever seen, Wii Channels offer up near endless amounts of customization. But the most important parts, however, are the Wii Channels that have been released.

At first, we had only the Disc, Mii, Photo and Shop Channels to work with (But since these were here from the start, they don't really count as happening in the last year). Then we saw the release of the News, Forecast and Internet Channels. These three channels added some great functionality to the little console.

The News Channel is a neat little way to catch up with headlines from your own town or from around the world. I personally still check it out once in a while just to see how things are going. If it goes unused for too long, downloading all the updates can be a bit of a pain, though.

The Forecast Channel is nice for checking out how things are going to be looking in the next little while. It's nice to see if it will be raining on Monday so you can remember to bring an umbrella. Sadly, the Forecast Channel is updated far too infrequently, and it's often less accurate than my local news channel's weather segment.

The Internet Channel is probably the application most used on my Wii (Besides the Disc Channel!). Whenever I'm sitting around bored, I like to check out some videos on Youtube, flip through the newest Go Nintendo updates and catch up with some of my webcomics. It's quite a bit slower than browsing the 'net on my computer, but it's still much better than nothing. And with so many sites offering Wii compatible browsing and Flash games, there's never a shortage of things to do!

Since then we've also gotten a preview Channel for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Sure, it was little more than a collection of videos and a partial image gallery, but it was a good way to get the hype train going. I hope we see some more Preview Channels in the future!

And then there's the Everybody Votes Channel. Mainly for the casual crowd, I still find this channel to be sort of fun, and a nice little distraction. It's also neat to see what the popular opinion is across the country and around the world.

Finally, we have the most recent addition, Check Mii Out (Or the Mii Contest Channel in PAL regions). Finally a place to post our favorite Miis for all the world to see! The occasional contests allow us a bit of creativity, as well as a reason to fire up the Mii Channel again. I just hope we start getting contest a little more frequently...

Really, I'm quite happy with how Nintendo's been handling new channel releases. We get something new basically every month, which is alright by me! In light of the high channel release frequency and generally high quality, I'm going to give the Wii Channels a...


Keeping promises

Not everybody can keep every promise they make, especially if they make a lot of promises. Nintendo is one of these "people". They can't but help break one or two of all the promises they've made.

First of all, here's a big one: Nintendo promised that the Wii would search for, download and install new firmware upgrades whenever they were released. The truth is, is rarely tells us when such a thing happens, and when it does, we still have to install it manually. Some of these updates are so minor, it really wouldn't be much of a stretch for the console to do it on it's own. Many updates don't seem to have any visible effects, and it's these little behind-the-scenes enhancements that the Wii should make automatically. If it's something big like a new menu layout or something like that, of course the user will want to approve it first. But if it's merely an invisible upgrade that tweaks some minor aspect, it should just happen. WiiConnect24 doesn't even download messages automatically! It really doesn't live up to what Nintendo promised at all.

Then there's the more recent (And less severe) announcement of Super Smash Bros. Brawl being delayed until next year. They promised it to us in December, but now it'll have to wait until February. I don't think it's much of a deal, and I'm positive Brawl will benefit from the delay, but it's still a broken promise.

Really, though, despite the above, the majority of promises have been kept. From Twilight Princess at launch to the free Internet Channel until July, Nintendo generally keeps its word. But that WiiConnect24 issue is quite the doozy, which is why I'll be giving their promises a...



The Wii has generally performed well these last two months. Its had its ups and downs, and it sure has had its fair share of love and hate. But taking a look at it now, I feel the Wii deserves an overall grade of...


And what about the future?
The Wii has a sunny outlook ahead of it. With many great new games, features and more on the horizon, there's so much going for it. Just in the first part of next year will see the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii and No More Heroes, three of the systems most anticipated titles. We'll also soon see the long-awaited DS Demo Channel, as well as dozens more surprises Nintendo has under wraps. The Wii has done well so far, and it looks to do even better in the future.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #17: "How old were you when you first played a video game?" results, banner

The results are in:

"0 - 9 years old" 66 votes (92%)
"10 - 19 years old" 2 votes (2%)
"20 - 29 years old" 1 vote (1%)
"30 - 39 years old" 0 votes (0%)
"40 - 49 years old" 1 vote (1%)
"50 or more years old" 0 votes (0%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)
"I have never played a video game (!)" 1 vote (1%)

Just as expected, most voters have been gaming since their early years. Whoever voted "I have never played a video game (!)" couldn't possibly have been telling the truth! It's really unthinkable! After all, if you've never played a video game, what the heck are you doing on this site?

And wow, someone didn't start gaming until their forties! Better late than never, I suppose!

This week's banner is by your's truly. Again, it's Galaxy themed, but this game is too big of a release to contain the celebrations to one week! Man I love this game... I have about 80 stars now, but I don't want to hit the final battle just yet! Must get more stars...

Finally, this week's new poll: "What do you think is this year's best Wii game?"! Since all the real heavy-hitters have made their debut already, I think now's an appropriate time for this poll. I suppose you can guess my vote from the paragraph above, huh?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy review

Big ol' review coming up... If I were you, I'd grab a soda and a bucket of popcorn. Also, it should go without saying there will be some spoilers. Just a warning.

When Super Mario 64 was released way back in 1996, fans went nuts for the plumber's first foray into the three-dimensional realm. With 15 levels, 120 missions and three major boss battles, it was certainly a great game. Even now it still ranks in the top five games of all time for me.

But after Super Mario 64 was the widely-hated Super Mario Sunshine. Running and jumping was no longer the main mechanic of the game. Instead, Mario's water jet pack F.L.U.D.D had all but hijacked the entire experience. Nintendo originally considered using an original character in place of Mario, and I think that would have been a better idea. Nonetheless, I still somewhat liked Sunshine, but it just didn't do it for me.

And now along comes Super Mario Galaxy. Critics just can't stop gushing about how amazing this title is. Everywhere you turn there's positive reception for this game. Nintendo, if this is your apology for Sunshine, we gladly accept.

Super Mario Galaxy starts off happily enough. A large comet is about to pass the planet very closely, an event which occurs but once every hundred years. Princess Peach invites Mario to the celebration, but it's then that things start to go wrong.

Several flying ships appear on the horizon, firing flaming cannon balls. Bowser is attacking the Mushroom Kingdom! Buildings are destroyed and villagers are frozen in crystalline blocks. A flying saucer appears above the castle, and with deadly lasers it quickly cuts out the chunk of land on which the fortress is standing. Mario immediately jumps into action, and manages to scramble onto the castle just before it is taken away. As the airships lift it up into the stratosphere, a Magikoopa takes Mario by surprise and blasts him into space.

A while later, Mario awakes on a small planetoid. A small rabbit wishes to play hide and seek with him, and runs off, beckoning for Mario to follow. After capturing the rabbit and his friends, Mario climbs up a small tower and meets with a woman named Rosalina. She tells Mario that she knows of Princess Peach's troubles, and that Rosalina herself had been attacked by Bowser recently. Due to all the craft's Power Stars being stolen by Bowser, Rosalina's mobile observatory is currently unable to function. If Mario can gather enough stars to restore power to the observatory, he can pursue Bowser and save Princess Peach.

In order to reach these Power Stars, Mario will have to travel to many different galaxies all over the universe. Using the small observatories (Called "Domes") located all over Rosalina's craft, Mario will locate distant galaxies and planetary systems. Using powers granted to him by Princess Rosalina, Mario flies from galaxy to galaxy, defeating enemies and traversing alien worlds.

Thanks to powers granted to him by Rosalina, Mario can travel
through space at amazing speeds.

Princess Rosalina shares her observatory with a species by the name of Luma. Shaped like chubby Power Stars, the Luma possess some amazing powers. They can transform themselves to help Mario, and it's a Luma that gives Mario his space-traveling powers.

In the end it's still just about saving the princess, but the addition of several new characters and extra-terrestrial travel helps keep things from getting stale.

Within each dome's sight is one of Bowser's bases. Hidden deep within these strongholds are Grand Stars. These super-charged Power Stars have enough energy to restore power to entire sections of the observatory at once. It is only by gathering Grand Stars that Mario may unlock additional domes, allowing him to go to further galaxies and collect even more Power Stars. In turn, these Power Stars increase the viewing range of the domes, leading to more and more adventures.

Each and every galaxy consists of many planetoids and satellites. The varying sizes of the planets is amazing. Some are so small you could take a running jump and end up exactly where you left off, while some are so large that their horizons are hardly even curved. Even though he largest planets restrict your freedom to a small part of the surface, it still gives an amazing sense of scale. In many planets, walking on even the underside is possible. Sometimes using every degree of the landmass is key to solving puzzles. Thinking is key to getting anywhere in this game.

Many planets can be walked on in ways that may look
upside-down to you, but are really completely normal due to

With all this gravity, you may think it's impossible to fall off the level, right? Wrong! Some planets are situated above black holes, meaning that the gravitational pull will always be towards the bottom of the planet. So if you slip off the edge of such a level, you're done for. Also, there are a few planets with holes in them which reveal a black hole core. Watch out for these ones especially.

But just how do you get from planet to planet anyways? There are a variety of methods, but the most common is the Launch Star. On many planets, all you have to do is locate the Launch Star, shake the Wii remote to activate it, and fly off to the next location. However, it's rarely that easy. Sometimes the Launch Star is broken, and you must search the entire planet for all five pieces of it. In other occasions, the Launch Star may be hidden, and only by defeating certain enemies can it be revealed.

If it isn't a Launch Star you need to find, chances are you should be searching for a Pull Star. Simply point at a Pull Star, press A, and allow it to pull you in with it's magical abilities. From there, you can grab another Pull Star to continue on, or, if you're close enough to the surface of a planet, you can shake the Wii remote to free yourself from it's grip and land. Pull Stars are also sometimes broken like Launch Stars. Again, merely collect up the pieces to get things going.

Pull Stars are sometimes the only way to get from planet to planet.

There's also the Sling Star, but it's rarely used for interplanetary travel. Similar to a weaker Launch Star, Sling Stars can toss Mario a short distance. They're mostly useful for traveling along the surface of a planet, for matters such as getting over walls or across gaps.

There are a few more methods of traveling from planet to planet, but I'll leave those a secret for you to discover. No matter how you get around, it's always a blast.

In addition to the normal missions you'll receive, you'll also occasionally stumble across a galaxy with a Prankster Comet passing close by. These comets can have a number of effects on a galaxy. For example, some of them make your health be constantly at one bar, making even one hit mean death. Sometimes you'll be suddenly thrust into a battle against a silhouetted copy of yourself. Perhaps you'll have a time trial, or even super-fast enemies! These Prankster Comets sure like to mix things up, and beating a level under their bizarre circumstances will reward you with a Power Star.

Mario gains a key new ability in Galaxy, and that is the Spin. By shaking the Wii remote, Mario will do a quick spin, which can serve many purposes. It can stun many enemies, which makes them susceptible to even the lightest touch. It can also drive screws and spin valve handles. And if Mario spins while trapped in a tornado, he'll rocket out of the twister and hover for a short while.

One more ability gained in Galaxy is being able to shoot Star Bits. Like the coins of previous games (Which are still available, although far rarer), Star Bits are your basic collectible. If you have even one Star Bit in your possession, you can launch it at a foe by pointing and pressing B. This will stun your foes similarly in fashion to spinnning.

Super Mario Galaxy also has the widest assortment of power-ups I've ever seen in a Mario game. First of all, we have the widely-known Bee Mario. When transformed in bee form, Mario gains the ability to fly for short periods of time, as well as the ability to climb honeycomb walls and a few other surfaces. This power-up will last forever, so long as you don't get hurt, die or touch water.

Bee Mario is one of the many power-ups available in Galaxy.

Also new to the franchise is Ice Mario. Using the power of extreme cold, Ice Mario gains the ability to skate over water by freezing it. Besides that, Ice Mario has no other powers. He can't fire any projectiles and he can't fly or anything. This isn't too much of a deal, as his ability to freeze water is quite versatile. Mario can only remain in Ice mode for a short time, and he can also lose the powers by dying.

Another new power-up is Boo Mario. As you'd guess, this power-up grants Mario all the powers and even the appearance of a Boo. Thusly, he can fly and even phase through some walls. Boo Mario will last forever, so long as you don't touch another Boo, get hurt or enter a brightly lit area.

Boo Mario is yet another new power-up introduced in Galaxy.

Making it's first ever appearance in a 3D Mario is the iconic Fire Mario. Just like in New Super Mario Bros., Fire Mario give the plumber a white and red wardrobe, and grants him the ability to shoot fireballs from his hands. For some strange reason, this power-up doesn't give Mario immunity to fire-based attacks, which is kind of unfair since Ice Mario saves him from frigid waters. Anyways, Fire Mario can lose his powers if he dies or if time runs out.

The Starman also makes a comeback with it's spiritual successor, the Rainbow Star. This grants Mario nearly full immunity to everything, except for black holes. Also, it allows Mario to run a little faster and charge right through enemies. The only thing that can defeat Invincible Mario is a black hole, and it only lasts for a short time.

There's at least one other power-up in Galaxy, but since I have not yet gotten to it, I shall refrain from judging it.

One thing about these power-ups that sets them apart from previous titles is how rare they are. Unlike most other Mario games, the number of power-ups on each level is anywhere between zero and three (And most often, it's the former). The power-ups seems to serve but one purpose, and that's to solve puzzles. So if you see a Fire Flower, you know something near by needs a little heat. Kind of takes a bit of the fun out of puzzles. Still, despite this, the power-ups are great, and the puzzles don't suffer much from it.

Mario also seems to be far more fragile than before. As far as I can tell, Mario's health bar will always have a maximum of three hits throughout the whole game. There is but one exception, and that's if Mario gets a Life Mushroom. Life Mushrooms double Mario's health to a total of six, but they have a few limitations. First, if you leave the level, it wears off. Second, if your health drops below four, the limit is reset and your maximum of health returns to three. Kind of an annoyance, considering Super Mario 64 featured a five-block health bar, and Sunshine upped the endurance to eight.

Don't worry about going swimming while hurt, as Mario's health bar is completely separate from his oxygen meter. Although if his oxygen wears out, his health will begin to dwindle.

There are a few minor issues with aiming in this game. When trying to launch a fireball or throw a Koopa shell, lining up your shot can be pretty difficult. If I had to guess, Mario can only face in about twelve directions, which can be a problem if your target is far away. This can also be related to the lack of adequate camera control. While the game does a fairly good job of managing the camera for you, I sometimes wish I could look over Mario's shoulder, as if standing behind him. That would help a lot with aiming projectiles.

The camera is somewhat positionable, thanks to the D-pad. However, each press of either left or right moves the camera by a fixed amount, instead of smoothly scrolling. This can cause some problems if you're trying to get the camera in just the right spot. Also, the game can be kind of picky about when you can and can't adjust the angle. At least there's the first-person view for checking out your surroundings, although even that is sometimes mysteriously forbidden.

Of course, as you've likely gathered from the above screenshots, Super Mario Galaxy is a freaking gorgeous game. First of all, take a look at those textures. No matter how closely you look at them, they never appear blurry. Today I stopped moving randomly, went into first-person view and looked at the ground beneath Mario. The textures may have been a little pixelated up-close, but they sure as hell weren't blurry.

Second, the lighting is absolutely amazing. Just look at that screenshot below. The lights shine on Mario and the Koopa shell perfectly, and the Bullet Bill torpedo in the background looks very metallic.

The lighting is absolutely amazing.

The reflections are also a work of art. I think the best example of this game's reflections has to be the hardened lava rock in the screen below.

The reflections on that lava rock are stunning

The trails of light on the lava rock move perfectly along with the camera. It's much more impressive in motion, but since most footage online is of such low quality, I suppose you'd be best off seeing it for yourself. But trust me, it's amazing.

Also, there seems to be no draw distance at all in this game, period. If something is really incredibly far away, it will still be rendered. So no matter how much space is between you and a Star Bit on another planet, waving your Wii remote over it will still bring it straight to your pocket. It just might take a while for the Star Bit to get to you!

And here's something really great: Fuzzy enemies actually LOOK fuzzy! Just take a look at that Monty Mole in the screenshot below.

You can actually see the individual hairs on the Monty Mole!

Each and every hair seems to have been rendered separately! No furry-looking texture or painted-on hair. It's actually fuzzy! The queen bee of the Honey Hive Galaxy is rendered the same way. Even the smaller Monty Moles have individual hairs! The attention to detail there just blows me away entirely.

The graphics in this game are absolutely mind-blowing. Definitely the best looking game yet on the Wii, and it even rivals some 360 games in terms of textures. A true beauty!

The music in this game is some of the best I've heard in any game for long time. Every level features what sounds like fully orchestrated themes, and some bonus Galaxies even have beautifully remixed classic tracks in the background. So far I've heard songs from Super Mario 64, Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, all redone amazingly well. Even the new music is pretty good, and it all goes together very well with the remixes.

The sound effects in Galaxy are also top-notch. Whether a box is being broken, a coin is being collected or an enemy is being defeated, each sound effect goes perfectly with the situation. The grunts and growls of the enemies all sound great, too. The Whomps are sadly silent, however, and that really let me down. I love their trademark "URRH!" from Super Mario 64...

Speaking of being a mute, the voice acting in Galaxy is sadly absent for the most part. Pretty much all you get is Mario's cheers and such, a few sentences from Princess Peach and about seven words from Rosalina. Come on, Sunshine had almost full voice-acting! Would it have been so much of a stretch to do the same for Galaxy?

Although voice acting quantity is low, what is there is of mostly high quality. Peach sounds just like she did in Super Mario 64, and Mario is, of course, simply brilliant. Martinet never lets us down!

Rosalina's voice actor seems to emote a little strangely, though. Whenever Rosalina does say something, the emphasis is sometimes misplaced.

And Bowser? Yeah, he just growls with subtitles. That's okay by me, however. He is of a different species after all.

What's that? Multiplayer in a Mario game? Yup, 'tis true. Although it's not what you might expect. First of all, it doesn't at all involve Luigi, as is usually required by NintenLaw. Instead, the second player plays a much smaller role, one that can easily be started and ended in the middle of a gameplay session.

Player 2 merely picks up another remote and helps collect Star Bits, stuns enemies and a few other minor things. It makes the job a little easier for player 1, and it can help the less gaming-inclined get in on the fun. It's pretty neat being either player in this situation. And I'd know, as I've played both first and second player. It's great that you can just hop in a screw around for a minute, then just leave without disturbing a thing. No load times, no mode change. Just pick up and join in. A great little addition.

And how long will this game last? Well, if I were to go downstairs and play right now, I could probably finish it off within about half an hour. After all, I have almost enough Power Stars for the final fight. But still, there's more than enough stars to go around, and I plan on collecting each and every one of them. If I were to speed-run through it on my first try, I suppose I could do it in about ten hours. But that's no fun if you're not enjoying the trip! If you want to take things at a decent pace and do a bit of exploring, expect this game to take you anywhere from 20 to 25 hours to beat the last boss. And, as with any Mario game, you'll want to go back and do it all over and over again. I know I will!


Story: 9.0/10
While it hasn't changed much from your basic "save the princess" storyline, Galaxy still has a pretty interesting narrative. Nothing epic or twist-filled, but a nice little story to move things along.

Gameplay: 9.8/10
It's all you could ever ask for in a Mario game, and then some. The gravity aspects are amazing, and the number of power-ups in simply mind-blowing. The Wii controls work perfectly to bring it all together. If only it was easier to aim and manipulate the camera...

Graphics: 10/10
Without a doubt the best looking Wii game yet. The textures are highly detailed, the lighting and reflections are beautiful, and each and every hair has been meticulously rendered on every Monty Mole and bee. Certainly the best looking game I've ever played.

Audio: 8.7/10
The music is great and the sound effects are beautiful. The voice acting is fairly skimpy, but what is there is mostly pretty nice. But really, shouldn't everything be spoken in games nowadays?

Multiplayer: 9.9/10
Being able to simply grab a Wii remote and join in on the fun is a great idea, and it's integrated so seamlessly into the main experience. It's great for non-gamers and little kids. Kind of annoying that the second player can directly influence Mario to jump, though.

Longevity: 9.4/10
Mario games have never been incredibly long, but they've always had such an amazingly extensive replay value. Galaxy is no exception to either of these rules. I'll be playing this for many weeks to come (At least until I get my Christmas games!).

OVERALL: 10/10
What? How can it get a ten if so many aspects scored below perfect? Simply because it's an amazing experience to be a part of. The controls all work perfectly with the game, and the power-ups are all real nice (Even the new ones!). Things are sometimes worth more than the sum of their parts, and Galaxy is just one of those things. Probably my favorite game I've played in a long, long time, if not my favorite game PERIOD. Galaxy is an absolute masterwork of game design, and no Wii gamer should be without it. This is the game that everybody's been waiting for, and it does not disappoint. Super Mario Galaxy is the reason you own a Wii.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy: How it's going so far

Got Galaxy today! PLAYED IT FOR ALMOST SIX HOURS, and I've only had it for ten hours total... Yeah.

So then, the time has arrived. Almost one year after the Wii launch, Super Mario Galaxy is finally here. People have been waiting for this since Super Mario Sunshine, and some even longer than that. Unsurprisingly, anticipation is high. I'm not quite ready to write up the review, so here's how I feel about the game so far.

First of all, it's absolutely the best looking Wii game I've played, EVER. Better than Metroid Prime 3! The textures are beautiful, the reflections are amazing, the lighting is perfect, it's all too great!

Second, the story is perfectly Mario-like. Yes, they actually found a way to make Mario-in-space not sound completely idiotic. Sure, it's still your basic "princess in trouble, Mario must save her" storyline, but now it's in SPACE.

The sound is pretty awesome, too. The music (To my untrained ears) sounds like it was done by a live orchestra, and many of the tunes are masterfully remixed classic Mario tracks. Could use a bit more voice acting, though... A few grunts and scattered words just don't do it in this day and age. Although Charles Martinet is once again brilliant as Mario, no surprise.

The controls are amazing fine-tuned and responsive. Simply pointing at Star Bits (The game's ubiquitous collectible) causes them to fly towards Mario. Shaking the Wii remote to spin is pretty nice and non-gimmicky, amazingly. Several sections of the game require slightly different control schemes. You'll hold the Wii remote pointing up, tilt it on it's side and more. No matter what the situation, the controls deliver beautifully.

The gravity system is just mind-blowing. Jumping from one planetoid to another feels amazing, and the sense of distance and scale is spot-on. There's puzzles, boss battles and timed-jumping all throughout this game, and they're all executed beautifully. A truly masterful experience.

So, as you can see, Galaxy's pretty damn awesome so far. However, it isn't perfect, and I'll elaborate on where it goes right and where it fails on Friday with the full review. Until then, keep on gaming, and watch out for falling rocks.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Games you can't miss this holiday season

Should have Galaxy tomorrow, so don't expect to hear much from me until Wednesday, alright? Also, this would have been longer, but I'm tired. I can't get Galaxy if I'm asleep, now, can I?

Super Mario Galaxy is sure to be one heck of a best-selling game this holiday season, but that's no reason to ignore some other great software coming out. Game developers all over are putting their all into these games, and it'd be a real shame if they went unnoticed. Thusly, I've compiled a mini-list of games deserving of a space on your Christmas list.

(Also available on DS)

LEGO Star Wars was a massive hit when it debuted on the Gamecube, PS2 and XBox in 2005. It's follow up title, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, was also critically acclaimed when it was released the next year. Since there's not going to be another set of Star Wars movies (Or is there?), what better way to follow it up than with a compilation! And thus, The Complete Saga was born.

In addition to the content from the first two games, The Complete Saga also includes several bonus levels and additional characters. The added motion controls don't really go much further than simple shaking, but that's no real downside.

So children, be nice, and maybe Darth Santa will slip a copy in your stocking.

Medal of Honor has been a big name in war video games for many years, and now it's making the jump to the Wii. Again taking place in the trenches of World War II, Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 has so many features crammed into it, I hardly know where to start. In addition to the main single-player campaign, Heroes 2 also features online multiplayer with support for up to 32 players at once.

Furthermore, the game is compatible with the brand-new Wii Zapper attachment, allowing incredible immersion. An exclusive "arcade mode" is also included, where the walking it taken care of, and all you have to worry about is shooting. And from what I've heard, the control scheme in every single part of this game is the best ever on any game console, PERIOD. And that's including Metroid Prime 3! How this is possible, I'm not sure, but damned if I'm not excited!

Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 looks to be one hell of a piece of work, and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

The Rabbids are back yet again in the sanity-deficient Rayman Raving Rabbids 2! Much like the first game on the Wii, Rabbids 2 is again a mini-game compilation of sorts. But unlike some other game assortments, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 looks to be of the utmost quality!

Using the Wii remote in ways never before imagined, you'll help thwart the Rabbids' evil plans of dominating the planet Earth. Instead of what's usually used for fighting back alien invaders, your arsenal will instead consists of plungers, robotic bucking broncos and gigantic sandwiches. The main point of this game is to make you laugh, and if it's anything like the original Rayman Raving Rabbids, it'll succeed in this easily.

So once this hits the market, be sure to grab a copy to give Rayman a helping disembodied-hand. And don't forget to bring your plungers!

So I hope you all give the above games some consideration. They all look to be incredibly fun, and well-worth the time and money. Super Mario Galaxy's great and all, but we can't live off of just Nintendo alone!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #16: "Are you planning to get Super Mario Galaxy at launch?" results, banner

Poll results!

"Of course! I've got my pre-order right here!" 15 votes (38%)
"Yes, but I don't have a pre-order" 15 votes (38%)
"I already imported it from Japan!" 0 votes (0%)
"No, I can't afford it" 2 votes (5%)
"No, I'm going to wait for the hype to die down" 3 votes (7%)
"No, I don't want it" 1 vote (2%)
"I don't know" 3 votes (7%)

Pretty much what I expected here. 76% of all voters are at least going to attempt to get Galaxy this week. If they haven't already, that is!

Regarding this poll, I realized I should have added a few more options, such as "I want it, but I don't have a Wii" and "I already have it" (For any insiders who may be reading this). Oh well, what's done is done.

This week's banner comes courtesy of WildWorld (Or Cameron, whatever name you wanna go by). And guess what? It's Galaxy themed! I don't think anyone saw this coming! Nice work!

To submit a banner, just sent a 760 (exactly) x 300 (At most) image via my e-mail listed in the sidebar.

And finally, we have this week's poll: "How old were you when you first played a video game?" I think I was about 5 or so... Not quite sure.

New article coming up in a bit!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The highs and lows of Mario's game career

Gee, who didn't see this coming? A Mario article? Right before a major Mario game is released? Blasphemous!

Mario's been climbing ladders, slaying baddies and getting the girl for more than 20 years now. Most of his adventures are hits, while others fall short. Tonight, I'm going to separate the good from the bad.

The Highs

Super Mario 64 was one of the first 3D games I ever played, and it's likely the best as well. The level design was brilliant, and the number of mission was astounding. Even more, the controls were perfect, allowing gaming to take it's first true steps into the 3D realm. The analog stick and C buttons manipulated Mario and the camera perfectly, in a way yet unrivaled to this day.

There were 15 mains stages with 6 missions each, as well as several hidden missions and bonus levels. This resulted in an incredibly long and game, but it never went stale. Even having to replay several sections of the same level over and over never got old, and even the smallest stages felt absolutely gigantic due to the insane amount of content crammed into them.

Super Mario 64 has been called the Nintendo 64's best game, Mario's best game, and even the best game of all time. No argument here.

Super Mario World was packaged with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as a way of demonstrating the console's abilities, and Nintendo couldn't have picked a better title. Super Mario World was both dramatically different from the first three games, as well as exactly the same. All the original run and jump gameplay was present, along with new features such as Yoshi riding, the Cape Feather and the spin jump.

Super Mario World featured 72 levels in total, several of which have secret exits. These secret exits lead to shortcuts, power-ups, and even entirely new areas. Just getting to the last stage and defeating Bowser wasn't enough to complete this game!

Super Mario World set out to show of just what the Super Nintendo could do, and it did so beautifully. Definitely deserves a spot on any gamer's shelf.

Super Mario Bros. 3 was the last major Mario game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the old 8-bit console sure went out on a high note. In addition to keeping all the great gameplay from it's predecessors, Super Mario Bros. 3 also added several more aspects like an overworld map, the Tanooki suit and an item inventory.

Super Mario Bros. 3 sported eight different worlds, each with a large selection of levels. There were also sometimes Hammer Bros. roaming the overworld, and running into them triggered a mini-level, pitting Mario against one or two Hammer Bros. The newly introduced feather and Tanooki power-ups enabled Mario to take to the skies and fly for a short time, often revealing hidden areas and treasures.

Super Mario Bros. 3 gave the Nintendo Entertainment System a great send-off, and this classic is still as addictive as ever to this day.

Honorable mentions: Super Mario Bros. 1, New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong

The Lows

The Gamecube's launch marked a first in Nintendo history, as it didn't share a release date with a major Mario game. When Super Mario Sunshine did finally come along, the majority of gamers were left unpleased.

In addition to the familiar 3D platforming of Super Mario 64, Sunshine introduced the Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, or F.L.U.D.D. Held like a backpack, F.L.U.D.D was used to spray away grime and enemies among Isle Delfino. It also functioned as a water-powered jetpack. Needless to say, this is an incredible departure from normal Mario gameplay.

Personally, I liked Super Mario Sunshine. But, I didn't feel the same way as I did when I played Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Bros. 3. It was too different to be a Mario game. While a decent title, it's still considered a low-point of Mario's career.

Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in Japan in 1986. It featured all of the same gameplay from the original game, as well as the same art and graphical style. The Super Mario Bros. 2 released in North America, however, was entirely different.

Instead of the "too difficult" Super Mario Bros. 2, the rest of the world instead received a Mario-skinned port of Doki Doki Panic. In place of Fire Flowers, Goombas and Bowser were Turnips, Snifits and Wart. Also, Mario could no longer defeat enemies by merely jumping on them. He had to resort to picking up objects or other monsters and hurling them at his foes. And instead of being restricted to playing as only the portly plumber, players now were able to choose between Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool and Toad at the beginning of each stage. Each character acted somewhat differently, varying in ways such as jump height, speed and strength.

Again, like Super Mario Sunshine, this was just far too weird to be taken as a quality Mario title. I'm up for innovation and all, but Super Mario Bros. 2 was just too much of a change for me. Not a fan at all.

Mario's been on many adventures throughout the years, but no game character is immune to bad game design. Thankfully the highs far outweigh the lows, or else we'd have plenty of angry fanboys on our hands. Super Mario Galaxy is looking to be another great title to add to the pudgy Italian's resume next week. Here's to many more great Mario games!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Major site changes


I woke up this morning to 69 e-mails sitting in my inbox. 65 of those were notifications of SPAM COMMENTS. Somebody went through the last ten or so of my articles and posted several homophobic remarks in each of them.

The comments have now all been deleted.

Also, the chat box was filled with much of the same. Again, these have been deleted, and the user has been banned.

To help against future assaults such as this, I have had to step up security in regards to comment posting. From now on, each comment must first be approved by me before it is posted. A "scrambled letters" box has also been added, to help fight multi-posting.

While deleting the comments, I accidentally removed a comment from Jonathan on my Picross DS review. Sorry about that, Jonathan! If you wish, feel free to re-post your comment.

That is all for now. Updates will resume tonight as usual.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Could Final Fantasy become Nintendo exclusive?

Trying to start a little earlier tonight... If I'm lucky, maybe I can squeeze in some Battlefield afterwards!

People have wondered for quite some time if the incredibly famous Final Fantasy series would ever completely return to Nintendo consoles. Having started on the NES back in 1987, Final Fantasy undoubtedly has some serious history with Nintendo. The first six main games were released exclusively on the NES and SNES. Due to Square's dislike of the Nintendo 64 design, however, Final Fantasy made the move to the Playstation brand, and has primarily stayed there since. But things do change over time...

There's much discussion among fans that Final Fantasy will move back to Nintendo exclusivity. Almost all of this is said entirely out of hope, as no real confirmation has yet been given by Square-Enix. But there are plenty of signs pointing in that direction. In all seriousness, Final Fantasy just might become a Nintendo exclusive yet again.

First of all, let's take a look at developmental expenses. Developing games for the Wii is a whole lot cheaper than making a game for the PS3 or XBox 360. It has been said that a developer could make five Wii games for the price of one PS3 game! Sure, Square-Enix is a huge, rich company, but the rich don't get rich by spending more than what's necessary!

Next, let's take a look at what kind of demographics play each console. The truly die-hard RPG fans still turn to the PS3 for their fix, which is somewhat of a draw. But then there's the fact of how comparatively small that audience is. With only 5.5 million PS3s sold compared to 13.5 million Wii consoles flying off shelves, developing too many titles for the PS3 could become quite a gamble.

But with the XBox 360, the sales numbers are too close to that of the Wii to make much of a difference. With less than a one million gap between the two, developing a Final Fantasy for either console would be a good decision.

Before jumping to any conclusions, however, there's one big thing that needs to be pointed out: The majority (Not all) of XBox 360 fans are more interested in Halo and Bioshock than Final Fantasy. Sure, there's an RPG audience as well, but it likely makes up a fairly small percentage of the total 360 owners.

When it comes to the Wii, it's a little harder to determine what the audience for an RPG would be like. Titles such as Carnival Games and Rayman Raving Rabbids fly off the shelves, while games like Fire Emblem sit there gathering dust. While the Wii audience is the biggest (If just by a little), the RPG crowd it a little harder to discern. Perhaps Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is out to test the waters. If all goes well there, then who knows?

If Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers sells well, Final
Fantasy XIV on the Wii could be a distinct possibility.

On a related note, look at how many Final Fantasy games have been hitting Nintendo's dual screen handheld. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance 2, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Ring of Fates and more are all bound for the DS.

With those above titles in mind, let's take a look at all the announced Final Fantasy games for the competition's systems.

So far, only two Final Fantasy games have been announced for the PS3: Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII (The latter being a sister title to the former). As for the PSP, there are only a handful of Final Fantasies, all three of which are updated ports of older titles (A remake of the first two Final Fantasies and the original Tactics). There was also a Final Fantasy VII spin-off, but it only saw a release within Japan. A North American launch is unlikely.

To date, the XBox 360 has only one Final Fantasy to it's name, and that's Final Fantasy XI. There's also Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess, but that's merely an expansion for the main title.

If things don't work out on the Wii, there's always the DS! The little handheld that could has sold nearly 55 million units worldwide, and if past releases are any indication, the RPG market is definitely there. Final Fantasy III, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time have all sold massive amounts around the world.

But could a massive franchise such as Final Fantasy work on the DS? Off-shoots, spin-offs and sequels are one thing, but an entire main-series Final Fantasy is an entirely different thing altogether. A series suddenly transforming from a console mega-game to a handheld exclusive would be quite the jump!

However, such a thing does not seem to be an impossibility! After all, Dragon Quest IX is coming out exclusively for the DS next year! Not a spin-off or anything, a true, honest-to-goodness, entirely brand-new Dragon Quest. The scope of a Dragon Quest game is easily compared to that of a Final Fantasy title, so the probability is there.

In the end, having looked at the situation from pretty much every angle, I'm seeing a very strong likelihood of Final Fantasy returning to Nintendo exclusively. Just imagine, folks: Back in 1987, it all started with Nintendo. Maybe here, 20 years later, it will finally come full circle. I wouldn't be at all surprised.

The Duck Has Spoken.