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    • Pokémon: Red Version - A hypothetical list of achievements

      5 years ago


      The Pokémon franchise been a cultural phenomenon since its American debut in 1998, with its initial duo of Game Boy games: Pokémon: Red Version and Pokémon: Blue Version-- or more simply,Pokémon Red and Blue.  In these games, you assume the role of a ten-year-old child on a quest to become a master Pokémon trainer, battling with a variety of the eponymous species scattered throughout the world of Kanto against other trainers and the eight gym leaders of the region.  Each version had Pokémon exclusive to its variation; the design choice promoted the link cable capabilities of the games, allowing players to trade their respective Pokémon and battle each other.

      Given the mechanics, I felt compelled to compose a hypothetical achievements list for Pokémon Red.  I have already laid out a list like this with Luigi's Mansion (drawing inspiration from Ferret75's lists for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time), and per standard, the default list will contain 50 achievements that total up to 1000 gamerscore.  The achievement requirements will vary from story objectives, side objectives, collectibles, etc., and the scores allotted for each one will depend on either its severity in regards to the main quest, or (more prominently) its level of difficulty.

      Main Quest

      Provided that you are progressing through the game as intended, these achievements should unlock automatically after mandatory story events.

      A Beautiful Friendship (5) ~ Pick your starter Pokémon.


    • Challenger Approaching! - Peach waltzes into the Super Smash Bros. Wii/3DS Roster!

      5 years ago


      Editor’s Note: I have added the other nine screenshots via a gallery for your viewing pleasure. I'm really digging Peach's new moves but I'm seeing an alarming lack of turnip throwing. 

      On the Smash Bros. website, and on Miiverse, it has been revealed that Princess Peach will be returning to the Smash Bros. roster in the upcoming Wii U and 3DS iterations.

      Of the ten screenshots accompanying her reveal, some of her trademark moves such as her Toad shield and her murderous hips make a return; however, it seems that there are at least two new moves in her moveset.  The first of which is an upward attack where she twirls a ribbon to damage adjacent foes.  Infinitely cooler, however, is a mid-air attack where she literally uses her crown as a knife.

      I guess you could call this her Crowning Moment of Awesome? Heh... eh...


      Mr. Masahiro Sakurai also says that Peach's moves "may be refreshed by the time the games are released." This statement is still under question, however.  Either way, I'm just hoping she's not horribly nerfed like she was in Brawl.


    • Bellum: Zelda's Most Boring Villain

      5 years ago


      Ganondorf; Vaati; Skull Kid; Zant; Ghirahim.  These villains associated with The Legend of Zelda stand on their own despite the somewhat formulaic structure of the series's entries.  Each name ignites a variety of memories for those that have played their respective games; their quirks, ambitions, designs, and respective communications with the player all help them stand out as being their own memorable foils.  There are other villains in the series besides the five mentioned, but one in particular ends up falling flat relative to all of his peers:  Bellum.


      You know you're boring when even the artists can't be bothered to give you a decent amount of artwork.


      The face of writing villains gone horribly wrong!


      The main antagonist of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Bellum is responsible for kidnapping Tetra on-board the Ghost Ship, prompting Link to give chase and ultimately lose track of the haunted vessel.  For over half of the game, Link has absolutely zero knowledge of who the mastermind behind Tetra's disappearance is; the only clue is that he, she, or it is involved with the Ghost Ship.  When the time finally comes that Link finds Tetra (or rather, her body transformed into a petrified statue), Bellum is finally introduced; the introduction isn't even personal either, as Link never even faces him until the end of the game.

      Now, I know the counter-arguments that could combat my already somewhat-hostile outlook on Bellum:  "He stole Tetra!  That should be enough for you to kick his ass!"  "Bellum, boring?  He took over Linebeck's body in the endgame!  That's cool!"  "This article is fake and gay."  To be fair, he has employed some vile actions throughout the game, but other than capturing Tetra and (almost after the fact) brainwashing Linebeck, does he really do anything at least marginally noteworthy throughout the game?


      Factor 1: Interaction
      To create a video game villain that people can remember, they absolutely need to have an active presence throughout the game.  Without establishing the villain as an active hindrance to the player's goals, or using them to cause the player's motivations to thrive, they need to have their influences be completely noticeable.
      One method of integrating this idea into the villain's role is by making them actively interact with the player.  By reintroducing them regularly throughout the course of the story, the villain establishes themselves as a vital part of the game's narrative and an obstacle in the way of the player.  An example of this is Ghirahim, the primary antagonist of Skyward Sword.  Instead of sticking to the shadows and letting various events unfold, he meets the player face-to-face on numerous occasions.  During these encounters, his initially nonchalant demeanor and gradually deteriorating disposition can easily be witnessed.  At first, Ghirahim's attitude towards Link is cocky and possibly even bored, processing his enemy as nothing more than a commoner who is way out of his league; up to the end of the game, however, his temperament and impatience consumes him until he becomes absolutely livid, totally fed up with Link's pestering and letting his true appearance seep through his façade as a result of peaking frustration.  We see the deterioration of Ghirahim's disposition because he has a constant presence throughout the game, regularly interacting with the hero and providing the player of much needed background for the threat that they are up against.
      Another method of ensuring a villain's presence is by displaying their influence on the game's world.  If the people around the player are being visibly and/or actively terrorized by the antagonist, it serves as a strong motivation to halt their misdeeds.  Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time is used in this way for a good portion of the game, as he stays hidden for a long stretch of time after Link pulls the Master Sword.  His influence on Hyrule is immediately apparent as soon as formerly comatose Link steps out of the Temple of Time:  The circle of smoke surrounding Death Mountain's peak has been replaced with an ominous circle of fire; the bustling market outside of Hyrule Castle has been left in ruins for the ReDead to roam; Hyrule Castle has been outright replaced by Ganondorf's new castle.  All of these locations throughout the game the player was introduced to were changed to something horrible, and they know exactly who to blame.  On the other hand, Majora's Mask utilizes the world mechanic to a much more drastic degree; the moon is slowly descending onto the doomed province; the four regions are facing ordeals of unknown origin; people are suffering at the hands of what they view as some kid in a mask.  The player is reminded that the masked Skull Kid is responsible for all of these acts of unjust terror, and the descending lunar body in the sky serves as the overarching harbinger of the dread he instills into the world of Termina.  Even the pair of Oracles titles make it apparent early on that their respective antagonists are terrorizing the world they inhabit, as the inhabitants of Holodrum and Labrynna are constantly fooled and wronged as a consequence of the villains obtaining power.
      Now that we have those walls of text out of the way, I can say outright that Bellum fails on an astronomical level in both of these possible approaches; he fails to meet the standard because he does not actively give the player a reason to acknowledge him or treat him as a pivotal aspect of the game.  Instead of constantly terrorizing the player throughout the course of the adventure, Bellum steals and petrifies Tetra and leaves it at that until Link faces him in the final battle; instead of acting as an active obstacle to Link's progress, he just waits in his chamber until Link finally possesses the capabilities to reach it.  As for the world surrounding the Temple of the Ocean King, the civilians seem to give absolute no craps about the whole shebang.  Bellum's evil has virtually no noticeable bearing on the world above the sea whatsoever, leaving the goal of freeing Tetra as the lone reason for hunting him down, and that in turn slightly undermines the purpose of interacting with the world he is "threatening" to begin with.  Having Bellum flat-out not be in the game would have only a marginal difference in the game's story as a whole, and if Bellum cannot be perceived as a vital element of the narrative, he simply cannot be expected to be taken seriously.
      Factor 2: Appearance
      A common, but often neglected similarity that most of Zelda's villains possess is their humanoid appearances.
      Ganondorf, Vaati, Zant, Agahnim, Ghirahim

      Left to right: Ganondorf, Vaati, Zant, Agahnim, Ghirahim

      The great majority of the villains in the series take on a form that is roughly proportional to that of a normal person.  While this detail is often overlooked, it is actually an incredibly important component of their role as the antagonist.  Their underlings vary from grotesque beasts that hardly ever equally Link's height, to gargantuan monsters that serve as boss fights or undoubtedly inhuman sword fodder.  The antagonist's size ends up being roughly equivalent to Link's to contrast themselves amongst both the smaller or more beastly normal enemies, and the enormous bosses that dwell within the dungeons.  Sure, some of them can shapeshift into alternate forms that more resemble a condemnation of nature, but their personalities and interactions with Link are most prevalent in their humanoid forms.  More importantly, it allows these villains to express emotion and communicate with the protagonist, complementing their potential development and spotlighting their personal distinctions.  Most importantly of all, their size reflects that they serve as a visual foil to Link; the antagonist seems human just like the hero, rather than being exclusively an inhuman abomination that is completely unidentifiable to any psychological degree.  If the big bad was always a mindless colossus that seems to show nothing but vicious anger and uproarious hunger, the primary antagonist and the encounters with him wouldn't be as thrilling now, wouldn't it?
      This ends up being possibly the obvious issue with Bellum.

      Look at me reusing images.  Trust me, there are not very many official images of him.


      You know a villain is boring when you are forced to reuse his only piece of official art.


      The problem with how Bellum looks is that he not visually interesting.  He has absolutely no humanoid characteristics, which leaves him with almost nothing noteworthy that differentiates him from the  normal bosses of the game, instead of something along the lines of the game's primary antagonist and final foe.  Really the only defining traits his appearance poses is his tentacles and eyes, and calling those "defining characteristics" is a stretch.  A decent few of the normal bosses throughout the series have tentacles, and don't even try to tell me that an overwhelming number of bosses in the series don't have oversized eyes as weak points.  Before anyone asks, I am aware that Vaati's various final forms all consist of a single eye, but considering he actually has a humanoid form and background to back it up, the point is totally moot since his alternate form fulfills the duty of distinguishing him from the average monsters.  Bellum, on the other hand, has this as his only actual form, so his sole appearance contains a dire lack of anything that stands out or screams, "I am the main antagonist! I am the big threat!"  Above all else, he is completely unable to express any kind of emotion or connect to the player with any visual means, which leads me to the last and most important reason why he is simply a terrible villain.


      Factor 3: Personality and Motives
      Ask anybody that has played Phantom Hourglass what Bellum's personality is like; the answer they will give would likely materialize in either a slack-jawed "Uhh..." and a confused shrug, or them simply saying "He doesn't have one."  His lack of human characteristics renders any chance he could have had to attempt building characterization meaningless; he doesn't even talk!  His only "trait", if you can call it that, is that he hungers for Life Force, a vital energy that exists within all living things.  Because of Tetra's overwhelmingly high concentration of Life Force, Bellum kidnaps her to feed himself, and the dangerous aura that permeates the Temple of the Ocean King (a.k.a. the time limit) is his power draining the Life Force of anyone that enters his territory.
      Even his motivation of draining Life Force falls flat, because the game never actually explains why he is obsessed with draining Life Force.  Usually, when a villain has a motive, they either discover a grand goal that they wish to pursue, or they endure certain circumstances beforehand that cause them to eventually take action.  Ganondorf attempts to abduct the Triforce so he could achieve ultimate power and conquer Hyrule; Vaati was influenced by the evil motivations of humans to rebel against Ezlo and discover what ultimate power would give him; the Skull Kid pulled pranks on the denizens of Termina to vent his inner rage against the Giants for abandoning him, which eventually escalated to acts of pure evil as his mind was gradually being corrupted by the destructive power of the mask.  Bellum has no explained goal or underlying reason for his thirst for life energy, so he comes across as less like a character and more like a Life Force shower drain.
      Life Force go down the hooooooooole.

      "Life Force go down the hoooooooole."

      While this is undoubtedly the most important reason why Bellum fails to successfully fulfill the role as a main villain, it is also unfortunately the one that requires the least explanation.  Just take away from this section that Bellum's personality and motivation were so lacking that commenting on them can only get someone so far.
      I know talking about from a six-year-old game seems totally irrelevant compared to the last blog, even moreso when considering Phantom Hourglass is one of the less notable titles in the Zelda franchise, but Bellum's lack of anything even remotely interesting proved to be an ironically interesting subject for me to focus on.  His lack of anything that had the potential to generate a halfway decent villain made for a great opportunity to properly comprehend what made his evil peers so memorable.  Their own quirks, ambitions, and moments of interplay with the player culminated in characters that, while evil, tended to possess idiosyncrasies that the player could identify with.  Bellum failed to be one of them, and there's only last thing I can say about him.

      P.S. I'm really starting to think the blog text editing capabilities of this site sucks.  I ran into so many bugs throughout making this blog, such as default text styles being inaccessible after changing, highlighting constantly breaking, captchas not registering correct answers, etc.  I know blogging editors have problems, but... geez.

    • Stagnation of the Mushroom Kingdom: An Editorial on New Super Mario Bros.

      5 years ago


      Editor’s Note: As much as I’ve enjoyed the New Super Mario Bros. series, I think it could really use some new set pieces. 

      Super Mario Bros. is universally considered the epicenter of modern video game culture, and rightfully so;  its tight controls, subtle yet important implementation of physics, and influential gameplay style created a gateway for video game developers and companies everywhere to start supporting Nintendo's first system and bringing entertainment to players worldwide.  After three outstanding sequels (Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World), the plumber's two-dimensional outings underwent a lengthy hiatus.  While Mario still had a co-starring role in Yoshi's Island, and appeared in several ports of his popular platformers of old, his legacy grew as he tackled the third-dimension on the Nintendo 64 and its subsequent successors, ringing in the era of polygonal platforming.

      In 2006, however, Nintendo's world-conquering mascot starred in his first major 2D outing in over a decade:  the DS best-seller New Super Mario Bros.  The entry sold such an enormous quantity of units that New Super Mario Bros. officially became its own subseries, spawning three successors for the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U respectively.  During the year of the latter two games' releases, however, the mascot came under fire, with some parts of the gaming community criticizing the influx of Mario games and stating that it was showing signs of over-saturation.  After their releases, while the Wii U title overall had positive reception, the pair of games still attracted flak for being too similar to the first two New Super Mario Bros. titles.

      I'll admit I felt the same way when first viewing them, but at the time, I was unable to precisely pinpoint why.  For a long while, I wondered why these titles in particular seemed to fall under the classification of "carbon copies" amongst some, whereas their predecessors and 3D counterparts continue to be universally approved.  It was not until recently that I understood some important factors for why they've garnered such an unusual consensus.


      Exhibit A: "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey."

      The formula for the main Mario titles is a bare-bones summary that every gamer knows at this point.  The princess of Mushroom Kingdom, Peach, is kidnapped by Bowser, the king of the Koopas; Mario gives chase as he traverses worlds and defeats bosses, reaching closer and closer to the expected showdown with his reptilian nemesis.  It's a basic recipe that has endured incredibly little variation throughout Mario's tenure.  If we know what the ending is before we even start the game, then what's the reason for us playing?  The answer is the journey that leads to the destination.

      The older Super Mario Bros. games had a surprising variance in their progression.  The original consisted of individual levels split in eight groups of four.  These levels ranged from traditional obstacles in an overworld, underground areas, underwater sections, and athletics-based platforming.  All of these groups ended with a castle level as the fourth stage, climaxing with a fight against Bowser (or in the case of the first seven worlds, a false Bowser).  While this progression was somewhat repetitive, it kept to its limits and was made to test the waters of the iconic platforming the series was already becoming hailed for.  Super Mario Bros. 3 abandoned the conservative level layout of the first game in favor of themed worlds.  These worlds ranged from being expected (Grass Land, Desert Hill, Ocean Side) to very unusual (Big Island, Pipe Maze); with the introduction of these themes, the game was rendered far more memorable than its predecessor, giving levels an identity to go by and a variance in motifs.  Super Mario World expanded even further by introducing an overarching world map full of different zones.  The earlier 2D Mario titles focused on taking the template set by the original game and expanding on the possibilities of optimizing the experience, adding fresh content, and generating identities for themselves to stand out from their siblings.

      The 3D Mario games follow a similar approach, but emphasize on the "fresh content" part of that philosophy.  The ground-breaking Super Mario 64 created a control scheme that every subsequent 3D Mario game used as an influence in some way.  Super Mario Sunshine adopted the control scheme but add the F.L.U.D.D. and its water-manipulating capabilities, with its levels solely focusing around a vacation motif. Galaxy and its sequel went a different route and introduced gravity-based platforming, and identified themselves with zones that didn't necessarily follow a central theme, focusing more on individual stages than thematically grouped levels.

      The New Super Mario Bros. line is where things go drastically downhill.  New Super Mario Bros. utilizes gameplay that takes the basic elements of its 2D parents and mixes in the athleticism of the 3D entries, and in addition, it adopts the world map system of its parents, using it for worlds based around grass, desert, ice, etc.  The problem, however, is that that summary right there can be used to describe virtually every other NSMB game afterward.  If you want proof, I'll show you:

      Pictured above is a graph of the world themes in each of the four games, in order.  The fact that the "rule of eight" is constantly used is already a bad sign (not counting the Special World/s, of course, but that's almost always added anyway).  As you can see, there are startling similarities in how they're organized, most notably in the tops and bottoms.  The games always seem to start with "Grass" and "Desert", and end with a gauntlet of "Mountain" (sans NSMB2), "Sky", and "Lava".  The third through fifth worlds initially seem like they have some variety, but upon further organization, a central problem is found.

      The first problem with the New Super Mario Bros. line is that the progression of each game is almost identical in essence.  These eight world themes are recycled to the point where no other themes are used, causing an egregious overlap amongst the four games.  The series is so devoted with keeping these settings that it hasn't been evolving nearly to the same level as its ancestors nor its three-dimensional counterparts.  As the other Mario games and even entirely different series like Donkey Kong Country proved, formulating a different world theme adds great deal of diversity and, more importantly, is really not that difficult to conceptualize.  Let's name a few:  "Cavern", "Factory", "Space", "City", "Miscellaneous Building"; and I'm just listing off of the top of my head with those.

      I give credit where credit is due: Super Mario Sunshine was a thematic triumph.

      Even with the possibility of adding world variants, it's already been proven by other Mario games that one overarching theme can carry it all the way through.  The best example of this achievement is Super Mario Sunshine.  Sunshine's primary theme can best be defined as "tropical island resort", which is additionally crutched by the motif of water, and for such a specific setting, it goes a long way.  From the villas, to the hotel resort, to the harbor, Sunshine is a textbook example of how the "less is more" philosophy can be applied to create more memorable locales that both enhance the experience and provide the game its own particular idiosyncrasies.  Sunshine isn't the only Mario game to implement this approach either, as Super Mario Galaxy crafted numerous worlds that stood out from one another, while keeping the central core concept of gravity as the metaphorical glue that connects them all together.

      The Legend of Zelda series shares the repetition problem to an extent, but in its case, it only recycles a few general motifs; everything else is crutched by each entry's respective traits. The Zelda games distance themselves from the repetition trap thanks to their variance in art style, differing methods of gameplay, and distinguishable plots. Due to the lack of a gripping story or setting, the NSMB games have no other choice but to rely on their worlds and traits, and as shown, they overlap too much for them to gain any sense of individuality, hence why the reputation for them being too "samey" suddenly came to be.


      Exhibit B: The Power of Aesthetics

      The second problem arises from the games' looks. To demonstrate, let's look at each of the three subseries one by one:

      Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3Super Mario World, Super Mario Land

      To start, we have the older 2D Mario titles. The three console games shown all feature very prominent differences visually despite possessing familiar qualities.  Super Mario Land is obviously different due to the limitations of the Game Boy, but even that game in particular had a sequel that looked different enough to stand apart from it.  The changes ranged from differences between backgrounds, to their usage of outlines, to Mario's sprite.

       Super Mario 64, Super Mario SunshineSuper Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2

      Up next on the chopping block are the 3D Mario titles. In all fairness, the differences between these games in particular are far more prevalent when each of them are in motion (with Sunshine especially).  Even then, they each have their own styles and effects, from the polygonal basics of 64, to the sunny vacation locales of Sunshine, to the exaggerated yet grandiose cartoonyness of the Galaxy duo.

      New Super Mario  Bros. DS, Wii, 3DS, and Wii U

      Lastly, there are the four titles in discussion, and if the comparison shots aren't a decent enough indication, this is where things get hairy. While the past 2D titles have distinctive visual features to preserve their senses of character, these titles seem to embrace the same general aesthetic.  From the HUD, to the ground, to the blocks, even to Mario's character model, the visual aspects of each game look gratuitously akin to one another. The only major distinction between them is New Super Mario Bros. U's backgrounds, which seem like something straight out of a Yes album cover.  Aside from that, their perceptible qualities face a jarring lack of distinction.

      The difficulty in actively sensing differences between higher-tech consoles is partially to blame for this, as it's becoming progressively harder and harder to perceive the improved visuals that more advanced hardware enables.  That being said, the games also ignore the key to surmounting this technical quandary: experimenting with art direction.

      There are perfectly good reasons for why Yoshi's Island  is considered a pioneer in video game art direction.

      A perfect example of a stylistically distinguished title in the Mario lore is Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.  While the 1996 platformer is not considered by the norm to be a true "Mario" title, it set itself apart by donning a style resembling crayon drawings, supported by heavily animated scenery.  Yoshi's Island's style made it a visual stand-out, and practically cemented the theory that the aesthetics contribute to the game's personality more than its raw graphical punch. With the past 2D titles, the aesthetic differences were practically necessary in establishing the visual differences between the games, thanks to the less advanced hardware; the NES titles in particular achieved this contrast with better usage of outlines and significantly more expressive sprites. With the New Super Mario Bros. series, that distinction between aesthetics is never properly utilized.  The possibilities of straying away from the 2.5D standard or adopting a different art style seem like they're constantly left on the cutting room floor.  Because of the persistence of the established "New Super Mario Bros." style, the titles encounter difficulty developing visual personalities exclusive to their own being.


      Exhibit C: Staying Grounded

      So we have both the similarities in the progression and the "copy-paste" vibe of the visuals. Is there anything else that contributes to the subseries's seeming lack of evolution?  The answer is yes, and it's arguably the most vital of the three factors:  the firmly grounded gameplay.

      Per routine, we'll start with how the older 2D Mario entries evolved in their gameplay.  The original crafted the basic template that everyone knows: press left or right to move, hold down to crouch, hold B to run, and of course, press A to jump.  It's a recipe that has been so integral to the series that changing it up would seem practically unthinkable. Super Mario Bros. 3 kept the core gameplay largely the same, but added significantly more locales and an enormous number of power-ups, giving the game a much greater sense of diversity and allowing a wider array of possibilities with Mario's inherent capabilities. World innovated in a different manner by biting the bullet and tweaking those capabilities, as it allowed Mario two different types of jumps instead of one, adding a layer of depth on how to approach certain enemies and granting different courses of action for disposing the baddies invading Yoshi's Island.

      The 3D Marios are exponentially more drastic in this department. Super Mario 64 introduced a selection of jump variations, such as the side somersault, the wall jump, the triple jump, and my personal favorite: the long jump. Super Mario Sunshine, while disposing of the latter, took it further by adding the water-based F.L.U.D.D. mechanics. Super Mario Galaxy at its core maintained the move set popularized by 64 (with the inclusion of its own spin attack), but this tried-and-true set of gameplay mechanics was placed in the unfamiliar gravity-based environments, completely altering the way the game ended up was played and making the mastery of said jump variants vital for progression.

      The two groups have seen evolution and variance in their control schemes and gameplay styles, giving each of their respective games an air of freshness and creating certain rules for how to apply them.  Sadly, New Super Mario Bros. does not follow this trend very well (if at all), as it uses the exact same control scheme and carries over the flat environments that stem from the DS title that started it.  It could be argued that New Super Mario Bros. U pushed mastering the controls in its Challenge Mode, but the main game still consists of the same types of challenges introduced with the DS original.  In the grand scheme of things, Mario has not been properly experimenting with new ideas, and the titles haven't been showing any signs of taking experimentation to an extreme enough extent.

      The most experimental game in the New Super Mario Bros. line suffers from one major flaw:  it inherits far too many aspects from its predecessors  for its concept to properly  work.

      Surprisingly, the only game in the subseries that tried to actively set itself apart was New Super Mario Bros. 2.  I say "surprisingly" because, of the four games, NSMB2 is objectively the most polarizing. It focuses less on simply completing the stages and more on challenges regarding coin-collecting, so much so that the lives counter becomes completely meaningless due to how off the charts the numbers get.  The lives counter is somewhat of a harbinger to the problems of the game and why it's so polarizing:  the major problems with the game stems from the traits it inherited from its forebearers, and how those traits are constantly at odds with its own elements and goals.  By that, I mean that its structure makes its emphasis on coin-collecting almost a bore.  In a game where collecting coins throughout the stages is a major goal, there needs to be a big motivation for it, and sadly, that motivation is borderline, if not completely non-existent.  Even worse, the excessive quantities of coins completely devalue the challenge that's usually pedestrian to the 2D Marios, thanks to both the seemingly bottomless surplus of lives and the laughably overpowered Golden Flower power-up.

      New Super Mario Bros. 2 gets credit for at least trying to experiment, but the problem is that it didn't stray far enough to facilitate its core gimmick. With the other subseries, their additions added to the experience and even served as the catalyst of their exclusive traits. The strengths in the past games were from experimenting with different concepts and going completely all-out with their respective gimmicks, while at the same time making necessary but minimal changes to the core gameplay as a means of enhancing their influence.  With the NSMB games, it shows too many signs of (in lack of a better term) "playing it safe".  While NSMB2 tried to be different, it shot itself in the foot by keeping everything it inherited from its siblings essentially identical.  The games need to experiment, but it has to be with smart, delicately handled experimentation.


      Concluding Thoughts

      I am aware that I may have come across as a total pessimist by stating my criticisms towards this particular division of the Mario franchise. I didn't mean to be that way because I hate Mario, I meant to be that way because I love Mario.  My concerns stem from my reasons for loving the franchise as much as I do:  its versatility, and what used to be a complete defiance of the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude. Say what you will, but the franchise was absolutely not afraid to go different directions for most of the time it's been in existence. With New Super Mario Bros., that spirit still seemed true with its first two titles, but when two became four, that's when my worries arose.  My only hope is that the formula for these titles evolve to a proportion comparable to its ancestry, because as it is, I definitely believe it needs that extra boost of ingenuity that made the franchise as successful as it is today.

      Thank-a you so much for-to reading my post!


    • Luigi's Mansion: A Full, Detailed List of Achievements

      5 years ago


       The content of this list largely comprises of an older list I created for a forum site a long while back, but Ferret75's excellent post detailing potential Majora's Mask achievements influenced me to fine-tune it with a more obscure and challenging approach.  As my old list heavily consisted of blatant filler as an excuse to interject puns into the achievement names, this one will focus more on completion and optional challenges than mandatory tasks.


      Conforming with the standard, this list will contain 50 achievements adding up to a total of 1000 gamerscore.  Descriptions that change after their corresponding achievements are unlocked are notated.  The points provided for each unlock corresponds with the estimated difficulty and/or severity of the achievement.  Most of the information regarding mandatory achievements will be brief, since they're mostly self-explanatory and obvious to figure out when playing through the game.


      If you're reading this post, thank you. I've refrained from posting on the site for while due to a personal dry spell of ideas and lack of direction, so you have my thanks for reading my first post!*

      *Well, second if you count my Rock Band Blitz review.


      Mandatory Achievements (165)

      These are story achievements that cannot be missed on a normal playthrough.

      Area 1


      1. That's the Spirit! (5) ~ Capture a Portrait Ghost

      This one is for capturing the first Portrait Ghost:  Neville


      2. Nap Time (10) ~ Encounter a young, crying individual (Captured Chauncey)

      This is for defeating the boss of Area 1:  Chauncey.


      Area 2


      3. BOOm Goes the Dynamite (10) ~ A dangerous threat has been unleashed...  (Unleashed the Boos)

      This is for releasing the Boos from the Storage Room.


      4. Heart of Ice (5) ~ Best a ghost that thrives on the elements (Defeated a ghost with an elemental heart)

      One of the more minor tasks in Area 2, this is for defeating a ghost with an elemental heart.  This will be acquired in either the Kitchen or the Hidden Room, where a Flash - a ghost with a frozen heart - must be defeated to progress.


      5. "The Only Thing We Have to Fear..." (15) ~ Expel the manifestation of fear and suffering in the mansion (Captured Bogmire)

      Bogmire, Area 2's boss, must be defeated for this achievement.


      Area 3


      6. Things Aren't Going Well (5) ~ Uncover Mario's whereabouts

      As the name might imply, this is for entering the well in the backyard and peeking into the Secret Altar.


      7. Medalling Kid (10) ~ Complete your elemental arsenal (Collected all three Elemental Medals)

      Collecting the Ice Medallion, the last of the three Medals, will unlock this.


      8. What The Heck Was He Doing?! (10) - Collect Mario's missing keepsakes

      This will be unlocked after collecting all five of Mario's lost possessions. (I'll miss the punny achievement names I had for each one...)


      9. Rest In Peace (5) - Fulfill a certain ghost's last request (Captured Madame Clairvoya)

      Madame Clairvoya's capture will trigger this achievement.


      10. Boo, Get Off the Stage (20) ~ Dissolve a destructive alliance (Captured Boolossus)

      Capturing Boolossus unlocks this achievement.


      Area 4


      11. Break On Through (5) ~ Restore light to the darkened mansion (Flipped the breaker switch to end the blackout)

      During the blackout, the Breaker Room must be found.  Hitting the breaker switch unlocks this achievement.


      12. Death of an Artist (25) ~ Triumph against the sinister mind behind the mansion's ghosts (Capture Vincent Van Gore)

      Vincent Van Gore's defeat will prompt this achievement.


      13. Dethroned (40) ~ Expel the ghostly threats from the mansion forever (Beat the game)

      Beating the game under any condition will unlock this achievement.



      Optional Achievements (156)

      These achievements are reserved for tasks that are likely to be completed on an initial playthrough, but are not required to beat the game.

      14. Fast Money (15) ~ Capture a swift spirit to obtain lots of money

      There are 15 Speedy Spirits found in the mansion.  Capture one of them.


      15. Oh, Boy! (15) ~ Trap a gold-colored critter that explores the hallways

      There are 10 Gold Mice in the mansion.  Five are found in the hallways with a 20% chance of spawning, and the other five are found when pieces of cheese are scanned with the Game Boy Horror.  Capture one and the achievement is yours.


      16. Looking Like You've Seen a Ghost (5) ~ Scan a spirit with your trusty device

      To unlock this, you must scan a Portrait Ghost with your Game Boy Horror.  Simple as that.


      17. An Impoverished Critic (5) ~ Have Luigi examine five objects in the mansion

      Using the Game Boy Horror to scan a piece of furniture will prompt Luigi to make a personal comment on the condition of it.  His comments are often negative, constantly talking about how fatigued and dusty most of them are.  Doing this on five different types of furniture will earn you this achievement.


      18. In Bloom (5) ~ Give the bean on the ground a little bit of water

      There is a plant in the Boneyard nearby the Kitchen.  Using the Water element to hose it will cause it to grow slightly.


      19. No Problem, Bud! (30) ~ Take proper care of the plant

      Watering the plant after defeating Bogmire will turn it into a flower.  Watering the plant again after defeating Boolossus will unlock this achievement, alongside the reward of the Gold Diamond.


      20. Chamber of Secrets (15) ~ Enter the Hidden Room

      The Hidden Room can be accessed through the Butler's Room on 1F.  On the east side of the room, there is a mousehole.  Scanning the hole with your Game Boy Horror will cause a vacuum to appear in the hole, allowing Luigi to enter through it into the Hidden Room.


      21. X Marks the Spot (15) ~ Successfully access and leave the Sealed Room

      The Roof has two chimneys.  One chimney has a chest on top of it, but the other is open.  Falling through the open chimney will cause Luigi to enter the Sealed Room through the fireplace.  That's the easy part, but leaving the enigmatic room requires knowing a certain technique in the game.  While the room's door is unbreachable, there is a mirror in the room.  Scanning the mirror will teleport Luigi back into the Foyer, unlocking the achievement.


      22. Bookworm (5) ~ Read all of the books in the Study

      Exactly what it says on the tin.  There are eight books in the Study's bookcases, each explaining some of the more ambiguous gameplay mechanics.  Just read all of them and the achievement is earned.


      23. Mowin' 'Em Down (5) ~ Light up the Courtyard

      Eliminate all of the ghosts in the Backyard to light it up.  Very easy.


      24. Key to Fitness (5) ~ Get some much needed exercise (Acquired the hidden key in the Rec Room)

      In the Rec Room (where you fight Biff Atlas), there is a treadmill on the west side.  Running on it for about five seconds will spawn a key that unlocks the shortcut on the northeast side of the 1F hallway.  Collecting the key nets you the five points.


      25. Poster Boy (5) ~ Expose the Boo Poster

      In the Washroom on 2F, there's a "MONSTERS" poster.  Sucking it up with the Poltergust will reveal a poster of a Boo saying "Get out of here!".


      26. Canvas Curse (10) ~ Reveal the Boo Banner

      In the Projection Room, the giant canvas can be affected by the Poltergust's suction.  Like the poster, suck it up to expose the stretched Boo poster.


      27. Big Fat Phony (5) ~ Scare Toad

      In the Telephone Room during the blackout, a phone is ringing.  When you pick up the phone, the person on the other end asks you who you are.  You have two choices:  "Luigi" or "Bowser!".  Choosing the latter scares him and causes him to hang up.


      28. Clearly Off-Duty (10) ~ Talk to Toad in all possible locations in the mansion

      Meet Toad in the Foyer, on the second floor Balcony, in the first floor Washroom, in the Courtyard outhouse, and on the phone in the Telephone Room (revealing your true identity during the latter).


      29. Tone-Deaf (5) ~ Display your lack of musical knowledge three times (Failed Melody's quiz three times)

      When meeting Melody Pianissima, she gives you a quiz on what type of level the music she is playing represents.  Getting the question right, will lead to a fight between you two.  Getting it wrong will prompt you to try again.  Failing three times awards this achievement for your musical negligence.


      30. Sleep Tight (1) ~ Get a Game Over

      Do I even need to explain this one?



      Challenge Achievements (329)

      These achievements involve fulfilling specific challenges that encourage mastery of the game's mechanics or knowledge of its biggest secrets.

      31. Nice Catch (15) ~ Collect a key without letting it touch the floor

      This achievement can be unlocked without much trouble if you know what you're doing.  Debatably the easiest method of performing this task is to light up a room that spawns a key on a high shelf (examples include Wardrobe Room, Bathroom 1F, Fortune Teller's Room, etc.).  Use your vacuuming skills to snag the key, but be careful, because if you vacuum too excessively the key might hit the ground.


      32. Ballroom Blitz (15) ~ Capture a dancing couple of Shy Guy Ghosts without separating them

      This achievement requires you to find a couple of Shy Guy Ghosts dancing with each other, removing both of their masks at the same time, and subsequently capturing both of them in one suction.


      33. The Big Cheese (20) ~ Scan all five wedges of cheese in the mansion

       There are wedges of cheese hidden throughout the mansion.  Catching the mice that spawn when they are scanned is not required for this achievement.  The pieces of cheese are located in the following rooms:

      • Study
      • Fortune Teller's Room
      • Kitchen
      • Tea Room
      • Safari Room


      34. Should've Brought Some AAs (20) ~ Defeat all of the ghosts in one room without letting your flashlight turn on

      This can be done in rooms that have Portrait Ghosts.  Once entering the room, hold B and keep your thumb on it until the room is lit.


      35. Total Suckage (20) ~ Capture five ghosts with one suction

      This is a very straight-forward description.  While this sounds difficult, it can easily be performed in the Training Room.


      36. Worth the Wait (19) ~ Find the sound designer's hidden tune (Found "Totaka's Song")

      The sound designer mentioned here is Kazumi Totaka.  Likewise, the hidden music is his signature tune:  "Totaka's Song".  This can be found at the "Controller Settings" screen directly before the training exercise in the first 10 minutes or so of the game (note:  you can revisit this screen if you select the Training Room in the Lab).  Waiting for about three and a half minutes will trigger a musical segway into a funky rendition of the famous tune, unlocking the achievement.  As a recognition to its Easter egg status, the point total is irregular, corresponding with the amount of notes in the melody.


      37. Can't Resist a Pretty Face (25) ~ Scan all mirrors in the mansion (excluding the one in the Mirror Room)

      The mirror in the Mirror Room is not included in the criteria for this achievement because it has no properties when scanned.  Other than that, there are 14 rooms in the mansion that contain mirrors.  Those rooms are:

      • Foyer
      • Wardrobe Room
      • Master Bedroom
      • Bathroom (1F)
      • Washroom (1F)
      • Storage Room
      • Rec Room
      • Bathroom (2F)
      • Washroom (2F)
      • Billiards Room
      • Armory
      • Sealed Room
      • Guest Bedroom
      • Secret Altar


      38. Tough Guy (30) ~ Win a fight against the mansion's musclebound juggernaut without taking damage (Captured Biff Atlas without taking damage)

      A lot of you who have played Luigi's Mansion know how unrelentingly annoying it is to fight Biff Atlas without taking a beating.  This achievement is a valuable reward for taking down the roid raging beefcake with enough skill to avoid letting your health drain in any way.  Using the treadmill key, saving with Toad, and playing in the Hidden Mansion will help alleviate the difficulty.


      39. Olly Olly Oxen Free! (25) ~ Win at Hide-and-Seek without cheating

      When encountering Henry and Orville in Area 3, they ask you to play Hide-and-Seek with them.  The intended method of winning is to use the Poltergust 3000 to find out which two of the five boxes they are hiding in.  To gain this achievement, you must refrain from using the Poltergust and win by hoping for the 1/10 chance that your choices are correct.  Trial-and-error by picking the same boxes repeatedly is recommended.  The downside is that twins still call you a cheater.  The little brats...


      40. Making a Break for It (25) ~ Restore power to the mansion within five minutes of the strike

      For this one, you'll need to strap your speed-running shoes on.  You need to flip the breaker switch in the basement within five minutes of ending your conversation with E. Gadd directly after the thunder strike.  You'll need to find Uncle Grimmly immediately and ignore the Telephone Room to stand a chance of achieving this one.


      41. Time Wasted (35) ~ Defeat the three mechanical marchers without taking damage (Defeated the Clockwork Soldiers without taking damage)

      To unlock this achievement, you must confront the Clockwork Soldiers in Area 4 without taking any damage.  These ghosts are almost unanimously considered one of the hardest Portrait Ghosts to capture while remaining in intact condition (even harder than Biff Atlas), so this achievement shouldn't be a cakewalk.


      42. Bookled Down (40) ~ Capture a Boo that has 300 HP without letting him escape into a different room (allowing him into a nearby hallway is okay!)

      If you've played Luigi's Mansion, you know how annoying the Area 4 Boos are, because they always escape to places that are tedious to backtrack to.  Bootique can be found in the Artist's Studio on 3F, meaning that it will likely be the last Boo an average player will encounter.  Managing to catch this runt without letting it escape west beyond the 3F hallway or south into the Safari Room gives you this achievement, applauding you for preventing the frustration of backtracking!


      43. "One Man's Trash..." (40) ~ Find a rare, dark red object hidden in the mansion (Found a Red Diamond in the mansion)

      On the Balcony on 3F, the flattop is surrounded by plants.  Watering them will give you money, but there is also something unique about one of these plants.  On the top-right corner, there is a plant that, when watered, provides a Red Diamond.  There are only two Red Diamonds in the game (the other being King Boo's crown, which is mandatory).  Collecting this specific one will unlock the achievement.  Just don't get disappointed by how cheap it is.



      Completionist Achievements (350)

      44. Let's Go Again! (30) ~ Complete the Hidden Mansion

      After beating the game once, the Hidden Mansion is unlocked.  Beat it.


      45. BamBoozled (30) ~ Capture all 50 Boos

      Right what it says on the tin.  Enjoy the achievement and Gold Diamond.


      46. Admirable Collection (30)~ Earn all Silver Portraits

      This achievement applies with Gold Portraits, too. To earn a Silver Portrait, you must suck 50 HP out of a normal Portrait Ghost, or keep Luigi's health above 50 HP in a boss battle.


      47. Priceless Collection (60) ~ Earn all Gold Portraits

      Definitely a challenge.  To earn a Gold Portrait on a normal Portrait Ghost, you must obtain a Big Pearl from them, which requires you to drain 90 HP in one suction.  For the bosses, you must capture them without having Luigi's health decline below 90 HP.


      48. Livin' the Good Life (50) ~ Complete the game with the highest possible rank (Completed the game with Rank A!)

      To achieve Rank A, you must collect over 100,000,000G in your ventures through the mansion.  This will likely warrant knowledge of gem locations, watering the plant, and collecting all of the Boos.  Achievement unlocked, now enjoy your complete mansion!


      49. Foreclosure (50) ~ Complete the game with the lowest possible rank (Completed the game with Rank H!)

      Rank H is obtained when less than 5,000,000G is collected in a playthrough.  To ensure this outcome, avoid loose money, ignore obvious money caches and chests, and focus on catching only the minimum number of Boos.  Beating it under these conditions will give you reason to celebrate your new achievement and your well-deserved... tent.


      50. "A Penny Saved..." (100) ~ Complete the game with only 5,000G

      This is the ultimate achievement.  To do this, you must not keep any money whatsoever.  The only unit of money that is absolutely mandatory in the entire game is King Boo's crown, which is worth 5,000G (the same amount as a single coin).  Completing this will likely require frequent saving and loading, careful positioning with Portrait Ghosts to avoid collecting pearls, and intentionally getting hurt to dispose of collected coins (any other type of money collected will warrant a reset to the last save).  Being a masochist would likely help with this one.




      This list has gone through a considerable amount of revisions throughout my time working on it, but I'm glad it is finally completed.  Here's hoping a trend of these lists continues, as I would really like to see how creative other people can get with them!

    • My Review of Rock Band Blitz

      6 years ago


       The rhythm game genre has hit hard times.  The excessive saturation of the Guitar Hero franchise three years ago left the genre in a state of virtually irreparable despair.  While the instrument-based subgenre was a unique, downright exhilarating experience in its prime, the extent to which the cash cow was milked left the consumer base tired and uninterested, resulting in dwindling sales and the apparent death of the franchise.  Despite that, genre competitor Harmonix is bringing back their critically acclaimed Rock Band franchise for another go, albeit in an almost entirely different style that involves no beefy peripherals.  With full compatibility to the entire Rock Band DLC and export libraries, 25 new tracks, and a price tag of $15, Rock Band Blitz is a hard deal to pass up if you've ever been gripped by the genre's appeal.

       The gameplay heavily differs from the franchise's preceding outings.  Instead of being confined to one instrument, the game puts the player  in charge of the entire band (mostly consisting of four to five instruments per song).  Each instrument contains two note lanes, rather than the normal five.  The player can switch between instruments at any time using the triggers and hit the notes by using the D-pad and A button (alternatively, the joysticks hit notes as well).



      Expect to see a lot of this in "Through the Fire and Flames".


      In a departure from a formula that is practically written in stone at this point, the game's goal is not necessarily nailing as many notes as possible in attempt to achieve perfection.  Instead, it showcases a variety of facets that encourage the player to shoot for a higher score.  The most important of these assets is the multiplier on the left side of the screen.  Hitting enough in notes on each instrument raises its multiplier, and hitting enough notes will lift it up to the multiplier cap.  Checkpoints that raise the multiplier cap are spread throughout each song chart.  The challenge here is that the cap increase is dependent on how high all of the instruments' multipliers are, with the most desirable result -- an increase of three -- only occurring after raising every instrument to the maximum.  For example, if you have drums, guitar, and bass at 4x, but only have 2x for vocals, the cap will only raise up to three higher than the vocals, which in this case is 5x.

       The other major deciding factor in the acquiring massive amounts of points is the selection of Powers.  Three types of Powers are selectable before tackling a song.  Overdrive Powers are just as what veterans think it is:  Powers that are manually activated after accruing a certain amount of Overdrive energy.  Note Powers cause notes with special properties to appear throughout the song, often indicated by purple-colored notes.  Lastly, Track Powers mostly involve increasing the points gained from one instrument.  Knowing the song ahead of time, whether from previous experience in preceding games or simply playing through the song in Blitz, is essential for making the most out of these Powers.

      This harsh shift in direction from perfection to strategy might seem offputting for an average devotee of the subgenre, but as a long-standing veteran, I embraced the change, as the focus on strategic observation and memorization mesh to create what is a thinking man's rhythm game.  Reaching the coveted Gold Star cutoff of a song will require full understanding of the game's core mechanics and a wisely chosen selection of Powers.



      Take a wild guess what Point Doubler does.


      Graphically, the game looks colorful and sleek.  The dark aesthetic of the city surrounding the instrumental lanes effectively compliments their comparatively bright and conspicuous presence.  That being said, the notes can occasionally be hard to see at times, almost to the degree of being uncannily reminiscent of Beatlemania from The Beatles: Rock Band, and just like Beatlemania, it's most noticeable during the guitar solos.

       The soundtrack is fairly difficult to comment on.  Selections such as "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies and "Death on Two Legs" by Queen are picks that anybody can love, while picks like Maroon 5's now infamous "Moves Like Jagger" is likely to never be touched by some dedicated players.  The game's setlist leans slightly more towards the pop style as opposed to the classic rock direction, but considering it's a 25-song pack for only $15, it can be difficult for an average player to complain.



      The maximum multipliers for "2112" are so huge that they're borderline hilarious.


      If these assets were in the game with no strings attached, I would be willing to say that the game would be close to the pinnacle of the genre.  However, the aforementioned Powers are governed by the very catalyst of the game's core problems:  the coin system.  Powers are single-use only, with each use requiring a transaction of in-game currency.  Playing a song with all three Power types costs a total of 750 coins.  The problem is that playing a song only rewards about 300-500 coins on average, and while that amount is doubled for new songs, the game will eventually require the player to grind for more coins by running through tracks without the use of any Powers, which is contextually clashing in a game that is quite literally centered around achieving highest feasible scores.  If the system wasn't enough of a nuisance, restarting a song requires repurchasing the Powers, which renders what should be the most useful mechanic in striving for a high score almost totally worthless depending on how many coins the player has in reserve.

      There is a means of collecting coins more quickly; however, it warrants the attention of another glaring flaw.  Signing up to a Facebook app called Rock Band World allows players to accept goals and challenge other players to Score Wars, with the reward being those coveted coins.  While having a companion app for a game is not a wholly bad idea when used in a cosmetic fashion, Blitz relies on its app to the point where it almost banks on it, as some of the features presented in the program are significantly more complicated if not entirely absent within the confines of the actual game.  On top of that, playing Blitz without an online connection cuts off the player's access to coins, restricting them to play without Powers as long as they're going dark.

       Cumbersome social integration and a hairbrained monetary system aside, the actual crux of Blitz's gameplay is among the most refined rhythm games have seen in a long time (at least, if you play it with all three Powers as intended).  Rock Band Blitz would be incredible if it weren't for its bothersome reliance on online intrusion. With those features, it's only good, but still good enough to be considered a must-buy for rhythm game fanatics.  If you still have an itch for Rock Band, the value of the setlist alone makes it a no-brainer purchase.  Fans of Amplitude and Frequency (also made by Harmonix) will also love the callbacks to those titles' styles of play.  Blitz is a definite buy for devotees of the genre.  Just be prepared for the occasional hang-up.



      P.S. With the exception of the banner and thumbnail, the images used throughout the review are from my own capture card, so apologies for the less-than-stellar quality of the images.  I'm not ready to upgrade to a PVR yet.

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