Monday, September 20, 2010

Super Metroid Review

In 1986, Gunpei Yokoi created one of the most popular gaming franchises in history: Metroid. The game was a unique blend of Mario's platforming and Zelda's exploration that worked well, but it had a few big gameplay problems. The 1991 sequel, Metroid 2: Return of Samus, improved some of these (Especially with the Save System), but fans didn't imbrace it that well because of its linearity. 3 years later, Nintendo launched their biggest game at the time: Super Metroid. It not only improved on nearly every kink from the previous two, but is one of the greatest games ever to be made.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Super Metroid starts out right where Metroid 2 left off. Samus had mothered a Baby Metroid off of SR388, and brought it to the research center. Days later, Samus recieves a distress signal, and finds all the scientists are dead by the hands of her archnemisis, Ridley. He takes the Baby with him and you're left with a minute to escape the exploding facility. It's an epic beginning to a game that justs get better.

For starters, the controls rock. It was probably one of the only games of its time that allowed customizable controls. Samus herself moved swiftly and finesely, and shooting with her beams are no trouble at all, a godsend after the first game's twiddly traction. During the course of here adventure in Brinstar, she gets various weapons like the Ice Beam, Super Missiles, and Grappling Shot, all are insanely fun to use. The enemies in-game are hard enough not to be infuriating, and all have great design. The bosses in particular are insanely fun to fight.

The Overworld is massive, with a ridiculous number of collectibles to find, so thank the Metroid gods they included a map. It's a lifesaver in confusing locations, and with it, you can never go back to the older ones again. The pacing at which you get items is absolutely perfect, and the puzzles are extremelly innovative.

Brinstar and its locales are absolutely beautiful: the graphics took full advantage of the SNES's power. The music is also very enjoyable to listen to, because it sets the perfect mood for the dreary world.

Not every gem is without its chinks. Wall-jumping can be infuriatingly hard, there are places you can get genuinely stuck, and you can't go back to the overworld once you beat the Final Boss. Still, those are very minor problems.

Gameplay: Insanely fun. Keeps you appealed until you beat it, and then some. 10
Graphics: Excellent. Takes full advantage of the system's power. 9.75
Audio: Tunes that set the mood for each area perfectly. 9.75
Overall: You have no excuse not to own this game. Not only is Super Metroid the best game from the 16-bit era, but explains why videogames are so fun to play: it's a giant world begging to be loved and explored.
10 out of 10

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mario Kart Wii Review

In 1992, Nintendo launched a Mario Spin-off game that would become so popular, it created a whole new genre: Super Mario Kart. It was insane hybrid of go-karts and the Mario universe, only made better by the insanely competitive 2-player mode. Mario Kart 64 added two more to the fun in 1997, Mario Kart: Double Dash on Gamecube added a co-op element by putting another character behind your Kart, and Mario Kart DS allowed you to race anyone around the planet for the first time. Naturally, Nintendo's next step was to bring it to their newest console, the Wii. Mario Kart Wii had a lot to live up to, but what we got in the end is not only the best racer on the system, but the greatest game in the whole series.

The game introduced a bunch of new elements to the series; the biggest is shown right on the box. Mario Kart Wii comes with the Wii Wheel, a plastic case that slip around the remote, and is supposed to simulate you at the hands of the Kart wheel. At first, it takes awhile for series veterans to get used to the more lifelike control, but commit to it, and it becomes second-nature. Not only is the Wii Wheel a unique way to play, but it's a great way for casual gamers to get quickly into the series. (You can also choose between multiple other controls schemes like the GCN Controller and the Remote+Nunchuck a la Smash Bros, but I prefer the Classic Controller myself)

Two other big new editions are Bikes and Tricks. There's as many Karts as Bikes in this game, and they each play very differently. A Kart is better at turns and can charge its Mini-Turbo to a shiny orange, when released, gives you a nice long boost. Bikes, on the other hand, can only charge to the second stage of a Mini-Turbo (Blue), but can pop a wheelie any time by shaking the remote, making it better on straitaways. The differences may not be big at first, but they can mean the matter of wining or loosing. The new Tricks feature is a welcome addition: if you shake the wheel just as you exit a ramp or jump, your character does a cool little pose, and when they hit the ground, they gain a mini-turbo boost. The tricks are more powerful the higher the jump, but at the same time become harder to land.

There are 24 characters (including Miis) to choose from, each of which resides in a different weight category (Light, Medium, or Heavy), allowing you to use different types of Karts depending on who you chose. Unlike Mario Kart DS, everyone now shares the same types of vehicles, and the machine variety is well-balanced, making there no real "best car". The Track selection is at its best; 16 Tracks new to the game, 16 from all the older games. Since there are now 12 Karts on track at a time (4 more than usual), the tracks are wider, have opportunities for tricks, and are very fun to race on. Despite a flurry of big Karts on screen, the Retro tracks are still extremely fun to play.

All the traditional multiplayer modes remain like Vs. and Battle, along with a massively improved online play. Connecting with 12
other humans is fast and easy; and knowing you've thrown a Blue Shell at an actual person is extremely satisfying. The game even includes a free download of the Mario Kart Channel: a constantly-growing community where you can take part in MKDS-style weekly missions, race random Time Trial ghosts, and see how you stack up against the rest of the world on each track.

Mario Kart Wii isn't flawless though; with 4 more added on the track means more items everywhere, and it seems that the person in 1st is constantly being pelted with Lightning, Blue Shells, POW Blocks, and more. The cars seem to have much worse acceleration this time around; even lightweights can take awhile to start back up their motors to top speed. The Battle Mode is fun for a bit, but the option to turn off teams would be nice. There is a small bit of frame-skipping in Multiplayer, but it doesn't take much away from the actual game. Lastly, the new Lightning Cloud item is just an unwanted addition.

Gameplay: Polished to (Almost) Perfection. The developers finally got the Mario Kart formula down and completely nailed. 9.75
Graphics: Not the best on the Wii, but still has a variety of cool lighting effects. 8.0
Audio: Mario Kart music has always been enjoyable, and this is no exception. 9.0
Overall: With over 15 million units sold, it's no wonder this game is great; the new features like Bikes and great Online makes this game a joy either to play with yourself or with your buddies.
9.5 out of 10