Thursday, January 27, 2011

Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition Review

In 1993, Nintendo came out with an amazing collection of Mario's greatest adventures: Super Mario All-Stars. It contained fancy remakes of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, and the not-released in America at the time, The Lost Levels, which was the Japanese Mario 2. Fast-foward 18 years: the NES Super Mario Bros. is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, and Nintendo decides to celebrate it: with re-releacing Super Mario All-Stars on the Wii, but with some added anniversary content. What comes out is reasonable at the most, but it could've been much, much better.

The game part of SMAS remains untouched, even the button prompts. It has now been modified to support the Wii Remote, which is pretty convienient. Everything is still as great as before (and The Lost Levels hasn't got any easier); but in turn, these have already been on the Virtual Console for years, abiet without their 16-bit polish. They play almost the same, so you'll probably save more money anyways if you buy the originals. I would've liked full-fledged remakes of these games with New Super Mario Bros.-style graphics, or at LEAST the Super Mario All-Stars+Super Mario World redo from the SNES.

Sadly, the game is probably the only highlight of the package. The included art "book" is only the size of an Instruction Manual, and not even the notes at the bottom of the pictures are translated. Sure, it is cool to see a picture of the whole Mario production crew with some cool notes about each game in the series, but it could've been much, much better. Just look at the Mega Man: Official Complete Works artbook. 200+ pages of art, beta drawings, fan art, and other cool stuff; plus, all the notes are translated. This really didn't take that long to make, I can tell.

The CD's even worse. You would expect fully-orchestrated remixes of classic Mario tunes, but no, it's all the originals. It's not even the best selection of music for Petey's sake; they used the TRAILER music for SMG2 instead of the actual in-game song! This is laziness beyond my belief.

Gameplay: Still as good as before, but you'll probably see nothing new here. 8.0
Graphics: Again, the same. 7.0
Audio: The game's audio still rocks, but the included CD is a total miss. 5.0
Overall: If I could summarize the whole package into one word, it would be this: lazy. Virtually nothing here is all that amusing, and you're better off buying the originals off VC anyways; mostly because they have Pause-states so you can put it down for awhile then pick right where you left off. Mario deserves better for his big birthday.

5 out of 10

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kirby Air Ride Review

By 2003, Kirby had become a Nintendo icon. He had a host of games, a playable-character role in the Super Smash Bros. series, and now even had his own anime. So it was obvious Nintendo would bring the little guy to their next-gen console, the Nintendo Gamecube. But instead of a platforming adventure, HAL created the first-ever Kirby racing games, and it ended up being the finest entry in the series.

Kirby Air Ride takes a lot from the Smash Bros. plate: the menu screens look almost the same, and it supports 4-player competition. The controls are extremelly simple: Control Stick to steer, A to hold down a boost and take on tight corners. This makes the game acessable to all audiences, but still has a lot of content for the experienced gamer; mostly because there are over 20 Air Ride machines, all of which control in their own special ways and have different strengths and weaknesses.

There are three modes to this game: Air Ride, Top Ride, and City Trial. Air Ride comprises of 10 tracks and is a good place to test your skills. These 10 tracks get kinda boring after awhile, but you can do Time Trials of these courses. Kirby's ability-copying in integrated in this mode by swallowing up enemies on the side of the track and taking their powers, acting much like the Mario Kart Item Boxes. Top Ride plays like the top-down racers of old, and has a much bigger emphasis on Item usage. They range from a cake that makes you huge to a giant cloud that zaps anyone unfourtunate enough to pass its way. The controls feel a bit weird, though; and once again, there's only 10 tracks or so to enjoy. But it's great in short bursts.

The mode that makes the whole game is City Trial. You are set over a fairly small city with 5 minutes to upgrade your ship for the minigame that appears after the timer stops. So much happens between those 5 minutes, though. You can find other ships lying around and hop on them, you can pick up patches that increase Offense, Defense, Flight, etc., much like an RPG, you can pick up items or copy abilities and destroy the other 3 opposing Kirbys and steal all their stats, you can gather pieces of a ship and then fuse them together to make one of the Legendary Air Ride machines, and so, so, so much more. The ending minigame is always fun: from a Drag Race to a Demilition Derby to a fight with King Dedede; all take advantage of one of the stats you boosted. To sum it up, it plays like an extended version of Mario Kart's battle mode on crack. You and your friends will not stop playing this mode.

The graphical and musical quality of this game is also astounding: each area has its own distint textures, and the music is all orchestrated and is absolute ear candy (though most came from the Japanese version of the Anime). This game has a bunch of replay value, too, in the form of a checkist with many different tasks to fill out. There are over 300 of 'em, so you have a lot to do if you truly want to be the master of the Ride.

Gameplay: Ultra-addicting. One of the most fun multiplayer experiences ever. 10
Graphics: Well done. Not too spectacular, but it's good to the eyes. 9
Audio: The top-tier of epic. Tunes that seriously make you feel like a winner. 10
Overall: Never before has one simple gameplay mode made a whole entire game, and then some. If you want a game that is great to get into by yourself or with friends, but absolutely impossible to put down, this is it. No other GCN game is finer.

10 out of 10

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cave Story Review

In 2004, Indie game designer Pixel created probably one of the greatest downloadable games of all time: Cave Story. It became so popular that it eventually got an upgrade on PSP, WiiWare, and DSiWare. This review shall focus on the Wii version, though.

Cave Story plays and looks like the 2-D NES games of old, mostly Metroid and Mega Man. You are a lone robotic warrior named Quote who must fight his way through a deep and grand cave, picking up a variety of weapons upon the way. These weapons range from a simple handgun to an almighty laser. Each weapon has 3 different levels of power, and experience points for them are found from defeated enemies. This makes gunplay never get old, because you always wanna see the max your weapon of mass destruction can really do.

The one thing this game has what other NES games failed to convey was an amazing story. The evil Doctor has enslaved the rabbitlike Mijima people, and it's up to you to liberate the cave. Along the way, the plot takes so many stunning turn and heart-wrenching moments that I won't spoil any of it; though do have some tissues ready if you have a soft heart. An even more interesting part about this game is its endings: each show how the game will end in a variety of ways. Getting the worst one is suprisingly easy, but in order to get the best one, it requires some insane videogame skills.

The graphics are ,in one word, stunning. Even with the orignal filter on, these are the greatest hand-drawn sprites ever made. The music is something of beauty, too, and thanks to a recent patch, the music bugs have been all fixed.

Some negative aspects of the game are more of annoyances than actual problems: the tiny character can be kinda hard on the weak at seeing, the music is still a bit on the quiet side, and getting the best endings takes multiple playthroughs.

Gameplay: Insanely fun. There are no control errors and the story is very gripping. 10
Graphics: Brilliant. Best pixelated visuals done on any console. 10
Audio: Fits every area and is well-made. 9.75
Verdict: This is one man's love letter to all things that make gaming fun: Great gameplay, an amazing plot, brilliant graphics, and well-done music. If you like games in general, this is not to be missed.
10 out of 10

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mega Man 4 Review

In 1987, Capcom launched probably their most recognizable franchise: Mega Man. His weapon-stealing, shooting action became so popular that it produced a very large number of sequels and side franchises. Mega Man 2 is the most well-known and popular out of all of them, but one title in the franchise, Mega Man 4, remains sorely overlooked.

Mega Man 4 starts off with a little backstory on the Blue Bomber's past; how he turned from humble cleaning droid to a super-fighting robot. Pressing Start sends you to that all-to familiar Boss select screen, an important staple in the franchise. These robots this time around are well-designed and feature some of the most fun stages in MM history. Dive Man's stage is decievingly difficult, with underwater physics and death spikes all around. Pharoah Man's stage has branching pathways that lead to some tightly-spaced platforming. Toad Man's stage is water-logged and full of dizzying effects. And the story is even more interesting this time; a Russian scientist is now the evil mastermind of these new Robot Masters, though it's not long until you figure out who the real villian is.

The new gimmick of MM4 is the Charge Shot, which allows Mega Man to hold a Buster shot in, then release it to make it much more powerful. While it erases some of the challenge, it is still a very welcome addition. The weapons this time around are the series' best: every one is used numerous times throughout the game. The Rain Flush and the Pharoah Shot in particular are very usefull, but not brokenly-spammable like MM2's Metal Blade.

The graphics are vibrant and still amazing, but unlike MM3, do not cause horrible slowdown and flicker. The music is the series' best: with amazingly atmospheric tunes and beats you'll be whistling for weeks. One small complaint about this game could be that the password saves still won't let you advance to any of the castle stages, which ruins some replayability, but the game is so polished and fun anyways that you probably won't notice it as much.

Gameplay: Polished to perfection. Capcom got everything right this time. 9.75
Graphics: Still well-done, and almost no slowdown. 9.5
Audio: Amazing, but great music is a Capcom standard. 9.75
Overall: It all adds up to be the greates MM in the whole series, even better than Number 2. If you're planning on picking up one Mega Man game, make it this one.
9.75 out of 10