My huge cake, never got a slice: Being a review of Super Mario Galaxy 2, wherein the good and bad points thereof are discussed (but not in that order)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 1, 2010 by masterinferno

Having gotten, at time of writing, about 99.99% completion on Super Mario Galaxy 2, I feel overly qualified to pass judgement on it.

First (but also least importantly in the long run), the bad. I’m sure that there are a bunch of butthurt Nintendo fanboys who would gang up and murder me if they read the following criticisms of Mario’s newest outing, so I’m going to say in advance that I’m sorry. I’m sorry, that is, that you’re a bunch of butthurt Nintendo fanboys who gang up and murder people for criticizing, to any degree, anything Nintendo publishes. Go play on train tracks.

Anyway.

Bad the first: Extra lives and the handling thereof. I mentioned in passing on Facebook many months ago that I believe (or, more correctly, know, because this isn’t an opinion) that extra lives in video games are an outdated holdover from the days of arcade gaming (and very early console gaming before there were saved games). In a nutshell, if a game allows you to, in some capacity, pick up from where you left off earlier, you don’t need extra lives. They make gameplay unnecessarily tedious when you run out and then have to start the level all over instead of from the last checkpoint you hit just because you died (on what may be a very difficult level no less) an arbitrary number of times.  We have progressed beyond the need for extra lives. They are a relic of the old days, good for a museum and nowhere else. The Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years because they kept running out of lives and having to start the level over. You can look that up in the Bible, I know it’s in there somewhere. That said, I know that the 1-up mushroom is an iconic element of the Mario series and is probably going to be in Mario games long after we’re all dead and this review has been forgotten about by the internet as a whole.  So we’ll accept that a Mario game is going to have extra lives in it. Now, I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph “the handling thereof”, which I will get to now. If you quit and restart the game, even if you just go to the title screen and load your saved game without turning the system off, you have four lives (five if you count zero as a life). That’s it. You could have had fifty not thirty seconds ago when you saved your game, and now they’re all gone. This has been a problem with the Mario series since it first got a save feature way back in Super Mario World. Nintendo for some reason has decided that you’re not entitled to keep all those hard-earned lives just because you quit the game. If I was giving this game a numerical score out of 100 (which I won’t, because I hate giving stuff I review numerical scores) I’d take off at least five points just for that.

Bad the second: Camera screwery. The camera is the greatest foe you will ever face in a 3D platform game (and often in other genres as well), unless it’s done Just Right. The way to do it Just Right is as follows: The camera should be stationed a moderate distance behind the player character, with the ability to rotate it a full 360 degrees at all times, except where these things are detrimental to the gameplay (as they would be in this game’s side-scrolling segments, of which there are quite a few). I should not have to miss repeatedly a long-distance jump to a star because I can’t get the camera lined up to where I Can See What’s Going On. This issue is not so prevalent in the game that it dominates the experience, but it’s common enough to be an annoyance. This is not a horror game or adventure game. It does not require limited camera movement to enhance the “atmosphere”.

Bad the third: The mini-games. That annoying “rolling ball” mini-game from Mario Galaxy 1 is back, and the controls for it are as imprecise as ever, though fortunately it only appears in two galaxies (though that means you’ll have to play it a minimum of eight times to get all the stars from it). Mario Galaxy 1’s least annoying mini-game, the “bubble blow” one, is gone, and ray surfing is gone, but now we get New Ones that are still annoying. First up is riding Fluzzard, a bird-thing that doesn’t so much fly as glide, and you tilt the Wii Remote to make him move in the direction you want him to go, and hopefully he goes that way. Unfortunately the guys at Nintendo forgot that gameplay is more important than realism when it comes to flying in a cartoony 3D platform game. That’s the best I can figure out to word it, so moving on. Next you have “Chimp’s Challenges”, a group of  (usually timed) games where you try to beat the Chimp’s score. This generally involves stuff like ice-skating into targets or jumping on lots of enemies in a row (and not the nice little Goombas either, the spawn-of-Satan rock-spitting octopus things). And there’s five or six of them total. Bleh.

Now I’m going to tell you why you should buy the game anyway.

Good the first: It’s basically more of the same. Did you enjoy Mario Galaxy 1? Me too. Mario Galaxy 2 plays pretty much exactly the same. Mario and Luigi control the same as they did in 1. You can still collect and shoot Star Bits with the Wii Remote. Most of Mario Galaxy 1’s power-ups are back (although the Boo Mushroom and Spring Mushroom get very limited use – not that this is a bad thing). You’ll have no problem jumping right in if you played the first game.

Good the second: The new stuff.  The most prominent addition is, of course, Mario’s dinosaur buddy Yoshi, who can be found on several levels. Yoshi is easy to control (just point the remote at an enemy and press B to eat them!) and has some fun segments with his own power-ups, which let him run really fast up walls/across water, float upwards, and illuminate hidden platforms. Mario’s own new power-ups are well-done as well. The Prankster Comet challenges are now unlocked by collecting the Comet Medal in each galaxy. The “Cosmic Mario” challenges from SMG1, where you race a clone of yourself to the star, are gone, having been replaced with “Shadow Mario”, where a series of clones follows your moves exactly and damage you if you touch them. This can be maddeningly difficult at times, but is still perfectly doable.

Good the third: Everything else. The challenges are often sadistically difficult but still mostly fair, except when they involve Camera Screw or Annoying Mini-Games. Luigi, who was playable in SMG1 when you got all 120 stars as Mario, is back, and this time you can play as him right from the start on some levels, and then on any level after you beat the game. The game’s second set of 120 stars, instead of being Luigi-specific as in SMG1, is in the form of “Green Stars” that appear in every level after you get the first 120 stars and beat the game again, doubling the number of stars in each galaxy. The Green Stars are generally much easier to get as they’re just lying around hidden in the levels (I got 90 of them in one afternoon), but by the time you unlock them you probably won’t want to do even more ultra-difficult challenges for them. Getting all of the Green Stars unlocks the Grandmaster Galaxy, in which I am currently doing the Prankster Comet challenge (and dying repeatedly thanks to the outdated extra lives system and lack of checkpoints). But that’s cool, because I know it can be done. As I said earlier, the game is hard, but still mostly fair.

I feel like I’m supposed to have some kind of closing paragraph here, but I always thought that they were kind of pointless – after all, what’s the point of summing up everything again if the person just read the long version? So I’ll just leave you with: If you have a Wii, you need this game. If you have a Wii and you do not have this game, you are wrong.

I’ve been thinking in iambic pentameter all day.

Posted in Poetry on January 22, 2010 by masterinferno

Sunset on the ocean

by James Swanson

The setting of the evening sun at last,
Reflected in the ocean ere it fades,
Has painted here a distant silhouette,
Which burned its image on my memory.

Upon the sea-washed shores I wondered long,
To contemplate what meaning it contained,
What far-off thing there, shadowed in the sun,
Should cast so strange a form as I beheld.

And just before my answer could be formed,
The solar disk was drowned by endless tide,
Then vanished my strange shape into the night,
As childhood fabrication long ago.

I’m 23 today!

Posted in Personal with tags , on October 4, 2009 by masterinferno

That must mean something!!

The Two Tablets, part I, sections i & ii

Posted in Stories, The Two Tablets with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2009 by masterinferno

The Two Tablets
by
James Swanson

I.
In the Manor at Hardin Valley

i.
Sanity seems such a great comfort to man: That great mental acuity with which one retains the illusion of having control over his life. Yet there are some who see sanity for what it truly is: A thin veil, a cracking mask, a clouded windowpane that may be rent asunder as easily as a careless child playing near a precious vase may send it crashing to the floor, never to be mended. While my sanity may have fled from me long ago, I tell you that I am certainly no madman, for could a madman speak to you so clearly as I do now? I daresay, surely not. Yet stay awhile and let me relate to you why they – those damnable judges and psychologists and other grave and humourless men of a similar stature – why they have taken it upon themselves to designate me a lunatic with naught left to him but the memory of those experiences which left him insane, yes, but certainly not mad.

Continue reading

Stuff happening?

Posted in Personal with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by masterinferno

I really should have put up more stuff by now, but oh well. I blame the squirrels. And laziness. And lazy squirrels.

Anyway, tomorrow is the 119th birthday of H.P. Lovecraft, and to celebrate I’ll be putting up the first couple of sections from my Lovecraft-inspired short story, “The Two Tablets”. I intend to resume writing on it at this time as well. Hopefully I’ll have a semi-regular update schedule from now on until the story is finished.

In other news, I lost the game.
Master Inferno

Opening

Posted in Personal with tags , , , on July 25, 2009 by masterinferno

Hello and welcome to my home on the internet. As you can tell by the header, my name is James Swanson, though I have several nicknames, including Swamper, Swanbird, and Master Inferno. I’ll get more into those in my next post, but for now, suffice it to say that Master Inferno is what I consider my “creative persona” so to speak, so I’ve chosen to use it as the name of this page.

This page will be mainly used for my writings, including short stories, poetry/lyrics, reviews, thoughts, ramblings, et cetera. If you like what you find here, let others know and maybe I’ll actually get some readers (ha!).

To start, I’ll be putting up one or two more pieces about myself, then I plan to start uploading parts of a short story I’m working on. I hope to be able to put them up every one or two weeks, time permitting, but we’ll see.

Signing off,
Master Inferno