Tag Archives: Nintendo Power

FGC #277 New Super Mario Bros. 2

There's my high scoreThe greatest trick the hedgehog ever pulled was convincing the world Mario was slow.

People naturally think in dualities. For every light, there is darkness. For every day, there is night. For every god, there is a devil. It happens over and over again throughout history, and, frankly, it kind of makes sense. We, as human flesh bags, pretty much only experience life in binary extremes. Everything is perfect and shiny and happy until the very minute allergy season hits and oh my God this is the worst I have ever felt. Or there’s the ever popular climate control thing: consider all the different temperature variances on Earth, and then consider that human beings are only comfortable in a range of, what, about five (Fahrenheit) degrees? Everything else is either scorching hot or freezing cold. The middle is an illusion… or at least our silly ape brains believe that.

So when Sonic the Hedgehog debuted in 1991 under the advertising campaign of “blast processing” and “gotta go fast”, it was naturally assumed that the other end of the aisle was slow. And, if you were reading Nintendo Power at the time… it was kind of hilarious. Much like during a recent election that seems to stick in my memory for some reason, Nintendo unnecessarily devoted a lot of time to defending the speed of its system and mascots. Did you know that there’s no such thing as blast processing? Did you know that there’s a game for SNES featuring Road Runner, and another starring Speedy Gonzales? They’re the fastest creatures on Earth, and they’re on the Super Nintendo! Come back, lucrative and finicky soon-to-be-labeled tween demographic! We’re Nintendo! We’re still hip!

THIS IS SLOWBut the future refused to change. Even after Mario buried the Hedgehog deep under the planet Saturn, the idea that Mario equals slow persisted. To this day, the average person sees Mario as something of a slow, roly poly mascot, and not the amazingly athletic plumber that actually appears in any given Mario game. Good job, Sega, you permanently marred a gaming icon.

Which is a shame, as Mario has always been about speed. Okay, maybe that isn’t quite accurate, Donkey Kong doesn’t include so much as a run option, and Mario Bros. has something of a “speed kills” moral, but Super Mario Bros, the game that practically invented a genre, is all about that B button. Yes, you don’t have to run during any of SMB’s stages, but once you start learning the game and where you can run, well, there’s a reason the princess can be rescued in twelve minutes. And SMB begat SMB2, a game where Toad can take off at Mach 2, thus making him the fastest fungus in gaming. And then Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World? These are games where Mario can move so quickly, he literally flies. Usain Bolt can’t brag about pulling that one off, and neither can a certain hedgehog.

But, as time went by, Nintendo didn’t exactly emphasize Mario’s speed. Super Mario 64 is an amazing game, but nobody is impressed when our hero outraces a turtle for a star or two. And this would be about the era when Mario RPGs started making their way into the release schedule, and, as much as those games might be fun, they do nothing for Mario’s speed records. By about the time that Mario was shooting around the galaxy, it seemed like the world at large might never even remember that Mario could once soar with only the power of his own two legs (and maybe a magical leaf).

And then we received New Super Mario Bros. 2, and Mario was back in the fast lane.

ROY!Granted, some credit should go to New Super Mario Bros. (1). The first complete 2-D Mario game in what seemed like forever introduced the turtle shell power up. This quickly forgotten item allowed Mario to “become” a koopa troopa shell once he hit top speed, and, with this marvelous invention, the player could see exactly how long they could keep Mario spinning before inevitably dropping into some nearby lava. It was a noble effort of a “new” ability for a new Mario in New Super Mario Bros, but it did pale in comparison to the raw destructive power of the mega mushroom. Probably thanks to its mammoth fun guy brother, the turtle shell never saw a Mario game again… but it seems like its legacy lives on in Mario’s (kinda) next “new” adventure.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is supposedly about coin collecting. Well, technically it’s about princess rescuing and turtle smashing, but the gimmick du jour is established pretty early as “Mario wants to buy a boat”. And, frankly, with all these gold coins lying around, I’m pretty sure Mario is going to be able to put a down payment on a planet by the time he finishes Special World. But the actual act of collecting free floating coins is secondary to NSMB2’s greatest innovation: the coin block hat (there’s… probably a better name for that). Once Mario is wearing that coin block… things change.

It’s a simple concept: when Mario is a blockhead, he earns coins for every second he is moving at top-Mario speed. While this may seem like something that wouldn’t make much of an impact (oh boy, a whole fifty coins, wow), something changes in a Mario player’s brain when that “coin get” sound activates. Good things are happening! Good things need to keep happening! I need to gather more coins! I need to move as fast as possible! I need to hear that precious 1-up sound right now or I am going to die! And so, from the first moment that block appears, Mario suddenly has a constant, driving reason to move as quickly as possible. And, luckily, somebody at Nintendo knew damn well that would be the first thing that would happen, so many (sorry ghost houses and underwater stages) NSMB2 levels are designed around speed. And, thus, Mario has imperceptibly regained his overlooked speed.

WeeeeeeUnfortunately, it probably won’t stick. New Super Mario Bros. 2 was well received by the general gaming public (fifth bestselling 3DS game!), but it was released around when we received an embarrassment of riches of Mario games, and NSMB2 was considered the least essential of the bunch. Couple this with handheld releases being continually (and unjustly) forsaken for their console counterparts, and we’re probably looking at a generation of gamers mistakenly remembering this title as something from the Wario franchise in a few years. Mario running around with a coin block on his head? Did that really happen?

So, sorry Mario, the hedgehog wins this one. It was a noble effort, but, even though Sonic’s next game will probably contain 80% standing around talking furries by volume, you’re the slow one. White is white, black is black, Sonic is fast, and Mario is slow.

FGC #277 New Super Mario Bros. 2

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. Luckily, this game doesn’t use the dual screen or 3-D too much, so we might see some kind of adapted port on future systems.
  • Number of players: There is technically two player co-op in this title! Unfortunately, I say “technically” because your buddy needs to have a 3DS and a copy of the game, too. That rarely happens randomly.
  • Favorite Koopa Kid Boss Battle: The answer is always Roy. Roy, as they say, is our boy.
  • ToastyFavorite Stage: I would play an entire game that is just Mario shooting coin fireballs at blocks like Special World-1. Even more than “Mario likes to run”, I think I want to play a game that is “Mario wants to destroy entire levels”. See also: Mega Mushroom.
  • Did you know? Apparently the Koopa Kids, who premiered in Super Mario Bros. 3, did not have names when they were first introduced, and Nintendo of America was responsible for their monikers. That kind of explains Wendy O…
  • Would I play again: I actually wound up with a physical copy of this game and a digital version thanks to Club Nintendo. Since that translates to this game technically always being available on my 3DS, that leads to a lot of extra Mario time. This also means yes, yes I will play it again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus for the SNES! Oh man, that game is so amazing, I can’t even breathe. Please look forward to it!

DIE!
And that’s how the dinosaurs went extinct

FGC #248 Cruis’n USA

CRUISE IT!Nothing ever changes.

There are always controversies in the videogame world. They’re generally about as “controversial” as someone preferring Dr. Pepper to Coke, but they’re there, and they’re constant. And you’d be forgiven for assuming these controversies are inventions of digital writers in need of the next big headline, or marketing companies desperate for any press, good or ill, that is going to get their name out there; but, no, these same controversies have been going on for decades. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the strange case of Cruis’n USA.

You may remember Cruis’n USA as “that racing game for N64”. It was featured in a lot of Nintendo Power coverage, saw a lot of play at the local arcades, and was lauded as “a game that isn’t Mario 64” for your brand new Nintendo 64 64-bit videogame system. It used partially digitized graphics to simulate a real race across the United States, and, unlike many racing games that were constrained to tracks or Mushroom Kingdoms, Cruis’n USA featured real locations like Golden Gate Bridge or the Redwood Forest. Of course, it was all about as real as a walking tour of Zebes (fun fact: the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore are about 15 hours apart from each other, not two minutes), but it’s all fun enough, and even “fake-real” racing was a change from the standard of the day (we were still a few years away from Gran Turismo).

But Cruis’n USA had its fair share of problems, practically from its inception. For instance…

THE DEMO IS A LIE!

Dead presidentsCruis’n USA saw release on the home consoles in 1996, but it was an arcade game released upon the public in November of 1994. The summer before that, it was first demoed at CES. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it was a stimulating experience for everyone involved, and there were many excited reports about Midway’s latest racer. This was the company that revolutionized the fighting game genre with Mortal Kombat a few years earlier, so, hey, maybe they’re going to strike gold again. Who doesn’t like hot cars and hotter venues?

But more important than the game itself was the announcement that Cruis’n USA was running on Ultra 64 hardware. The N64 was still two years away, and any information on the upcoming Nintendo system was like precious mana from Miyamoto. Cruis’n USA was running on the same tech as the successor to the Super Nintendo? Damn, son, that means the next Nintendo system is going to be off the chain! Did you see those digitized trophy girls? Or those sweet rides? The N64 is going to obliterate that silly Sega Saturn! Sony Playstation who?

Except… it was a fake.

Cruis’n USA was not running on Ultra 64 hardware. It was revealed that Cruis’n USA was made well before the U64 development tools were released, and only Rare, Nintendo’s super best friend 4eva, possessed said tools at all. Cruis’n USA was built on pretty typical arcade hardware of the time, and, shockingly, when the game was ported to the N64 two years later, it looked like your typical, downgraded “arcade port”. It was recognizable, but… not the same. Not quite the system seller everyone expected. Oh, and speaking of selling systems…

DELAYED AGAIN!?

Let's rollHere is a comprehensive list of Nintendo 64 launch titles:

  • Mario 64
  • Pilotwings 64

And that’s about that! Now, of course, there were more games to come, but to call the launch anemic is kind of an understatement. This was the first Nintendo system with native four controller support, and there wasn’t a single game available that offered more than a one player experience. Did anyone notice that? There literally was NO reason to purchase a second N64 controller at launch, left alone another two. Yes, we would eventually see a few fighting games and maybe some Wave Racing, but the initial N64 launch was… well, let’s just say they got lucky that Mario 64 was one the best games of all time.

Cruis’n USA was originally intended as a launch game… but it didn’t happen. And it’s a shame, too, because it really could have cleaned up and sold the N64 as a truly next generation, “adult” experience. This was the age of the rise of Playstation, when all the kids that had been weaned on blue robots and chubby elves were now teenagers and desired “maturity”, “real life situations”, and maybe “spine ripping”. The N64 launched exclusively with kiddy ‘intenda games when the gaming public was raiding the metaphorical liquor cabinets and looking for the hard stuff. It might not have made much of a difference, but Cruis’n USA could have at least said, “hey, you’re getting your driver’s license in a few years, let’s hit the road, cool kids!” as opposed to a line-up that asked, “wanna bake a cake?” Oh, and Cruis’n USA was two player, too. Might not have been a reason to buy a full four controllers, but at least it’s a fine excuse to show your new system to your friends. Spread the good word of Nintendo.

But Cruis’n USA didn’t get many good words, because…

CENSORSHIP!

PurpleAs a point of fact, I am a friend to animals. I like most animals, dogs and cats in particular, more than I like most people. If a human is mad at me for no reason, I assume that human is an asshole. If a cat is mad at me for no reason, I douse myself in tuna and purchase an excess stock of laser pointers. I like all the little critters of nature, and, when I’m driving, I will deliberately swerve to avoid a goose, turtle, or any other wayward creature that wanders into the road.

In Cruis’n USA for the arcade, however, you can mow down wildlife at your leisure. Cows and horses wander into the road, and you can transform them into bloody chunks for your amusement (though it does slow down your car). For some reason, this was removed from the home port, presumably because no one wants to explain the full ramifications of the phrase “bloody chunks” to a kid that just finished finding a tiny dinosaur on the roof of a magical castle.

And, thinking of the poor children, there were additional edits to make Cruis’n USA dramatically less sexy. In the original, first place earns you a trophy and a woman in a bikini top to go with it. On the N64, she put on a damn shirt (albeit one that appears to be painted on). And speaking of sex appeal, the arcade version ends with Bill Clinton in a truck-hot tub with a couple of 90’s babes atop the White House, while the N64 version only features your car on the roof (though there are still a few Secret Service dudes milling about… and a cow, for some reason). And, most ridiculously, the final leg of the Washington DC race features a tunnel made of giant hundred dollar bills on the N64, but the arcade version features those bills with Hillary Clinton smoking a cigar instead of ol’ Ben. I.. uh… guess that’s political commentary. And, good news, it’s somehow relevant and saddening twenty years later! Hooray?

Naturally, people noticed this overt editing (the arcade version saw two years’ worth of credits prior to home release, after all), Purple againso the fans inundated Midway and Nintendo with letters regarding this clear violation of freedom of speech and ludicrous censorship. We want to see our half-naked ladies, dammit!

Sound familiar? Nothing ever changes, folks. The gaming industry has been pulling the same tricks and making the same “mistakes” for decades, and they’re going to keep doing it. Next time there’s some gaming controversy, remember that it’s not the first time, and those issues are just gonna keep on cruis’n.

FGC #248 Cruis’n USA

  • System: N64, and arcade, technically. It’s also on the Wii Virtual Console. Or it was, at least.
  • Number of players: Let me tell you, back in the day, I routinely played my N64 on a screen roughly the size of an iphone. You do not want to know how difficult it was to play two-player split screen races on that. We still did, mind you, it just probably permanently marred my vision. Squinting 4 life!
  • Favorite Car: I don’t know… the red one? I’m not much of a car guy.
  • Don't know whyFilthy Cheater: Oh, wait, I do have a favorite car! It’s the school bus that you can only get through entering a secret code. In keeping in the theme of this article, I’ll note that if this game were released about fifteen years later, that bus would now be impossible-to-access DLC.
  • Did you know? I want to say that this was the first game I ever played that made saving to the N64 memory pack standard. Couldn’t spring for a damn save battery, Midway? Screw you guys.
  • Would I play again: I loved this game when it was first released. And… I don’t think I’ve touched it since the release of Final Fantasy 7. Think I’m going to keep that up.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ogre Battle! Get your chess pieces ready for an epic battle that nobody fully understands! Please look forward to it!

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Here he comes!I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around Turok: Dinosaur Hunter since ROB chose the dang game, and now you’re going to have to read my meandering thoughts.

First of all, if I hadn’t already written that Goldeneye article, this one would be almost exactly what you see there. I have never been “into” FPSs, and, frankly, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter never did that genre any favors. I guess it was the first unique FPS on a Nintendo platform? If we’re not including Faceball? Look, I’m not a FPSologist (I’m still trying to work out the plural of “FPS” here), but I can tell you that Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was a big deal with people that would care about such a thing. It’s like Doom! But for the home consoles! Think of the inevitable rage wars to come! And, honestly, before I played the game, I was kind of excited about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I mean, seriously, you can’t go too wrong with dinosaur hunting, and I want to say I was still riding a wave of dinosaur excitement from Jurassic Park, the movie that reaffirmed everyone’s longstanding belief that T-Rexes are cool. Oh, and it’s one of those games that has every weapon from bow ‘n arrows to grenade launcher. I’m always happy to see that.

And then it occurred to me: the only reason I knew about Turok’s better points before it was actually in my hands was Nintendo Power. As I’ve mentioned before, I read that magazine from cover to cover on a remarkably frequent basis (I can probably quote Counselor’s Corner more accurately than my own mother), and if some game made it into that elusive (re: not at all elusive) cover spot, then you better believe I was on board (Well, except Ken Griffey Baseball, I’m not one for the sports). And Nintendo Power spoke of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in the same excited tones as other N64 hits like Mario 64 or Killer Instinct Gold, so obviously there must be some meat on these dinosaur bones.

GET EMSo I got Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Christmas and, spoilers, it sucked. It’s not my genre, I know that, but I’ve made it past the first level in a few other “not my thing” games. I’ve never been a big fan of the pre-RE4 Resident Evil games, but I always gave the ol’ college try on those zombie ‘em ups. That didn’t happen with Turok. And, yes, I have to add the caveat that maybe Turok gets better after its introductory stage, and maybe the raptors stop running into my bullets, and maybe any opponent with heavy weaponry doesn’t instantly kill Turok, and maybe, just maybe, the jumping improves from the absolute horror show that inevitably leads to a mountain of Turok corpses…. But I don’t have much hope. I have (had?) friends that were into Turok back in the day, and, as far as I remember, not a one ever mentioned, “Oh it gets so much better after it turns out the whole thing is taking place in primitive Middle Earth, and you’re secretly King of the Dwarfs”.

Suffice it to say, I did not hold out much hope for the ROB-mandated half hour of Turok that preceded writing this article. “Let’s get this over with” was my primary thought on the matter. And then I actually played Turok for the first time in… wow, the game turns twenty this March? Yeesh. Anyway, I played Turok and…

Well, it still sucks.

But I can see where they were going with this. There are arrowheads that, like coins in Mario, lead Turok forward. There are initial “weak” enemies, and then a progression of stronger critters. Initial “sub bosses” and such seem to be easy to take down even if you suffer a few hits. And, while it is still absolutely annoying, the first major “jumping area” is over a shallow lake that forgives misses, and doesn’t instantly lead to total Turok death. There are some… passable concessions to “is this your first FPS?” in the opening areas of Turok, and, given its placement in the grand timeline of videogames, that seems completely reasonable. Turok is still awful, but the opening “soft tutorial areas” seem less… militant about it.

And then I realized what I wanted all along: I needed a straight-up Nintendo produced FPS.

Hot hot hotSay what you will about tutorial stages and golden guide blocks and whatever, but Nintendo is great at “is this your first videogame? Well, we’re here to help!” World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. and Miyamoto’s “I design world 2 first, then I go back and make the baby training levels” design philosophy have been analyzed repeatedly by smarter men than I, but it seems that you can point to nearly any Nintendo game in existence and see the similar thinking. Star Fox? This is how you play a shoot ‘em up, and, by the way, if you’re feeling saucy, trying flying through those arches, and see what happens. Wii Fit? Let’s start with basic standing, and eventually you’ll be twisting yourself into a pretzel and balancing perfectly. Mario Kart? Assuming you don’t start time trialing Rainbow Road right out of the box, those opening tracks and the 50cc are there specifically so you can learn the ropes and maybe win a trophy while you’re doing it. And that same guiding hand even seems to have been applied to “second party” games, like Pokémon or Donkey Kong Country. Pokémon is the most beloved JRPG series worldwide, and part of that must be because of its general… gentleness in poking the player forward. That, and the sheer adorableness of Hypno.

WeeeAnd now I kinda feel like the entire reason I missed out on enjoying so many FPSs along the way is because Nintendo never made its big “this is the FPS from Nintendo” franchise. Before and after Turok, it was a long time before I played anything that even looked like a FPS that took the time to “train” the player for the hard parts, and, without that base level of skill, I never got into the genre. It’s not Acclaim’s fault. It’s not Id Software’s fault. It’s Nintendo’s fault! You failed me, Nintendo! Where’s the whacky, cartoon FPS that gets me into understanding the genre? Help me get good at death matches, Nintendo!

Anyway, I feel like washing the stink of Turok out of my brain with some Splatoon, so if anyone wants to hop on later, let me know.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

  • System: N64 and PC. And I guess there was a remake recently for modern systems? I’m not even going to address that concept.
  • Number of players: Just one. The days of mandatory death matches were still a few months away.
  • Hey, wait, you cited Donkey Kong Country as an example, shouldn’t Goldeneye count, too? Let’s claim Rare was well on its way out at that point, and was taking fewer notes from Nintendo. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
  • ARGHRelics of a bygone age: Oh, my controller pak isn’t saving data properly? I am shocked by this information.
  • Say something nice: Turok climbs vines/ladders/etc like a boss. So fast! A certain Hyrulian Hero could learn a thing or two from this guy.
  • Dirty Rotten Cheater: Like GTA, this is yet another game that is enhanced by its extensive cheat list. Disco Mode? Yes please.
  • So, did you beat it: Actually, I lied in the article. I did play levels other than Level 1, as I cheated forward quite a few times to see what was going on. I was not impressed. I do think I cheated straight to the credits one time, though?
  • Did you know? Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was actually basically a promotional game for the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comic published by Acclaim Comics. Acclaim Comics came about when Acclaim purchased Voyager Communications (founded by Jim Shooter) back during the 90’s comics crash, and then Acclaim Comics became simply Valiant when Acclaim went bankrupt. Look, what’s important is that Ivar, Time Walker is in the same universe as Turok… or… something?
  • Would I play again: Not even if it meant I could win my own pet T-Rex. And I really want a T-Rex.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wrath of the Black Manta for the NES! Look out, Crocodile Hunters, the Black Manta is coming to town! Please look forward to it!

Noice