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June 27, 2014

Top 12 One-Time Final Nintendo Bosses

Video game franchises are like cartoon series. At some point, there is going to be some superfluous characters you see only once. Characters who never appear again, even in very continuity-heavy series. In many video games, this curse of the appear-once-and-then-gone mostly happens to the bosses. There's just so many RPG bosses that are seen and fought only once, and then the franchise forgets about them, therefore you might forget about them too!

But despite that, the fans have a very strong memory. They can remember even the most unmemorable characters of any game, given that said game and its franchise have a dedicated fan base. As a result, no boss is truly “forgotten”; it's just that they appear once in the series and never again, which doesn't mean that it couldn't have a lasting impression on the players.

Even some final bosses suffer from this. They are often seen in a single game and then vanish from the series. Why? Nobody knows. But they weren't forgotten by the fans. For a one-time final boss to leave a lasting impression, there's a few factors: The character's involvement in the plot; its personality; the fight against it; its powers; memorable scenes; good boss music; and so on. Remember, I'm keeping the list to Nintendo series, so only bosses from Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Metroid, and other Nintendo franchises. You have every right to disagree with one or more of the entries, so if you think I didn't put in a boss you like, well, you can talk about it in the comments! Without further ado, here is my personal Top 12 one-time final Nintendo bosses!

June 20, 2014

Mario Party 2

He who said “There's no such thing as bad luck” is a moron who has never played any Mario Party games. 

He has also never been to a casino or played a luck game. The franchise is an infamous friendship destroyer, and for good reason. Have you ever played a Mario Party game with friends? They all get together to try and take down the player who owns the game. And don't get me started on the mini-games that require luck!

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start by the beginning. In the Nintendo 64 era came out a little game known as Mario Party. It was an extremely creative concept mixing board game, mini-games, and the Mario series. It was a lot of fun to play. There was only one problem: Among the mini-games created, there was a couple that required the player to spin around the joystick on the N64 controller. This led to hundreds of players getting sore thumbs and even sore palms from spinning the joystick. After this disastrous entrance for the franchise, Nintendo tried to correct this by putting no joystick-spinning games in the subsequent Mario Party games. They couldn't predict, however, the “un-fairplay-ness” of gamers all around the world, who would throw temper tantrums each time things don't go right in a Mario Party game. Why?

Because board games and video games are two very different things. You can practice all you want on video games, but it's a little more difficult to practice your strategies in an actual board game if you cannot play it without someone else. When playing a board game against friends, if you know their usual strategies you can predict what they'll do, but most of the time they'll try to surprise you nonetheless. Video games can be played in single player mode, which means the game's owner will always have a head start due to knowing what the game contains, the boards' layouts, how to play each mini-game and what they have in stock for the player, etc. In Mario Party, there's four-player matches, but by the end there's only one thing everyone will do: Dethrone whoever is in first place at the moment, usually the game's owner, and to Hell if they have to team up against him/her for that! It makes sense, as the game's owner has more experience and therefore represents the menace to take down. After that, the dethroned one can complain all he/she wants, he/she was just an obstacle after all! Mario Party breaks friendships because, in many cases, one is gonna become the target of everyone else.

Lived it.

But I'm not here to enact revenge on a series that I don't like too much.

...Okay, a little.

But! Like all games here, I must review it, see what's good about the game, what's bad, and come to a conclusion that disregards the “friendship-killing” aspect of the franchise.

This is Mario Party 2, and I hope I'm not regretting this already.

June 13, 2014

Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt (Part 3)

(Since this is Part 3, maybe you would get a better understanding of the situation if you watched/read the first two episode of this trilogy. They can be accessed here and here. Go read them, they're hilarious!)

*theme tune begins, revealing the title: Virtue/al Hunting!*

Now welcome your hosts, Douglas aaaaaaaaaand... Robert!

*Douglas and Robert enter.*

Douglas: Hello, hello, hello! And welcome back for Part 3 of this magnificent contest! Continuing from last Friday and this Monday, we're following Nicolas as he is playing through Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt... in real life! How are you doing, Nicolas?

*I'm on the screen now, in the next park.* Um... Alright, I guess? I'm checking my position with the results I have so far and I'd be in seventh place... out of ten. Seriously, this game is not great! It's nigh impossible to reach the first place! Unless you want to spend hours in every park, chasing down the biggest tournament animal you can see...

Robert: Your complaints are duly noted, you'll have all the space to write about them on your blog. Now you're in Alberta, on the second-to-last day of this competition. We skipped Minnesota and Florida last time, because nothing much actually happened on those two days... but now we're really going to see some action!

I wouldn't bet on that. The parks feel empty, it's like a world devoid of all human presence save for the few hunters and the player character. And even the animals are sort of few and far between in some cases. This isn't an “active” game, you can spend a long time just searching for animals, because the doe bleat, the doe estrus, nothing seems to work in most cases.

Douglas: Are you ready for today's challenge? You have to hunt for an elk today in Alberta!

No! This can't be summer Alberta! On the other hand, it
would explain Stephen Harper's cold-heartedness...
Why is it so snowy? We're in June, for Christ's sake! There isn't snow all year in Alberta! Gosh, this game was clearly made by Americans. Or the competition happens during winter in the game, or else there wouldn't be that much snow here! While I'm at it, have you guys realized that this is the ONLY Canadian park in the whole freaking game? Yes, the box says that it's a competition through North America... with nine out of ten parks in the United States, one in Canada, none in Mexico! Seriously, what the Hell!

Robert: If you're dissing on the American people, know we're a very proud nation and we won't tolerate it.

I'm not insulting America! I'm just saying that the developers behind this game were hypocrites when they said that this game represented North America! It represents America only! Still makes one travel across the country and see ten beautiful parks – some prettier than others, but it all depends on what you like and dislike about nature. I just find it kinda weak that only one Canadian park was visited and, what's more, it's visited during winter, to strengthen the stereotype. You sure you don't wanna feature maple syrup, the Montreal Canadians and our good bacon while you're at it?

June 9, 2014

Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt (Part 2)

If you missed last episode, be sure to watch/read it here in order to understand just what the Hell is going on in this very bizarre review. And even then, it's not guaranteed you'll understand.

(Note: Any text between asterisks indicate actions from me or other characters; When I am speaking, my text is not preceded by my name, but it's the case for the other characters, which are, well... fictional. Named after real people, but the comparison stops there. I bet a Canadian penny that you can't guess who! - P.S. Pennies have become worthless in Canada anyway.)

*theme tune begins, revealing the title: Virtue/al Hunting!*

Now welcome your hosts, Douglas aaaaaaaaaand... Robert!

*Douglas and Robert enter.*

Douglas: Hello, hello! And welcome once again to Virtue/al Hunting! This week, we're still following reviewer Nicolas, from the video game review blog Planned All Along, through a hunting competition based on the video game Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt!

Robert: We spent the first episode of this trilogy discussing the many aspects of the game and the techniques used within the game to attract prey and shoot it; today, we're getting into the meat – no pun intended – of the game!

Douglas: Yes, we're going to see five or six of the ten parks visited by the player characters in this great hunting simulation!

Robert: Nicolas is currently in Wyoming, at Yellowstone National Park, where he must find and shoot a mule deer. The fauna in that park is very diverse, so he has a lot of choice when it comes to killing animals!

Yeah, I'm just glad that I am not actually killing them, since it's a game. But wait a second, that's a video game replicated for your show, so I'm really shooting animals, but-

Robert: We already told you to be careful with that fourth wall!

June 6, 2014

Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt (Part 1)

(Note: Any text between asterisks indicate actions from me or other characters; When I am speaking, my text is not preceded by my name, but it's the case for the other characters, which are, well... not me.)

*theme tune begins, revealing the title: Virtue/al Hunting!*

Now welcome your hosts, Douglas aaaaaaaaaand... Robert!

*Douglas and Robert enter.*

Douglas: Thank you, thank you! Welcome again to Virtue/al Hunting, where we play the noble virtuous sport of hunting, based on hunting video games!

Robert: Exactly! Today, we have a special guest who will play along for the show. His name is Nicolas, he's a first-time Virtue/al Hunter, and he also happens to be the creator of the video game review blog Planned All Along! We have him on camera right now. How are you doing, Nicolas!

Um... I'm doing fine, thanks. Just wanna say it now: It's an honor to be a part of this show, Virtue/al Hunting! You're sure it wasn't just “Virtual Hunting”? Without the dash? It just looks weird.

Douglas: Of course not! We want to make sure all our viewers know that the sport of hunting is a virtuous one that can also be... virtual!

Still sounds like a lame title found at the last minute by a network exec desperate of getting a raise.

Robert: Of course not! I'm sure Douglas' family is very happy that he got said raise. Now, tell us why you're playing with us today.

Okay. Um... So, basically, I bought this game once, it was called Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt, because it seemed fun and I had never tried hunting games on the Wii before. I popped the disc in the Wii console, I grabbed my Wii remote and the Nunchuk, and I played for a long time on it. I just feel like I must talk about it, as very few people have covered the game. And if I understand well, I picked this stupid plot-like review style just so I could fake being part of the game and part of an actual show. Is that right so far?

Robert: Sure is! By the way, be careful with that fourth wall, don't break it. We got only one. Are you ready to start?

Yeah, I guess. Just let me make the usual starting stuff. I name my save file, then I pick a “character” among the ones presented to me, and then I'm ready to go.

Douglas: But you know that this won't serve much of a purpose, since YOU are going to be hunting the animals, for real! Yes, this is Bass Pro Shops' The Hunt, LIVE!

...Really? Guess that explains why I spent the day with an instructor that explained to me how to shoot with a gun, how to drive an ATV, and how to use numerous hunting tools...

June 2, 2014

WarioWare: Touched! (Part 2)

Part 1 can be read here.

Hello and welcome to this continuation of my review of WarioWare: Touched! Gotta get all the bad puns out of the way immediately: Although it's the point, there's nothing touching about the game. Zing! It doesn't tap into my emotions. Re-zing! It's like there's a screen between me and them. Though I gotta admit, those characters sure don't lack style-us! Re-zing-a-ding!

Okay, enough with the stupid humor, now let's go back to looking at each character's stage in this game. Who's next... Okay, I completed James T.'s stage, so that means... Oh yeah! It's Mike's turn! What, you don't know Mike? It's the most useless robot maid ever... But the best karaoke singer of all Diamond City!

He's Dr. Crygor's most recent invention (after the “matter transcreator apple thingy stuff word salad whatever”). He was created to be the handyman in the lab, but the poor robot has talent mostly in karaoke, so he doesn't like his work too much. At every given occasion, he blasts through the ceiling to go sing karaoke among the aliens. No, really. All minigames in his stage require that you blow into the Nintendo DS's microphone. The Mic. If you can't do that for too long, that stage could make you dizzy. Anyway, after Mike is done karaoke-ing with the bunny aliens, Dr. Crygor arrives and takes him back home. Then, the two try a duet.... but Dr. Crygor's singing is absolutely horrible. I know what it's like. I'd say that Mike's stage blows, but... that's not even the case, it's just as fun as the others. Maybe not breathtaking, just a bit tiring, but still fun.

"My singing rocks, your singing sucks! How did Crygor
put that in me if he sings like a screaming goat?"

Wow, those 8-bit graphics are great! But on a
GameCube... It's kinda less impressive.
Next is 9-Volt, the little Nintendo fanboy. His microgames are all based on retro Nintendo games. He has been around since the beginning. So, what's his plot? Take a wild guess. Here it is: A new video game comes out, so 9-Volt and his overgrown pal 18-Volt go buy it. They head back to 9-Volt's house, where they play the game for many hours. After playing, 9-Volt goes to his turntables and the microgames start. They play all night and fall asleep in the game room. When they wake up, they realize they're late for school and hurry out. ...That's it. 9-Volt might be a big Nintendo geek, there's very little else for his character, so I personally find him a bit bland. Other than that, he's fine, I guess, if you are a Nintendo geek too...

By the way, this is only halfway through
Wario-Man's boss stage. Yes, it's a nose.
Oh yeah, by the way, when you beat 9-Volt's stage, Wario's face on the main screen turns blue. Huh... that's not normal. When you select his stage, you see a whole new cutscene! Wario is sick in bed, and feels “awful”. ...Isn't he always awful? Anyway, he goes to the fridge and takes out a garlic that looks really odd. He still eats it, which makes him feel better... and turns him into his superhuman counterpart, Wario-Man! Well, Wario clearly didn't get the memo that a superhero name should NOT contain the name of his secret identity. Superman wouldn't call himself Clark Kent-Man, right? So, Wario-Man's stage begins. All the minigames in his stage feature Wario in a way or another. What an egocentric. Ah, so THAT'S what was missing from Wario's stage at the beginning! Anyway, the stage begins at that point. Once fifteen microgames have been beaten, Wario-Man shows how un-powerful he is by trying to stop a train and failing miserably.

Then, we get reports that WarioWare Touched! Is a success with the Diamond City population. This story ends where it began: During that time, Wario falls right into the manhole his GBA SP fell in at the beginning. He comes out, back in his pajamas, still sick. The Sewer Guru comes out and whacks him with his cane, then waves goodbye to us. The end.

"Fear my un-manly pink pajamas!"

Main screen at the end.
This is gonna be hard, so bear with me.
Oh, but wait, there's more! The WarioWare series is famous for having a lot of post-Story Mode stuff! Once Wario-Man's stage is beaten, you can go to it anytime by feeding the weird garlic to Wario on the main screen. You also get access to the first Bear Stage. What's a Bear Stage? It's like Jamie and James T.'s stages, except they contain every single microgame from the nine stages. The difficulty for those bonus stages comes from the fact that it picks among all the microgames you've unlocked (and there's 181 in total), so you must be prepared to face anything; you never know what's gonna come next. First is the Pink Bear, which starts with microgames on their first difficulty and then progresses like a regular stage; then it's White Bear, for which you have only ONE life, and the microgames start on second difficulty; Last but not least, Yellow Bear has microgames on first difficulty that begin at a very fast speed, so you have to think quickly.

Also, when you unlock every single microgame, you earn Pyoro T., from the series-within-a-series Pyoro. The little bird has been in the first game, then in Twisted! and in Touched!. It's the big reward for unlocking all microgames. And it's also always a lot of fun.

Years later, the Angry Birds
would show up. Coincidence?

However, unlocking all microgames is a piece of cake compared to the real final task in this game. You're not gonna believe it. It's been another staple of the series since the beginning, and it's always been the longest thing to do. It's another fun part, but it's also unnerving and sometimes kind of a pain to complete, because it can and will keep you busy for days. You have to beat a high score on EVERY. SINGLE. MICROGAME. That means over 180 microgames for which you must beat the high score. Just imagine the time it takes. Only once you've completed this task do you earn the final toy for your collection.

And boy do you need some dedication to get there. If you take about three minutes per microgame, it still means about nine hours. Nine hours playing microgames! Holy crud! And yes, that includes the boss microgames, which are often very long. When you get all of a character's microgames, a silver crown appears on their head on the Album Menu. When you beat the high score for all games in a character's album, that character's crown turns golden.

By the way, here's one of the toys: A videoclip!

For a WarioWare game, it's hard to review the graphics of the microgames because it changes every time; sometimes you have crudely-drawn characters, sometimes you just have symbols, other times you have actual photographs... So that's technically impossible. However, I can tell you that the sprites on the Stage Selection screen look very nice. The nine characters have their own sprite, and after a while they'll wander around the screen. Sometimes they might do funny poses or reference their own stage. Likewise, the graphics for the cutscenes are very good; it feels like you're watching actual cartoons, not necessarily of the kind that would air on TV, but it's still good. After all, the voice acting is limited, so most of the dialogue is written on the screen. It's still fun to see the characters moving less like video game characters and more like cartoons.

As is the case for most WarioWare games, the plot is just an excuse to make you play the microgames supposedly “made” by the staff at WarioWare. Wario sees an opportunity to earn money, jumps on it, you're playing the results, he gets his comeuppance at the end. Just the first game: He tried escaping with all the money, but he failed. Each character's story arc is self-contained and is either a slice of life or something really crazy. Then again, when you live in a city where there's a mad scientist, a young witch, ninja preschoolers and a fat antihero who can turn into a “superhero” in literal pajamas... Yeah, even the slices of life are crazy in Diamond City. You see some of the interaction between the characters, but some of them hardly ever interact with other developers. If anything, the first WarioWare game did give them personalities that shined through each character's microgames: Wario is egocentric and is in everything he creates; Mona has a weird mindset, so she makes weird games; Jimmy loves dancing, so his microgames are based on sports; Kat and Ana are all about Japanese culture; 9-Volt the Nintendo geek makes microgames based on famous Nintendo titles. And then some less famous ones. And so on and so forth.

I should also point out that the cast of WarioWare changes in every game. Not literally; I mean that some new characters often appear, other characters leave – or aren't making microgames for this one, it's possible – and some seem to be there every single time. I know Wario, Mona and Jimmy T. were in every game so far. The new ones for WarioWare Touched! were Ashley, Mike, and Jimmy T.'s siblings (Mama and Papa T. appeared in WarioWare: Twisted! previously).

But is it worth buying? Is WarioWare Touched! fun enough that I recommend it? Well.... yeah! I mean, what's so great with a concept that simple is that you can tell anyone how to play it and they'll be able to play it. Every microgame is simple and you only have to know the basics. It also greatly helps that all the microgames are classified by how you play them (Tapping for Wario, quick cuts for Mona, rubbing for Jimmy, drawing for Kat and Ana, grabbing and moving for Ashley, spinning for Crygor, etc.). Only the last two stages are a mixed bag, which does make them a little harder, but nothing impossible. You can just hand the DS to someone, even a person who hardly, if ever, plays video games, tell them how the microgames work for a stage, and encourage them to guess how each one works. Or just give them one microgame to play and see how far they can go, since each microgame is so simple. I know I had fun giving this game to my mother, giving her the instructions for the game, and see how far she'd go (It would also spare me from having to beat every microgame's best score, but that's another matter entirely). The point is that even moreso than minigame collections like the Raving Rabbids games, the WarioWare games are REALLY for everyone.

Each stage is very easy the first time (the only challenge being to guess how each microgame works), but when you replay them you can have a lot of difficulty reaching higher numbers. Seriously, reaching 30 isn't THAT hard, but I usually set myself the goal of reaching 50 for each stage, and trust me, that's a lot harder. The speed increases every time you beat a stage's boss mode, so it becomes very fast at some point, inhumanely fast. Fast to the point that you can't keep up. It's usually the speed that makes you lose all your lives by the end.

It's also very easy to unlock all the microgames, as you unlock one as soon as you see it in a stage. Now, seeing them is another matter entirely, as they're always selected at random and, therefore, you might have to play each stage a few times before you unlock all of that stage's microgames. Again, from personal experience, reaching 50 on each stage the second time you play is usually a high enough number that you've seen all the microgames once. Or at least there won't be many left to find. Trying to reach 50 on each stage should keep you occupied for a few hours... but trying to beat the high score on every microgame takes the cake. This is the long task. And trust me, it takes many hours.

The toys you collect as you beat stages, or stages' high scores, are all fun, but most of them are one-note at best and become kind of boring after a while. There's only a few of those that will keep you interested, like their version of Mario Paint (which you can use to color the faces of the WarioWare characters) or the turning table. The unlockable minigames are also fun, though again, you might forget about them once you've beaten their high score.

The game also has a nice little option: When you start playing, you pick between right- and left-handed. I think many parts of the game get flipped around if you change the playing hand. The bigger change is that the countdown at the bottom of the screen for every non-boss microgame is flipped around so that left-handed people can see how much time is left.

And that's it. Do I recommend this game? Oh yeah, for the whole family. It can get challenging enough for expert players and it's a nice introduction to the Nintendo DS for the non-gamers. It's definitely one I recommend, both for this reason, but also for the colorful characters, the comedy and the ideas for those simple, simple games. Buy it, play it, enjoy it.

And I swear I'll someday cover the other WarioWare game for the Nintendo DS: Warioware Do It Yourself, which I like even more than this one. And this Friday... I'll be participating in a hunting game! No worries, I'm not killing any real animals. But it's still gonna get violent. Okay, bye!