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January 30, 2015

Bottom 12 / Top 12 Minigames In Mario Party DS

Read Part 1 of this review here, and Part 2 here!

Hello everyone, and welcome to this (technically) last part of my review of Mario Party DS! I think I can only close a Mario Party review by listing my 12 favorite minigames... and my 12 least favorite minigames too! For this list, I'll take into account the playability, the concept, the idea and the overall fun. My favorite minigames are either very creative or very fun. My least favorites, well... You can kinda guess. (All the opinions in this post are mine and mine alone. What you may like I might not, what I may like you might not. Accept the divergence of opinion if there's one.) Two more notes: To me, you can practice a minigame and get better at it, which means that minigames which cannot be won with talent will be ranked negatively (in Layman's terms: Screw the goddamn luck minigames). Last, I refer to low-difficulty COM characters as computer-controlled characters on Easy or Normal difficulty, and high-difficulty COM characters as characters on Hard or Expert difficulty. There's a lot to discuss, so let's start now with the worst, so we can end on a positive note with the best!

Prepare yourself for a lot of tears, and a
lot of anger... and then a lot of joy!

January 29, 2015

100,000 VIEWS!!!!!!!!1!!!!1!

Hello everyone! I am proud to announce that Planned All Along has officially reached 100,000 views!

I want to thank everyone who helped this blog reach the 100,000 views. That includes all my readers who follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, but also everyone who only passed by to read one or two articles. This means a lot to me, and I sincerely thank each and every one of you.

January 26, 2015

Mario Party DS (Part 2)

In Part 1, we saw the plot, this time we look at the other options in the game! What else can I say, now that I'm done talking about the stuff that is most interesting to hear about, I've still got to discuss the rest. There are many options in Mario Party DS, enough to keep you busy for a long while. Just from the main menu, after Story Mode you've got Party Mode, Minigame Mode, Puzzle Mode, Multiplayer and Gallery. Let me guide you through these options. I'll show you around!

But before that, I need to explain something. This game works with some kind of “Experience points”, called MP Points (for “Mario Party”, in case it wasn't obvious). You earn them by playing on boards, completing minigames, etc. Usually, those aren't “very” important, but you'll see much later why they're there. Once you've reached 50,000, you can consider having beaten the game. Or being very close to.

January 23, 2015

Mario Party DS (Part 1)

You might remember me getting really pissed at the last Mario Party game I reviewed. It's because the plot played a mean trick on us, and as a result all of the player's efforts were for naught, making the game a complete waste of time. That problem does not show up here, so I'm already a little happier. There will be moments of anger. I seem to have a lot of triggers these days. But I don't think this review will be as negative. In fact, I will be a LOT more positive for this one.

Even princesses get in on the fun!
Mario Party DS is a party game on the Nintendo DS featuring famous characters from the Mario series, in case the title didn't make it obvious. This one was developed by Hudson Soft. Like all Mario Party games, the characters are playing on gigantic boards with blue spaces, red spaces, green spaces, etc. They roll a die, move a number of spaces, something may or may not happen to them, etc. They can also use an object before rolling the die, such as a double die, a bag to steal an item, or a Hex (a new mechanic that is only in this game). Once all four characters have completed their turn, a minigame is played. The characters are pit against each other (in a Battle Rotale, or sometimes in teams of 2-VS2 or 1-VS-3), and the mini-game's winner(s) earn 10 coins (each, if more than one winner). The goal of the game is to run around the board and collect Stars: One Star costs 20 coins (though, since all the boards have their own gimmicks, that price can change), and since all players start with only 10 coins, that means they'll usually need to win a mini-game before they can buy one. After the last turn, optional Bonus Stars can be earned according to random achievements (landing on the most green spaces, winning the most mini-games, using the most items, collecting the most coins, etc.), and then the winner is declared. It's the character with the most Stars. And if two or more characters have the same amount of stars, it's the one among those who has the most coins who wins. That's how it works.

There's only one difference this time: The boards are a LOT smaller than usual. No, not the way you think. What I mean by this is that the boards aren't bigger than, say, a room in a house... because the characters are tiny! Yeah, that might sound off, but there's a theme in this game. A theme that will be explained as I take a look at the plot.

January 19, 2015

VGFlicks; Super Mario Bros. The Movie (Part 2)

Hello again... And welcome back to this review... of the Super Mario Bros. Movie... It already sucked, but I have a feeling it's gonna get even worse. You know, now that I think of it, this movie centers around the dinosaurs evolving into human-like beings, right? As in, dinosaurs make up a big part of the plot, right? But... There were very few dinosaurs in the Mario series. This movie came out after Super Mario World, so it incorporates elements from most Mario platformers that had been released so far (they used Daisy instead of Peach, for instance; Daniella's second name is Pauline; Yoshi is a character; there are numerous references to the baddies of the Super Mario games, such as Koopa, Shy Guy, Wiggler, Ostro, Bullet Bill, Spike, Iggy...), and while I applaud them for the loads of references, I still feel the need to point out that the Mario series is mostly about plumbers in a fantasy world – not a big city – fighting to rescue a princess from a turtle-dragon creature known as King Bowser Koopa. They defeat a lot of turtles along the way. It's like they said “Bowser looks more like a dinosaur; let's put a ton of emphasis on that!”

Oh well. Let's keep watching. I hope this movie won't break my Insult to Continuity Counter...

Remember, Mario: She is not technically human!
So, Mario has to flirt with a sassy black woman named Big Bertha to retrieve a piece of meteorite that she stole, and which President Koopa wants, so that he can merge his dimension with the human world so that he can de-evolve mankind and claim planet Earth as his own – What the Hell am I writing. Read that out loud. Does that make sense to you? There's so little sense here. To me, it makes even less sense than gamers taking control of other humans through nanites and forcing them into degrading or dangerous activities, mystery hunters getting trapped in a video game and having to fight off a crazy virus, or a child spy trying to stop a madman from enslaving childkind through a video game. ...All three combined.

January 16, 2015

VGFlicks: Super Mario Bros. The Movie (Part 1)

Bay and Boll could break my soul, but the Super Mario Bros. Movie would obliterate it.

I've made jokes about the worst things I've reviewed on the site. I keep poking fun at Anubis II, the worst game I've ever played, and Gamer, the worst movie about video games I have ever seen. Or rather, it was the worst movie... until today.

I could bang my head on the wall and feel more enjoyment. I could wear clothes made out of steaks and then have dogs chase me around, and I'd feel more enjoyment than I did watching this movie. From beginning to end, it is one big instance of WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING? It's bad. Just bad. Terrible. Horrendous. You could argue that, unlike Gamer, it's not an insult to gamers... and you're right. It's not an insult to “all” gamers. It is, however, an insult to everyone who grew up playing the games with everyone's favorite Italian stereotype from Brooklyn who lives in a world of magical mushrooms and large dragon-turtles. It's the embodiment of why video game movies suck for the most part, an accurate representation of how many fucks directors often give when they're adapting that kind of source material. Too bad I'm not in a DeLorean going at 88 miles per hour, because it would have been worth it then; but I'm still gonna see some serious sh*t.

I... can't... I just can't. This is the worst way I could possibly start the year. It's... it's beyond me. I can't review this film. This is the Batman & Robin of video game movies! My attachment to the Mario canon (even if it's one of the loosest canons out there) makes it impossible for me to watch this movie and appreciate even a single moment of it. I don't know if I will be able to review this film properly... But I have to watch this movie. This makes me feel so horrible I could very well stamp my forehead with the words “I AM A MASOCHIST – PUNCH ME”. How long is this movie... 104 minutes? I give up. I can't. I can't watch this. Another part of me will die, and enough parts of me have died recently.

Urgh. Better try to get this over with. This movie came out in 1993, which makes it the oldest movie I've reviewed. It's also the first – and so far only – live-action movie adaptation of a Nintendo franchise. There was a fake trailer for a Legend of Zelda movie once, and to be fair, with everything we achieve these days with fantasy epics, I actually believe that a (good) Zelda movie will be possible someday. But this movie kinda diminishes my hopes.

Pull yourself together, Nic. You can do it. Just... I dunno... Cut it in two parts instead of three, be less descriptive... you can do it. Better start now. Actually, you know what? I think I will keep on standby an Insult To Continuity Counter. It's just a reworked version of the “Wait, What? Rating” machine (from my review of Thrillville: Off The Rails, all the way back in 2013). I upgraded it, and now it can go up to 9,999. It calculates the number of things in a movie adaptation that insult the established canon and facts of a series. It hardly ever goes beyond 100...

January 9, 2015

Top 12 Kirby Copy Abilities

Hey everyone, and welcome to 2015 on Planned All Along! What's planned? Well, at least two themed months, a lot of great reviews, even more videos... A lot of stuff really.

By the way, this is the 100th review post on Planned All Along!

On Christmas 2014, I received Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition for the Wii, the 20th anniversary celebration of the Kirby series! That box contains 6 Kirby games, bonus levels, episodes from the Kirby: Right Back At Ya! anime, and the box also has a collector's booklet AND a CD of music! I'm thrilled. This is great.

Even though I don't talk about it so much, I really like the Kirby series. Perhaps not as much as the Mario series or the Pokémon series, but it's still got a place in my heart. It's very fun to see all the forms Kirby can use, and it's even better to use them in combat. Sure, there are some amazing ones and then some that aren't as good. That's perfectly normal. And today, I asked myself what were the Kirby copy abilities that I loved above all the others. The team at HAL Laboratories got really creative with the many forms Kirby could use, and the combinations of forms too. In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, he could combine two basic abilities to get a stronger ability, and those were very creative.

Just imagine. I think those aren't even all of Kirby's copy abilities.

Keep in mind, those are my personal choices. I will like a Kirby transformation based on that ability's usefulness, the concept (what is IS), and Kirby's look once he's transformed. (Also, I won't include the transformations from the Super Smash Bros. Series.) So, let's start the first Top 12 of 2015 right now!

12. Match Kirby
Obtained in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards by combining the Fire and Spark powers, this ability is both hilarious and very effective. Kirby pulls out a bathing towel and rubs it over his head. It creates sparks... and then Kirby catches fire. He then starts running like crazy, killing enemies in his path. A silly idea gets turned into something very useful. In fact, when you look at the table of combinations in The Crystal Shards, you'll see some pretty odd ideas. Kirby can turn into a curling stone, a refrigerator, a light bulb, a Swiss army knife and a giant snare, among other oddities. It's almost a challenge to find them all.n You'll see many of them in this Top 12, probably because it's the Kirby game I played the most...

11. Needle Kirby
Kirby has a few signature forms, especially those based on the main elements. We all know about Fire Kirby, Ice Kirby, Sword Kirby... He also has one that turns him into kind of a porcupine: Needle Kirby. In that form, he kinda reminds me of the Spinies from the Mario series: His spikes can harm almost anything, he is protected from attacks by aerial enemies, and in some cases he can even stick to walls. In The Crystal Shards, the Needle form is basic and can be combined with all the other basic powers to create some truly impressive effects. Combined with Fire, Kirby will become a bow that shoots flaming arrows. With the Spark power, he becomes a lightning rod. With the Ice power, Kirby will become a giant stinging snowflake. And combined with a second Needle power, Kirby will turn into a Swiss Army thingy with lots of large (and weird) spiky items everywhere. Look! Ain't that weird?

10. Magic Kirby
This one appeared only twice so far: In Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, and in Kirby: Squeak Squad. In the former, it could be used only once, but in the latter it could be used as often as you wanted. And it's becoming one of my favorite Kirby forms to talk about. When you have a character who can have basically every power in existence if he can just inhale that power's owner, this means the team behind the Kirby games has to get very creative. Do you have any idea how many abilities Kirby had over the years? I won't make a clear number, but just know that it's around a hundred. And that's not counting the Smash Bros. Forms! Anyway, Magic Kirby is a creative one: When you activate the power, a roulette will be spun, and many different effects can occur: Kirby will gain a random Form, or all the enemies will turn into 1-Ups or into food, or Kirby will FREAKING SUMMON META KNIGHT WHO WILL SLICE ALL THE ENEMIES ON THE SCREEN WITH GALAXIA. Holy crap! Oh, and he also got some additional powers based around stage magic. He'll toss doves or cards at his enemies. Now all that's missing is him wearing a tuxedo like stage magicians and having vine-like handkerchiefs coming out of his sleeves, which then wrap his enemies and makes them unable to attack.

9. Exploding Snowman Kirby
The cap is lit.
This is gonna blow up!
No, I'm not making that up. It's as awesome as the name implies. You can combine two basic abilities in The Crystal Shards by inhaling two enemies with abilities at the same time (it's possible to combine an ability with itself as well to get a stronger version of the basic ability), or by spitting or tossing an ability at an enemy to get a combination. There are seven basic powers: Fire, Stone, Ice, Needle, Bomb, Spark and Cutter. And thus there are 28 possible combinations in that game alone. Sure, there's the odd mix like Stone+Spark, which causes Kirby to hurl electrified rocks... and then there's Ice+Bomb. You'd think Kirby would throw explosive snowballs or something... Nope! He turns into a snowman, which you can move around, and after a few seconds he blows up. I guess explosive snowballs felt too normal for the copycat warrior of Dream Land. It's one of the crazier weapons Kirby uses in the entire series. Part of the fun with The Crystal Shards was to find which power combination causes which ability to appear, and some of the results are just hilarious.

8. Animal Kirby
A form that appeared in Kirby: Squeak Squad, Kirby goes feral, grows claws, his feet become hairy, and a hat resembling a dog or wolf's head appear over the pink puffball's head. These new claws can dig underground, which proves to be very useful on many occasions. Oh, and he can maul the enemies with his bear hands. (Sorry, I really wanted to make that pun. I don't care if it doesn't work.) He usually gets that power by inhaling a Gaw Gaw, which are almost always found around ground areas. As a result, Kirby won't be able to use this ability anywhere away from that kind of level. Still, the design is really cool, the copy ability's secondary powers are really neat, and it's overall yet another form I wished Kirby could use in later games. Oh yeah, if Kirby stays still while using this ability, he'll start scratching himself like a dog. Cute.

7. Explosive Ninja Stars Kirby
Too bad he doesn't transform or put
on a hat or something...
Kind of like the explosive snowman, this is another Kirby form obtained by combining two basic powers in The Crystal Shards. You mix the Bomb and Cutter powers to get this. Kirby doesn't change physically, but he gains the ability to toss shurikens that explode on contact with something. The best part? You don't see the shurikens when Kirby tosses them. You only see when they hit something. Literally: Kirby throws them so fast that you don't see them. It's a great move to attack enemies from a distance. The only problem is that the item doesn't deviate from its trajectory, so it's a bit difficult to shoot at just the right height while jumping, and it's also important to note that the shurikens will get stuck in whatever stopped their flight, even if it's a wall. As such, using this form is a little tricky, but otherwise very fun. Also, note that Kirby does have a Ninja form, but oddly enough the two are unrelated. Explosive Ninja Stars Kirby doesn't wear Ninja Kirby's attire.

6. Beam Kirby
Masahiro Sakurai's favorite Kirby transformation. Kirby gains a jester hat and a magic wand, and shoots lots and lots of energy beams in front of him. Time and time again, this ability proved extremely effective against the dangers Kirby meets on the way. Kirby is always adorable (Heck, if he predated the English language, the word “adorable” would have been created just to describe him), and I don't think there is a single copy ability that actually makes him “ugly”. A tiny wee bit less cute, maybe? Sure. But ugly? Never. That's one of the amazing things about Kirby's design. And Beam Kirby is no exception. This one is almost as old as Kirby himself, too; its first appearance was in Kirby's Adventure for the NES, which was the second Kirby game... and the first one to use the “Inhaling an enemy to get its ability” mechanic. It's almost as old as Kirby himself! Oh, and it gained an upgrade in Kirby's Return To Dream Land as the ultra-powerful Flare Beam.

5. Stone Kirby
Not sure if turning into a stone is better than being stoned; I haven't tried either. But Kirby sure has done the former. Numerous times, too. It's one of his signature moves in the Super Smash Bros. series! It's mostly a defensive ability; if Kirby uses it on the ground, he'll be protected from most attacks. If he uses it over a baddie's head, however, that baddie better start deploying a tiny umbrella. Not like it's gonna help. It's a devastating move combined to a funny gimmick: Kirby will turn into a stone, sure, but he can turn into all kinds of heavy objects. Watch him turn into a Thwomp or a ton weight. That's when he's not transforming into a statue. In The Crystal Shards, he'll roll down hills, and when he's not moving by himself, you can move him around; he'd be invincible if he didn't lose his ability to jump at the same time... Also, if you combine two Stone basic powers, the mix will turn him into a bigger stone statue that will look like a bigger Kirby. That's cool.

Those are all things Kirby can turn into thanks
to the Stone ability. Impressive, huh?

4. Drill Kirby
Say what you want, but almost anything is better with drills. Any craftsman will be happier with a drill, any science-fiction villain will appear more threatening with a drill in hand, and any hero using them as a weapon of mass destruction against hordes of enemies is suddenly a bit more amazing. Kirby is no exception! To get it, you need to combine the Stone and Needle abilities in The Crystal Shards (boy, I sure talk about this game a lot, don't I?). When attacking, one of Kirby's arms will morph into a drill larger than Kirby himself and the Star Warrior will run forward and pierce through any villain in his path. He can also attack in midair, ramming into any unlucky enemy located right under him. Cool design, cool idea overall, and a very useful power. Drill Kirby gets two thumbs up from me.

3. Fire Kirby
The last Elemental Kirby I'll show here, Kirby gains a headband with a precious stone and a flaming mane. In the anime, he even turns red! It's also another iconic ability that debuted in Kirby's Adventure along with the Beam and Ice forms. And it's been useful ever since. It's just one of those abilities that work well against almost anything. Due to fire itself being a popular method of attack regardless of the universe (Right, Fire Mario?), there are variants to Fire Kirby, such as Burning Kirby. It can also be combined with many other abilities, resulting in lots of creative instances of fire being used as a weapon. It's even got two upgrades that make it even more impressive: The Monster Flame from Kirby's Return to Dream Land (see that blast of fire turn into a dragon!) and the Fire Sword Kirby from Squeak Squad, which has all the abilities of fire and can have effects on the environment (lighting up candles, burning grass, etc.). Hey, I'm fine with a Fire Kirby, as long as we never ever wind up with a Napalm (or Nuclear) Kirby...

2. Jedi Master OR Sith Lord Kirby
OK, that's a joke. The actual title is “Double-Bladed Laser Sword Kirby”. But seriously, every geek out there knows what this ability is referencing. The game itself is referencing it, for Christ's sake! Kirby runs around with a double-sided laser blade (AKA Lightsaber)! It's not just for show, either; this weapon is very efficient. Watch our little adorable puffball as he slices through villains with this majestic weapon of pure energy! Kirby might not gain any cool hat or new features with this weapon, but does it matter? Sure, it's great to see the design created for every copy ability, but what really matters is its effectiveness in the game, right? And trust me, this one is effective. It's gained in The Crystal Shards by combining Cutter and Spark, and YES, if someday Masahiro Sakurai launched a poll to ask us which copy abilities we wanted in the next Kirby game, I would totally vote for Double-Bladed Laser Sword Kir- Scratch that, I meant JEDI MASTER KIRBY.

1. Mike Kirby
As a guy whose musical talent is... lacking, to say the least, and as a fan of the Astérix comic books (in which a running gag is the Gaul village's bard's absolute musical incompetence), I can relate to that power of Kirby's. There's been a few one-use abilities over the course of the series, such as Crash Kirby or Cook Kirby. But to me, nothing beats Mike Kirby. The cute hero dons a pair of headphones and grabs a microphone, starts singing... and destroys every enemy on the screen. NOW that's what I call pipes! Sure, it must be godawful to hear, but hey, it kills everything that is standing too close! It's also, to my knowledge, the source of one of the most hilarious moments in the entire Kirby: Right Back At Ya! anime. Just by singing, Kirby caused not only one, but multiple Eldritch horrors to explode AND totaled Castle Dedede. That'll teach them to let a kid like Kirby get a hold of a microphone... Should I... oh, why not. Here's the clip.

It just comes the Heck out of nowhere. It's also an ability Kirby has had since the very first game. It's one of Kirby's most famous (or infamous) abilities, and anyone who knows about it will chuckle. It's just really, really, really funny.Great concept, great effect, great comedy, great look (Kirby with headphones? I'll buy!), to me it deserves the #1 spot.

Are there abilities I left aside? Forms I have overlooked? Things that I missed? Would you have placed another ability on #1? Share them in the comments! I never talk about the Kirby series as much as I'd want to, but since the 20th Anniversary Wii game contains 6 retro games AND new levels, I might have to make place for one or two Kirby Months in the future!

See you next week! What's the movie this time around? Super Mario.... Bros.... The... mov.... ie... CRISSE DE CÂLISSE DE TABARNAK!

January 7, 2015

Vlog 6: Demo Reviews, Series Vlogs, Simpsons, etc.

I didn't make a vlog last week, so here's my first one of the year! ...Sorry about the quality. I had problems with Windows Movie Maker.

January 1, 2015

Planned All Along: 2014 Retrospective

2014 has been a pretty rough year, huh? On the darker side, we had the large number of celebrity deaths, starting with JewWario early in the year and it just kept going. We had to say goodbye to great talents such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Casey Kasem, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Jean Béliveau... Seriously, it's the deadliest year I've ever seen for celebrities. And then, there's my grandmother who passed away...

Now that I think of it, it's been a really, really awful year in almost every way. The racial tensions that increased in the United States, GamerGate, the Quebec politics getting even worse, terrorism coming back in full force... 2014 was a terrible year indeed. It's quite sad, really. We can do only one thing: Hope that 2015 will be better.

For the gamers, 2014 should be remembered as the year of release of some of the best Nintendo games out there: Super Smash Bros. for WiiU/3DS, Hyrule Warriors, just to name two; I know I'm forgetting lots. It's been a fun year for Planned All Along as well. It has now been going for 17 months, which is pretty impressive! In fact, Planned All Along is the greatest project I ever made. What were my other projects? Um... Well, there was that book I wanted to write, and I still want to write it, but between this blog, the job as a journalist I hope to get soon, and other things in life, I might not have the time to write it. Though if any of you is interested, I might try to write a chapter someday. We'll see. No one can tell what the future has in stock.

So, since we're January 1st, I felt it was time for a new retrospective on the blog. Some stats, first.