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July 31, 2017

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Part 3)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5



Part 2 ended with the team inside a ghastly sunken ship. What shall we find there? Ghosts. Lots and lots of ghosts. How ghastly!


...Sea pillows?
…No, I said ghastly, not Gastly. Allow me to recap what I explained in Part 2, because this ship is evil: The Star Piece is in the Treasure Room. That room also contains a giant squid. To get in there, you have to find a password. Said password’s clues can be found around the ship, one tiny clue at a time, each one behind a mini-puzzle. Do I smell padding? Oh yes, it smells a lot like padding! That’s some high-quality dungeon padding there, ma’am! You’ve got your money’s worth! The password turns out to be PEARLS but the clues, while helpful, tend to be redundant, so the word is harder to figure out than it should be. Kind of a prblem with the game, really. Though, as promised, it opens the way into the Treasure Room…

*crosses an item off the list*
Mandatory Blooper Boss. Yep, we got that.
Now we need a... mandatory Piranha Plant boss.
Ther's one in every damn Mario RPG.

…in which you immediately enter a battle against the giant squid! A weird-looking Blooper-like thing. Raise your hand if you were surprised that this beast was a Blooper. …Not a single hand raised, huh? Figured so. First is a match against a few tentacles, then we face the body of the beast.   It’s really not that hard to beat, really. Just get rid of the tentacles and all will be fine. Past this point, there are many more haunters-


Go Mario Go! Hammer 'im well!
Hey! Whatever. Past that point, more exploration, then we meet and fight little pirate sharks wearing red clothes. We reach Jonathan Jones’ cabin, and he won’t let go of the Star Piece without a fight. Thus, we get a fight. This one is special, since Johnny has four shark minions wearing blue bandanas on his side, and if they’re all defeated before him, he’ll then fight Mario one-on-one. A good old-fashioned duel! Oh, also, he gets stronger midway into the fight. Tricky battle, but a fun one nonetheless.

When beaten, Jonathan hands over the Star Piece. Yes, we can now bring it back to that weird gray Elder Toad from Seaside Town! And so we head back, with a very practical spring that leads back directly to the world map. How useful!

Wow, that Elder REALLY wanted that star. Wait, what? He’s a Smithy Gang member, his real name is Yaridovich, and he’s actually the entire population of the village? Like, he portrayed every role? Sheesh, and I thought the T-1000 was impressive… You can refuse to hand over the Star, in which case the inhabitants of the village will be tortured. The cruelest torture of them all… The feather tickling! Oh, the horror! And you can let this continue for a long while, too. But in the end, for the plot to continue, you have to hand over the Star Piece. Sure, let your sadism roam as long as you want... But you ain’t going anywhere till you decide to follow the beats of the plot. Yaridovich’s multiple bodies flee and go out to wait for a flying ship to pick them up, but who appears? Jonathan Jones! Cornered, Yaridovich reforms into his true self, and battles the team.

Okay, let's keep attacking! One of them is gonna go down
eventually!

He’s probably the toughest boss so far! As you may have guessed, he has the ability to split himself, and while the clones aren’t as powerful, they can still be a threat – meaning that you could go and first defeat the doppelgangers.

Okay, that’s reaching! Stop it! This is NOT a Pokémon review!

It begs the question, if Belome has such a large temple
all to himself, why does he go into the SEWERS?
And of course, you can’t tell the doppelgangers apart from the original. Thankfully, Yaridovich is soon defeated, with Mario’s team getting its fifth Star Piece! There’s only two left, time to move on to the sixth one. Get ready, because this is gonna be very long. Past  Seaside Town is Land’s End, a large section that comprises grassy fields, a rocky mountain, a desert and even an underground section. It’s like a microcosm of video game locations! It’s a pretty long place to visit, and it leads to a temple. Yep! Another mini-dungeon! Lord know we haven't had enough of those yet! It’s not any temple, either: It’s Belome’s Temple.

Yeah, that Belome from earlier is back, and he’s angry.

Oh, and he makes a little comment about every
character's taste when he eats them. Ew.
Like, “will eat your party member and then make a clone of them to attack your party just to spite you” angry. Don’t ask me how that works. Somehow he can do that, and somehow he couldn’t in the first battle. He’s tougher than before, but still nothing that can’t be defeated with a high-leveled team. Still be careful though, as he has other nasty tricks… Oh, and he can also put your entire party to sleep. Have fun!

Past Belome Temple, we enter Monstro Town, a town inhabited by reformed monsters of all kinds. I just love that concept in fiction, a whole bunch of monsters going “So my destiny is to get stomped by a little plumber in red and, sometimes, in green? Screw that, I’m gonna settle down someplace and live away from villainy!” You know… I could go and try to obain the ultimate power and conquer the universe… and if I’m defeated, I can just become a farmer, I’m fine with that too. (I bet comic book fans loved this reference!)

This guy will not actually give any reward even if you manage
to find every single hidden treasure chest in the game.

Monstro Town is probably the best town in the game, featuring monsters telling their life stories, and the highest number of side-quests in a single place. One NPC will challenge Mario to do 100 Super Jumps on an enemy’s head in a row – that is, in a single special move. Yes, this gives one of the best items in the game, but damn if it’s hard! It’s all worth it, though. If you sleep at the inn, you’ll be told by ghosts to collect three flags that have been hidden in precise places around the world map; for his troubles he gets the Ghost Medal, which raises its wearer’s defense in battle.

Jinx is very, very tiny.
But big surprises in small packages, yadda yadda.

But if you know the game, you know what’s to be found here: The two most awesome bonus boss fights in this entire adventure. There’s a dojo in here led by the petite but powerful master Jinx. Battle his apprentices first, then take on the master. Jinx can actually be fought three times, each time being even stronger. His last stage is a memorable battle to be sure! But that’s not the only one. There’s also Culex.

There's 5 on their side, 3 on ours.
Why couldn't we be 5 too???
I mentioned Culex on this blog before, and for good reason. He is one of the most memorable bonus boss battles of all time. To find him, first you take part in a short chain of item trades. Get fireworks in Moleville, trade them for a Shiny Stone, bring the Stone to the locked door, enter… and you find this weird 2D thing in a world that is currently in 2.5D. It comes from another world… and it battles Mario and his team with the help of four elemental crystals. He’s tougher than this game’s actual final boss, and has more HP in total (if we include the crystals in the number). He looks straight out of some Final Fantasy title, which is a very clever element put in this Mario game by Square-Enix. They should team up with Nintendo again to make another RPG, instead of just sticking their most famous FF characters into Mario’s sports and Monopoly spin-offs! Culex really is one of the best parts of the game, but he’s too powerful at the moment. You should beat the game first, then come back to fight him. He really is a challenge, and you need a much higher level to even have a chance. The entire mythos around the character is fun; he hints at his home world, implies that he’s aware that he’s in a game. Although he’s tough, he just wants a fight against the best heroes of this world before returning home, and he gives an amazing reward if you beat him. Oh, also, his name is Latin for “gnat”. Not all that threatening now, is it? And yet, the name Culex sounds so… ominous!

Monstro Town is also important in that it’s a required stop to get further. The next part of the game is past a wall that Mario can’t climb, so we get a squad of Paratroopas helping him make his way to the top. The next area is Bean Valley, and it looks like autumn suddenly fell on the world. There’s an underground area here with one of the few treasure chest monsters, and of course there’s a boss in here – namely, a Piranha Plant boss, because every Mario RPG needs a Piranha Plant boss. It’s mandatory.


video

Mandatory Piranha Plant boss!
I told ya so!
It starts with one head, then gets two, then three, then two small and one big head, and then it’s killed and back to being soil to bring forth more Piranha Plants. Following this, we complete a short quest to create a magical beanstalk and climb towards the clouds. Yep, we’re going up to Sky Land! …World 5 of SMB3, not the Kid Icarus one. Or maybe it is, I’m not sure. We run on clouds and on the giant leaves of that beanstalk, and God I hope there isn’t an angry giant up there. On the other hand, a golden goose might be worth it…

Hey, we’re on clouds! Believe it or not, we’re walking on air! What do you think, Mallow, our dear closest-to-being-an-actual-cloud friend?

Oh? No opinion? Uh, okay.

Oh, and what’s up there? Why, an entire kingdom inhabited by cloud-people, of course! Any opinion on that, Mallow?

Hm, I guess not.

They're all Cloud Landers.
Let's hope they're not all cuckoos.

A group of people is agitated in front of the local cloudy castle’s entrance. A woman wearing a bird on her head comes out and announces that the King of Nimbus Land is sick – but that the population shall not fear, for she, Valentina, has found the Prince who shall take the throne in his father’s place! Yes, indeed, she has found that prince who looks like a cloud, like all of them, the one who has probably grown into a fine young man by now, with some slight weather-based powers! Yes indeed, she has found Prince Mallow!

That is NOT a cloudperson!
Come to think of it, neither is she.
Any opinion on that, Mallow? …Wait a minute… Mallow? Oh gee, I guess Mallow IS a prince after all! Hey, this means that after Bowser and Peach, we’ve had a third party member who’s technically royalty! Now that’s something I can get behind, royals who jump into action! Guess you are a prince after all – just like that Prince of Egypt movie! …Yeah, I still need to read that book. That’s okay, I heard it had too many extraneous stories and characters anyway. Who cares about that Noah guy? And that Jay-Soos guy, what a Gary Stu! Christ! And the book's craziest fans, man, they're just the worst.

Wait, didn’t that woman say she had found the Prince? But if we have the Prince… who’s her Prince? She reveals her friend the “Prince”… and it’s a big dodo bird. Sheesh, this looks nothing like a Nimbus Lander! Unless he’s dumb as rocks, in which case he IS a cloud cuckoo lander, but that’s beside the point. This seems to be all a plot so that she gets Dodo to become Prince, so that he can marry her, so she can become Queen. Oh, and just look at that woman mistreating the poor big bird.


Nope, not that one.


That’s more like it. Yes, this bird has gorged himself on everything good in the world, and hasn't learned to stop before checking if he could still fit through doorframes.

It’s time to visit Nimbus Land for a bit. For the record, where is the sixth Star Piece? It’s not here. Remember, since the fifth piece, we’ve been through a lot: We went through a temple, we fought Belome again, we made our way through an ultra-long part of the world, we visited a town, we went through another area, we fought a plant, we went in the clouds, now we have this whole thing about Prince Mallow to solve, like a kind of conspiracy, and there is MORE past this point! The Nimbus Land castle is a dungeon, then later we have a volcano that is also a dungeon, with THREE BOSS BATTLES IN A ROW AT THE END OF IT!

If you hadn’t figured it out yet, the kid gloves are off.

There’s still a lot to see in this game, so stay tuned for Part 4, and I will once again try to be just descriptive enough to avoid being a bore, and short enough not to alienate readers with overly-long paragraphs. Thankfully, we’re past the halfway point of this review. I should finish this in Part 5.

Okay, see you next Monday for Part 4!

July 28, 2017

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Part 2)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Oof, this is going to be a massive review… I can feel it already… Don’t be angry if I skip or skim some parts, okay? With my current schedule, it’s very difficult to write enormous articles like this. Then there’s the whole process once the article is written, where I spell-check it once, look for YouTube videos and pick out screenshots (which almost always have to be resized to cut out big black sections), then add them to the review with funny commentary. Or, at least an attempt at funny.

Somehow riding a Yoshi lets Mario understand everything
that the other Yoshis say. Don't think about this too hard.

Everybody, calm down. We will find a solution.
And no, I won't be joining Mario! No chance in Heck!
When we left off, Mario, Mallow and Geno were visiting the Pipe Vault, which leads to Yo’ster Isle, a place for Yoshis to live in peace. Or settle any issues in a good ol’ race, because that’s always fun to watch. Along the way, they however find Moleville, a town inhabited by… well… it’s in the name. And it’s of course a mining town. Bowser’s somewhere nearby too, although he lost part of his troops on the way. Speaking to the mole villagers, Mario learns that two of the kids, Dyna and Mite, have been lost in the mines. Yeah, these two are fine when separated, but put them together and they burst with energy; shame that they get lost so easily. Time for good old-fashioned heroics!

Okay, who the Hell designs mines like freaking mazes? I could have sworn this was a dungeon or something! In the first half, we encounter various weird underground creatures, but we also meet little robbers… and, oh, hey! Look at that! It’s our good pal Croco again! Yeah, he’s got some new tricks up his sleeve. Not like that does much, really. He’s just more annoying. He tricks Mario into jumping into the ceiling, then steals all of his coins, and so we have to chase him. He keeps running away through the underground labyrinth. The team eventually catches up and battle happens.

So Croco can also throw Goombas. Huh. Wonder how long
that poor Goomba's been in that bag?
One thing I really love about this game is how creative the bosses are. I mean, it’s not really a surprise that bosses created by Square Enix for Final Fantasy titles are pretty damn creative already, and they applied that same level of creativity in SMRPG:LotSS. The early bosses weren’t that special, as we were learning the gameplay mechanics, but now that the players know how things work, the developers can throw out the crazier ideas - and later bosses all have their own gimmicks. After Mack, we had Belome, who could swallow Mallow as one of its attacks; Bowyer, who could literally disable one of your buttons and, thus, some of your actions; and now, we also have Croco, who uses items and is able to steal the group's items or money.

Yeah, right.
The boss of the Mole Mines is a weird guy named Punchinello who has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the plot. He isn’t a Smithy Gang member, he just… found that Star Piece down there and is protecting it. Oh, and he attacks with Bob-Ombs. Wait, his name is PUNCHinello, and he attacks with bombs? That’s false advertising! I want my money back! This is a weird fight; the guy’s gimmick is to spawn bombs every once in a while – and bigger bombs each time he does, too, and the heroes have to destroy those before they explode! I mean, it’ll leave them with soot faces, that’s about it… unless a bomb takes their HP down to 0, and they die. Where are your cartoon physics now? As the battle comes to a close, an angry Punchinello summons the biggest damn bomb he’s got… and it falls on him.

To die crushed by a bomb, not blown up by it.
Pitiful.

O.O

That thing’s too big.

We better run.

HOLY SHIT, RUN

BOOM

Minecarts! What is this madness?
…Wow, that thing should have killed us… Yet, we just got all gray and soot-faced. Ah, so that’s where the cartoon physics were. They were waiting for the fight to end! So, we get the Star Piece, find Dyna and Mite, and the mines start crumbling down – but that’s okay, we flee in a minecart, in a mini-game that is actually pretty damn great.

Oh yeah, I should mention that, shouldn’t I? On top of the RPG elements, which make up most of the game, we also have various mini-games on the side, many of which are a part of the plot. We’ve already seen Mario rolling down Tadpole Pond, we have the minecart race here… and there are many, many more throughout. It’s a very nice touch to the game, giving it that little extra that most other RPGs don’t have. The minecart mini-game itself is a lot of fun, and it ends with the group crashing into Dyna and Mite’s house, everyone safe and sound. Except the roof, that one has seen better days.

Mario leaves the house, but has no time to rest, as the plot is apparently in a hurry. We meet Snifits – remember them from the American version of SMB2? It’s weird how many enemies that started in Doki Doki Panic are now an actual part of Mario’s universe. They say they’re collecting beetles for a guy named Booster. After they leave, we move on to Booster Pass. Hm, I have a hunch that this mysterious tower in the overworld map belongs to that Booster guy, if he’s so important that he has underlings. And indeed, it is! We get to Booster Tower.

You, wht are YOU doing here? It's not your kind to stand
around other peple's fortresses!
Oh hey, Bowser’s here! ….Oh crap, BOWSER’S HERE! Hide! We’re not nearly high-level enough to take him on! As it turns out, Princess Peach Toadstool is here as well… on the highest floor of Booster Tower, having been captured apparently. The turtle sees Mario and, despite trying to stay tough in front of his mortal enemy, Bowser eventually caves in and decides that he might as well join them to rescue Peach. He breaks down Booster’s door, and reluctantly joins the Toadstool Rescue Party. (Oh, yeah, this was before Peach’s current name was given. She’s known everywhere in this game as Princess Toadstool. I feel too lazy to write it every single time…) Well actually, Bowser doesn’t join you, he claims that you’re the ones joining his troop. Class-A ego, that’s how we love our Bowser.

Sorry Mallow, you were good for a while, but we could use
the brawns right now.
From this point on, you have access to four party members – however, you can only have three in a fight. Sure, they all get experience from battles, but one of them will be spinning their thumbs in the background, warming the bench. Bowser may start off as an impressive beast on your side, boasting the best physical attack at the moment, he’ll be outclassed once the whole party has to rely more on special moves than direct ones. One requirement, however, is that Mario is always in the fighting party, which means that you must fill the remaining spots with two of the four other characters. Yes, four, because Princess Peach joins later on – in what was her first sheer moment of awesome. Poor girl doesn’t get enough of those... (Granted, she becomes a playable character more and more often in newer Mario platformers, so there's that.)

Looks like a pleasant
dude!
Okay, time to raid Booster’s Tower! Inside, we face Snifits, jester-like enemies, and many other weird-looking characters. Also, a surprising lot of platforming, with Mario jumping up the floors and solving puzzles. We also get to meet Booster once or twice, without battling him, and he seems like the ultimate example of a man-child. I mean, I should have figured that out, there are so many toys around the place. And is it me, or he feels like a Wario wannabe? I mean, a rough, fat, ugly dude who hoards everything he finds, has facial hair, delusions of grandeur, and a memorable schnoz… I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if his designer took inspiration from Wario, who first appeared four years before this game’s release, in Super Mario Land 2.

But why is he keeping Peach captive? Because she fell from the sky, catapulted out of Bowser’s Keep by Exor, and landed on his tower, and he thought it was like a sign of the universe, and that he had to marry her absolutely. He might not even know what marriage entails! Heck, maybe Peach being forced to marry him would cause the creation of a black hole that will start to engulf the multiverse! But nah, that’s only if Peach is forced to marry Bowser.

He attacks on a toy train. Sure, why not.
At the top of the tower, there is a mini-game where Mario must try to hide behind curtains as Booster is looking for a Mario doll. Stay hidden, and you’ll help Booster find his doll, with an amulet received as a bonus. Be found, and you battle Booster! Yeah, he’s technically an optional boss. I guess he's worth fighting for experience. Booster eventually leaves with Peach to the nearby conveniently-named city of Marrymore. Mario and co. run after them but first have a surprise boss battle against two jesters, Knife Guy and Grate Guy. No, they’re not from the Smithy gang, but it seems that most bosses are themed around weapons in this game, even those unrelated to the main villains.

Who's sending down these barrels anyway?
Following this fight, we chase Booster on the road to Marrymore. The Viking sure seems more excited by the prospect of a wedding party than by the wedding itself! A sweet, fun little mini-game follows, where Mario chases Booster while avoiding barrels and Snifits, then we get to that peculiar town. Hotels, a giant chapel, and people always preparing for weddings? There’s a lot of activity here! Oh, you haven’t seen anything; its sister town, Divorcia, has been even more active lately! What follows is a lot of exploration as Mario’s team tries to find its way through the chapel and rescue Princess Toadstool. A lot of jokes, too. We can even meet the resident chef, who’s baking a most excellent cake for the occasion.

This cake's attack is either a blizzard of snow...
...or powdered sugar. That it can do magic at all
is actually kinda puzzling.
Mario crashes the wedding ceremony, and Peach goes with him – but wait, the cake is almost here! However, the chef is angry because that mustachioed nobody is leaving with the bride. Surprise boss battle! Yep, we really are fighting Chef Torte and his Apprentice. They can’t really be hurt, though… The same cannot be said for the cake itself, which takes in a lot of hits… and then starts moving by itself. “The cake is a lie”? It’s worse than that. The cake is alive! Where did they get their ingredients for this thing? You can’t say this game isn’t full of surprises! Yes, the actual boss fight is against this cake. Bundt and Raspberry, as each piece is named. It’s defeated first by taking out the head, then by hitting the bottom, putting out one candle with every successful attack. When the wedding cake monster is defeated (yes, I just had to write this), Booster shows up and, aided of his Snifits, eats it in one big gulp. Well that’s one less trouble for us! And so Booster leaves, unmarried but happy (he got to eat cake after all), and Mario can finally bring Peach back home.

What do you expect me to say? "No, stay here and be bored"?
Granted, this is the first time she joins as a playable character
in any Mario platformer or RPG... and she is
FRIKKIN BADASS.

Yeah, do you think you have all the rights?
Who do you think you are? The savior of all wishes?
...Wait a sec...
We travel back to the Mushroom Kingdom, and get a couple scenes of interest… after which we learn that Princess Toadstool wants to come with the party on their quest to restore the Star Road. I told you it would happen! She’s a healer type, which will be very useful in the upcoming fights. We also pass by Tadpole Pond, where Frogfucius tells the party where to look for the next Star Piece. It’s on Star Hill, a mysterious land covered in fallen wishing stars. Since wishes cannot be granted anymore… Hey, there are logistics to the magic of wish-granting, you know! No wonder the whole world’s out of whack, if no wishes can become true anymore! Star Hill looks like a mass of asteroids floating in the night, and it’s a relaxing place that has no bosses; just enemies. You can walk around and read the wishes of others, which is surprisingly touching at times. The Star Piece is there, unguarded, like the game is saying “You’ve been going through so much trouble lately, and you’re gonna be going through so much trouble in what’s coming, here, have a free one”.

The less you say about how you please your superiors,
the better I'll feel. This is a game for kids, remember?
Past Star Hill is Seaside Town. The place looks decent enough, were it not for the grey tint that seems to afflict all the Toads living here. We learn that a Star Piece fell into the sea, and that it’s probably guarded by a pirate named Jonathan Jones. That’s all fine and good, but the Elder claims he needs that Star Piece, and I really wonder what he would do with it. This whole thing just doesn’t sound right. But hey, it is the hero’s duty to listen to the NPC’s queries and head out to resolve them! Gear up for an underwater adventure, everyone! Out into the sea, and into a sunken ship. A lot of enemies on the way, but that’s okay, we really could use the level grinding. We’ll need it.

Upon entry in the sunken ship, we learn that it was sunk by a giant squid. Let me guess, it’s a Blooper? It has to be a Blooper. Giant squids in the Mario series are always Bloopers, there was even one in Super Paper Mario! And because nothing is ever simple, the Star Piece is hidden within the treasure room… which is also where the giant squid has been trapped… and to enter, you need a six-letter code… which must be discovered by gathering clues around the ship. Yay, forced exploration!

Whoa, there’s an awful lot of ghosts in here. Aww, and I forgot my proton pack at home! Well… I’d rather continue this next Friday. How about that?

July 24, 2017

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Part 1)


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

What happens when you combine the Mario universe with the talent of Square Enix, the makers of the Final Fantasy series?

One of the best RPGs of all time, that’s what! Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is kind of an odd duck in the Mario franchise, especially in its RPG division. All other RPGs in the franchise can be classified under the Paper Mario or the Mario & Luigi series. And both of these sub-franchises have gained massive popularity in their own right – and yet, Super Mario RPG precedes them both and quite possibly surpasses them still in popularity. Released on the final years of the Super Nintendo (in 1996) and at first overshadowed by the release of Super Mario 64 merely four months later, the game has since gained a huge cult following.

The title screen... before the opening sequence.
The Square Enix brand is very noticeable, blending in with the universe of the Mushroom Kingdom. The villains are new creatures that have never been seen before, too silly for Final Fantasy but right at home in the Mario franchise. The new characters created for the story are interesting and each one has its comedic quirks, which would also become a staple of Mario RPGs, from Paper Mario onwards. Of course, since this is Square Enix we’re talking about, the game also showcases an absolutely humongous bestiary of monsters… many of which don’t quite fit the Mario world, but that’s only a nitpick. After all, it’s still impressive that so many creatures have been created for the game, even if many of them have never been seen in other Mario games. Similarly, some enemies seen in other Mario games are given different names than the ones we’re used to, but the translation team is apparently to blame here.


This game also features one of the longest stories in any Mario RPG, probably even longer than Super Paper Mario (although there is no way I am spending 8 parts discussing this game, Hell no). There is a LOT to unpack here today, so I suggest we jump into it right away. How about that?

July 18, 2017

Announcement - delay

Okay, um... I really hate having to mke announcements like this one.

See, the last few weeks have been pretty hectic. I work night shifts at a gas station, which means that I work all night, sleep for most of the day, and only have a few hours in the evening to work on reviews. That, in itself, isn't so bad. Since March, I managed to juggle my job and my blog fairly well. However, a lot of things happened since the end of June. I went to a convention between June and July, a whole weekend away from home, I couldn't write... Then I had problems with my car, which meant I had to make sure those problems wouldn't prevent me from going to work every evening...

Long story short, a lot has been on my mind, and unfortunately the big anniversary review had to be put lower on my list of things to do. As a result, I lost most of my review buffer. I am trying to finish writing this review before posting its parts, but it's quite long. As such, Part 1 of my review of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars may be delayed. There may not be a review this Friday - though if that's the case, I'll try to have said part ready for publication on Monday next week.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

July 17, 2017

Mario Super Sluggers (Part 2)

Go read Part 1 if you missed it! Now, how about we resume this look at Mario Super Sluggers?

Mustachioed plumber versus the big bad's baby.
We’ve freed two areas from Bowser Jr., and there are many more. However, we can go and challenge him on his own baseball field now. We build a team, and head into the toy-like castle. Bowser Jr. has built a team out of regular mooks of the Mario series – mostly Magikoopas and Dry Bones. They’re pretty easy to defeat if you’ve learned the game mechanics. I mean, it’s not like Bowser Jr. is that big of a threat… despite the fact that he is apparently able to turn people to stone! …well, that, or one of his Magikoopas did it, but let’s not get technical. Point still is, he's a spoiled little brat, and it's time to kick him down a notch.

Bowser: Tossing Bullet Bills as if they were mee
baseballs!
When Bowser Jr.’s team is defeated, we can practically hear him cry out for his dad. And what happens? The toy castle sinks and gets replaced by… a miniature Bowser Castle. With Bowser at the commands, and the definitely final baseball field to finish the Story Mode. On top of that, the night falls. As it turns out, daytime in this game is when Bowser Jr is battled, while nighttime is when Bowser can be fought. Dammit Bowser, do you really have to go and one-up every villain that isn’t you, even if the day's villain is your own son? So yeah, you can go challenge Bowser. Make sure to defeat him here, for the first time.

You can switch back and forth between night and day simply by aiming the cursor on the sun or moon and pressing A. There’s a few advantages to this; daytime is where you go to play baseball, nighttime is where you go to play baseball-related mini-games… and perhaps earn money.

Yeah, sure, it looks good at night.
But it also cost millions to make...

Why, yes! You can collect coins here! Oh, you don’t get an extra life if you collect 100, but you can go around and amass a little fortune in order to buy items that will enhance your team when playing. There are some shops around the maps. That’s not the only thing of interest about these shops, though; if you carry enough money, you can actually buy items that will unlock new stadiums – Luigi’s Mansion (because it was apparently taken off the ground where it was and then turned into a baseball stadium) and the Daisy Cruiser.

We should just leave him there...
But then again we do need his talents...
Dammit!
If you really want to, you can go ahead and complete the other parts of the Story Mode. Wario’s stadium, behind an area looking like a city, is covered in fog when you get there, and the electricity has run out. Wario, trapped on top of the building, pleads for you to help him clear the fog and repair the power plant. On DK’s side of things, he is trying to retrieve pieces of an artefact that gave him control of his part of the island – namely, the park and the field around it. Because Bowser Jr. stole the pieces. Why would Peach make something like that on her island in the first place?? Yoshi’s side is an amusement park, but Bowser Jr. broke most of the rides, and thus our job is to repair them. Kill the Piranha Plants that infested the Ferris Wheel! Who knew baseballs could be such useful weapons? I thought they worked only against Moai statues! (If you got that reference, I love you.)

Sheesh, gotta wonder how they do to reproduce so quickly.
Especially if they keep on sprouting back so easily in those
little ferris wheel seats...

And all the way through, whenever you find a new hidden player, they’ll challenge you to small challenges. Because they all want to be sure that you’re good at baseball, right? But the challenges they demand are usually very, very easy. It’s almost laughable. Like, dude, why do you bother with that mini-quest?

Could you imagine this as a Mario-based fighting game?
You don’t need to save all of the team captains before going against Bowser in a baseball match, but you’re gonna have to do it anyway if you want to unlock every playable team member. Donkey Kong can break barrels and crates, Yoshi can pound the ground near shaking trees and go through sewers, and Wario can open treasure chests (which contain special moves) and use a magnet for various purposes. Every single area in the game has hidden players that can be unlocked only if you have the captain with the required ability. How many playable characters are there? Excluding the 12 captains… 59. Granted, species like Yoshis, Toads, Piantas, Nokis, Kritters, Magikoopas, Dry Bones and Shy Guys come in multiple colors and are represented by only one on the team player selection screen, but that’s still a lot. The actual number is closer to 42, if you don’t count the alternate colors – and even there, that’s still an impressive number. The roster includes resident species from various kingdoms, staples of the Mario series from both heroes and villains, and we even have many characters from the Donkey Kong series, whether it’s Kong’s family and friends or the Kremlings, including their leader King K. Rool. Also, five Mario babies… what, were they afraid that they wouldn’t appeal to a younger demographic otherwise? Oh, and yes, you can use up to 8 Miis as well.

If a new baseball title was made for the Switch, you can bet
they would add MORE babies like Baby Rosalina to that
damn roster. Like babies are what we need in this game...

Switching from day to night, the baseball fields are no longer used for that purpose, and become mini-game arenas instead. The mini-games include:
Magikoopas: When they don't turn princesses to stone,
they make fireworks out of Bob-Ombs.
-Knocking Bob-Ombs into the skies to make fireworks;
-Breaking walls with powerful baseball throws;
-Knocking back Piranha Plants moving towards the players on treadmills;
-Catching various precious stones tossed on the field;
-Smashing barrels and Bob-Ombs with balls;
-Attacking ghosts around Luigi’s Mansion (where else?) by tossing balls at them;
-Running around the square of a baseball field while the giant Gooper Blooper has taken residence within it and is attacking the players with its tentacles;
-Running around a field with a paintbrush to try and paint more than the opponents;
-Playing a weird baseball/pinball mash-up in Bowser Castle. What is it with Bowser and pinball anyway?

Good stuff. And a nice change of pace. A pretty great addition for multiplayer, too.

Go on, Peach. Show Bowser that you, too, can beat him!
We can go and challenge Bowser to a match again. And this time, he’s not messing around – his team has been training, and you’ll definitely find them tougher to defeat. Still, if you toss the balls just right, and know how to use the various mechanics to your advantage, you can win. Replaying for this review, I won 3-1. If you’re good enough, you might even skip the final innings, since there is an option to skip the last full innings if you’re 10 points ahead of the opponent (that applies to story and multiplayer matches, but you can turn it off).

PARTY!
Wait. Peach is the one who won, not Mario.
With Bowser defeated, the heroes celebrate yet again, while Bowser angrily smashes his spiked bat into the ground. However, Peach decides to welcome Bowser, his son, and their underlings, to play with them – and since Jr. really wants to play some more, Bowser reluctantly accepts. Thus, we get the endgame party. Mario is celebrated again (even if you won the final match with another team captain), everyone gets to eat around a table, with a buffet and so much cake – but Bowser and his son only get tiny slices. The party ends with fireworks, supplied by Mario knocking Bob-Ombs into the sky, like in the mini-game.

So Bowser actually decided to be heroic for once? Or maybe
it's just a "Only I get to kill Mario" type of deal.
However, there’s still some scheming going around. Wario and Waluigi approach the Bob-Omb cannon and slip a live Bullet Bill in it, and it’s thrown at Mario, who doesn’t have the power to toss it back. Bowser jumps on the field and smacks the Bullet Bill sideways, sending it back to the Waa brothers, who get caught by it and sent upwards. The Bill then explodes, in a giant blast of light, and the evil bros. fall back to the ground. Bowser doesn’t really want to be renowned for this sudden moment of niceness, so he gets out of the way while everyone else keeps partying in that good G-rated fashion. This closes the celebrations on Baseball Kingdom.

Waaaaaaah!
Also, Waluigi's L is backwards on here.

It’s expected that these characters will hardly ever go back to Baseball Island. Everyone will leave, and it’s a mystery if they’ll ever return. The artificial island will thus be left there, untouched, floating aimlessly, with no one to enjoy its activity, a white elephant that cost a fortune to make, money ultimately wasted. We all know that Mario is almost always busy saving the world or Princess Peach. I mean, we all know he's got a big odyssey coming! That's big stuff! He ain’t got time for baseball!

The plot of Mario Super Sluggers makes no sense – but let’s be honest, we’re not here for the plot. We’re here for some good ol’ pitching, batting, running and sporting. The plot is merely setup. How does the game hold up?

Well, it’s really good! I quite enjoy it. Sure, it feels pretty easy, but it features a large cast of characters and enough bonuses to get you to play for a while. Well, until your arms hurt, anyway. It helps that you can pick between three control schemes – Wii remote alone, remote with Nunchuk, and sideways remote. You can go for the simpler controls with the remote alone, or go for the complex ones that give a wider array of possibilities. With some control schemes (usually when using the Wii remote alone), the game may not always register your movements, which is a bother when batting (can’t have a delay between movement and game, when the ball is already coming towards you!). But overall, that’s not a frequent issue.

Speaking of, a big downside of the game is how so many things are done by vividly swinging or shaking the Wii remote. You swing when you’re throwing or batting, then immediately afterwards you may be shaking the Wii remote to run around the field. This will strain your arm, especially if you use the Wii remote alone.

The game doesn’t pretend to be a serious baseball title, and it shows. It keeps the fairly simplistic controls, with very little baseball strategy to it aside from batting or pitching in certain ways and counting on team members to do certain maneuvers or special catches. It’s not revolutionary or realistic, it just wants to be fun. I can’t fault them for that. If you want something closer to reality, there are other games.

The wide selection of playable character and the nine available baseball fields are nice touches. I especially like the various gimmicks, such as the Star Moves, the special throws that some characters possess, as well as the obstacles and hindrances found on most baseball fields. The whole character chemistry mechanic is a good addition, and it gets quickly important to count on the interactions between characters. You’ve got slightly better chances of winning by sticking together the characters who share chemistry.

Like I said, the “Story Mode” of sorts is nothing to write home about, just an excuse to make you play through the game, discover its mechanics and have the odd mini-match here and there. You go around, discover secrets, free everyone and collect captains and team members. It gets kind of annoying after a while that most people you free will join your team only after you’ve “proven your worth” and shown that you could be a decent baseball player. The Story Mode areas are pretty small and don’t offer much, and are done in such a way that you can’t fully beat one, go to the next, rinse and repeat. Your best bet is to gather the captains first, but some captains are in faraway areas and you need other captains to reach them, and so on. It’s like a big puzzle that you can’t complete until you’ve got the full array of abilities. Once the final match against Bowser has been won, you don’t have much of an incentive to go back, unless you want all the playable characters and special moves.

The mini-games are quite enjoyable and add a nice color, and so does the Toy Field. There are many things to do with many players, something to encourage you to try out with friends. Only downside being, back when you could play online on the Wii, this game had no online capabilities. Wanna play with friends? Gotta do that in your house.

The graphics are suitably cartoony, and the music’s okay. There’s really not much else to say about those.

All in all, a pretty fun title. If you don’t mind overworking your arm by swinging all the time, you should enjoy it. This concludes my review. You know… we’re getting closer to the blog’s fourth anniversary. Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for almost four years. What should I do this time around… I need a big game for the anniversary review.

Let’s see… Ah! Yes, this one will be perfect. Let’s stay in the realm of the Mario series, shall we? And reminisce on one of the most beloved titles of its time, one of the games that people still play or want to play. The combined powers of two developers, for a truly epic adventure… which went on to be nearly ignored afterwards by the Mario series, despite fans clamoring for it to get more recognition.

Yes indeed. Next Friday, get ready for my fourth anniversary review. I’ll be reviewing Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars!