Super Mario Maker Musings

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Super Mario Maker: A race to upload the most obnoxious Mario levels in existence.

Mario is my gaming alpha. He is the man who got me interested in video games back when I was 4 years old. I can’t say what it was about watching my cousins die repeatedly on the first level that caught my interest, but I was so obsessed my parents broke down and got me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas that year. So I think it’s safe to blame my parents and Mario for my lifelong obsession with video games.

That being said, I’ve never dreamed up original Mario levels inside of my head. Guess I’m not very creative when it comes to design and the technicalities of it all. This certainly didn’t do anything to smother my excitement for Super Mario Maker. In fact, I was always excited to go online and experience levels created by people with more creativity and spare time on their hands. Unfortunately, when it comes to the (literally) millions of levels uploaded online, the amount of quality levels is really a drop in a bucket by comparison.

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This isn’t the random clusterf**k you think it is.

In fact, my favorite levels are the levels I don’t have to play at all! “Don’t Move” levels permeate the popular online courses. Yes, that’s right… the “player” doesn’t have to do a thing! I know, it sound cheap, but many of these stages are absolutely amazing to behold. They really demonstrate the impressive mechanics and the overwhelming number of options on the table when creating levels. Plus, they’re a nice break from a sad majority of stages that only seem to exist to cause me stress. It seems like every other level is nothing but an annoying, gimmicky attempt at a “gotcha” stage that I have little to no patience for.

This is only mainly a problem due to one of my few complaints about this game. As many of you know, Super Mario Maker allows for amiibo skins while playing 8-bit Mario Bros. levels. If you don’t happen to own 100 amiibos, you can unlock skins by playing “100 Mario Challenge.” 100 is a lot of lives… right?

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Also, get used to level names that LIE, have spelling and grammar errors, and are in other languages.

100 Mario Maker has an Easy, Normal, and Expert mode, which are determined by each stages completion percentage. Easy is brain-numbingly easy. Normal usually has decent stages. But Expert? Ugh… Most Expert mode stages make me want to write death notes for the users who created this painful garbage. I would just, you know, stay away from Expert mode… if I had a choice. Sadly, the game caps how much you can unlock on Easy and Normal modes. So unless I want to go out and buy more amiibos (Someday, but not today) I have to suffer through Expert mode or just not bother. As it stands, I haven’t completed it once. Even with the feature to skip a level (I’d be livid if this didn’t exist) if I still have 8 stages to go and more than half of my lives are gone… I always quit.

I still have a lot of unlocking to do. Time is all that is needed to unlock all the building tools. 10 Mario Challenge will get you some starter levels to tinker with and completing them all gets you Nintendo World Championship Levels. Completing all of those gets you… Wait for it…

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Is that… Walauigi?

Skinny, weird jumping Mario. I have an irrational fear of it. Seriously, it creeps me out.

I still have a lot to unlock and some stage designs to play around with. There is a lot to this game, and with the potential of it being a never ending Mario game with (hopefully) more DLC down the line for level creation tools and layouts (Seriously… No Super Mario 2???? It hurts). Aside from these gripes, I’m so glad Nintendo finally made this a thing. This is the best thing to happen to my Wii U since Shovel Knight.

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Shena’s E3 Highlights

All the big press conferences and interesting events of E3 2015 are now over, and I’m still sorting in my head which games I’ll be scrambling to find the time to play next year! This year there were some announcements that excited me more than I care to admit, while others I sort of shrugged off, and some that made me happy for fans of franchises that I don’t necessarily follow.

Let me start by saying that I think Nintendo totally bombed their pre-recorded show. The puppets coming out at the beginning was cute and all, but they failed in using that Muppet-esque distraction as a decoy from their shoddy presentation. It started out with a new StarFox game. I’m glad for the people who have been begging for a new StarFox game for years, though it isn’t something that interests me. The gameplay will have to be amazing to win people over, because the graphics certainly aren’t doing it. Seriously, how embarrassing. After playing Bayonetta 2 and experiencing what the Wii U can put out graphically, it looks terrible. At least during SquareEnix’s conference they came out and said, “This demo was only in 30 FPS but the game will be 60,” to let the audience know if something is indeed downgraded because it’s a work in progress.

Nintendo had a super terrible 3DS multiplayer Metroid title… thing. I don’t even know, because they didn’t bother to go into detail on that even though fans have been BEGGING for a Metroid game for years. They did delve into the 3DS multiplayer/co-op Legend of Zelda game that NOBODY WANTS. But, you know, couldn’t go out of their way to show what they’ve been doing with the Zelda Wii U game they showcased a year ago.

With Fire Emblem off of my personal radar, Nintendo still had a few titles that I am looking forward to: Xenoblade Chronicles X, “Super” Mario Maker, and that 3DS Paper Mario meets Mario RPG game looks fun too.

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I honestly don’t usually get excited about mech games!

Xenoblade Chronicles and Mario Maker got dates which makes me really happy…. December 4 and September 11, respectively. So that’s two E3 games from Nintendo being released before Christmas. I loved Xenoblade Chronicles, and really wish I had spent more time with the side quests and other optional content. Mario Maker looks like a great dose of fun creativity. I can’t wait to see the levels my fellow gamers develop that I will undoubtedly die 1,000 times on.

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A goomba pyramid…. genius.

I also watched most of Sony’s press conference. The new IPs like Horizon and No Man’s Sky look pretty awesome. The Last Guardian made a lot of people happy, but I’ve gotten “Meh” about it after all of these years. The Final Fantasy VII reveal made me shed fangirl tears… Although now I’ve got my cynical glasses on, just waiting to see if SquareEnix is going to screw it up like they have everything else in the last decade. (Okay, except FF:RK. Srsly, it’s the best F2P game ever.) I know I’ll be playing it either way… whether they totally eff up the battle system and shoehorn in all the stupid FFVII compilation crap.

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If nothing else, it will at least be pretty.

Unsurprisingly, there was also fun gameplay footage from the new Uncharted game. My hubby and I are looking forward to playing A Thief’s End, so the vehicle driving sequence with all the Drake/Sully banter kept us at the edge of our seats.

I’m shocked there was nothing God of War related at Sony’s event, but I suppose it is for the best.

Going back to SquareEnix. First E3 press conference ever. And it shows. Well, as a fan of JRPGs (growing up, anyway) some of what they showed did intrigue me. Especially that Kingdom Hearts mobile game that I’m positive NOBODY asked for. In all seriousness, I really liked what we saw of KH3 (still no release date time frame.. no kidding). The battle system looks as fun as the story is convoluted. At this point I don’t even know if I should recognize the characters playing chess in the trailer… Someone help me out here!

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Seriously, who is this Rikku look-alike?

I haven’t played Just Cause games yet, but the third game looks like a lot of fun. I’ll have to do some research on them. Judging from the footage from Just Cause 3, I think I could get sucked into the sandbox carnage on display. There was also more FFVII (including an IOS port alongside the PC port), more Final Fantasy World or whatever the hell it is called, a new Nier project, more Deus Ex Machina, and the rather secretive Tokyo RPG project. Tokyo RPG project seems to exist to solidify their dedication to creating JRPGs.

I’ll admit my focus has shifted to Western RPGs in recent years. In the last year, the RPGs I enjoyed the most were probably South Park: The Stick of Truth and the Mass Effect trilogy (I didn’t start playing them until last year). And, I’m happy to announce… there were new games announced for both series! The new South Park game is titled “The Fractured But Whole.” Let that sink in.

While I am disappointed that no new details for Mass Effect were divulged outside of the title and release time frame, I’m still excited. While many might harp on my for wishing this… I was really hoping for a Mass Effect trilogy remaster. I need an excuse to play the trilogy again. The thought of slogging through the first Mass Effect in its current state pains me, but I can’t picture just picking up Mass Effect 2 from the start. I’m weird like that.

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Bioware swears this is not Spiderman wearing N7 armor.

And those are pretty much all the games that I’m personally excited for. I’m jealous about Tomb Raider, but seeing as how it is a timed exclusive I suppose I’ll get over it. Hopefully Uncharted won’t come out too late and will scratch that itch for me.

What were your E3 highlights?

Hyrule Warriors

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Link is the same silent protagonist we all know and love…Except this time around he’s rocking a clashing blue scarf!

Are you a Legend of Zelda junkie? Are you prone to nostalgia feels? Do you enjoy the battle-simulator, hack and slash craziness of Dynasty Warriors? Enjoy babysitting incompetent AI and juggling which pathetic ally you’re going to save next? How about repeating the same attack combo about 50 bajillion times to kill roughly the same number of rehashed enemy types you’ve already seen in every LoZ game? If so, you’re in for a treat! Hyrule Warriors is everything I just mentioned, and more!

All joking aside, we had a lot of fun with Hyrule Warriors before moving on. There’s still a lot of grinding to do and Majora’s Mask DLC that just released on February 5, so we’re probably not 100% done visiting it.

Back in the day, Steve-O and I had a lot of co-op Dynasty Warriors fun. I can’t recall exactly which ones we played, because there were a few, but I do remember the co-op craziness and general feel of the games. When I found out the same company worked with Nintendo to create what is essentially a Legend of Zelda skin, I was all for it. If you’ve never played one of the Dynasty or Samurai Warrior games, they’re basically a battle simulator where you run around capturing enemy keeps, killing enemy commanders, and fulfilling other stage-specific goals while keeping your bases from falling to the enemy. In games like these it’s not uncommon to slay 1,000+ enemies on a single level. And, thanks to the jumps in technology, the lag is considerably lessened compared to the old days of playing DW. Not that it’s non-existent, but it doesn’t really hinder gameplay.

Instead, you have bad decision making hindering gameplay, like cutscenes cutting in on the action (see what I did there?). Even turning them off in the main menu doesn’t stop opening treasure chests from being a drawn out affair that ruins the flow of battle and lets enemies pop cheat shots off on you. Not a big concern during the Legends story  mode, but when trying to achieve A rankings to unlock goodies on Adventure mode it can make or break your progress. Another one of our biggest gripes worth mentioning is button-mapping for selecting items in your inventory. Stupid gimmicky LoZ bosses show up repeatedly, and certain items are needed to defeat them. But in order to look through your inventory to use things like bombs, potions, or the hookshot, you literally have to take your thumb off of the joystick you’re using to move the character around. So yeah, stand still amongst piles of 50 enemies at a time to find the item you need to use. Granted, the general cronies suffer from a severe case of the derps, but still. Every little bit counts when trying to unlock stuff.

Hyrule Warriors doesn’t take place in LoZ canon. Not sure at this point it really matters, since Nintendo can’t even figure out their own timeline. During the main campaign, you’ll gradually be introduced to both original and returning characters and unlock them as playable. Some you need the DLC for. You’ll get your merry band together and traverse a few Zelda worlds. Most of the time you have to play as a specific character. One of the great things about playing co-op is that the second player can be whoever they want: You can have Princess Zelda and Sheik fighting side by side, consistency be damned! One of you will have to make the sacrifice of playing as the mandatory character while the other picks their favorite and goes to town. Each character has their own flair and style, but swapping between them doesn’t take all that much to grow accustomed to because all the combos are the same. Literally. Leveling up character abilities requires giving them “badges” by using items collected in battle, and they all add up to variations of pressing Ys and Xs. That’s it. If you’re playing as a new character, it’ll take you all of one minute to test out all the combos you have unlocked. Then you’ll pick one or two favorite moves and just stick with them.

The variety mainly falls with weapon types and character style. On his own, Link can equip like, 6 different weapon types. Each gives him different moves and flashy things to look at. As you can imagine, his style will be entirely different if he’s on Epona compared to say, wielding the Master Sword or Magic Rod. Make sure you try each character’s weapons before dismissing them entirely. I tried Zelda’s Dominion Rod first and absolutely hated it. Yet later on she got a decent Rapier and when I tried it out I loved it. I tend to lean towards magic users while playing video games. In Hyrule Warriors I became smitten with DLC character Twili Midna. She’s slower, but her attacks cover such a large area, and her special move literally creates an enormous black hole under enemies’ feet. Another new mage is Cia. One look at her and you can tell Nintendo’s getting desperate enough to get a little risque:

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Boobs in a Nintendo exclusive game? I know, I was confused too.

 Other favorites of ours included Link, Impa, Lord Volga, and Sheik. However, I encourage you to try them all out. Some characters are insufferably annoying to the point where you won’t want to play as them (Lana and Agitha, that is), but I’ll begrudingly admit they have some cool combos as well. At one point or another you’ll be forced to play as them anyway.

Once you’ve completed the nearly pointless meanderings of the “Story” mode, you’ll want to go spend time in the nostalgic grindfest Adventure maps. It’s 8-Bit Zelda map glory, where you have to complete challenges and collect Item Cards to discover hidden goodies.

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Somehow, your fires never seem to spread from that one bush.

 Adventure Mode maps are maze/puzzle hybrids that require you to go all over the map and follow various paths to tredge your way to the weapons or hearts you want for characters. I’m certainly not the authority on this as it’s a bit grindy for my current tastes (Ok more like ‘it takes up too much of my free time to play video games’) but it adds a lot of life to the game for those who have that itch to max out their characters. The DLC maps even add more costumes for characters as well. Truth be told, I had no use for other alternate Link costumes after I had him decked out in purple. The Adventure Mode maps also add more Gold Skulltulas to unlock and collect. There’s over 100 of them. Again, lots of extras for those so inclined.

Like Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors is a game I was in for the co-op fun, not the engrossing gameplay and story. Which isn’t a bad thing, just the nature of the beast. Throw in a Legend of Zelda theme and you have a formula for hours of nostalgic fun. If you’re in it for the co-op like I am, prepare yourself for some co-op annoyances. Aside from the cutscene interruptions I mentioned earlier, there’s one other decision that constantly irked me. There is only one menu where the second player is able to join. And they have to do so every. single. battle. Firstly, nowadays it should be possible for local co-op to jump in at any time. Secondly, if I say I’m playing, keep me there until I opt out. I can’t count the number of times the second player would forget to join, making us have to suffer loading screens to turn around, back out of the battle, and start again. I also wish the second player could jump in the bazaar, where you level characters and smith gear.

And as a final note, I want to know who the hell has been designing Zelda bad guys for the last few games. Zant and Ghirahim look so terrible! Just… ugh. Do video game designers in Japan hold contests to see who can draw the fruitiest or wackiest looking villain?

 

Retro Review: Megaman 6!

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Even the cover art is so much better than the previous entries!

Love retro games, but lack the time and patience to replay the same stages about 1,000 times over because a certain trick jump or jerk boss keeps getting the one-up on you? Well, I do. Lack the patience nowadays, that is. That’s why I’m in love with the Wii U’s Virtual Console games. They incorporate a Save State feature! For those of you who’ve never played an old-school game on an emulator before, a Save State basically allows you to save your progress at any point, so if things don’t go according to plan you can quickly load your last save and try again. While you only get one save state per game at a time, the system does remember your save state forever. I started playing Megaman 6 over the summer and recently picked it up again to find my save state right where I left it.

I didn’t mean for my retro review to open up with a Wii U Virtual Console plug, but there it is. I suppose that means this isn’t 100% retro, but whatever. It is very retro in that they didn’t incorporate the neat feature found in the Megaman Anniversary collection: using the L and R bumpers to swap abilities. As much as I love Megaman (And VI is my favorite) going back and forth into the menus to change abilities is freaking annoying. Especially in VI, because during the X and Wily stages it felt like I was constantly swapping to Rush Jet and Rush “Jacked” to traverse the levels or get extra goodies. It very well may be my only complaint about the game.

Like its predecessors, MM6 starts off with a relatively uninspiring introduction, complete with the “Baddie taking over the world with souped-up robots” schtick, and kicks you into the main menu screen. Here’s MM6’s Robot Master lineup:

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 I find it hard to believe there was no Bizzard, Flame or Wind man before the sixth entry.

You’ve got a few standard elemental types, then they get creative with fighter types from around the world. I’m not sure in today’s PC world if they’d get away with such stereotype-grounded enemies like Tomahawk Man and Flame Man (turban and all). Plus, if you ask me, Plant Man is pretty fabulous. He takes the Megaman bosses prancing around to a new level: with a shield of flowers. An ability I never really grew fond of, to be honest. Even more risque is Centaur Man, if you go by his story in the Megaman 6 manga. See, Centaur MAN is actually Centaur WOMAN. In love with Knight Man, or so I read online. I even saved a scanned image of the manga showing Centaur Man after Megaman broke “his” helmet, revealing long, blond locks and that feminine 90’s manga-style face. But as it turns out, the file type is Bitmap and isn’t accepted by WordPress, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I knew there was a reason I liked Centaur Man so much, besides the fact that it’s a Centaur and I’m a Greek Mythology nut.

I absolutely love this Megaman entry. I find it underrated and overlooked, due to Megaman X (My other favorite Megaman) releasing around the same time on the SNES. Why play the sixth NES entry when you could play a shiny new entry on the SNES? Well, now that it’s 20 years later, all you retro gamers need to play this if you haven’t already!

The music and graphics are top-notch for a NES game. I have all the old school MM soundtracks on my ipod, and this one is still my favorite. Every stage has fitting and catchy tracks that somehow bring back fond memories instead of the irritating ones! The level designs are creative and fun (in a Megaman kind of way) and also feature hidden exits and pathways thanks to the Rush adaptors. The Rush adaptors that don’t consume energy but add fun variations to the level designs. And let you punch enemies across the screen. Just saying. The Robot Master weapons range from lackluster to a lot of fun. The Centaur Flash is pretty cool. The Knight Mace can actually be aimed in different directions. But then you have the Plant Man Shield thing that just feels… useless. And Flame Man’s fire shot would be cool if it continued along the floor like when he uses it. But noooo, when Megaman acquires it, it just plops in front of him and makes one pathetic pillar of fire. Oh well.

There’s a “Megamanniversary” sale going on at Nintendo EShop until tomorrow, I believe, so pick up this classic (along with all the others) at a discounted price! Then you can enjoy this retro classic and save state your way through it if you want to save yourself some headaches. If not, have at it the old fashioned way. I just don’t want to hear about how badly your carpal tunnel is when you finally beat the game.

Bayonetta 2 Review!

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Bayonetta 2: Bringing sexy back!

Playing sequels to beloved video games can be a bittersweet experience. Or just bitter. Sometimes the experience isn’t any better or worse than the first; only a chance to revisit the world and characters. Or, as is more often the case, the sequel somehow manages to be a gigantic step backwards for the series. Many, many games with a 2 in the title were huge disappointments for me: Xenosaga Episode 2, Devil May Cry 2, and God of War 2, just to name a few.

But not Bayonetta 2.

No, Bayonetta 2 looks at its predecessor and says, “Bitch, please! I can do everything you did, but do it bigger and do it better.” And it delivers. Bayonetta 2 is a massive success in my eyes. It’s most definitely my new favorite action/beat ’em up  game, and a strong contender for Game of the Year here at Hardly Hobbies. Steve-O and I were smitten by the game within the first 5 minutes. And unlike The Evil Within, B2 upheld our excitement and enjoyment for the entire campaign and then some. We enjoyed B2 enough to keep going back, again and again, to plow through harder difficulties and unlock trophies. Er, “Bewitchments.” My bad.

Now to give supporting details to my indulgent Bayonetta 2 worship. Going immediately from the remastered B1 to B2, it’s clear that a lot of work went into making B2 a smoother, brighter, and more fun experience. Even on the wimpiest next-gen system, B2 is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are vibrant, the scenery and enemies detailed and original. The framerate was smooth as can be. While playing, you’ll forget you aren’t playing on a PS4 or XB1 with the crisp details and beautiful colors. I can’t stress how well-designed the creatures (especially bosses) and scenery are. The music is as fitting as in the first. Although, to be fair, I didn’t like the poppy battle music as much as B1’s “Fly Me To The Moon” cover.

The other most impressive aspect of B2 is the pacing. While B1 felt slow at times, with a lot of down time in pretty linear areas, B2 has little-to-none of that. I’m bewildered at how they managed to create a game that felt like it quickly hopped from epic boss battle to epic boss battle, while still incorporating loads of collectibles to seek out for upgrading health and magic.

About those epic boss battles. Here’s the bigger and better I was talking about earlier:

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I bet you thought I was going to insert a picture of Bayonetta’s boobs. 

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Time to play “Where’s Bayonetta?”

I mean, really, look at the size of those! Bayonetta is barely a blip on the screen! But thanks to the incredible design and vibrant colors, you won’t hardly feel lost. The enemies and the protagonist all have colorful and (usually) well-telegraphed moves to help sort things out. Epileptic seizures notwithstanding. Anyway, our favorite Umbran Witch is more than capable of dishing out the hurt on these bad boys with her flashy magic and weapons. Both of which have returning favorites and new features. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the weapons in Bayonetta’s arsenal this time around are so. much. fun. With the exception of the Kafka bow, we had a hard time deciding which weapons to equip on the two sets you’re allotted. We switched out and experimented a lot more than the first game. AND YOU CAN EQUIP SWORDS, WHIPS AND MORE ON HER FEET! And yes, that merits all caps, because the combos Bayonetta pulls off with swords on her hands and feet are nothing short of beautiful.

In terms of magic and abilities, not a whole lot has changed. Witch Time is still here. Torture and climax attacks still exist. The most apparent addition is “Umbran Climax,” AKA “Devil Trigger Mode.” When her magic bar is full, Bayonetta can enter Umbran Climax mode to unleash a crazy barrage of attacks (all customized to the weapons she has equipped) and her health bar slowly replenishes itself. As  humorous as the torture attacks are, there’s nothing as satisfying as unleashing your favorite combos with your favorite weapons against a particularly annoying foe.

If you’re a Bayonetta veteran, expect a lot of the same general battle mechanics. This game is pretty unforgiving if you don’t abuse dodging and Witch Time. I did find B2 to be a bit more forgiving than its predecessor. I didn’t die nearly as much while playing normal mode. One big decision factoring into this is the removal of a lot of the poorly-timed QTE from B1. When I played B1, I remember yelling “I pressed the jump button!” more than once, yet half the time it didn’t register. Very annoying, and thankfully absent from the sequel.

Think what you want about the sexualization of Bayonetta, but I feel as though that sort of took a backseat in this game. Not in the “We’re with Nintendo now, we have to be family friendly” way, but more “It’s already established and done, so we’re gonna make a few nods to it and be on our way.” Because, trust me, when it’s there, it’s there. Her outfits speak loudly and clearly to that. There’s some funny cutscenes supporting that as well. As a sequel, they didn’t have to beat us over the head with already-established themes. Thankfully, they spent more time and energy on the battle system, graphics, and game modes.

The story isn’t anything to write home about. Though the implications it makes towards the first game are interesting. All the main characters have returned, some in more glory than others. Luka and Enzo are quite clearly only thrown in because they have to be. Rodin and Jeanne are the only ones with much significance. Jeanne’s new look (longer hair and a decent mascara job) is great, but certainly doesn’t compare to Rodin Santa!

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 Thought I was joking, didn’t you?

The newest cast member is Loki. He’s annoying, obnoxious, and has bad hair. So I’m not even posting a picture of him.

One small complaint that I have, and it’ll only really resonate with those who wanna go all “completionist” on this game, is the lack of a “Restart from last checkpoint” feature. It didn’t occur to me until we were trying for some of the achievements that it was a frustrating oversight. I also wish the game menus allowed you to track your broken heart and broken moon pearl collections as it does for crows and journals. Seriously, why do it for some collectables and not the others?

We also played a lot of tag climax and made sure to unlock all of the verse cards. Until finding a good way to grind halos online, we used it to acquire some quick cash and play around with unlockable characters.

In closing, aside from begging any and all Wii U owners to purchase this and support the franchise, I have to share Steve-O’s crowning achievement. Like its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 has a crazy hard fight against Rodin to unlock a special weapon. Not only did Steve-O beat Rodin after some practice, he got a Pure Platinum rating! It truly was a thing of beauty. This was the one time I wish the game was on the PS4, so he could hit the “share” button and brag. And if I’m remembering correctly, it was with at least one alcoholic beverage in him. Do I or do I not have the best gaming partner ever?

Bayonetta Revisited!

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Strike a pose, Madonna!

Despite how annoyed and butthurt a lot of Bayonetta fans are about the sequel coming out on the Wii U, I am eternally grateful to Nintendo for publishing it. They went above and beyond, in fact, because for the price of one game, you actually get the first Bayonetta remastered for free! Suddenly, I had a perfectly viable reason for replaying Bayonetta instead of tackling my huge game-to-do list.

Not that I should need a reason, as Bayonetta is one of my favorite games EVER.

Instead of being mad about Bayonetta 2 being only on the Wii U, you should take a moment to worship at Nintendo’s feet for releasing it; and also bow to Platinum Games for remastering the first Bayonetta. Why? Well, see for yourself:

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I mean, really, do you need further explanation?

How freakin’ hilarious are these? Special care went into the Link and Princess Peach costumes. When Bayonetta is wearing these, they can also affect battles, item drops, and environmental factors. The Zelda treasure ditty plays whenever she opens treasure, for example. Bayonetta’s halo currency turns into rupees when she’s cosplaying as Link, and Mario coins if she is Peach. But the absolute best thing is when her Weave hands and feet turn into Bowser hands and feet! Bowser growls and all. These Nintendo-themed costumes are available right from the get-go, too! No need to play the game multiple times or grind for currency. It’s the perfect incentive for people like myself who’ve played the game before and want a refresher.

I also wanted to test Bayonetta through my rose-tinted glasses of adoration. The game is a few years old, after all. Has it held up against other action/beat ’em up games released since then?

Well, I can’t say I’ve played very many games fitting those genres lately. There’s the DmC reboot, and God of War: Ascension. I also played Dante’s Inferno, but I don’t recall if that was released before or after Bayonetta.  However, none of that matters because I still think Bayonetta reigns supreme.

The character herself is hard to beat. It’s hard to find an over-the-top witch who stylishly kills angels for a living, all the while taking complete ownership of her sexuality and never succumbing to annoying Damsel in Distress gender tropes. She’s always winking or blowing kisses, but it’s in a way that I can’t help but chuckle because it’s like she knows she’s playing with her audience. And Luka… She’s always playing with Luka.

There’s the presentation as well. I absolutely love God of War for the Greek mythology references and monster designs, but they don’t hold a candle to the angels Bayonetta spanks and punishes for her day job. Like most other aspects of this game, their designs are crazy and over-the-top. Some of them are downright freaky; which is impressive, given that they still manage to resemble angels. Twisted, demented angels, anyway. The enemy designs are great, the battle system is familiar yet refreshing, the visuals are sharp, the music always matches the situation (The Fly Me to the Moon cover is quirky and catchy) and really… the entire presentation is fabulous. It’s obvious a lot of thought and care went into this game.

I don’t have a lot of gripes with Bayonetta, but one small one would have to be the character designs. Love the enemies and bosses; hate the character’s clothes and hair. Specifically Bayonetta, Luka, and Cereza. Man, Bayonetta & Cereza have terrible hairstyles, and Luka’s scarf is gag worthy. I’ll admit he rocks the skintight leather pants ALMOST as well as Bayonetta does, but I hate the rest of his outfit. Rodin’s style is fitting (what’s up with the unlaced boots?) and Enzo is, well, Enzo. Bayonetta’s main outfit is fitting. Form-fitting, that is. But some of the expensive alternate costumes are underwhelming. We mostly stuck with the free Nintendo ones. Most offensive is Jeanne’s make-up. In a game saturated with cutesy butterflies, blowing kisses and pole-dancing, nothing bothers me more than this. Take a close look at that clumpy mess!

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Seriously, I can’t decide if she let a 3 year old do her make-up or she used mascara from the dollar store.

I also really enjoy the battle system in this game. It’s accessible and not too difficult to reorient yourself with if you haven’t played in a couple of days. This is always a big win for me. Yet it also has a much deeper level of complexity that more skilled and patient gamer can access. There are many abilities and accessories up for purchase that enhance your experience to increase the customization. Tend to be a little slow with the dodge button? Pick up the Bat Within ability. Want to be able to quickly zip across the battlefield to an enemy? Pick up the Stiletto (AKA-Dante’s Stinger ability). The player is able to sample every ability before dedicating the Halos to purchasing it, saving us from the disappointment and frustration of spending 30K on an ability only to hate it or have trouble getting the combo off.

I was so happy to have a chance to replay this game (I owned the 360 version and no longer have that console). Upon replaying it and coming to the realization that it still is just as good, if not better, than newer offerings in the genre, I implore everyone with a Wii U to purchase Bayonetta 2. It’s packaged with this gem, so you really have no excuse not to! Seriously, what’s not to love?

Steve-O and I have a couple of hours into Bayonetta 2 so far (Spoiler: It’s freakin’ amazing) so stay tuned for our review of the sequel!

Mario Kart 8

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Why race as Mario when you could be almost anyone else?

Ever since Mario Kart’s inception back on the SNES, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with these games. It’s a sweet misery I can’t seem to get away from. Anyone who has played a MK game will tell you how quickly sheer self-satisfaction can turn to unmitigated fury when their position goes from 1st to 9th in about 5 seconds due to no fault of their own. And yet we can’t stop playing them.

I didn’t have this blog running when I was actively playing Mario Kart Wii. All I will say about that game is that it was a big learning curve, but once I learned the new control scheme, set up and tracks, it became my favorite Mario Kart. No matter how difficult the tracks were, even Rainbow Road, I could still master them and come out in the top 3 99% of the time.

I’ll probably get some slack for saying this, but I don’t think Mario Kart 8 is better than Mario Kart Wii. There’s too many things that either feel like steps backwards or laziness on Nintendo’s part. I mean, yeah, they added some fun characters to the roster like Baby Rosalina:

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I wish Daisy would die already.

And they also added Shy Guy:

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And last, but not least, let’s not forget the most shocking and thrilling additions:

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Koopa kids!! OMFG!!!

I’m happy with the new characters I can start hating when they pelt me with shells.

I’m also relatively pleased with the new items. I thought I would care about the removal of the trick treasure icons. And maybe I did for a few races, until I realized how good this game is at screwing me over without them. The new items are great, but they’re so rare anyway it’s like a UFO sighting. Except for the coins. Seriously, MK8 has a hard-on for giving the player shells and mushrooms and LOTS of coins. I’ve only received a pirahna plant or crazy 8 or Fire Flower a handful of times in my hours of playing. Haven’t ONCE gotten a Bullet Bill. I only know it exists because the AI gets them ALL. THE. TIME.

But I’m not here to complain about the RNG having it out for me, really. I expect that with any MK game.

Speaking of items, there is a BIG game changer here that, unsurprisingly, takes away even more power and control from the player. In previous MK games, it was possible to drag certain items like shells and banana peels behind you to give you protection while freeing up your item slot. That’s not the case here. Until you actually let go of one of these items, you aren’t able to acquire a back-up. This new feature really adds a level of suspense to the game. Using an item is now a much bigger risk and takes more consideration. I got used to this feature, but it still pains me to not know what I might get for backup.

The character and kart/bike stats are unnecessarily complicated. There really needs to be a more intuitive equipment menu that allows the player to easily compare vehicles, wheels and gliders. As it’s set now, you have to memorize what set-up you like the best, then cycle through the options and try comparing slivers on a yellow bar by memory. I also don’t like the addition of two more weight classes. Three was enough, thank you. Light, medium, heavy. Got it. Now there’s like, mid-light and mid-heavy or something stupid like that.

Then there’s the new tracks. I’m sure I’ll be flailed by Nintendo die-hards for saying this, but I’m not exactly blown away by the new tracks. (Or the tracks they decided to revamp). Anti-gravity was added. Sounds fancy, but all it really means is that your character turns sideways while sailing through the air. All it does is serve to further disorient you, as if the flashing bright colors and constant onslaught of red shells isn’t enough. I don’t particularly like or dislike it. I just don’t see how its this crazy revolutionary new thing. It doesn’t really change anything.

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The new Rainbow Road looks like a space station, for crying out loud.

Ah, the dreaded Rainbow Road… Again, at least in the Wii version, with practice I was able to master the track with my favorite character (Rosalina). After devoting more hours than I care to admit, I still can’t figure out how to make some of the turns without completely letting go of the gas. Unless I want to go sailing over the side of the track, that is. Or switch to a small character, like chibi Rosalina, because they can, you know, turn on a dime. But that doesn’t help me when I’m trying to get a gold trophy and stars on the entire circuit. I’ve already mastered those courses. And, to be honest, I can’t be bothered to re-learn how to do those with a character and weight class I don’t really like.

Many of the other things I’m less-than-happy about seem to be just pure laziness from Nintendo. I’m unsure about the mechanics of all this, but only 32 tracks? In this day and age (and hardware) surely they could have added more tracks. Silly me, that’s what DLC that consumers can be charged MORE money is for! But seriously, it didn’t take more than 3 hours to drive through all the circuits with my friends on a drunken Friday night.

But there’s Battle Mode! …More laziness here, unfortunately. The Battle Mode in MK8 is an enormous leap backwards. It can hardly be called “Battle Mode” at all. Instead of developing new battle stages, or even doing HD remakes of previous ones (which I would’ve been satisfied with), they have you “battle” each other on race tracks! We get the joy of driving back and forth on a racetrack looking for people to hit with items while the AI characters ruin our day. Sounds a lot like the standard races, doesn’t it?

Another small thing I want to rant about: They removed Rosalina’s Luma! Lazy arseholes. It was so cute in the Wii game, spinning and making that cute noise when she does a stunt or hits someone with an item. Yes, MK8 developers, I NOTICE AND I WEEP.

Playing online has been a relatively smooth experience for me. It is a lot more fun to play against other people and have the same edge than working against an AI that has miraculous accuracy with items and impeccable luck. I actually felt like all my practice meant something. They added the ability to have 2 player local co-op in online as well, which is awesome.

Now that I’ve laid all my gripes on the table, I’ll give it to you guys straight. For the handful of people who own a Wii U and haven’t purchased this game yet, expect a lot of frustration in your first hour or so of playing. MK veterans: expect to eat a big piece of humble pie. I thought I was going to go into this game stomping the competition, but I was dead wrong.

Between learning the new mechanics, the new courses with the most inconveniently placed 90-degree turns, and unlocking the best kart set-up, you’ll probably lose more than you’ll win the first session. I refused to give up Rosalina, so that saved some guesswork for me. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It isn’t as big and bright as I’d hoped, but it is there. You’ll push through, because you’ll want to unlock all the characters and get the best acceleration combination. Nintendo’s challenge, I think, was to keep people playing for longer than that. And I’m finding it a challenge to keep playing. On a regular basis, anyway. I still have more things to unlock, but I have games like Mass Effect 3 to play. So I’m afraid to say, this will probably be sitting on the back burner for a while.

Overall, while I find this to be a great addition to my small collection of Wii U games, I can’t say that it is my new favorite Mario Kart. Mario Kart Wii blew my away. Mario Kart 8, not so much.