Sunday, November 7, 2010

"The Quest for the Elusive 96*"

Today's review is on a classic, a game I'm sure most of you have at least seen, if not played for hours and hours on end: Super Mario World.

Super Mario World is a game developed and published by Nintendo, originally released in Japan in 1990 and North America in 1991 as a bundled-in game with the then-new Super Nintendo. This game was a huge reason the SNES sold as well as it did. It was both a critical and commercial success. I've yet to meet someone who hasn't enjoyed this game. Let's jump in and see why it's such a great game.

Story: 8/10

The story is pretty standard Mario fare, although it does diverge ever-so-slightly from the games that came before it. After saving the Mushroom Kingdom yet again, Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach take a vacation to a place called Dinosaur Land. Sure enough, though, while resting on the beach, Peach goes missing.

Mario and Luigi search for hours to find her. Eventually, in the forest, they come upon a huge egg. It hatches, and out pops a dinosaur named Yoshi. Yoshi tells them that him and his dinosaur friends have been imprisoned in eggs by a group of evil turtles.

Evil turtles? It must be Bowser and his Koopalings! If they're in Dinosaur Land, you can bet it was them who kidnapped Peach, too. Mario and Luigi set out to rescue all of Yoshi's friends as well as Peach, trekking across the entirety of Dinosaur Land in the process.

Granted, the story still relies on a missing princess, but I give them a lot of credit for making the game take place in a different land and also introducing the character Yoshi for the first time in the Mario series.

Graphics: 9/10

This was one of the earliest SNES games, but it really does look great. It's bright and colorful, and a HUGE step forward from the NES. Animations are fluid and smooth and the characters' sprites really stand out. There's only one or two spots in the whole game where you'll really notice any slowdown in the animations, and it's usually when there's a TON of enemies on screen at once (the level with the football players underwater instantly jumps to mind).

Gameplay: 10/10

Super Mario World, on the surface, plays very similarly to Super Mario Bros. 3. You control Mario (or Luigi, if you're second player in a multiplayer game). You run through levels, platforming and collecting coins and power-ups, trying to reach the end before the time runs out. As you finish areas, instead of switching worlds like you would in Super Mario 3, you move on to the next area of Dinosaur Land. All of the areas are connected to each other, making for more logical area transitions.

The overworld map.

For ends of levels, instead of the card collecting system from Super Mario Bros. 3, there's now two posts with a bar in between that rises and lowers. If you hit the bar, you get a set number of points - the higher the bar is, the more points you get. Each time you get 100, you play a bonus game to get extra lives.

At the end of each area, there are castles where Bowser's underlings reside. Castle levels are usually a little bit harder than normal levels (but not by a ton). The first 6 are on the overworld map, while the 7th is in Bowser's area underground, and the 8th is Bowser's humongous castle.

The Koopa family. These guys are none too happy to see you.
There are also 'keys' in this game. Level icons show up either as red or yellow circles on the world map.

No yellow ones in this image,  but you get the idea.
The yellow ones are just normal levels, but red levels have a hidden key somewhere in them. Finding the key and taking it to the keyhole will, instead of taking you out the normal exit, will create a path on the overworld map to a new level.

Mario's mechanics have also been tweaked a bit. His physics are more or less the same, but now he has an added jump, the spin jump. This can break certain blocks below him, as well as deal more damage to enemies than a normal jump. The Super Mushroom and Fire Flower power-ups return in this title, but instead of the suits of Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario now has the Cape Feather. This lets him spin it to attack enemies, and, if he's running fast enough, it will let him fly.

The Cape Feather was a bit broken, though, if you knew how to use it right. See, when you were flying, you could tap the D-pad backwards to get a little bit of a lift. If you knew how to time it right, you could do this repeatedly and literally fly over an entire level. It's a great way to speed through the game, but also SUPER cheap.

The last big thing is the addition of Yoshi. As you play through the game, you'll find big Yoshi eggs. Yoshi will hatch as a baby, and you can pick him up and run him into enemies, making him eat them. After 5 or 6, he'll grow up into full-size Yoshi, letting you ride him. There are several different colors of Yoshi, each with a different effect. When Red Yoshi pulls a koopa into his mouth, he'll spit it out as fireballs. When Yellow Yoshi pulls a koopa in, he'll stomp the ground hard, upturning most small enemies. Blue Yoshi will grow wings when he sucks up a koopa shell, allowing him to fly until he swallows it.

Baby Yoshi's so damned CUUUUTE!
Sound: 10/10

For me, this game unquestionably gets a 10/10. There are games with better music for the SNES, but this one holds a special place in my heart just because of how many times I've beaten it and how long I've been playing it. All of the songs are forever burned into my mind as well as my heart. As per usual, rather than blabbering on about how awesome the music is, I'll just post a few songs.

Here's the main overworld theme. I LOVE that steel pan melody.

This one's the castle theme...spooooooky...

The underwater theme. It's so very relaxing.

Replay Value: 10/10

Super Mario World has a tremendous amount of replay value for the completionists out there. When you go to pick your save file in the beginning, it displays a little number next to it. That's how many levels you've completed. Does yours say "96*"? No? Then you haven't fully beaten Super Mario World!

Along with getting all of the levels, you get the awesomeness (and sometimes, extreme frustration!) of playing through the Star Road as well as the special levels.

Pictured: Star Road.

Pictured: The most fun as well as hardest levels in Super Mario World.
These levels can be either a total blast or an occasion to have an aneurysm (I'm looking at you, Tubular).


To anyone who has ever played this game (which I'd hope is most of you), reading this review is unnecessary. You already know what a great, classic game it is. To those of you who haven't played this game, go play it IMMEDIATELY. Get a SNES and that copy, buy the Wii Virtual Console version, get the GBA remake, do whatever you have to to get your hot little hands on this game.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rehashed Golden Oldies

Hello, Faithful Readers. My posting has been very few and far between as of late. School takes precedence over this blog, and the nearer I draw to the end of the semester, the heavier my workload becomes.

Though it could always be worse...

That being said, I haven't abandoned this blog; far from it. This time off from posting has allowed me to get my ideas for posts in order. Actual reviews will be coming before too much longer, but for a while, they'll probably be at least several days apart. As much as I hate these "why I haven't been posting" sort of posts, I feel an explanation was in order because of a few messages I've gotten asking me why I've stopped blogging.

In the meantime, for you newcomers, check out some of my older posts. Who knows? You might've played one of these games before. Some of my favorite ones to write include:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
Death Rally (DOS/PC)
Joe & Mac (SNES)
Earthbound (SNES)

And of course, the reviews of both Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari. Those, as well as the rest of my reviews, can be found by clicking on the 'review' label on the right hand side of the screen. You can also find reviews by platform and genre by clicking on the appropriate label.

To the people who have been following long enough to have seen all these when I first posted them, my apologies for the rehashing and lack of new, original content. To the rest of you, dig around if you have the time and give-a-shit. You may even find something worth reading.

You know, something worth reading, like the opposite of this.

Until next time, enjoy yourselves, Faithful Readers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Damn you, Imakuni?!!!"

Today's review is on a game only the nerdiest among us will have played, Pokemon Trading Card Game.


Pokemon Trading Card Game was a spinoff to the Pokemon series based on the popular card game. It was developed by Hudson Soft and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color. It was released in late 1998 in Japan and 2000 in North America and PAL territories.

Story: 5/10

The story for Pokemon TCG is much the same as the story from the original Pokemon game: a young man sets out to be the very best. The difference is that in this game, the young protagonist (Mark) sets out to be the best at the trading card game and to collect every single card.

Graphics: 7/10

Graphically, Pokemon TCG wasn't terribly innovative. You have to keep in mind, though, that it was made for the Game Boy Color, a system not exactly known for its amazing graphics.

Yeah, that's seriously what the DBZ game for GBC looked like. *shudder*

90% of the game will have you in battle, anyways. There are points where you walk around inside of gyms. Those graphics look identical (almost) to Pokemon Silver/Gold. The battle graphics are very basic, showing just the playing field in a very static way. All you see is how many prizes are left, pictures of the two Pokemon fighting as well as damage counters, how many Pokemon are on the bench, and how many energy cards a Pokemon has on it. To actually check the benched Pokemon, you need to go into a menu. There are no super fancy animations; all of the attack animations are very bare (again, like the early Pokemon games).

The main point, though, is that the graphics don't deter from gameplay. Sure, there's not a lot of bells and whistles, but the card game wasn't about bells and whistles. It was about fun, pure and simple.

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is, to put it simply, the card game in electronic form. For any of you who ever used to actually battle with the cards, this game does a great job of recreating it. It includes all the cards in the first few sets (Base, Jungle, and Fossil if I'm not too much mistaken). The mechanics work exactly as they would in a real card duel, only a tiny bit more lengthy due to the time taken messing around in menus.

You start the game with a very basic deck. You can battle a guy at the start as many times as you'd like to get packs of nothing but energy cards. Once you're ready to go, you head out to the main map and start going to gyms in any order you like to try to beat the leaders in a card battle.

This is the map. Walking from one gym to another literally takes about 3 seconds.

For every real trainer you defeat, you get between 1 and 3 packs of cards you can use to build a better deck. The cards in the pack usually reflect the theme of the gym (Fire Gym trainers give you mostly fire cards, Water Gym trainers give you mostly water cards, etc.). Once all the leaders have been beaten and their medals have been gained, you get to take a shot at fighting the Grandmasters, similar to the Elite Four in the original Pokemon games.

There are also special tournaments that take place from time to time in the Challenge Hall. You face a series of 3 battles, and if you win, you get a special promo card. Some of these are actually kind of useful, but most are just silly.

What would a Pokemon game be without a rival? In this game, your rival is Ronald, a douche-baggy blue-haired kid who insists that he's better than you under any circumstance, even when you hand his ass to him.

You know what? Fuck you, Ronald. There, I said it.

The absolute weirdest part is this dude named Imakuni?. He's a Japanese costumed character created for the Pokemon series. He shows up randomly in gyms hiding off in a corner. Throughout the game, you get to fight him a few times. He plays mostly cards that end up confusing his own Pokemon, and he even has his own card. Sadly, it does almost nothing, and when it does, it confuses your own Pokemon! He's a complete nutbar, and fighting him is always comical.

Japanese people are weird...

The game, overall, is very easy to learn. It's also usually pretty easy to win once you have a good deck put together. When you lose, there are no penalties of any kind, so even if you REALLY aren't very good, you can still do pretty well in this game. Here's a video demonstrating a single duel as it appears in game.

Sound: 8/10

The soundtrack in this game, in my opinion, fits very well with the overall mood. I'm a bit biased, though, since this game makes me nostalgia all over the place (it's messy, trust me). The music in particular really makes me remember what a fun game this was. Rather than describing it any more, I'll post some songs and let you decide how good they are. Here's the normal duel theme; this is one you'll be hearing very often.

This one's the main map theme and the music in Professor Mason's Lab, your main hub.

This one is the Grandmaster's Theme.

Keep in mind, most of these sound much better on the Game Boy's speakers.

Replay Value: 4/10

The main draw for replaying through this game is collecting all of the cards. Chances are, though, by the time you beat the Grandmasters, as long as you duel every trainer on the way, you should have almost all of them. There are 226 cards in all, if I remember correctly. 2 of the cards, however, can only be gained by using the Card Pop system which requires another Game Boy and another copy of the game. You can only Card Pop with someone one time, so to get these cards, you'll likely need either a lot of friends who own this game or a GameShark.

Other than card collecting, though, there's really no reason to replay this game besides the sheer fun factor.


Long story short, this is a Game Boy Color game that plays exactly like the actual trading card game mixed in with Pokemon Red/Blue. It's totally fun, and a great way to kill 10-15 hours. It's also got a bitchin' soundtrack.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Just a quick update for all those who may be interested. I haven't posted in quite a while. This is because I've been on a trip to the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago for a physics/computer science/math/chemistry/geology symposium. We left on Thursday and didn't get back until Sunday at around 3AM. From where I am, it's about an eight or nine hour drive one way.

I was a tired panda by the time we got back.

I wish I could post some pictures, but sadly, I didn't bring a camera along with me. I did get to see some very cool things, though. I watched somewhere around 30 speeches showcasing some of the latest research in several different fields, saw the Advanced Photon Source (a 2/3 mile particle accelerator), and went into Chicago to spend a day and explore.

Seeing this thing was incredibly awesome. SCIENCE!

Presumably, either later tonight or tomorrow, Programmable Abortion will return to its regularly scheduled programming and continue with the reviews. I've had a good one almost done since Thursday that the super Pokemon nerds among us will really enjoy: Pokemon Trading Card Game for Game Boy Color.