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Power Up Review: Fire Flower

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Got that fire flower, spit that fire power. Unlike the defensive capabilities of the mushroom, or the platforming safety of a cape/tail, this item is all about offense. 

I love the fire flower, it is the haven for platform jumpers living on the edge. I have had some great times with other items, but the fire flower has always been there when I needed it most. Platform after platform, goomba after goomba, the fire flower has allowed me to put the kibosh on near any enemy trying to step to this. Once Super Mario World arrived, that fire power created a wealth of coins as enemies burnt before my very eyes. 

Though I hold the fire flower in high regard, the fact remains the its heyday has come to an end ever since the costume wearing innovation of SMB3. Despite being overshadowed by many amazing power ups throughout mario, the noble fire flower continues to have a place in most Mario adventures, and remains a stalwart ally on the offensive end. Even if you fall like a brick rather than float gently onto the next ledge.

A reliable effort, and job well done. B+

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Power Up Review: Mario’s Mushrooms

The Super Mushroom*, one of gaming’s greatest icons. Unfortunately, this classic middleman to the good power-ups has been cast down into the pits of disgrace.

The Super Mushroom came onto the scene back in the original Super Mario Bros back in ‘85. Back when that game was kicking my ass, the Super Mushroom was a dear friend, helping me stave off death for just a few moments more. 

For all you kids who can regain health just by standing behind a crate, you have no idea how valuable being able to take one extra hit can be. 

Unfortunately, the humble mushroom is no longer the powerhouse it once was. Once SMB3 came onto the scene, there became frequent ways to bypass the mushroom. Just blow by that thing and get to the real shit like the frog suit!

In today’s power-up mad world, I give the Super Mushroom, D. It should fail, but dammit, it tried hard enough to pass.

*Yes, I know it was originally called the Magic Mushroom in the NES guide. Think I don’t read?

Crossing the X’s and Dotting the Y’s: Gambling On Some Pokemon Eggs

Crossing the X’s and Dotting the Y’s is the place for all my Pokemon related thoughts as we build up to Pokemon X and Pokemon Y this October.

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I wouldn’t call breeding Pokemon ‘difficult’ per se. I didn’t get a game over from the deadly trials of riding my bicycle back and forth for absurd amounts of time. A better way to describe it (besides time consuming) is ‘frustratingly random’.

If there is one thing I hate in video games, it’s randomness. If I don’t have a certain degree of repeatable control over my environment, then it is not a game, it’s just gambling. Sorry, but if I gamble, I use money.

When random fluctuations are a core mechanic of what I am trying to do, I can easily go into a blind rage. Try after try only proves that cosmic forces are against me every time it takes more than the average amount of time for me to accomplish a task.

Let’s say that the Pokemon daycare gives up an egg an average of 1/5 for every 200 steps taken. some simple (incorrect) math would say that I should get an egg after 1000 steps. 5000 steps after that, then I get an egg.

Indignant rage right there.

The game was artificially lengthened basically because I was rolling a die with every pedal of my bike, betting on the chance that an egg would show up.

Of course this random theme is present throughout every other aspect of Pokemon, but in most cases seem justified. Rare Pokemon are rare based on the frequency they appear and their capture rate. Stats are varied due to the randomness of IV distribution for Pokemon.

There is no reason for the eggs not just popping out in regular intervals. These Pokemon, MY Pokemon are getting it on, now give me a damn egg you old man!

Crossing the X’s and Dotting the Y’s: Let’s Talk Sylveon

Crossing the X’s and Dotting the Y’s is the place for all my Pokemon related thoughts as we build up to Pokemon X and Pokemon Y this October.

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Sylveon yo, the first update to the Eevee branch since Gen IV. 

Could you imagine Nintendo revealing every Pokemon a day at a time until launch? Man that shit would be cray. 

Let us focus on this dude, chick, thing right now though. It’s only obvious that we consider this first reveal to be deliberate. Some sort of clue as to the future direction of the Pokemon series.

Let’s break down the clues. This is an Eevee evolution, which means  that it will not be the same type as the other evolved forms. Rumor has spread that this will be a brand new Pokemon type, but I don’t think Nintendo would drop that sort of news in this way. 

I am placing my chips on this Sylveon to be a normal type based on its color palette (although judging Pokemon based on their color seems to have stopped being useful long ago.) Because of that, I got a few other notes up my sleeve to help me prop up this bet. 

Consider that new ‘eeveelutions’ come in pairs. In the first pairing we had dark Umbreon wailing on the psychic Espeon. Two generations later we get a Glaceon ice beaming Leafeon into the Pokemon Center emergency room.

So here we are, another two generations later and have one of what is very likely a pair of evolved eevees (eeveses, eevi? Writing about Pokemon is bullshit sometimes, oh man). So the other evolution has to be weak, or strong against this normal Sylveon. That means it is between fighting or ghost type.

I think we can all agree that Sylveon’s counterpart should be a ghost type. The dark styling of ghost types would also give it the sharpest contrast with the brightly colored, bow riddled Sylveon. 

We could also consider how it would evolve. Unfortunately eevee evolve in various ways, from friendship to stones to mossy rocks. I will put a 50/50 bet that however it may evolve, it will have something to do with whether the eevee is male or female. The reason I am iffy on this bet is because I don’t know how deep the X and Y in Pokemon X and Y is actually related to x and y chromosomes (as many fans have suggested). 

I’m willing to put some money down on the following. Sylveon is normal type. Other eevee evolution will be a ghost type. It will be called, I don’t know, fuckin’ Spookeon or something.

Take that to the bank son!

Dear Retro Studios: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D needs online everything!

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One of the greatest parts about the return of Donkey Kong Country with Donkey Kong Country Returns was far and away the simultaneous co-op. I played through the entire game with my, normally Gears of War 3 playing, cousin. We became a maelstrom of monkey fury as we crashed through level after level, always on the hunt for those elusive puzzle pieces.

Getting to go through DKC Returns with a friend, experiencing each wild event contained in all the various levels doesn’t just leave a memory in your mind. It sears an experience into your psyche. 

Basically, Co-op is important. Retro has the technical know how and game delaying swagger to make 100% sure that there is some form of multiplayer in this game. Do they have the savvy to get online co-op in 3D with the great framerate you need to appreciate the incredible graphics stuffed into DKC.

Now some multiplayer battle modes or what have you would be nice too, and maybe I will cover that later when I have some concrete ideas of how that would work.

What is important though is that there also be online high score and best time leaderboards! Though the original DKC Returns has more than enough replay value with all the extra challenges to take on within every stage, it’s clear that online leaderboards would make this game far more competitive. Dare I ask for uploadable videos of those best runs? Okay sorry, I am asking a bit much now, but you are Retro Studios and that means something.

Rhythm Heaven Fever on Earth

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Will someone please use all the amazing beats and rhythms from this game and rap over them, mash ‘em up, funk them out. This series, and especially this iteration deserve way more musical attention than it has gotten.

The world of original music in rhythm games was over before it even began. Parappa, Um Jammer, Gitaroo, all niche titles due to their funky art style and oddball original music. Of course those were also the reasons they were so amazing.

After Guitar Hero and Rock Band saw the light of day, this niche genre exploded. Those games were fun, but original they were not, especially when compared to the artsy freewheeling associated with the creation of Parappa the Rapper and Gitaroo Man. Nintendo SPD continues on in the same vein. the SPD devs have been working the OG rhythm game genre for years now, but Rhythm Heaven Fever was the teams big console break.

Sadly the Wii was already on the way out, and the already hard to place style of Rhythm Heaven Fever went largely unnoticed, likely more than if it found it’s way into the Wii line-up circa 07-09. This is unfortunate because if anyone can breathe some life into this style of rhythm game play, it is Nintendo. 

They could probably do so very easily by simply making some kind of Rhythm Heaven Super Mario with remixed songs and such, which would be awesome considering the zaniness of the Nintendo SPD developers. I would love to see Nintendo SPD cobble together a wacky parody Super Mario musical adventure. Well that idea is both awesome, and money in the bag for Nintendo, I still have to say that I would much prefer wacky originality over wacky re-imaginings as far as rhythm games are concerned. 

Slice it from any angle, and I want to do more rhythmic tapping of the A button along with pea stabbing forks, golf playing baboons and racquetball batting cats and dogs. Truly, this is what we should all want.

Theatrhythm, Final Fantasy Simplified

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This game is like a radiant gem glistening in a hill made of dusty coal. A sparkling ray of light that brings memories of beautiful shores rather than this dirt covered wasteland set before me.

I’m being melodramatic, but we are talking about Final Fantasy here, I think it’s justified. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is the best FF title I have played in a very long time.

If you can’t imagine why the guy who writes about video game music all day loves FF, the main reason for my love of Square and Final Fantasy is the music. If a game was rated on the criteria of sound, story, gameplay and controls, then Square at least hit one of four in every one of their games. 

Square must have known that a subsection of fans was tired of the other 3/4’s of Final Fantasy bullshit.They stripped things down to a game consisting of leveling up, addictive gameplay, and amazing music. Squee delivered the goods. My only complaint is that the story could have been a little more camped up to fit in with the chibi-FF atmosphere of the game.

Let me suggest this, that storyline issue can truly be resolved by the creation of an original game with original music using these simple but effective Theatrhythm mechanics.

An original musical RPG. I am all in Square-Enix.