Josh60502, JustMattPwn3r, and LostAddict1993 meet up again to record a new episode of Frayed Wire X. Do they have an idea of what they are going to talk about? No. Does that matter? Def no.
Listen in for discussions about the lack of new posts on the site, the general suckiness of Sonic the Hedgehog, upcoming gaming consoles, and the public’s inability to accept change in games like Metroid: Other M and Final Fantasy XIII.
Due to some issues retrieving the snazzy intro I introduced last episode, this one starts off right away. U mad about that?
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There is a reason that there are more die-hard fans for Nintendo than any other video game company, and that is because of the revolutionary, generation-defining, and magical games they put out every so often. When the first Super Mario Galaxy was released, it was met with unanimous praise. However, even when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced, fans couldn’t help but wonder if the sequel would just feel like a half-baked level pack that got cut out of the first game. I’ll admit that I can’t compare the two games because I never played the original, but I can most definitely assure you that Super Mario Galaxy 2 does not feel like a collection of rejected ideas. Far from it.
The Mario games have never put storytelling forward, and even though Galaxy 2 is the same in this regard, it doesn’t stand out as a fault. The game opens up with a picture book explaining the setup. It seems typical enough until all of a sudden you’re given control over what you thought would be a still image and the impromptu gameplay that results acts as your tutorial. Unexpected polish like this can be found in almost every aspect of the game, and as a result the quality of the presentation takes a firm spot at the very top of the Wii’s library of titles. The graphics are fantastic and the numerous environments that you experience during the adventure all offer their own unique way of dropping your jaw in awe. Considering the non-high definition hardware Galaxy 2 is running on, this is all the more impressive.
Something else whose high quality threw me off was the music. Not everything is orchestrated, but the songs that are give the game an epic feel. The melodies of the new songs written for this game are memorable and the rearranged versions of old tunes are a pleasure to listen to. Some songs are light and playful while others are grand and powerful. The music always fits what’s going on, but the compositions go the extra mile and provide not just background noise, but fantastic music that could be easily listened to outside of the game. (Now only if Nintendo would release the soundtrack over in North America…)
The controls take advantage of the Wii remote in the best way they can. Mario is controlled with the analog stick on the nunchuck while an onscreen cursor (moved by the Wii remote) can be used to collect star bits (innumerable little objects similar to the coins seen in every other Mario game) as well as shoot them at enemies. All of the other maneuvers Mario has picked up in both his 3D and 2D games throughout the years such as the ground pound and wall jump (among other things) make an appearance, and they have never controlled better. The 3D Mario games have not always had the tight controls of the 2D ones, but with Galaxy 2 that trend has ended. Whenever I died in the game, it was because of a wrong move or a tough enemy – never because of a finicky camera or unresponsive controller. Simply navigating the environments is a joy, which goes a long way toward making the game fun.
The true genius of Super Mario Galaxy 2 lies in the level designs, which are some of the most well-thought-out and creative I have ever seen. Almost every one has its own unique gameplay hook, which keeps the game engaging throughout the entire adventure. The levels throw out the laws of physics, gravity, and conventional video game platforming to create experiences that are both fun and highly original. Just when you think you have seen it all, a new crazy environment pops up to blow your mind yet again.
Added to these levels are a variety of new power-up suits, which give Mario all sorts of unique abilities. One turns him into a ghost, one lets him fly around like a bee, another changes Mario into a rolling boulder, and another gives the plumber the ability to create cloud platforms right below him, just to name a few. Yoshi makes an appearance as well and with him comes a whole new set of challenges and power-ups. Mario games have always set the standard for the platforming genre, and with Galaxy 2, you wonder how much higher that bar can be raised.
If there are any problems with the game, it would be in the pacing. The levels you play are chosen from a world map, and many times the way forward is blocked until you collect a set number of stars. Most levels offer a handful of attainable stars, so you’ll find yourself forced to revisit many levels you had previously beaten in order to collect as many as you can. Luckily, many times the levels’ layouts will completely change if you choose to go for a different star, providing a good balance between familiar elements and completely new trials when you end up playing through that level again. However, my problem was that I would have to find so many extra stars to advance through the game that I felt like it was grinding to a halt. I wanted to see a completely new environment – not revisit an old one. Even though I would essentially be playing a different level when I went for a new star in an old level, I still felt a slight bit of annoyance at this.
That’s a minor gripe, though. In the end, I walked away from Super Mario Galaxy 2 with a renewed faith in Nintendo and the Wii. This game may not yet have the nostalgia attached to it that makes some of the older Mario‘s so much more dear to me, but this is certainly the best Mario platformer I have ever played. I can easily imagine that 15 years from now a whole new generation of gamers will collectively list Super Mario Galaxy 2 at the top of their most-loved childhood games. This experience is absolutely not to be missed by anyone who owns a Wii. I’d even go so far as to say that Galaxy 2 is worth buying a Wii for. And I’d add that in the future, people will have a hard time wanting to get rid of their Wii because of how great this is. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is truly a game that will be cherished for years and years to come.
Pros: Incredible level desgin, great controls, fantastic soundtrack, finely tuned level of difficulty, top-notch visuals, polished in every aspect
Cons: Pacing slows down when you’re forced to backtrack through levels
Final Score: 9.7 out of 10
E3 2010 has come and gone, but Josh60502, JustMattPwn3r, and LostAddict1993 still have much to say about it. We discuss our general lack of interest in Kinect, Sony’s Kevin Butler fan service, and Nintendo’s rekindled love for the hardcore gamer (even if Zelda is looking a little shaky). After running out of topics, we fumble around for ideas and end up talking about Super Mario Galaxy 2, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, the Final Fantasy series, and the dangers of going through an “eBay phase.” Also, we remind everyone that Death Note is indeed the greatest manga ever created.
Give us a listen and leave some feedback somehow, so that you might not have to wait months for the next podcast again.
Nintendo’s E3 this year will not be too surprising, if my predictions end up being correct. It will, however, be enlightening and interesting, as we will finally find out about all the weird things they’ve been quietly introducing.
First and foremost is the 3DS. Essentially a normal DS with some added 3D capabilities, many questions remain. How will it look? How will it give a 3D effect without requiring glasses, as it claims? (My guess is that it will be that Viewmaster-type 3D… if anyone remembers what a Viewmaster is.) How much will it cost? When will it come out? And most importantly, what sweet new games will come out for it that will make me want to run out and buy it? I still have only the original model of the DS (“Old Clunky”), but I know people who have over the years bought not only the original model but also the DS Lite, the DSi, and maybe even the DSi XL. What is so great about the 3DS that all those people should upgrade yet again? Nintendo hasn’t always had the greatest sense of what their press conference audience wants to see, so I don’t think it’s ridiculous to guess that they might neglect to give the 3DS the really strong showing that it needs. It will be interesting to see how they manage to show it off at all to the audience. Will the giant presentation screens be able to convey the 3D effect? I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how they end up doing it.
Possibly the weirdest part of Nintendo’s conference at E3 last year still needs to be cleared up. I’m talking about the Wii Vitality Sensor, that little white… thing… that does… what exactly? Wii Party, the new game in the Wii Sports/Play/Music line has been announced, but little is known about it. I think it’s entirely possible that it might use the Vitality Sensor. In fact, this sounds like a pack-in combo the more I think about it. Nintendo loves to pack in all their new accessories with a game, so why would this be any different? The only question that remains is how that thing will be used. If Wii Party is a primarily multiplayer game, does that mean everyone will be passing around that sweaty little white thing and taking turns putting their finger in it? Sounds kind of gross.
It’s pretty obvious by now that Nintendo doesn’t feel like they need to win the hardcore audience over. But even though they appear to be content as the king of the casual market, I think we will still see Nintendo unveiling more about some hardcore-minded games. Metroid: Other M will probably get a mention, as will the new Zelda game. I’m hoping to hear a lot about the latter title in particular, as it’s pretty much guaranteed to be great already.
Out of the three big companies, Nintendo’s press conference will probably be the worst, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be bad. I just don’t see Nintendo trying anything particularly crazy. They’ve already got a ton of sales under their belt, and they’ll just try to prolong them a little more for the next year. We won’t see anything crazy like a new system this time around, but maybe a cool game we didn’t see coming will pop up. I’ll be watching what they do, but Nintendo doesn’t have me pumped this E3 like Sony and Microsoft do.
Oh, Sonic – always a step behind his eternal rival, Mario. When Nintendo’s lovable mascot made the jump from 2D to 3D, Sega’s blue hedgehog wasn’t quite ready. When Mario starred in an RPG, Sonic took years to catch up. When Mario and co. started playing sports, only then did Sega start to create their own sports game surrounding their mascot. And now, once again, Sonic has entered a gaming sub-genre that Mario pioneered years before – the kart racer. What is surprising, however, is how good Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing really is.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This is not an original game by any means. The wacky antics and smorgasbord of random characters it features have been characteristic of every kart racing game to have come before it. I even found that many of the items that can be used as weapons against other racers correspond to items in Mario Kart. For example, the missiles in Sonic & Sega All-Stars work in much the same way as the shells in the Mario Kart‘s, and the Sonic shoes in this game give you a speed boost much like the mushrooms in the latter title.
The modes available mirror Mario Kart as well. While only a single race was playable in the demo, I saw circuit challenges, a mission mode, time trials, and various battle modes in the multiplayer section (though admittedly there are more of these battle modes than in any Mario Kart game). What this means is that while people who have gotten their kart racing fix on this generation of consoles with Mario Kart Wii won’t see many new ideas put into play here, people who still crave that style of game or who missed that particular title will find a lot to enjoy here. Specifically, I can see kids with either a PS3 or 360 but not a Wii getting into this game the most since there really isn’t already a game quite like this on either of those two systems. Of course there is a Wii edition of the game as well, but unsurprisingly the other two previously mentioned systems hold the definitive version.
The main reason for that is the graphics. The tracks, based on Sega games, look fantastic on the 360 demo that I played. Each one is themed after a particular game from the Sega backlog; most being Sonic-related, but others based on Super Monkey Ball, House of the Dead, and Samba De Amigo, to name a few. The characters are pulled from games such as these as well, sometimes to odd effect. I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s weird to see a very cartoony Tails racing along next to a more realistic-looking Ryo Hazuki (from Shenmue), right?
Impressive as the environments are however, the graphic quality of the game takes a hit from the choppy frame rate. After playing for a few minutes you get used to it, but when I first started the demo, the lackluster frame rate really stood out to me. Even so, there’s so much going on at once that the overall craziness of the game doesn’t feel diminished. Items are flying everywhere, speed lines appear at the borders of the screen before you even realized you got a speed boost, and the tracks often send you through ridiculous jumps or loops. I imagine playing this for a prolonged length of time could leave you with a mild case of ADD for a few hours afterward.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing will probably appeal to kids too young to remember the Dreamcast era where most of the tracks and characters are pulled from, but I doubt they’ll mind much. As far as kart racers go, this a very solid title. As far as Sonic games go, this is surprisingly great. If zany, multiplayer-oriented racing appeals to you, it doesn’t look like you’ll go wrong with the full version of this game.
It’s here! Being somebody that genuinely enjoyed the first No More Heroes, its sequel has been my most wanted Wii game of 2010. Unfortunately though, it is also one of the most disappointing sequels I have ever laid hands on.
Just to clear the air, there is very little that is technically wrong with the game. It runs quite well and the game mechanics are enjoyable throughout. For starters, the combat has been subtly tweaked to make it faster and more visceral. There are new moves which involve the shaking of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk while dashing around your enemies. Other than these few changes, the combat is virtually untouched; so if you liked how the first played, you should enjoy fighting off goons in Desperate Struggle.
However, this segways into my biggest complaint about the game: it ultimately feels lazy. The similarities in the combat are acceptable, it is a sequel anyways. The story, as well as the ranking battles, are less creative this time around. By this I mean, the assassins that you fight throughout the game have little or no character or reason to be there. In the first game, the cutscenes leading up to and following the ranking battles characterized the assassins you would be facing. This is simply absent in Desperate Struggle. Players will find themselves just shepherded into mindless battles with no introduction or reason. Some of the assassins don’t even feel it’s necessary to speak at any point in the process. One of the ranking battles is against a soviet astronaut. No explanation is given as to why he simply floats down to earth in a high position of the rankings list acting as if he hasn’t been to earth in years. It just feels as if the development team didn’t take the time to think anything out.
There are also some points in the story that simply don’t make sense. Now, I’m not going to try and sell you on the fact that No More Heroes was a heavily story driven game, but some parts of this sequel simply don’t make sense. For example,the advertised Shinobu and Henry levels feel tacked on (Shinobu has the ability to jump and the camera simply can’t keep up with it). Shinobu spends her areas killing assassin’s ranked higher than Travis while he is busy, but it is never explained why this is allowed. Should Travis not then have to kill Shinobu to gain the ranks that she gained by killing the higher up assassins?
Finally, the most apparent and bothersome issue in the game is the difficulty. I managed the first game on the highest difficulty and so I began Desperate Struggle at the highest difficulty unlocked from the start (normal), I had quite a difficult time completing the game and was forced to repeat some ranking fights upwards of ten times. I’m not exaggerating. If the game was simply difficult, that could be acceptable. The difficulty, however, often comes from the fact that the ranked fights are simply cheap. The number 1 ranking fight in particular is against a boss who has multiple unblockable attacks including ones that can kill Travis in one hit. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some of the ranked assassin’s will simply walk around the arena throwing slow and easily blockable attacks, making the fights turn into Travis chasing the assassin around the arena whittling down his/her health with single blows.
All in all, I was very disappointed with the game and couldn’t shake off the feeling that I wouldn’t have minded its issues as much if I had not played the first game. It feels like a step back even though Travis’ gameplay is even more fast paced and addictive this time around. It no longer has the simply odd feel that the first game had. You’ll also care even less about the story this time around, despite the attempts to make it more serious and dark. The portions of the game that I enjoyed the most were the arena-like areas before the ranking fights where you had a chance to show off Travis’ skills on random, respawning enemies. This, however, is not something that I can wholeheartedly recommend spending $50 dollars on, especially with truly outstanding titles out now and in the near future. If you loved the first game, it’s likely worth at least a rent to take the gameplay improvements for a spin, and if you haven’t played the first game, go ahead and play this one first so that you’re not disappointed by the drawbacks of the sequel.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
We did it last year at Frayed Wire, and now it’s time to do it again – vote for the best game of the year! I’ll try to get a handful of our editors to make personal lists, but what we really want to know is what YOU think deserves the top honor! Keep in mind that, just like last year, we are asking for your FAVORITE game of the year – not necessarily what you think is the BEST of the year. You’d have to play nearly everything that came out to make a judgment call like that, and believe us, not even we have done that.
Vote in our poll on the sidebar of the site, and the results will be shown in a later post.