What a Wonderful (Super Mario) World


Super Mario Odyssey might be all the rage right now, but Super Mario World was also released this year! On the SNES Classic Edition, of course. Simeon and Scott are taking a trip down memory lane to a game that many still consider the best of its class. Super Mario World changed things dramatically for the Mario series, and introduced many beloved mainstays.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Devolution of Paper Mario Scott's Thoughts

I remember being drawn to the first Paper Mario like a magnet.

It was in a video rental store, and I saw the N64 cartridge sitting on the bottom shelf. I didn’t know why Mario was paper, or why it was turn-based, but I immediately brought it home.

Of course, an RPG like Paper Mario can’t really be explored and beaten during a rental period, so I ended up buying it. I had to! The story, the characters, and the gameplay were so compelling that I had to see the adventure through to the end.

The Thousand Year Door was a beautiful follow-up on GameCube, which I first laid eyes upon at a WalMart. It was one of those demo kiosks where you had to stare up at the ceiling and snap your head backward to see. It continued the wonderful characterizations, thickened the plot, and introduced exciting new transformations for Mario that shook up the gameplay.

Super Paper Mario was memorable. Although stripping out the beloved traditional RPG elements, the game introduced a compelling tale of love and tragedy, alongside an interesting 2D-to-3D mechanic.

And then it all went downhill.

Unique, lovable, captivating characters were replaced with gimmicks of stickers and paint.

This image sums it up well.

The modern entries have their own merit, and bring some amount of charm. But along the way, the franchise lost focus. Paper Mario became more about churning out a quick win for sales and marketing than it was about world-building.

It might have been when the father of Mario gave the Sticker Star team these directions:
There were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—”It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?” and “As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.”Iwata Asks

Miyamoto was wrong.

Innovation vs. Iteration Scott's Thoughts

Innovation: to revolutionize, change, transform, or evolve.

Iteration: to repeat, improve, patch, or expand.

Historically, Nintendo is a very iterative company. Most of their characters and concepts came from the mid-80s, when the company created its first batch of games for NES.

For many subsequent generations, they’ve followed the formulae, making a Mario game. A Zelda game. A Metroid game. Sequels got marginally better, improving upon past issues.

They’ve been honing their craft. Perfecting.

The only problem with this tradition is that it’s not very exciting. People start saying things like “if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all,” and “they keep recycling the same story over and over again.”

Nintendo Wii was the company’s first major hardware innovation in a long time—and they knew it, naming it codename “Revolution.” We were starting to see a brand that was ready to transform the gaming industry. Funny enough, the console’s success caused the console-maker to follow up with a safe “half-step” successor, but the masses weren’t listening anymore.

The good news is: innovative Nintendo is back, and that culture is seeping into their most beloved franchises. Breath of the Wild and Odyssey took a big leap in evolving the gameplay front. Next, we’ll see bigger shifts in story and presentation.

Buckle up! Your responsibility is being open to the change.

NEW Mario + Rabbids Vs. Mode!


Ubisoft just dropped a brand new Mario + Rabbids mode on us, their unsuspecting fans. Vs. mode?! Yes please! Simeon and Scott will showdown and see who is the better strategist. Oh, and one more thing… BWAAAAAAAAAH!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Super Mario Cereal – Worth the Hype?


Super Mario Cereal is a real deal! Initially leaked on the Internet, Nintendo has now come out and officially confirmed the partnership with Kellogg’s that’s going to bring us our new favorite bowl of flavor. Oh, and it’s an amiibo!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

TBC 006: Super Mario Odyssey A Spoiler-Safe Discussion on the latest Mario Adventure

Play

Super Mario Odyssey is Nintendo’s second HUGE sequel installment on Switch. They’ve been knocking it out of the park this year with Switch software support, and we’re here to talk about what Nintendo did correctly, and what they can learn for the future. Join Scott, Ryan, and Glen for their impressions of Mario & Cappy’s cross-kingdom adventure!

Ready for more TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show, and you can support us on Patreon: http://patreon.com/twobuttoncrew

Get Your Daily Nintendose of Fandom on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Incoming Super Mario Movie!


Hold the phone – Nintendo’s working on a movie?! Let’s talk about that! And as usual, Nintendo sales are up and more developers are committing to bringing their games to the Switch!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What this Nintendo Fan is Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Here at the Crew, we’re a thankful bunch, and this is the perfect time of year to count our blessings and reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for.

Thankful for Switch

Nintendo’s latest and greatest console has been welcomed with open arms by the faithful few and, seemingly, the masses as well. The R&D team crafted a unique piece of kit that’s exactly what we wanted, and the launch was amazing. In the months following, software support has been both steady and spectacular. With Switch, Nintendo ushered in a new Golden Age of gaming, and it’s really special to have a platform that brings pure pleasure.

Thankful for the Crew

Two Button Crew affectionately refers to our viewers and subscribers as the greater “Crew,” and greater is the perfect word to describe you folks. The Internet can be a nasty and hate-filled place, but none of that comes with the viewers we attract. It’s been magical to see the sincerity and kindness demonstrated by people who tag along with our content. Every few days, we receive a nice note from a Patron or long-time subscriber, telling us how our entertainment has helped them and wishing us to keep going. The encouragement means the world.

Thankful for Podcasts

Nintendo podcasts are becoming more and more prevalent, with long-running ones still pumping out episodes and a number of new ones that popped up with the release of the Switch. Content creators are more eager than ever to discuss news, impressions, as well as an increase in meaningful topics being lobbied. If you aren’t a podcast listener, you’re missing out on some excellent sound-bites from insightful industry reporters and analysts. For hosts, podcasts are a chance to sit back and talk freely about what’s on their mind in the gaming spectrum. For listeners, it’s like having a group of friends (just as dedicated to Nintendo fandom as you are) that meet together weekly to celebrate all things Mario, Metroid, Zelda, and the rest. The podcast we started this year has been a lot of fun.

Thankful for Unforgettable Games

2017 will truly be a year to remember. We now have our modern version of Ocarina of Time vs. Super Mario 64, with the brand new installments Breath of the Wild and Odyssey. The debates between greater game will live on for decades, hopefully not overshadowing the outstanding Splatoon 2, ARMS, Mario + Rabbids, and swaths of indie games flooding the eShop each week. Switch is quickly becoming a home for masterpieces, whether they are brand new experiences, definitive editions, ports, or remakes.

Thankful for a Bright Future

This year was laser-focused on software quality and quantity. I picture Nintendo’s offices being “all hands on deck” to make this new hardware a success. However, there are other ventures that Nintendo is preparing to embark on; namely a theme park, an animated Mario film, more mobile titles, and more. Development on great software will continue as we are promised new entries in the Metroid Prime series (!) and Pokemon, which will sell systems like absolute bananas. The install base is shaping up to be so huge, no developers will be able to ignore it!

When Nintendo bounced back from the Wii U, they bounced back hard. They’re back in the spotlight, which is a huge payoff for people like us who have followed the brand through thick and thin. I’m thankful we’re currently in the thick of the action!

Have a wonderful Holiday, hug your family, and drag them to your room to play some Switch!

It’s True: Games ARE Made by Humans Scott’s Thoughts

Something especially cool happened at E3 2017. If you only watched Nintendo’s press conference, you missed it.
Shigeru Miyamoto came out on stage and promoted Mario + Rabbids. But even Miyamoto-san wasn’t the star of that show; Davide Soliani stole the spotlight.

Davide was the lead on developing Mario’s crossover with the Raving Rabbids. As you’ll remember, his passion project got leaked onto the internet and was met with a collective “huh?” from gamers.

It was a demoralizing period for his team, having poured months and months into crafting the perfect crossover that no one knew they wanted. The premature announcement was met with uncertainty.

The team pressed onward, through the disappointing turn of events, and made it to E3 where Kingdom Battle had its proper announcement and another shot at recognition. Nintendo lent Miyamoto for Ubisoft’s stage, as well as dedicated a slot of time in their Treehouse stream to showcase the game.

Sentiment around the game started to turn, but nothing so critical happened as when the camera at Ubisoft’s press conference focused in on Davide.

The developer had given Miyamoto the honor of introducing his game on stage, but Miyamoto turned the praise back to Davide and the crowd got to watch his reaction as tears streamed down his face.

The French game designer was overcome with emotion as his sweat equity had finally culminated in a finished product. But most every developer experiences that sensation. Davide also had the unique opportunity of getting to work with an industry idol, and partner with Nintendo on their own property. To see Miyamoto himself introduce a game that he had conceptualized brought him to tears.

“Don’t cry Ubisoft man” became a meme, a tee-shirt, and a rallying cry for those who wanted to show their support for Ubisoft’s crazy mash-up and the people responsible for creating it.

Sometimes, gamers just need a small reminder that humans create the software. Behind every work is a team of individuals with families, needs, and dreams.

For Davide’s sake, and those like him, measure your tone carefully when offering criticism online. The status quo is harsh, and it takes more effort to be constructive. Go the extra mile.

Back to Mario Kart’s SNES Roots!


Simeon grew up with Super Mario Kart, but Scott’s only played it once. This should be interesting. We start with a grand prix and end with a fierce balloon battle. Watch until the end for something you probably never wanted to see!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Super Mario Odyssey – Co-op Exploration!


It’s Simeon’s first time going hands-on with Super Mario Odyssey, and Scott’s beaten the game! In an effort to not be too spoilery, we’re just hunting for moons in an early world (the Cascade Kingdom) and not wearing any costumes that are TOO amazing! We have a blast and we get rich on purple coins and moons!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Happiest Place on Earth

For many Nintendo fans, it is something of a rite of passage to visit the company’s only retail store in New York City. And when I mean “only”, I really mean it. The New York City store is the only retail storefront open to the public for Nintendo fans in the entire world. Every year, thousands of fans make the trek to the Big Apple to visit it. Why?

Because It’s Special

Nintendo New York (formerly known as the Nintendo World Store) is located in Rockefeller Plaza in the heart of the city. Before it transformed into a general Nintendo store, it was a Pokémon Center. For years, fans have made the drive or flight to visit the store. Sure, many come to New York for many other reasons, but stopping here is always a highlight. Some people, like myself, made the trip from Indiana specifically to go to the store, with other activities planned around it.

The store’s footprint is small… but it’s two stories, so the square footage is pretty sizable in the end. But the moment you walk in, you are in instant awe. Besides the eye-popping merchandise that smacks you in the face, the atmosphere and decorations just make you feel good.

Being the only Nintendo store in existence makes it special. It would still be special if others were to open up – which is what some fans are hoping for with the aforementioned renaming from Nintendo “World” Store to Nintendo “New York”. As it stands now, with only one store, it literally is akin to going to an amusement park, and you will look back on your visit there as fondly as if you had been to one.

Because It’s Fun

The Nintendo New York store is like nothing else. It is the hub of Nintendo goodness – one that you don’t even get when visiting the employees-only headquarters in Redmond, Washington, which I did when living in Seattle. If you are a longtime fan like myself, you will spend about a full minute just standing in the doorway with your mouth agape like I did. It is an amazing sight. The store just has a happy vibe to it – a Nintendo vibe, if you will. You are surrounded by beloved Nintendo characters, demo units, games, clothing and more. Much of the merchandise sold here is exclusive to the store. My traveling companion went wild in here when we went – she spent $471 before tax on plushies, T-Shirts, bags and more.

The store regularly holds fun launch events for major games. I was there in May of 2015, the day before the launch of the Wii U game Splatoon, and there was already a long line that stretched down the block in what would be almost 24 hours before the store opened on release day. They make game launches a huge deal with lots of fun, special guests, real life games and contests: they even held a mock fashion show for Style Savvy: Fashion Forward for instance. The pictures that accompany this post are from that time, and the interior has changed since the 2016 remodel.

On the second level you will find a small “museum” section. I believe they change them out every so often, but when I was there they had a section dedicated to the history of The Legend of Zelda with every imaginable game, manual, special edition console and accessories in a three section display case. In front of it was a “History of Nintendo Handhelds” exhibit with every portable console on display – even the obscure ones like the Game Boy Light (previously for sale only in Japan) and the Game Boy Micro. There were also a small aisle with individual cases for each of Nintendo’s home consoles from the NES to the Wii U.

The store is just flat out fun. It is fun to be in. I was in there for three full hours from 9am to just after noon, and it felt like I wasn’t there long enough. It’s a store that invites you to play and have fun, and celebrate Nintendo’s rich history without ever feeling too self-congratulatory. There is no Tom Nook stalking you around to pressure you to spend your bells on anything – you are free to be there as long as you want.

Because You Belong

Going to the store is not unlike going to a convention – everyone in there is a huge Nintendo fanatic, and it feels good to be around them. Your mileage may vary, but sometimes for me, it is tough to admit I am a Nintendo fan among my other gaming friends who specialize in Halo and Call of Duty. Nintendo is looked at as a console for kiddies, despite it being the original home to some of the best M-rated games ever like Eternal Darkness, the Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 4. Admittedly, Nintendo has lagged behind in sheer hardware power for three console generations now, beginning with the Wii, then Wii U and now the Switch. But the draw of the Switch is its hybrid format of being a portable and a home console. I won’t talk about how awesome that is because if you like Nintendo, you are probably already aware.

But when you walk into Nintendo New York, you feel like you belong. No one will laugh at you for preferring Animal Crossing to Battlefield, or you spent over 100 hours playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe instead of organizing your Destiny clan. And just like going to a Comic-Con, you don’t have to be ashamed of your preferences. The store encourages you to have fun and enjoy yourself, and there is no better place to do it than surrounded by Mushroom Kingdom pipe decorations and giant Bowser statues.

Because It’s the Happiest Place on Earth

Forget Disneyland. The Nintendo New York store is the happiest place on Earth. For all of the reasons I mentioned above – but the bottom line is that it is just fun. It’s like an amusement park without the lines (unless, of course, you are there for a game launch event). The employees are friendly. The shoppers are friendly. The music is friendly. The plushies are all smiling at you, and not in a creepy, Five Nights at Freddy’s way. It is an excuse for kids to be kids, and for adults to be kids again too, because it’s impossible not to become awash in memories of your own childhood when in the store and seeing everything they have to offer.


Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life! While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder. Flapjack is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing. When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @flapjackashley.

2017: One of the Best Gaming Years in History?

Fall is already upon us. Leaves are changing, the air is becoming cool and crisp, and good games are seemingly being released left and right. Alas, this blog is not about the season, but about 2017 as a whole. Yes, we have a few more months before it wraps up, but in less than a week, Nintendo’s juggernaut, Super Mario Odyssey will finally be released. I for one cannot wait to sink my teeth into this game. Having already received a perfect score, I think we are in for a fun ride. That being said, I want to focus on what has already been released, and why I think 2017 has been one of the most glorious years for gaming in recent history.

Nintendo is a company that fans expect a lot of. They always seem to set the bar of quality game design higher and higher. Take Breath of the Wild for instance. This game takes the best aspects of the franchise and capitalizes on what makes it great. I felt no greater sense of adventure since I was a young kid playing Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time for the first time. This is undoubtedly special, and why so far Breath of the Wild is currently* game of the year for me.

*subject to change

A franchise that was essentially brought back from the dead this year is Metroid. Samus Returns does everything that I was hoping it would. Appealing visuals and tight controls, along with the new melee addition, make for a really addictive journey. I would love to see the developer have free reigns and make a brand-new Metroid game.

This year in particular, smaller, more tightly knit developers are also getting more attention. Sonic Mania is living proof that sometimes, fans know exactly what is best for a franchise. The game was made by only a handful of inspired and passionate people, and look what resulted. The same can be said for the recently released Cuphead. Though not on a Nintendo platform, I couldn’t pass this one up. The 1930’s art style is one that I have never seen before in a game, and pushing through the brutally hard difficulty is so worth it only to experience more. My point is, gamers are starting to appreciate the hand crafted, quality approach, and developers are responding.

A Game of Year Contender for sure. Competition is fierce this year.

The release of the Switch was also monumental, and completely necessary, to erase painful memories of the Wii U era. I love that Nintendo doesn’t feel the need to compete with competitors by powerful processing or graphics, but with intuitive design. A portable home system is something that will pave the way for years to come. When Nintendo becomes irreverent in the industry, Nintendo is at its strongest. We were also fortunate enough to get the SNES classic, so I can replay some of my favorite games of all time the way they were meant to be played.

Perhaps I consider 2017 so impressive because it made franchises relevant again. It made Nintendo relevant again. No, we didn’t get a new Animal Crossing game or a Pikmin game (at least not the type I’d want to see), but we did get a plethora of games that were not afraid to redefine themselves. When I look back on the year and reflect, I see a year of revitalization. A year of redefining what gamers actually want: quality.

Will Odyssey Deliver on the Mario Formula?

It’s hard to believe, but this month marks another monumental game release from Nintendo! Joining the ranks of games discussed for decades like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64 is the newest game we won’t stop talking about for generations: Super Mario Odyssey. Link did a fantastic job carrying Nintendo’s new console through its infancy, but the torch is being passed to the plumber himself. Buckle up folks, this is gonna be big.

There’s no doubt Odyssey will sell millions, even a few tens of millions, or that it will be a hot topic for the entire Switch lifespan and beyond. But that’s not to say it’s a guaranteed hit. What we don’t know yet is: will it be good? Will it be truly great?

The potential is there. The track-record is evident in the series’ preceding entries. All Mario needs to do is avoid a few pitfalls, stick to what has worked, and wow us from time to time. A combination of tried-and-true best practices and fresh experiences will create a masterpiece.

Half of the puzzle has already been completed. The fresh ingredients: totally accounted for. We won’t be left wanting for any wow-factor, as already evidenced by numerous surprising trailer moments: Mario jumping out of a realistic city street’s manhole, Mario’s hat being alive, the game has T-Rexes… just to name a few.

Today, what I’m concerned with is this: Did the developers keep what worked from previous entries in the series? From the short time I’ve played Mario’s new adventure, and from what I’ve seen of others’ gameplay, I’m not so sure. I keep looking for those non-negotiable Super Mario elements, and unfortunately, some of them aren’t evident. Take a look for yourself.

Tight Controls

If we choose to ignore the Arcade Mario Bros. title, we can safely say that the Mario series has always featured tight controls. Whether you were making pixel-perfect adjustments with a D-Pad, or performing aerial cartwheels with an analog stick, the player always had complete and finite control over the mustachioed hero’s movements. However, Nintendo is pushing a control scheme on this game that will prove to be unideal. They say that disconnected Joy-Con with motion controls is the best way to experience Odyssey. However, that leaves us with the Switch’s signature small sticks (or S.S.S.S. for short). The analogue sticks on Switch aren’t very tall, and thus have a reduced range of motion. That’s fine for games like Breath of the Wild, where your character is often traversing in the same direction for long periods. But for intricate platforming, more range is needed.

I would recommend the Pro Controller as an alternative, but we run into further complications with that scheme, just like we do in Handheld mode: motion controls disappear (good), and are replaced with complicated combinations (bad). You would think with all the face- and shoulder-buttons at the Switch’s disposal, simple assignments would suffice, but unfortunately, performing the spinning-Cappy-throw (for example) requires you to physically spin Mario in a circle before hitting the Cappy button.

Another area you will notice the absence of tight controls is in 2D segments—you know—the really cool-looking 8-bit graffiti art portions? As attractive as those look in trailers, it’s really weird and off-putting to play with a modern controller. Imagine trying to navigate the original Super Mario Bros. with an analogue stick, and you’ll get an idea of the sensation. Furthermore, 3D “rules” of Mario still apply during these retro levels, which means running into a Goomba doesn’t make you shrink down, but you lose part of your life meter instead, resulting in a feeling of disconnect.

Level Design

If there’s one thing Super Mario Maker proved, it’s that we all have a long way to go in becoming level designers. The community generated courses simply caused me to appreciate Nintendo’s internal team more, who have proved time and time again that they can carefully craft experiences that will pull newcomers and veterans through to the end. Each level in a Mario game has clear goals, features, and themes. In Super Mario Odyssey, this clear-cut level design might be ditched in favor of an overly-open, sprawling collection of miniature attractions. Places to earn Moons are abundant, which could be a detriment to more meaningful challenges.

Progression Structure

To be perfectly honest, I’m most concerned about this one. We just discussed the plethora of Moons that this game contains, and it doesn’t excite me. 120 Power Stars was a lot to collect in Mario 64, but it was manageable thanks to a cohesive overworld that guides you to specific worlds, and specific tasks within those worlds. The developers of this new Switch title tout the fact that gameplay is returning to a sandbox nature, but that implementation can be taken too far.

In past Mario games, you know if you’re missing something. You know if a world is incomplete, and if a level was too difficult to clear for the time being.

In Odyssey you are provided with a list of Moons collected (with dates), but how will you know where new ones are? How will you know if you got all the Moons in a certain area, except one that you’re missing one in the corner? How much backtracking will be involved, and how many Moons will I pass up simply because I didn’t think to ground-pound a certain summit, or break an inconspicuous box?

You see, I’m a Shrine kind of guy. I love counting down from 120, hearing my Sheikah Slate alert me to a Shrine’s proximity as I enter a new area of the map… but you’ll never catch me trying to collect all the Korok Seeds. And I’m afraid that Moons are more akin to Seeds than Shrines. I hope I’m wrong.

Power-Ups

Gotta love Mario’s power-ups, right? Fire Flowers, Capes, Penguin Suits, Boo Mushrooms, and more! Well, they’re gone, folks. At least, that’s what this quote from the game’s producer heavily implies:
So when we wanted to create Mario games this time around we wanted to focus on the actions Mario can do and in previous Mario games he was able to get power-ups and new abilities. But this time around when we were making many different prototypes and changed our approach that found capturing or “possessing” enemies worked well so we stuck with that. -Mr. Koizumi

It’s unfortunate, to see such a mechanic go. In 2D Mario games, getting a Super Mushroom and earning that feeling of added security and power is iconic. In 3D titles, power-ups haven’t ever been as strongly implemented, but as a result, getting a Fire or Ice Flower felt like a treat. These elements have been discarded in favor of Cappy.

Gimmicks

Speaking of Cappy, he’s the new gimmick! New entries often feature a defining “gimmick,” be it Yoshi, Fludd, or over-the-top new power-ups like the Cat Suit. These open up whole new gameplay opportunities and dictate much of the level design. Odyssey’s most prominent and promising mechanic is Capture, which satisfies this aspect of the Mario formula nicely.
Let’s just hope Cappy doesn’t turn out to be the new Navi, eh?

Music

Mario music typically accomplishes two things. One: it’s catchy, and it gets stuck in your head. Two: it provides strong location associations. You can close your eyes and know exactly when Mario is underwater, in a dessert, or in Bowser’s castle. Did you just hear each of those themes in your head? I haven’t seen enough to know if Odyssey will deliver on this front, but there’s a good chance it will.

Enemies & Bosses

Baddies in the Mushroom Kingdom are always fun to stomp, and they don’t usually get repetitive or bothersome like the creatures in Metroid: Samus Returns. Hopefully, this game’s design will still lend itself to some combat, rather than just Capturing the majority of enemies in sight.

Bosses, while providing a spectacle, are typically an easy three-hit affair. This is an area where the new Switch title could easily improve upon tradition, and make boss encounters more intricate and memorable.

Charm

What would a Mario game be without charm? Character design, animations, music, and polish all create a compound for charm. Mario may be formidable when facing the forces of evil, but he’s equally adorable.

So… what’s this about real tyrannosaurus rexes roaming around? And realistic, proportionate humans walking alongside Mario in New Donk City?

I’m really questioning these design choices, and have been ever since the game was revealed.

Conclusion

Overall, Super Mario Odyssey appears to be a hodge-podge.
That’s the word for it. Just a big stew of locations, art-styles, new and old Mario sensibilities, and certainly a gigantic mix of objectives and tasks.

Will such a recipe, with that many ingredients, actually turn out well? I sure hope so, because I’m a day-one customer and lifetime Mario fan. I do trust Nintendo, but I’m not fully sold on this new direction, and I know I won’t be unless I take the game home and it proves me wrong. If that happens, I’ll update you! Fortunately, I’m entering the experience with low expectations, and that’s the safest posture to take. We’ll find out on October 27th!

Mario Odyssey Gameplay + Impressions (PAX 2017)

Yes, it is great.


#596 – Super Mario Odyssey is Nintendo’s next big hit game coming to Switch. We went hands-on and explored the Sand Kingdom. Included in this demo are a few different 8-bit challenge sections, purple coin locations, and an interesting Capture mechanic that involves a big Tiki Head and sunglasses. Enjoy this sneak-peak at Super Mario Odyssey!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Is Multiplayer Mario a BAD Idea?

In a word: yes.


#587 – We haven’t seen the New Super Mario Bros. games in a little while, but is that such a bad thing? Nintendo was leaning heavily into the multiplayer aspects of these games, but many gamers found it surprisingly frustrating to share the screen with their friends. Maybe Mario just isn’t a well-suited series for multiplayer. Let’s discuss it! Footage credit: TheRunawayGuys, WiiLikeToPlay

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What’s the History of Mario’s Design?

Heh. Tom Selleck. Heh heh.


#581 – The man, the myth, the mustache… Mario himself. Did you know that Miyamoto originally wanted to use Popeye as a mascot? Do you know who Mario is named after? Prepare for your mind to be blown – we’ve got all the details!

Footage credit: Kotaku

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What is “L is Real 2401”?

I guess we’ll have to wait 384 years to see what this cryptic message means.


#576 – L Is Real. Those 3 mysterious words have echoed in our minds since the Nintendo 64 days, where they showed up in Super Mario 64 and later in Ocarina of Time. But the question still stands: what does it mean? This video goes out to Crew member Rachel!

Footage credit: The Easter Egg Hunter
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Manual Transition

If you’re old enough to remember printed game manuals, you’ve probably heard gamers joke about how superfluous they were. Ever since the mid 90’s, games have featured in-game tutorials and, even then, most people are smart enough to figure out the basics just by fiddling with the controller for a few seconds. They were utterly redundant. And yet, just about everyone admits that the first thing they did when they bought a new game as a kid was read those blasted booklets cover to cover. I know I did.

Nowadays, print manuals have been phased out in favor of in-game tutorials and digital guides accessible with a few, quick button presses. But just because something’s extinct doesn’t mean it’s not worth studying. Let’s take a look at how game manuals evolved over the years.

Kids love extinct things!
These have been gone for eons, and yet every natural history museum has to have at least one.

I’ll be limiting this examination to one mainline Mario title per console generation: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Why? Because contrary to popular belief I actually have a life, and to do this properly is way more work than even I’m willing to put out.

Printing

The most noticeable difference between manuals at first glance is their physical construction. The original Super Mario Bros.‘s manual is approximately 5.2×4 inches, which is considerably smaller the manuals of later generations, which all average to roughly 4.6×7 inches. Of course, size differences pale in comparison to the actual printing. With the exception of the cover and the gold Nintendo Seal of Approval on the first page, Super Mario Bros.‘s manual is entirely in black and white. Later generations would feature full color print for their manuals. Moreover, much more thought was given to how the pages were laid out, with sentences no longer being split between pages and more organic placement of text and illustrations. The last item of note is Super Mario Galaxy 2‘s manual is written in three languages: English, French, and Spanish. As to be expected, this tripled the booklet’s thickness.

Story

Back in the day, the only way to know a game’s plot often times was reading it in the game’s manual. Even after games started to become self-contained by providing opening cinematics, manuals continued to provide brief summaries of the game’s premise.

As to be expected, the plot summary of the first Super Mario Bros. is short and to the point. It describes what happens, without going into much detail as to how or why. Moreover, we don’t get to see things from any character’s point of view. Because of this, the narration has a sense of detachment from the plight of the hero, giving the plot summary a matter-of-fact tone. In short, it’s not so much a story as it is a plot.

In short, it’s not so much a story as it is a plot.

By contrast, Super Mario World‘s story uses a limited third-person narrative, presenting the story from Mario and Luigi’s perspective. The characters are presented as, well, characters: they’re given motives, emotions, and even dialog. Moreover, the story is actually presented as a narrative, with events playing out in sequence. Interestingly, the story (in the North American manual, at least), makes reference to the events of Super Mario Bros. 3, indicating that SMB3 is canonical despite Miyamoto stating it was all a stage-play…

Super Mario 64 continues the increased focus on narrative, notably by spending two whole pages on story! The story starts with a dose of self-awareness by asking, “Is there no end to the constant feuding between Mario and Bowser?” Afterward, the plot is told entirely from Mario’s perspective, with frequent interjections from the man himself. These quips from Mario are actually a bit jarring for anyone used to Mario’s modern portrayal, as they actually communicate some personality. It seems at this point Nintendo wasn’t afraid to let Mario be his own character instead of a stand-in for the player. Other than that, the story unfolds much like Super Mario World’s, which is to say a narrative instead of a plot. Interestingly, Mario 64 and Super Mario World‘s stories both include some overlap with what the player would see during gameplay.

It seems at this point Nintendo wasn’t afraid to let Mario be his own character instead of a stand-in for the player.

Super Mario Sunshine‘s story section is somewhere between the style of Super Mario Bros. and its super Nintendo and N64 predecessors, mostly leaning toward the former. While it attempts to convey the story with the sense of drama of Super Mario World and Mario 64, it only describes things in broad strokes. Like Super Mario Bros., there’s no focus on characters, instead favoring a description of events from an outside perspective. I assume this is in part due to the inclusion of cutscenes in the game itself. Since this was the first Mario game to be almost entirely self-contained when it came to plot, Nintendo probably thought it would be redundant to put information in the manual that the player would receive in-game.

Lastly, Super Mario Galaxy 2 somehow manages to beat even Super Mario Bros. in brevity. It doesn’t even set up the story’s conflict. All we learn from it is that Mario’s been invited to the castle and meets a Luma along the way. That’s it. The Prologue page actually devotes more space to character bios than story, which—given the game’s focus on gameplay over any semblance of plot—is probably appropriate.

Controls and Gameplay

The most important part of a game, and thereby the most important part of a game manual, is the gameplay. Gameplay and controls vary from game to game, even within the same franchise. As such, these sections are going to differ quite a bit on the granular level. Seeing as this is an examination of the evolution of game manuals and not the Mario series, I’m going to look at the big picture: what’s emphasized and how those instructions are written.

So right off the bat, I noticed something peculiar about the way pre-2000’s manuals were written. Often times when explaining controls or specific actions, the manuals often phrase actions in terms of Mario and not the player. For example, when listing the uses for the A-button, the Super Mario World manual says it “Makes Mario jump,” instead of, say, “Makes you jump.” Sunshine and Galaxy 2‘s manuals instead phrase controls and player actions in terms of the player, using terms like “when you touch an enemy” and so on.

This is interesting as conveys the idea that—despite the player controlling him—Mario is his own separate entity, with the player simply giving him instructions rather than Mario being an extension of the player. That said, I would be remiss to not mention that the pre-2000’s manuals were inconsistent in this trend, often alternating between describing actions as being performed in third-person (i.e. Mario) and second-person (i.e. the player). Also interesting is that while Mario Galaxy 2‘s manual exclusively describes the actions Mario can perform in second-person, actions that Yoshi can perform are exclusively third-person, indicating that the player isn’t the character he’s controlling, he is Mario.

This conveys the idea that—despite the player controlling him—Mario is his own separate entity.

Older games take a very different approach to describing gameplay. Both Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World go into great detail about everything: defeating enemies, items, kicking shells, using the weird pink ramps in Mario World, everything. Super Mario 64‘s manual spends most of its pages explaining analog movement, items, and how to progress through the game, with basic concepts like stomping on enemies being mostly glossed over. Sunshine‘s gameplay section is almost exclusively about all of the different moves and actions Mario can perform, only briefly touching on game progression or items. Lastly, while the Galaxy 2 manual mostly lists moves, it does go into more detail when explaining the mechanics of recurrent items and stage features like checkpoint flags than the previous 3D games.

I don't know why, though; it all makes perfect sense. Hitting something from below knocks it over, stomping on something hurts it, and kicking turtle shells turns them into balistic missiles capable of defeating entire armies.
Early manuals explained every facet of the game.

Personally, seeing how ideas and perspectives have changed over the last 30+ years is fascinating. We’ve seen Nintendo promote Mario as a character, only to make a 180 and make him a simple stand-in for the player. Then there’s getting to see what they thought was important for each game: back when Mario was first introduced, stomping on enemies, kicking shells, and so forth were new ideas, and the manuals tried to explain everything they could. Later games trusted that the player was familiar enough with the series—or video games in general—to figure out how to use their abilities and instead focused on the basic controls and the game’s new ideas, such as Mario 64‘s analog movement.

Unfortunately, this is where the story ends; Nintendo phased out print manuals during the Wii U era in favor of digital manuals, and now with the Switch, we don’t even have those. It’s a shame really, because, as I’ve just shown, even if you don’t need a manual to play a game or understand its plot, you can still learn from it.

What Nintendo Character Am I?

If you ever need your eyebrows slimed, call us first.


It’s popular with the kids and it’s popular with the squids – SLIME! Simeon and Scott are here to play with slime (in a Nintendo-like fashion) for YOUR enjoyment. So play along and see if you can guess the characters that their slimy faces portray.

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/