March 10th– Mar10, or “Mario” Day– got me thinking about what my favorite Mario games are. It wasn’t easy to put them in any specific order, or to finalize which games made the list and which ones didn’t… but here’s what I decided on. This is my first High Five… my five favorite Mario games!
5. Super Mario 64: Hearing Mario talk for the first time in 1996 was both jarring and amazing. I mean… Mario had been the silent protagonist for years, so hearing him talk blew my mind when I first saw Super Mario 64 at Fantasy Realms in Springfield, MA. Moving Mario around in a three-dimensional world was also both jarring and amazing; having the freedom to move around in any direction instead of just left or right was so different, and yet the charming simplicity of the earlier games was lost a bit. In fact, I’ve never managed to “beat” this game. I’ve felt so overwhelmed and intimidated by it that I stopped trying years ago. Super Mario 64 is also a tough game, and I spent many nights trying to get through certain Bowser stages, only to end in failure too often. Nevertheless, Super Mario 64 is memorable for me in many ways… and playing it helped me to escape a bit from some rough times in late 1996 and early 1997. That earns it a spot in the Top 5, edging out Super Mario RPG and Mario Party 2.
4. Super Mario Bros.: Ah, yes. The game that really started it all. I remember seeing it for the first time as a coin-op in 1985 while visiting a roller skating rink in Chicopee, MA. There was quite the crowd around it; I squeezed in to get a look, and the person playing seemed to know just which blocks to hit to get items, like coins or mushrooms. Little did I know back then, but this game would become a hit for what would eventually be my favorite home console of all time. While Super Mario Bros. is also difficult, I never felt terribly frustrated with or overwhelmed by it. It was simple to learn and difficult to master, and it still is. The music is iconic, the level design is still easy on the eyes, and I still have fun testing myself to see how far I can get without continuing. Super Mario Bros. easily deserves a spot in my Top 5 list, even though there are games I favor a bit more.
3. Super Mario Galaxy: Oh, boy. I found so much to like about this game. The sound, the visuals, the new suits and powerups, the level design, the just-right level of challenge and difficulty… I could not put this game down for a solid week when I played it back in 2007, and it remains the last new Mario game that I “beat”. After being disappointed with Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy was a fantastic return to form and ultimately wound up being my second-favorite Wii game, behind Wii Sports. If/when I add a Wii back into my library of game consoles, Super Mario Galaxy will be one of the first games that I get. I really want to play through this game again– perhaps more than any other Mario game, on this list or otherwise.
2. Super Mario World: Boy, it’s a close call between this game and #1. When some friends of mine and I picked up our new Super Nintendo consoles in the fall of 1991, this was easily the first game that we all played individually– and then together as we gathered at my house or someone else’s. Mode 7 effects blew my mind, with scaling and rotation, giving Super Mario World that “next-generation” feeling that the aging NES just couldn’t deliver. The soundtrack and music sounded amazing as they came through my stereo speakers, with left-to-right channel separation and reverb effects. Multiple paths for certain stages added a measure of replayability that I hadn’t seen before in a Mario game. Yoshi was a neat addition. The boss battles were fun. Super Mario World did so much right and easily justified the money I spent on the SNES that year… and yes, it still holds up very well almost 24 years later.
And… at the top of the list…
1. Super Mario Bros. 3: While I was ecstatic that I finally got my own Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas back in 1990, receiving Super Mario Bros. 3 with it sent me over the top with joy. I’d played a bit of it at friends’ houses, but owning it and getting to spend time with it made me see just how great the game is. There’s lots of variety to the level designs, each with its own challenge and theme. Temporary flight with the raccoon or Tanooki suits added new areas to explore. Boss battles were as much about making it to the boss as it was about the challenge that awaited. Minigames for extra lives and items were enjoyable diversions from the arduous task of making it to the final showdown with Bowser. Sure, it could be argued that Super Mario World wins the aesthetic battle with Super Mario Bros. 3, but there’s just something about what this game was able to accomplish in scope and in technical ability for the time and the hardware involved. In fact, I prefer playing this game on original hardware instead of ports on the SNES (Super Mario All-Stars) or other systems. I can replay Super Mario Bros. 3 over and over again on my NES, and it never gets old or painfully frustrating. It’s all joy for me, and it’s the Mario game that I would choose 10 times out of 10 if I could only own one.
Bear in mind, of course, that this is my own list. I have my own preferences, just as I’m sure that you do. In fact, I’d love to see your own personal Top 5 Mario games list– but remember: It can only be five games! Feel free to use the comments to share your list… or you can Tweet at me and tell me what your list is.
As always, thanks for reading. Look for more content here soon, now that Spring Break is near. In the meantime, you can check out my YouTube channel, which has some fairly recent videos… including a couple of new Retro Unscripted episodes, which were fun to put together.
It’s more than 24 hours later, and I’m still seething over Adaptergate. I think though, that between yesterday’s blog post and today’s video, I’ve said just about all that I can say about it and have to force myself to move on.
If you look back at entries on this blog from a few years ago, you’ll see other examples of questionable business decisions that I called other companies out for. This is something that I got away from, because honestly it never mattered to anyone else but me. Things like questionable DLC and the industry’s perception of used games were never going away, especially not because some random guy said they should.
Adaptergate bothered me more than anything in the last year or so, because I was keen on the New 3DS. I wanted to get one. It seemed great with its small improvements that would be nice to have along with a new unit with a fresh battery… but I can’t, in good conscience, spend $200 on a device that doesn’t come with a way to charge it after two hours of use. That’s akin to telling Nintendo, “I have no problem with your fleecing me. Please do so again next time.”
It’s a reminder to me of why I’m moving away from modern video games, in general. The industry doesn’t just want consumers’ money– it wants more of the consumers’ money. It’s never enough. I never thought we’d go back to the days of the Game Boy Advance, where we were responsible for batteries to get the thing working… but here we are. It’s not $200 for a New 3DS. It’s $215. And you have to buy two items– not just one that includes the other. When we buy new video games these days, publishers are always pushing for not the $60 I paid for the game itself, but the additional $20+ for DLC… much of which was announced weeks before the game hits store shelves. We also no longer expect our games to work as advertised on the first day it’s released. We’re expected to wait a few days, because games are complex, or too many people are playing, or some other excuse.
It’s disappointing, to be certain.
To whom it may concern:
Thank you for sharing your recent Nintendo Direct presentation online. I had been wondering for awhile if this “New 3DS” handheld was coming here to the United States. Friends and colleagues had shared their experiences with the somewhat upgraded hardware, and it seemed like it was something that I might want to trade my 3DS XL in towards.
I also want to thank you for talking me out of buying that New 3DS. You almost had me, I admit. Part of me wanted to run down to my local video game store and place a preorder right away… but then I found out that you aren’t including an AC charger with this hardware. If I was to trade in my 3DS XL, I would be forced to buy another charger separately… but if I didn’t trade in my 3DS XL, $200 for a slightly improved 3DS would’ve been rather steep.
So, instead, I’ll be keeping my “Old” 3DS XL and spending the difference between on trade-in and a New 3DS on something else.
It does seem rather greedy to stop including AC chargers with new hardware, after doing so here in the USA for more than a decade. I bought a GBA SP in 2003, an original DS in 2005, a DS Lite in 2006, a DSi in 2009, a 3DS in 2011, and a 3DS XL in 2013… and all of these handhelds had an AC adapter. It was nice not having to spend extra money to keep my purchases working out of the box. Admittedly, I traded in earlier handhelds to get the newer ones, and you might be surprised to learn that trade-in places actually require the charger to be accompanied with the handheld! That means that I don’t have six AC chargers lying around. I have one, and it would’ve been traded in with my 3DS XL towards the New 3DS… which means that your $200 price tag is, well, rather misleading.
To me, this isn’t a very customer-friendly move, despite what your company claimed in its (frankly ridiculous, in my opinion) explanation of the decision to no longer include the adapter with purchase. When I buy an upgraded smartphone or tablet, I get a charging cable… even if I already have one. It’s not a burden; in fact, it’s a convenience to have an extra charger hanging around. Of course, it’s probably a financial burden for your company– and one that I never expected that you’d pass on to your customers– but hey: You’ve got to do what’s best for you.
But that’s no longer my problem, I guess. I’ll keep enjoying my “old” 3DS XL, and you keep doing what you’re doing. I’m grateful for you talking me out of upgrading to the new one. My money is better spent elsewhere, and your decision helped me to see that.
Have a great 2015!
DuckTales Remastered hits this week for some platforms, and pre-release reviews are out. Some like it, and some really don’t like it. My own opinion of the game is reserved, of course, since I don’t have it. Based on what I played at E3 just a couple of months ago, though, I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. It felt, to me, like a sharper version of the NES original with better presentation and aesthetics. Understand that I really enjoyed the original game, so Remastered was something that I had fun with.
The problem that I have with the negative reviews I’ve read, specifically from EDGE and GameSpot, is that they tend to take shots at the original game. Both complain that the original DuckTales was dull, repetitive, and unremarkable. Both take advantage of Remastered to basically tear down the source material, which to me indicates a bias problem.
- Played the original game and carry over sentiments and experiences… or
- Never played the original and are judging the game based on today’s standards, which is ridiculous.
Look at what GameSpot’s Tom McShea closes with as a shot at the original game:
DuckTales Remastered will make you doubt happy memories from your childhood, or leave you baffled as to why people were nostalgic for such dull platforming in the first place.
The bias is pretty clear in this sentence alone, coming from a professional who claims to “love platformers”. If McShea didn’t like the original game, what chance did a remastered version of the original have of changing his mind, and why is it incumbent upon the game to do so? It’s like asking someone who dislikes vegetables to write a review of the latest salad at a restaurant. You know what you’re going to get. The basic sentiment of the review is already set in stone.
EDGE takes a similar swipe at DuckTales here:
Because the uncomfortable truth is that DuckTales is nothing more than a serviceable adventure, a colourful romp through a variety of bright and inventive settings that does nothing particularly interesting.
Yes, really. After more than 20 years, EDGE writers finally took the time to trash DuckTales because the release of Remastered offered an opportunity to do so. Last I checked, opinions aren’t “truth”. I don’t care who writes it: EDGE, GameSpot, IGN, myself, or anyone else… there’s no “truth” to that quoted statement. That’s what really burns me about some reviewers and websites, honestly. They can create their own “truths” because they’re supposed experts in their field and readers obviously cannot think for themselves. If the reviewer in this case wanted to open a dialog (which he/she obviously didn’t) about the original and why he/she thought so lowly of it, that’s one thing. Instead, “truth” is an inarguable fact. In this case, it’s grandstanding.
In the case of this wave of HD remasters, it’s easy to forget who the target audience is sometimes. DuckTales hasn’t been a relevant IP in years. It stands to reason that Capcom and Disney were targeting fans of the original game with Remastered. Heck, if you were at E3, it was pretty obvious. There really were (and still are) people who enjoyed DuckTales for what it is. There wasn’t a wide-reaching story, There wasn’t character development. It didn’t have super-precise play control. It was and still is, for many of us, just fun to play– flaws included.
I’m not a fan of reviewers using remakes and remasters to pursue formerly hidden agendas about older games. It’s a handicap against the game that they’re supposed to be reviewing, hopefully with some degree of fairness. At least those who had positive experiences with the source material can be relied on to point out specific negatives because, if the remaster or remake is disappointing… it’s on the remaster. Negative experiences with source material when reviewing remasters is, to me, just bad form.
If these reviewers feel the need to take a dump on nostalgia, it’d sure be nice if they’d take that agenda outside of the review instead of weighing it down.
After lots of speculation about Madden NFL 25 not seeing a Wii U release, Electronic Arts confirmed it via a recent statement (courtesy of Nintendo World Report):
“We will not be releasing a Wii U version of Madden NFL in 2013. However, we have a strong partnership with Nintendo and will continue to evaluate opportunities for delivering additional Madden NFL products for Nintendo fans in the future.”
Let’s get the hyperbole out of the way first. Not having a Madden game in 2013 will not kill the Wii U. It’s instinctive to think that a lack of EA presence on the platform could be akin to a kiss of death, similar to what we saw with EA spurning SEGA and the Dreamcast. This is a different animal, I think. Yes, the lack of sports games will hurt attempts to position the Wii U as a primary console. There’s a pretty large base of consumers who buys sports games, and not having the most popular sports IP in the United States on the Wii U platform diminishes its sales potential. This doesn’t mean that the Wii U is finished, however. Nintendo still has its stable of strong IP to draw from that can’t be played anywhere else. It’s similar to what we saw back in 1999 and 2000 but Nintendo’s IP stable is stronger. If EA doesn’t come back to Nintendo, perhaps circumstances regarding some sports licenses will change… such as the current exclusivity deal between the NFL and EA. We’ll have to wait and see on that.
While Wii U will battle on, it’s undeniable that losing Madden for a year– combined with no NHL game, no NCAA football game, no PGA game, and no MLB game for this first full calendar year for the new platform on the market– is a painful loss. There also isn’t any assurance that FIFA will see a Wii U release. That would mean that only the NBA would see a Wii U game. Perhaps sports games don’t sell on Nintendo platforms, but when you’re trying to establish sales momentum ahead of competition from Sony and Microsoft and with the likelihood that both new consoles will see at least a Madden game this year (if not also an NHL game), that’s a considerable disadvantage. For sports game consumers looking to upgrade early, the Wii U simply isn’t an option without support. It’s one thing for the games to sell quietly; it’s another for the games to not even be there as a potential lower-priority selling point. I understand the claims from Nintendo supporters that “nobody” (read: very few) buys Nintendo systems for sports games, but not being one of the platforms that a multi million-selling game is going to be on is viewed as a negative by many. Like them or not, sports games are a very important cog in the video game economy.
I understand the cries of “Not fair!” and “EA sucks!” from Nintendo supporters. The rather quick dissolution of the “strong partnership” that EA and Nintendo reportedly had not too long ago is certainly suspect. Perhaps there’s something to the theory about EA’s pitch to Nintendo regarding Origin going south killed that relationship, but there are other factors to consider. Unit sales for the Wii U platform are historically low, tracking the lowest in the first six months at retail since the Nintendo 64 some 17 years ago. Could EA make a return on its investment to port its games over to the Wii U since the install base is so low and since sales of most third-party games on the platform are terrible? Given that EA is trying to scale back projects and save money, perhaps this wasn’t as “personal” a decision as some see it and it’s more of a business decision based on success potential. I think that’s a plausible scenario, but unless the truth comes out from EA brass (which I doubt), we’ll probably never know for certain.
I do think that there’s some culpability on Nintendo’s end here, too. Nintendo’s struggles with third-party relations are worsening, and this apparent divorce with EA is the biggest loss yet. What have Satoru Iwata and his staff been doing to keep EA engaged, if anything? Why isn’t Nintendo reaching into its war chest to make it worth EA’s while to keep supporting its platforms with games? Where has Take-Two been? Where is Konami’s Wii U support? Why didn’t Tomb Raider make it? There are lots of questions and no answers from Nintendo brass, aside from the now-popular Internet meme of “Please understand.”
At some point, Nintendo has to make a decision about third-party relations. Nintendo, at this point, has few allies in the ranks. Ubisoft is still supporting Wii U, but the concession of Rayman Legends moving from exclusive to multiplatform and seeing a significant delay was a blow. Capcom is there to some extent. There’s some question as to Activision’s trust in Wii U, with an air of uncertainty regarding a version of the newest Call of Duty game for the platform. Early reveal notes pointed to releases for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC; however, the Wii U was not mentioned on the list of platforms and retailers are not taking reservations for a Wii U version. I even witnessed a Call of Duty: Ghosts preorder for Wii U get turned away as the customer was told that the game isn’t coming. We don’t know whether it’s coming or not. Some claim it is, but Activision has been coy with its answers to questions about the situation. That absence is not helping Wii U’s perception to customers. If Wii U doesn’t have sports games and (at this point) doesn’t have Call of Duty, there’s no real impetus for people to sink $350 into the platform unless they’re Nintendo diehards. “Old” platforms like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are getting it. It’s a safe bet that the new Xbox is getting it. It’s likely that the PlayStation 4 is getting it. Those last two platforms are fine in not yet being confirmed. The new Xbox isn’t even revealed yet (but will be on May 21st, when the first full reveal of Call of Duty: Ghosts will be shared during the event), and we know the PS4 exists but don’t have many details yet. Compare that to the Wii U, which has been on the market since last November and can be purchased right now. No Call of Duty? No Madden? Possibly no FIFA? Those are perception problems and point to weakness in the Wii U’s software catalog. Again, where is Nintendo in this? Is there not enough clout for Nintendo to get Activision to show its hand a bit?
In the worst case scenario, we will find out if Nintendo fans are right about first-party software being all that Wii U needs to thrive. I don’t believe that to be a good scenario for Nintendo– or, at least, one with a positive outcome. SEGA also had a fairly strong first-party lineup, complete with sports games, RPGs, arcade games, adventure games, and more. SEGA was unable to weather the third-party drought after a strong launch lineup and a solid & steady first-party release slate. Key third-party support is very important to the overall success of a platform, and without it, a very long and uphill battle awaits for Nintendo as its competition gets assault plans ready.
I’ll be very interested to see while attending E3 just what Nintendo’s strategy is. The leaders at Nintendo are not dumb and I’m sure that there will be a plan of attack. I just hope that it’s a good one.
News of Nintendo electing not to hold a press conference at E3 this year is getting all kinds of reactions across the internet. The two main camps that people are setting up in are these:
- Good move for Nintendo. Less money spent, plus Nintendo Direct events have basically replaced the traditional press event.
- Bad move for Nintendo. It shows weakness and risks losing valuable coverage from the mainstream press.
When Nintendo started rolling out its Direct events during E3 last year, I wondered then if this would be Nintendo’s new direction. Then we got a Nintendo Direct event after E3 which announced many of the games that we would have seen at E3 in past years. It seemed to me that E3 was no longer as much of a priority for Nintendo as it once was, and I firmly believe that this latest move reinforces that line of thinking. It’s important to note that Nintendo will still have some sort of presence at E3 this year, despite the lack of a press conference. Closed-door press gatherings and events for retailers will be held, and Nintendo will most likely have a booth/area for attendees to see what the House of Mario has up its sleeve for the next year. It’s less complicated and likely less expensive to use this new, bold approach than it is to rent out the Nokia Theater and invest in light shows and set pieces.
My concern with the decision is that Nintendo Direct events don’t have a wide reach outside of the Nintendo ecosystem. Nintendo fans watch them religiously, and gaming press does a great job of summarizing and reporting on these events during and after they happen… but what about those who haven’t yet bought into what Nintendo is selling? Mainstream media like USA Today or network news aren’t going to follow Nintendo Direct events. Worse, the lack of a press conference similar to what the competition will be delivering does arguably show a sign of surrender, as if to say, “Yeah, we were gonna get blown away by Sony and Microsoft anyway, so we decided to cut our losses.” When Spike TV, Game Trailers, and many other gaming press sites streamed Nintendo’s press conferences, people of all kinds would watch… not just the Nintendo faithful, and not necessarily just core gaming consumers. Now there’s nothing to stream. Nintendo broadcasts its Nintendo Direct events on its own terms, via its own streaming networks, and if you don’t actively seek them out, you’ll miss out. Then Sony and Microsoft really will have all of the draw, and Nintendo will be left to its loyal fanbase to buy their games while others go elsewhere.
If I was Satoru Iwata (which I’m certainly not), I would have used the press conference to assert the fact that despite its perceived troubles, Nintendo is in great shape. Split the event in two, starting with Wii U and showing off the games that the company has slated for the rest of 2013, including the very important Q4 period. Take the time to explain to the audience exactly what Wii U is, and what it can do. Eliminate the confusion. Show confidence in it. Then deliver the 3DS side, showing off the games that are finally on their way which will propel the handheld back to positive YOY comps. Show Pokemon. Show Zelda. Drop a surprise. Make the audience believe. The press conference, in my estimation, didn’t have to be about rolling out anything new at all– it could have been a re-roll opportunity for Wii U and a great chance to show the masses that 3DS is in great shape moving forward and that 2012 was an aberration.
But that’s me. The only things that Mr. Iwata and I have in common are wearing glasses and playing Rollerball for the NES (a game that he was a producer on). I don’t run a major video game company worth billions of dollars. It’s far too easy for me to sit here in front of my laptop at 2am and talk about what I would do since there are no ramifications for me. My idea is just that: an idea, and not necessarily the right thing to do.
The thing that we must do right now is to wait and see how the decision affects the overall outcome. If sales improve significantly, those who criticized the decision will have to eat some crow and Nintendo potentially sets a precedent for other companies to follow. If results don’t improve that much, we can again talk about Iwata’s fate and how his poor decision-making have put Nintendo in a delicate state. We won’t know– we can’t know– for quite some time.
I do have my reservations about Nintendo’s big gamble, but the die has been cast and I’ll be very curious to see whether the company doubles down or busts. No outcome is guaranteed, and it’ll be fascinating to watch things unfold during E3 and beyond.
So… you probably heard the news already: Wii U sales for the month of January were less than 60,000 units. That’s less than 12,000 units per week of the reporting period. That’s also despite the Wii U being the first new video game console (non-handheld) since late 2006. This number should be addressed by Nintendo as “unacceptable” for the US market, which saw the Wii dominate the early and middle parts of this past console generation. Investors should be nervous that the US may not adopt the Wii U strongly enough before Sony and Microsoft present their new hardware, likely later this year. I know that I would be.
Having said that, let’s keep some perspective here when discussing the Wii U in terms of mid-to-long term prospects.
First, and probably most importantly: It’s far too early for Nintendo to take the WiiU out back and put it down. We’re looking at three reporting periods. I know that the same attitude was taken with the Vita– which also strongly disappointed in January sales figures– but three months don’t make or break a console. It’s more than a stumble out of the gate; it’s a blown engine on the first lap for Nintendo and it’s up to Satoru Iwata and the rest of the pit crew within Nintendo to fix the problem and get back into the race. I think that things will get better down the line, but I can’t say with confidence that it’s going to be a huge improvement. Once we get into Q4 and we see new PlayStation and Xbox hardware, Nintendo could very well lose much of its retail advantages. On the flip side, perhaps consumers balk at pricing for these new consoles… or maybe the games library at launch for either or both isn’t particularly deep. If that happens, and if Nintendo can convert promised software to reality, there’s certainly a chance for Nintendo to move some decent numbers in Q4.
Second, there’s a problem with too few games in the channel. Nintendo is working on this, but development is taking some time. Regardless of the reason for the delay in having these games ready sooner in the Wii U lifespan, it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll see more games in retail channels before the holidays and sales should hopefully ramp up a bit from Q2 on. Nintendo still has a problem with weak third-party support which puts them in a difficult situation. If these other publishers don’t or can’t come through with software, more pressure falls on Nintendo to close that gap and increase its quantity and production. I suspect that more third-party games will be coming, but it’s possible that Wii U isn’t a priority for publishers. Many of the biggest publishers are likely placing their bets on Microsoft and Sony, given recent sales performance. As long as Nintendo can handle the load and provide appealing games with some consistency, the Wii U will remain an option for at least some consumers.
Finally, if push comes to shove, a price drop has to be an option to spark sales, especially as we get closer to the other platform launches. Leveraging a price advantage over the competition may coax some fence-sitters to buy in, especially if the games library increases significantly later in the year. Nintendo most likely won’t kill off the Wii U without at least trying the price cut option. I realize that Wii U is already selling at a loss, but combining a price drop with compelling games has worked for Nintendo before. That’s not a guarantee that it works again, but I believe that it’s at least possible that it will stimulate growth if it happens.
I see a lot of reaction to this story as a premature eulogy for the Wii U, and even for the console market at large. I believe that sales expectations must begin to be tempered for both. The Wii U most likely isn’t going to be another runaway success like the Wii was, and several factors can be identified as reasons for continued contraction of the console market, as well. People bristle and get defensive about the rise of the mobile market, but it’s getting harder and harder to explain mobile away as irrelevant and “not good enough”. The truth is that mobile isn’t “good enough” for a loud minority on the Internet. Many other consumers have embraced the mobile market as a cheaper way to play games and as a convergence point to do everything from talk on the phone to play games to watch movies. Mobile won’t kill consoles. It might take some business away, but there will remain a market for console hardware and software sales for the foreseeable future. It’s just going to be smaller.
I’ll be working on a more complete analysis of January’s NPD hardware sales data for Popzara Press for early next week. I’m waiting to see if any leaks or clues on 3DS and PS3 hardware sales come to light over the weekend before trying to put my column together.