The Confessions of a Save State Abuser

-by Dylan DiBona

I was like anybody else; I used some save states on the classic Mega Man games, so I wouldn’t have to redo entire levels when I lost all my lives. I tried to keep my use of them ethical and correct. But the harder the games I played, the more I used them. Suddenly I was making save states every ten seconds, my gameplay was constantly being interrupted. It’s true, I am a save state abuser.

It’s not often that most video game players from all different brand loyalties can form a collective opinion. Save states are cheap, that’s what they’ll tell you.

I agree with the sentiment mostly. Older games like on the NES or SNES really extended their longevity by proving to be a challenge to the user. Some like me would argue that this forced the player to not only learn the game but get better at it. Unfortunately for an older gamer, there’s less time for something like this. Spending a few hours on one stage may be no problem for a teenage on summer vacation, but for an adult spending his handful of hours of free time? No.

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Why it’s Cheap

For those who don’t know, a save state is when you suspend any time of gameplay you want. You can then keep playing the game and if you die, you can load the save state and skip over harsh death penalties. The very definition oozes cheapness and being unfair. You’re technically not playing by the original rules. Mega Man gives you three or so lives to complete a stage and a boss- those are the rules. By using save states you can ignore those rules by giving yourself infinite chances at any point of the stage.

Imagine playing Monopoly and right as your friend lands on your fully upgraded property, they “load a save state” right before they’ve rolled the die and roll again in attempts to pass your property. It’s not fair.

Defending Save States

Some like me would argue that a lot of retro games had an artificial sense of length due to unjustified difficulty. I’m not interested in that sense of length, I just want to play a good game.

A save state is not only a good way to save time, but it’s also a good way to get familiar and learn a game. Say you’re playing Super Mario Bros 3 and you’re unfamiliar with Bowsers attack pattern. By using save states you can learn his patterns and become properly equipped to fight him.

In most cases I try to keep my save state uses fair, only using them in areas I genuinely believe there should be a checkpoint. Some games do push me over the edge and constantly force me keep clicking that cheating button.

Let’s be honest, who here has played a retro video game and has at least thought “this is bullshit”? Almost everybody. Save states allow you to build a bridge over that frustration while allowing you to still enjoy the game.


Any gaming purists here who hate save states? How come? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading!

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Super Castlevania IV Review [SNES]

-by Dylan DiBona

One day when I’m elderly I’d like to sit down in a chair and know I’ve tried most (if not all) of gamings biggest series and games. I still have some pretty huge gaps until I get even close to halfway there, and one of those glaring holes was Castlevania. With an animated Netflix show coming June 7th, I thought what better time to try and jump into the series?

Can I just say before I start, I absolutely love the imagery of Castlevania. The dark and dreary Gothic architecture, ominous vibes and sense of necessity all make the series feel so epic (cliche word, I know). The original Castlevania was so close to being my favorite NES game of all time, but I find that it suffered in its latter half due to needlessly painful enemy placement and overall difficulty. With a little surfing of the web I discovered that Super Castlevania IV is somewhat of a remake of the original game, and with my love of the Super Nintendo I decided that it would be my second shot at an entry point.

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It’s never been officially stated by Konami if Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the original, but let’s go that route for the sake of this review.

SCIV places you in the role of Simon Belmont. Every 100 years the forces of good inevitably weaken and a once dead Dracula comes back to life, seeking to reign evil across all living things. The Belmont family (or clan) has taken the duty of slaying Dracula and all creatures of the night for hundreds of years, this time it so happens to be Simon’s turn.

I absolutely love this concept, knowing exactly who the final boss will be and having a familial line of protagonists gives each game a sense of connection. The Belmont’s remind me of the different Link’s from The Legend of Zelda, or each unique Jojo in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure; connected but unique.

The presentation jumps full force with this story in mind; the title screen is a decaying brick wall with creepy crawlies running around. The 16-bit music imitates organs you’d hear in a church while mixing it with that classic Super Nintendo sound; not every song is memorable genius, but most are catchy and fit the tone. The sound effects all work well but I felt like the whip could’ve used more “oomph”, it sounded like a cat hissing every time I swung it.

Image result for super castlevania 4The gameplay is responsive and improved from the original NES adventure. Players get eight directions to swing the whip instead of two, and can even jiggle their whip around for some reason. Definitely the best improvement is being able to control your jump in mid-air. I do miss the simplicity of a two direction whip, but I understand why SCIV decided to go all out- what better way to spell out “enhanced remake” then by upgrading the main way of attacking? Items are back and serve the same purpose but to a lesser extent. In the older Castlevania games, items were great for taking down hard hitting enemies and bosses. You’d want to save a specific item like the Clock or Cross for a certain boss, however Super Castlevania IV is generally a bit easier and practically any item will be useful for every boss. Back when Egoraptor used to make insightful videos on gaming, he made one on this very topic. It’s worth the watch.

The first four levels were great, they were slightly challenging but no so much where the player couldn’t learn and get better with time. Unfortunately Super Castlvania IV suffers from the same issues as its original counterpart: latter half difficulty. I won’t lie, some enemies from the original like Bone Pillars and Axe Knights are incredibly easy now, but by the time Stage 6 rolls in enemies are everywhere and move around much faster than Simon; obstacles get crazier like falling gears in a clock tower or giant mechanical buzz-saws. It becomes total mayhem at points and without my cheap use of save states, I wouldn’t have beaten the game. I give credit to SCIV for making a lot of aspects easier, but some things like intense knockback is just plain obnoxious and when four or five enemies are flying around the screen, I felt hopeless.

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The amount of damage enemies do is brutal too. Let’s again use the example of five enemies flying around the screen. Simon has sixteen rectangles of health and each enemy does two points of damage. If you mess up once or twice you could be looking at very low health or death. And this is Castlevania, not Zelda; you don’t get health for killing enemies, but for finding chicken hidden in candles or the walls. I think even the developers knew they messed up with scaling enemy damage because in the final boss battle with Dracula, one of his moves actually gives you chicken to heal up. Why would a developer make a boss heal you unless he did far too much damage?

Super Castlevania IV did a really good job at impressing me with its monster vibe. It made me feel like I was in the mid 1990’s where I could go to a video rental store and pick up a werewolf or zombie VHS. It feels classic and in many ways, it is. I believed the game to be possible without my use of save states until the end when it just kept serving up bosses and intense obstacles; I know people can do it without save states, but even bosses like Death require cheap exploits like staying hidden in a corner. I really do believe the Castlevania series would have been better off ditching the concept of over the top challenges.

Super Castlevania IV is a fine game.

I’ll gladly return to it one day in hopes of being better. I’m genuinely happy it was the first Castlevania game I’ve beaten, here’s hoping to many more.


Any Castlevania fans here? What do you think of this entry in the series? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Let me know down below and I’ll try to reply! As always, thanks for reading.


Confused on my review score? Click here for an explanation!

Five Best Video Game Controllers

-by Dylan DiBona

When you first open that new console up, there’s always that small but important moment when you hold the controller that’ll be accompanying you for dozens, maybe hundreds of hours of gameplay for the very first time. Is it comfortable? Heavy? Light? How are the buttons? A bad controller can sour a gaming experience, cramp your hands or even just make you annoyed. It may seem like an afterthought to some, but my fellow players who have spent hours on bad controllers know the difference. These five controllers have made my gaming experiences much better.

Note: I’m only discussing controllers that come with a console, nothing you have to buy separately.

5. Xbox One

I have somewhat sour memories when it comes to the Xbox 360 controller, part of the reason I hate going back to my 360 is the remote itself. I don’t like constantly needing batteries and having to tape the battery pack on so it won’t fall out. The Xbox One controller fixes those issues while giving the gamer some really great thumbstick grips and the greatest triggers I’ve ever felt.

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It didn’t change too much, but the things the Xbox One controller did revise like the clunky d-pad from last generation are all welcome updates.

 

4. GameCube

The GameCube controller is either something you love or hate. Other than the Z-button being in an somewhat odd place, all the other buttons are comfortably close to one another, hugging the A button.
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It’s an odd looking thing and the C-stick isn’t the best way to control a camera, but with games like Super Smash Brothers Melee or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you couldn’t ask for a much better remote.

Most first party games on the GameCube make this weird controller feel perfectly natural.

3. Nintendo Entertainment System

Minimalism at it’s finest. I’d never actually held an NES controller in my hands until I picked up an NES Classic, and it felt perfectly naturally. Incredibly light weight, responsive buttons and a solid d-pad. Much like the GameCube, you couldn’t ask for a better remote when it came to the games on the system.

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Everything from Super Mario Bros, to Tetris, and even Ninja Gaiden make the controller feel absolutely perfect. I know we need more buttons and complexity for modern games, but I find it to be a genuine shame that there’s no room for a controller this simple today.

 

2. Wii U Gamepad

I think the initial disliking of the Wii U gamepad has passed, which is great because it’s an actually good controller. The d-pad is perfect, the face buttons are soft but responsive, and the triggers feel nice too. Despite the size, my hands don’t cramp up and the tablet itself is very lightweight. I’ve actually had those TV commercial moments where my dad wants to watch football but I’m playing Zelda, and with the tap of a button my game goes onto the tablet screen and my dad gets to watch his team lose. It’s handy and always impressive (maybe not so much with the Switch now).

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My only gripe with the controller is the placement of the ZL and ZR buttons, much like with the GameCube controller, Nintendo put these buttons close to the player than the triggers. So if you want to press ZR, you have to awkwardly move your pointer finger closer to yourself. Luckily not too many games ask use you press those buttons.

 

1. Dualshock 4

The total opposite situation of my Xbox 360 is currently going on with my PlayStation 4, part of the reason I love playing on it is the controller. Lightweight, responsive buttons, nice joysticks and great triggers make for an awesome remote. It’s the quintessential gaming controller.

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However, the touchpad, speaker and lightbar are incredibly underutilized and could probably save the consumer twenty dollars or more if they took them out. Other than that, I’ve found my soulmate in the gaming controller realm.


What controller is your favorite to game with? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.

Gaming Question Sunday #9: Craziest E3 Hope

-by Dylan DiBona

Hey guys! Welcome back to Gaming Question Sunday. Basically I’m going to ask everybody a question in hopes of getting a good discussion going on in the comments. This will be fun and also make Sundays a bit easier for me so I can focus on writing better stuff for the work week. So anyway, time for the eighth question:

What is the biggest, craziest and least likely to happen announcement you’d love to see at E3 this year?

I’m not really dying for anything to announced this year at E3. I’d really like to see some more 3DS game announcements, maybe a Super Mario Sunshine remake or even Galaxy on the little handheld. I’d really like a Dragon Quest XI release date as well!


Let me know your answers down below guys and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading this week.

Accepting the End of a Console

-by Dylan DiBona

I didn’t fully take it in until The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but the Wii U has been the home to countless fun-filled memories; my friends and I love the little system. After 72 hours exploring Hyrule and putting my gamepad down for what felt like the last time, I was sad. The Wii U was my second big step into the Zelda series, it’s how I played both Super Mario Galaxy games, got into Pikmin and of course spent almost 400 hours playing the new Smash Bros. Simply put, the Wii U is a great console and I don’t want my time with it to end, so I bought Bayonetta 1 & 2, and in a month or so I’ll be getting Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Am I just in denial?

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When I was younger I didn’t really care when a system became obsolete, I always wanted new stuff; but now I’m old enough to feel things like sentimentality and nostalgia. Placing that ever so comfortable gamepad down for the “last time” instantly gave me flashbacks of playing Super Mario 3D World at 2am with a buddy, trying to get every Green Star. Now that the Nintendo Switch is out and about, I’m going back and bulking up my Wii U collection. Is it a smart idea?

Well, yes! In most cases, whenever a new system comes out, a game store will practically throw away their last-gen games with “buy three get two free” sales and the like. If you want to game for an extremely affordable rate and don’t care about release hype, it’s actually smartest to be a generation behind. I’ve seen deals at GameStop for an Xbox 360 and three games for less than a hundred dollars. Now remember how I said “most” cases? Nintendo isn’t like that. I’m not sure if it’s a tight grip from the company themselves or game stores realizing that Nintendo is a quality brand, but their games stay at a high forty dollars or more mostly. Collecting for their older systems may be a headache, so make sure you definitely want to.

Another reason doing something like this is a good idea is, it’s fun! I never would’ve played Bayonetta without extra incentive to fill up my Wii U shelf. It’s another example of how life or feelings can change our gaming tastes.

So will I accept the end of my Wii U? Not quite yet. I’m pretty sure the Breath of the Wild story DLC at the end of the year will be the true finale for Nintendo’s little console.


So guys have there ever been any systems you clung onto for dear life? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.

Emily is Away Review [PC]

-by Dylan DiBona

I have a more than a few games I’ll be trying to cram into this three day weekend and one of them is Emily is Away Too, a sequel to the free to play indie game Emily is Away. The sequel drops today and in celebration I thought I’d quickly go over the short and memorable original game.

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Emily is away is mostly enjoyable because of its simplicity. In it you play a high school graduate boy who is moving away for college. One of your best friends is a girl named Emily who is the same age as you and also moving away. You navigate through a late 1990’s/ early 2000’s AOL chat-room while talking to Emily, trying to progress through a slightly emotional story.

If you’re an older player, the idea may seem novel and cute for nostalgic purposes, but the truth is this game will more than likely hook you in emotionally. The game allows you to pick your real name, screen-name and profile picture for the in-game chat-room. Whenever Emily said a sentence with the name “Dylan” in it, it stuck a chord within me.

I have friends who I’ve met through gaming websites, people who I’ve never seen in real life, I bet most gamers do. Emily is Away takes advantage of this concept and really runs home with it.

The gameplay is cute and simply, mindlessly typing buttons on your keyboard while an in-game message appears, and clicking on whatever you can find. There’s no music, but it really fits the overall presentation. To put it simply, Emily is Away is an absolutely solid thirty minute experience. I implore you to download this game for free and get a fun half-hour out of it. You’ll leave with a broken heart and a smile.

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Another short post today because of work guys, sorry! But honestly, you need to play this game! It should hit home with almost everybody, and with the sequel being released today, why not jump on the hype! Anybody already play this game? Let me know your thoughts below and I’ll do my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.

How Our Gaming Tastes Change

-by Dylan DiBona

As a kid, my favorite games were action-adventure. I loved (for some reason) licensed games from Nickelodeon like Nicktoons Unite; the only turn-based games I could handle without getting bored were Pokémon. I was addicted to Kingdom Hearts 2 and about seven years later Skyrim. I really cherished fun gameplay and a sense of adventure. Turn based RPGS were boring to me, and I didn’t like hack n’ slash titles like Devil May Cry even though Kingdom Hearts accompanies DMC in that genre. But now I find myself playing turn-based JRPGS quite often and I’m liking hack ‘n slash games for their action and simplicity. This brings me back to why I don’t like selling my games: you never know! Nineteen year old me currently doesn’t like Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but maybe when I hit twenty-three I’ll love it.

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1 & 2 will be at my house Friday.

Like with anything else, age and varying positions in life can have a critical effect on our tastes in gaming. I know for a fact than I can happily consume a sixty hour JRPG right now, but as I get older those games will be harder to find time for, and then I’ll be looking for 20 hour JRPGs instead. Another example will be this upcoming summer and beyond; I’ll be working a lot more and soon I’ll need to take my gaming to handhelds. But comfort and accessibility aren’t the only factors here at work. Sometimes with more age and knowledge we focus on aspects of games we once didn’t. Hack ‘n slashes bored me with tedious gameplay but now I realize the potential for combos and overall satisfaction of slicing up baddies.

I wrote a piece a long time ago about the importance of trying new genres of video games, to expand horizons. This kind of ties into that, you never know what you’ll like- or in this case when you’ll like it!

I guess my main message here is, don’t sell that game you’re not too crazy about, give it a little more time and who knows what’ll happen!

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Sorry for the short post today guys but I’m actually going back to work finally! I’ll do my best to keep up the daily schedule. Have you ever had a case where you ended up liking a game at a different stage in your life? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.

amiibo: Three Years Later

-by Dylan DiBona

On June 10th 2014, the world was introduced to amiibo by Nintendo. Amiibo (stylized with a lowercase “a” and no “s” in the plural) were not only Nintendo’s response to the massive success of Skylanders, but a full fledged successor to their NFC figurine game Pokémon Rumble U. Many like me called the concept unnecessary and annoying; “Now I need to buy a figurine to get the most out of my games?” It seemed like nonsense and a stupid disguise for DLC. It’s been three years later and more than once I’ve brought home an amiibo. The real question is, was I originally right?

*Side Note: All pictures are from my personal amiibo collection*

Let’s get the truth out of the way first, amiibos are physical DLC. Around half a year ago I got the itch to buff up my geek collection and buy some figurines, only problem is that I’m not the type of guy to spend $100 or more on plastic, I’d rather buy more games. Is physical DLC really such a negative thing? Not only do we get more to our games, we get a trinket to display. Many console gamers are against digital games and only buy physical, so isn’t it nice that we get the same choice for DLC? Despite their size, amiibos are nothing to scoff at from a design point of view.

Level of Detail:

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Blue Yarn Yoshi

The first amiibo I decided to pick up was a Yarn Yoshi, not even because of the in-game goodies, but because of it’s look. It’s cute and small, and most importantly the yarn aesthetic is perfect. But perhaps this isn’t the best amiibo to show you when bringing up design and detail.

Since the first entry on NES, the Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto stated that Samus had a beauty mark on her chin. Due to lack of proper technology and camera perspective (Prime), Other M was the first Metroid game to display Samus’ face correctly. Well guess what? Even on a three-inch figure they got that very same detail down.

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It’s hard to tell, but look at the bottom right of her face.

Note other details like the design of her gun and lines on her suit. Nintendo didn’t cheap out when it came to amiibos. Their characters may be somewhat cartoony but that didn’t effect how their figures look. If that isn’t enough proof of attention, check out another detail on my most recent amiibo. I was playing Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and realized that the co-protagonist Celica was wearing earrings.

Well guess what? Just because she has long hair almost covering her face doesn’t mean her earrings aren’t there!

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I’m no figure expert but everything from the eyes, nose and mouth seem perfect.

 

 

In-Game Benefits:

Okay so the figures themselves are ideal appearance-wise, but like I said before, amiibo are DLC; are they good DLC?

When I picked up The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, it came with a Wolf Link amiibo. Tapping this NFC-figure onto the gamepad would allow Link to transform into his wolf form quicker and easier than ever. Not only that but you unlock the Cave of Shadows, a fun little side trial full of enemies. Other Zelda figurines give you things like arrows, hearts or even make Link take more damage, so other than the Cave of Shadows most amiibo unlock harmless stuff.

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Midna’s arm, Link’s eyes and fur- I can’t get over the amount of detail for $15.

Now Breath of the Wild is a little bit harder to defend because scanning any Zelda amiibo can unlock you exclusive costumes. Whenever costumes are DLC you hear the age old complaint “I remember when I could unlock costumes!”, which is true and I can’t really dispute that.

The truth is that amiibo don’t unlock massive chunks of DLC, they merely assist the player and give them very optional but enjoyable goodies. Let’s face it, have you heard of any controversy about amiibo-exclusive content? No. Nintendo games are like fully loaded nachos and buying an amiibo is like asking for extra jalapenos, it adds to the flavor but if you didn’t have them it doesn’t ruin anything.

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I get an extra dungeon with a secret sword because of this amiibo; awesome but not necessary.

I’ve come to three conclusions after writing this article:

  1. Amiibo are harmless, they don’t take anything away from non-buyers.
  2. Amiibo are truly for Nintendo fans.
  3. I was wrong at the beginning of this post, they aren’t physical-DLC; they are figures that come along with some virtual bonuses.

While I don’t justify Nintendo’s extremely low supply of amiibo, or their endless variations of certain characters (how many Link’s do we have by now? 10?), I have to say that their line of figures is definitely justified.

I love being able to stack the little guys and gals onto my shelf and think “I have a nice collection!”. They’re also a great way to get fun costumes and maybe even a few more hours out of your game. So I may not have the full on amiibo-fever and buy every single one like some people I know, I am indeed in love with amiibo.

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Anybody here disagree with my thoughts on amiibo? Which figure is your favorite? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.

Five Best Mario Games

-by Dylan DiBona

With E3 coming and the thoughts of a new Super Mario Odyssey trailer being released, my excitement for the plumbers series has skyrocketed once again. Like many people, Mario has brought me endless hours of clean fun and even though I wrote about him yesterday, I decided to honor the series once more with my definitive list of the “best” Mario games. One quick rule:

  1. No spin-offs. Mario is a platforming icon first and foremost, so only platformers allowed. (No Yoshi’s Island either, I love that game though.)

 

5. Super Mario Bros. 3

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It may seem like pure blasphemy, but I’ve never been quite as fond for Super Mario Bros. 3 as most other people. It’s an objectively good 2D platformer with tons of secrets, power-ups and fun to be had, but I always found the game to be just a tad too hard. Certain elements of level design and enemy placement/behavior make Super Mario Bros. 3 a bit of a retro headache every time I go back. It may not be number one but I can’t deny how much fun this game will always be.

4. Super Mario 3D World

Two criminally overlooked Mario games are Super Mario 3D Land and its sequel on the Wii U. 3D World mixes elements of 2D and 3D Mario, and for the first time ever in a 3D entry of the series, the main focus is multiplayer. Taking cues from Super Mario Bros. 2, players can control Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad or Rosalina who all have unique abilities.

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I’ll never forget certain levels or the silly yet simply brilliant Cat Suit. But most importantly, I’ll never forget the countless hours my good buddy and I sunk into getting 100% completion. Doing this without a guide gave us a chance to dig as deep as possible into every level and realize just how smart the design of the game is. Truly one of Wii U’s best.

 

3. Super Mario 64

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It’s a true challenge to transform the magic of Super Mario 64 into words. We’ve gotten the 3D Mario sequels, Banjo-Kazooie, Ratchet & Clank, and Yooka-Laylee- but none of them match of the feeling of Super Mario 64. You never really knew what was coming up on your journey, just that you needed to keep collecting stars.

This mysterious air of Super Mario 64 keeps players in love with it even until today; the popular rumor that Luigi is in the game sparked fan determination to find him. We’re still discovering new things like hard to reach coins in certain levels. It’s a game that feels like it’ll live on forever, and for that it doesn’t really feel retro to me, it feels immortal.

2. Super Mario Sunshine

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Okay honestly, I understand any flak I may get for this decision; but Super Mario Sunshine is a gem of a video game. I really cherish originality and this entry of the series really capitalized on that; the story doesn’t revolve around Peach, you’re not in the Mushroom Kingdom, there are no themes for the world except for tropical and you get a water powered jet-pack.

The people who hate this game don’t even give it credit for what it did for future games of the series. It started the whole “episodic” nature of stars, it introduced a playable 3D Yoshi and the Shadow Mario stages look strikingly similar to all of Super Mario Galaxy.

It may not be perfect with its dumb blue coins, glitchy pachinko level, terrible voice acting (which I love), but Sunshine is one of those games with visible flaws that I still really enjoyed. There’s nothing quite like it, and I have a feeling there never will be again.

1. Super Mario World

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It should be a genuine question to all who’ve played Super Mario World if video games get any better; it embodies the medium absolutely perfectly. The game can be beaten in an afternoon, but with a keen eye you can spend days trying to find every secret in Dinosaur Land. Your basic abilities are simple: run, jump and spin jump, but when you find that Wing Cape, Fire Flower or Yoshi you’ll try your hardest to hang onto them for as long as possible. Unlike Super Mario Bros. 3, you won’t get caught by absurdly tricky enemies, the difficulty is just right.

Unlike Sunshine I don’t see any flaws within World. I’ve beaten the game three times but explored its levels over and over, I know the tunes, I know the colors, I know the secrets; there may be no game I know better than Super Mario World. It’s an absolute classic and if you enjoy video games but never played Super Mario World, change that right now because it is video gaming at its peak.

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So there’s the five best Mario games in my eyes! Do you guys agree or disagree? Give me your top five down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading!

Super Mario 64 *VS* Super Mario Sunshine

-by Dylan DiBona

Welcome to the first entry in a series of blogs I’ve been wanting to start forever; Versus! In case the premise isn’t obvious from the start: in “Versus” I will pit two video games against each other and try to determine which is better. I’m going to try and avoid things like which game I personally enjoyed more during my analysis. One duo of games I’m always comparing are Mario’s first two steps into three dimensions; Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Before I start, I’d like to tell you the five categories I’ll be comparing (which are up for change depending on genre or series):

Gameplay, Level Design, Stars, Music, Bosses

I believe these five aspects of a 3D Mario game to be the most important. Let’s face it, things like stories and puzzles aren’t the reasons we keep coming back to the plumber.

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 Gameplay

Let’s skip over the obvious fact that Super Mario 64 was revolutionary at the time; how does it play today? I never grew up with an Nintendo 64 and didn’t actually get one until 2014. That was the same year I first played Super Mario 64 and to my surprise it holds up like a dream. Mario has the ability back-flip, long jump, wall jump, triple jump, belly slide- tons of moves; they’re all easy to perform and thankfully don’t feel clunky when compared to modern games. The occasional hat power-ups are fun and useful, the only slog being the Wing Cap you see so decoratively placed on the cover- controlling Wing Mario while attempting to gain altitude is no fun. Super Mario 64 might just be the strongest game from its era, today.

Let’s give Nintendo a little credit when it comes to Super Mario Sunshine. Every ignorant outsider berates them for “copying and pasting” the same game over and over. Nintendo could have easily made a Super Mario 128 with the same basic gameplay as 64,  with similar settings and levels, and you know what? It probably would’ve sold just as well as Sunshine. But they didn’t do that. Instead they gave Mario a water-powered backpack filled with new moves. Returning elements like Mario’s back-flip feel silky smooth and even easier to perform than ever before (more so than the Galaxy games too!). With F.L.U.D.D, the water-pack, Mario can hover in the air, blast water at enemies and belly slide infinitely. F.L.U.D.D also makes a great and creative weapon against graffiti and ink covered bosses. The power-ups for F.L.U.D.D like the Jet Nozzle and Rocket Nozzle are enjoyable, but only the former feels useful most of the time.

Overall I believe Super Mario Sunshine to have a better controlling Mario. The creativity is also another thing I have to note, it’s part of the reason this game shines (pun intended).

SM64: 0    SMS: 1

Level Design

Believe it or not, Super Mario 64 is actually still pretty unique in terms of its level design when compared to its followups. 64 is oft labeled the “open world” 3D Mario; by travelling through Peaches Castle and collecting a handful of stars, you can open up doors practically anywhere you want. Not only that but once you enter a world you can grab any star you want. Technically you’ll be going into a world for a specific star, but you can leave with a totally different one if you want to. It’s this sense of freedom that hasn’t really been repeated in 3D Mario and it’s something worth noting.

Another great aspect of Sunshine I see nobody giving credit for is setting up the “episode” structure of the beloved Galaxy 1 & 2. After 64, every time you enter a world, it’ll change for whatever specific star you’re after. This unfortunately takes the aforementioned freedom away, but this also means that you can’t see everything a level has to offer within one visit.

On a cosmetic level, 64 is the quintessential Mario to show newcomers. You get the classic grass, fire and ice worlds with a few uniquely themed levels to join in on the fun.

Sunshine on the other hand is less about tradition and absolutely about its new setting, Isle Delfino. Levels aren’t meant to feel unique, but instead feel like one small bit of a bigger cohesive world. Unfortunately one big issue dragging the levels down are the blue coins. Not only is there no way to track them down, but some blue coins are only available on certain episode variations of a world.

Despite my love for the beach aesthetic, 64 gets the point for the sense of freedom and discovery which feels true to its era.

SM64: 1    SMS: 1

Stars

So we lightly touched on this topic in the last category, but I want to discuss what it actually takes for a player to get a star in these games.

In 64, a star can sometimes be nabbed in seconds, other times you’ll have to interact with characters and appease their wishes. The game is full of secrets and mysteries like the 100-coin star hidden in every world. Super Mario 64 does star collecting perfectly, and it sets itself up as a genuinely fun but possible challenge for those looking to 100% it.

The Delfino equivalent to stars, shines, function the same but take a little bit more to collect. The super easy stars are gone and almost every shine asks Mario to either complete an episode specific task, collect 100 coins or grab every blue coin. My main issue with Sunshine as a whole are the blue coins. 24 of 120 shines are used up on the obnoxious challenge of finding every blue coin, and if you paid attention to the last category then you’ll know that the task isn’t too easy. Not only do the blue coin shines get annoying, they lack creativity- you’re just paying money for shines and that’s no fun.

Super Mario 64 easily takes the cake here.

SM64: 2    SMS:1

Music

Oddly enough, this may be the hardest category to judge. You need more than two hands to count the amount of great tunes found in Super Mario 64. Dire Dire Docks, Peaches Castle, Koopa’s Road, Bob-omb Valley, File Select, Credits Music- and so much more. These tracks mix new and old and have been referenced in countless new Mario games today. I’ll go on record as saying that this game is probably the second most iconic in terms of music for the series, right after the original Super Mario Bros on NES.

In the past categories I’ve given praise to creativity and newness, that won’t stop now. Super Mario Sunshine may not have the most iconic songs in Mario history, but it has tons of the best. Instruments and sounds we don’t normally hear in Mario all come together in Delfino Plaza, Gelato Beach and Bianca Hills. The music is the perfect representation of Super Mario Sunshine; not repeated, creative, and cheerful.

I’m the type of guy whose tired of hearing the same Mario themes in every new game. It warrants praise when a series so old can spice up key elements and make it work. Sunshine gets the music category.

SM64: 2    SMS: 2

Image result for mario sunshine

Bosses

And so we come to the final category; bosses. Now normally I wouldn’t consider a Mario game dependent on it’s bosses, but the 3D games usually put a heavier emphasis on the bigger battles. Seeing as 64 was the first step into three dimensions, the bosses aren’t too varied here. The most notable ones are King Bob-omb, Eyerok and Bowsers multiple battles; they all work well enough and test the players mastery of Mario’s abilities. Most of them are forgettable, but they’re all solid and simple bosses.

Super Mario Sunshine is where the 3D entries started to get a little more interesting in terms of bosses. Alongside the basic platforming skills we get F.L.U.D.D, and every boss will require you to combine both for a winning technique. The standouts are Petey Piranha, Gooper-Blooper, Phantasma and a surprising unique Bowser fight. Even the ones I didn’t list put you into varied situations that are exciting and fun. Things like wiping off ink from enemies to weaken them or filling up Peteys stomach are memorable because of how well they implement the new controls.

I have to give this category to Super Mario Sunshine.

Outcome

For some strange reason Super Mario Sunshine has been seen as a blemish on the plumbers history from a lot of people. It may have its rare glitches, quirks and stupid blue coins, but Sunshine is a middle step between 64 and Galaxy. It’ll never be as iconic as the much deserved Super Mario 64, but I do genuinely believe it’s design is a tad bit better albeit different.

SM64: 2    SMS: 3

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So what does everybody think of my controversial decision? Do you have any counter-arguments? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.