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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 06:57:10     -    Kirby's Adventure (NES)

    The Kirby series has always been a unique style of platformer. While it maintains many of the conventions of the genre (side-scrolling movement, jumping, ect) it is in practice a very different core mechanic from the Mario series or similar games. The ability to float allows you to easily bypass most obstacles that would give other characters pause, such as high walls. In this way, the usual long jumps and careful hops are replaced with more complex ariel maneuvers, such as flying through tight corridors while buffeted by wind.

    That said, the real innovation in the Kirby series lies in the ability to absorb powers. Almost every enemy has a special power of some kind, and when Kirby devours them he gains the ability to use that power. This creates interesting puzzles where you use the surrounding enemies and environment to find your way past obstacles. Perhaps you cut through challenging foes by stealing an enemy's sword, or burn through a wall by breathing fire. This keeps the game interesting and the puzzles varied, since you are constantly discovering new challenges and solutions to problems.

    Unfortunately, there are times when the mechanics limit the game design too much. For example, Kirby is not able to do any serious damage to boss monsters without either acquiring a power or spitting enemies at them. Thus, boss monsters are largely about which power you enter with, and if you lose the power you're reduced to sucking in their shots occasionally and trying to deal a bit of damage over time. Ultimately, it slows the game down and weakens the boss structure - I would much rather see bosses built around specific powers that you would have available throughout the fight. There is one battle that gives you a specific power (a swordfight) and it's easily one of the most enjoyable segments of the game.


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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 17:16:01     -    Super Mario 64 (N64)

    The flying system in this game is crotch-punchingly frustrating. Mario swoops up and down almost out of the player's control, and trying to actually get anywhere quickly is an exercise in futility. Banjo-Kazooie (released less than two years later) showed how 3D platformer flying needs to be done. I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish with Mario 64 flying, so I can only assume the designer in question was dropped on his head as a child. Repeatedly.

    The other two cap powerups are the Vanishing Cap (allows Mario to pass through some walls) and the Metal Cap (makes Mario metal and really heavy.) They each have their own uses in specific puzzles, but everything feels fairly obvious. Either you have the required cap unlocked and the puzzle is easy, or you don't and the puzzle is impossible. Unlocking the caps is difficult and fun, but the reward is a bunch of easy stars that don't really feel rewarding.

    Most levels feature some hidden locations which will teleport Mario if he stands still for a few seconds. Unfortunately, there is no marker for these locations, so unless you feel like wandering around the level you'll only find them randomly. The teleporters are never necessary for level completion, but they avoid a lot of pointless wandering and I often wish they were more obvious. Most later platformers included Warp Pads throughout the levels that allow you to cover ground easily, and that feature worked out much better.

    Apologies for the stream of consciousness writing on this one.


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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 05:04:32     -    Super Mario 64 (N64)

    Describing Mario is always a difficult task, because everyone who would be reading this page is intimately familiar with Mario. You already know who Mario is and the elements of a Mario game if you have had any knowledge of games at all, so what is their left to say? Still, I'll do my best to describe what made this game a success when it launched (aside from being 50% of the N64's launch titles, competing with Pilot Wings.)

    The core gameplay concept of Mario is pretty standard for any recent platformer. You go through levels collecting items which can be used to access more levels later on - the same style was used to a degree in earlier Mario games, and in other platformers such as the Donkey Kong Country series. Despite being the first real 3-dimensional platformer, Mario remains true to its predecessors and allows platformer fans to find some familiarity in what must have been a wholly unfamiliar experience.

    The levels themselves are each structured around 6 stars. Stars you find within the levels allow you to open doors into other levels, and acquiring a star removes you from whatever level you are currently in. As the level opens you select which star you want to look for, and the level changes slightly so the star you selected is achievable. Since collecting a star removes you from the level, this forces the player to replay a level 6 times in order to find all the stars. While this is a great way to add hours onto the game, any gamer familiar with Donkey Kong 64 will tell you how much it sucks to repeatedly replay a slightly different level trying to acquire more of the same items you already have. Mario 64 makes up for this by making most of the stars fairly easy to acquire if you know where to look, but some levels (particularly the ones without teleporters) get really boring after the first few stars are found.

    On its release the biggest thing this game had going for it was pure 3D movement, and the developers did an excellent job making movement fun. Mario can do all kinds of jumps and flips, bounce off walls, and gives oddly satisfying shouts and screams when he falls into a pit of lava. Unfortunately, the fun of movement is weakened by the camera system, which is hideous by today's platformer standards. Navigate a narrow ledge is a perfectly reasonable platformer challenge, but trying to navigate a narrow ledge the camera is stuck in a wall or directly in front of Mario's nose is a new definition of torture. That kind of gameplay always sends me into a creative cursing spree of the kind I would usually reserve for accidently stabbing myself in the eye.


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    Jan 28th, 2007 at 16:28:51     -    Tic Tac Toe (Other)

    It's very simple.


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    1Diablo II (PC)Playing
    2Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)Finished playing
    3Kirby's Adventure (NES)Playing
    4Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth (PC)Finished playing
    5Super Mario 64 (N64)Playing
    6Super Smash Brothers (N64)Played occasionally
    7Tic Tac Toe (Other)Playing


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