SM3DA: Super Mario 64 Review

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It finally happened! I finished Super Mario 64 courtesy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo Switch. I collected 71 stars and rushed towards Bowser so I can finally put this respectable but outdated game behind me. 

I was initially very impressed with Super Mario 64. Nintendo improved the user interface, increased the resolution, and steadied the framerate. They were appreciated improvements, but I eventually discovered that those improvements were not enough to make Super Mario 64 palatable in 2020. 

The lack of precise camera control reared its ugly head very early on. There were a number of options to cycle through, but there were numerous moments where none of those options were ideal. Early levels that didn’t feature many bottomless pits or a large number of moving objects were mostly fine. I would only need to make the occasional minor shift to the camera. However, it was a true test of patience in levels like Rainbow Ride where I was cycling through the motion of making jumps and flipping through less than ideal camera angles. 

When I was triple jumping and running around in the relatively gapless spaces of the early levels, the finicky controls did not bother me. As Super Mario 64 began to demand more precision and sticking Mario in tighter platforms with bottomless pits underneath, then the touchy controls began to annoy me to no end. Some state that this isn’t much of a problem with the N64 controller and if that’s the case, Nintendo should have done more to adjust the Super Mario 64 in this 3D All Stars collection. 

Even if the controls worked well, I felt that the developers went too far towards making a realistic Mario instead of a fun Mario. What’s the point of having Mario crawl? What’s the point of having him perform a U-turn when he turned around? Why did he suddenly decide to slide on his belly on steep inclines? Why did he even have punch or kick attacks with pathetic range? I felt these decisions were made because they could. Nintendo wanted to explore and experiment with Super Mario 64 which resulted in many lessons learned for future games. 

The castle serving as a hub was initially charming and twee. Jumping into paintings to enter different levels and spaces was a clever conceit that invited and rewarded exploration. All the good feelings evaporated away as I pushed deeper into the castle and bumped into the “game over” screen. Having to restart outside of the castle every time I restart the game was annoying. Having to catch the stupid Haunted House Boo every single time I wanted to play that level was even sillier. All these initially charming elements quickly got in the way of the fun.

I respect Super Mario 64, but I do not like it. I found it fascinating in spots, but was overwhelmingly frustrated by a majority of it. I wouldn’t miss this game if it suddenly deleted itself from the package because I do not see myself returning to collect the rest of the Stars. Perhaps I’m unfairly harsh, but this is the game Nintendo decided was good enough to put in a $79.99 package in 2020. They thought it was good enough to stand on its own without significant changes; I’m saying they were wrong.

Verdict:
I didn’t like it

Ratings Guide

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

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  1. Excitement
  2. Accomplishment
  3. Plateau
  4. Drop off

Every Animal Crossing player goes through the same steps at their own pace. I’m on step 3. I invested over 125 hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I still feel good about checking in on a regular basis. I am not making the headway that I expected nor is my island anywhere near as pretty as I hoped it was, but I’m okay with this. Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed at just the right time and has given me and many others a sense of routine and progression.

There’s technically a built-in goal that triggers the rolling of credits, but there’s still a lot more game to enjoy and experience. I wanted to build more bridges, arrange more landmarks, and furnish my multi-story house with weird and wonderful furniture.

My criticisms of Animal Crossing: New Leaf still ring true with New Horizons. The menus could be friendlier to navigate, repetitive dialog continues to plague players, and the general flow of everything is still as deliberate and plodding like it always is. New additions like crafting and terrain customizations give Animal Crossing big shakeups but all these features will be worn down by the Animal Crossing ethos. 

The lack of interactivity may not be a new gripe for long time fans, but it’s quite strange when there’s absolutely no interaction with certain objects. I can dive into the ocean after the July 2020 update, but I cannot do a damn thing with this hot tub that I just crafted. 

I was okay with the fact that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a game about gathering items in the service of decorating. I decorated my island, my house, and my character. The real time aspect of the game continues to amuse me for days, weeks, and even months. Nintendo already released regular events and patches that introduced new content and functionality. Unfortunately, while they all satisfied the definition of new content, they don’t always satisfy. Re-adding the ability to swim and dive in the ocean is amusing, but taking photos for a pair of llamas? Not so much.

There are no surprises in Animal Crossing: New Horizons; players will know whether this appeals to them or not. How long before you reach the drop off point will depends on your level of patience. My fiancée went through all four steps within three weeks. There was so much excitement that she even considered getting a Switch of her own. I’m still puttering away on the island for the both of us. It can definitely be better, but at the same time, I also like it for what it is.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Luigi’s Mansion 3

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We did it! It took months and months, but we finally finished Luigi’s Mansion 3. 

Minor correction: I finished Luigi’s Mansion 3.

My fiancée and I started Luigi’s Mansion 3 together late last year and we chipped away at it for months before I finally wrapped it up in early June 2020. Why did it take so long? A number of fundamental issues contributed to a rapid descent in interest.  Needless backtracking and growing frustrations with the controls during boss fights were primary factors.

The game made a wonderful first impression with its charming visuals and highly interactive environments. The ability to vacuum up nearly everything in the world was both impressive and fun. We would discover hidden secrets and coins which rewarded our desire for exploration.

Solving puzzles with the flashlight, UV light, and manipulation of world objects via the Poltergust vacuum amused for about a third of the game. Then we were asked to backtrack to older levels to chase down a ghost cat. They disrupted the game’s momentum by delaying the next piece of new content. We devoured each hotel level; we vacuumed up very inch of each level before we moved on and then they asked us to revisit those levels and look for this ghost cat by vacuuming up stuff again.

We collected a lot of money as a result of all the vacuuming. Unfortunately for us, we had nothing worthwhile to spend it on. There were purchasable hints for other collectibles, but that was it. I would have loved an upgrade mechanic or costumes for Luigi; something fun to cash all this currency for.

It started to feel like a drag but we pushed forward. We were amused by Luigi’s reactions to the antics surrounding him. We had fun taking down the early boss fights and figuring hidden tricks of the spooky hotel. The boss fights started out as wonderful caps to finish off each level, but they gradually became increasingly annoying. I never felt 100% comfortable with the controls and I’ve been playing all manner of console games for decades. Some of these boss fights required a level of finesse that these controls did not reliably deliver. These encounters transitioned from fun victories to frustration laden slogs as we repeated fights due to minor execution errors. 

I wrapped up the last few levels of Luigi’s Mansion on my own. My fiancée had checked out and gave me the blessing to finish it on my own. Since I initially played a large chunk of the game co-operatively, the switch to controlling both Luigi and his slime clone, Gooigi, was a bit awkward. It felt fine when I was simply exploring the levels, but it felt unnatural during combat. I stumbled my way through the last few levels and managed to defeat King Boo after a handful of tries, but was left dissatisfied with the gameplay.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 held a lot of promise early on and I was disappointed to see it fail to deliver on that promise. If they axed all the backtracking, included meaningful rewards for exploration, and tweaked the boss fights to accommodate their controls, I think my fiancée and I would have seen it through together. In the end, I was left playing with myself and that felt weird.

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Doom I & II [NSW]

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I played Doom I & II on my old Pentium 120 MHz computer as a child but I didn’t realize I was playing wrong. I never played it with functioning music and I played it with only a keyboard. Oh, and I also leveraged cheats and quick saves and quick loads with no regard for integrity. Fast forward 20+ years and I finally finished Doom I and II on the Nintendo Switch.

I still relied on quick saving/loading but I didn’t use any cheats despite the final level of Doom II throwing out all semblance of sanity. I played it with a controller (which many will argue isn’t ideal), but at least I played through it with the music this time.

Thankfully, after some critical patches, these Nintendo Switch ports were solid minus the occasional issue with resuming properly from sleep. They did their best to map all those keys to the controller and I felt they mostly succeeded. I played on the default difficulty so I wasn’t exactly being asked to switch weapons on the fly.

In my youth, I actually played Doom II before playing Doom I. Doom felt simpler and offered a sense of progression that the sequel omitted which felt strange considering my young mind. Back then, I believed sequels should be better and Doom II wasn’t in some respects. Sure, I missed the double barrel shotgun but I appreciated the idea of purging the demons of Hell from the Martian moons one installation at a time.

The levels were relatively straightforward. Juggle card keys, find switches, and shoot demons. It wasn’t mindless but it didn’t test me like Doom II would. I tried playing the Ultimate Doom episode, Thy Flesh Consumed, but found those levels uncharacteristically taxing coming from Doom’s original episodes. That episode felt like moving from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. Lost Level; they took what was familiar and twisted it. They tried to test and push the player’s gameplay knowledge to a degree that I wasn’t looking for.

So I decided to move onto Doom II. The opening levels were reminiscent of Doom’s but it didn’t take long before things became interesting. Most of the time, interesting was good. However, interesting transformed itself into gimmicky culminating with that awful final boss.

Doom II felt like a game made to take advantage of the fact that you can quick save. There were so many blind teleports, monster traps, and other nonsense that I just kept quick saving to save myself time. I also wasted a lot of time wandering maps large and relatively uninteresting maps, looking for less than obvious entrances or switches that I missed in order to progress.

Still, I had my share of fun and I felt that sense of accomplishment when I finally nailed the final rocket shot and defeated the final boss.

Doom was a classic sci-fi action shooter that ushered in the era of first person shooters that we know today. Doom II was a for fans of Doom who wanted to be tested and pushed by the creators of that classic. Both have value and I see no reason not to recommend them both but if you only have time for one, the original is still great fun.

Verdict for Doom:
I liked it

Verdict for Doom II:
It was okay

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