Tag Archives: 3DS Ambassadors

2013 Game Review Haiku, #22 – Mario VS. Donkey Kong

2013 games completed mario vs donkey kong

Collect the gold key
Save mini Mario toy
Give Donkey Kong his

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.


Mario VS. Donkey Kong VS. Paul’s puzzle skills


Though they’ve been locked and loaded on my Nintendo 3DS for almost two years now, I’ve still not gotten around to playing all the 10 free GBA Ambassador games awarded to us early supporters of the system. For the record, I did beat both Metroid Fusion and Yoshi’s Island. I tried my luck with Kirby and The Amazing Mirror and Wario Land 4, both of which did not hold me for very long due to their lack of direction and unfair difficulty and horrible map designs. And I remember playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones for like five minutes before putting it aside, but that was long before I got to experience Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I definitely plan to start FE: TSS up again now that I (kind of) get what that franchise is all about. So that just leaves us with the following pretty much untouched titles:

  • F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit
  • Mario vs Donkey Kong
  • WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgame$

We can discount the F-Zero and Mario Kart titles as something to “play” as all those games really ask of you is to run a track for a few minutes and try to place higher than fourth, which is fine and good for a bathroom break, but nothing you have to actually sink your teeth into and really dig deep to understand the lore and plot. I know next to nothing about the WarioWare game, and I’ve heard many a praises about The Minish Cap, but I need to be in a Zelda mood for a Zelda game, and I’m just not there yet. No idea when I’ll be either. All of this lengthy intro setup is to basically say this: I played Mario VS. Donkey Kong yesterday.

It’s surprisingly good, and a bit weird. Evidently, there are a bunch of MiniMario toys, and banana-crazy Donkey Kong falls in love with the idea of collecting them all after seeing a commercial for ’em. Unfortunately, the local toy store is all sold out. Now, here is where I am confused. The game part has you playing as Mario, trying to collect various MiniMarios and then battling Donkey Kong as the boss of each thematic world. Does this mean that you are trying to save these MiniMarios from getting into DK’s paws? Or are these somehow already in DK’s possession and you are trying to steal them back? Not sure. Either way, you do this by…solving platforming-based puzzles, and I’ve completed the first two worlds so far, with the puzzles ramping up with each level. Basically, you need to get a key into a door, and from there you are transported to a sub-level, where you must then reach a MiniMario safely and collect it. You can also grab presents along the way for a bonus game where you can win extra lives.

One aspect in Mario VS. Donkey Kong that I’m really worried about is that, so far, every single level introduces a new mechanic or twist on an already revealed mechanic, which leads me to believe that the final levels are just going to be a mess of things to keep track of. Or maybe not. I dunno. It hasn’t been too difficult so far, and the only times I’ve died is from carelessness and not from misunderstanding how to solve the puzzle. Mario does not control like he does in his platforming counterparts; here he is much slower and only able to jump so far, often relying on an odd, handstand-to-double jump trick to get to normally unreachable places. Also, while in this handstand, he doesn’t take damage from falling object, because plumber boots are made of indestructible material.

It’s a really quirky puzzle game that I’m interested in seeing where it goes. I just hope my skills are up to the later challenges. Otherwise, Mario will be falling over and crying “Mama-mia!” more than he cares to.

A maze of magic mirrors in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

kirby and the amazing mirror GBA impressions

Well, we can add Kirby and the Amazing Mirror to the list of games with maps that I absolutely hate. Others on that list include Fez, LEGO Lord of the Rings, and Fable II, if you’re curious. For good maps, check out Costume Quest or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and love how easy they are navigate. Also, Minecraft.

A map should be both functional and follow-able, a handy accessory to help with one’s journey. For maps, I like to see markers for special spots and things to do, as well as the ability to place my own destination marker. Also, show me what direction I’m walking in or facing at, not just where I am currently standing. For 3D realms, seeing which direction I’m facing is vital to knowing where to continue heading forward or side-stepping to the left instead. Without that help, it’s just aimless wandering. Unfortunately, the map in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is beginning to feel like the type that requires a long and detailed review of maps to ensure that all rooms and paths have been taken.

If you skip the little intro cutscene for Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, you miss nearly all the story beats. Which I did in my eagerness to begin playing. Oopsie. Evidently, here is what is happening: a sinister presence has invaded the Mirror World, which sits high and mighty above Dream World, and all the mirrors are now reflecting bad things. Meta Knight goes off to fix things, eventually disappearing in the process. Later, Kirby is attacked by a shadow Meta Knight, splitting our friendly pink puffball into four. They all then hop on a  Warpstar to chase after him. And that’s all the set up you get.

It plays like every other Kirby videogame, with you sucking enemies into Kirby’s mouth and eating them to gain powers, like lasers, swords, stone, and Cupid. You can puff yourself up to fly and shoot little things of air. Also, um, you have a…cell phone, which you can use to teleport you back to the mirror hub level or call in help from your colored counterparts. You traverse levels going from left to right, right to left, down to up, and sometimes from up to down. Everywhere you go, there are mirrors, which are doorways to other levels, and many of them are hidden or locked behind a barrier that requires the right power Metroidvania style to access. Alas, this means pre-planning and carefully keeping your power from several levels prior, which I’m bad at. It’s not difficult gameplay, just the kind that requires a lot of back and forth and awareness. Also, bosses I’ve fought so far include a lightning cloud and angry tree. So, y’know…Kirby.

If hopping in and out of mirrors isn’t your thing, there’s also three minigames in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. They are cute, but you’ll play them once, see what they are about, and never go back. At least, that’s what I did. They all require a single button press. In Speed Eaters, you wait for a pan to reveal whether it has apples or bombs; if it’s the former, press A before any other Kirby, and you get the apples. Fill up your hunger meter first to win. Crackity Hack has you powering up a super punch to break a crack in the ground, seeing if you can go the farthest. Lastly, Kirby’s Wave Ride has you surfing and catching waves for speed bonuses. Again, they are exactly what they are called: mini-games. Nothing more, nothing less.

Right now, I’m around 17% complete, with two mirror shards found and put back into place. Gotta hop back through some mirror gates with the right powers on Kirby to find more. I wish you could at least store a second power somewhere. Like, deep within Kirby’s cheeks, hamster-style. Think about it. Oh well.

It’s the end of SR388, and Samus Aran blew it

Two things happened last night, and both were pretty spectacular: first, Tara and I finally began watching Downton Abbey, and second, I completed Metroid Fusion. Now while I’m sure you’re all dying to know a latecomer’s thoughts on the first episode of season one (awesome!) and who my favorite character is so far (Lame Bates!), I’ll save that topic for another time, perhaps another place. After all, this is Grinding Down, a gamer’s guide to nothing, and so we should talk about the final bosses in a videogame more than the bosses in a fancy, named estate at the risk of being lost.

After the credits for Metroid Fusion rolled and my breathing returned to a normal, healthy pace, some stats were presented. My logged time said just under five hours total, and I collected 45% of available items. I know for a fact most of the missed items were energy tanks, which probably could’ve made life in outer space a wee bit easier given just how much damage Samus takes from a single hit. Oh well. The Internet says that you can beat the game with 1% items found, but I dunno about that. I guess all you need is missiles in the end. But that recorded time of 4 hours and 55 minutes is not an accurate telling of just how much I played this game. Since time played is lost after you died, there’s no true way to know, but I’d wager it took me more around eight or nine hours to get through. Most of the bosses towards the endgame required multiple–and I do mean multiple–attempts just to learn their pattens and an attack plan.

So, let me be frank: I did not enjoy this game. It is extremely difficult and eventually became, in my eyes, masochistic. I was not reminded of my sweet, savory time with Super Metroid. Somehow, I kept coming back to despite the beatings it would deliver to my hands and eyes. On the surface, it didn’t appear any more difficult than Super Metroid was, but Metroid Fusion is more like the original game than anything else, with health quickly deteriorating and not as much chances to refill it as on other adventures. It’s extremely linear, so there was no fear of getting lost, with a non-playable cybernetic entity dishing out objectives one after the other. That part was weird, but fine, as it kept Samus (me, really) on a path. Unfortunately, that path is littered with boss fights that empty your heath extremely fast and require really quick response time, a thing not entirely possible on a Nintendo 3DS. I think a GameBoy Advance might’ve been easier for the controls, as the shoulder buttons on the 3DS eventually cause pain if you hold them down too long, and for launching missiles, you have to hold them down. So there was that.

I’ve kind of already forgotten what the story was. I mean, yeah, there’s this planet SR388, and on it, Samus discovers a parasitic organism called X that is wreaking havoc. Large portions of Samus’ suit were removed, and so she must recover them and investigate what the X is up to. Eventually you learn that the X has created a clone of Samus called SA-X, and it is hunting her. After a while, deception and betrayal happen, and there’s some reflecting on a man named Adam who appears in another Metroid game I’ve not yet played, weakening its impact immensely. And then the final level has you running against the clock to escape the planet before it explodes, just like in Super Metroid. Just like in Aliens.

And that’s where I was roadblocked the most: the very end. You have four boss fights in a row, with no opportunity to save once. It is pure evil. Designers, don’t do this. First, you fight the SA-X, which goes through three forms, the first of which is so fast and deadly that you could be without any health for the final two forms, making them even harder. The second form is easy to defeat thanks to a glitch I discovered; if you hop up to the top left platform, charge your beam, and shoot downwards, it’ll hit the SA-X, and the beast can’t reach you. After that fight, you start the 3:00 minute countdown and have to make your way back to your spaceship. Naturally, when you get there, the ship is gone, replaced by another boss fight. It swipes at you and a mini-scene involving the SA-X plays out–all while the countdown keeps going. By the time you get control back you have just over a minute or so to defeat it, and it’s not a quick kill. In fact, one attempt saw me kill the final boss with 8 seconds to go, only to realize in horror that the ship took somewhere around 10 to 12 seconds to pop back up and save Samus. That game over screen nearly broke me.

With Metroid Fusion now defeated and done, I feel better about moving on to some of the other 3DS Ambassador titles I got for free for being an early overpriced Nintendo handheld supporter. Like Yoshi’s Island or Fire Emblem. Not both simultaneously, mind you. I’m trying to complete one at a time, otherwise all that happens is I play a little here, a little there, and drop both of in the Abandoned Bin and forget about them for way too long. We’ll see where I go from here; I mean, it can only be up.

Yoshi’s Island and the tears it cries

Thanks to hanging out with my awesome niece and nephew, Uncle Pauly’s heard babies at their best, when excited for Cheerios or a new toy or that dangerously catchy tune from Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as at their worst, when the world is just crumbling apart and they have to go to bed instead of staying up with us cool adults who then get to have crazy, neck-and-neck games of Madden ’12 in the dark. Naturally, babies sound better when being amazed and amazing, laughing and playing in their own fantastic universe, not screaming for salvation.

Yoshi’s Island–well, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island if you want to be official with titles and all that–gets this, and that’s why Baby Mario screeches the moment he leaves Yoshi’s back. He doesn’t just cry, he bawls for home. He makes a sound that is unrelenting and uniform in its purpose, to stop all further plans save for the one that gets him back to his dino buddy. It’s excruciating in how effective it is though.

As you can tell, I’m working my way through Yoshi’s Island, level by level, tear by tear, and it’s a great time except when Baby Mario starts howling. Strangely, amazingly, I’ve never played this game with an actual controller. I missed out on it during its SNES heyday only to emulate it poorly on a computer with keyboard controls during my one of my four years in college and to now get it in late 2011 on my Nintendo 3DS for being a good ol’ supporter of expensive handheld consoles. There are some downsides to this, as despite how colorful the above screenshot is, the version on the 3DS gets stretched to fit an unfitting screen and thus loses a lot of pretty, becoming muted and occasionally muddy. But otherwise, the platforming remains solid and challenging, with enough variety to keep each level sempervirent; I believe y’all know that if you want to get dizzy, touch fuzzy.

I know the levels from the first two worlds extremely well, as that’s as far as I ever got thanks to the previously mentioned keyboard controls. Currently, I’m on World Two, at the final castle, and am looking forward to moving on to the next world for all things unknown. Many of the game’s tricks still work well today, especially the third dimensional stuff, even when on a system that loves that stuff and yet can’t make it more effective because it’s only a port of a GBA title and not something made specifically for the 3DS. Kind of a shame there. Let’s keep the crying down to a minimum. Especially you, Baby Mario. Especially you.

Drowning in videogames is one way to go

Too many games. Way too many videogames as of late, and there’s probably only more to come. If you think that I’ve been spending these past few days playing each and every new game that has popped into my possession until physical happiness oozes from my very pores…you’d be wrong. Though that does sound nice. I know I did not update Grinding Down on Monday; I know I did the same thing yesterday. Shame, shame. But that has to do with dayjob craziness, not getting lost in a fantasy world or trying to get a robot through a puzzle-laden room.

But I am playing stuff, such as continuing to work at Chrono Trigger before the GiantBomb staff catches up with me. I’ve also picked Radiant Historia back up, probably to Greg Noe‘s glee. Yeah, playing one time-traveling game reminded me that I should also keep playing that other time-traveling game. I kinda forgot about it, sadly, but am already sucked back in thanks to the charismatic characters and fantastic battle systems. I haven’t even turned on my Xbox 360 since last Friday; it’s way too cold to sit out in the living room and game, which stinks as I have plenty still to enjoy there: Skyrim, Beyond Good & Evil HD, Mass Effect II, Mafia II, more L.A. Noire, that D&D romp, and…uh, LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 once we get a second working Xbox 360 controller. Been a lot easier just crawling into bed under the heated blanket and giving my 3DS some love.

A new Humble Indie Bundle is out. And it seems like I have a knee-jerk reaction to their emails; they say, “Hey, get five games for whatever you want to pay!” and I say, “YES, MASTER. YOUR DEMAND IS MY DESIRE.” Upon further inspection, if you pay more than the average price you get two additional games. Here, take a look at what this package contains:

  • Jamestown
  • Bit.Trip Runner
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Shank
  • NightSky HD
  • Gratuitous Space Battles (additional game for paying more than average price)
  • Cave Story+ (additional game for paying more than average price)

Alas, Shank and Bit.Trip Runner do not work on my dying Macbook, so they will have to wait until I can get a new computer in 2012. Maybe 2012. Car problems do not come cheap. Played a teensy bit of Cave Story+, and that’s a charming platformer if ever there was one; however, I hate not being able to control with a d-pad and action buttons. Oh well. I’ll endure, I’m sure.

Looks like us 3DS Ambassadors are getting our 10 free GBA games this Friday, and the list is crazy good. I mean, we’ve always known five of the ten titles, but now we know it all, and I’m super stoked for seven of them. I don’t know what percentage seven out of ten equates to, but whatever. I’ve never proclaimed myself as a math magician, which is probably why I’m struggling with Anathem by Neal Stephenson after only 50 pages. Anyways, take a look at these nifty names:

  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
  • F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
  • Kirby and The Amazing Mirror
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit
  • Mario vs Donkey Kong
  • Metroid Fusion
  • Wario Land 4
  • WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgame$
  • Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3

Yeah! I will never not have something to play. Here’s hoping I can enjoy some of these during my vacation time, also known as the last week of December. Here’s hoping…

Latest Nintendo 3DS firmware update adds Accomplishments, new Mii hats, and more

Last night, Xbox Live got an update, and this morning, my Nintendo 3DS got an update. Of the two, I’m loving the latter way more. Let me show you what it brings to the table.

After simultaneously recharging my dying battery and downloading the update, the first thing I noticed on my 3DS was a new app called the Nintendo Zone, which promises special content when connecting with certain free wi-fi hotspots. There’s none near Grimmauld Place, and I have no idea where any nearby would be. The 3DS Camera app now has a toggle for either taking video or stills; hopefully you can record video for a decent amount of length, and not a mere 30 seconds or something. Otherwise, that’d be a waste, but I’ll have to wait until later to give it a try. Early reports mention up to ten minutes of recording, with time-lapse being an optional setting. Cool.

Seems like the most new additions are found within the Mii Street Plaza. Fine by me! First, we have Achievements. Well, Nintendo is calling them Accomplishments, which is way better than Accolades, but whatever–they work all the same. Do this, and earn a shiny red exclamation point. The nicest thing is that upon simply loading up the Plaza, I unlocked 15+, meaning they are retroactive. I got one for having over 50 Miis in my plaza and another for having Miis from two different regions (United States and Canada, snatch). Speaking of that, there’s a geographical map to show you exactly where all your Miis come from; I’ve got a lot of East Coast staters, with some strangely from California, too. And you can now get Miis from using SpotPass. A music player lets to kick back and hear some battle tunes. There is a sequel to Find Mii, offering new hats, but only if you’ve found all the ones from the previous game, which I’ve not yet done–I’m one hat away. And new puzzles for Puzzle Swap. Oh man, looks like I’m going to be walking around with my 3DS in sleep mode a lot more than usual.

This firmware update now also allows content to be moved between 3DS systems, and the eShop has also been updated to support demos and downloads when the system is in sleep mode.


Next on the list before 2011 runs out is us 3DS Ambassadors getting 10 free GBA games. This little handheld of mine is going to be bursting with So Much Stuff. Not a bad thing. Not at all.