Tag Archives: Mario

You cannot mindlessly play Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

gd puzzles and dragons bloopers

GameStop’s PowerUp Reward points are stupid. Or maybe I’m stupid. Certainly one of us is to blame, and, as a human stuffed with ridiculous emotions like pride and shame and deep-seated embarrassment, I’m inclined to place the fault on someone other than myself. So there. Well, no…let me explain more. Trust me, this story will eventually lead to both the reason why this blog post is about Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition and my early impressions on it, up to the end of World 1.

See, I recently noticed I had a ton of “points” in my PowerUp Rewards account, seeing as I’ve bought a number of things over the last few months, like an Xbox One, and decided to cash some of these points in for a single $25.00 redeemable coupon. In my mind, I was planning on burning this to buy four more amiibo card packs for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer because I’m broken inside. No, really, I am. Utterly and completely damaged. Animal Crossing is one of my all-time favorite series, and now there are collectible cards out there that one can collect and caress and cherish until the end of time. Insert that Futurama meme hard as heck right here.

Anyways, this did not work out. Evidently, the $25 coupon can only be applied to a single item, not your final bill. Sure, that means I could waste it all on one $5.99 pack of amiibo cards, but I wouldn’t get any of that leftover credit. It would just vanish. Seems both like a waste of points and effort. So, instead, I looked around the store for something that was more than $25.00, and so a new copy of Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition for $30.00. Fine. I mean, after all, it was a game I wanted to play last year, but did not get to. Still, that $25.00 credit coupon is beyond misleading, and, unfortunately, it seemed like there was no way for me to return to the points to my account; doing that would have allowed me to at least create two $10.00 credit coupons, and thus two more amiibo card packs. Oh well–lesson stupidly learned.

Anyways, Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition takes the super popular in Japan free-to-play mobile model of Puzzle & Dragons and coats it in a cutesy, colorful Nintendo skin. I say that as if I know anything about Puzzle & Dragons vanilla, which I don’t. I’ll do my best now to explain it in mechanical terms. Gameplay revolves around matching three or more orbs of the same color/element by displacing one orb around the board to attack enemies. Each turn you conduct counts down as a timer for the monsters to attack your party. The goal is to complete the dungeon/level you enter by defeating every foe and surviving until the end. Also, skilled players can create chained combos for massive damage in a single turn.

I’ve only gone through the first world, which obviously loads up some tutorial stuff, but it’s pretty fun. Creating those big combos feels so dang good; also, missing those combos hurts more than I can explain. It’s not as simple as moving one orb over to another like in Pokemon Shuffle or Frozen Free Fall, since sliding the orb around the field affects other orbs in its path, and I don’t have the best handle on how this actually works. Plus, you’re timed. It can be a bit stressful, but truly satisfying too. Sometimes I score big, and sometimes my party of goombas and red winged turtles simply sit there, frozen in regret, bracing for the worst.

There’s actually a lot of options for you from early on to help build up a strong, capable team that will help you rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. Oh, did I not mention that she is kidnapped again? Good job, Nintendo. Really stretching those creativity muscles. Basically, you can sacrifice weaker teams members you aren’t using to power up a single team member. There are also items to find to help with this, as well as lot of experience points to earn along the way. Right now, I have three separate teams created, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what those are and picking a compatible leader is key to surviving some of the later fights, which deal out a ton of damage to your team if you don’t combo fast and early enough. There’s also a few grayed out options on the menu still to open up.

I’ve not gotten to try Puzzle & Dragons Z yet, which is the other game packed in, but I suspect I will eventually. Want to continue on this path for now so that I’m not trying to juggle two sets of similar teams in my mind. I also have to imagine it’s the weaker of the two titles in this nifty 3DS bundle though I’m curious to see how they work in a JRPG story around all these orbs. We’ll see in due time.

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2013 Game Review Haiku, #1 – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

games completed in 2013 yoshi's island

The wizard Kamek
Tries to steal babies, Yoshi
Endures lots of tears

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.

The chase is on in Super Mario 3D Land

In the beginning of my Nintendo 3DS days, I kept the thing on and in my pocket as much as possible, both to earn as many Play Coins as possible and in hopes of connecting with another person’s system. That dedication eventually waned, but every now and then–like when Tara and I head out to the mall area or go grocery shopping–I remember to flip it on and bring it with me. I mean, a year and change later, the chances of StreetPassing someone else is at least a smidgen greater. And with luck, I have connected with a few people in Target and Weis and the surrounding area, and a few of them have been kind enough to give me Question Mark levels in Super Mario 3D Land. That’s-a-nice.

The problem though is that I haven’t played any more Super Mario 3D Land since I beat it, as I needed a break from 3D platforming and wasn’t ready to tackle yet another eight worlds full of coins, flying Goombas, and tricky jumps. The cartridge has since been in my travel case while I whittle away at Professor Layton’s London Life. But I noticed the other day that I had two out of an allotted three Question Mark levels and wanted to clear out my backlog in preparation for MoCCA Festival this weekend. So I popped the cartridge back in, completed the two bonus levels super fast–winning both coins, of course–and decided to see what some of the Special World levels were like.

Special World 1-1 is par for the course, but does introduce the silver-colored Tanooki Suit, which finally allows the player to turn into a statue. Not that I ever really do, but I think I need the ability to hit certain triggers so I’ll keep an eye out. But it’s Special World 1-2 that gets this blog post’s glory. In it, Mario is chased all the way to the flagpole by a Cosmic Clone. And when I say chased, I mean chased. This isn’t no Boo slowly trailing after you; it’s a hot-blooded pursuit, and it’s pretty much the most tense Mario level ever. The crazy remixed Mario tunes don’t help either, and I totally missed all three stars as my only goal was getting the bleep away from this crazy, yellow-eyed demonic doppelgänger and reaching safety.

After that stressful level, I went back to earlier levels to find more Star Coins, as I will constantly need more to unlock the castles in the Special Worlds. And those levels are much simpler and easier on my fingers. I know there are a few more containing Cosmic Clones, and I am not looking forward to them. Maybe if I get enough Star Coins I can skip right by them, kind of like how I got enough Gold medals in the skill games for Trials Evolution to avoid perfecting the really hard and/or extreme tracks. Yeah, that’s the key: avoidance.

So, if you’re in New York City this weekend, swing by MoCCA Festival and StreetPass me some Question Block levels so I don’t have to be chased ever again. My heart and legs thank you in advance.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #5 – Super Mario 3D Land

Classic platforming
New isometric platform
Tanooki for all

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser are back at it in Super Mario 3D Land

We’re closing in on the one-year anniversary of the Nintendo 3DS launching in the United States, and I’m now ready to talk about the third retail game I’ve purchased for the handheld. Yes, I said third. One entire year has almost gone by, and I’ve only bought three physical games made specifically for it. If I was an esteemed mathematician with framed diplomas on my walls, I’d venture a guess that that’s not a good ratio.

The first 3DS game I got was Pilotwings Resort, and it was an impulse buy as I wanted something–nay, anything–to have for my new system to show it off to folks. The second 3DS game I bought was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked, and that was another impulse buy as it was right during Hurricane Irene and I wanted something new to keep me entertain while Tara and I went without power for as long as the handheld’s battery life held out.  The third 3DS game I got was Super Mario 3D Land, and I picked this up shortly before leaving for MegaCon as, again, I wanted something new to have with me on the road in case the hotel proved boring or I needed a distraction or whatever.

Hands down, between the three, Super Mario 3D Land outshines them all. It’s colorful and bouncy and filled with great nods to the past and neat uses of the system’s 3D gimmick. It starts out pretty slow and tame, but the difficulty ramps up with chasing ghosts and odd camera angles and my lack of skill with the circle pad for controlling our favorite plumber. I’ve gotten up to World 5 at this point, but need to collect a few more star coins before I can take on the boss level. Which is fine, as I definitely rushed through some earlier levels and can now go back to sniff out those shiny gold carrots on strings.

I’ve only ever played Super Mario 64 via an emulator on my computer and not for very long at that, and–to many disappointed gaming faces, I’m sure–I’ve never played Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Galaxy 2. Not a single second, and no, I’m not going to wait for you to pick up your jaw off the floor. I say this to stress the point that I don’t have a ton of experience in controlling Mario in a 3D environment. I am more use to running him from left to right, and it shows. I am constantly trying to run him in a straight line, which leads to problems like missing jumps or hitting enemies. It’s a learning curve for me, really.

And that’s fine. I’m in no rush. As with my 3DS Ambassador copy of Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, I like taking my level-based platformers slow. I do a level or two and call it a night. Supposedly, once you beat all eight worlds in Super Mario 3D Land, another eight appear. Oh man. That’s a lot of flagpoles to jump on. At least this retail game is providing enough meat for a $40.00 price tag, whereas Pilotwings Resort certainly did not and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked probably does, but I’ve yet to get very far into the game due to my negligible SRPG skills. I really am looking forward to playing more.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind

The 1990s were a crazy time. I mean, two of the biggest mascots were a plumber and an anthromorphic hedgehog with super speed. And gaming companies left and right were vying for their own position in mascot mecca. Some faired better than others. Remember Rocky Rodent? Chester Cheetah? Boogerman? Cool Spot? For your sake, I surely hope you don’t.

Accolade, Inc. entered the mascot gauntlet in 1993 with Bubsy, a bobcat that…uh, was full of catchphrases and snark. Starring in the awkwardly titled Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, the bouncy bobcat is on a mission to stop a race of fabric-stealing aliens called “Woolies”; they have stolen the world’s yarn ball supply, but more vital is that they stole Bubsy’s personal collection, the largest yet to be seen. Yes, we all know cats love balls of yarn. However, Bubsy is a bobcat, and I think they like to maul small animals. Just a minor difference in the end.

Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind takes place over five unique worlds, each with three levels. The Woolies and accompanying enemies change their look with each world, but otherwise the gameplay remains the same: a lot of platforming. World 1 is sort of a generic homelands, focusing on houses and water slides and underground tunnels. World 2 is an amusement park. World 3 stars a train in the Wild West setting. World 4 is something akin to national wildlife park, with trees being chopped down and gysers spouting. And naturally, World 5 takes place in outer space.

My least fond, but most strongest memories from adventuring with Bubsy are  1) that he would just not shut up and 2) that the game’s soundtrack was a bit of mess. First, let’s talk about talking. At the beginning of every level, Bubsy made an attempt at being cute or catchy. Here, check ’em all out:

  • What could possibly go wrong? – Cheesewheels of Doom
  • Did I mention I don’t like heights? – Forbidden Plummet
  • More like a bridge too short. – A Bridge Too Fur
  • Hey, whatever blows your hair back! – Fair Conditioning
  • Hey, I thought I saw Elvis back there! – Night of the Bobcat
  • Shouldn’t that be ‘fearless’? Uh-oh… – Our Furless Leader
  • Well, it worked for Clint. – The Good, The Bad and the Woolies
  • Go ahead, make my day! – A Fistful of Yarn
  • My contract does not mention pain! – Dances with Woolies
  • Hey, I didn’t write this stuff!!! – Beavery Careful
  • Next time, I get a stunt-cat! – Rock around the Croc
  • Is there a veternarian in the audience? – Claws for Alarm
  • That’s it! I’m outta here! You can’t make me. – Eye of the Bobcat
  • What, and give up show business? – No Time for Paws
  • Somebody dial 911!!! – Lethal Woolie
  • Whoah, are you still playing this thing?! – A Farewell to Woolies

Man, look at all those puns. Really, I’m not against them. As a writer, I’m bound by an unwritten law to at least admire puns. However, hearing Bubsy constantly crank out these sayings can really drive one batty. Especially since, back then, I never got past the second world (at least that I can recall), that meant hearing the first five or six sayings over and over again. Go ahead and say “What could possibly go wrong?” in a really nasily voice ten times in a row and then tell me you love life.

Now for the music. It was bubbly and erratic, and suffered greatly from changing tones on the drop of a dime. For example, Bubsy is just bouncy along, collecting yarn to some chippy tunes when all of sudden he’s fallen into a waterslide part, and the soundtrack changes dramatically to the ilk often used to represent TOTAL DOOM. The strange thing is that hopping out of the waterslide does not deter the music, and it will continue to follow Bubsy until the game believes all is well in Woolieland.

That said, I really did love platforming with Bubsy. Bouncing really high into the air in any level and then floating down to the unknown was always thrilling. In fact, it’s one of the very first things you can do in the game, using a tree’s branch at the opening screen to shoot directly into the sky. Sometimes you’d land safely on the ground; sometimes you’d drift over to a secret area full of collectible yarn balls; and sometimes you’d fall into an open slice of water to drown. Bobcats can’t swim. It’s true, just ask Animal Planet. I also loved all the hidden areas and ways to move forward, like using the interlinked cave system or simply running forward. The graphics were extremely colorful and fun, offering a variety of enemies and items to go along with each world’s setting. It taught me a good amount about judging jumps and taking chances.

Alas, finding an actual SNES copy is probably pretty hard. And after the trainwreck that was Bubsy 3D, the franchise fizzled and was forcibly forgotten by all involved. There’s not even a downloadable version available via the Nintendo Wii. To answer Bubsy’s question from the very last level of the game, no. Sadly, I’m not.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Mario’s closet is brimming with awesome

The kick-ass artwork above comes from Albino Raven. Love it. If only my closet was this cool. Sadly, I basically wear the same seven button-down shirts over and over…though buried deep in the back, I think, is a hand-me-down Raccoon Suit.