Monday, November 29, 2010

Random Encounter - GoldenEye 007 (Wii)

 GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64 was, and is, one of my favorite games.  I have lots of fond memories of blasting down baddies or having throwing knife battles to the death with friends.  I even look fondly on all the time I wasted in vain to unlock cheats like Invincibility or Invisibility.  I love that game and would go back and play it any day if I had a working N64.

 With that in mind I was allured by the "remake" for the Wii.  Initially I was confused by the choice to put Daniel Craig in as Bond in what was a Pierce Brosnan film, but I just shrugged and went with it because I like Craig's version of Bond a lot anyway, and I was in it more for the gameplay than the story.

 Did you notice how I quoted remake in the last paragraph, as if to say I'm using that term lightly?  Well, that's because I am!  To say that GoldenEye 007 for the Wii is a remake of the classic on the N64 is a blatant lie.  It doesn't even try to follow the movie!  Remember when 006 and 007 have a high speed truck chase at the dam?  Remember when the EMP hardened helicopter blows the frigate to hell with Bond still inside in Dubai?  (In the movie, the helicopter was stolen off of a frigate in Monte Carlo, and it didn't shoot at anyone.)

 What about that gameplay?  It's friggin' aweful!  On my first try, on the easiest setting, I failed the training mission.  From then on I toughed it out mission after mission, battling not against the enemies, but against the hideous controls.  It shouldn't not be so hard in a first person shooter to just shoot a guy, but in GoldenEye for the Wii it certainly is.  I fidgeted around with the control setting for a half hour, and tried the classic controller pro and the Wii Remote + Nun-chuck and nothing helped.  I played past the frigate mission, doing my best to try and give this game a fair chance, and I found myself no longer wanting to play.  And I haven't.

 My game was the special edition that came with the golden classic controller.  I'm not even a big fan of that thing either.  It's not as comfortable as it should be, and personally I still like the look and feel of the old classic controller.

 So what anything good about this game?  Yes.  I really liked the finale to the first Dam mission where they do a full on Bond-esque intro sequence.  While it wasn't the one from the movie, it had the perfect look and feel for the game it was associated with.  On top of that, the artist they brought in to perform Tina Turner's GoldenEye sounded just like her (though at the time of this post I can't think of her name, and can't be bothered to fire it up to find out.).

 All in all, if you are craving 007 from back in the day, do yourself a favor and just play that one.  I regret buying my game, and I'll certainly be more cautious in the future whenever someone slaps the word "remake" on anything.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Single Player - Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic

 In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. I thought it might be fitting to discuss one of the biggest oddities to ever exist in the main series.  Mario has had a long, long career of stomping and jumping, but for this one we're going to have to go way back to the beginning of his "Super" days.

 The iconic series began in September of 1985 and immediately became the stuff of legends.  Players were entranced by the faster paced gameplay and scrolling screens.  For the time, the levels were huge and the challenge was solid.  In fact, by most standards, the original Super Mario Bros. remains one of the most difficult games in the series.

 Naturally Nintendo planned to capitalize on the success of this game by creating a sequel and getting it out into stores as quickly as possible.  Less than a year later players were scampering through the Mushroom Kingdom again in Super Mario Bros. 2.  At least, Japanese players were.

 Now your thinking, "I've played Super Mario Bros. 2 and it looked nothing like that!"  Your right, you did play it.  Two years after Mario's sequel released in Japan the American counterpart debuted.  However, the game we received was radically different.  Instead of King Koopa and his Goomba minions we faced the frog-like Wart and his hoard of Shy Guys.  Fire Flowers were no where to be found, replaced instead with vegetables to defeat foes with.  Americans also had the luxury of playing Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess herself, though there was no two player option.  Fans ate it up.

Super Mario Bros 2 was released in the U.S. in September of 1988, but the next month in Japan Super Mario Bros. 3 released, being joined two years later in 1990 by the American version.  This game was more or less identical on both sides of the ocean, and it stands as arguably the greatest title in the series.  It set the precedent for both platforming games as well as quality in a title for generations to come.

 The American version of Super Mario Bros 2 did appear in Japan finally in September of 1992, four years after it released in America.  This however wasn't the first time Japanese gamers played this game, though it was the first time they played it as a Mario title.  So, what in the world were they playing?

 Say hello to Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic.

 If you want to play this game today, you'll need to either own a Famicom Disk System and the floppy disk of the game, or have an emulator that supports the Famicom BIOS and a rom of the game (the later being the most likely way).  One you start playing you begin to realize that we really got the better end of the deal with this game.  While most of the differences between this game and Super Mario Bros. 2 are graphical, there are two main game play elements that drastically altar the playability we need to discuss.

 The first one is that once you've selected a character in Doki Doki Panic, you must play through all the levels in a World before you can change.  That means if you choose Imajin (Mario styled character) for 1-1, then you must also use him for 1-2 and 1-3 before you can chose another character.  That said, only that character would have that amount of progress.  If you played to 2-1 as Imajin then wanted to play as Lina (Peach styled character) you must begin with her in 1-1.  In order to properly beat this game, you must play every level with every character.  Most of us Americans did that already in Super Mario Bros. 2 and it wasn't so bad, right?  That brings me to the second and biggest problem with Doki Doki Panic...

 Go pick up Super Mario Bros. 2 right now and play the game, but DO NOT use the run button (B).  Now play through every level like that.  For all intents and purposes you are play Doki Doki Panic now.  No character in the game can run!  Once easy jumps here in the States suddenly become nightmarish chasms of which there is no escape!  I'll be honest in saying I only cleared the game with Imajin, and that was a frustrating experience.  

 Other than the interesting novelty of it, I wouldn't recommend this game to any but the hardest core gamers (playing without the aid of save states anyway).  This was not a fun game to play, and not to spoil the ending for you, but it's not rewarding either.  I was always curious about this game, and now that is satisfied.  Time to move on!

 So what is it then that made the U.S. game so fun?  Quite simply, Nintendo and Mario.  Mario games have always been around, and no matter the style of gamer you are everyone loves Mario.  There are few series still around today that can gather people together like Mario can, and not even in platformers.  From soccer to golf to board games to kart racing, where ever Mario can be found so will thousands and thousands of eager gamers.  If video gaming ever had a sole mascot that defined it to the world, it simply is Mario.

 While Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic isn't seeminly available anywhere except the Famicom Disk System and emulators, the classic Mario games have made many, many appearances on lots of consoles.  The original Super Mario Bros 1-3 as well as Japan's Super Mario Bros. 2 are all available on the Wii's Virtual Console.  In December of 2010 Nintendo will rerelease Super Mario All Stars as a special edition disk for the 25th Anniversary.  Whichever way you can, definitely do yourself a huge favor and give the plumber 15 minutes out of your day today.  I promise you'll have fun!