12/10/2005

Perhaps some of you are still awaiting my thoughts on the new Mario and Luigi title. Well, seeing as how I beat that game earlier this month, this may be a possibility. I'm going to start off by saying that this game is awesome. It's definitely a title worthy of being triple A. I really had no doubt that this game would be anything below greatness. If the DS continues to get such ridiculously good releases, then it is already clear that the DS has reached success. Nintendo seems to be channeling a lot of their time into the DS, while leaving the GameCube outside in the cold.

In any case, now we're going to go into detail about Mario and Luigi: Partner's in Time. Firstly, the story, since some of you might be interested in knowing what's going on. Now, because this involves time travel, and the game isn't very serious about itself (what with its humor and all), there are dozens of plot holes, paradoxes, and situations that don't really make sense. In any case, here we go: Professor E. Gadd invents a time machine in the present day Mushroom Kingdom, and Peach decides to travel to the past to test this new great thing out. However... she doesn't return (big surprise)!!! While some may assume that it is Bowser's doing (or, considering she went to the past, Bowser's baby self), it is actually mostly unrelated to Bowser. It appears that the Shroob, some alien race (which share traits to denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, only instead of normal mushrooms, the shroobs are poison mushrooms), had taken over the Mushroom Kingdom of the past, and took the future Peach captive. I know that your paradox detector must be beeping like mad right about now, but I also don't give a darn, clearly. Thus, Mario and Luigi travel to the past by way of "time holes," which have appeared because of the time continuum acting strange or some nonsense. In the past, the brothers literally team up with their baby selves to save the Mushroom Kingdom of the past, by eliminating the alien Shroob threat. That is, as they say, the gist of it.

Previously thought impossible by many, this game manages to outclass the first one in dialogue and humor. The last Mario and Luigi game was rich in this category, so this is certainly saying much. The graphics and animation have taken a large step forward in improvement, as now most of the sprites are larger and the animation is far more smooth. At various points in the game, you'll spot loads of special effects that were not possible on a GBA. Many of these effects are 3D in nature. The graphics truly feel lively. The music is superb, as well.

However, as I always tend to say around here, the game play is the most important aspect of almost every game, and this is one thing that the Mario and Luigi titles both excel in. This time around, the brothers join with their younger selves to perform masterful moves. The game boasts a ton of Zelda-type puzzles that need to be overcome by making use of the startling amount of crazy moves you'll learn on the way. The puzzles do tend to be fairly simple, and usually pose no challenge at all (though this is normally the case for Zelda as well).

The main meat of the game play, I'd say, is during the battles. As you probably know by now, the Mario and Luigi titles are RPGs with a large dose of interactivity. The battles are known for housing a large amount of this interactivity, with their rather unorthodox execution. Your characters line up on one side (the baby brothers ride on the backs of their adult selves; quite disturbing) and the enemies on another, which is something any seasoned RPG player would recognize. However, from that point on, things change. While the game has equipment, items, and leveling up; you don't really need any of these things if you are ace with the action commands. Every attack in the game can be dodged by the player pressing the jump button at the right time, or swinging a hammer at a defining moment. In a sense, you can get through the entire game without getting hit once, if you were indeed that good at dodging attacks in battle. Of course, you'd have to be that good. Let's be honest here; I doubt any of you are as good as I am, and not even I am good enough to never get hit. That's where items, equipment, and leveling up come in. If you suck at dodging enemy attacks during battle, an obvious way to make things easier is to grab better gear or level up. When in trouble, you can even throw around items to stay alive.

This is where the main challenge of the Mario and Luigi series is derived from: being able to recognize what move the enemy is using in battle, and being able to react to it at the right time. This isn't like most traditional RPG battles, wherein you are supposed to get hit and then use a potion to recover when low on health; no, in this game, you are rarely, if ever, supposed to get hit. Your HP and defense values can't save you if you get hit by every single attack, especially during the early stages of the game (unless you are ridiculously over leveled, of course). Getting hit too many times will mean certain death, so it is very important to try and learn the moves of your enemies, so you can react accordingly.

So now we're onto the enemies. I think they're worth mentioning. Every enemy has a select few attacks, but for every attack, the enemy also has a sign of showing you what attack they're about to engage in. These signs, or rather, clues are what you need to look out for. If you pay attention to these, you'll be able to predict what attack is coming ahead of time, thus you'll have ample time to react to the attack. The enemies even leave clues as to which brother they are about to hit (for example, some literally hold a sign with an M or L on it, while others point to the brother right before performing an attack), so if you learn what your enemies can do, you will find great success. Obviously, later enemies tend to make it more difficult for you (the player) to easily read their attacks; sometimes they even literally trick you by faking an attack, then doing an entirely different one when you least expect it. It is very essential to not get hit too often, so this is a huge part of the game play.

Not just the enemies are interesting, but the bosses also tend to be fairly genius in their execution. Getting to know a boss' moves tends to be far more difficult than a mere enemy, as they have a lot more moves and tons of HP. Almost every boss in the game has a "trick" to beating them, especially later when you can't even damage certain bosses without exposing their weaknesses.

As for game play changes since the last Mario and Luigi game, the biggest one perhaps may be the addition of Bros. Items, and the removal of the Bros. Moves, which would use up Bros. Points, a stat that may have been similar to MP. Now there are no BP or Bros. Points, and all of the "Bros. Moves" are, in actuality, special items by the name of "Bros. Items." Essentially, there are a ton of items that the brothers can use (four brothers can use a single item at a time, though you can have just two of the brothers use some of them) to perform special attacks. These items, Bros. Items, can be purchased at shops, and are usually dropped by enemies (blocks will occasionally carry them, as well). It really isn't too different from the old system, except now you use items instead of BP to perform your super special attacks. The attacks themselves also tend to be far more simple to perform than the Bros. Moves from the old Mario and Luigi, though they also tend to be more brilliant. For example, take the Green Shell, which is a Bros. Item. Both brothers kick the shell at the enemy (meaning the player presses the button for the brother who is about to kick the shell) back and forth, until you miss a kick or the enemy dies (or if you reach the maximum amount of kicks, which the Red Shell doesn't have, to my knowledge). The shell goes faster the more you kick it, so you will eventually miss (unless you have immense skill). This is just one small example; there are quite a few Bros. Items, and each one of them have you doing different things. They also tend to be for different purposes; for example, some are more effective against a single enemy, while others are decent against an entire group. In my opinion, this is a good special move system, and it is better than what was in the previous game. Of course, not everyone will agree with that, but that's their problem.

I've spoken about most of the good points in the game, so let me just mention the few things that were not as great (but by no means terrible). The game seems to be far more linear than the last Mario and Luigi, which is pretty darn linear, considering that the last game didn't allow for much exploration, either. The game uses a hub system, similar to Mario 64. The hub? Princess Peach's Castle, of course. Through her castle you warp to the other areas in the game, which are all pretty linear. The order you do the areas is also predefined and set-in-stone, so you can't do one first than the other or anything of that sort. Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the game (which isn't too big, considering how much the game delivers in other departments) are the towns, or the lack thereof. There really aren't any actual towns you can explore. You do see a few "other" towns, but they tend to either be destroyed or devoid of life. If the game at least had a sort of "over world" area that you could roam around like in the first one, then it would have been perfect in this area. That in mind, the overall experience of this game is still amazing, and every DS owner should do themselves a favor by purchasing this title. It truly is a shame that we don't see games as good as this get released more often. Truly a shame...

12/01/2005

No, the sudden removal of the bold text doesn't mean those N64 ROMs are up. In fact, if you rushed off to the N64 page, you would have noticed that I've put the message over there now. Thanks to that, you will no longer see that text clouding up this area here. I'm certain no one reads these news posts anyway; putting the message directly on the N64 page should be far more foolproof.

If you have, in fact, went to the N64 page, there is something else you might have noticed; a few N64 ROMs have been removed. Apparently, my disk space quota was about negative 41 megabytes. I don't exactly know how that happened, but it made me unable to upload news posts. Thus, I took action. The action, as you may have seen, is the removal of about three more N64 ROMs. I know that this will bring many of you to tears, but I couldn't help it. I've already asked Bishi for more disk space, and it was a negative. As I've said before, who could blame him? He's paying for all of this, so I am essentially leeching off of him. The fact that he freely offers me any hosting at all is already enough to put me in eternal (because I won't ever pay it back) debt.

Ahem, now on to other matters. Battalion Wars is a mediocre game. It also happens to be several months old now, as I think this was released back in September. In any case... if you were expecting an Advance Wars game, then you will be disappointed, because that's not what this is. The game play is completely different, not to mention the countries, characters and armies. Everything is very different, save for a few "basic" things, such as infantry being able to take flags. The way you play... well, it's difficult for me to describe, as I've never really played games in this genre before, though I think there are other games like this one out there. The game is 3D, and everything tends to be in real time. You could... perhaps call it a real time strategy game. That wouldn't be very accurate, but it may kick you closer to home. There isn't any actual interface, and it doesn't revolve around point-and-click. You can control any one of your units, and attack others with that unit. Through whoever you are controlling, you can issue orders out to the rest of your battalion (you select units with the c-stick) and they will assist you. The "orders" you can issue are very basic, and it's generally more about where you place your units and how you organize them. Pressing a certain button will switch between "sentry" and "follow the leader" modes. As you may have guessed, "sentry" mode will make the selected units remain in place (and attack any enemy unit which may find its way to them), while "follow" mode will have your selected units follow the one you control. You can, of course, lock-on to enemy units. When locked onto an enemy unit, you can either attack it with the unit you're controlling, or command a group of selected units to charge in and have at it. Alternatively, you can capture flags this way, but only infantry can do this job.

Switching which unit you are currently controlling is as simple as selecting the unit group and pressing the Z button. Of course, you could also lock-on to the specific unit you wish to transfer over to. It... sort of reminds me of possession. The game employs a similar "rock, paper, scissors" system to the Advance Wars series, only it's not as enforced, especially if you're controlling one of the units. If you dodge well enough, you can have a single infantry defeat an entire camp of soldiers, and he may even come out entirely unscathed. Of course, this isn't always the case. No matter how well you do, you'll never topple over a tank with an infantry.

The game hasn't been so bad, and is occasionally entertaining, but there are two major things I dislike about it (both quite troublesome and generally menacing). The first thing I dislike is the controls when operating most vehicles. There is a mission wherein you drive a heavy recon for a large portion. That mission irritated me a lot. Not just the controls, but the handling of ALL the vehicles in the game suck. Yeah, the recon tends to be one of the easier vehicles to control, but that mission still annoyed me greatly. You will often find yourself stuck against objects on the ground or on the side with whatever vehicle you're driving. Occasionally (especially if you have a slow vehicle), you will remain stuck there for a large period of time. By that point, you can pretty much forget about attaining victory in that mission. It truly does boil the blood when you are timed, and suddenly, your vehicle is lodged between a large tree and an oversized rock. Then you spend 2 of the 7 minutes trying to get your vehicle out. I know what you may be pondering here; "why not just leave the vehicle behind and control something else?" Well, Einstein, when the vehicle is a freaking tank, you don't just leave it behind. You need it for success. If your tank is a goner, then kiss goodbye to any thoughts of completing the mission. The bomber also tends to be rather useless most of the time, as it is insanely difficult to actually hit the targets you want.

Aside from the control of certain vehicles and aircraft, the other terrible thing about this game is the atrocious voice acting. Now, don't get me wrong here; I am no fanatic when it comes to voice acting. As long as it doesn't make me cringe in despair, I'm okay. It's not like I puke at the sight of most voice acting; I've listened to some really horrid stuff and survived. However, my point still stands: this is bad voice acting. It's even worse when you consider all of the horrible dialogue they squeeze in during the essential parts of a mission. Worse still when you consider how they baby-step you all the way through most of the missions. It becomes nigh unbearable when you lose a mission, as the bad voice acters will scold you with their annoying voices. At that point, I tend to throw my fists at the air in anger, imagining that I am beating the tar out of the CO who informs me that I just lost the mission because all of my infantry are "out cold." Losing is never a good thing, but with voice acting this bad, it's far worse. The one I hate the most is of the CO Betty, who is (to everyone's dismay) one of the main COs in your army. Her voice acting could cause any man to go mad. When I first saw a picture of this character (before I heard the horrid voice acting), I thought: "hm, she looks kind of hot; might turn out to be a decent character." I definitely don't think that anymore. Now, whenever I think of it, I am filled with so much rage that I could potentially destroy the moon with my toe nails. In short: the voice acting is terrible, almost unbearable. Thank goodness they include an option to lower (or mute) the voice acting. So for the ideal playing experience, you'd probably have it on mute most of the time.

While Battalion Wars isn't as bad of a game as Shadow the Hedgehog, it's still rather mediocre. Pretty mediocre, actually. I'd say you shouldn't pay more than $10-20 dollars for it. It may be better to just rent it, though there are bonus missions which may require some replaying.

Next time, I might talk about Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time. It's a surprise.

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