Character Spotlight: Paper Mario

Rachel Mii Double JumpHappy Tuesday and end of February!

I’ve been talking a lot about Paper Mario: Color Splash this month and I thought what better character to do a Character Spotlight for than Paper Mario himself?

Not Mario-Mario, Paper Mario.

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Paper Mario is his own character and known as such from Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, a game that was released in the US January 22, 2016 for the Nintendo 3DS. I personally have yet to play the game, but it’s on my list.

People speculate about Paper Mario being a different Mario from a paper world due to Paper Jam, where real Mario exists.

However, that doesn’t explain the previous Paper Mario games.

Paper Mario first appeared in Paper Mario released in the US for the Nintendo 64 on February 5, 2001. He then appeared in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Super Paper Mario, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and the most recent, Paper Mario: Color Splash.

Paper Mario is one of my favorite characters because his first game was the first game I had ever played and completed on my own. The music is great, the gameplay is fun, and it’s a fairly easy game to boot.

The character Paper Mario will always have a special place in my heart.

What do you think of Paper Mario? The character and the games? Let me know in the comments below!

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Fire Emblem Fates Game Review

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday!

I have finally played through all three of the Fire Emblem Fates trio of games — despite the fact that they have been out for about a year and a half. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this trio, I will admit. Overall, Fates was an excellent addition to the Fire Emblem family, but there were definite aspects of the games that irked me as well. As always, this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

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Title: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, Conquest, Revelations
Company: Nintendo
Release Date: June 2015
Console: Nintendo 3DS
How I got the game: I bought them.

Warning — there may be story spoilers!

gameplayFire Emblem games are a turn-based tactical RPG franchise, allowing the player to raise and direct his/her/their own army of characters. The majority of these games feature a permanent death aspect — once your character’s hit points drops to zero, he/she is dead and gone from the game. The newer installments of this series has different game modes, where the permanent death mode is called Classic (or Lunatic, for an extra challenge) while the Casual mode allows characters to return for the next battle. Fates also introduces the Phoenix mode, which enables fallen characters to revive on the very next turn, allowing even novice tacticians to enjoy the games.

I played the Fates trio of games with the Casual mode because I am a sucker for character development and backstories. The Casual mode also allowed me to enjoy the story of the three games without worrying about any of the characters — such as the secondary protagonists of the avatar’s siblings — dying and missing out on main events.

Like the previous Fire Emblem games, Fates has a plethora of unique characters and classes for said characters. Swordsmasters and Paladins, Troubadours and Clerics, Wyvern Riders and Pegasis Knights, to name a few familiar classes. Birthright and Conquest each star a different kingdom and, thus, have different character classes than the other, some of which are new to the series. Birthright has more lance and dagger/shuriken users like ninjas, while Conquest features more magic-orientated classes like sorcerers. It was an intriguing difference between the pair, with the player needed to adapt to the cultural differences between the countries when it came to creating strategies for battle.

Fates had a Castle feature, a safe spot for the player and the army to rest after each battle. The Castle had the weaponry and item shops, along with fun little features you could build like a hot springs to chat with fellow soldiers, a mess hall where cooks could create dishes to give your soldiers small stat boosts for the next fight, and a private quarters so the avatar can grow closer with the soldiers. The Castle was also the battleground if other online players ever “invaded,” letting you pit your army with another’s.

An important game play feature of the Fire Emblem series is the support system, where two units can grow closer and grant each other stat boosts during battles if they are stationed next to each other — or paired up and sharing a space — often enough during fights. If two units gain enough support, they may marry and have a child unit (if a male/female pairing) or be able to change into each other’s classes (if a same-sex pairing). Fates is the first Fire Emblem game to give the option of a same-sex marriage, but there is only one option per gender and depend on which game you are playing. While both options are available in the third game Revelations, the lesbian option is featured in Birthright while the gay option is in Conquest.

With the marriage aspect of the game, I did find some of the “bonding” experiences to be odd. After marriage, the avatar’s spouse will live with the avatar in their private quarters in the Castle feature. While the little chats could be cute, once in a while you would need to rub the touch screen to wake up your sleeping spouse (half the time I accidentally smacked my husband) or blow through the microphone to, I dunno, dry off your spouse after they had a bath. Perhaps I just don’t understand how that could be appealing or romantic. I know in the Japanese versions of the game there is a patting mini-game, which I probably would also find a little strange.

Child units made a reappearance in Fates after Awakening, unlocking new paralogues and maps that serve to recruit the children into your army. While the characters were interesting, I didn’t feel as if there was a point to the child units. In Awakening, most of the child units were optional as well considering they would exist only if you decided to marry some of your first generation units, but they had a point to the plot. With Fates, the children served to bolster your army (which, I suppose, can be necessary if you’re playing the Classic or Lunatic modes) and for some cute support conversations, but that was it. Indeed, when I was playing Revelations, I only had my unit marry quite far into the story along with one other pair (merely because they had reached that point in their supports).

Despite the few newer features, the game play for Fire Emblem Fates was very similar to the other games in the franchise, and it was fine. You can’t fix what’s not broken, right?

graphics-music

The graphics of this game were wonderful, with clean and smooth cut scenes when appropriate, even if the character models seem to be a bit clunky at times. Considering that the main character is your customizable avatar and its on the screen the majority of the time, the graphics work well. The battle animations weren’t bad, but they did get tedious enough for me to turn off the option to watch them. I preferred to watch the little pixel models smack each other to save time.

The Fire Emblem franchise has some of the best music, and Fates did not disappoint. I adored the main theme and Azura’s song, “Lost in Thoughts All Alone.” The music always matched the tone of the battles, especially during the final fight with a version of Azura’s song playing in the background. There are a couple of versions of “Lost in Thoughts All Alone” available to buy and download, but I’d be ecstatic if I could find the full soundtrack!

 

story

 

The stories for the Fire Emblem Fates trio were okay. I enjoyed them, but having them broken up into three games — even though all three were fully fleshed out — was not my favorite aspect of Fates.

Birthright and Conquest allowed us to follow the respective country — Hoshido and Nohr, respectively — and unique cast of characters while trying to stop a war between the two kingdoms. Birthright was the avatar’s original home kingdom and family, and the avatar helps to defend Hoshido from the invading Nohr. In Conquest, the avatar joins their adoptive Nohr family in conquering Hoshido. The main villain in each game is the corrupted Nohr king Garon, a puppet to an even larger enemy. Revelations is the story when the avatar chooses to side with neither Hoshido or Nohr, instead choosing to find peace while figuring out the true enemy and inspiring both sides to work together. Each country has a quartet of siblings that care a great deal for the avatar, and the avatar wrestles with the emotions that come with siding one over the other or neither at all. These feelings drive the avatar to stop the war and achieve peace as soon as possible.

Birthright is pretty straightforward when it comes to protecting the kingdom from the Nohr king, while Conquest focuses on conquering Hoshido for its throne, which has a special magic that forces King Garon to reveal his true, monstrous form. Birthright is a classic defend-the-kingdom plot, while Conquest’s theme is the end justifies the means. Revelations figures out what is behind King Garon’s motivations, finding an ancient, evil god and fighting to prevent the god from ravaging the world.

Buying all three of these games costs about $80, which isn’t too bad if one remembers to just buy one retail copy of Birthright or Conquest and then digitally download the other two games for a discount. This does not count any DLC, none of which I bought except for Boo Camp for experience grinding and Ghostly Gold for money. If one wants the full experience of the story, then all three games should be in your game library.

While each game was fully fleshed out, siding with either Hoshido or Nohr made me feel as if I were missing half of the story. Considering the sheer amount of characters and how close the avatar appears to be with all of his/her siblings, it made me eager to not only play both sides of the game but to also dive into Revelations. To me, Revelations seemed to be the “true” story of Fates. However, after playing through Revelations, it seemed a touch rushed with all of the characters that joined your avatar’s side. Each story depends on the other two for the whole experience, which left me with mixed feelings. They were all enjoyable, but no matter the game I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something.

Characters also make up a large part of the stories in the Fire Emblem games, and Fates was no exception. Your avatar is a fantastic main character (even if sometimes they are so eager and idealistic that once in a while I wanted to shake them by the shoulders), leading the army through a war against an evil god. The support conversations I have unlocked so far reveal lots of interesting and fun tidbits of the other characters, and it’s always great to figure out each character’s reason for being in the army.

I do, however, feel that the game’s main male characters were more developed than the females. Out of the eight sibling characters, it was clear that the brothers of both Hoshido and Nohr had the games’ focus while the sisters were there to be the cute healers (in the case of the younger two) or to fulfill the games’ quota for sex appeal (in the case of the older two). It’s the four brother characters that get the most animated cut scenes, that get the most dialogue, that get the four divine weapons that combine with the avatar’s to create the Fire Emblem.

It’s a shame, for while I love the development the brothers had gotten, I truly wish that same focus was given to the sisters, especially when the women’s support conversations hinted at interesting backstories, such as Camilla’s mother using her as a pawn in politics and Hinoka’s drive to become such a strong warrior. I would have loved for their backgrounds to be played up more in the story and game itself.

I feel as if the games would have worked just as well if the number of royal siblings was cut down, despite how much I enjoyed all of their characters. For example, Hoshido could have had the older Prince Ryoma and the younger Princess Sakura while Nohr would have the older Princess Camilla and the younger brother Prince Leo trying to persuade the avatar to their side. Birthright, going along with its easier difficulty, would have the advantage of an early healer in Sakura and Conquest has early access to magic units with Leo. Ryoma is the just crown prince of Hoshido, and Camilla could have been the crown princess that showed off her blood lust in more than just snatches of dialogue. Cutting out a few of the royal siblings also would cut out the extra retainer characters, lightening up on the sheer amount of characters to keep up with in Revelations.

Despite the faults I found with the stories of the Fates trio, I did enjoy them. Revelations was my favorite, considering that it rounded out the other two stories and gave the player the “true,” in my opinion, ending.

replay-value

Fire Emblem Fates has plenty of replay value, if only for the many support conversations and pairings one can unlock throughout the three stories. Considering that the avatar can marry anyone of the opposite gender (along with the one same-sex option, depending on the game), as well as reach best friend status with anyone of the same gender, pairing up all sorts of characters with the avatar during battles allows tons of different strategies for fights.

The multiple difficulty modes add on to the replay value, and players can easily create their own challenges with the ability to change the characters’ classes with the use of the item seals — Master Seals for advance classes, Partner and Friendship Seals for maxed support units, and Heart Seals, uniquely allowing a character to change to a class that’s more suited to his/her personality.

Owing all three Fates games also gives the player nine save files to fully explore all the options available to them in the games. If you have extra money to spare, there are also a handful of downloadable content with extra tales and maps to play.

With all this said, Fire Emblem Fates is a game I’ll probably pick up again, but it most likely won’t be played as often as my other Fire Emblem games, such as Awakening.

 

Fire Emblem Fates gets…
4-lives4 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this trio of games? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! 

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Connections

connections

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It’s not much of a secret that Rachel’s favorite video game is Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64 while mine is Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES. Both of those games are dear to us, considering they’re both probably the games that we each picked up on our own when we were old enough to hold onto the controllers and read the stories.

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While this has been known to both of us for quite some time, we were talking about it the other night and realized how… funny? Coincidental? I don’t know… How weird it is that those two games happen to be our favorites.

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We both grew up with video games, taking on the mantel of gamer when our uncles, father, and older sister stopped picking up controllers. I had watched our relatives play games on the original NES before picking up games myself on the next generation console. Rachel did the same, having watched me play the SNES before playing on her own on the Nintendo 64. We were amused at how we each started playing a console generation apart.

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Meanwhile, the first game Kris played and beat on her own was Super Mario RPG while for me it was Paper Mario. Both games are similar to each other as Paper Mario isn’t a “sequel” exactly, but it’s still a successor of RPG.

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I believe, originally, Paper Mario was going to be a sequel to RPG, but there was a bit of an issue on some character copyrights. Still, I consider them to be in the same series, if you will, as both promote the role-playing elements of party members, overworlds, and — of course — the aspect of collecting seven stars.

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I’ve always loved watching Kris play Super Mario RPG, too. Then when Paper Mario came out… I still watched her play it first (I think) because I love just watching, but I fell in love and decided to try it for myself. And fell in love again. It’s funny how we love similar games, just one generation/console apart. If that doesn’t say “player one” and “player two,” then I don’t know what does.

Did you find this as fascinating as we did? What’s your all-time favorite game and/or the first game you ever completed on your own? Let us know in the comments below!

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Flashback Friday: Super Mario Kart

Double Jump Kris Mii Thank God it’s Friday! I hope everyone else’s weeks have gone well!

The Nintendo Switch will be released in a mere week, and one of the upcoming games that Nintendo has boasted for the console is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This month we’ll be looking at the game that began the go-kart racing franchise, Super Mario Kart.

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Super Mario Kart was first released way back in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the first in a string of related go-kart racing games, allowing the Super Mario franchise to touch other genres and gain even more popularity among gamers. It sold over nine million copies worldwide, cementing its spot as the third best selling SNES game ever.

The game allows players to select one of eight characters from the Super Mario franchise and race with said characters around themed courses. Item boxes grant characters power ups to gain advantage in the race and put their opponents momentarily out of commission. This basic premise has continued in the rest of the games in the series, albeit with new power ups and plenty of more characters and courses to choose from.

Super Mario Kart is credited with inventing the go-kart subgenre of video games, with other franchises following suit with their own racing games, including Sonic Drift from Sega, South Park Rally, and Diddy Kong Racing. The Mario Kart series itself has gained seven sequels along with a handful of arcade spin-offs over the last two and a half decades. The games have received mostly positive reception, and is one of the leading multiplayer gaming franchises.

The latest anticipated game in the series, at the time of this post, is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has already caused some controversy despite not even being released yet. A revamp of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has added the DLC from its Wii U predecessor along with a battle mode for the Nintendo Switch console. Many longtime Mario Kart fans wonder if the price of the Deluxe game is worth it for the additions rather than a brand new Mario Kart game.

Despite the long road, Super Mario Kart has brought about a new gaming subgenre, allowing players to game as their favorite characters in a new light.

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Game Guides Are Pretty, But What Are They Worth?

Rachel Mii Double JumpHappy Thursday!

I love game guides. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t, but I do love to collect them.

I have a drawer underneath my bed that’s filled to the brim with various game guides. It’s gotten so full that I need to look into getting another draw or just buying a bookshelf.

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With the Nintendo Switch right around the corner and so much hype about the new Legend of Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, it never occurred to me that there would be a game guide. I mean, of course, there would be because it’s a game and it’s Zelda.

I was scrolling through Nintendo’s blog the other day and noticed that the deluxe version of Breath of the Wild’s game guide was 40% off on Amazon.

While I collect game guides, I usually go for the standard paperback or sometimes splurge on the hardcover collector’s edition. This is mainly because I’m cheap, but unfortunately, bills have to come first.

Needless to say, when I found out there was a third edition, a deluxe version at that, I got excited. And it was 40% so maybe I’d have to buy it right away depending on the price.

The deluxe version was sold out the moment I got onto Amazon. That seems to be my luck lately, but it’s okay. Because I don’t think I would have bought it anyway.

I see why people jumped at the chance to get it 40% off because the original price is… $80.

Eighty-dollars.

What?

I have no idea what Nintendo is thinking lately with these prices.

According to Amazon, this is what the deluxe version includes that the collector’s edition doesn’t:

zelda-botw-deluxe-guideDELUXE EDITION BONUS: Deluxe format of 11 ” x 15”, premium vintage hardcover, exclusive dedicated 16-page retrospective celebrating thirty years of Zelda games, a 16-page dedicated art section, and two ribbon bookmarks.

Of course, according to the description for the collector’s edition, the hardcover also has the 16-page dedicated art section. Other than that, what’s listed above are the only add-ons.

I’m not saying the items included in and with the deluxe version aren’t worth $80, but… it still seems like so much money for a game guide.

It sure is pretty, though.

While I would love to have that added to my collection, I’m just going to settle for the hardcover collector’s edition which is only about $24 on Amazon.

And, may I add, just as pretty.

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Do you typically buy the game guides? If so, which version will you get for Breath of the Wild? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past Game Review

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Title: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Company: Nintendo
Console: 
Super Nintendo/Wii U
Release Date: 
November 21, 1991/January 30, 2014
How we got the game: 
We downloaded it on our Wii U through the virtual console

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I remember attempting to play A Link to the Past as a kid at my grandparents’ house. I was able to perhaps reach the second dungeon before deciding to start over and run around Kakariko Village to explore, annoy chickens, and set bees upon the the enemy guards. Fairly recently, one of our favorite YouTubers played a randomizer version of the game and it reminded me that I had never played through the game myself.

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Every once in a while we get that itch to play a Zelda game and after watching the randomizer of A Link to the Past, we thought, why not give it a go? Kris played it while I watched, speculated, and back-seat played.

gameplay

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The game play itself is similar to other 2D Legend of Zelda games. As the protagonist, you explore the land to reach various dungeons in order to collect amulets and rescue maidens to vanquish the evil that plagues the land. To do this, A Link to the Past had a plethora of items to use at Link’s disposal, and I believe the weapon and item collecting was one of my favorite parts of the game. It was fantastic being able to pick up a bow or fire rod and use them to figure out puzzles in later dungeons, even if I did have a hard time aiming most of the time.

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While I didn’t physically play the game, I know the basic gist of it. I spectated on the other side of the couch telling Kris what to do and when despite what she was doing. This was mainly because I panic during boss battles and it was funny whenever she gamed-over.
You would think, since it’s an older game, it would be “easier” to play, but it didn’t seem that way.

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It was a fantastic challenge, though. Of course, games have all sorts of guides floating around on the Internet and, I’ll admit, I needed to look up a bit to get to the next step, but for the most part, the game play wasn’t bad. It was a nice challenge, something nostalgic and reminding me of how far video games have come since then. Despite the advancements, you still needed to swing your sword at the right time.

graphics-music

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Since this game was originally for the SNES, the graphics obviously aren’t the best. But they’re good enough because it’s the best they could do at that time. And, at this point, it looks nostalgic.

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The graphics are charming and do their job, even if they weren’t in HD. They’re simple, they’re effective, and they’re memorable enough to be nostalgic, as Rachel said. The music is perfectly Legend of Zelda, all in its pixel-y glory, able to warp you into the world the moment you turn the game on.

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The music is awesome, as always. I find myself humming along with it randomly during the battle scenes or just when Kris is going from one dungeon to the other.
story

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Like the majority of Legend of Zelda stories, A Link to the Past involves Link exploring dungeons in order to save Hyrule by thwarting Ganon and rescuing maidens that are related to the Sages of the kingdom. Ganon himself used the wizard Agahnim in order to kidnap the maidens and Zelda to use the women’s powers to gain access to the Dark World so he can rule both.

Rachel Mii Double Jump
What I love about this game is that you go back and forth between the Light World and Dark World. I know in most Zelda games you go back and forth between here and there (the Sky and Earth in Skyward Sword, the Twilight Realm and the real world in Twilight Princess), but I found it clever nonetheless.

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This particular story actually started most of those elements, such as alternate worlds, the Master Sword itself, and plenty of other items and weapons. In this story, Link must seek out the amulets of Wisdom, Courage, and Power in order to wield the Master Sword before going to the Dark World to rescue the maidens and confront Ganon. Doing so allows Link to find the Triforce and, with his pure wish, restore the Light World and Dark World back to how they were before Ganon interfered.

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Then there you go. They definitely included some interesting twists along with the very intricate dungeon layouts. Overall, they did a great job with this game.

replay-value

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A Link to the Past is widely considered to be one of the best video games of all time, with the way it revolutionized the franchise itself with key elements and continued the lore of Hyrule for Nintendo. It’s definitely a game that one can comfortably get lost in with its straight-forward story and wide world. With that said, it’ll probably be a while before I pick up this game again. I prefer the newer Zelda games to this one, most likely due to my own nostalgic memories. Ocarina of Time, with 3D Link, was my first Zelda game rather than A Link to the Past, and it was a touch odd to play a Zelda game without my usual Link on the screen.

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I have to agree with you. However, I’m sure we will play again in the future. After all, I have to play it myself.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past gets…
4-lives
4 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! 

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Top Tuesday: Paper Mario Color Splash Levels

Rachel Mii Double JumpHappy Tuesday!

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I recently completed Paper Mario: Color Splash. The game was much better than I thought it would be, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite levels from the game.

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5. Sacred Forest

There’s nothing entirely special about this level, but half of the forest is huge and the other half is tiny. It was pretty cool (and tiny Goombas are scary). What I loved most about this level was not the play through of it, but the music. It was upbeat and catchy, but most of all, I think I loved it so much because it reminded me a lot of the original Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64.

4. The Emerald Circus

There’s not much to this level, but Mario helps perform in the circus. When I say perform, I mean battling the shy guy circus members. While I’m not a fan of the battle mechanic of this game, I do enjoy levels where enemies line up to fight you. I don’t know why, but it’s just fun. Plus, there was a lot of variety in the enemies. Enemies that I’ve never encountered before, so it was new and fresh.

3. Green Energy Plant

This level is all about nostalgia. The energy plant is having some tech problems leading Mario to jump into a Toad’s TV and you’re suddenly in a Paper Mario version of Super Mario Bros. 3. It is seriously the most awesome thing ever.

2. Vortex Island

In this level (and the two levels afterwards) there is a pipe that brings you to an alternate universe of that level. Everything is bright and shiny, but there are things that block your path. You can go into the other world (and there will be a ton of enemies like dry bones and boo) there will be nothing there or something to help you in the other world to help you get through. They’re the same layout, but with slight differences. You have to go back and forth and figure out the puzzle.

1. Dark Bloo Inn

I’m afraid of ghosts, but I’m oddly fascinated by them. Boo was always one of my favorite characters in the Mario world and, in every Mario game, I always look forward to the Boo levels. Dark Bloo Inn adds an extra twist as the Inn is haunted with angry ghost Toads. You have to solve their problems in order to beat the level. You’re timed (which was annoying at first because I didn’t realize it) and ghostly things happen throughout the inn. This level has only one paint star, but I wish it had more.

Have you played this game? If so, what are your favorite levels? Let me know in the comments below!

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