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Right in Front of Your Face

Elitism still is the big divide. It’s the biggest obstacle facing games today. Elitism is the belief that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views are the only ones that matter.

We are that elite.

Many of my friends resented when Nintendo positioned itself as a beacon to attract non-gamers (including some of my non-gamer friends, interestingly enough). Now, after piling them with shovelware for years, we see our dusted Wiis and state “The Wii Is Dead” in a dismissive tone that implies “See, we were right all along. You shouldn’t have abandoned us. We are the ones that get it, not them”.

Because (OMG!) gaming is art. And we are (obviously) the only ones who can see it.
Some pieces of art are difficult to understand or appreciate. That’s why the elite is the elite; and have Bach playing on the background as they discuss the peasant situation. The thing is that while there is only schooling and experience in the way of turning the Average Joe into H. E. Pennypacker, for gaming there is also the issue of skill. How can grandpa even start to appreciate games when just comprehending the controls is bound to take more spasmodic accidents than his patience and time could afford?

Yes, folks, this is my Omnitopic entry!

No matter how unapproachable a book or a movie may be, one can always get through it. The same is not true for gaming, as the skills it requires are primarily related to manual dexterity – which is not a trivial thing to acquire. It’s mostly an aptitude after all. Gaming is built on progression and not matter whether this progression if linear or open ended, the plot is not. One cannot skip to world 8-8 if one cannot even pass world 1-1 (and the first warp zone is hidden in the world 1-2, mind you). This is troublesome. It’s like buying a movie without knowing how to read it.

I find this unfair, especially now games are maturing into a narrative driven medium. Read the rest of this entry

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NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII – Review

NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII is a videogame developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Wii. It was directed by SHIGEYUKI ASUKE.

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This article contains the following types of spoilers:

  • Description of the boss system

Before anything else, let me say that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a good game and you should play it if you can find it cheap.

Gamers who knowingly buy New Super Mario Bros. Wii (NSMBW) are going to get exactly what they expect: there are the Mario Brothers, on the Nintendo Wii with super powers. Only the “New” part of the title is misleading. Perhaps it was irony, I don’t know. There is nothing really new in it. This is a remake from the Nintendo DS game New Super Mario Bros. (NSMB), which is itself a remake of the original Super Mario Bros. (SMB) for the NES. It’s a turtle on top of another turtle and, if this “New” series continues, that turtle will be on top of yet another turtle. Eventually this will become a perpetually remade series – with Koopas all way down.

I call NSMBW a remake because this game is the equivalent to Gus van Sant’s shot-by-shot refilming of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But while van Sant’s work can be viewed as an invaluable experiment in the theory of cinema, games have no need for such lesson, as gamers are already all too familiar with ‘more of the same’ sequels, ‘me too’ copies and remakes. NSMBW, however, did make me more aware of how I admired the creativity behind the older Mario games – including the DS one. Apart from the 3 new power-ups – the Propeller Mushroom, the Ice Flower and the Penguin Suit – everything in NSMBW was featured somewhere before. We are dealing with the same overall style of NSMB: the very same level archetypes (grass, desert, ice, water, forest, mountain, sky and lava), the same enemies, same Boo houses and even the same Bowser castle – so this is basically NSMB redone. Other features are aimed directly at the player’s nostalgia: the background features both hills from Super Mario World (SMW) and blocks from Super Mario Bros. 3 (SMB3); bosses’ castles feature all the traps we have seen in both SNES Mario games. There are appearances from the Koopa Clown Car and the airships from SMB3, but while in SMB3 those airships were used as reasons for developers to play around with fixed-scrolling stages and the impression of relative movement, the airships in NSMBW are purely gratuitous. Read the rest of this entry

Nintendo, I was wrong and you were right. Now give me some more tutorials.

It’s absurd how much knowledge we amass from our hobbies. A critic like Roger Ebert might know more about movies than I ever will. I know some soccer players who know far more maneuvers than I care to know (I suppose I forget anything above my “knowledge of things soccer” limit of 2 items). My sister can fill books with stuff about Hanna Montana. But the point of this article is not quantity. This is about that so-called obvious piece of knowledge you acquired in the primordials of your attempt at a hobby: what ‘editing’ means for a movie; how do we play the C chord; what are hops; how to paint inside the lines; what does that red mushroom do. These are the stuff we take for granted. We then laugh when our parents just can’t understand how they can use “the office email” outside their offices, how my grandma save a blank MS Word document at her desktop and called it “white paper” (true story) or what was Iwata smoking when he thought about making a DVD Tutorial for Super Mario Galaxy 2.

I laughed too, Nintendo. I felt like you were patronizing everybody’s cognitive abilities. But now I am sorry. Very sorry. You might be just incredibly correct about launching a tutorial for Mario and I was only being a jerk. In fact, if I asked you for a tutorial for the original Mario game, would you make it? I desperately need one. Read the rest of this entry