As some of my LusiReaders may remember, I took a trip to Castle Lusipurr a short time ago and had a lovely time. I bring this up because one of the joys of the visit was watching Lusipurr play classic games. I have always loved watching people play games. I would watch my friend Pogo play first person shooters for two to eight hours at a time and I have watched countless hours of professional StarCraft. I have spent weekends watching my girlfriend play Resident Evil 4, Uncharted, and various games from the Zelda franchise. I find it interesting to see how other people play games when I get to watch at length, and I suppose that is the appeal of something like “Let’s Play” although I never personally got into those videos.
The reasons why it was thrilling to watch Lusipurr play old video games are twofold. First, I am just starting to appreciate the pre-N64 era from a pure design perspective. I grew up desperately wanting a SNES of my own, but only got to experience the system and its games in small bites at friend’s houses. It was not enough to truly understand the software. But now that I am starting to, it is a treat to see these games played by somebody who did grow up with them and had the time and brain to understand them.
Lusipurr and I certainly do not agree about everything, disagreeing about everything from modern game design to the usefulness of my anus, but it would be stupid to ignore his experience and expertise with video games and as I have begun to study game design as more than just a gaming fan, it is very exciting to delve into the roots of gaming and to see what has evolved and what has been forgotten or eroded, and Lusipurr is an excellent tour guide into the early eras.
All of THIS is to set-up yet another side-scrolling Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. U that I played solo for the first time this week.
What NSMB U Does Right
I enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. U on my first playthrough, but I did not play it the way I usually would. I like a hybrid method with new side-scrolling Mario games, swapping between blasting through levels and meticulously combing through them to discover secret exits and all the star coins. It is an interesting compromise that Nintendo has devised to accomodate all the people who are new to video games that they brought in with the giant indiscriminate net that was the Wii. The way the game is set up makes it rather easy to collect lives and blow through the game, but to fully complete it – especially the challenges – takes a level of mastery that begins to look a lot more similar to their brilliant Super Nintendo platformer. It is to its credit that NSMB U removes the uber-suits that Mario Galaxy 2 and New Super Mario Bros. 2 provided after a high number of deaths in a level. Instead, NSMB U shows the player a run that is good enough to beat the level. It does not essentially beat it for the player like the uber-suits, but instead shows that it is possible with the implicit suggestion that the player is capable of doing it herself. Much better.
The game also attempts to harken back to Super Mario World by naming worlds and levels and creating levels that cause the player to think more about the game in order to master it. Ghost Houses return to being puzzles, and Mario’s world begins to feel more like, well, a world. It really is a wonderful hybrid of the star coin-era new Mario games and the exploration of gameplay and pursuit of mastery that the old games provided. It is not a perfect mix, and while the game is fun with local multiplayer, it really is best solo, which is not true of the more modern oriented Super Mario 3D World. The point is that Lusipurr was right about New Super Mario Bros. U and I am glad I gave a solo playthrough a shot.
Yes! Goddamn yes!
Sorry for the yelling, but I can finally play Etrian Odyssey IV again. There is always one boss that gives me major trouble and I had barely played the game recently because of the thought of attempting and losing to the monster once again, but I finally overpowered myself enough to press forward. Now here I must admit that I do go about this boss the incorrect way. I tend to stick to one party with the Etrian Odyssey series when the games tend to encourage testing out different combinations. So I am being stubborn by grinding instead of using strategy, but that is the only boss in which I grind instead of using my head and experience, and so I allow myself that one grievance. I really think it is the best game in the series. I just cannot get into either mode of Untold because while it is a wonderful foundation, Etrian Odyssey is a series that has built on its ideas and not just repeated them and so the first game, even remade and with a different sort of story mode, just feels lesser. I hope the series will continue.
I am leaving my current job on August 19th and – among many other things – I plan on studying video games with that time. Games have not been this exciting to me in a long time and I feel like we are in the early stages of a new golden age, even in the face of awful things like EA and free-to-play gaming. I look forward to what I will write about in this time, dear LusiHobbits, and I hope that you all participate in the process, recommending eras and series that you feel I should play or replay.