Month: December 2016

Saying Sayonara to 2016


As the holiday season and the year 2016 come to a close (very conveniently at the same time in this case), I feel like I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on some things.  As I mentioned in my last post about Carrie Fisher’s passing, the general attitude seems to be that 2016 can’t end soon enough.  Globally, the world is a bit of a mess.  In the United States, the incredibly divisive presidential election we just completed left everything feeling a little bit fractured and not-so-unified.  In the world of popular culture lots of people who were well-known and highly adored by the general public passed away.

It’s understandable why people feel the year was so bad, and admittedly there’s some of that I’ve gotten bogged in too over the last couple months.  However, for me personally, the year really hasn’t been all that awful.  In fact, it’s been a fairly great year all things considered.

One thing I always find interesting as a gamer is reflecting on what games “defined my year,” as it were.  Granted I didn’t necessarily diversify my interests a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of things I played.

Toward the beginning of the year, I was still riding some of my Wii U hype.  I just got my system as a present last Hanukah, in fact, so games like Super Mario Maker were still huge time sucks, moreso than they are now.

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Image provided by Wikimedia Commons

Another thing that I’d gotten for Hanukah in 2015 also continued to take up my time, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes.

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Image provided by Wikimedia Commons

While the game wasn’t a traditional Zelda game like we’d all been waiting for in the relatively soon-to-be-announced Breath of the Wild, it was still a blast to play.  The game had some awesome multiplayer functionality both with friends and with strangers, and to this day I don’t think I’m over how hilarious it is to spam the cheerleader pom-pom Link emoji.

On top of that, you could literally dress Link up as a cheerleader and it was one of the most viable costumes in that game.  Not sure I ever thought I’d be so gung-ho to get Link to cross dress in all honesty, but I was.

Also earlier on in the year, while I was still getting into the swing of the Spring semester, I remember binging every Shantae game that’s been released thus far.

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Image provided by WayForward

Not only did I play the original Shantae for the Game Boy, I played Shantae: Risky’s Revenge and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.  I fell in love with the series fast thanks to the lovable characters, the quirky and fun writing, the beautiful animation style and of course the music (composed by Jake Kaufman, who also produced the music for another one of my favorite games in the same general style: Shovel Knight).  I literally played through all three in a row and loved every minute of it, even if none of the games were necessarily all that beefy.

I do know that I can thank MowtenDoo for really sparking my interest in the series thanks to his indescribably wonderful rendition of one of the game’s songs, “The Nightmare Woods (Run Run Rottytops!)” in a way that’s truly unforgettable and continues to be one of my favorite videos on YouTube.  Seriously, I listened to this way too many times this year I’m sure.  But it was worth it.

Doing a little bit of research, it looks like the latest installment in the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, has been released just recently, but it apparently slipped under my radar somehow.  I’m wholeheartedly Ret-2-Go with that game as soon as I can pick it up, as there are a few too many games in 2016 that I unfortunately missed despite wanting to play them.  Didn’t have quite as much time to devote to these things as I would have liked.

Next on the list of my year’s rundown is the first in what I would consider my ‘return of old gaming loves’ trilogy.  That, of course, was Fire Emblem Fates.  All three together technically, but Birthright was undoubtedly my personal favorite.

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There’s a few things I’ll never forget just leading up to the games being released.  First, I’ll never forget the hunt my friends and I went on trying to find some of the special edition three-in-one game cartridges for Fates that was a resounding failure but had some great moments.  Like getting literally laughed at by a guy in a Game Stop one time.  That was awesome.

I’ll also never forget getting the first game, Birthright, as it was actually a gift that was given to me by the editors of the News section on the Daily Titan, Micah and Brianna, as thanks for being their assistant for the Fall 2015 semester.  Seriously, check it out, I still have the note here:

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It was really awesome, especially considering it apparently took a lot of work to build up to the reveal, including using my friend Kaleb as a spy to figure out which version of the game I wanted more.

Fire Emblem took up a huge chunk of my life from there on out, as I went on to play all three versions.  In a row.  In hindsight, admittedly not the best idea, but I’m really into the games so it was the decision I made at the time.  Birthright was incredible, rose-colored glasses or not, Conquest literally made my just about cry on multiple occasions from how unnecessarily difficult it got to be at times (Seriously, screw the port level.  If I never play that game again, the port level is to blame) and Revelations was… Admittedly underwhelming.

I meant to talk about it on here a little bit, but beyond just being burnt out on the games by the time I hit the third, there were a few things that really sort of killed the experience for me unfortunately.  First, I padded it out too much for myself.  I tried to grind all the characters up to have a ton of diverse skills rather than planning ahead what I would’ve wanted, and it wound up being far more effort than I was honestly willing to put in.  Second, they killed off my favorite character in what was literally the worst possible way in my opinion.  I have a huge, huge rant still built up about it because the moment was so caustic for me, but this isn’t really the time or the place, so perhaps I’ll still come back to it later.  Third, there was another game coming on the horizon that left me rushing to finish, which took away a lot of my enjoyment toward the latter half of the storyline.  Who knows, maybe if I go back to it now I’ll have a better time, but for now Birthright will continue to be the high point of my memories for Fire Emblem Fates.

The second game in my personal trilogy was Monster Hunter Generations.

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I talked about it on here a bit, so I don’t think I need to go into too much detail, but this game sucked away quite a bit of my time as well.  Though I’ve only been playing Monster Hunter since the last major release, Monster Hunter 4U, it has quickly become one of my favorite franchises.

The seemingly near infinite levels of customization thanks to a wide range of monsters and a progression-based-on-skill system is something almost totally unique to Monster Hunter in my gaming experience, and it ticks boxes like crazy for me.  There are very few games that I get super in depth about building sets and doing hours of research into said sets and also things like lore, but Monster Hunter is definitely one of them.  It’s also one of the favorite games of my friend Juan, so we always have a good time going on extravagant hunts as a super powered duo, Hunting Horn and Charge Blade in hands.

Granted, I’ll admit that the game wasn’t quite as invigorating as MH4U for me, since that was the game where I truly had a skill curve to learn and overcome so I could truly become a master, but Generations was still a blast to play through and through.

Last, but certainly not least, comes what must be an obvious entry on this list.  Hell, there’s only one game that really defined not only the latter half of my year, but also most of what I’ve built my blogging experience on so far.

And that game is, of course, Pokémon Sun and Moon.  Because technically they go together even if they’re two separate games.  Because Pokémon works like that.

Images provided by Serebii.net

Really I’ve said more than enough about these games in many, many posts over the last year, so I don’t think I need to waste too much time on it right now.  Not only were the games beautiful and fun experiences in themselves, surpassing what I consider to be some of my favorite and some of the best constructed games in the series thus far, they reinvigorated the love of competitive Pokémon breeding that I fostered in Alpha Sapphire and got me back into the Pokémon YouTube communities I followed around the same time.

I have been and will continue to do some breeding in the games, especially once the Pokébank opens in January, and I’ve considered doing more competitive battling in 2017.  There’s an official battle competition coming up pretty soon that I’m pretty sure I’ll be entering, so I’m sure there will be plenty more posts in the future on the subject as well.

Beyond those massive entries that took up my time, there are a few other games that permeated my year’s experiences.  The 20th Anniversary of Pokémon for me included the continued playing of Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon Picross on my 3DS, which were my puzzle game obsessions that I’ve only recently seemed to kick.

Images provided by Serebii.net (here and here)

The summer was undoubtedly defined by Niantic’s Pokémon GO, the game which really felt the most universally unifying during the sub-par situations of the year surrounding it.

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My whole family was playing the game together and I still remember wandering El Camino College hatching eggs after my summer classes there.  Though I wound up a little disillusioned with the game, and still haven’t jumped in to catch the start of the Generation 2 Pokédex, I still can’t imagine Pokémon GO won’t hold a place in history in some way or another.

Also hitting the mobile gaming scene this year was Super Mario Run.

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I gave my thoughts on the game in depth a little while ago, and as a small follow-up I will say that having spent money on the full game has made the experience even better for me.  I’ve gotten really into collecting all the colored coins in single player on long road trips and I have a pretty well developed town so far.  As a first jump into the mobile scene for Nintendo, I can personally say that Super Mario Run has been a success, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

I also replayed quite a few older Steam games that I adore but haven’t touched in some time this year.

My friend Samantha and I played Terraria for a long stretch of time together, progressively getting better and better as we learned and built more complicated structures and items together.  The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ate up huge chunks of my time in brief intervals throughout the year, as it’s always an addictive rogue-like experience that I’ll never get tired of.  The same could be said for FTL, which I can only describe as a real-time rogue-like spaceship command and battle simulator.  For anyone who hasn’t heard of the game it can be hard to explain, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time.

My 2016 was defined by more than just the video games I played, however.  It marked the end of my first year at college. It also included my first semester as an editor for a college paper, one which I feel went really well considering all the crazy things that happened politically while I was in charge of the News page.

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2016 was where I really feel like I got into the rhythm of driving and being able to get myself places.  It was also the first year where I got to vote for a serious election – despite how divisive it might have been as far as an election went.

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However, because of my time as a journalist, I felt like this was the first time I really got to apply what I was doing and learning to a real-world event.  Literally the more I learned, the more prepared I felt to vote in November.

On top of that, I feel like I really learned a lot just in general.  Two semesters and a summer intersession at college had me taking classes all over the proverbial spectrum at two different schools: Cal State Fullerton and El Camino College.  Not only was the subject matter of the things I learned interesting, I also got to explore more places at the same time, which I also enjoy doing.

I got my first few relatively well-paying jobs in 2016 between being an editor on the Daily Titan and working for Boom: A Journal of California.  Thanks to that, I’ve felt more independent than I ever really have before.

In 2016, I went to New York for the first time in I honestly don’t know how long.

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I used to have a lot of family living out there, but now most of my close relatives live here in California, so I rarely ever get to go out to the East Coast anywhere that isn’t Florida.  The trip was amazing and so much fun, and I really felt like I got close to a lot of my friends and colleagues in the newsroom that went with me.

While I was there, not only did I get to visit the Nintendo store inNew York (an experience you can read more about in one of my earliest posts):

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I also got to relive a part of my Dad’s childhood by finding his old high school.

So, all and all, I’d say that trip was probably one of the most memorable parts of the year for me.

I got to visit SpaceX for the first time this year, and though I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside, it was still a phenomenal place to see.  Seriously, some of the stuff they have going on in there is incredible.

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In my opinion, I really started to come out of my shell a little bit more in 2016, and that helped me meet and interact with some people who I can really see myself continuing to talk to for a long time to come.  Both those in and out of the newsroom.

2016 was also the first year I’ve let my beard grow out.  It started as a No Shave November thing we did for the Daily Titan, but in the end I wound up getting such a positive reception that I kept the hair grown out.

Seriously, what a difference a little bit of hair will make.  I look totally different from one picture to the other, if you ask me.  Probably helps that I had more hair on top of my head to cover my forehead in the first picture too… But that’s another story.

Finally, 2016 was where I really got into blogging.  Yeah, seems like a silly thing to cap this whole list off with, but you are literally reading this on my blog.  I started this blog back on February 18, a day after my birthday, thanks to some school assignments I had to do.  My Communications 233 class required us to have a blog that we posted 20 things on of any subject we chose.  Naturally, I chose to make this a blog about video games and about my journalism experience.

Though it started as an assignment, one that I literally had to come up with ways to finish by coming up with admittedly silly things to post, I’ve come to really love doing this.  Writing is a passion of mine, and getting the chance to write more often has been wonderful.  It’s also been a way to voice my opinions and thoughts on various subjects, which I don’t tend to do in a largely public forum like this very often.  I may be a relatively small blog still, but I feel like I’ve found somewhat of a rhythm thanks to Pokémon Sun and Moon, and I’m looking forward to writing more on whatever comes up in 2017. As goofy as it might be to say it, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to try and write more next year, so I hope you all stick around to see whatever it is I come up with to write about.

Really, from the bottom of my heart thank you to everyone who’s following my blog, everyone who’s read anything I’ve wrote and to all my family and friends who have helped me explore, encouraged my writing ambitions, and worked to make sure I put my best foot forward.  If you have any of your own favorite memories from 2016, or if you just want to send a good riddance sendoff to the year, feel free to share them down in the comments below.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and here’s to 2017 being a happier time overall than 2016 seems to have been!

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Carrie Fisher – Rest In Peace 

Image courtesy of NBC News

So obviously I don’t do this kind of thing a lot, but as a fan of just about all things geek, this feels especially poignant to at least mention.

After suffering a heart attack last Friday on a flight from London to Los Angeles, 60-year-old Hollywood Actress Carrie Fisher died at 8:55 a.m. this morning, Dec. 27, 2016, according to the New York Times.  Though it’s hard to imagine anybody has not seen at least one branch of the legacy it spawned, her most renown claim to fame came from playing Princess Leia Organa in the 1977 phenomenon “Star Wars.”

Though playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise from Episode 4 in ’77 to Episode 7 in 2015 (with somewhat of a cameo in the Episode 3 to 4 transitional film Rogue One that came out earlier this month) has been her most famous role, Carrie Fisher also has at least 110 other credits for either acting, writing, producing and performing in various movie and television appearances, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).  Fisher has also written a number of books, including a recent memoir titled The Princess Diarist published on Nov. 22, 2016.

In a year which has also seen the deaths of quite a few other highly acclaimed celebrities, including Prince, Alan RickmanGene Wilder and David Bowie to name a few of the many, this loss in particular hits pretty hard for science fiction like myself.  It’s rather hard not to echo the general sentiment that 2016 has been a hard year for many at least in part because of such a largely star-studded death toll.

However, her titular role as the princess of a destined-to-be-doomed planet by the hands of a black suit-clad Sith Lord will likely live on longer than any of us and keep Fisher’s memory alive for a long, long time – much like many of the aforementioned stars who have also passed in the last year.

On July 22, 2016, Star Wars Episode 8 director Rian Johnson confirmed that principle photography for the next movie was completed.  Thus, the film series that jump started her carrier will likely hold Fisher’s last film credit as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a memorial to her at the end of Episode 8, and if anything I’m looking forward to seeing it so I can get emotional about it all over again. With New Year’s Eve in less then a week now, here’s to 2017 hopefully being a little less cruel to our Cult of Celebrity than 2016 has been, even during its home stretch.

Rest In Peace Carrie Fisher, and may the Force be with you.  Always.

My first run at Super Mario Run

My first run at Super Mario Run

Even more than a month later, I’m still deeply enthralled in the world of Pokémon Sun and Moon.  In fact, I’ve just seriously begun doing some competitive breeding, so I’ll probably be posting about some teams I’m building as I get them together.

However, something else has been released recently that I felt was worth taking the time to look at.

If my post title and featured image aren’t enough to have given it away, welcome to my mini review/first impressions post for Super Mario Run (To be abbreviated SMR from here on out).

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Super Mario Run’s title card

Now, to preface this just a little bit, I’ve only played through the currently available free-to-play content portion of SMR.  That means I’ve done World 1-1 to World 1-3, and I’ve done enough online play to have my castle reach level 4.

However, while I’ve only played through the stuff available before hitting the paywall as of writing this, I will say that the game is well worth the (admittedly rather steep for a mobile game) $10 required to access the six Worlds.  I say that for three reasons:

1) Game Feel

First, the game exudes that high level of polish most Nintendo games are known for despite being on a new platform.

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Super Mario Run’s hub world

After a brief control tutorial, the game drops you off at Toad Town and Peach’s Castle, both in their apparently natural state: Demolished by everyone’s favorite resident Big Bad Boss, Bowser.  From this screen you can look at your collectibles, mess with your friend’s list, notifications, receive gifts, connect to a Nintendo account so you can make you player icon a Mii and access other similar mobile game mechanics.  However, the three most important parts of the game come at the bottom of the screen with the Tour, Rally and Build sections.

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An early portion of World 1-2: Wall-Kicking It Underground

Selecting Tour allows you to access what is essentially the main story levels in SMR, revealing just what the game is.  Nintendo’s first mobile game is a 2D endless runner game similar to titles like Bit Trip Runner and the Sonic Storybook Series (Though the Sonic games are in 3D and are generally less than enjoyable… In my opinion, at least).

The game uses the New Super Mario Bros. graphical engine that’s gotten more than enough love since it brought Mario side scrolling games back in 2006, and it uses those graphics rather well if you ask me.  Though the ability to translate a 2D side scroller into an endless runner may seem obvious, the execution of such an idea seems like it would be very easy to get wrong.

However, I would argue SMR gets the endless runner formula right by pretty flawlessly combining a classic, beloved look with new mechanics meant to emphasize a style-based form of gameplay and a substantially intriguing amount of challenge even in early levels.

Granted, any semblance of a story is next to nonexistent past the generic “Save Princess Peach from Bowser” series mainstay… But for a mobile title like this, the lack of a story is fine, and the fact that it even has that could probably be considered a plus.  Luckily, the other portions of the game make up for this.

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Selecting your opponent in a Toad Rally

The second main part of the game comes from the Toad Rally mode, which is SMR’s multiplayer aspect.  Part of the destruction of Toad Town and Peach’s capture involved all the Toads living in the now destroyed city running away.  In order to rebuild the castle and the town, Mario needs to gather Toads, and to do this you have to participate in rally runs against other SMR players.

Using Rally tickets that you gather through various means (such as completing challenges in the single player game or through micro transactions), you can choose an opponent to Run against.  Toad Rally has you racing against the opponent you’ve chosen across a set, repeating map to collect as many coins and gather as much Toad support as possible.  Collecting coins is an obvious task to complete: Just run, jump, defeat foes and wall-kick to get as many as possible.

To gather Toad support, however, requires you to utilize SMR’s main new feature and arguably its main selling point: The style system.  While you can perform all of Mario’s usual jumping techniques, the nature of a free runner changes how the side scroller operates.  Instead of having to jump to cross all barriers and to defeat every Goomba and Koopa, Mario does an acrobatic flip over each of the small creatures and tiny gaps/barriers he comes across.  The act of his instant mobility over these obstacles is automatic, but nets you no benefits.  However, if you tap the screen in a timely manner, you do more fancy tricks and flips that defeat enemies and earn you style points.

Not only do these actions often get you more coins, they build up your Toad support and your style meter, which can eventually activate coin rushes.

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A Coin Rush brought about by filling your style meter

These rushes do essentially what they sound like they would do.  More coins will spawn for the duration of the meter’s charge, enemies will net you more coins and you’ll build up more hype from the little mushroom men that are cheering you on.  These coin rushes perform a similar function to the classic Star power-up you can find hidden sometimes in-game, though the Star also attracts coins within a large vicinity in front of you, ensuring you get them all.

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A coin rush brought about by collecting a Star power-up

Seriously, if you played and enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. 2 for it’s coin-centric gimmicks, you’ll probably love how satisfying coin collection is in SMR.

You can keep the meter charged even while it’s depleting by performing more tricks during the rush, though Mario speeds up during that period so it can be harder to keep up a chain like you normally could.  There’s a huge collection of tricks that Mario can perform to make this task easier, and there are even some tricks exclusive to other playable characters like Luigi, Yoshi and Princess Toadstool herself.

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Performing a stylistic ledge climb during a Toad Rally while racing a ghost player opponent

Although you pick opponents for your Toad Rally matches based on real players, you actually play against a ghost of their performance on the same level that you Run on.  Therefore, although you don’t have to literally be connected to anyone in order to get in on the multiplayer fun of SMR, you still compete against the performances of other fans of the game.  You still have to beat their coin collection scores as they do the same things you do, every coin rush and death included.

Deaths, I might add, are a very interesting thing to observe in SMR.  The game synthesizes elements from different Mario titles together, showing a progression in style throughout the last few years of Nintendo’s history with the franchise that has really blossomed into something neat.  When a player dies, you get an indication on your play area for where they died similar to the red X indicators in Super Mario Maker.  A dead player will then be lifted back into the playing field with a bubble, one of the chief elements common to every New Super Mario Bros. game with multiplayer capabilities.  Deaths will take coins away and bubble travel will bring you backwards through a stage, causing you to fall behind in a Toad Rally.

In single player Runs, deaths will cause the same things to happen, however the bubble can be used strategically.  If you miss one of the special coins on a stage (something I’ll get into in a moment), you can activate one of your limited bubbles at any time to go backwards and give yourself another chance to catch what you missed – unless it happened to be time-based, of course.

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The results screen for a Toad Rally

Once a Toad Rally is over, your coins are tallied up alongside your opponent’s coins to see who has collected the most.  The amount of Toad support you got throughout the round adds extra coins to your score.  Whoever Toadette decides to elect the winner gets more Toads to join them in Toad Town, which in essence acts like the experience points in SMR.  However, be warned, if you lose a match against another player not only have you wasted a Rally ticket, you also lose Toads to your opponent.

It’s a tough break in the SMR world, for sure.

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Leveling up in Super Mario Run

Like I said, Toads are your experience points in SMR.  The more you collect, the more you level up.  The more you level up, the closer you get to repairing Peach’s castle and returning Toad Town to its former glory.

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Rebuilding Peach’s Castle after Bowser’s shenanigans

That brings me to the third major part of the game: Toad Town customization.  Though not an endless running game mode, the build menu allows you  to spend all the thousands of coins you’ll be collecting throughout your endless runs.  Most of the things you can buy are aesthetic.  Toad houses, flowers, garden pieces and so on.   However, you can also buy useful set pieces like bonus mini game houses, which you can access every eight hours or so to have a chance at getting more Rally Tickets and coins.

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All the collectibles you could ever ask for

The more Toads you collect through Toad Rally, the more decorations will be available to you.  There are five colored Toads available to collect: Red, Blue, Green, Purple and Yellow.  Collecting each color will allow you to unlock different things, however I believe Red is the only color available when you haven’t purchased the full game.

At least, that’s the only color I’ve been able to find.

Eventually, collecting each color will allow you to access Rainbow Bridges, which I can only assume will unlock new areas to decorate… But again, I haven’t been able to get more than the Red Toads.

Though seemingly a bit shallow as far as a reward for all the work collecting coins and Toads goes, the building portion of the game does add a nice element of personalization to the game, and the tiny hub world is honestly a really relaxing place to let your phone sit when you’re doing other things.  Toads will also wander around the area and do things like roll around on the grass, so it’s hard not to find the little fungi adorable.

2) Longevity

The second reason SMR is worth the buy: Although it’s clearly built to be in more bite-sized bits, SMR seems to have enough content to warrant the price tag without fitting the bill of a far more expensive console title.

Like I said, only 3 levels are available pre-purchase: World 1-1, 1-2 and 1-3.  The levels mimic exactly what everyone has come to expect from a classic Mario game, one aboveground level, one underground level and one sky-high mushroom level.

The first three levels in Super Mario Run

The levels aren’t exactly very long.  Or at least, the nature of their existence – in which you’re constantly moving – makes it feel like the levels are a lot shorter than they might otherwise be if you had total control over Mario.

However, each level has enough replay value to ensure you won’t blow through the three level trial quicker than you can say “King Koopa.”  Beyond the obvious multiplayer aspect of high scores that you can compare with your friends, each level has a certain collectible that will keep you coming back over… And over… And over again.

Colored Coins for the first three levels in Super Mario Run

Every level in SMR has five collectible Pink Coins when you first play through it.  Chances are you won’t collect all five on your first time through, since many of them are hidden, sometimes hard to reach based on timing or touch strength or down a fork in the road that you can only access both ends of if you utilize your bubbles well.  So, on average, I would say that collecting each Pink Coin in each level would require at least two Runs, as they’re mostly in obvious places.

But once you collect all five Pink Coins, you then unlock a new version of the same map with five Purple Coins.  Purple Coins are, naturally, harder to find than the pink ones are.  More often than not the layout of certain obstacles and coin collections in the level will be far trickier during a Purple Coin run, forcing you to have to do things like check coin boxes to collect every coin (which is admittedly a much harder task than normal in this gameplay style).

Once you collect all five Purple Coins, you then unlock an even harder Black Coin Run of the level, which takes difficulty to a whole other level compared to the earlier versions.  In Black Coin Runs, coins will be hidden better and obstacle layouts will typically require precision playing and planning ahead to collect all five.

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A particularly tricky Black Star to collect in World 1-3

For example, in the screenshot above, to collect the Black Coin you need to not only stay on the yellow mushroom to ensure you’ll fall in the right area, you also need to make sure you time your jumps on enemies correctly so you don’t fall to your doom instead of soaring to victory (Oh, and I have to say, Paratroopas are my least favorite enemy as far as precision jumping goes.  Most of the time you need to land in exactly the right place and tap with just the right amount of strength to make sure you don’t lose a mushroom power-up or fall to your doom.  It’s annoying to say the least).

Also, did I mention there’s a Paratroopa earlier in the level that if you happened to hit will send a shell forward ahead of you that just so happens to knock out the first flying Paratroopa on this screen, thus ending your chances of getting this particular coin?  Yeah, it’s a pain.  Hence pre-planning and multiple runs through each level.  With extra space below the playing field left blank, Nintendo also set up a way to make sure your finger doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay or obscure anything in front of Mario.  It’s a small but very greatly appreciated detail.

I could complain all day about how annoying the Black Coin Run on World 1-3 is, but to be honest it isn’t so much annoying in an unfair sense as it is in a truly difficult sense.  When you fail, it’s because you didn’t perform an action perfectly.  Every element is laid out exactly how it needs to be laid out, and the complexity is enough to make the level interesting to play and frustrating enough to want to conquer.  And that’s only for World 1-3!  I can’t imagine the creative level designs that show up in World 6, those have got to be ridiculous.

Oh, and by the way, there is a reward for collecting all five colored coins in a given level for all of your Completionists out there (Yeah, I can’t consciously steal the word without sourcing it out… I already used Big Bad Bosses in my post, after all).

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Rally Tickets – a worthy prize and reminder of Super Mario Run’s multiplayer emphasis

That’s right, you can get six Rally Tickets per level if you play your cards right, enjoy a challenge and find precision gameplay fun.  Luckily, I fit all three of those criteria and found the challenge fun, even if it did get fairly frustrating.

To top all of this fun, challenging and rewarding gameplay off… SMR has some kick-ass earworms music.  Every track is the classic Mario song you would expect to hear that’s been amped up with techno vibes, really emphasizing the constant action of the gameplay.  The menu and hub world music has also been remixed.  Combine all of that with the tried and true Mario sound effects and you’ve got an audio experience that will keep you humming along hours after you finished your last Run.

3) Nintendo.  Mobile Games.  Winning.

The third reason SMR is worth the buy… Should be obvious. Come on now, this is our first mobile game released by Nintendo (if you don’t count Pokémon GO).  That’s definitely the kind of thing worth supporting if for no other reason than to ensure Nintendo continues to create worthy mobile gaming content.

Like I’ve reiterated throughout this not-so-little review, I’ve only completed the basic free-to-play content in SMR.  I spent maybe an hour and a half (two hours if I’m being generous) learning how the game works, collecting all 45 available colored coins and participating in a few Toad Rallies.  While this may not seem like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, the fact that all that time was spent on three main story levels and four multiplayer level-ups is honestly pretty impressive considering the game is obviously meant to get harder and longer the further you get in past the ‘tutorial’ levels.

Nintendo’s impressive levels of game design and polish shine through with this title just as much as it would in any main series console Mario game.  The amount of care is clear in every little detail – after all, look at how much I pulled out of just two hours or so of play.  As a company, Nintendo has become an expert at taking their assets and improving upon them over and over again through every installment of their franchises.  Super Mario Run is no different.  Despite seemingly being a rehash of various old elements covering a slightly new skeleton, the game really feels like its own unique entity.

Also, the game can be played with one hand.  Shigeru Miyamoto proved as much in a promotional video with Buzzfeed.  Makes it a perfect game to play while breeding Pokémon at the same time.  Or you know, while doing other things, like schoolwork.  And regular work.

For the challenge, for the music, for the tried and true gameplay with a unique style of mechanics, for the fun multiplayer aspects and ultimately to encourage more great content in the future, I would highly recommend not only downloading the game, but shelling out $10 to get everything currently available.

I know I will be.

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Communications 202 productions for the fall 2016 semester

Today was the last day of the fall 2016 semester at Cal State Fullerton.  Next week is finals week, but I’ve gotten lucky with my classes and don’t have to go in for any exams.  There’s a final essay I have to do over the weekend and our final week-long Daily Titan production for the semester on Sunday… But otherwise, I’m essentially free for winter break.

For my Communications 202 class, which was an introductory broadcast production class, our entire semester was building up to producing an actual news broadcast – not a long one necessarily, but still.  All of the packaged reports and the roles preparing the anchored bits were made by the students in the class.  The productions we put together have both been posted online, the second one just earlier this afternoon in fact.

Because it’s an introductory class, things are put together a bit roughly… But considering they’re the culmination of a semester’s worth of work, I figure it would be cool to share the broadcasts we produced here.

For this first production, I was the assistant script writer for the full broadcast – everything outside of the packages themselves.  My own produced piece made it into this show in fact, the first story about Anaheim Ballot Measure U.  I’m a little tired of watching it after spending so much time recording and editing everything, but I still think it turned out pretty well.

For this second production, I was the chief script writer.  Just about everything the anchors said I was responsible for – and yeah it’s pretty cheesy, I know.  I wasn’t exactly putting my best effort into the work, we were hitting the end of the semester after all.

I was also the camera operator for the second show. That meant I was part of the “live” production team, making sure the anchors were properly visible and had the right amount of headroom and everything else that’s needed.  However, there were only three cameras in the newsroom we used, so the job became a bit more complicated when we had to use four or more camera angles to encompass multiple combinations of the three anchors.  I wound up having to mix my two jobs, setting the script up in a way to facilitate being able to move one camera to a new position while another was being used.

All-and-all I wound up having the most fun in that class doing the camera work along with the rest of the team who signed up for jobs on the show.  The rest of the class leading up to it was a little frustrating for various reasons, but I’d say the end made the whole thing worth it.

Since my final American Studies paper isn’t due until Monday, so I’m probably going to take at least the night off to relax.  However, now that the class is over, I feel it would at least be nice to give a shoutout to my Comm 202 professor, Penchan Phoborisut.  She’s a great teacher, and helped me at least get started in learning programs like Storify and Adobe Premiere Pro.  For that I’m grateful, considering they’re the kind of skills I’ll probably have to have a rudimentary knowledge of in this line of work at least.

So, until next time, I’m off to go play more Pokémon.  In fact, I’m thinking I’ll have an update on how that’s going at some point this weekend, since I’ve done quite a bit since beating the main campaign. For now though, let me know if you enjoyed our broadcasts.  They aren’t the most well-polished things, like I said, but for an amateur project I do think they turned out nice.