Super Mario Bros. 3

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So, in honor of Super Mario 3’s anniversary (or at least, the anniversary of it’s American release), I figured I would do a small article on the game, which is widely considered to be one of the best 2D platformers ever made – being the 32nd best-selling game of all time, and the 6th best-selling platformer of all time (with the the remaining 5 being other games from the Mario series).

While the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was a relative departure from the formula established in the original Super Mario game (due to it’s status as a conversion of the Japanese game Doki Doki Panic), and the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was nothing but a glorified expansion pack of the original game (being released as “The Lost Levels” in America and Europe, as part of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES), Super Mario Bros. 3 acted as definitive proof of the series – and genres – potential, improving the gameplay in every aspect, and adding a wide range of additional features.

Super Mario Bros. 3 added numerous elements which would become mainstays to the Mario series – such as it’s first heavy use of Mario’s costume power-ups (adding the Tanooki Suit, Frog Suit and Hammer Suit to the mix), and a world map, which would return in it’s sequel, 1990’s Super Mario World, and then again much later in 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. Another notable thing the game established was the now-iconic appearance of Bowser – with his tail and fiery red mane appearing for the first time here. Bowser’s “children”, the Koopalings, would also go on to make many more appearances, albeit with a 19-year gap (from the main series, at least), after their appearance in the game’s sequel.

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The game was not without it’s flaws, however, and it’s lack of a save feature proved almost unanimously unpopular – requiring the game’s 90 levels to be beaten in one seating if you wanted to complete the game. Also, by the time of it’s American release the Super Nintendo – with it’s superior sound and graphics – was just around the corner, meaning that the game was quickly outshone by the release of Super Mario World. Luckily, it’s appearance in Super Mario All-Stars gave it the lick of paint it needed to once again stand on equal footing with it’s peers.

Personally, I think that SMB3 stands as a perfect example of Shigeru Miyamoto’s ability to put together ideas which don’t seem like an obvious match (I mean, who would have thought of putting a top-down map in a side-scrolling game?), and make them work. And the wide array of creative enemies and obstacles shows that the development team really put their heart and soul into the game, with a variety of foes that could put the original title to shame, and the different styles of level (action, fortresses, airships, etc) helped keep each world fresh in a way that the simple aesthetic changes of the previous games simply couldn’t.

All in all, I have a lot of love for Super Mario Bros. 3, although I will admit my first experience of it came as part of the All-Stars compilation, and I didn’t play the original for a long time after that. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite 2D platformers as a child (with Sonic 3 & Knuckles being it’s only unwavering superior), and I still play it occasionally to this day. If you haven’t played this masterpiece yet, then I highly recommend you rectify that at your nearest convenience. Super Mario Bros. 3 is, in my humble opinion, truly the best game released for the NES. It’s the perfect blend of simple, yet challenging. Easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, but difficult for anyone to beat without practice.

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YouTube Plans

Just a heads up for anyone who cares, I plan to start a YouTube channel in the next few months. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but my innate talent for procrastination has always resulted in a distinct lack of actually doing it. This time around, however, I intend to finally take the plunge. I’ve always been a fan of blogging, but since my teenage years things have changed, and I feel like it’s about time I changed with them. By starting up my own YouTube channel, I’m hoping I’ll be able to blog (or, technically, vlog) in a new way – and thereby renew my enthusiasm and help keep things fresh. I’ve got a lot of ideas I’m dying to move forward with, and I think that YouTube is probably the best way to move forward with them. At this point in time, I’m working out the kinks (planning out ideas, working out what I’ll need to start, etc) so it’s still a moderate distance away, but I just wanted to announce it here so that I have the obligation to actually proceed with my plans, lest I be called a quitter.

Also, just a little update in regards to my Phantasy Star Gaiden gaming diary – while we’re on the topic of being a quitter. For just now, I’ll be taking a break from it, due to the fact that I stopped enjoying the game some time around part two. While I do plan to eventually finish what I started, I need to take a time out for a while and detox myself by playing a few decent video games. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll continue it in text form here, or instead re-do it as a video playthrough in the future, but I will definitely return to it at some point, once I’ve cleansed my palate.

New (Old) Music on SoundCloud

I was re-organizing my laptop yesterday, and while doing so I found a few of my old demos I thought were lost forever. As with the majority of my old demos, they’re not exactly what you would call high-quality, but I thought I would share them nonetheless. I recorded these songs as placeholders more than anything – and two of them don’t even have a backing track – but I actually like them anyway. Hopefully I’ll get around to re-recording some of these at one point, but until then here you go. More of my crappy lo-fi music! Yaaaaaaay!! xD

I’ve uploaded all of the tracks to my SoundCloud, but for your convenience I’ve also embedded them here. 🙂

ParaNorman

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Been a bit quiet on the blog front recently, mostly in part to a resurgence in social activity. After a busy weekend (working at a bar during the Superbowl was not particularly fun…), I decided to take a day off from the world yesterday, and spent more or less the entirety of my time watching movies. Besides a few movies I watched with a friend recently (as well as a hefty dose of South Park) all of my visual entertainment these past weeks has come in the form of a very staggered How I Met Your Mother marathon… so once I watched the final episode, I figured it was time to take a break from serialized stuff, and just enjoy a few stand-alone movies instead.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that you can fit rather a lot of movies into one day… but sadly the majority have already faded into obscurity within my mind. I decided to stick with the “theme” of animation for my movie night, so ended up catching up on a lot of the “big movies” of the past few years… as well as some more obscure titles. It’s safe to say Gladiators of Rome, or Freedom Force aren’t likely to blow anyone’s mind any time soon. The one movie that basically made my night worthwhile, however, was a movie called ParaNorman.

After watching it, I did a little research, and discovered that it was produced by a company called Laika, who are probably best-known for Coraline – one of my favorite movies. While I was a tad skeptical throughout the movie’s run that the stop-motion was merely deceptive CGI, I was glad to discover that this wasn’t the case, and in retrospect it really does show (I think my skepticism was more likely sourced from my innate pessimism, rather than from any visual evidence). While I am rather bad for giving my #sealofapproval to things rather easily, I must say that ParaNorman was an incredibly enjoyable movie – suitable for children, but not boring for adults – and I would recommend it to any fan of stop-motion animation, or zombie fiction.

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The movie shares a few minor elements with the Corpse Bride (another movie that Laika worked on), such as it’s non-threatening depiction of the undead, and it’s brilliant use of color and lighting. Set in the small town of “Blithe Hollow”, every character looks unique, without being too peculiar, and the many different sets we see during the movies duration are all visually interesting. While the movie is primarily stop-motion animation, it does make use of computer-generated imagery on numerous occasions, but never in a situation that the result could have feasibly been done in another way – and every special effect is pulled off with aplomb. To summarize, like most stop-motion films of its kind (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, etc), ParaNorman is visually interesting in a way that few movies are these days, and is worth watching purely due to the distance it has from the more generic CGI movies that dominate the realm of animation these days.

ParaNorman’s plot is fairly simple, but – as you would expect – things develop over time, and nothing is quite as straight-forward as it seems. Norman Babcock is a young boy who can see and speak to ghosts, and as a result of this ability he is a social outcast, whose family doesn’t understand him, and whose peers don’t respect him. Nonetheless, when a witches curse threatens the town, Norman becomes it’s only hope. Joined by his sister, his best friend, his best friend’s brother, and the school bully, he sets out on a quest to stop the curse, and put an end to the dead walking the streets. Things soon become more complicated, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you – as I’m sure you’ll want to watch it to find out! 😛

Since watching ParaNorman I’ve realized that Laika have one other movie out currently, 2014’s “The Boxtrolls”, so I will likely go out of my way to watch it in the near future, in the hope that I will enjoy it on par with Coraline and ParaNorman. I’ve got a rather quiet week ahead of me – or at least, it looks like I do at this point – so I will likely have the opportunity before long. Blogs will hopefully be a tad more regular during February (due to a lack of funds preventing me from going out too much) although there will likely be less of them in total (due to a lack of energy preventing me from doing too much), so… look forward to that I guess? Peace out! x