Super Mario Soda Display

I’ve seen some cool grocery store soda displays (mostly football oriented) but this one is very impressive:

(via @darrenrovell)

Just for Fun

20 Works of Geeky Street Art

Real Life Mario

That’s a skit only a fanboy could love.

(via Waxy)

Nintendo Lunchbox

No, not a retro lunchbox like this one. An actual Nintendo Entertainment System lunch box.

Nintendo is almost the most fun a kid can have

You can hear it straight from Bill O’Reilly’s mouth (h/t TheLeetGeeks):

Magic Mushrooms and Tanooki Suits

Today, during the Super Mario Galaxy show (for the munchkins), I defeated Bowser for the seven hundredth time in my life, saving the Princess yet again (from herself). I haven’t “finished” SMG yet, as there are plenty of stars still to be had, but the Princess is safe, at least for the time being. I plan on heading back to get the rest of the stars. I had found 70 before I saved her highness.

Super Mario Galaxy, as frustrating as it can get every so often, is a great game.

But that’s not the point of this post. I have really enjoyed the new power-ups added to this iteration of Mario. Besides the Fire Flower and 1-UP mushrooms, there are a bunch of new power-ups for Mario. So I want to know: What is your favorite Mario power-up? (from any game).

I really like the new Spring power-up in Super Mario Galaxy. In fact, I think it’s my favorite power-up mushroom of all time.

What’s yours?

Mario Galaxy [Wii] Review (Guest Post)

(This is a guest post done by my friend, theMonkey, who blogs with me at our Ohio State blog and at his own blog,

No Nintendo console would be complete without a revolutionary sequel to the Super Mario series. The iconic plumber not only defines Nintendo, but home video gaming itself.

The Super Mario series of games provides a “you are here” marker for the evolution of video game technology. Most gamers have their favorites, but all can remember the “wow” factor of playing certain incarnations that brought in a new era to the series, like when SM 3 introduced new and unique environments, or when Super Mario 64 brought Mario into the third dimension and allowed the player to have a virtual first-person experience of Mario’s world.

With Mario Party and Super Smash Bros, Nintendo proved it could throw the Mario characters anywhere it wanted to – a Disney approach to mixing marketing and fun. But Nintendo knew that the newest crop of Mario fans, those young ones in the “tweens,” never had a chance to enjoy that experience of discovering Mario in a new and exciting way, in the same manner as the previous generation did the first time it snapped in the SM 3 or Mario 64 cartridge into the console and started kicking Bob-ombs around.

For instance, my own 13-year-old daughter’s experience with the series began with Mario 64. Sure, she enjoyed playing Sunshine on the Gamecube, but Sunshine was a bit of an anticlimactic entry in the Mario series, and her interest was never fully piqued by the title. With Super Mario Galaxy, however, I have been able to witness my daughter’s first “Wow! Cool! This is new!” experience as a Mario fan, and it gave us something else to have in common.

Plot and Theme
In Galaxy, Nintendo has brought the character formerly known as Jumpman into the 21st-century. As usual, the plump plumber finds himself being asked to rescue the Princess, kidnapped again by the ever-antagonist Bowser.

During a festival celebrating the return of a periodic comet, Bowser arrives in airships and literally chains up and hauls away the Princess’s castle. Bits of shooting stars are raining down as Mario races to save the Princess, and after failing to catch up with the receding castle, he finds himself stranded on a large floating space platform.

Mario walks to an observatory on Rosalina’s space platform.

The platform is the equivalent of the “outside” world of SM 64. Unlike that game, however, Mario isn’t alone as he walks around looking for worlds to jump into. There are multiple characters for Mario to interact with on the platform, including the helpful Lumas and their maternal caretaker, Rosalina, who bears a striking resemblance to Peach.

Rosalina’s platform has been damaged by Bowser, and she agrees to help Mario rescue the Princess if he helps her fix the platform with the power from the Grand Stars (which are, of course, lost).

Scattered around the platform are a handful of observatories. Each observatory has a fixed gaze on a group of distant “galaxies” — really more like solar systems — and when Mario enters the observatory, he chooses the galaxy to which he wants to travel.

After being launched toward the galaxy, Mario lands on the initial planetoid and must begin his challenge. Typically, a galaxy challenge has Mario go from planetoid to planetoid, solving a puzzle or fighting enemies on each before jumping through a star gate to the next one. The final planetoid is where the toughest puzzle or largest enemy lies. After successfully completing the challenge, Mario is given one of 120 game stars. Each galaxy has multiple challenges, so Mario will travel to most galaxies several times during the course of the game.

Like every other SM title, Mario collects coins as he runs, jumps, flies, swims, and surfs (!) around on these worlds. However, a new wrinkle in Galaxy has him also collecting tiny pieces of jewel-like Star Bits that are continually raining down from space or getting flushed out of high grass. Star Bits are used to feed hungry Lumas or as weapons when thrown to stun an enemy.

Galaxies are unlocked as Mario earns stars (just like the locked doors in SM 64). The final galaxy that gets unlocked in each observatory is the world where Mario will fight Bowser or one of his underlings. Beating these challenges earns Mario a “Grand Star,” which he must return to Rosalina so she can use its power to partially repair her damaged space platform. The more Grand Stars Mario takes to Rosalina, the more repaired the platform becomes, and the closer he is to rescuing Peach.

Galaxy requires both the Wiimote and the Nunchuk attachment. The Nunchuk’s analog stick controls Mario’s motion and camera angles. The buttons on the Wiimote are used for jumping and throwing items.

The gameplay with the Wiimote itself is the most innovative angle to the Mario universe. A brief, violent shake of the Wiimote is used to either stun enemies in the near vicinity or launch Mario through a star gate. Most importantly, though, the Wiimote is used to aim a star-shaped cursor that is on the screen at all times. Mario “collects” star bits by pointing the Wiimote at them. It’s a very unique experience when you realize that you’re running Mario in one direction and picking up star bits with your pointer in the other. Dividing the attention between the character and the star cursor sounds difficult, but after a little practice it becomes second nature, and adds a fantastic element to the experience. The closest analogy would be the dual-control present in most first-person shooters, where one hand controls the character’s feet while the other moves the head around. We all struggled with that at first, but quickly adapted.

Still, for those who find it frustrating to (or don’t want to) adapt, Nintendo has made it practically optional. Star Bits are used for unlocking certain bonus rounds or for getting 1ups, but collecting them with your Wiimote is not mandatory. So if collecting them while running Mario around is too challenging or distracting to your experience, you don’t have to do it at all.

In many worlds the Wiimote — and not the Nunchuk — is used to control Mario; for example, when tilting it to control Mario’s direction and speed as he surfs down an interstellar river on a manta ray. The play is at times fresh and exhilirating. Galaxy isn’t a Mario game with motion sensitivity “tacked on,” it’s a game desiged with the Wiimote in mind.

Nintendo has done an excellent job once again making a Mario game that covers a large range of difficulty. Some stars are quite easy to get; others will have you cursing at your controllers in frustration. But even the most difficult galaxies are generous with their “save points,” so if you lose a man, the game will resume close to where your death occurred and you won’t have to repeat the same things over and over again.

Mario dodges cannon fodder on his way to unlocking another star

Galaxy mixes the methods of success the player needs to use more than previous titles did. In past Mario games, most success was earned through a mastery of timing. A perfectly-timed jump or dodge & counterattack was usually enough to advance through the levels. With Galaxy, those types of challenges are still present, but puzzle solving is used to a greater extent than in previous incarnations. At times you will be asked to precisely control Mario as he tiptoes on a giant ball across a world full of holes (in an obvious tip of the hat to the Monkeyball franchise), or walks a narrow tightrope path without falling off into a literal black hole of oblivion. But at other times Mario will only advance after solving a problem or puzzle of some sort. These latter challenges serve to slow the game down, to make sure a player stays immersed in Mario’s world and doesn’t just blast through the levels on “autopilot.”

Graphics are very Sunshine-ish, if not a bit more refined. You won’t experience any goose bump panoramas, but this is Mario, not Halo, where it’s not important that each individual blade of grass is sharply defined. With this title, the experience is entirely about the gameplay, and the visuals stay secondary to that goal. Still, seeing a Super Mario game in 16 x 9 format on a widescreen display is beautiful and loads of fun.

On a similar note, the game’s score is immersive enough to be noticed, but “transparent” enough to not be annoying. Nintendo has taken the themes from the original Mario music and opened them up orchestrally, so that the auditory experience is “Zelda-esque.” By that I mean that the score always seems to match the feel of the visual scene: an open, airy, wide feel to the music as Mario soars from moon to moon, or a softer, quieter melody that plays when Mario is underwater.

Until now, part of the Wii experience was in the fresh novelty of the device. Swinging your arm like a golf club or bat in Wii Sports is fun for a little while, but after the newness of the gameplay wears off, it’s just a restrictive, repetetive set of games that gets boring. But Super Mario Galaxy is an innovative game that doesn’t feel “novelty-ish” at all — it feels as natural and innovative as Mario 64 game felt the first time you snapped it in. Nintendo finally has a top-notch Wii title that will sell consoles.

New Super Mario Brothers, first impressions

Wow, I don’t know where to start. I picked this up over the extravaganza weekend but just now had a chance to really give it a whirl and I feel like I’m twelve years old again. There hasn’t been a game that has done that in forever. The only reason I’m writing this and not playing is because I just finished the first world as my DS’s battery was about to die and I decided I’d best shut it down and charge it for the night instead of moving on to the next world.

So far, so freaking good.

But how can a game I played almost twenty years ago be any good? Because it’s the quintessential Mario elements – easy and responsive controls, cartoonish appeal, vibrant colors, beautiful music and two dimensions. The platforming presents the same enjoyment as it did years ago and even though there are a few differences in the levels, I could still find the 1-up mushroom in the 1-2 level. I wish I hadn’t started playing so late as I want to keep playing. Curse you, early morning alarm!

It feels good to be a Super Mario Brother again!

Just the fun ones, please

B000A2R54M-01-_AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgOver the holidays last year, I had lunch with some of the guys I game with. As we ate, our conversation drifted to the topic of video games, as it is often does. We’ve been gaming together for almost four years now, so we’ve had a lot of “interesting” gaming sessions, ranging from some serious Mario Kart Double Dash matches to almost coming to fisticuffs over a game of Turok: Evolution, of all games. (We had banned the use of the Dark Matter Cube but someone couldn’t help himself and used the cheapest weapon ever to win a death match. It wasn’t a pretty sight.) For the most part, though, we’ve had some great gaming sessions. No matter how competitive we are, Nintendo games in particular seem to bring out a heated, but relatively friendly, competition. No punches thrown, just some serious trash talking.

We moslty talked about Super Mario Strikers, a game none of us owned but all had played. We all gushed about how fun it was and how easy it seemed to play. It’s nothing more than a simple street-style game of soccer with a Mario flair but it’s downright fun. What was it about such a simple game that made it so appealing?

Later that week, I took my Gamecube to work for some lunchtime gaming. We hooked it up to the projector in our conference room and threw down, Nintendo style. We started off with a little Pac-Man Vs. which is the best use of the GBA-GC link I’ve played. Take the simplicity of Pac-Man and then add in multiplayer and you’ve got a sweet party game. We then moved onto some Mario Kart: DD and finished up with Mario Power Tennis. Two of us had played most of these games and the other two hadn’t. It didn’t matter. All of them were easy to pick up and play. Our Mario Tennis matches took a few minutes to get everyone up to speed, but after a little while we were volleying, smashing and saving like pros. It was good, serious fun.

All of these games had something in common – they were either published or developed (or both) by Nintendo. They all have fantastic mutliplayer modes. They’re simple and easy to learn but complex enough to have an element of strategy and discovery. To put it simply, Nintendo just makes fun games. More specifically, Nintendo makes fun party games.

Even their actual “Mario Party” games are great, even though not everyone agrees. Just look at the reviews for the past few Mario Party games. The argument could be made that this particular franchise is getting long in the tooth. But I think that misses the point. The reviewers may give Mario Party 7 a low score and justify it by saying “it’s more of the same” but that doesn’t capture the whole picture. The reviewers have probably been playing Mario Party since it was an N64 game. Most casual gamers have not. So they don’t care if one of the mini games in MP7 is derivative of a game from MP4. It doesn’t matter. It’s fun, no matter how you play it.

So what is it about Nintendo’s games that make them fun? I think Matt at Press the Buttons was on to something when he was trying to explain why he was describing the Game Boy version of Mario Tennis. “So it’s like Pong,” was the common reply when describing a video game version of Tennis. Is Pong fun? Thirty years ago it certainly was. So is the actual game of tennis. A digital version of a fun game – it’s a no brainer.

But that’s discounting the Nintendo/Mario angle. They’ve distilled the basic mechanics of a particular game and make it accessible through simple controls. Sometimes it seems like you can’t be “bad” at Nintendo games. Other people may be better than you, but sucess is usually easy to come by. Are the games artificially easy for the sake of enjoyment? I don’t think anyone who’s played a Super Mario game would agree with that they’re “easy.” Fun? Yes. Easy? Not everytime.

Is it nostalgia? I definitely think that plays a big part in my enjoyment. Most “older” gamers (come on, I’m only thirty!) grew up with Mario and Luigi. So this is like playing with old friends. The familiarity with the characters, their idiosyncrasies and nuances are what we look for everytime we boot up a Nintendo game.

We’re seeing this all over again with the Nintendo DS. Nintendo makes great games that are fun to play for the casual gamers as well as the serious gamer. Will it happen with the Revolution? Will the simple game play continue? Is it a new shift in gaming overall?

I sure hope so.