Friday, August 28, 2015

Super Mario 64 - Top Five Music Tracks

The Super Mario Series does have its fair share of catchy and memorable music tracks. Today's focus though is on my most recent Mario Game I've reviewed, Super Mario 64. Judging these tracks for their catchiness, memorability, and the situations in which they play in, these songs truly are pleasurable for any gamer to listen to. With all that said though, let's now listen to my personal favorites from the first installment of the plumber's main series, in real/actual 3D.

#5 - Koopa's Road

As a dark track that truly builds up to your first and second fights with Bowser, much like Super Mario World's Castle theme, and even Super Mario Bros. 3's Airship theme, The King of Koopas has never had a song this ironically immense.

#4 - Koopa's Theme

Another track from this game that I found to be immense in its own manner, Bowser's boss theme is just the right track to suit the first two battles Mario's arch-nemesis. One those themes that was considerably underrated, mainly due to Bowser's first two fights being a little too easy, what with one hit from an explosive spiked bomb being the one simple way to defeat him, this track was still awesome despite that grudge.

#3 - Credits/Staff Roll

Probably the most tearful track of happiness in game, the game's end credits theme was so pleasurable for my ears, that it reminds me of all the good memories I had back then when I was younger in my old days of nostalgia. I haven't teared up from this song yet, but I have yet to do so since I'm still having more true emotion for moments like this nowadays since I'm still growing to even more and more maturity.

#2 - Dire, Dire Docks

One of the most beautiful Mario tracks ever composed by Nintendo, this tune was well-suited for the situation of being underwater around a considerably beautiful environment as well, and really knew how to make it one of the game's best music tracks to listen to, let alone while you're playing through both Dire, Dire Docks and one of the levels before it, Jolly Roger Bay, (oh, those and one secret star level hidden within' the room of the big JRB ship painting in the castle).

#1 - Ultimate Koopa

I'm just going to keep this one brief, so here's the best way to describe this awesome theme:

  • Epic
  • Dark
  • Intense
  • Ear-Pleasing
  • Perfectly Suitable Situation (that it plays in)

And above all else, it's my #1 favorite track from Super Mario 64. Nuff said.

Honorable Mentions:

- Cool, Cool Mountain

- Slider

- Bom-Omb Battlefield (Main Theme)

Do you agree with my list? What's your favorite track from Super Mario 64?

For more music themed posts posted from time to time, be sure to tune in to The Super Mario Brony Blog.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

MLP:FIM Review - Pinkie Pride (S4, E13, P72, OE77)

Another well-known episode among not just the bronies and pegasisters of the show's fandom, but also other household audiences as well, Pinkie Pride is an MLP episode known by most for the episode's special guest star "Weird Al" Yankovich and his outstanding performance of one of the show's best characters of all time. From my view, and above all others, this is a normal-length episode of MLP written and executed in the best possible way - and as much as Weird Al himself, I have the episode's writer Amy Keating Rogers to thank for that.

As he oversees an extravagant party he has thrown in Appleloosa, party planner Cheese Sandwich senses a "doozy" of a party being thrown in Ponyville, where Pinkie Pie is gathering supplies to organize her friend Rainbow Dash's "birth-iversary" party celebrating both Rainbow's birthday and anniversary of her move to Ponyville. Pinkie promises to throw Rainbow the best party ever when Cheese Sandwich appears and introduces himself as the premier party planner in Equestria. Though initially elated to meet a party planner like herself, Pinkie is quickly upset as Cheese enraptures the townsfolk with an impromptu display of party-throwing skills, causing Rainbow and the rest of Pinkie's friends to desert her in their excitement for Cheese's party.

Cheese begins building a massive set for Rainbow's party, while all except Pinkie help him build it. Doubting her own partying skills in comparison, Pinkie attempts several odd jobs around Ponyville that end in failure. She returns home and begins to put her party supplies away before looking through an assortment of framed pictures showing various parties she has thrown for her friends and family in the past. With renewed confidence, Pinkie challenges Cheese to a "goof-off", declaring that the winner will be dubbed the single best party planner and headline Rainbow's party. Cheese accepts, and Rainbow is called upon to judge the competition. The two try to outdo each other with increasingly silly and elaborate performances until Pinkie accidentally drops a giant piƱata on top of Rainbow. Pinkie realizes that she has let her pride get in the way of Rainbow's party and forfeits the goof-off to Cheese in shame.

Pinkie packs up her belongings and prepares to leave Ponyville, deciding to let Cheese take her place. She is stopped by Rainbow and her other friends, who apologize for neglecting her and affirm that, while both are talented party planners, Cheese could never replace her as their friend. Cheese also apologizes to Pinkie and assures that he never meant any harm, but rather wanted to impress her with his own partying skills. He then confesses that, contrary to his previous claims of being a partier all his life, he was extremely shy as a colt until he stumbled upon a party thrown by Pinkie, which inspired him to become a party planner. Pinkie and Cheese make amends and work together to throw Rainbow a spectacular party before Cheese departs, leaving Pinkie his valued rubber chicken "Boneless" as a gift.

Perfected in all of its categories of a cartoon episode, Pinkie Pride is the first MLP episode in my eyes to get EVERYTHING right in terms of an episode's plot, songs, animation, character performances, (particularly "Weird Al" himself), and lesson-worthy message of friendship. The first thing that makes Werid Al's portrayal of my personal favorite earth pony, Cheese Sandwich, strongly amazing is the wonderful personality he brought to the show's second Super Duper Party Pony, after being inspired by Pinkie Pie as a young colt, as well as the obvious talent of his incredible singing voice (The Super Duper Party Pony, anypony?).

As another perfect episode, let alone birthday-themed one, (this time for Rainbow Dash), and an anniversary one combined at that, Pinkie Pride is the very definition of a normal-length My Little Pony episode that's truly smart enough to improve upon other previous episodes. Featuring some of the most entertaining and funniest moments from Friendship Is Magic, as well as the episode's extremely catchy songs, Pinkie Pride is, in my eyes, an Oscar-worthy masterpiece that I highly recommend to every type of audience of all ages, (whether or not they care for this iconic cartoon), and not just anypony (bronies or pegasisters) who's part of the show's fandom, or other cases even die hard fans of "Weird Al" Yankovich. So to wrap this all up, the episode itself is brilliant in every manner, and if you haven't seen it yet, please do so.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

MLP:FIM Review - Magical Mystery Cure (S3, E13, P61, OE65)

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has earned awards and nominations for the various aspects of the show, like its musical scores and character performances from the show's cast. M.A. Larson's Magical Mystery Cure, as the finale of Season 3, earned the series one such award for the episode's sound design. This episode has done a magnificent job of concluding the season for its catchy songs, great character performances, and even the episode's spot on plot like every other good episode. Did Larson do a good job of writing the 3rd season finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in my eyes though? Yes.

Twilight Sparkle awakens one morning to find that her friends' cutie marks and duties around Ponyville have swapped: Rarity's creativity in doing Rainbow Dash's weather control causes havoc around town; Rainbow is completely unable to tame Fluttershy's animals, who run wild around her cottage; Fluttershy is barely able to throw Pinkie Pie's parties and cheer up the residents of Ponyville, who are now very grumpy and tetchy; Pinkie has difficulties working on Applejack's farm, where her apple trees are now bare and blackened; and Applejack's dressmaking skills are awful at best, forcing her to close Rarity's boutique. Twilight's friends are unaware of the change, believing that it is their true destiny they must follow, despite their ineptitude with their tasks.

Twilight remembers that her mentor Princess Celestia had earlier sent her the notebook of unicorn conjurer Star Swirl the Bearded (seen at the end of "The Crystal Empire"), believing that Twilight has the skill to make sense of the final, incomplete spell on the last page. However, when Twilight first read through the notes, her magic inadvertently activated the nearby Elements of Harmony, causing the five Elements borne by her friends to switch around. Realizing her mistake is responsible for her friends' condition and finding no counter-spell to fix it, Twilight goes to cry in her bedroom, blaming herself for her friends' depression and the resulting desolation of Ponyville.

Inspired by her assistant Spike's compassion, Twilight realizes that if she shows her friends their true destinies, as well as reminding each one what they mean to each other, she may be able to reverse the spell. One by one, she shows each of her friends what their true calling is, encouraging them to help each other fix things. Each friend becomes aware of her original life and regains her original cutie mark with help of her respective Element, and Ponyville is quickly restored to normal. Twilight realizes that her friendship with the other ponies is a factor that Star Swirl had not accounted for, and is able to complete the spell. Upon doing so, the Elements worn by her friends activate on their own, engulfing Twilight in a bright light and causing her to disappear.

Twilight awakens in an ethereal place where she is greeted by Princess Celestia, who congratulates her and declares Twilight is ready for a new stage in her life. Twilight undergoes a transformation and returns to Ponyville as an alicorn. Her friends are amazed and happily welcome her change, while Celestia announces that Twilight is no longer her student, but a princess who has demonstrated leadership and other positive attributes from her friends during her stay in Ponyville. Twilight becomes concerned that she has no idea what to do now as she is no longer Celestia's student, but Celestia promises that they will all help each other to learn what may come in the future. Later, Twilight is officially crowned in a grand celebration in Canterlot, and she thanks her friends for being there to help her.

My Little Pony's premiere and finale episodes of each season are ones that I consider to be good. But even if it wasn't the finale of any MLP season in general, I'd still consider Magical Mystery Cure to be good. I haven't talked much about musical scores within' any episodes of this series lately, but since this episode features some of the most memorable songs in Friendship Is Magic, I'll say that they were truly superb and admittingly pleasurable to listen to, much like the previous season finale A Canterlot Wedding.

What bogs the episode just a tad bit down though was the inaccurate message about how Twilight's friends each taught her something about friendship when the real message in my eyes was honestly about recapping to your friends about what their real destiny truly was due her friends' cutie marks being all mixed up. Although Twilight becoming an alicorn wasn't exactly the best idea for the show, that didn't mean it ruined the series, and in fact gave us an excellent fourth season later on. The episode does kind of feel like a series finale, rather than a season finale though, but with eye-popping animation and a greatly executed plot, Magical Mystery Cure has managed to become a good season finale without being a two-parter, and despite receiving any hatred among some fans, it's still stunning and will never be a bad episode no matter how many times I rewatch it anytime later.

MLP:FIM Review - Hearts and Hooves Day (S2, E17, P41, OE43)

Considerably one of the most overhated episodes among some fans, Season 2's Hearts and Hooves Day was one that I myself found to be not all that bad, and in my eyes, was more hilarious than it was flawed when I first watched it. I can see why some might despise it, mainly for how cheesy a lot of the episode's dialogue and acting was among two of the show's most loved characters, but in all honesty, sometimes corniness within' both of those aspects can be totally funny and enjoyably entertaining.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders - Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle - discover that their teacher Cheerilee lacks a "very special somepony" to be with on the upcoming Hearts and Hooves Day. They set off to seek a potential and available partner for her, eventually settling on Apple Bloom's older brother, Big McIntosh.

They initially set up a romantic meeting between the two, using false pretenses to bring the two together, but this proves unsuccessful. The three happen across Twilight Sparkle, reading a book about Hearts and Hooves Day, including the recipe for a potion purportedly able to make a couple fall in love. Borrowing the book, the Crusaders create the potion, and again lure Cheerilee and Big McIntosh to a romantic setting. The older ponies play along and drink the concoction, and magically fall in love with each other, forgetting about everything else beyond being with each other. Though initially pleased, the Crusaders realize this is not the desired result, and on consulting the book, learn this was really a love ''poison'' that caused Equestria to fall into chaos centuries ago when the prince and princess who drank it were too lovestruck to rule their kingdom. Fortunately, there is a remedy: the two love-struck ponies must be kept out of eyesight of each other for one hour to break the spell.

The three convince Cheerilee to look for a wedding dress and Big McIntosh to select a wedding jewel, forcing the two to separate. Sweetie Belle is able to barricade Cheerilee within the Carousel Boutique, but Apple Bloom and Scootaloo lose track of Big McIntosh at the jewelry store. As he races back toward the Boutique, Apple Bloom repeatedly tries and fails to slow him down, even tethering him to a house at one point. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo are able to dig a giant pit in Big McIntosh's path, but when he falls in, his cries alert Cheerilee to his presence, and she bursts out of the Boutique. The Crusaders attempt a final stand with only moments before the hour is up as Cheerilee jumps into the pit, knocking them aside. As they all recover, the Crusaders are relieved to find the spell has worn off, though Cheerilee and Big McIntosh question what has happened.

The Crusaders explain that the events that led up to this were because of their misguided efforts to make them fall in love with each other, and apologize for the ordeal. Cheerilee punishes the trio by assigning them to do Big McIntosh's chores at Sweet Apple Acres for the day, and she and Big McIntosh walk off together with a teasing ambiguity about the state of their actual relationship.

Writer Meghan McCartney truly knows how make MLP episodes flamboyant and detailed in terms of their plots and morals of friendship. Admittingly the episode's not perfect due to how the lovey-dovey talk within' the episode's script can get old and a little to corny to listen to again and again towards the end of the episode, but what stands above it was how the episode's message about why some ponies must choose their very special somepony for themselves and not having others do it for them was delivered. I feel the moral of this episode was arguably delivered more maturely to adults than it was to children, but anypony of any mature age truly can learn from it as well.

I can still see why somepony would dislike this episode, but even depite any flaws it has within' its script, pacing, and humor, I must disagree in terms of any hatred it receives among fans and overall it's not only one of the finest episodes of the CMC and Season 2, but also of one of finest of the entire series in general (let alone by writer Meghan McCartney), if not the finest of any of those categories.

Super Mario 64 - Worst to Best: Courses (Part 2)

Last week, I covered my first 9 entries of my Worst to Best Levels from Super Mario 64. So now I think it's about time I finish it off with Part 2, but if you missed it, be sure to check Part 1 out before reading this post, (or not if you choose). But with that said, lets continue...

#6 - Snowman Land
(Course #10)

What I like about snow levels are the gorgeous visuals and the creative modeling of their various environments. Snowman Land is one such level. From a giant climbable snowman, fun-to-play missions, and an igloo to enter inside, Snowman Land was as fun to experience as it was innovative.

#5 - Tall, Tall Mountain
(Course #12)

Tall, Tall Mountain is a solid level that features, (go figure), a giant mountain to climb up and reach various power stars as you progress along the way to the very top. Throw in another secret slide section inside the mountain through one of the walls upward, an annoying, hat-stealing monkey, (along with a second one with another power star), and even a bunch of tall mushrooms to platform on, and you've got another innovative level to explore once you enter it.

#4 - Cool, Cool Mountain
(Course #4)

While Snowman Land was really amusing, even better than that was a giant mountain of snow to slide down, or climb back up. Along with a big long slide in the level's cottage (which inculdes a giant penguin to race), a baby penguin that you must return to its mother, and even a snowball to roll down towards a snowman head makes for another level of pure entertainment to experience.

#3 - Tick Tock Clock
(Course #14)

Taking place in the castle's clock, this one is littered with moving objects and platforms making for some immense challenge and fun missions within'. Along with making a similar return in Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 8 as a race track, this course is also one I'd have to consider to be iconic for that matter and is truly one of the best levels in 3D Mario history.

#2 - Rainbow Ride
(Last Course/#15)

A sky level with rainbows to ride on via magic carpets and other sections of platforming among places like a tall tower and even a flying airship? That's totally awesome. With colorful, eye-candy design, star missions with true challenge, and even that awesome slider theme, Rainbow Ride is one that's always good fun to play on, and, even after completing the whole game (and the course itself), one I'd considered replaying through.

#1 - Tiny-Huge Island
(Course #13)

I could talk so much about a
n entry that tops my list for all of the aspects that make it Number 1, but the feeling of being a giant one moment, and being like a small insect the next is what makes this level my all time favorite in the game. From the red coin cave, to the various-sized enemies on both islands, 191 coins to collect, and even a boss battle with a grown Wiggler makes this course downright groundbreaking. Whether your big or small in this level, it really gives you that feeling of awesomeness for how ideal the course's power star missions were when you played it. It's pure excitement to travel through and explore, it's difficulty was balanced in terms of the various power star tasks, and above all else, it's my Number 1 level/course from Super Mario 64.

Do you agree with my list? What's your (big) level from Super Mario 64?

For more mind-blowing posts posted every week, be sure to tune in to The Super Mario Brony Blog.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

MLP:FIM Review - The Cutie Mark Chronicles (S1, E23, P22)

Being praised for a complexed plot for a children's cartoon show, The Cutie Mark Chronicles is the first My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode to receive its own Wikipedia page for emphasizing the overall show's core values. Backstory and character development are some of the greatest, and considerably most important things for pretty much any particular television series, and this episode of My Little Pony's 4th generation is no exception. 

The three Cutie Mark Crusaders fillies—Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle—try to earn their cutie marks via ziplining, but the attempt ends in failure. They come up with an idea to try to learn how other ponies in town got their cutie marks, with Scootaloo insisting they talk to her idol, Rainbow Dash, first. On the way into town to find Rainbow Dash, they encounter the other five main characters instead, and learn of their cutie mark stories (each told in flashbacks when they were younger fillies), much to Scootaloo's impatience: 

  • Applejack had left her apple orchard in Ponyville to the big city of Manehatten to live with her upper-class Uncle and Aunt Orange. The high life did not suit her well, and after seeing a rainbow that pointed her back to Ponyville, she returned home, getting her apple-based cutie mark on arrival.
  • Fluttershy was a shy, clumsy pegasus in flight camp and teased by bullies. Rainbow Dash challenged the bullies to a race, but at the start, their speed knocked Fluttershy off a cloud towards the ground. She was caught by a flock of butterflies, and soon discovered that she loved being with the animals on the ground. After a distant explosion scared the animals, she found that she was also able to communicate and empathize with them, earning her butterfly cutie mark.
  • Rarity was preparing costumes for a school play but felt they were not her best work. That night, her unicorn horn dragged her across the landscape to a giant rock, leaving her to question why it did that. A distant explosion shattered the rock, revealing it to be full of gems, which Rarity was able to use to further improve her costumes. She earned her gem cutie mark as the audience cheered the students' performance.
  • Twilight Sparkle was enthralled by magic and Princess Celestia as a filly, and excited when her parents enrolled her in Celestia's school for gifted unicorns. She had not expected an entrance exam, which required her to hatch an egg using magic, and could not do so. When a sudden explosion occurred outside, an uncontrollable surge of power through her horn hatched the egg (which proved to contain the baby dragon Spike) and caused several bizarre side effects that Celestia quickly reversed. Welcoming Twilight into the school, Celestia offered to be her mentor so she could learn to harness her raw magical ability. As Twilight celebrated, Celestia pointed out that she had just earned her magic spark cutie mark. 
  • Pinkie Pie—or "Pinkamena Diane Pie"—grew up on a rock farm where she and her family enjoyed few pleasures. As she tended to the rocks one day, a rainbow-colored blast tore through the sky and briefly cleared away the clouds and curling up her once straight hair. At the sight of the rainbow that followed, Pinkie became elated and knew she had to share that feeling with others. Overnight, she set up a party in the farm's silo. When her family discovered this, Pinkie first thought she had disappointed them, but they all soon broke out into smiles and joined in the fun, causing Pinkie to earn her balloon cutie mark.
The Crusaders finally make it to Sugarcube Corner where, along with the other five ponies, Rainbow Dash is waiting for them. She goes into her own story, continuing from Fluttershy's: as she continued to race the bullies, she put on a burst of speed and executed her first Sonic Rainboom (a combination of a sonic boom and a rainbow-colored effect), gaining her rainbow-lightning cutie mark as well as winning the race. As Rainbow retells her story, the other five realize that this Rainboom led them each to gain their own marks, and conclude that they are much closer than they all expected. Though Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle empathize with the older ponies as they share a hug, Scootaloo feels the entire effort was all for naught and suggests another activity to get their cutie marks, before being dragged into a hug with her friends.

It's not everyday, or everytime My Little Pony gets an episode right, but in this case it's been done right. The Cutie Mark Chronicles is one of the best episodes of the show in my eyes thanks to its detailed backstories of all six of the series' main characters and how their backstories all have a connection with each other. Which brings me to the episode's moral: "Having a special connection with your friends even if you haven't met them before time back then." For connecting six various backstories together, it actually makes sense see how Rainbow Dash's first Sonic Rainboom lead to the one small source of the other five main characters' cutie marks as to causing the thing they needed to earn them and live up to their calling in life when they were younger fillis, which includes:

  • The Rainboom's rainbow pointing Applejack back to her real home in Sweet Apple Acres.
  • Fluttershy telling different animals not to be afraid of somethings (like Rainbooms).
  • Cracking a rock full of jewels for Rarity brighten up costumes for a play.
  • Giving Twilight extra power within' her magic to pass a test to qualify for Princess Celestia's school for gifted unicorns.
  • (And) Pinkie Pie smiling for how bright, colorful, and shiny the same rainbow that pointed Applejack back home was after the Rainboom itself occured.
My only two grudges though were Fluttershy meeting Rainbow Dash briefly before her race with Fluttershy's (former) bullies, despite the episode showing that she didn't communicate with her before so (which is particularly questionable), and the Cutie Mark Crusaders not getting some attention during the story's pacing between all of the backstories, despite mainly focusing on them in the opening sequence showing how they began searching (just and only) for Rainbow Dash (and her story).

But with a detailed and flamboyant plot, interesting moral, and lovable personalities from the show's characters, The Cutie Mark Chronicles is a plot that has done a fine job of showing just how fascinating their ideal episodes really can be.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Super Mario 64 - Worst to Best: Courses (Part 1)

The Super Mario Series has some of my favorite levels in video game history, and they have been considered to be some of the most creative in all of gaming, both 3D and 2D. For this list though, I'm looking at my favorite 3D levels in the series of Super Mario, specifically from Super Mario 64. Levels from other games (such as Sunshine and the 1st and 2nd Galaxy games) will have lists of their own some other day. Also, I'm only looking at the game's main levels, whereas any secret stars courses have been excluded. But with all that said, let's scroll down from my lowest to my highest ranked levels in the first 3D Mario game.

#15 - Big Boo's Haunt
(Course #5)

Ghost levels are really not my thing in any video game in general. Big Boo's Haunt is a level that I really can't consider to be good. The level basically only takes place in big haunted house with hardly any outside space around it. And with defeating a bunch of boos, both big and small, the level is really nothing I feel like playing through again once I've completed it on a mandatory basis.

#14 - Jolly Roger Bay
(Course #3)

Water levels are the most hated levels among most gamers for how sluggish the movement and controls are, whether you're swimming or walking deep down at the bottom of the level's surface, or for how repetitive they themselves can be what with the slow movement down under (or both). Water levels from Mario games though were actually not that bad and really knew how to take good advantage of the design, layout, and exploration. Jolly Roger Bay certainly did a nice job of taking that advantage in my eyes, despite the first two bland star missions of both the inside of the ship and that pesky eel within' the same area of this level.

#13 - Whomp Fortress
(Course #2)

Like the thwomps, the walking whomps in this level are also iconic enemies in this series of Super Mario. And their level of Whomp's Fortress is no exception. Creative for, (go figure), its fortress at the very top of this course, and its pathetically easy but memorable-enough boss of the Giant Whomp, this course's missions aren't even that repetitive and really add to the fun what with collecting up to all 141 of the level's coins and the other stars to collect and complete via the level's star mission titles. The only problem was it was pretty small unlike the other levels on this list, but it's still wonderful.

I'm so surprised that they recycled this in Galaxy 2 as well, cause it's just a really cool level.

#12 - Hazy Maze Cave
(Course #6)

Partially confusing me when I was younger years ago what with one of the two stars in the toxic gas section of the course, Hazy Maze Cave is another good level but was a little too confusing at first for me to consider any greater than it already is. It's a great idea for an underground course but could have been done better if it hadn't confused me back then.

#11 - Dire, Dire Docks
(Course #9)

Known mostly for the Bowser Submarine on the other side of the level (disappearing permanently after you first beat Bowser's second level), Dire, Dire Docks was also awesome for its beautifully composed song, which also played in a secret star level in the game and Jolly Roger Bay as well. With its fun missions of the power stars to complete and the red coins task to finish only after you beat the next Bowser level, it's certainly good fun to play through. It's not one I feel like replaying though once I'm entirely done with it like the previous entries on this list, but it's still a fun experience.

#10 - Wet-Dry World
(Course #11)

Like Jolly Roger Bay and Dire, Dire Docks, Wet-Dry World was also another one of the game's more creative and fun-to-play-through water levels, only instead of a cave featured with it, it had an underwater city as a replacement section (primarily for the red coins task). Collecting this course's stars were a bit less challenging than in the other two levels, but I don't care, it was still good fun.

#9 - Shifting Sand Land
(Course #8)

Being the game's desert level, Shifting Sand Land was awesome primarily for its giant pyramid for Mario to enter. It's basically like the Super Mario equivalent of Egypt, with flying around the area to collect the level's red coins along with a big bird that can steal Mario's cap after he retrieves the star that it holds at first. Climb around the inside of the pyramid to collect another one of the course's stars, and even enter the pyramid through the roof of it, which, by the way, leads you towards the level's boss Eyerok.

#8 - Lethal Lava Land
(Course #7)

A desert level with a big pyramid to enter may have been awesome, but even better than that was traveling the inside a little mini-volcano in a level of lava. With a moving Bowser puzzle to collect red coins and a couple of decent mini-bosses of big, horned bullies, the level itself was certainly another creative concept for Super Mario 64. And aside from that, it's definitely one of the game's most memorable courses, and so much fun to play in my opinion.

#7 - Bom-omb Battlefield
(First Course)

Since the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2, Bom-ombs became iconic enemies not just in all of Super Mario, but also the whole franchise of the plumber in general. This is the game's first overall level and honestly, it's so innovative in terms of design and really fascinates me for it's balanced difficulty for an opening level. With its creatively designed Bom-omb King boss and its fun tasks from flying around coin rings, to collecting 8 red coins as usual, and even releasing a giant Chain Chomp, I'd honestly have to call it one of my favorite Mario levels of all time, and it still holds up with all the other good levels out there no matter what.

This ends Part 1 of my Worst to Best Levels from Super Mario 64, but be sure to tune in someday, and sometime later to see Part 2 of my first Worst to Best list.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

MLP:FIM Review - Twilight's Kingdom (Season 4 Finale, P85, OE90 & 91)

Concluding My Little Pony's 4th season, Twilight's Kingdom is the second season finale of the show to be another two-parter (the first being Season 2's A Canterlot Wedding), and being praised very strongly among critics, MLP has never had an episode quite this masterful since Pinkie Pride. To say the very least, it honestly gives both Pinkie Pride and The Return of Harmony (the only other two episodes in my eyes that I thought were completely perfected) a run for their money. With its awesome villain, greatly paced plot, catchy music, and well-delivered message, the episode itself is a massive accomplish over previous episodes and so far newer ones. And from my point of view, it has yet to be beaten out by some other future episode(s), but I never know just yet.

Part 1

Twilight and her best friends travel to the Crystal Empire, where Twilight, in her role as a princess, is to help greet delegates from another nation. She finds this duty unfulfilling, and laments this to Celestia, Luna, and Cadance, unsure what her role in Equestria is. The other three assure her that her responsibilities will become clear in time. Celestia has a vision revealing that a centaur named Tirek has escaped from Tartarus (due to events from "It's About Time") and is now draining ponies of their magic. Gathering the other princesses, 

Celestia explains how they had stopped Tirek before and must stop him now before he becomes too powerful. Twilight is eager to help, but Celestia instead puts Discord in charge due to his ability to sense magical imbalances caused by Tirek's activity. Twilight returns home to Ponyville, disappointed at being unable to help, and heads for the ancient castle in the Everfree Forest to catch up on studying. Discord interrupts them and teases them about his mission, but makes sure to remind them of the locked chest at the base of the Tree of Harmony (from "Princess Twilight Sparkle"). Twilight suspects there may be something to help against Tirek inside, and she and her friends search the books in the castle. Twilight realizes Discord mentioned their shared journal, and finds stories written by the other five where they were challenged in regards to their core Element of Harmony, and were able to help another, receiving an item in return. They gather these items, which transform into five of the six keys needed to open the box, but Twilight realizes that she has not yet faced a challenge similar to theirs and thus cannot provide the last key. Discord encounters Tirek, but he teases him with having freedom over friendship, so 

Discord decides to join Tirek as his chief henchman and thus, reverts to the dark side. Twilight is summoned back to Canterlot, where Celestia reveals Discord's treachery and that Tirek now has his sights set on taking the princesses' alicorn magic for himself.

Part 2

Celestia reveals that the best plan to prevent Tirek from getting the alicorn magic is to hide it away within Twilight since her recent ascension to Princess is still unknown to Tirek. They transfer their powers to Twilight, who has difficulty in controlling the amount of power and tries to avoid her best friends on returning to Ponyville while she practices control. 

Tirek confronts the princesses and finds their magic gone. Despite this setback, he mocks that their plan is unable to change anything and banishes the three to Tartarus. He then expresses his gratitude for Discord's assistance by giving him a medallion as a sign of loyalty. As they discuss this, Tirek learns of Twilight's existence and sets off to Ponyville. With Discord's assistance, they trap Twilight's best friends and Tirek steals their power. He then turns on Discord and takes his magic as well, having only used Discord as a pawn to become powerful as he tells him he is no longer useful to him. Tirek finds Twilight and when she tries to run away, he destroys the Golden Oak Library in Ponyville. Enraged, Twilight attacks Tirek, and after a battle between the two superpowered beings, they realize they are evenly matched and Tirek offers to release Twilight's best friends in exchange for all the alicorn magic. Twilight comes to realize this is the same type of situation that her best friends had previously experienced and agrees to the deal on the condition that Discord is also freed. Tirek takes the alicorn magic and begins to go on a rampage. 

Repentant, regretting his involvement in Tirek's plan, and shocked and unappreciative of Tirek betraying him, Discord apologizes for turning on them and gives Twilight the medallion Tirek had given him as a sign of his true friendship. Twilight recognizes this as the sixth key, and they quickly race to the box. With all six keys present, the box opens and powers the Tree of Harmony, making Twilight and her best friends be temporarily infused with a rainbow-like power. Together, they are able to face Tirek, repulse his attacks, and revert the magic drain. Tirek is weakened to his frail form and returned to Tartarus while Twilight and her best friends return the magic to all the other ponies in Equestria and free the princesses. The box transforms into a crystalline seedling that grows into a new, tree-like castle at the edge of Ponyville. Celestia informs Twilight that it is now her new castle and she is now the Princess of Friendship with her responsibility to help spread friendship across Equestria with the help of her best friends. At the same time, Discord fully reforms, vowing to be a better friend to Twilight and the others.

Twilight's Kingdom is truly a flawless piece of work and is THE best season finale both Hasbro, and writer Meghan McCartney, have ever written no matter how old it gets over the years. From the show's best villain of all time, Tirek, to the episode's catchy songs, along with pure eye candy in its animation (like plenty of other MLP:FIM episodes), and even arguably THE best moment in My Little Pony history (by far): THE FIGHT WITH TIREK!! The episode's morals were perfectly delivered and really does teach audiences about how there's nothing worth more than friendship, along with learning to spread the magic of friendship all across the world, kinda like preaching both kindness and compasion just like Twilight herself, and lastly Celestia's question to Twilight: "What is the princess of friendship without her friends?"

I mean, how could you be somepony (and not necessarily a princess) of friendship without YOUR friends?

But anyways, I don't even care what you say about this series or who you are, (in other words: whether or not you care about the show in general,...or hate it), this is an episode you either Have to watch if you haven't seen it yet, or if you've already seen it, rewatch it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

MLP:FIM Review - The Crystal Empire (Season 3 Premiere, P50, OE53 & 54)

Being the premiere episode of Season 3, The Crystal Empire is another well-written episode by writer, Meghan McCartney. Introducing a new place in Equestria of the same name, this episode has even told a detailed backstory about the empire itself, along with bringing back some other previous well-known characters back in the finale of Season 2, like Twilight's sister-in-law Cadence and her older brother Shining Armor. It's also another episode I found to be near masterful in every way (mostly) like with every other two-parter in MLP. And in all honesty, it's another My Little Pony episode that still holds up.

Part 1

Princess Celestia learns of the reappearance of the Crystal Empire. Previously the home of the Crystal Ponies over one thousand years in the past, the empire had been taken over by the tyrant unicorn King Sombra who enslaved the ponies and threatened to use their power to take over Equestria; Celestia and her sister Luna had sealed King Sombra away in ice, but Sombra cursed the empire to vanish as a last effect. Now that it has reappeared, Celestia and Luna both fear that Sombra will reappear as well and re-conquer the empire, becoming too powerful for even them to defeat again. Celestia assigns her student Twilight Sparkle with a test of her ability, and hers alone, to help her brother Prince Shining Armor and his wife Princess Cadance to protect the empire.

Twilight travels with her mare friends, as well as Spike, to the arctic where the empire is located. The shadowy form of Sombra appears as they near the city, but Shining Armor arrives and protects them as they race for cover within a magic shield around the city. Though they are safe, Shining Armor is afflicted with a dark magic which disables his own powers. The mares and Spike meet Princess Cadance at the castle, where she has been enchanting the shield day and night without sleep and little food. Twilight and her friends spread out to ask the citizens about how to protect the empire without Cadance's magic, but find that the Crystal ponies are afflicted with a spell that has erased their memories of anything before King Sombra's reign, making them miserable. 

Twilight finds a book about the Crystal Empire's past, learning of a Crystal Fair used to raise the spirits of the Crystal Ponies. She and her friends go about to recreate the fair; Twilight assumes that one aspect, a Crystal Heart, is a ceremonial piece and constructs a crude version of it from crystal. As Cadance's magic starts to falter, the fair starts, and the Crystal Ponies soon cheer up and slowly remember their past. Rainbow Dash overhears one discuss part of the ceremony of the fair where they would channel their elated feelings into the Crystal Heart to protect the Empire; Rainbow races back to warn Twilight they need to find the real Crystal Heart, and Twilight discovers that the page about the Heart's powers has been purposely torn out from the book. Just then, Cadance's magic completely shuts down as she collapses in Shining Armor's arms, gasping for air, allowing King Sombra to surround the Empire.

Part 2

With Shining Armor's support, Cadance re-engages the shield just in time, though a slice from King Sombra's horn lands within the shield and slowly starts to taint the land, turning it back into its dark appearance during his reign. Twilight instructs her friends to keep the fair going while hiding the fake Crystal Heart, while she goes looks for the real one by herself, assured that this is the test Celestia has given her. Spike insists on coming along, promising not to help in any way.

Twilight surmises that King Sombra had hidden the Heart in the castle, as the Crystal Ponies had feared his reign and would never had entered it. Twilight's unique abilities with magic allow her to pass through several traps laid by Sombra until she and Spike reach the top of the castle. They find the Crystal Heart waiting for them, just as Cadance exhausts her magic completely. As Sombra invades the Empire, Twilight goes for the Heart, but becomes trapped by a wall of dark crystals that prevent her escape when Sombra is alerted to her attempt, while the Heart falls at Spike's feet.

Twilight frets how to escape the trap in time before realizing that the only solution is to have Spike deliver the Heart to the ponies below, even though she believes this will cause her to fail her test to Celestia. Spike races ahead of King Sombra's attacks, but falls off with the Heart. Shining Armor throws Cadance at Spike and the Heart; she catches both in time before King Sombra can get there, and glides down to the base of the castle, the Crystal Heart restoring both her strength and magic. Quickly placing the Heart in its proper place, Cadance addresses the Crystal Ponies as their princess and instructs them to power the Heart. The positive feelings from the ponies cause the Heart to be recharged, and destroy King Sombra and his dark magic for good. With the Heart restored, the Crystal ponies regain their crystalline appearance, and the effect extends to Princess Cadance, Shining Armor, and Twilight and her friends, while they remain in the city.

Twilight and her friends say their goodbyes to Princess Cadance and Shining Armor and return to Canterlot. Twilight finds that while Spike has been considered the hero of the adventure, even being rewarded with a stained glass window of his accomplishment, Princess Celestia asserts that Twilight has passed her test, having demonstrated self-sacrifice by putting the interests of others ahead of her own. Twilight rejoins her friends as they celebrate her success while Princesses Celestia and Luna look on, with Luna holding a mysterious book.

The Crystal Empire is another well-paced episode that offers a great depth of story, along with some more memorably spectacular moments in the whole show in general. My biggest grudge with this though is the lack of character development for the episode's antagonist King Sombra, and for how partially unoriginal his appearance is, much like the show's first villain Nightmare Moon. The episode's songs, other than The Ballad of the Crystal Empire, were really nonsensical for me. The message about risking your future for somepony else's was also deliver properly, and really teaches even adults how to make sacred sacrifices worthy of others, and is honestly something even I can keep in mind when situations like it come up.

So to make a long review short, The Crystal Empire is truly another popcorn thriller with a well-written plot, charming characters, memorable scenes of awesomeness and a well-delivered moral for everyone to learn from and about. So if you haven't seen it, give it a shot.