Friday, July 14, 2017

MLP:EG Specials Review - Dance Magic, Movie Magic, & Mirror Magic (Episodes 1-3 )

It's not saying much really that the Equestria Girls spinoff hasn't improved itself lately and has rather gone downhill after the flawless 2014 sequel that is Rainbow Rocks. With the specials now in store on television as an attempt to try something new at the franchise of MLP, I shall be doing a retrospect review on them all in one post here. And before I get started, none of them are that good, so for these three reviews in one, don't expect me to be that positive about these so-called specials by my own standpoint.

If you were to cross The Show Stoppers over with Rarity Takes Manehattan and put the ponies into the human world, then you would preferably get Dance Magic. As a plot that revolves around the Human Five, Sunset, and Sci-Twi trying to compete to get the best music video to earn some money after a car wash fundraiser job deadline, it isn't entirely bad as the overall song (and music video to an extent) with three of the Shadowbolts and our seven main characters, but it is flawed in some other senses.

Rarity isn't at her greatest when she comes up with the idea of making her own music video and just spilling out details and secrets to the Shadowbolts at Sci-Twi's old school, which really makes you wonder what she was thinking when coming up against them. The Shadowbolts also aren't helped much by the fact that they haven't seemed to have learned from the events of Friendship Games, and rather haven't changed which doesn't help add a fair amount of potential to them even in the slightest. And the last is that basically tries to copycat both episodes I said Dance Magic ripped off to make it seem like nothing new to the franchise other than showing what The Show Stoppers is like primarily in the human world as I said.

Overall, Dance Magic is the third installment in both series I give a dislike to after Stoppers and Somepony to Watch Over Me. It's tolerable at best, but is nothing new in either its moral or its story, and by the end of day, I find my self considering one of my favorite "bad" installments of the franchise that I can take.

Sci-Twi has been one of my lowest ranked characters of the franchise for her total whininess, but for these first two specials, I could admittedly tolerate her at most even though her status in the "cool" or "stupid" character factor haven't exactly changed.

The one other factor that I'm afraid is taking me off topic as to anything at least half decent about this flop is one of the most recent characters of the spinoff; Juniper Montage! As a character who's straight up bratty and unlikable, although I can take her compared to Timtin Spreiber, she's a character who feels both bankrupt and dead on arrival since DOA can best describe the anything else even without Everfail. Getting to the plot however, it's best described as both boring and gimmicky. We're supposed to some Indiana Jones-referencing sets via Daring Do's scenes, but it's really just an excuse to show what the genuine character herself is like in the human world and nothing else really. With even pointless cameos like those recycled Power Ponies costumes and Juniper just ruining all the fun on set, it's painfully predictable both in its reception and the overall plot in general.

I mean seriously, could you NOT have predicted that Juniper WAS the hooded figure all along?

Now this special is where I ask "What were Rachel Vine and Dave Polsky thinking?!" This one literally makes no sense and confuses me from Point A to B, so where do I even start?

When I said Juniper Montage was terrible in Movie Magic, well, if you compared her to her Mirror Magic self, then that's nothing. She's even worse as a selfish brat who wants revenge on the Human Seven, and Starlight (despite Glimmy not being affected as an improved character from the poorly constructed sixth season in the main Friendship Is Magic series), and her redemption by the very end makes Starlight's look like Discord's and Sunset's. There's also no real explanation or logic as to how that magical mirror is possible other than just- well, MAGIC, and that's no surprising shame considering this is some terrible gimmick that's like something out of Beauty and the Beast. These factors and Juniper's character being ten times worse all add up to a recipe of total disaster that makes it seem like false advertisement, with an even stupider story and forced moral that just shoves it down your throw to accept others and forgive them instantly instead of giving them the time they clearly need to develop and learn.

There's virtually no reason for even the most die hard fan of the spinoff to give this a watch, and if not for Everfail and To Time a Finale Badly breaking its fall, Mirror Magic would easily rank as the worst installment of both franchises of MLP combined.


Final Thoughts

Am I the only one who thinks THIS scene of Sunset returning to Equestria
briefly in Mirror Magic is better than the specials themselves in general?

The three specials of the spinoff so far all come to a conclusion that its best to either put Equestria Girls out of its misery, or just give it a remake if Meghan McCarthy can't spice it back up (even if she tried her hardest). Everything as Zack and I both have discussed in this series has lost potential after the second installment and other than Sunset herself, I have no interest in EG anymore, and if anymore specials do come, I'm just wanting to get them over with just to rant about them during reviews. If I AM suddenly surprised one day by a GOOD special, who knows?

NOTE: I won't be posting anything next week since I'll be bonding with my cousins elsewhere. Keep that in mind and I guess I'll see in the last week of the month sometime.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mario Game Review - Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA, 2003)

There's really no denying that the Mario & Luigi series is one of the best spinoffs of everyone's favorite Italian plumber. It all began with the first game in the series on the GBA that is Superstar Saga. With a remake coming out this year in October on the 3DS with Bowser's Minions added on to the story, I feel I should take a review at this awesome RPG by Nintendo and AlphaDream after after Square Enix with Legend of the Seven Stars and Intelligent Systems with the original Paper Mario (before its improved sequel in the preceding year; The Thousand-Year Door). (So let's get started, shall we?)

The game opens with the witch Cackletta and her assistant Fawful arriving to steal Princess Peach's voice and replace it with explosives. After being summoned to the palace by Toad, Mario and Luigi confront and subdue Bowser, who coincidentally was attempting to kidnap Peach. Bowser decides against doing so, and teams up with Mario and Luigi to take her voice back from Cackletta, who has fled to the Beanbean Kingdom, with the intention of kidnapping Peach afterward when her voice would not destroy his castle.

...And of course, it's now up to the plumbers to help retrieve the real princess and save the Beanbean Kingdom all together from the evil clutches of Cackletta.

Superstar Saga's gameplay varies from previous Mario RPGs in many twists, but also with some newer features to world of role-playing games for the plumber(s). Instead of partners to accompany you, you play as only the two brothers and travel across many different landscapes in order to progress on to each newer field in order to save the princess and complete the game. You have the main quest having to travel great distances all while battling enemies and bosses to get from one point to another. You'll eventually require the plumber's abilities of high jumping and spinning across platforms in various areas throughout, but not too long after you come across training in battle mode and combat.

In the battle system, you fight with both brothers against enemies and bosses battles, which you can use both special moves, and your hammers and jump abilities. There are the special moves you acquire eventually as you advance in battles and earn more power for as you level up. In fact, you are upgraded with Heart Points, Bros. Points, Defense, Speed, and Stache eventually throughout each time you level up. When you start the battle off, you're required to either dodge or counterstrike the enemy/boss depending on the attacks, or take your turn jump, hammering, or attacking with the more powerful special Bros. moves. But of course, once you reach 0 HP on both brothers, it's game over.

You can collect items to help you on your quest and battles against enemies you take on, such as Mushrooms (for HP) and Syrup (for BP), or even badges and other clothing it increase certain stats with one brother or the other. (Like ATK, DEF, and BP status, etc.) You'll also have to search around for switches and other things to help progress on in the game, but there's lots more to be had.

That's all the important stuff I can discuss, and in gameplay standards, there's nothing bad to be said about it, but if there is, it's some of its difficulty that often tends to time itself too soon, or mostly at random, but that's really all I can say about any of the game's flaws. So now the graphics department.

Visuals and layouts in graphical design for Superstar Saga is very impressive for a Game Boy Advance title and I'm happy to say that the whole game tends to be extremely creative and breathtaking in its initial concept. The overall look of the areas/levels like the snow, beach, and castle landscapes all have an appeal of charm to them, and as for animation and sprites, they've all been well done so that based on the game's overall humor, these animations often tend to make the game hilarious for comedic effect. So for one gaming's most humorous games ever, Superstar Saga's graphics department all come close to being some of the greatest for its console, even if other games often tend to stand above it.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga's sound design is easily one of the best aspects of the game as a whole in every category of its design. The music, first off, is all very catchy and some of the series' greatest with nothing bad in store. Ranging from some of my favorite themes like Teehee Valley and Gwarhar Lagoon in the mainly adventure field, to very epic and blood-pumping tracks for the boss battles. There's just nothing bad to say about the game's soundtrack as it's very pleasurable for the ears that sometimes you can never get enough of it. (At least if you're me in that sense)

Sound effects are spot on as always with some that would eventually be recycled in the future sequels onwards, so now voice acting...

There's really nothing I can say about it as it's all weird, and admittedly for the best that the characters themselves don't speak out unlike Zelda games. And besides, we always have that classic Mario and Luigi quotes by Charles Martinet that never die down as they all have soft spot in hearts like mine.

So the music? Awesome. Sound effects? All spot on as usual. And voice acting? Well, I have nothing new to say... so now let's move on.

  • D-Pad - Move selection cursor (Menu), Move Mario & Luigi (Adventure Field), Move Action Cursor (Battlefield)
  • A - Confirms Select (Menu), Perform selected "Back Bro" action (Adventure Field), Perform/Select Mario's action commands (Battlefield)
  • B - Cancel selection/Return to previous menu (Menu), Perform selected "Front Bro" action (Adventure Field), Perform/Select Luigi's action commands (Battlefield)
  • L - Switch menu field left (Menu), cycles "Back Bro" action icon (Adventure Field)
  • R - Switch menu field right (Menu), cycles "Front Bro" action icon (Adventure Field)
  • Start (Adventure Field only) - Swap "Back Bro" w/"Front Bro"
  • Select (Adventure Field only) - Opens suitcase

With the re-release of the original game being ported to the 3DS in October this year as I said, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on its own has everything great you need to make and play a good Mario game. With hilarious humor, near flawless gameplay, appealing layout and visuals, great sound, and wonderful (if hard-to-get-used-to) controls, the game itself takes RPG Mario games to a whole new level and for any of you who HAVEN'T played the original outing yet; give it a shot before you get your hands on the enhanced 3DS remake.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

After the Fact - Super Mario 64 DS (DS, 2004)

Super Mario 64 is undoubtedly my all time favorite video game, and for many good reasons. The replayability when completing the entirely, the good challenge within every level, and most of all, flawless gameplay and replay value. With the DS remake nearly three years later however, there have been few ups and downs that make it a little too flawed, but nevertheless, it's fantastic port of the original 1996 N64 classic, even if any newer features aren't entirely necessary. But as with my previous comparison between both imports of Mario Kart 8, let's now compare the remake to the original.  

I've always loved the other characters the game allows you to play as on their own; Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario. And while they aren't perfect as characters in both controls and power ups, they're so much fun to play as. There's no change in Mario other than his recycled Balloon power up from Super Mario World as his only power up he can use on his own, so I've got nothing to say about him, so what about the other three playable characters?

With Yoshi, he recycles most of his potential moves from other entries in the game where he was playable; his egg laying after swallowing certain enemies (albeit others like Bom-ombs where he can only bomb things after spitting them back out), his ability to breath fire for a short time after nabbing a power up flower, and most of all, his flutter jump that allows him to hover in the air for a short time. While he may not be able to grab things with his own arms rather than only his tongue, he's still a welcome edition to the game despite seeming a little strange that you start the game off playing as him rather than Mario.

Mario's younger twin brother Luigi also has a jump similar to Yoshi's, only instead of fluttering above the ground, all it really does is make his falls look a little spazzy and that really doesn't add anything to him. His faster speed than his brother on the other hand does at least make up for that, and that you can walk on water for a brief few seconds when you come into contact with it instead of necessarily jumping into or on it. His jump is obviously higher than his brother's, but other than all that, there's really nothing more I can say about him other than he's also fun to play throughout various levels.

And last but not least, as the strongest, if slowest, character in game, we have Mario's frienemy evil twin known as Wario. Now he's the character who can smash and break the strongest blocks that the rest of the characters can't break. As Yoshi gets fire breathing, and Mario gets balloon floating, as Luigi also does with going invisible to enemies (and able to walk through certain walls), Wario gets the Metal Cap power up when coming into contact with a flower power up. It's still a little strange that Mario doesn't get to use those previous power ups that he got to back in the original game, but at least these newer playable characters got a shot at what they might be like. But getting back to Wario, while he isn't the most useful, or my all time favorite character of the franchise, he still acts as a good character for the player to play as in the game.

So to conclude this section, while Mario may still be able to use his Wing Cap as he got to in the original N64 outing (not to mention the balloon floating as I said), it's a little sad that he doesn't get to use the rest of the power ups, but then again, that wouldn't make the other characters interesting to play as if we weren't require to use them to get specific power stars throughout the game. It is pretty cool that you get to use them in disguise though if you collect their caps though when you eventually unlock them (when your playing as one different character or the other), albeit Yoshi since he can use all three different caps unlike the rest of the characters. It may have been fun just to use Mario throughout the original game, but since we get to play as three others here, there's a good reason for one to buy this game (either on their own NintendoDS or 3DS, or on virtual console for the Wii U).

Speaking of collecting specific power stars throughout the game, there is more than enough to add up to 150 total. While some missions haven't specifically changed in terms of the required tasks to get the stars, there are some cases where you need play as a certain character (like Luigi or Wario) instead of the others in order to collect them in some of the recycled missions from the N64 game. I mean there are new ones like more secret areas, the silver stars throughout all fifteen main levels, and even those levels with the bosses the player must defeat in order to unlock the mustachios in the game, but while some feel a little gimmicky and not to fascinating, it still adds to 64 DS's good reception.

Now this is the biggest gimmick that I don't find very good or useful other than when you're playing the minigames at best. When you control the characters by touching the screen instead of simply using the D-Pad and usual four buttons, then it doesn't feel or seem useful at all. It really makes me ask just why Nintendo would come up with this and as result, I find myself playing it the usual way with the buttons instead of the touch screen equally as much as I'd rather use the C-Stick to control Super Mario Sunshine's sometimes irritating camera in certain levels than the L-Trigger. So basically all you can do is move around when touching your favorite characters on the touch screen, and you'd really rather use it when playing all the minigames rather than the actual adventure game itself. In fact, speaking of the game's minigames...

There are lots of minigames to play and unlock in the game, that they're all so much fun to play. There's just far too much to discuss about them all here, so I'm really just going to explain how it's all said and done at just how you can collect them all together for each character. It all begins at the very start when Yoshi is required to find the key to unlock Peach's locked castle at the beginning for reasons beyond us, but Yoshi is required to catch a bunny in the castle yard to get the key to get in the castle. And after only THAT bunny, then that's when there's more spread out throughout the castle. To give a clear hint on how you can tell which ones are for which characters to catch to collect more keys to the minigames, Yoshi's bunnies are yellow, Mario's are (strangely) pink (and not really red like his normal color), Luigi's are green like himself, and Wario's are orange.

Ranging from the outside and the inside of the castle in numerous rooms on the three different levels, you'll have to really spread out throughout the whole place to find all the character's bunnies with only a few for each character. It doesn't feel to tedious, and is actually a little fun, but let's face it; what's more fun? The minigames? Or the main adventure itself? (If you say the main adventure, I think you have a truly smart brain, but if you don't, you're kinda weird)

To give a final opinion here, Super Mario 64 DS isn't quite up there with the original Nintendo 64 game, but I will say it's worth playing though to experience what it'd be like to platform in a three-dimensional world as Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario also. Mario still hasn't changed in his status throughout the game, so it's highly likely that he'd ultimately come out on top as the most useful, but with more great power stars to collect (thirty to give you a specific recap), the same good power ups, and some fun- if unnecessary, side quest minigames, it's one you have to give a shot if you haven't already.

Friday, June 30, 2017

After the Fact - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)

It's now been two months since Mario Kart 8 Deluxe got its initial release on the Nintendo Switch. For another a review I'll be making on it now, despite not reviewing the original copy on the Wii U first off, I shall only really be discussing the newly introduced features it added to the game. Gameplay, graphics, and sound design on the basic game itself I shall discuss in my review for it's original Wii U self, but now, on with my thoughts on it...

There have been plenty of new features throughout each new Mario Kart game, and over the course of them all, they've all been welcome editions even if some weren't necessary for anymore sequels (I'm looking at Double Dash!!'s Co-Op feature). From stunts you can perform for major boosts to gliders and anti-gravity racing, they're all great. The new features here though are more weight classes than in the original throughout the three different primary classes; light, medium, and heavy. It's not necessarily anything new, and doesn't add anything to the game really, but I don't mind it. We also have the smart-steering antenna used to help you not to fall off courses to avoid losing coins, but at a price, it also means you can't do risky stunts, so that's really not much help either other than for any TODDLERS who are playing the game. You also have the Ultra Mini-Turbo boost you get if you keep steering long enough after the orange ones, but only if you turn of the unnecessary Smart Steering. Other features like the fire hopping mechanic (where you jump left and right simultaneously) has been removed, but with 200cc driving in Time Trail mode for a faster drive, then that's where I don't mind this mechanic being scrapped (and besides, I hardly ever find it useful in the first place).

For the most part, there's really not much I can say about these particular features since they really don't feel that new, but this IS a direct report of the original Wii U title after all. But for now, let's discuss the other features the game fixes up.

Now this is the mode the Switch remake has completely improved upon the original. As with every other Mario Kart game, Battle Mode has been handled very simply because instead of battling it out on tracks, with balloons, or collect coins, or holding a shine sprite for the longest time possible, you're in arenas INSTEAD of the game's ordinary race tracks. I don't know exactly what Nintendo was thinking when using race courses in the battle mode at first rather than arenas like stadiums and stuff, but that was what clearly effected the potential perfection for the game's reception. But now that the remake has been made, I can forget the original version's flaws.

There is of course the usual Balloon Battle where you pop as many balloons from your opponents as you can, Coin Runners, where you grab and collect as many coins as you can within a time limit against your opponents, but we're also brought back Bom-omb Blast and Shine Thief (both of which were originally) from Double Dash!!. Although Bom-omb Blast is super fun when you bomb your rivals endlessly, I really would've prefer Shine Runners from DS to be brought back instead of Shine Thief, but it is understandable that Thief was used here instead, considering it would've been just like Coin Runners except if you replace the coins with Shine Sprites of course, but anyway.

So while Shine Thief isn't exactly the most interesting of the mode, the rest (especially Balloon Battle especially win me over in the mode with great passion as to why I prefer the remake over the original.

There have been so many fantastic racers that have been a blast to choose from throughout each Mario Kart game after Super Circuit (since the libraries got bigger and bigger - primarily on the home console games though), but none of them have been quite as attractive of a roster as the 8th game's redux. New ones like the Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach were already introduced in the original game via one of its two DLC packs, not to mention Link and the Animal Crossing characters, but with the Inklings, that's a fantastic new edition of racing characters to come. It's cool that charcters from previous games like Dry Bowser and Bowser Jr. were finally brought back, but the great thing about the roster is that they're all already unlocked bar Gold Mario who is unlocked by completing every single Grand Prix cup on every difficulty level.

My main flaw with this particular character roster though are all the Koopalings (that really seem to cram too much of the roster up) and a lack of newer Mario characters, not to mention a few from Donkey Kong's games, but that's something I'm hoping will be done greater with in every sequel after this; especially the potential 9th game on the Switch sometime later. So no roster in the franchise is perfect by my standards, but what's more important is all the fun you have while playing as them... assuming you're okay with playing as one character or another in the library.

Whether you prefer to buy the remake on the Switch or not if you haven't already for the past two months, you at least shouldn't deny that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has certainly done the original justice with everything I just mentioned here. So while some great throwbacks like items from the previous games coming back is good, along with bringing back Battle Mode's classic perfected roots back, there's a lot of hope to have for the 9th game on the console (possibly), but that's not to say this remake of the originally Wii U outing is bad whatsoever. I didn't have much to discuss with the new controls to the game as that's for me to discuss on the console itself in general, but with everything good I've considered about it, Deluxe is one remake you simply must own at all costs.

Monday, June 19, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Not Asking for Trouble (S7, E11, P144, OE154)

Party Pooped is arguably one of MLP's worst efforts based on its offense stereotypes of bizarre characters that are the yaks (apparently they're a part of Equestria's royalty, and that makes no sense by my standards), particularly the leader of those stereotypical yaks; Prince Rutherford. By now, it's been two years since they've made an appearance on the series, and with Not Asking for Trouble, I feel their factor and status of characters has not changed at all whatsoever. So my question for Hasbro is; what were they seriously thinking?! (Now I may have said plenty of great things about every previous episode, but don't expect to show any respect towards Party Pooped's sequel here)

Pinkie Pie is invited to the rustic village of Yakyakistan, where she partakes in the yak holiday of Yikslurbertfest to prove her understanding of yak culture. During their customary stomping ritual, Pinkie and the yaks accidentally cause an avalanche that buries the entire village in snow, leaving them without food or shelter. Unable to dig the snow away on their own, Pinkie offers to gather her friends to assist the yaks, but the proud Prince Rutherford stubbornly rejects any outside help and opts to wait for the snow to melt instead. Pinkie disregards the prince and rallies her friends to secretly remove the snow while they sleep. Awakening the next morning to find the snow gone, Rutherford and the yaks commend Pinkie for helping them without their asking, and make her an honorary yak.

Once again lacking anything the from the good episodes of its own particular season, Trouble goes down as one comes off as one of Friendship Is Magic's terrible efforts for more than just the reason of those horribly unlikable yaks. For one, the plot makes for one of THE most boring I've ever had the opportunity of sitting through as I never feel entertained whatsoever. I mean yes, characters like them need backstories to develop more, but even still, their's was of no interest to me, and Pinkie making up a similar situation of story as to how she and her friends can help the yaks without them rejecting it doesn't seem at all bearable. And I have nothing to say about Pinkie and her part here (not to mention any of the rest of the Mane Six) as she (and her friends) makes the overall plot lead up to basically nothing just like she did in the yaks' debut episode which once again adds nothing.

Another one of my major grudges with the episode is especially the yaks' dialogue and feels equally as cheesy and terrible as their's in the episode's predecessor. It doesn't help that the humor feels rather forced and random, not to mention it makes no sense whatsoever since this is the sluggish plot we're focusing on. Need I mention that there's no real moral and most definitely when I'm trying to figure what it clearly is only confuses me? I mean if someone can tell me what the actual moral is, then maybe I'll try to see just how it feels that way in NAfT, but if nobody knows, then I don't care at all. Whatever the case, it'll be hard for me to understand anything Trouble tries bring across via its storyline.

Here's one of the first things I have to say about my final thoughts as a message to Hasbro: "Please DON'T bring back any detestable characters who have been dead on arrival." I mean why on earth did newbie writer May Chan think bringing the annoying and stereotypical yaks back to develop them in the same manner would ever be a good idea when Nick Confalone already tried and literally failed at it only two years earlier via Season 5's Party Pooped? Because now we have a sequel that's equally awful based on that factor. I know some people with rant about me for panning Not Asking for Trouble strongly, but the way I see it, characters like the yaks have no potential hope in the future.

Being Season 7's one and only bad and unbearable episode so far, Not Asking for Trouble ranks among my Top Ten Worst Episodes of the Series in general (at least if I'm not including any of the EG spinoff films). I know not even Season 4 comes off as perfect with only three episodes I don't favor (with only one making my least favorite episodes category), but NAfT in the end results in another installment that lacks heart, watchability, or complexity, and if I were Hasbro and wanted to keep giving this fourth generation more and more potential, and if Chan wants to go from a terrible start to a more tolerable newcomer for the show's crew, I would in no way bring the yaks back for a sequel or follow up episode.

May Chan may have made Not Asking for Trouble very brightly colorful and spot on in its sound design - the yaks' voiceover roles and especially the dreadful dialogue not withstanding - but the graphics and sound departments are just about the one and only thing she ever gets right about the episode.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - A Royal Problem (S7, E10, P143, OE153)

It's a major statement among me that Starlight Glimmer is doing much better in Season 7 than she ever was in Season 6. It's not all too surprising, but at times not really that expected either that she would get her own Cutie Map-themed episode where a Mane Six member or two travels across someplace random in Equestria in order to solve a friendship problem. At first glance, I didn't think of it as that tolerable when I thought of it as another Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?, but after a discussion I had with Zack on the overall plot, whereas it's far more of a Freaky Friday than it is a Magic Sheep?, I considered giving A Royal Problem a rewatch and have a different standpoint on everything one could find good about the episode; Especially considering that if Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco were the writers of a certain Starlight episode, I'd consider giving it at least a fair amount of rep after how mediocre All Bottled Up turned out to be.

Starlight Glimmer is summoned by the Cutie Map to solve a friendship problem between Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, who feel unappreciated by each other. When both sisters argue that their royal duties are more difficult than the other's, Starlight impulsively casts a spell that switches their cutie marks and abilities, intending to make them swap roles to change their perspective. The sisters agree to Starlight's idea, initially confident in their new responsibilities before quickly discovering their respective hardships: Luna finding it taxing to keep up appearances in public throughout the day; and Celestia realizing the loneliness of guarding Equestria at night. While surveilling her subjects' dreams, Celestia finds Starlight suffering from a nightmare where her impulsiveness has escalated the sisters' feud into a battle between Nightmare Moon and Celestia's own evil alter ego, Daybreaker. With both sisters admitting their jobs are equally challenging, Celestia dispels Starlight's nightmare with Luna's support before their original cutie marks are restored, finally ending their feud.

Due Starlight better development in the season than Season 6, and helping Celestia again get better rep after the surprisingly incredible Celestial Advice, A Royal Problem comes out as an admirable installment with flawless pacing as it never gets boring nor anything that leaves more than enough to be desired like The Cutie Re-Mark. The plot works as brilliantly as Celestia's and Luna's chemistry as sisters and their sibling rivalries based on what their duties in Equestria are like, and how Starlight ended up switching their duties around via her magic of switching their cutie marks around. It only adds to how brilliantly Celestia portrayed herself as a sister who trying to be as realistic as possible, and with her relationship with her younger sister Luna, I'm sure it's one many can identify with. Luna hasn't exactly changed as a character as I feel nothing has and ever will make up for her derailing portrayal in Magic Sheep? (and I have Scott Sonneborn to blame for that obviously), but she still comes out as a fairly well done character here as she serves a purpose and her parts only makes the plot seem more realistic in every sense of the way how a plot is paced out.

Twilight lacks anything interesting in herself as she comes off as petty at times, but at least she was nowhere near derailed as she was in Season 6 at most (hey there, No Second Prances). She especially makes the ending not all too perfect as she was rather weird and a little crazy as she was in Lesson Zero, but the strong ending of how the sisters formed back together that seems almost as relating as Sisterhooves or Brotherhooves Social more than makes up for that. Speaking of things that make up for any of an episode's flaws, the epic action between both sister's counterparts Nightmare Moon (for Luna) and the newly introduced Daybreaker (for Celestia) is another welcome edition to some of the show's best moments ever, and despite still seeming as a little unoriginal, their action and brawl between each other make the episode better than it would've been if it lacked that kind of awesomeness.

While things like Twilight's part don't entirely add much to A Royal Problem's awesome factor after the opening act, the awesome action, the expertly paced storyline, and of course two more fantastic morals of bravery and what life's like in someone else's shoes (or hooves in Celestia's and Luna's cases), it's another installment of pure awesomeness that does a better job of giving Season 7 great quality than the preceding episode (soon to air for the US this Saturday, but more on it next week). It isn't perfect, but Starlight Glimmer's characterization seems to be getting better and better as she gets more good development in all the episodes she plays a major role in, and A Royal Problem proves that for underrated characters like Celestia also, there's more potential in store for undeveloped characters, poorly written characters, and Friendship Is Magic's quality itself in general.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Honest Apple (S7, E9, P142, OE152)

Rarity and Applejack are often considered a shipping (which most of the time I don't even see why), and usually get more collabs as a Mane Six duo than any of the other four main characters. After their successful portrayals in Simple Ways and Made in Manehattan (while also having respectable roles where they're supporting characters in other installments like Sisterhooves Social), they've been greater characters if slightly underrated at some point. With Season 7's Honest Apple however, I feel that while they still remain admirable characters (especially considering Rarity was derailed slightly before Season 6 ended but not before getting back to her sane character with this), they've kinda lost that underrated factor and their collab feels a little overrated nowadays just cause I feel one or two episodes for them both together as a duo is just about enough. Regardless of that, I wouldn't describe Honest Apple as anything unremarkable.

Rarity selects Applejack to serve as a judge for an upcoming fashion show. Applejack accepts, figuring that she simply needs to give the contestants her honest opinion. Before the show, Applejack is mystified by the other judges and stylists' fashion sense and heavily criticizes their design choices, bluntly telling them her belief that fashion is ridiculous. The offended fashion ponies storm out, forcing the show to be cancelled. When Applejack tries defending her opinions, Rarity takes her to a pony who unapologetically disregards apples, making Applejack realize how hurtful her own comments were. Gathering the fashion ponies, Applejack manages to get the show uncancelled. When given the deciding vote during the show, Applejack finds new admiration in the stylists' hard work and names all of them the winner.

Rarity seriously plays a mean guitar, doesn't she?

When it comes to characterization (even if Spike's and Pinkie Pie's don't really add much to the story in general since this does focus on the episode's two titular characters after all), Honest Apple does it exactly right thanks to keeping Applejack as her usual honest self, while Rarity remained generous as to give her honest friend a chance at judging the dresses. It should be noted that Applejack's hurtful honesty though does make the overall pacing not too watchable as harsh moments are uncomfortable for me to sit through, but harshness here at least serves a purpose like Green Isn't Your Color did. Plenty of other good scenes add to the episode's charm even if they don't entirely make up for Applejack's hurtful honesty - Rarity's mean guitar solo, anypony? The moral's been done well too as every other character's portrayal was as well; Hoity Toity and Photo Finish specifically are more admirably interesting than they were when they were first introduced (which I think their chemistry in working together in this episode does make for a potential shipping), but anyway.

In the end, Honest Apple is still an enjoyable installment for all die hard Applejack and Rarity fans (besides those Rarijack shippers), but by my standards, doesn't quite meet up with the previous installments they've done as a duo. Applejack's hurtful honesty doesn't make its rewatchable after one viewing, but rewatchability isn't everything you need to make an episode good, as long as the story's stellar (and that's what's important). And I feel Honest Apple delivers exactly that. With only one black sheep in the season after Honest Apple's followup episode A Royal Problem (more on that another day...very soon) known as the Party Pooped sequel Not Asking for Trouble, Season 7 has certainly proved to remain stellar even if Honest Apple is nowhere near an absolute masterpiece.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Blast to the Past - Top Ten 3D Super Mario Levels

It's been over a whole year (and an extra month and half a week) since I posted my favorite levels on the 3D Mario games. And since it's a Thursday, I thought I might do a little throwback out of total boredom. But here, I've decided to change things up a bit with both my photos, all while adding more detailed descriptions on my entries on the countdown since it basically hasn't changed. Whether or not you feel there's a point to re-post this when there's no change in it whatsoever, I thought I might also look back on my favorite levels of the 3D games before the next installment on the Nintendo Switch; Super Mario Odyssey finally hits stores from around the world, so there's more than enough reasons for me to look back on one of my favorite posts I've ever had fun making. Without further delay, let's now look back on my favorite levels of the series...

I tend to enjoy a lot of lava or fire-themed levels in video games like Metroid Prime's Magmoor Caverns and especially the Fire Temple of Ocarina of Time. With Mario however, there's a lot I can enjoy so much. While I could've gone with 64's Lethal Lava Land, or Galaxy 2's Melty Monster Galaxy, I chose Melty Molten Galaxy of the first Super Mario Galaxy for it's more challenging missions, and Fiery Dino Piranha boss battle. There is of course the rolling ball section that could often drive you to insanity what with the annoying controls of only tilting the Wii Remote around and around while avoiding giant holes in the rotating tunnel of lava, but other missions like the galaxy's boss, and planets where you either have to climb a giant spire to get one of the level's stars, or even the starting planet what with the big volcano at least make up for that. A small planet of Thwomps and a U Tower planet also add to the level's creativeness, not to mention a Hungry Luma that can form into a Lava Sea Planet (where you collect five Silver Star pieces to collect one of the level's stars) when fed enough bits, but that's not to say the rest of Mario's lava levels throughout the series (and the franchise in general) are bad as pretty much any level with that theme is good.

The level's music is especially epic and more than backs all of Melty Molten Galaxy's cool factor, so there's more to a great level than just how fun it is to play throughout.

Snow levels have to have the most beautiful environments of their respective games they come from, and this fifth level of 3D World's sixth world is no exception. You begin the level platforming on a snowy mountain, avoiding being blown off by big Ty-Foos in the process. And I strongly suggest you hitch a ride in a big Ice Skate by defeating the Goombas riding in them first before collecting the green stars and the stamp within the level because they involve platforms with spikes that pop out often (fast or slow), and you wouldn't want to lose your power-up while making your way through the level (not to mention having to risk your spare power-up just to survive random enemy attacks from the ice skating Goombas). And prepare to encounter annoying walleyes along the way as well cause while they are annoying enough to try and block your path, they're pathetically easy to get past when you quickly run the opposite direction of them (just like tricking Wallops in Super Mario 3D Land by jumping up right before you make your way around them).

Its music is beautiful too, but it IS a remix of the Snow Theme from 3D Land however so that really isn't say much. Whichever version you prefer of the song, you're still to get a kick out of the levels the theme itself plays in. Enough's been said about this awesome level from me, so let's move on...

Pinna Park is easily the best level of possibly the most divisive game of the whole franchise of Mario in general; although that really isn't saying much either. But getting back to the level itself, Pinna Park is the very best for many reasons I think any of you can name by now. The Mecha-Bowser boss battle, the secret hidden within the Yoshi-Go-Around, those spinning ship rides, the Ferris wheel that spins around like crazy during the level's 5th mission to collect the Shine Sprite, and the catchy music that plays when you enter the park. The second and fourth missions aren't as interesting as the rest since that's when the park's closed and you instead have to either help a bunch of sunflowers, or defeat a monty mole in a cannon, but all other good things considered, this Disneyland of Mario levels is a bundle of fun from start to finish.

I'd just like to forget about those cutscenes both before and after you fight Mecha-Bowser because based on the dreadful dialogue and acting, they're nothing but cringe-worthy and unwatchable on a personal level.

Chain Chomps are some of the most frustrating enemies in Mario history, and it's not hard to see why; they chase and bark at you like a ferocious dog, and they rang in different sizes (from large to small) - not to mention sometimes you can't defeat them (at least depending on which Mario game you're playing)... With Chompworks Galaxy however, they can be useful to help you get from one galaxy to another. It does lose a few points of awesomeness for that annoying Spring Mushroom mission to get the second star, but when you have to guide a Golden Chomp to another hole by activating platforms for a short time (to either rise up or drop down briefly) to get a star on a chomp-shaped planet, you have something innovative within this level to look at.

The level's music track tends to be a bit overshadowed, but by no means does that diminish the galaxy's "awesome" factor. Still, with or without the Spring Mushroom power up, I just can't help but give Chompworks Galaxy a major honor for 3D Super Mario level.

Circuses are so much fun to attend (even though I've never had the chance to, but I'm sure to experience one someday), and the same can be said for playing a lot of particular levels in games of various genres. With Tricky Trapeze Theater in World 5 of Super Mario 3D World however, there's more than enough fun to be had. There are plenty of enemies that populate part of the level; from those electric Fizzlits appearing just before a bunch trapezes that you must swing on to make it through the level, to over a dozen Piranha Plants on a big platform (that spins around very slowly) after you reach the Flagpoint - which you can defeat them all very quickly by grabbing the Mega Mushroom in the middle of the rotating platform in a hidden block, there's more than enough excitement to feel when playing through this funland.

With even a song that varies its tune depending on where you progress in the level as you eventually reach the end, its hard not to enjoy listening to the music track itself. What more do you need to make such a colorful and innovative level that's pure eye candy so good?

Even if I'm more of a kid than I am a full grown adult, toys are so much fun to play with and look back on. You have toy trains you must board when you start (at least) the first mission of the level, another giant Mecha-Bowser you must climb to the top of and destroy to get the very first power star, and an 8-bit Mario Bros. planet consisting of a lava-tiled Mario sided with a poison water-tiled Luigi where you either collect five silver stars or collect 100 purple coins (each for a power star obviously). And though we also have another lame Undergrunt Gunner for a boss fight (that fires electricity instead of water bubbles) after the first one in Golden Leaf Galaxy, there's still more charm and awesomeness to it even if the Spring Mushroom sections feel just as annoying as the rest of the same thing throughout both Galaxy games.

The music track - acting as another remix of the main Super Mario Bros. theme, may not be anything new (which also happens to be remixed a little more in Supermassive Galaxy in the preceding game), but with more awesome missions and so much exploration throughout them, it's just so much fun to play. Man, just talking about this makes me wanna go play Super Mario Galaxy again right now!

One of the very first few levels/galaxies of the game, Yoshi Star Galaxy is a high entry on this list since you get to play with my favorite character since he comes in handy at anytime you saddle on him. Although you may not get to squirt juice from the adorable dinosaur, nor do a high jump after two straight jumps doing three in a row on the last one like Super Mario Sunshine, you still get to use Yoshi's handy tongue to grab things like all the big berries (to collect more star bits...obviously), swing off Flower Grapples, and obviously swallow enemies. With another fun boss fight consisting of Giga Lakitu (who looks very similar to that of Lakithunder from the first New Super Mario Bros. game), even if the boss himself gets a little frustrating on the last hit, and a fun mission of taking out tons of Spinies via an invincibility Rainbow Star (within a time limit... not surprisingly), it just makes it hard for me not to enjoy this second level of Super Mario Galaxy 2.

The green stars you have to collect in a random area, as with every last level before the Grandmaster Galaxy at the end of the game, are completely nonsensical no matter how much it's required to complete the game, but with fun missions, another awesome song that seems as bouncy as Super Mario World (and its music), a fun boss battle, and of course Yoshi himself, Yoshi Star Galaxy is just impossible to dislike as a level...

I always seem to have a thing for rainbows and the most colorful levels ever in gaming. And while it's not entirely something like that of Mario Kart's Rainbow Road tracks, Rainbow Run, acting as the very first level of the special world, is certainly a blast to play through. When you start it off with traveling down a path of colorful yarns that resemble a rainbow, you have something clearly special on your hands to say the very least. With all three green stars to collect, you start with the first one by climbing up a wall, assuming you're powered up with a Cat Bell, to a room where you must revenuer balls to goals on each side of the room with two different P-Switches. After you ride Plessie across a pool with colorful panels at the bottom, you must fire up two torches with fireballs via a Fire Flower, then be blasted out of a cloud canon and light up a ton a floor tiles in order reveal an 8-bit Link of The Legend of Zelda series to get the second green star. And after activating the Green Star ring, you must collect all eight green coins (much like red coins in both 64 and Sunshine) in order to get the last. Hands down another great moment in the level comes from a coin shower that allows you collect any coins you can grab whenever you're under it (I know it's impossible to get all of them, but it's still cool)

The song that plays in it is yet another Super Mario Bros. theme remix that also plays in two other retro-themed levels in 3D Land, but with tons of coins, a colorful layout, and a sprite that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda series as I said, there's no way you CAN'T have fun playing this stage.

And here we have my favorite level from my favorite video game of all time, let alone that of the plumber. Tiny-Huge Island may take place on the same island with the only difference being the size of them both when jumping in the warp pipes scattered around the level, but by no means is it not good fun. The enemies themselves obviously range from big to small as well depending on which island you jump to from pipe to pipe, there's that tunnel near the top of the island with a giant Wiggler for a boss, there are secrets hidden throughout the smaller part of the island that lead up to another power star, and there's even Koopa the Quick in the third mission whom you must beat once again after the first time (on the second mission to obtain a power star) in Bom-omb Battlefield. It's all very satisfying to be stomping on your enemies and trouncing them, huge or tiny, and even with the red coin mission in Wiggler's cave, you're sure to be having lots of fun completing the level with all it's missions of power stars.

Not surprisingly (at least nowadays it isn't), it's the level with the most coins to collect at a high score (with a total of 192 if you count two invisible coins you collect in a particular sense or two), and that backs up more than enough of the Tiny-Huge Island's "awesome" factor. Insert the same catchy song that plays in a few other levels (besides Bom-omb Battlefield of course) beforehand into the mix...

Before I get to my top pick, here a few

No surprise that neither my top favorite level nor any of these entries on my countdown (as I said), let alone my Number 1 haven't changed even in the slightest, right? But looking back on my favorite level of the 3D Super Mario games only (go figure), I can still enjoy playing it. I pretty much love everything about Space Junk Galaxy to be precise; its missions consisting of even more boss battles (between both a giant spider-like Scuttlebug Tarantox, and a big purple female Magikoopa Kamella) and a bunch of pull stars that help get you from planet to planet - insert some awesome cosmic comet missions into the level also (consisting of both collecting purple coins in one mission, and a speed run on the other). Add to that the planets you platform on, like a rocket, and those planets shaped like a T, or even that inner, glassy, crystal orb-surfaced maze - which, by the way, also features a Hungry Luma who will transform into a planet the shape of Yoshi's head filled to the brim with furious Goombas that you must take out in order to nab another secret power star.

Let's also add that its song is very beautiful and soothing so much that it fits the beauty of space perfectly (which I myself wish I could experience the depth of space someday), it's replayable what with all the fun missions besides just the bosses and the comet stars, has enough calming environments within all the planets you platform on, with or without the small amount of enemies you can defeat while progressing, and makes you feel as if you yourself are really in space when you're so gripped on it. So with every great thing I just mentioned about it, it all adds up to my favorite level of the 3D games in the main Super Mario series even to this day,...and I'll just have to see if something from Super Mario Odyssey later on this year can beat it out.

Do you agree with my picks?
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