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 you all 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.