Stripping Away Silence: What’s with all the Mario Sunshine defense articles lately?

I suppose New Super Mario Bros. 2′s release has (for some reason) triggered a bizarre ripple in the Internet biosphere that forces people to defend the Gamecube Super Mario Sunshine. Why else would there be articles on 1UP and Nintendo Life attempting to make amends for it so close together?

I’ve ripped into Sunshine a few times here at LVLs. (with my Super Mario Sunshine piece from the Mario 25th serving as the best one), so I’ll refrain from going into an enormous diatribe about the game. Instead, a brief rebuttal. Despite my grievances, Super Mario Sunshine mechanically is a good game. It’s fun, it’s got enough Mario charm, and despite its failings is perfectly competent. However, when you compare that to most of Mario’s other adventures, it doesn’t stack up. Mario games are not GOOD games, they’re usually EXCEPTIONAL games. That is the issue. It doesn’t reach those high notes the series usually does, and that’s what is so disappointing about it. It’s easily the low spike on the Mario timeline, and nothing (in my opinion) can erase that. So, these arguments for reconsidering its quality may try to validate some of the poor decisions and awkward moments, but in the end it doesn’t make it any better as a Mario game. My two cents.

1UP Chats with Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka about Metroid, Earthbound, Pokemon and more!

Jeremy Parish continues on his fantastic interview streak this week at 1UP, this time having a fascinating discussion with Hirokazu Tanaka. Tanaka created a lot of the early arcade sounds for Nintendo games, moved on into music with the Famicom by composing simple tunes for Balloon Fight and Wrecking Crew, and then began to define the sound hardware of the system with one of the more memorable and moody soundtracks in gaming history, Metroid. 1UP talks with him about all this and much more, including his involvement “sampling” for Earthbound, his role in creating the Game Boy Camera and Link Cable, and his current job as president of Creatures. Nintendo fans will definitely want to absorb all this!

1UP Interviews Koichi Nakamura of Chun Soft about Dragon Quest, 999 and More!

Koichi Nakamura may not leap to mind when you think of Dragon Quest, but Nakamura helped co-create the series and had his hands tied up with the first five games in the storied franchise. As the leader of developer Chun Soft, Nakamura has a lot to say about a lot of things, and 1UP’s Jeremy Parish sits down with him to do just that. Some fascinating history in there about Dragon Quest, and there’s a bit on the more recent 999, too.

1UP Asks “What Happened to the Action RPG?”

Jeremy Parish investigates genre juxtaposition in this article, a lengthy but informative look at how the Action RPG came to be, and how Diablo (pictured) changed its meaning forever. Here’s a piece to sample:

Of course, even then, the notion of Diablo-as-pure-RPG left some people with a stomachache. And so the world arrived at a compromise by giving Diablo its own genre: The action RPG.

This came as no small surprise to people who had been playing “action RPGs” for years on consoles — or even before that, on the 8-bit microcomputers of the ’80s. Today, the term “action RPG” brings to mind Diablo and its descendants almost exclusively: Loot-driven games powered by randomization and the mouse-clicking power of the human index finger, such as Titan Quest and Torchlight. Prior to 1996, however, the term “action RPG” described a number of other games and styles, foremost of which was The Legend of Zelda. Such has been the impact of Diablo that the Zelda series has been entirely recategorized as “action adventure.” Somewhere, the guys who excoriated Final Fantasy VII for PC are smiling in satisfaction.

Studio Ghibli’s Impact on Gaming

Over at 1UP, Jeremy Parish puts up a fine article explaining the impact Studio Ghibli has left on the Japanese gaming industry. He focuses on two of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and supplies plenty of solid examples of gaming cribbing from those classic films. For example, Final Fantasy’s Chobobos are pretty damn similar to Nausicaa’s Hookclaws (seen at left). A great read!

1UP Tackles Gender and Sexuality in Video Games all throughout the week

I’m not “back” quite yet, but I wanted to share this feature 1UP is doing. They’re tackling what turned out to be one of the big controversies that spewed out of E3 this year, the difficult topic of gender and sexuality. So far, they have a review for Lollipop Chainsaw, which turned out to be a disappointment for me once I realized thedirection it was heading (if only it could have made Juliet anything but the stereotype), plus an editorial on the hero/heroine debate (that’s mostly about the new Tomb Raider and the brouhaha its producer caused with his poor framing of Lara’s “development” through a potential rape), and an interview with game designer Anna Anthropy, who identifies herself as a “queer, kinky trans woman in a committed non-monogamous relationship.” I’ve read all the pieces thus far and am quite impressed with the approach the staff is taking with this. I applaud 1UP for taking this subject seriously and giving it their Cover Story treatment. This is something that needs to be done for our industry to grow, despite the high frequency of naysayers commenting on their posts. Please, try to check it out.

Stripping Away Silence: E3 2012 – Are We “Mature” Enough Yet?

Welcome to the first of my editorials on E3 2012. One thing I’ve noticed this year is the overabundance of “mature” games that proliferated many of the conferences this year. By “mature” I mean insanely profane, saturated with blood, or pulling the nudity card. In terms of violence, Jeremy Parish also touches on this over at 1UP. I certainly agree with some of his points. However, I wanted to flesh out my own thoughts on this notable increase in violence, profanity and nudity and make an attempt to figure out how exactly I feel about this focus. Due to the amount of clips and the subject matter, I’ll force a jump. There be some violence/sex/language advisories, that there be! (more…)

1UP Looks into the Past of Nintendo R&D1

Nintendo’s ever-quirky Software and Planning Development Group #1 (formerly R&D1) continues to provide Nintendo some much needed diversity to their roster – 1UP takes a reflective glance at the studio’s long career as one of Nintendo’s pioneers.  Led by Gumpei Yokoi for much of its early career, the team created famous Nintendo gadgetry like the Ultra Hand and the Love Tester, led the leap into the gaming realm with the Color TV series and the Game & Watch, helped Shigeru Miyamoto build Donkey Kong, developed key franchises like Metroid, launched the Game Boy line, and too many other accomplishments to list out here.  In short, this is a nice piece on a fascinating dev, and it’s worth a read.

Blog of Dogs Wearing Pants…I mean, the latest Solatorobo dev blog is up!

Jess Chavez returns to 1UP to continue her dev comments on Solatorobo, this time focusing on the game’s world and showing off a bit of concept art.  Worth a look for those excited about the game’s impending release!

A Celebration of Dragon Quest over at 1UP

Jeremy Parish and some of his Gamespite cohorts have put up a rather nice 25th anniversary retrospective on Enix’s Dragon Quest at 1UP, a series I happen to love quite a bit myself.  I’d like to try to get my Favorite Franchise piece for the series done this week as my attempt at commemorating the event, but we’ll see how time pans out.  There’s always this, though!

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