Monthly Archives: May 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2: I finished it and here’z what I think

Background and intro
Originally, the game released as Super Mario Galaxy 2 was going to be called More Super Mario Galaxy and would basically be the Wii’s equivalent of the Japan-only 1986 Famicom title, Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels). However, Nintendo decided to pour a couple of years of development into it and make it a new game re-using the “outer space” motif. General producer Shigeru Miyamoto compared it to the Nintendo 64’s The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which re-used the game engine from the previous title, Ocarina of Time. However, let me assure you that there is way more difference between Oracle and Majora than there is between Galaxy and Galaxy 2. In fact, in spite of the seemingly long development time, it really does come across as a More Super Mario Galaxy type game. Considering the whole space setting was used again, Galaxy 2 was a golden opportunity to shake up some other boring/cliche/haggard Mario elements. MAYBE it would have helped to have a villain other than Bowser this time around, doing something other than kidnapping Peach. During the closing cinematic scene I was thinking how much fun it would have been to play as Peach in all of her floatiness. Wouldn’t that have been a pretty cool reward for beating the game?

Nintendo seems to think there’s a lot of brand new content in this game but I’ve played downloadable expansions for other games that had just as much “new” material involving equipment, setting, characters, etc.  Galaxy 2 is basically a gigantic expansion pack for Galaxy 1.

I’ve beaten the main story but that’s only about 30% of the actual content of the game
One thing that Galaxy 2 does not skimp on is content. As in all of the other 3D Mario games there are 120 standard stars for Mario to retrieve.  Once you’ve obtained all 120 stars, there are an additional 120 stars that become available.  However, out of the 71 stars I’ve earned so far, I kind of wonder how valid those additional stars will be.  Several of the missions I’ve beaten were just re-treads of missions I’d beaten earlier.  It’s a bit more egregious in this case than in, say, Super Mario 64, because in that game each area had 7 stars, so a re-tread or two within an area isn’t a big deal.  In Galaxy 2, most areas only have 2 or 3 stars, 1 of which is often a re-tread.  Still, there are many hours of content here.  When I beat Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, I pretty much went straight to work collecting all of the stars.  However, this time out I don’t feel as motivated, and will probably give the game a break before I pick it up to do more re-treads.

A really annoying thing about Yoshi and power-ups
Galaxy 2 clearly has a “more is better” philosophy regarding power-ups but many of them are fairly lame or forgettable.  Most of them are mission-specific and mandatory, basically the opposite of their usage in the old side-scrolling games.  What I mean to say is that many missions require a power-up to complete; they’re not just cool add-on abilities.  Additionally, if you lose the power-up they usually reappear where you originally located them, taking away their special spontaneity.  I know this approach dates all the way back to SM64 but in that game power-ups occurred sparingly.  In this game they’re all over the place.

The most annoying aspect of the power-ups is that they cannot be maintained from one mission to another.  Being able to keep power-ups when you avoid taking damage would have made the game a lot crazier and a lot more fun for me.  Yoshi makes a return in this game he’s the same way – if you finish a level with Yoshi he does not come with you, just like last years New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  That’s just lame and it makes him feel tacked on.  Luigi’s in the game, too.  Occasionally he can be seen standing around at the beginning of a mission.  On these occasions you have the option of switching to him as your playable character.  As usual, his footing is slippery but his jumps are impressive.

Lots of references to past games
For some reason, there are many references in visual, audio, and level design that harken back to earlier games.  Oddest of all is an area that is a remake of the Whomp Fortress from SM64.  Another area is basically a tribute to the overall look and feel of Super Mario Sunshine.  Musical themes from old games are used more than in most recent Mario games.  Boss levels re-use the boss level music from SM64.  I must admit to some hypocrisy as I had previously hoped for this sort of thing but in practice it seems a bit too much like fan-service or a lack of ideas.  As I mentioned earlier, considering the very premise of this game is a re-hash it would have been cool have some really simple, easy, but wacky ideas to make the whole thing fresh.

New Mario games are just not the creme de la creme for me anymore
The main Mario series has always been my favorite video game series but I can think of a few console releases of this hardware generation that I enjoyed more than Galaxy 1 & 2, including Metroid Prime 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, BioShock and even the somewhat uninspired New Super Mario Bros. WiiGalaxy 2 is a really well-made game but the reviews have been ridiculously positive.  Please, Nintendo, give the next game a new setting and some much, much more innovative ideas.


Good Lord: Red Dead Redemption looks awesome/great/fun

If you’re unfamiliar, Red Dead Redemption is basically “Grand Theft Auto in the Old West” or, more specifically, a Sergio Leone-ish Old West. The early reviews for the game have been great, averaging 9.5 (wow!). What has me really excited is the portrayal of the desolate, western landscapes and small, dusty towns. Sometimes when I watch Sergio Leone movies my heart aches as I calmly lust after the wild, expansive deserts and plains with views that stretch for miles and miles. I’m almost tempted to buy this game new . . .

70 Aspects Of Batman: 24


From Wikipedia:

Jordi Bernet Cussó (born June 14, 1944, Barcelona) is a Catalan comics artist, best known for the gangster comics series Torpedo.

The son of a famous Spanish comic book artist, Miguel (Miguel or Miquel Bernet), he made his debut in comics at fifteen, continuing his father’s humorous series Doña Urraca (Mrs. Magpie) after his death in 1960, under the pseudonym “Jordi”.

Turning to the German market, in the 1970s he collaborated with Cussó to create Wat 69, a sexy and humouristic heroine for the magazine Pip, and Andrax, a science fiction series for Primo, which both became successful in Germany.

After the fall of Franco, Bernet returned to Catalonia and Spain and worked for several Spanish comics magazines such as Creepy, Metropol and Cimoc, eventually meeting three writers with whom he would form productive partnerships. With Antonio Segura he created the amazone fantasy series Sarvan, and the series Kraken, depicting a sewer monster terrorizing a futuristic fascist society.

Bernet first collaborated with Enrique Sánchez Abulí on several short stories, collected in Historietas negras. When Alex Toth, after producing two stories of Torpedo 1936 in 1981, decided he did not share Abulí’s darkly humorous view of mankind and parted with the project, Bernet was asked to continue the work.[4] This became the beginning of a long-lasting series, which became a popular success and was awarded at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. It eventually formed the basis of its own magazine, Luca Torelli es Torpedo in 1992.[3] Later collaborations with Abulí include De vuelta a casa, La naturaleza de la bestia: Ab Irato and Snake: por un puñado de dolares.

Bernet’s more recent publications include several albums for the Italian western character Tex Willer, and a run of work for the U.S. comics market, including a Batman story, and a trilogy detailing “the shocking origin” of Jonah Hex.[5] Bernet has later continued to work with Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray on Jonah Hex.

Will Eisner described his impression of Bernet’s work in an anthology preface:[6]

Here was a man who was producing pure story-telling art. That is art that uses the kind of minimalism so singular to his draftsmanship that is actually a narrative device in itself. This fit into my own philosophy of sequential narrative art. I pursued the progress of his work with great interest.
—Will Eisner

I’m a little ashamed to admit my overall ignorance of Mr. Bernet’s work…really, my only exposure to it thus far has been in the pages of Solo #6, which contains the Batman story this renowned artist illustrated. As mentioned by Will Eisner, Bernet’s storytelling skills are superlative and his cartoony-realistic style even reminds me of the amazing Eisner. I’d love to know more about the world of European comics, so maybe the work of Jordi Bernet is a a good place to start. Also, I recommend trying to track down Solo #6….I  can attest that it’s a great introduction to the man’s work.


70 Aspects Of Batman: 23


From Wikipedia:

Rafael Grampá is a Brazilian comic book artist and writer. The comics anthology 5 created by Grampá along with Gabriel Bá, Becky Cloonan, Fábio Moon and Vasilis Lolos won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Anthology. He is author and artist of the Mesmo Delivery comic.[1]

I don’t have much to say about Rafael Grampa, because I don’t know much about him! I do know he’s from Brazil, and that he’s awesome. He hasn’t done much American comic work, as far as I know…he did a short story in Hellblazer a little while ago, and his creator-owned Mesmo Delivery is amazing. I love his Frank Quitely meets Geoff Darrow style. I have no idea where the above picture is from, but it makes me wish some editor at DC would assign Grampa a Bat-project pronto.


New arcade games: Pac-Man & Terminator

Here are a couple of possibly cool new arcade games that I would be pleased to play.

Pac-Man Battle Royale

This is basically a four-player version of the game Pac-Man Championship Edition that was released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2006 (I think) with new maze layouts (I think) and some cool features.  There can now be up to 4 Pac-Men playing at once, free to cooperate, compete, or ignore each other.  When a Pac-Man eats a power pellet he becomes big like in Super Pac-Man (1982) and he can even eat the other Pac-Men in addition to the ghosts.  Also of interest is that a Pac-Man can only eat ghosts if he’s currently big, even if some other Pac-Man has eat a power pellet and made all the ghosts blue/vulnerable.

Terminator Salvation

This game is being released by Raw Thrills, the company that is basically the successor to Midway’s arcade division. If you’ll recall, way back in the day, Midway made a cool arcade shooter based on Terminator 2.  But aside from that, this game looks pretty bad-ass and fun.

70 Aspects Of Batman: 22


From Wikipedia:

Katsuhiro Otomo (大友克洋, Ōtomo Katsuhiro?, born April 14, 1954) is a Japanese manga artist, film director, and screenwriter. He is perhaps best known for being the creator of the manga Akira and its anime adaptation, which are extremely famous and influential. Otomo has also directed several live-action films, such as the 2006 feature film adaptation of the Mushishi manga.

Otomo’s Batman has only appeared once, in an 8-page story featured in Batman: Black & White from 1996. The story features Otomo trademarks like psychic battle and crazed psychos…I can’t admit I actually completely understand it, but it’s interesting and looks like great and is, thus far, his only foray into American comics. The image above is the only one I could find online, but it gives you an idea. Even though his Batwork is limited to one picture here, I wanted to include Otomo because of his impact on world comic culture, and my own love of his work. It would be lovely to have another Batstory from this influential artist (or another comic story in general), but I’m not holding my breath. I guess we’ll just have to be happy with what we have.


70 Aspects Of Batman:21


From Wikipedia:

Mark Simpson, known by the pen name Jock, is a British comics artist, best known for his work in 2000 AD and on The Losers.[1]

Jock began his professional career at 2000 AD, on series including Judge Dredd and Lenny Zero[2]. He has worked in the American comic book market at DC Comics and their Vertigo imprint.

Like most American comic enthusiasts, I first saw the work of Jock in the pages of Vertigo’s Losers comic, which was recently adapted into a feature film. Since then, he’s become one of the industry’s go-to guys for memorable cover art…most of the images in this post come from a stint he did as the cover artist for Batman. Recently he added some interior Bat-work to his resume with a Detective Comics arc written by Greg Rucka.

His work has also appeared in other media, including the package art for the Criterion Collection’s release of Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel.


R.I.P Frank Frazetta


Summer Video Games I’m Looking Forward To by Me, Matt G.

Here are some of the possibly cool games that are coming out this summer that I’m tentatively looking forward to.  The chances of me buying any of these games any time soon is slim but I will at least look at them wistfully on the store shelves when they’re released.  After all, I still haven’t really played many of the 2008-2010 games I was looking forward to (Metal Gear Solid 4, Resident Evil 5, Tekken 6, Street Fighter IV, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, BioShock 2, etc.)

Super Mario Galaxy 2
developer/publisher: Nintendo  system: Wii  release: May
I’m sure this will be a high quality game but the whole Galaxy thing again?  Right after the New SMB thing again?  What is this, Mega Man or something?

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
developer: Ubisoft Montreal  publisher: Ubisoft  system: Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3  release: May
This game ignores the 2008 reboot and takes place within the 2003-2005 “Sands of Time” sub-series.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
developer: Ubisoft Quebec City  publisher: Ubisoft  system: Wii  release: May
This isn’t a typo.  The Wii game, in spite of its name, is a completely different game and story from the X360/PS3 version.  Weird!

Metroid: Other M
developer: Nintendo/Ninja Team  publisher: Nintendo  system: Wii  release: June
I’m really, really curious about this game.  The clips I’ve seen seem really contradictory – some look like a sidescrolling shooter and others look like latter Ninja Gaiden type action sequences.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
developer: Kojima Productions  publisher: Konami  system: PSP  release: June
I haven’t really enjoyed many PSP games but the previous Metal Gear installment was one of them so bring it on.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane
developer: Vector Unit  publisher: Microsoft  system: Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade)  release: August
I just found out about this game today.  The trailer looks pretty decent but unlike the arcade-only “spiritual successor”, H2Overdrive, this game doesn’t seem to have any staff member connections to Midway Games (RIP) or the original Hydro Thunder.

A software commentary: Prince of Persia Two Thrones

developed by Ubisoft Montreal
published in 2005 by Ubisoft for GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox initially, and later for Windows, Wii and PSP

Quick Timeline for Your Reference
1989 Prince of Persia
1993 Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame
1999 Prince of Persia 3D
2003 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
2004 Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
2005 Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
2008 Prince of Persia
2010 Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Ubisoft began their Prince of Persia reboot in 2003 with the critically-acclaimed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  This game introduced two great concepts: 1) extremely acrobatic platforming type action and 2) the ability to rewind time.  SUPPOSEDLY, the game didn’t sell as well as hoped (which I don’t understand, as it sold at least 3 million copies according so they decided to give the prince a makeover for the next game, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.  In this rather silly sequel, the Prince is now an annoying, mopey asshole that fights babes in really slutty armor while Godsmack – yes, Godsmack – plays in the background.  Ugh.  Many people were annoyed by the new direction.  The next game – and the subject of this commentary – The Two Thrones – attempts to reconcile the two interpretations.

The Two Thrones finds the Prince being less of a bitch and more of an upstanding guy as he was in the original.  The slutty babes are less egregious.  The platforming is more pure and interesting a la Sands of Time and, THANK SATAN, we’re spared from the annoying/pointless/maddening backtracking of Warrior Within but we DO get the greatly improved combat from that game.  The one area where Sands of Time really fell short was the combat, especially compared to the incredibly intricate and ingenious sword-fighting of the 80s/90s games.  Two Thrones has many moves, combos, and acrobatic attacks. Unfortunately, none of them are really as natural and clever as the fighting mode in the very original from 1989.

The story is pretty laughable and the Prince is still pretty cheesy.  He still refers to himself as the Prince of Persia and people say cheesy things to him.  If you can ignore all that, then the action is pretty enjoyable.  The acrobatics in all of the Ubisoft PoP games are always enjoyable and fun and make up for a lot of silly marketing-inspired presentation decisions.

The primary innovation in this game is some sort of stealth attack.  I guess the designers wanted to be more like Metal Gear or Splinter Cell or something.  Basically, the Prince can sneak up on dopes but then the player is required to watch a scripted sequence and hit the attack button at just the right time or the stealth element is lost.  I thought this feature was pretty mixed.  Generally, I’m not a fan of contrived, unnatural controls and I hate relinquishing control of the character.  It reminds me of the stupid portions of Resident Evil 4 or the stupid-piece-of-shit-that-everyone-loves God of War that have actions that require quick tapping of randomly-selected, arbitrary button combinations.  If I wanted that crap I would just play Guitar Hero.

A really standout segment occurs at the end of the game in something of an epilogue segment that looks totally different from most games and really resembles what TV shows and movies have convinced me an acid trip looks like.  If I had to suggest one of the games from this particular trilogy it would have to be Sands of Time over this one – the combat may not be as cool but it’s MUCH less cheesy and has a fresh, clean feel to it.

The End.