With the combined effort of Square and Nintendo, you'd probably expect the best game you have or ever will play. Unfortunately, that was not to be. I'm not saying that Super Mario RPG is a bad game; it just isn't what you'd expect from two of the greatest game design companies of all time.
I think Nintendo had one of those crazy ideas that "the players (might) want something different!", like they had with Super Mario Bros. 2. Well, Nintendo, I hate to burst your bubble, but we would have liked Super Mario Bros. 2 a lot more if it were a bit more like the first Super Mario Bros, with a decent plot. That's the major problem with Super Mario RPG: an incredibly childish, stupid plot. It starts out with Mario saving Princess Toadstool from the clutches of the evil Bowser (again), when a gigantic sword named Exor smashes through the Star Road high above the Mushroom Kingdom and lands right in the middle of Bowser's Keep, destroying the bridge so Mario can't return. Along the way, you find out that unless the Star Road is repaired, the wishes of the people in the Mushroom Kingdom will come true (oooh, too bad, huh? Who CARES?!). That's my point... no one gives a krap about the wishes of a bunch of stupid fungus people. A classic plot would have been better: Princess kidnapped by Bowser, Mario finds out, Mario treks through Mushroom Kingdom, Mario defeats Bowser, Mario rescues Princess. Simple, effecient, and enjoyable.
Oh, the plot isn't the only bad thing about Super Mario RPG. The characters were a big disappointment, too. Mario... of course. Princess Toadstool... tolerable. Bowser... awesome! But Geno and Mallow? No. Nobody wants to have a party consisting of a fat plumber, a cloud who thinks he's a tadpole, and a kid's doll endowed with the spirit of a "higher being". Luigi doesn't even make an appearance in the game until the end! What the hell was Nintendo thinking?! The perfect characters would have been Mario, Luigi, Toad, Yoshi, and maybe even Wario.
Despite their lameness, the characters do have some kewl powers. Mario uses classic fireball and jumping powers (three different versions of each), Mallow can conjure up weather storms (duh, he's a cloud!), and Bowser has some really kewl and powerful attacks. He can even scare away some of the lesser monsters in the battle scenes, if he's in your party (of only three people, mind you) at the time. Dispite the childish plot, and the disappointing characters, Super Mario RPG is fun to play. Besides the ability to see and avoid monsters, you'll really enjoy muddling through the Mushroom Kingdom searching for the seven Star Pieces, and destroying the forces of the evil Smithy. You'll run into typical Super Mario Bros. enemies like Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Shyguys, and many more. It was a little annoying that Nintendo couldn't get some of the enemies' names right, though. They renamed the Beezos, and screwed up other names at least fifteen times.
Worse, the battles will frustrate you almost every time. Sometimes the enemies will attack fifteen times for every one turn you get. And you'll never survive the battles unless you get the timed attack/defense system down. When one of your characters attacks or casts a spell, there is a certain point during the attack or spell that you can press the button again to enhance its effects. The same thing applies to defense; when you get attacked, there's a certain point during the enemy's attack that, if you press the A button, you'll decrease its effects, or block it totally. It takes a while to get used to, but you should be able to get the hang of it.
Instead of individual magic points, your entire party has a certain amount of magic that can be used, referred to as "flower points". This is a REALLY bad idea, and not fair to the characters who have spell and attacks that use a lot of magic points. Along the way, you'll encounter flowers, flower tabs, and flower jars that will raise you maximum MP. A variety of other items, mostly useless, are available too. You'll only find yourself using the items that restore your flower points and some that work like the elixers in other RPGs.
The graphics are very pleasant, and give you a 3/4 view of the action that may seem familiar to fans of Solstice and Equinox. Other than that, everything is in full 3D, and you usually won't miss anything.
As far as puzzles go, you really won't encounter anything challenging until you get to the six doors in Bowser's Keep. Other than that, you should be able to figure everything out on your own. However, there is a strategy guide available for those of you who don't want to take the time to figure everything out (like me).
Most of the battles are a joke, and you'll have no problem taking care of the enemies... even the bosses! The bosses are the minions of the evil Smithy, and are all living weapons: Mack the Knife, Bowyer the Bow, Yaridovich the Spear, the Axem Rangers (Power Ranger Axes), and Exor the Sword. After defeating Exor, you'll be sucked into the Smithy Factory where you'll meet remanufactured clones of the previous bosses... again, no challenge. Then you face Smithy, who looks more like a diabolical Santa Claus than an end boss. I think Bowser would have made a better end boss... it's just more fitting that Bowser's the bad guy, not a member of your party.
You'll get really pissed off at a lot of the townspeople, because most of them want you to jump. That's it. That's all Mario is known for in the Mushroom Kingdom, being the best jumper. Some of them will give you flower tabs and stuff, so be sure to check around.
The ending was another disappointment, consisting of a parade of all the characters you've met, plus Luigi. You'll get a different display at the end depending on how many fireworks you bought from a mole in Moleville.
As I said at the beginning of the review, Super Mario RPG wasn't as good as you'd expect. Although it's overly hyped, it does deserves to be played... just don't buy it. A rental will do, because once you win this game, you won't want to play it again. Trust me on this one, guys.
It's official. The Gatekeeper of The Dark Side has played the worst game ever made for any video game system in the history of video games. The awfulness of EarthBound far surpasses anything that T*HQ has ever made, and is even more pointless than Donkey Kong Country. At the beginning of the game, I felt a little nauseous due to its utter badness. During the middle, I started to go into convulsions, and when I reached the end, someone had to treat me for shock after I'd blacked out.
You play as this corny little kid named Ness who wakes up one day to find that a meteor has crashed just miles from his house. So, he goes out to see it (nothing special happens), and meets some sort of bee creature that explains to him that he is a "chosen one" and that he must collect eight sounds in his sound stone with the help of two more boys and a girl in order to save the world from the invasion of Giygas.
Oh, did I mention that this takes place in the present? Yep. No dungeons, wizards, and swordfighting. It's all been replaced by sewers, mad policemen, and baseball bats. It's really quite disappointing.
EarthBound's graphics are a lot less detailed than I expect from a 16-bit game system, and are easily rivalled by the visuals in Super Mario Bros. 2. During battles, the backgrounds are replaced by these psychedelic spinning patterns that would cause anyone to get flashbacks of the 60's or go into epileptic seizures.
The sound effects are no better than the bloops and bleeps we all remember from the 2600 version of Pac-Man, and the soundtrack is as repetitious and annoying as the music in Bubble Bobble.
Normal magic spells are replaced by so-called "psychic powers". They work virtually the same as magic, with fire, ice, and lightning spells as well those with a variety of other effects. Each character can use certain psychic powers, but Jeff can't use any at all. Ness can use a special psychic power only he can perform, and you can name it whatever you want. Oh yeah... speaking of names, you also get to name all of your characters, Ness' dog, and a favorite food.
The illnesses in Earthbound have also been renamed. Think back to Final Fantasy III and its status ailments. What should be paralysis, poison, and mute are replaced by colds, watery eyes, and sunstroke. It's so ridiculous! This is the only game in which you can die from the common cold. I mean, get real! This proves to me that the "Official Nintendo Seal of Quality" means absolutely nothing.
As far as money goes, you earn dollars for defeating monsters instead of gold, and your money is stored in an ATM account by your father. To save the game, you must find a telephone and have your dad save the game for you. Another status ailment that only Ness can have the joy of experiencing is Homesickness, which a quick call or visit to your mother will cure.
The weapons are pretty weak... Ness uses bats, Paula uses frying pans, Jeff uses guns, and Poo (Poo? What kind of name is Poo?!) doesn't even use weapons. Armor is even more of a joke with Ness wearing baseball caps, Paula wearing ribbons, and Jeff wearing hats. Again, Poo doesn't even wear armor.
This brings me to the rapture of EarthBound's limited item space. The characters can only hold two items each, although Ness' sister can store more items for you if you wish.
The plot is pretty linear, and you'll never need to backtrack to find an item or complete side quests. There are no complex puzzles that will take you a week to figure out, and the bosses are a bigger joke than Mario's voice in Super Mario 64!
You'll find the battles extremely annoying, with enemies getting in about fifteen hits before you're allowed to fight back. On the plus side, if your party's defeated, you start off at the last place you saved with all of the experience and money you earned just before they died. Kind of defeats the purpose of dying, huh?
Hopefully, Nintendo has realized its mistake in releasing EarthBound and won't let something like this happen again. With the launch of the Nintendo 64, they shouldn't let companies like APE and T*HQ ruin their excellent new system with horrible games like EarthBound. I do recommend that you rent EarthBound, though. Every fan-ed needs to review a bad game every now and then, and I can't think of a better example of a bad game than this one.
Oh, did I mention that I never beat EarthBound? I shut it off one day and when I went back to play it, all my saved games were gone. And I had reached the end boss! Go figure.
Well, now that I'm done with the always tedious task of updating a five month old article for the comeback issue of The Dark Side (my cover seems even more appropriate now...), I'd like to relax a little by typing up a few of the miscellaneous bits of info that I dug up a little too late to include in the latest Video Zone, as well as those that were a little too stupid for Video Zone. So, let's begin...
You'll be surprised to hear this, but I'm actually beginning to think Electronic Gaming Monthly isn't as horrible as it was before Ziff-Davis took over. ZD seems to have turned EGM around... there's actually a lot more intelligent commentary and international coverage. It's all well presented, and sometimes, they even print an amusing article, like issue #101's "What's The Deal With Toad?". The corporate ass-kissing has been markedly toned down, and Ed Semrad's monthly articles about such topics as showing his kid his old Atari stuff and Final Fantasy VII are a pleasure to read. What's more, even though I'm sure EGM gets the same amount of mail from idiots as every other magazine, the editors rejoice, as I would, in printing them with responses so deadpan sarcastic that you just have to laugh. And the best part of EGM, you ask? No Nick DesBarres!
If you know me, you know that whenever an E3 or Shoshinkai or Tokyo Game Show rolls around, the games I'm most interested in after the industry hype wears off are the ones least covered... usually, the latest GameBoy or Super NES offerings. This past Space World was no exception- the games that I'm most curious about and anticipate the most are the GameBoy titles Wario Land 2 and Castlevania: The Dark Knight Prelude (the first Castlevania game to feature a female Belmont, Sonya). I haven't bought a new GameBoy game since Samurai Shodown, and I'm ready to start collecting them again with the release of Wario Land 2 (especially since it's been more than a year since the last mainstream Mario game). I'm also anticipating Castlevania: The Dark Knight Prelude with equal fervor.
"So," you ask, "why is the GameBoy still so heavily supported?". It'll be celebrating its ninth birthday soon, but the GameBoy is still wildly popular in Japan. In fact, out of the top ten best-selling Japanese games in October 1997, THE TOP TWO (!) were GameBoy games... Tamagotchi 2 and Pokemon, to be exact. Speaking of Pokemon, Nintendo has confirmed that the GameBoy series will be making a stateside appearance. Of course, this is probably an attempt to justify the American release of the N64-GameBoy link and Pokemon 64. Oh well, we'll take what we can get.
So, is anybody as excited about Final Fantasy Tactics' January release as I am? Yeah!
Well, I think I'll end this here. If Al only had some sort of way of receiving files rather than just E-mail, I'd include a picture of Anna Paquin (the girl from Fly Away Home who I am currently fixated on (not obsessed with)). She's going to be breaking away from the "cute child star" typecast later this year with her new movie HurlyBurly, which chronicles her character's progression from sweet little girl to strung-out seductress... she'll be having sex with everyone from Garry Shandling to Meg Ryan before the movie's over. Naturally, I plan to attend opening night. Of course, that's a long way off and her next movie, Amistad, is in theatres now... I'd better go see it! Thus ends the Chris Kohler brand rambling editorial. Cauliflower.
Hey, thanks for the issue of The Dark Side. I usually give a detailed rundown of the fanzines I receive, so why break the tradition? First, that excellent cover... ^_^. Not too shabby, although it's strange that my drawing of yourself isn't quite as accurate as my portrait of the Undertaker. I kind of wish that I'd added some background art for contrast, too, but I've done worse.
The editorial on page two was kind of aimless, but OK. I'm not a huge fan of Beavis and Butthead myself, but I have to admit that the newer episodes are an improvement over Beavis and Butthead's first few adventures. Still, I never thought in a million years that the show would become so popular when I'd first watched it on Liquid Television back in 1991 (you remember Liquid Television, right? The MTV series with about a dozen or so animated shorts, including Beavis & Butthead and Aeon Flux? Oh, never mind, then...).
Chrono Trigger looked kinda sub-par judging from the footage I'd seen at K-Mart, but if you say it's worth playing, maybe I'll have to rent it one of these days. That is, after I buy a Super NES, which could be when hell freezes over. That's right!! I own a Genesis, and I'm proud of it!! And for your information, there are plenty of great games available for the Genesis... have you tried Gunstar Heroes yet? You should...
I don't have much to say about the wrestling report, although it WAS fairly entertaining and informative. I would tend to agree that the WWF should lay off the gimmicky wrestlers, although they had plenty of them in the golden days of pro wrestling (ie Rowdy Roddy Piper, The Iron Sheik, etc.) I'm guessing that those cultural stereotypes were phased out in favor of occupational stereotypes like wrestling plumbers, IRS agents, clowns, etc., because characters like Mr. Fuji- actually a wrestling manager, but you get the idea- are probably not considered politically incorrect these days. And oh, not to be picky or anything, but weren't the Road Warriors affiliated with the WCW BEFORE they wrestled for the WWF?
I actually kinda LIKED the plot in Super Mario RPG! Well, not the plot itself, exactly, but some of the comments by the townsfolk and enemies. How can you NOT laugh at "Ooooh... the mustachioed one is strong..." after Mario beats the pogo stick guy and his lackeys? Also, Mallow didn't annoy me that much, mostly because I like cute video game characters... I think Tails is a lot cooler than Sonic, for instace. On the other hand, I'd agree that the game wasn't the incredible mind-blower that Nintendo's hype mills and most fan-eds made it out to be. Computer rendering, big freaking deal.
Is it me, or was my pro wrestling video game article strangely edited? Hmmm...
The fanzine reviews were fairly well written, but I disagreed with a few of them. I don't mind the Japanese in Video Zone (it's not like Chris fills entire pages with it), and y'know, a spell checker doesn't know the difference between "Riccitelli" and "Riccitelle". In my opinion, no spell checker can replace careful editing.
Also, accusing Jon Ratcliffe of being an ass-kisser isn't a very good idea... believe me, this kind of thing happened all the time in fandom back in 1993 and 1994, and nothing productive ever resulted from it (unless you consider resentment and hurt feelings productive...). If you disagree with Jon's review, rent Pocahontas and write a negative review of it if you feel it deserves one. If you haven't played it, don't judge Ratcliffe until you have. Trust me on this one... I went way overboard with accusations of selling out back when I published Project: Ignition, and the only thing I'd accomplished was making other fan-eds angry.
But enough about that. Man, I wish my PC was powerful enough to run emulators... I'd love to get my hands on ColEm (the ColecoVision emulator) and MSX (The Microsoft Computer emulator... the machine is similar to an NES and plays great games), and a shareware version of the Genesis emulator if there is one.
If you think anyone's going to undergo the torture of DOWNgrading to Windows 95 just to play a Beavis and Butthead game... well, I hope you're wrong, let's just put it that way. I work with Win95 at my workplace and it is pure, unadulterated HELL. At least 10% of the PCs there don't work properly with Win95 installed, and that percentage goes up to 75% if you count all the machines that won't or can't run Microsoft Exchange. It's pathetic.
I've seen those post office baggies before myself! Chris's assessment of the message on the front was pretty funny.
I guess that's it. Thanks for using my contributions, and I'll see if I can't cool you up another article or review before the next issue goes to print (no promises, though... I've been busy lately).
P.S. A print version of The Gameroom Blitz is coming soon to a theatre near you...
Well, that was rather long, huh? But that's a good thing! Jess Ragan has become one of my personal favorite people in fandom, and it's always good to hear from him. I can fully promise you that your EG pro wrestling report was copied exactly as you wrote it. Maybe I misread something. Sorry. My opinion of Jon Ratcliffe stands; anyone who would belittle themselves by kissing ass deserves to have it pointed out. I'm not on this planet to be a nice guy and worry about everyone else's feelings. If I hurt his feelings, I'm sorry, but I never take back something I truly believe. I have no recollection at all of anything called Liquid Television; I'm really not that into MTV, just a few shows on the network. Your cover was fine, background or not, and has to be one of the best covers I've ever had. Win95 works fine for me, and I really haven't had any major problems with it. If you don't own a Super NES, how could you have played Super Mario RPG enough to have an informed opinion of it? Oh, and Chris Kohler has the ColecoVision emulator if you're interested. Any contributions are welcome, man. See ya! -Al Riccitelli, Jr.
CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM
CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM
Christmas Gifts from The Immortal One to the WWF Superstars
SABLE: A copy of The Lorena Bobbit
Christmas Gifts from The Immortal One to the WCW Superstars
HOLLYWOOD HOGAN: Depends adult diapers
thin enough to fit discretely under his wrestling attire.
RESEARCH PAPER 3
RESEARCH PAPER 3
...The Gatekeeper is Finally an Upperclassman!
Well, it finally happened. After two very long years of being lower than scum, Chris Kohler and I became juniors in high school. Aaah, the benefits of being an upperclassman. No required health class, being able to park in the student parking lot (although I can't drive just yet), and the privilege of being able to cut in front of the freshmen and sophomores at lunch! It rules! But it's nothing to get orgasmic about.
It was announced last year that our principal, Mr. John DiCaprio, would be retiring after many decades of service to the North Branford educational system. He was to be replaced by a Dr. David Perry, some principal from Stafford. This first thing Chris said when he saw the good doctor was, "Didn't I see you in Revenge of the Nerds?". I'd have to agree with him. The guy has a haircut that would make Alfalfa from The Little Rascals proud, his suits never match, and here's the kicker: He wears bowties. Yep, bowties. It's rumored that he has a collection of over 100 bowties. On school spirit day, he wore this gigantic purple and white (our school colors) bowtie, and I kept hearing from everyone all day, "Hey, Al! Did you SEE that guy's bowtie?". Anyway, at least the undisputed king of bowties is going to try to get more things done than DeCaprio did. He invented this thing called the Renaissance Program, which allows honor students to get discounts from local merchants. Anyway, enough about him. Let's get to the usual rundown of my teachers.
Block 1 is a class that was kind of forced on me because all the other classes I wanted were either full or cancelled. I had to take Astronomy in order to get the credits I wanted. Anyway, I found Mr. Al Washburn to be a cool guy. It's kinda hard to fail his course, because he gives you so many chances to earn extra points on your marking period average. And although he seems obsessed with astronomy to the point of sticking those little glow in the dark stars all around his bedroom, he does try to make the class fun. He's made me realize that you never know what's up there in the heavens until you actually look. See if you can find Jupiter and Saturn... they're out every night.
Block 2 is Woodworking 1. I really feel bad for Mr. John DeNunzio. Every day, every kid makes at least 15 cracks about "working with their wood", if you get my drift. Every student walks in there laughing like Beavis and Butthead, and it gets even worse every time Mr. D. says "wood". It really gets annoying after a few weeks. I really don't consider myself an expert woodworker (no comments, please), but I enjoyed industrial arts back in middle school, and after two years of being bogged down with required courses, I wanted to take some electives that I'd actually enjoy. Our first project is this fish-like thing with a wooden hinge that lets the tail swing back and forth. Mine sort of looks like it swam through some radioactive waste, but who cares.
Block 3 takes us to Pre-Calculus Honors with Mrs. Tracy Wootton. I kinda have trouble saying a name that sounds like some kind of Chinese soup, so while everyone else in the class calls her Mrs. W., I just say, "Mrs. uh...uhh...", and she knows I'm talking to her. Every year, there's a teacher who can't stand Chris, and Mrs. W.'s the one this year. Most teachers enjoy Chris's dry, witty sense of humor, but she almost bit his head off after one of his usual wisecracks. Pre-Calc is a deadly mix of all the past math classes I've ever had, so I, along with half the other kids in the class, will probably end up shooting ourselves by the end of next month. Oh well.
Block 4 is Gym, and it's a required course again. I have Miss Nuhn again, the bitch from last year who has it in for me, so read last year's Research Paper if you missed it. She's still the same.
Block 5 takes me to one of my favorite and most enjoyable classes, because it comes naturally to me: Spanish 4 Honors. Mrs. Jennifer Marenna has to put up with the same group of kids that were in Mrs. Galasso's class last year, plus a few more. Another teacher with a name that sounds familiar, everyone calls her Mrs. Macarena after that annoying Spanish dance song they play on the radio every hour on the hour. Since Mrs. Marenna is only in her 20's (just ten years younger than my older sisters), she gets along well with the students like Mrs. Galasso did last year, making the class pretty enjoyable.
Block 6 is English 11 A. I went down a level from the honors English; it was just a little too much to handle. Mrs. Patricia Maiorino (wife of Mr. Nick Maiorino, my Human Anatomy teacher from last year) is one of the older teachers, but I can relate with her on one subject. She explained to me that she got a kitten a few months ago, and fell in love with it, just like I had with Mandy. I'm glad, because that gives us something to talk about after discussing Beowulf for about a month... geez!
And finally, there's Block 7: Chemistry Honors. Mr. Michael Laurie's the head honcho here, and probably the strangest of all the teachers I've ever had. I had him last year for a one semester course, Pre-Chemistry/Physics, or as I like to call it, Pre-Hell/Purgatory. Anyway, Chemistry is going to be one of the funner (if that's a word) classes because we get to work with hazardous, toxic, and corrosive materials. In the "safety manual" Mr. Laurie gave us, it explains to us that sandals are not allowed when working in the laboratory area. But Mr. Laurie wears sandals nearly every day! Is something wrong here? Aside from that, he moonlights as a fitness instructor, which is kinda weird. Aside from that, he is a cool guy who's not afraid to use less than appropriate words during class, and who is the first to insult the methods of other teachers.
A few of my classes change the second half of the year, and I may do a Research Paper 3.5 to update you all, but if I don't, you'll just have to wait until the Gatekeeper is a senior! OOOOH! Scary thought!