Super Mario Galaxy 2

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Yahtzee, let me first state that I completely agree with your premise that Nintendo, normally the last developer in the world we would expect to take the easy route, did just that. We can normally expect a serious dose of innovation with each new Mario platformer, so on that front, this game is a real letdown.

However, this brings us to a question of when does this become a bad thing? One could argue that sequels are always bad because commissioning a sequel is essntially giving a developer a license to put creativity on the back burner. On the other hand, and i feel this is partly true with SMG2, sequels sometimes free up the developer to focus on the fun part of gaming, which is the gameplay, rather than having to spend the time and resources it takes to develop a completely new game from scratch. Regardless of whether you think sequels are worth the price of admission, You have to admit that SMG2 gameplay has more polish than the original... and it's obvious, at least to me, that a larger amount of effort went into gameplay rather than figuring out how to build a spherical-based platformer. The technical feats had already been figured out, so these developers got to spend 3 years polishing gameplay instead of figuring out a graphics engine. Any time a developer gets to spend more time making a game fun, that's a good thing.

Here's my rule of thumb on sequels. If a company spits out a sequel for money, or because they want to extend the life of a cool game engine, that's not cool and they should burn in hell. However, If the first game is excellent and developer makes a sequel because there were so many great ideas that they could not put into the original due to time constraints (realisitcally, even Nintendo can't spend forever developing a game), then I'm all for it. I'd prefer them to release DLC, but if it's so much content that it warrants stamping out a new disc, I have no problem with that. This is what I think SMG2 represents.

So for a reviewer like yourself, I think it's perfectly fair to ding a game for lack of creativity, even if the game is good. Regardless of how many "me too" games developers put out, creativity is still the lifeblood of the industry. At the same time, I don't think creativity has to ALWAYS involve building games from the ground up with completely new and innovative mechanics. The levels in SMG2 are spectacularly creative, even if they are based on the same game engine and exact same platforming mechanics as its predecessor. Refining and polishing an established format is fine as long as the end result is a fun and entertaining experience. For a game of this quality, I'm okay with Nintendo's decision to put innovation on the back burner in favor of superb gameplay. I see where you're coming from because it is kinda scary when a developer like Nintendo stops being innovative, but I don't think lack of innovation warrants a bad review. Innovation and gameplay are both important; innovation drives the industry, gameplay sustains it. Dark void was innovative, but the game play sucked ass. SMG2 had almost zero innovation, but was extremely fun. It would be great if a game has both, but realistically, I'll take the game with better gameplay any day over an innovative game that sucks, even if I know that the innovative game is what's driving the industry forward.
jojo

Tetris :P

I also can't believe you consider Mario 64-> Sunshine to be a better step than Galaxy 1 -> Galaxy 2.

When considering what game I would hand to a first-time player to say "This is what'll get you started", I had to think back to when I first started playing video games. My answer, in that case, is the original Crash Bandicoot games or the original (Read: Insomniac-produced), Spyro: The Dragon games. The challenge of the former and the atmosphere of the latter both compliment the easy-to-learn, mildly-difficult-to-100% nature of both, and I feel they are both worthy training-wheel games on the road of hardcore gaming.

On the point of Mario NOT being a casual game, did any fellow UK readers find it odd when a few months ago Nintendo were advertising Spirit Tracks on TV?

The ad was of the classic DS lite formula, attractive 30 ish yo woman relaxing on a sofa with soft lighting playing a game. Basically advertising to this "casual" market that is apparently out there.

Now I'm all for more people playing any Zelda game but it struck me as a strange link (sic) up. Spirit tracks is a tough little SOB of a game at times, I walked through it without much bother but I have played every Zelda game since LTTP. I can't imagine the difficulties that a brand new "casual" gamer would have with ST without some guidance.

They may well be shooting themselves in the foot with this, yes it's important that they attract these customers but someone who goes out and drops 200-ish on a DS and the game and then hits the brick wall of the difficulty curve is someone who is not going to buy another game again; and more importantly tell all their equally "casual" friends that this whole videogame thing isn't worth bothering with.

any of the pokemon games
any racing game on the ps1/2
or tetris

fuck yeah!

So any direct sequel is a level pack, and a stagnation of the franchise? Hmm. Do you just not want Mario Galaxy 2, as opposed to some other Mario adventure? Is the engine boring? Also, did you complain about Mega Man when this happened over and over again? One could argue very easily that each new series of Mega Man games was just "cashing in," without adding "enough" changes to make the game "innovative" again. I'd like to see a completely new game every time as well, but it doesn't mean I'll automatically be disappointed in a similar sequel.

As for a game to introduce players to 3D platforming, I agree with Shamus Young's recommendation of Prince of Persia for PS3 and 360.

Good article, as usual. I suppose all of the Mario add-ons can be rather maddening, but really, where exactly CAN the series go from here??!!

my suggestion for first time gamers would be GTAIV since it doesnt start with a lot of difficulty and they can get used to third person controls while picking up their cousin to go bowling, since that is what they do in the real world and i think it would let them adapt suitably.

Well, I'll go ahead and say a Prince of Persia game. It's perfect for introducing people to gaming. They're pretty good games, they're not hard and they have the whole "reverse time so you don't get fucked up" aspect that's really good for beginners.

A Point'n'Clicker would be good for a first-timer. I heard The Shivah was good, though you, being an integral (and by "integral" I mean "presumed dead") member of the AGS community, would know better than I. Iji might be good, too. Not only is it an incredibly fun platform shooter, but it also teaches a valuable lesson about murdering aliens.

"A casual game is something anyone can pick up, that a secretary might play to pass the time in between filing the minutes and fending off sexual harassment."

Ha! Pretty funny.

I found myself agreeing heartily with the "3D movement is disorienting for new gamers" point on the simple grounds that I've seen it in action. My step-father and kid sister both took up gaming with the Wii, starting with casual games in the Wii Sports line. Then my little sister picked up Super Smash Brothers: Brawl and gave it a try, stuck with it (because she likes a few of the characters) and became pretty good at it. She and my step-father both played that game and New Super Mario Bros for the Wii (and got that is a hamfisted title) together and had a great time. But the instant they tried out Super Mario Galaxy, they were completely vexed. My step-father in particular was met with a mild case of vertigo and toppled right off of the sofa (much to my sister's amusement).

I've been gaming my whole life, and I don't think there are any sorts of games I can't pick up and be reasonably competent at fairly quickly, but it seems like alot of us gamers don't recall that most people, and particularly the ones coming in with the Wii, don't have our years and decades of gaming experience to fall back on. In spite of it's outwardly lighthearted appearance, a game like Super Mario Galaxy is far from casual-friendly.

Wow, a great recommendation, Yahtzee. LittleBigPlanet is perfect for a new gamer; visuals welcoming enough to draw in a casual player with depth that can cause them to sink hours into it. And, on that point, I somewhat agree with your argument of Mario not really fitting the casual description. I've seen kids losing their mind trying to beat a single level of, not only the Galaxy games, but also New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You have no idea how angry these kids can get when they bounce off each others' heads and fall into three separate pits.

Hell, I've even had some troubles trying to get some of the hardest stars in the Galaxy games. LittleBigPlanet by comparison just lets you go through the levels and appreciate the fine work that was put into it. Plus, the co-op aspect is great in the way that you've mentioned it.

On a similar note, I think that Rock Band 2 serves as a good starting point. Not that it teaches you valuable game tactics. It's because my experiences have taught me that a four-piece plastic band armed with a few hundred songs (counting those that you download) can give a positive view of gaming culture to those who weren't particularly partial to begin with. Just for the fact that it serves as a fun way to use games in a more friendly manner, this is a good starting point for anyone curious of the culture. (In addition, easy mode plus no fail means that anyone can jump in on the game.)

I agree with Little Big Planet, but I'd also throw in the lego games. My workmate never played games in her life when she bought a Wii, a DS, and a PSP for her and her kids to play with. When asking what game she could play I told her to play the lego games and she loved them. Not only that, but it utilizes a lot of game mechanics we take for granted.
The next game she played was Resident Evil 4 and she loved that as well, but said that she wouldn't have been able to play it before she played the Lego games. Interesting.

npath:

sketchesofpayne:
Also, most MMOs work, as they let you move around in 3D without any complex movements needed. Just walk from point A to B.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/7852-Wow-That-s-Complicated

I want you to read Shamus's column and then go to your room and think about what you did.

Okay, I guess more recent MMOs have gotten more complex. Back in the day you had your quest, skill, and inventory windows and that was about it. You clicked on the spot you wanted to move to and you clicked on a monster to attack it. Every place you needed to go and every NPC you needed to talk to had a big dot on the map. All the weapons and armor were level-coded for your convenience. You're level 10? Use the level 10 sword and level 10 armor.

Thing about Little Big Planet is that while it's really good and fun, I think it would do little to convince Ebert that games have any artistic merit. It'd be good to introduce him to the playability factor, but I dunno. I think Bioshock is pretty easy, very forgiving with the vita chambers, and actually has a very good story, so that'd be my choice.

As far as showing newbies that games are toally art nyah nyah nyah, I'd have to reccomend those ol' lucasarts point-N-click adventures. They require no technical ability whatsoever, it's impossible to die, and they're about as close to movies as games have gotten. They're easily understandable in outsider terms, too- you could understand and enjoy them with no knowledge of how game-logic works.

...well, assuming you have a walkthrough open beside you. Adventure game logic never even really made sense to gamers, so- equal footing?

Perhaps one of the newer ones with a hint system at first - Monkey island: Special edition, for example? - then onto stuff like Grim Fandango if they're at all interested.

EDIT:

Nateman742:
Also, did you complain about Mega Man when this happened over and over again? One could argue very easily that each new series of Mega Man games was just "cashing in," without adding "enough" changes to make the game "innovative" again.

-Uh, dude, it's yahtzee. Wild guess: Yes he did.

Khaiseri:
My question is what you said in the original SMG review if I'm not mistaken, what is Mario going to evolve into now? I mean, it has all the bases covered already.

I vote time travell, as a hopefully non-gimmicky puzzle technique not as a setting.

Just my 2 cents:
My dad, a 60 years old doctor in physics, was curious about all the time me and my brothers were wasting in front of the computer, so he decided to try it himself. He asked us what we recommend, and we chose the most stupid game we had installed at the time.

Diablo 2.

He wasn't good at it mind you, he picked up every single piece of trash he could find and always tried to use his potions 10 seconds after he died. But that's not the point. The point is that he seemed to enjoy himself.

These days, he plays solo World of Warcraft.

MortalForNow:
I somewhat agree with your argument of Mario not really fitting the casual description. I've seen kids losing their mind trying to beat a single level of, not only the Galaxy games, but also New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You have no idea how angry these kids can get when they bounce off each others' heads and fall into three separate pits.

This reminds of when some family friends were over and i had to entertain their son who was like 8. i decided to give him a go at SMG (That's Super Mario Galaxy, not a sub-machine gun)'cause i thought it would be a nice easy game for a non-gaming 8 year old. it went kinda like this.

Luma: Mario, you must rebuild this launch star by...
Kid: Shut up (skips text). What do i do?
me: you have to get those little triangle things
Kid: what triangles?
Me: the little gold triangles, (kid picks one up) there what you just picked up.
kid: what did i pick up? (runs past Luma again who says something) shut up stupid face!
Me: you'd probabely know what to do better if you listened to them.
kid: But they aren't saying anything

Yeah that was a frustrating couple of hours. but while trying to explain the different jumps and the lives system to him i realised it's much more complicated without knowledge we take for granted.(when you die you lose a life for example)

Rack:
Mario 1 -> 2 = More of the same
Mario 3 -> World = More of the same
Mario 64 -> Sunshine = More of the same
Mario Galaxy -> Galaxy 2 = More of the same

Do your damn homework next time Yahtzee, Nintendo have been doing the major revision -> minor tweaks since the very beginning. You could argue that the Rock suit, Yoshi, Cloud suit and revised map are less of a change than the water pack or Yoshi plus revised map but you can't say there's a significant difference.

Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, despite both being platformers, are extremely different games. I remember first playing World and thinking to myself "my god, they've thrown out all the things Mario 3 did and have gone back to the drawing board...". It honestly made me mad till I realized what a great game Mario World was.

So yeah, a good analogy is comparing Mario 64 (Mario World) to Mario Galaxy (Mario 3). Mario World (and Mario 64) gave us a sandbox to fuck around in with just a couple of (really useful) tools. Levels are wide open, with secrets out the ass. Mario 3 (as with Mario galax..ies?) gave us a very tight, very lean and VERY challenging game play experience. It focused the experience to a laser point.

I see you completely omitted Mario World 2 (which wouldn't have helped you anyway).

Same goes with Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine. Both do have generally similar structures in terms of level design, but the waterpack completely changes the gameplay! It's nothing to shake a stick at, as these are platformers when you change the very nature of the 'platforming' in question you're making a huge difference. The water pack alone (like it or not) made Sunshine a completely different game.

So yeah, I'd say it's safe to disagree with the idea that Nintendo has been doing this for years with the core Mario franchise. About the only point you correctly made was that the J-super Mario 2 was essentially an add on for Super Mario bros, and that's something he already pointed out in the article.

Little Big Planet shall now be known as the 'Gaming Tutorial'

I got my mom into the whole idea of gaming by giving her my DS with a copy of professor layton and the curious village. It's got a good, charming story with interesting characters and the puzzles are challenging in-and-of themselves without demanding mastery of the input device. She also really liked Exit DS and Picross.

Also, I showed Crayon Physics to my younger cousins and they made their dad buy a tablet for their laptops.

So am I the only one who noticed that Yahtzee cussed out some random guy for no(good) reason. Is there some type of history between them because otherwise that was completely uncalled for.
I understand thats how he makes a living but singling out someone like he did is just plain dickish the guy didn't say anything to warrant that. Fuck you Yahtzee.

Edit: Oh and of course after reading the rest of the article thinking he might behave like a decent person and retract that I find that he instead opts to do it a second time. Lovely.

On the other hand, The Lost Levels was originally SMB2 in Japan, so it's not exactly unheard of for Nintendo to put out an expansion pack sequel for Mario, they just haven't done it in a while.

Shigeru Miyamoto is a toymaker.
He makes toys for children.
Yahtzee has written a piece of work outlining why he is disappointed with a children's toy.

Why is Yahtzee playing with children's toys?

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

-1st letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.

I think Katamari Damacy would be a good introduction to gaming as well.

Tommy T.:
I'd probably recommend some sort of not too violent FPS game like Half-Life 2. I think the fast pace and pretty easy but pretty fun puzzles would be good for a starter.

I think a newbie would be too scared of dying.
Whenever I start playing a new game, I am a bit.

The games that drew my mother and sister respectively into gaming were Portal and Trine. Small, cutesy games with a nice graphical veneer and a simple core gameplay mechanic are best (and no fucking cutscenes or cinematic pretention).

This may sound weird, but I think Portal would be a great first game to introduce someone to gaming. Yes, it's complex, but it starts out simple and teaches each new mechanic individually before building it up into the bigger challenge and putting all the little puzzle elements together. It's sophisticated, has great and intelligent humor, and would be a good introduction to the first person perspective, because leaving aside the turrets there's nothing trying to murder you.

Sunrider84:
I agree on most parts, but SMB2 wasn't only released in Japan. I live in Sweden, and I have (had, I guess) a PAL version of it. Unless I was special in some way and found the only PAL version in existance, I'd say it was released here too.

Hi there! I'm a fellow Swedish person and I recall us getting the Doki Doki version of SMB2. With Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach all playable. Later on we also got Lost Levels, but that was Way much later. There were of course these cassettes available with like 31 or 51 games on them and usually the original SMB2 would be on them

As an introduction to gaming i would suggest Klonoa: door to Phantomile for the ps1.
Yeah its retro now, but its one of the games in 3d that is easily to get because it uses a 2.5d control scheme. the difficulty curve is constant, but relies more on thinking and logic than pure reflexes, and in the end you have to think a couple of moves ahead both in platforming and boss encounters.

On the "games to recommend the critical newcomer" topic, I'd list these as the reading/playing assignment for the PC centric, in no real particular order:

1) Half Life 2 - I was debating the first game, but considering just how balmy the original gets, and the excess of jumping puzzles, I think the second installment would be a great primer to the concept of modern gaming.

2) World of Goo - To counter the argument of "all games are about space marines beating up hookers". It's an absolutely beautiful puzzle game that represents some of the best of independent development efforts.

3) Fallout - One of the great classic cRPGs, and a great example of choice and consequence gameplay. While the GTA series are lauded for their sandboxy freedom, Fallout edges it out for the recommendation.

4) The Sims 3 - This may seem like a bit of a sissy recommendation, but it is one of the best "God games" currently available that doesn't require a headache or two to "complete". It really is as close to a toy box game as I can think of for the PC.

5) Grim Fandango/The Neverhood (Tie) - These two adventure games are, I feel, the creme of their gene's crop. Fandango has its distinct art style and grand tale, while The Neverhood has it's own minimalist storytelling style and quirky sense of humor.

6) Wing Commander 3 - The exception to the FMV rule, a basic but well told space opera with fun gameplay and a star-studded cast with excellent performances. While earlier Wing Commander games might be better for showing what the series was about, WC3 is the best of the series for a new player to enter.

7) American McGee's Alice - For a game based on an existing literary work, Alice is one of the best examples of taking the material and carving out a new interpretation. Admittedly a hard game, but well worth the investment of time for the visuals and story.

8) Mirror's Edge/Prince of Persia (2008)/Portal - While Portal is a bit of a no-brainer, the other two are also excellent examples of platformers with a a rich, colorful art style and gameplay not centered around "killin doods".

9) Eve Online - "Whoa," I hear you say, "That's not exactly 'first-time' gaming material!" I personally recommend it on the basis of what happens when you take a simulation to extreme levels, and exposing a new game player to the realities of player-versus-player gameplay. Everything after Eve Online seems like a cakewalk.

10) Team Fortress 2 - A multiplayer game whose style and culture rampantly bleed and infest a good chunk of the gaming demographic, it is a solid FPS multiplayer game that is simple to learn and had to master. I'd star them on a vanilla-content server to start with, and graduate them to the unlocks and hats later.

Ok, I'm getting mixed responses. First Croshaw says that Nintendo overuse their intellectual property, but then retracts and says that that the Mario franchise is diverse and by no means are his new games simple iteration. What am I misunderstanding here?

summerof2010:
Ok, I'm getting mixed responses. First Croshaw says that Nintendo overuse their intellectual property, but then retracts and says that that the Mario franchise is diverse and by no means are his new games simple iteration. What am I misunderstanding here?

The way I'm reading it, is that Croshaw is saying the Mario franchise in this case is very prevalent in Nintendo products, to the point where you could swing a dead cat and usually hit a first party Nintendo product that has Mario embedded in it. Mario Kart, Mario Party, Mario Galaxy, Mario Tennis, Paper Mario, Mario Pole Dancing, things like that. The amount of games that Mario stars in is enormous in comparison to his peers.

However, looking at the list of games I cited above (minus Mario Pole Dancing), are not simply the same game with a new name. They're widely different products, each one usually both serving the Mario fans while being tailored to a specific genre of gameplay.

So in this case, Nintendo may whore out Mario a lot, but they whore him out for a lot of different things.

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