Game Corner: Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Nintendo Switch)

Released: 31 October 2019
Developer: Next Level Games

The Background:
In 1996, following their success in the “Console Wars” of the nineties, Nintendo entered the third dimension with Nintendo 64, a console that stood out against its competitors by continuing to use cartridges, coming readymade for multi-player player, and featuring a unique controller design. Having lost out to Sony’s new-fangled PlayStation, Nintendo sought to recoup their once-vaulted position as the premier entertainment option with the Nintendo GameCube, which finally saw the company switch to discs (albeit with a suitably “Nintendo” flair) and was also notable for Mario’s younger brother, Luigi, finally receiving his time in the spotlight with Luigi’s Mansion (Nintendo EAD, 2001), a game that focused more on exploration and puzzle solving as Luigi channelled his inner Ghostbuster to suck up ghosts infesting a hotel and rescue his brother. Although the game sold extremely well and was a critical success, it took twelve years for the game to get a sequel. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (Next Level Hames, 2013) released for the Nintendo 3DS and was also a best-selling title for the system and met with largely unanimous praise. After development of a third game for the Wii U was delayed, Next Level Games finally returned to the franchise six years after the release of the second game; developed for the Nintendo Switch, Luigi’s Mansion 3 saw the setting expand from a mansion to a high-rise hotel and also increased the game’s accessibility by including on- and offline multiplayer modes. Considering the success of its predecessors, it’s perhaps no surprise that Luigi’s Mansion 3 became one of the Switch’s best-selling titles and was regarded as Luigi’s best adventure yet.

The Plot:
Luigi, his pet ghost dog Polterpup, Mario, Princess Peach, and three Toads are invited to the luxurious Last Resort hotel for a vacation. Soon after arriving, Luigi awakens to find the hotel transformed into a haunted building and the others imprisoned in pictures by the hotel’s ghostly owner, Hellen Gravely, as part of a trap set by the nefarious King Boo. Arming himself with Professor E. Gadd’s newest Poltergust vacuum, Luigi hesitantly sets out to rescue his friends and suck up the hotel’s ghost infestation.

Gameplay:
Like its predecessors, Luigi’s Mansion 3 as an action/adventure game with a strong emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. Players are played into the shoes of Mario’s younger, often unfairly overlooked brother, Luigi, who is robbed of his usual athletic abilities and must rely on a vacuum-cleaner like device, the Poltergust G-00, rather than his jumping prowess to dispose of the many ghosts that have infested the hotel. As you explore the many dark hallways and various themed floors of the hotel, you’ll need to use Luigi’s torch (or “flashlight” for any Americans out there) to stun nearby ghosts; you can do this by tapping or holding A, which will freeze most ghosts on the spot for a few seconds so you can suck them up by holding down ZR and filling up an onscreen circle by holding back on the left analogue stick. Once this is full, you can press A to perform a slam move that will deal greater damage to the ghost and speed up the process, but just sucking them up is enough to whittle down their health.

Stun ghosts and suck them up with your trusty Poltergust G-00.

You can also use ZL to send out a gust of air to push enemies back or fire certain items at ghosts as projectiles, or press ZR and ZL together to perform a quick burst akin to a jump that won’t let you reach higher platforms but will knock back enemies. All of these Poltergust functions are also useful for interacting with your environment; you can suck up curtains and sheets, blast furniture and chandeliers, and affect almost everything in every room either with the vacuum or by pressing X. This will reward you with loot, such as Golden Coins, gold bars, bills of money, and pieces of heart to refill your health, but can also uncover hidden ghosts. Some of these, such as shiny gold and blue-coloured variants, will reward you with additional loot and collectibles, so it’s well worth exploring every room you enter to see what you can uncover. You can use the left-hand circle pad (or directional pad, depending on which Switch you have) to call for Mario with left, right, and down, or enlarge the onscreen map by pressing up. The map can also eventually be accessed from the + menu, which allows you to view the floor you’re on, review your current objectives, and chat with E. Gadd for hints, though it’s generally pretty clear where you need to go and not only will Polterpup occasionally pop up to show you where you need to go but E. Gadd will communicate hints to you through the “Virtual Boo” if you struggle to solve puzzles.

Luigi can use his plunger or his gooey doppelgänger to solve puzzles.

As the story progresses, E. Gadd will furnish you with these additional upgrades, and others; eventually, you’ll gain the ability to fire plungers with Y, which you can suck up to destroy chests and other parts of the environment, activate switches and such, and remove protective items from certain ghosts. You’ll also acquire the “Dark-Light Device”, another torch-like appendage that lets you uncover hidden chests, doors, and other secrets, track Polterpup and the mischievous Polterkitty, and even defeat certain enemies by holding X to shine the dark-light around the environment. Your most useful ability, and the game’s big new gameplay mechanic, is “Gooigi”, a protoplasmic double of Luigi that E. Gadd eventually supplies you with and which you can send out of the Poltergust but pressing in the right stick. Doing so switches your control to the gooey double, who can slip through bars, vents, and grates and allow you to clear rooms and puzzles by activating switches or opening doors as one character and progressing as the other. Gooigi is quite fragile, having only twenty-five hearts to his name, and immediately dissolves upon touching water, and many of the game’s puzzles and bosses that involve him are geared specifically towards having a second player on hand. If you don’t have one, you’re forced to switch between the two on the fly using the right analogue stick, which can be tricky and frustrating at times and leaves Luigi vulnerable to attack while playing as Gooigi. Still, it’s an interesting mechanic and make you think a little harder about approaching each room, as your exploration may uncover a hidden vent that leads to a key or other loot.

You’ll need to make innovative use of Gooigi and the Poltergust to find the keys needed to progress.

Your primary objective in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is to rescue the three Toads, Mario, and Princess Peach from the magical paintings they’ve been trapped in. To do this, you’ll need to defeat a number of bosses to acquire the missing buttons for the hotel’s elevator; each boss you defeat awards a button, giving you access to another floor of the hotel, and many of the floors contain a specific theme that help them to stand out. Most of the time, you need to navigate through rooms clearing out all of the ghosts you encounter and exploring any hidden areas; other times, you’ll need to find a key to open doors, or find another way around if doors are blocked or barred, or use the two Luigis to activate switches and fans with their weight or Poltergusts. The game’s puzzles eventually become a bit more complex, and it’s not always immediately clear what you need to do: in one area, you need to roll and unroll carpets according to how they appear in a mirror; in another, you need to use the jump burst to uncover dangerous and painful laser traps; and other times, you need to blast Toad at breakable walls or use your plunger to pull down weights to activate lifts. Quite a few puzzles require you to shut off water streams so that Gooigi can reach a switch, or have you creating shortcuts using ladders, or blowing on windmills to rotate rooms and access hidden switches or keys. Probably the most complex puzzle is found on the eighth floor, which is a television studio; here, you need to warp between four different film sets using television sets and activate a film camera as one character while the other fends off ghosts to acquire an item, which must be then taken to another set and so on until you’re able to get the key item you require.

Graphics and Sound:
Luigi’s Mansion 3 retains both the charming, cartoony aesthetic of its iconic characters and also the gloomy, ominous surroundings of its predecessors. Luigi’s character model is fantastically expressive; his body shivers and his teeth chatter as he cautiously wanders the hotel’s hallways, and he jumps with fright at any sudden movements or sounds. I find it endlessly amusing that the developers continue to implement a specific button to have him call out for Mario in a terrified voice, and it’s a continual source of amusement to see how he comically reacts to scares, rooms, and even damage. Of all the other Mario characters seen in the game, the one you’ll interact with the most on a gameplay level is Toad; you have to rescue three of these little blighters, and they’ll follow you around, squealing with fear at every opportunity, and you can give them a little high-five or even shoot them as a projectile to progress further. You’ll also spend a great deal of time interacting with Professor E. Gadd, who sets up a laboratory in the hotel basement that you can quick travel to for upgrades, hints, and to view bonus materials, and all of these familiar characters are brought to life wonderfully using the power of the Nintendo Switch.

The Last Resort is full of rooms both bizarre and expected, and carries a comical horror throughout.

The Last Resort is quite a large and versatile environment; although it’s a hotel, it contains many areas and rooms that you might not expect. At first, you’ll explore such traditional areas as the basement, laundry room, and various bedrooms and dining rooms you would expect to find in a hotel. Each of these are infested with ghosts, of course, and filled with interactable objects, but things start to get incredibly bizarre as you explore the upper floors of the hotel. Here, you’ll enter the aforementioned television studio, a floor littered with magician’s tricks and apparel (including mirrors and upside-down rooms), a gymnasium, and an Egyptian-themed floor full of hieroglyphics, sand, and even a pyramid. You’ll also find a pirate-themed cavern, a beach, and explore rat-infested sewers and a boiler room, and scale a crumbling, wrecked staircase in the overgrown gardens. There are fifteen floors to visit and two basement levels to explore, with secrets and enemies increasing the further you progress; areas start to become more and more overrun with ghosts and different combinations of enemies, which constantly keeps you on your toes, and it’s continuously amusing to see what new surprises await you on the next floor as the hotel is crammed full of both surreal areas like the Unnatural History Museum and the comparatively normal master suite at the top floor.

The game’s presentation shines through, but especially in the pantomime-like cutscenes.

While the graphics and environments are impressive and full of a decent amount of variety, the music isn’t really all that interesting. The iconic Luigi’s Mansion theme plays sporadically throughout the game, and areas are mostly accompanied by bursts of lightning, skittering rats, chattering ghosts, and the sounds of Luigi’s terrified footsteps and whimpers. Ambient sounds and subdued musical cues help add to the game’s comical terror, and Polterpup’s inexhaustible enthusiasm is a welcome addition and, as is the standard for Mario games, characters speak using text boxes, gibberish, and a few choice voice clips, so you won’t have to worry about sitting through any overblown cutscenes here and can simply enjoy the characters employing amusing pantomime-like motions and spouting nonsense when they interact.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you might expect, given the franchise, your primary enemies in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are a series of ghosts who have taken residence in the hotel. These range from the standard blue-coloured Goobs (who are easily mopped up but sometimes shield themselves with shades and wield melee weapons like baseball bats), the yellow-coloured Oozers (who pop up from hiding spots to throw projectiles at you), and miniature versions of these enemies. You’ll also have to fend off rats, bats, and spiders (though these little critters can be easily dispatched with a burst of your flashlight), and possessed chests and bins that need to be blasted with projectiles or subjected to your dark-light. Soon enough, you’ll come across more formidable ghosts, however: the Hammers will try to crush you with their cube-like bodies and must be sucked up from behind, Slinkers will scare you and leave you vulnerable and also try to kidnap Toads, and Trappers require both Luigi and Gooigi to suck on their tongues to dispatch them. When in the Tomb Suites, you’ll have to knock over mummified ghosts with your jump burst and unravel their bandages to expose their ectoplasmic bodies, and larger and more diverse groups of enemies will eventually populate the hotel’s higher floors, causing you to mix and match your attack strategies.

The first few bosses slowly introduce mechanics that prove extremely useful for later battles.

Seventeen bosses must be fought in the game’s story, with fifteen of them being required to beat in order to access every floor in the mansion; while their attacks differ from each other and you’ll generally have to employ different strategies in each battle, they all mostly boil down to finding a way to stun the boss and then suck them up with the Poltergust. The first boss you’ll encounter is a ghostly steward, who shields himself from your flashlight with suitcases and then tosses them at you in the hotel’s basement. On the fifth floor, you’ll counter a particularly malevolent maid who disappears through the bedrooms of the RIP Suites and will cause Luigi to sneeze with her feather duster, and can only be sucked up after using your plunger to slam the briefcase stuck in her stomach. In the hotel’s mall, you’ll need to find a number of different keys to confront Kruller, a bulbous security guard who dissolves Gooigi with a water pistol and must have his shades sucked off so that he can be stunned, but also strikes with a rolling attack. While in the second floor kitchen, you’ll battle the first formidable boss of the game, Chef Soulfflé, who shields himself with a frying pan and unleashes a spinning attack with his knives. To defeat him, you’ll need to avoid the fishes he throws at you and stun him by firing melons at him to leave him vulnerable to your torch and Poltergust.

Soon, you’ll need to use your Poltergust in innovative ways to outwit and defeat the bosses.

Things start getting a little more complicated when you battle Amadeus Wolfgeist, a pianist who remains safely out of reach on the stage and causes chairs to fly at you, distracts you with ballerina ghosts, and then possesses his piano. In this form, he is invulnerable and hops around the theatre, but can be stunned when Amadeus pops out of the piano; you then need to try and shoot bombs into the piano lid to collapse it and drag Amadeus out with your plunger, which gives you the chance to properly damage him but you’ll also have to watch out for his flaming attacks and the piano keys he tosses at you. Another troublesome boss is King MacFrights, who’s fought in a medieval coliseum and can only be stunned when he charges at you for a lance attack while archers shoot arrows at you. After slamming him a few times, his armour will break and you’ll have to dodge his spinning attack and strike while he’s left dizzy and vulnerable. Just reaching Doctor Potter can be a chore as you have to weave through the wild gardens to get to him and, when you do, he sends his Venus flytrap at chomp away at you; avoid this, however, and it’ll get stuck on the environment, allowing you to cut it using a convenient buzzsaw, which leaves him vulnerable to your Poltergust. After helping Morty the ghostly director find his megaphone, he’ll force you to star in his latest production and battle a Goob inside a Godzilla-like costume; you must use the Poltergust, in conjunction with Gooigi, to force the monster’s fireballs back into its face in order to damage it. Once you destroy the suit, the Goob is easily sucked up, and you can also choose to suck up Morty as well by going into his office in you fancy it.

Later bosses make use of their environment to defend themselves and attack you!

In the Unnatural History Museum, you’ll be attacked by another monstrous enemy as the caveman-like Ug possesses a giant Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, which can only be damaged by firing eggs first into its mouth and then into the glowing red orb in its rib cage. Once the T. rex is destroyed, Ug himself will come out to fight; while he’s a bit of a bruiser, as long as you stay away from his club and burst-jump over his shockwaves, you can stun and suck him when his club gets stuck in the floor. Clem awaits you in the boiler for a battle in a reservoir of water lined with spikes; he’ll attack you with a fan and send out landmines, which you must direct towards him to blast him out of the water and leave him vulnerable, meaning it’s best to leave Luigi floating in the water and have Gooigi on the outside ready to attack. After conquering the Tomb Suits’ puzzles and traps, you’ll battle Serpci, a pharaoh-like entity that protects herself with a mound of sand and strikes at you with cobras. Sucking at her sand and snakes will cause her to become exposed, then you must dodge the projectiles she fires to stun her, though her speed and unpredictability make her a particularly aggravating boss. A trio of magician ghosts, Nikki, Lindsey, and Ginny, await you in the Twisted Suites; this is actually good preparation for the final boss as the three fire playing cards at you from their magician’s hats and must be stunned with a jump-burst when they try and grind you up at close range and you must attack each ghost in turn, with decoy ghosts taking the place of each of the triplets as they’re captures.

After chasing down Polterkitty, you’ll need to make use of Gooigi to defeat the game’s later bosses.

One of the most recurring enemies you’ll face is Poltergkitty, a mini boss who steals a couple of the elevator keys and forces you to chase after it across the floors of the hotel. When you finally confront it, you need to face away from it and wait for it to creep up behind you; right as it’s rearing to strike, at the very last minute, you must turn around and stun it so you can suck it up and remove one of its tails until it’s defeated. Captain Fishook awaits you in the Spectral Catch; at first, you need to avoid his charge and the swing of his hook, stunning and sucking him up when he gets stuck in the deck of the ship, but things get much more harrowing when the shark possesses the ship itself, turning the wooden decking into a gnashing mouth that you must fire bombs into and avoid being tipped into it by the ship’s wild dipping. Johnny Deepend absolutely requires the use of both Luigi and Gooigi and is best fought with another player; Luigi must take cover and distract the boss so that Gooigi can slip around behind it and drain the water from the pool. After that, simply avoid his fists, remove his shades, and stun him with a water polo ball to suck him up, and you’ll then have to contend with DJ Phantasmagloria. First, you have to deal with the dancing Goobs, stunning the one who has the elevator button you need with a jump-burst, before the boss officially joins the battle. DJ Phantasmagloria teleports around the dance floor tossing vinyl records at you and you need to use the burst-jump to knock off her afro and leave her vulnerable to your flashlight so you can suck her up.

Fittingly, thanks get extremely challenging and chaotic for the final showdown with Hellen and King Boo.

When you finally reach the fifteenth floor of the hotel, you’ll have to face off against the hotel owner, Hellen Gravely, in another boss battle that is absolutely built to be conquered by two players. While Luigi must avoid the spinning lasers and coloured laser walls, Gooigi must head down into the lower levels to deactivate the aforementioned laser walls by pulling four switches. Removing all four walls makes trying to suck her up much easier but realistically you can probably do just as good a job of avoiding her attacks and going after her with one or two of the walls deactivated. As the battle progresses, you’ll have to avoid more lasers by either frantically running around the arena or jump-bursting over them, and water will flood the lower level, restricting which switches you can pull, though you can flash the green lights on the walls and the insects to replenish your health if necessary. Afterwards, you must head to the roof to do battle with King Boo, who tries to squash and rattle you by dropping down from above and causing shockwaves, spits a bunch of fireballs at you, tries to slam and swipe at you with his tongue, electrifies the roof tiles, and tosses bombs into the arena. You must quickly suck one of these up and fire them into his mouth, which is easier said than done given how tricky the aiming mechanics can be, and this only makes the battle harder as King Boo spawns first one and then two duplicates and vastly increases the aggression and number of its attacks. You’ll only gain victory by firing bombs into the right King Boo, but it’s actually easier to just blast as many bombs as possible at all the targets and hope for the best as things get very chaotic very quickly thanks to the time limit in the final phase.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
At the start of the game, your options are limited to your flashlight but it doesn’t take long before you acquire the Poltergust G-00. However, once you have this, you’ve basically got everything you’ll need for the remainder of the game; sure, you get the dark-light, the plungers, and the Virtual Boo but there’s only really one prominent upgrade to the Poltergust, the Super Suction, and it’s only used once in the game, which is a little disappointing. You can earn additional upgrades for the device by meeting certain requirements, such as collecting all of the game’s gems or defeating all of the optional Boos, but none of the money you earn is used to upgrade your repertoire or even your health. When Professor E. Gadd sets up his shop, however, you can buy some helpful items, such as Gold Bones to have Polterpuppy resurrect you when your health is drained and sensors to alert you to nearby Gems and Boos, but that’s about it in terms of items and power-ups beyond the temporary use of a buzzsaw in the gardens.

Additional Features:
As alluded to, there are some rewards you can earn for meeting specific requirements, referred to as “Achievements”; these are directly tied to repetitive actions, such as riding the elevator, defeating specific numbers of ghosts, and interacting with certain objects in each environment. They’re also tied the game’s few collectibles; every floor has six hidden gems to find, with many requiring quite a bit of exploration and ingenuity to track down, and you’ll also be given the optional task of hunting down sixteen hidden Boos, who require a little more strategy than just stunning and sucking up as they like to play hide-and-seek, must be stunned with the dark-light, and can be difficult to pin down. When you complete the story, you’ll receive a letter grade and get to see a rebuilt version of the hotel that reflects how much money you have but, unlike in the first game, you don’t get to play through a mirrored version of the game on a new save file.

Hunt down hidden gems and Boos, and battle against friends in the game’s multiplayer modes.

You can view the ghosts you’ve defeated and the gems you’ve collected at Professor E. Gadd’s lab, but the majority of your additional playtime will probably be taken up with the game’s extra modes, which can be played either solo or alongside fellow players. The ScreamPark challenges you to collect Coins, defeat ghosts, or shoot at targets to score points for your team; the ScareScraper sees you defeating ghosts, rescuing Toads, and fulfilling other objects either alone or in teams while avoiding traps. At the end of those mode, you’ll battle the Boolossus, an even more formidable version of King Boo that adds a phasing attack to its arsenal and splits into a number of regular Boos after eating a bomb. If you fancy putting your hand in your pocket, you can also purchase some additional content (such as costumes, games, and ghosts) for these modes, though I have to say that I remain unimpressed with the lack of post-game content.

The Summary:
I remember enjoying the original Luigi’s Mansion back when I borrowed it for the GameCube when it came out, but being disappointed by the post-game content; there wasn’t too much on offer beyond the main game, despite there being a lot to see and do as you explore, and I can’t say that I was too interested in revisiting the franchise after that experience but I was won over by the game’s visual style and charm. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is basically more of the same; the gameplay and mechanics haven’t really changed all that much as far as I can tell, and the developers haven’t really complicated the premise with too many different mechanics. The addition of Gooigi is an interesting one that is tailor-made for two players (specifically an older and younger player) but perfectly acceptable to play solo as long as you can properly manage your characters thanks to the puzzles and areas being quite restricted to closed off areas. As visually impressive as the game is, and as expansive and diverse as the hotel is, however, there’s really not too much to occupy your time in the main game outside of bustin’ ghosts and ransacking the hotel for loot. There’s still no option to play as any other character, which I find endlessly disappointing, and while you suck up a lot of currency, there’s very few opportunities to really spend your money on anything beyond a few minor additions to your arsenal, and beyond the hidden gems and Boos there’s not really much incentive to explore or search around the hotel’s rooms. I imagine that the additional modes offer a lot of replay value, and that the game is more enjoyable in co-op mode, but I put all of my time into the single player story and, while I had a good time, I was hoping for a little more from it. A mirrored mode, purchasable upgrades and skins, and maybe the option to utilise Polterpup and/or Toad would have been nice but there’s definitely enough content and gameplay on offer to keep players (especially younger players) invested and challenged, I just think there could have been a little more spice added to the mix.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you played Luigi’s Mansion3? What did you think of it compared to the previous two games, and which was your introduction to the franchise? Are you a fan of the series and how different it is from the traditional Mario formula? Do you agree that there could have been a little more in-game content or were you satisfied with what was on offer? Which of the floors and bosses was your most, or least, favourite and did you ever play the game in co-op? What games are you playing this Halloween season? Whatever you think about Luigi’s Mansion, sign up to leave your thoughts or let me know on my social media.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March is once again “Mario Month” and I am spending every Thursday of this month celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


Released: 27 October 2017
Developer: Nintendo EPD

The Background:
After the videogame industry crumbled under the weight of numerous overpriced consoles and lacklustre titles, Nintendo basically single-handedly rebuilt the industry with the blockbuster success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) and, following the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties, Nintendo and their portly plumber continued to be an innovative and reliable staple of the videogame industry. On 3 March 2017, Nintendo struck again with their first high-definition console, the Nintendo Switch, an inventive little machine that could be played on the go or “docked” to play on televisions, with gamers using detachable “Joy-Cons” (with the usual motion control trappings Nintendo is now known for) to play. Accompanying this new console was an all-new Mario title, one that was aimed squarely on Mario’s long-term fans and would emphasise dense, open-world exploration over linear gameplay. To mix things up, producer Yoshiaki Koizumi aimed to have the player travel across multiple worlds (known as “Kingdoms”) and collect Power Moons instead of Power Stars, and to bolster Mario’s move set with Cappy, a mechanic specifically designed to incorporate the Switch’s unique control schemes. Upon release, Super Mario Odyssey received critical acclaim as critics lauded the game’s addictive gameplay, and originality, and it became a best-seller for Nintendo’s powerful little system.

The Plot:
Bowser, the King of the Koopas, has once again kidnapped Princess Peach and his underlings, the Broodals, have laid waste to the Bonneteer’s Cap Kingdom. Mario teams up with a Bonneteer, Cappy, a sentient hat who joins him on his quest to power up the Odyssey airship and chase after Bowser before he can force Peach into marriage!

Gameplay:
Super Mario Odyssey is a 3D, semi-open world action/adventure with a heavy emphasis on platforming, exploration, and performing elaborate jump tricks to progress further and track down the game’s 880 (!) Power Moons. Although you only need 124 to finish the main story, and 500 to unlock every Kingdom in the game, you’ll quickly find that collecting Power Moons becomes an addictive and fun-filled adventure as you spend another ten, twenty, thirty minutes scouring the latest Kingdom for one more Power Moon. If you’ve played any of Mario’s 3D adventures before, you’ll be instantly familiar with Mario’s controls; for me, the game clearly draws inspiration from Mario’s moveset from Super Mario 64 (Nintendo EAD, 1996) and Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo EAD Tokyo, 2007) and Mario features all of his athletic abilities from those games. Players press A or B to jump; pressing either button in consecutive order will see Mario perform a triple jump to reach higher platforms, and he can crouch with ZL to enter small spaces or perform a backflip by pressing B. If you press ZL and B while running, you’ll fly ahead with a long jump, and pressing ZL and Y in mid-air will see him dive ahead. You can also perform a ground pound to flatten enemies or uncover secrets by jumping and pressing ZL (you can even press B as Mario hits the ground to spring up for a boost jump), perform side jumps, wall jumps, pick up and throw items, and swim through water by tapping B. While you can rotate the left stick to spin around and knock back enemies, you’ll notice that Mario can no longer punch or kick enemies; instead, you need to hop on their heads to defeat them or press X/Y/flick the Joy-Con to toss Cappy at enemies.

In addition to his athletic abilities, Mario can now possess enemies using his cap!

This will allow you “capture” certain enemies; sometimes, you’ll need to knock a hat or other headwear off their heads first, and not every enemy can be captured (and you can sometimes capture inanimate objects such as boulders and trees), but this is the game’s big new mechanic. Cappy can be used to uproot posts, collect Golden Coins, activate switches, clear away poisonous gunk, open doors, smash and hit brick blocks and ? blocks, and extend Mario’s jumps by holding Y to spin it in place. However, you can capture Goombas to walk along slippery surfaces without fear (and even stack them up to reach higher areas), frogs to leap to higher platforms, a fireball to safely pass through lava, and capture a spark pylon to travel across powerlines as a bolt of electricity. You can even capture bigger creatures, such as Chain Chomps that let you bash through blocks and a Tyrannosaurus rex to barge across the landscape (though this latter puts a great strain on Cappy). Capturing Bullet Bills lets you fly across the Kingdom for a short time, as do Paragoobas (though you need to tap B to keep these aloft), while Glydons let you glide across the landscape, Cheep Cheeps let you swim without far of drowning, and Uproots let you extend up to new areas. Moe-Eyes are slow but let you see hidden platforms, Wigglers let you stretch across gaps like a xylophone, Gushens let you blast up and across the area with temporary jets of water, and you can capture Hammer Bros, Yoshi, and even Bowser in the finale! You can press ZL at any time to return to normal, and often get a jump boost at the same time, and the enemy will temporarily remain nearby if you need to capture it again, but the capture mechanic really helps to expand your abilities and is essential to solving puzzles, reaching new areas, and finding more Power Moons so be sure to toss Cappy at everything you see.

Use the map’s warps to quick travel and help hunt down those many, varied, and elusive Power Moons.

Once again, Mario’s health is measured by a pie chart; you’ll need to collect Power Moons or life hearts to replenish Mario’ health, and can temporarily extend it up to six hearts like in Super Mario Galaxy, and you can open up the map screen with the – button to read up on the Kingdom and warp around the map to the checkpoint flags you’ve activated. Mario can take three hits before failing, but the life system has been abandoned. When you fall, land in instant-death gunk, or lose all your health, Mario will lose a number of his accumulated Coins and respawn back at the last checkpoint flag. Coins are also used as in-game currency and can be spent at shops in each Kingdom to purchase additional hearts, Power Moons, and outfits for Mario to wear; each Kingdom also has its own unique currency in the form of Purple Coins that can be used to buy regional outfits, stickers, and souvenirs. If you’re having a hard time with the game, you can activate “Assist Mode” to have arrows guide you along and bounce you back after a fall, but the game really isn’t too difficult for the most part so you shouldn’t really need this as various non-playable characters (NPCs), menu screens, Cappy, and tutorials are available to keep you on track. When you reach a Kingdom, you’ll be encouraged to explore high and low for Power Moons, which you can collect multiples of without having to restart the Kingdom. Some of these are hiding in plain sight, others require a bit of wall jumping or platforming, others need you to race across or up temporary platforms (sometimes without the benefit of Cappy) against a time limit, and others are hidden underneath bridges, behind walls, or even underground and require a ground pound to spit out. You’ll also come across rabbits that need to be caught, find Captain Toad hiding out in each Kingdom, race against Koopas, open chests (sometimes having to open them in the right order), destroy blocks or pillars, enter pipes and cross spinning or moving platforms, blossom flowers, herd sheep, pace walk across arrows, and complete picture puzzles to collect additional Power Moons.

Power Moons are everywhere, and many require you to go old-school to track them down!

Power Moons can also be bought, assembled by collecting Moon Pieces, spawned by collecting musical notes against a time limit, navigating mazes, finding hidden areas using Cappy, activating scarecrows to take on timed platforming challenges, rocketing up to new areas, playing a Slots game, and clearing away snow, gunk, or enemies and blast open cages to find even more Power Moons. “P” switches will activate temporary platforms or bridges, the Switch will rumble when you’re over secrets to indicate a ground pound, and you’ll need to capture and stack up multiple Goombas to activate pressure pads. Sometimes a vulture will steal Cappy from you, meaning you’ll need to chase after it and lure it near to columns that you can raise up by ground pounding a neighbouring column to knock Cappy loose. You’ll also need to plant seeds to grow vines to reach new areas, enter pictures to warp to secret, far away areas of the game’s Kingdoms, and capture puzzle pieces to solve puzzles. Thankfully, there are no sections of the game that require the use of the Switch’s motion controls; you can even turn these off at the main menu, and the motion controls are nicely focused on giving the console a shake to boost Mario’s speed or attacks in certain situations. The story also quickly offers the choice to travel to different Kingdoms and back so you can explore and play the game at your own pace. The hunt for Power Moons will be where you’ll find the bulk of the game’s variety, as you’ll often have to capture a variety of enemies or objects or use your jumping abilities in interesting ways to clamber over the environment and find hidden areas. You can even enter the iconic Mario pipes and pop out in 2D areas that harken back to Mario’s 8-bit routes and see you hopping onto or over enemies and fireballs, traversing ledges and girders, and collecting Coins and Power Moons and bringing you out to new areas.

Graphics and Sound:
Super Mario Odyssey is easily the most colourful, charming, and graphically advanced Super Mario title I’ve played so far. As is always the case, cutscenes play out using a mixture of gibberish, limited sound bites, and subtitles but the body language of Mario, Bowser, and Peach make these perfectly adorable and there’s very little, if any, distinction between the in-game graphics and the few cinematic sequences. While there are some noticeable loading times, especially when travelling between worlds in the story mode, most of these seem to be purposely implemented as an excuse to have Cappy give players a quick rundown on Mario’s abilities as you can eventually skip these sequences with the + button. Mario, especially, looks at his very best; his cap lifts off his head when he jumps, he gets covered in ash when burned, and has a number of idle animations (falling asleep in most Kingdoms, sweating in others, or shivering when cold) and is full of life and charm, which is good as he’s the only character you’ll be playing as this time around. For a sentient cap, Cappy is surprisingly full of life as well; occasionally, he’ll hop off your head to deliver hints and his big, cartoonish eyes make him very expressive.

Each Kingdom is brought to life in stunning detail and has lots to see and do.

As you might expect from a Super Mario title, the game is full of unique and interesting locations to visit; you start off in the Cap Kingdom, which has been covered in ash from Bowser’s attacks and is full of large hat-like structures and a thick fog that masks a death pit. You’ll then travel to thirteen additional Kingdoms, each one sporting their own unique trappings, currency, and Power Moon designs; you’ll hop around waterfalls and prehistoric terrain in the Cascade Kingdom, cross a vast, scorching desert in the Sand Kingdom, and explore the depths of the coral-like Lake Kingdom in your search for Power Moons. In the Wooded Kingdom, you’ll find a great forest, dark undergrowth, and an overgrown factory while poisonous lakes and large tropical trees await you in the Lost Kingdom. You can also briefly travel to the upper atmosphere above the clouds in the Cloud Kingdom and battle Bowser’s vicious dragon in the medieval ruins of the Ruined Kingdom, brave an aggressive blizzard in the Snow Kingdom, and explore the beach at the Seaside Kingdom. Upon first visiting many of the Kingdoms, you’ll find the region in a state of chaos that must be addressed by defeating a boss; this will calm the blizzard in Snow Kingdom, for example, and restore power to Metro Kingdom.

The game’s visual style and presentation is top-notch and full of humour and colour.

Metro Kingdom is probably the area most familiar to people since it featured heavily in the game’s advertising; New Donk City is a massive city full of skyscrapers, construction sites, realistic NPCs, and numerous references to the Super Mario franchise and, more specifically, the Donkey Kong franchise (Nintendo R&D1/Various, 1981 to present). Not only does Pauline make a long-awaited return to the series but you can even race across an expanded 2D section that is a fantastic call-back to Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D1, 1981) and many of the street names, business, and billboards directly reference characters or locations from the franchise. The Luncheon Kingdom is probably the game’s quirkiest area as it’s populated by anthropomorphic cutlery and a veritable explosion of vivid colours and giant foods, while Bower’s Kingdom is fittingly the largest and most dangerous area in the game and draws its aesthetic inspiration from Japanese temples. The finale takes place in the Moon Kingdom, where gravity is much lighter and allows you to jump much higher and fall much slower; while the surface of the Moon is a barren wasteland, you’ll find an ornate church there and battle your way through a lava-and-trap-filled cavern to reach your final confrontation with Bowser. After besting the Koopa King, you get to travel to the Mushroom Kingdom, which is both a loving recreation and an extension of the same area from Super Mario 64, featuring paintings, Toads galore, and even Power Stars replacing the Power Moons. Each area is further bolstered by remixes and recreations of classic Super Mario tracks, and even a catchy vocal tune, “Jump Up Super Star!”, by Kate Higgins.

Enemies and Bosses:
Long-time fans of the series can rejoice here as many of Mario’s most famous enemies make a return in Super Mario Odyssey, and can even be controlled thanks to Cappy; you’ll bounce off Goombas and Paragoombas, stretch across gaps as Wiggler, smash trough blocks with Chain Chomps, barge through obstacles as Chargin’ Chuck, and hop on Koopa Troopas and use their shells to smash apart blocks. There are also some new enemies to be found here, such as the Trapbeetle (which captures Cappy when he’s thrown at him and charges at you, but you can use this to clear blocks from your path), the Stairface Ogre (who tries to squash you with a giant mallet but leaves itself vulnerable and allows you to reach higher ledges), Sherms (tanks that are great fun to take control of), Pokios (needle-nosed birds that let you awkwardly climb up and across the walls of Bowser’s Kingdom), and Chinchos (mummy-like creatures that Cappy simply passes tough harmlessly). Many of these can be captured and used to your advantage, but many more will also respawn, especially if you need to capture them to progress, and while they’re all pretty goofy and simple to get around, you’ll also find them placed in precarious positions or in large numbers as the game progresses, which helps keep the game’s difficulty nicely balanced. To restore each Kingdom or solve problems for the NPCs, you’ll have to battle a few bosses; defeating these earns you a “Multi Moon” that counts as three Power Moons. Although each Kingdom features at least one boss, the game does reuse and recycle these for other Kingdoms and boss rushes, the most obvious cases being that of the Broodals.

You’ll battle the Broodals on multiple occasions, with the bouts being a bit tougher the next time around.

These mean little bunnies replace Bowser’s usual Koopalings and are each fought at three separate points throughout the game, with the battles getting tougher each time. Topper bounces around and is protected by his green top hats; you must throw Cappy at him to knock these off and avoid being hit by them as they ricochet around so you can bounce on his head. As the fight progresses, more hats come into play and Topper swings them around to try and hit you as well. Harriet’s head is protected by a spiked helmet and she tosses explosive maces at you that you can hit away with Cappy, but they leave temporary flaming puddle son the floor. When she tries to crush you with the maces on her pigtails, you can smack these back to stun her, and you can also knock her out of the air when she withdraws into her helmet by hitting the bombs she drops. Spewart protects himself by spraying poison gunk all over the place, but you can use Cappy to clean it up and stun him, and to knock him away when he retreats into his hat and leave a trail of the muck in his wake. Rango tosses his sawblade-like hat at you from afar, but you can flip them over with Cappy and use them as a trampoline to twirl onto his head; as the fight progresses, Rango tosses more hats and also hops around trying to hit you, and you’ll have to battle each of the Broodals again in Bowser’s Kingdom and in succession in a gruelling gauntlet on the Dark Side of the Moon Kingdom.

You’ll need to make use of Cappy’s capture abilities to take out the game’s large, colourful bosses.

You’ll encounter the Broodals’ mother, Madame Broode, in the Cascade Kingdom; this rotund bunny sends her golden Chain Chompkin after you, but you can easily avoid it, knock its hat off, and capture it to launch it back at her. Although she tries to swipe at you, and more hats are added to later bouts, it’s pretty easy to stay out of her way and knock her on her ass. In the Sand Kingdom, you’ll find Knucklotec, a statue-like head who tries to crush you with its fists. However, you can trick it into hitting ice so you can capture its fist and fly it right into its face, but you’ll have to watch out for the projectiles it shoots out to protect itself. Torkdrift, a large UFO, awaits in the Wooded Kingdom; luckily, there are Uproots nearby for you to capture and stretch up into Torkdrift’s glass underbelly, but you’ll have to dodge the shockwaves it sends out and the flaming lasers it fires, and smash through thick blocks to flip it over and deliver additional damage to it. After unsuccessfully trying to attack Bowser’s airship, you’ll fall into the Ruined Kingdom and face off with the Ruined Dragon, a massive beast that sends out rings of lightning; when it collapses from exhaustion, you have a brief window of opportunity to hop onto its head, remove the stakes from its skull, and ground pound its weak spot but its attacks will become more aggressive and harder to dodge as the fight goes on.

Bosses become very creative, and are made tougher when you fight them again in the Mushroom Kingdom.

The latter Kingdoms offer some of the more interesting boss battles; Metro Kingdom’s Mechwiggler clambers about on the side of a building firing energy bolts at you and charging at you through portals, but you can pilot a Sherm to blast its glowing weak spots and deal big damage to it, and you’ll have to battle two at once in the Mushroom Kingdom rematch. Similarly, you’ll need to capture a Gushen to chase after and defeat the Seaside Kingdom boss, Mollusque-Lanceur, a giant octopus that floats around the beach (or above the clouds in the rematch) firing torpedos and spiked bombs. However, he’s vulnerable on his head so you can jet after him with Y and gush water down onto him with B once you’re hovering over him. In the Luncheon Kingdom, you’ll do battle with Cookatiel in a giant stew pot; Cookatiel spits vegetables as projectiles, but also spews up a stream of vomit that you can travel up as a fireball to bounce on his head. Each of these bosses is fought again by jumping into paintings in the Mushroom Kingdom, and the battles are made harder by the presence of additional enemies and hazards, less health items, bottomless spits, and more aggressive attacks from the bosses.

Topple the Broodals’ mech, then put a beating on Bowser and take control of the Koopa King to save the day.

Before you can finally face off against Bowser, you’ll have to battle the Broodals once again, this time in a giant mech! To defeat the RoboBrood, you’ll need to avoid the bombs it throws out and capture a Pokio to hit them back at its feet, toppling it over and leaving it vulnerable for you to fling yourself up and attack each of the Broodals’ pods. The RoboBrood becomes temporarily invincible after each pod is destroyed, targets you more directly, and it gets harder to scale it with each hit as well. Bowser himself is also fought twice, once in the Cloud Kingdom and again in the Moon Kingdom (and a third time at the end of the super-hard Darker Side of the Moon Kingdom). Both times, you must toss Cappy at his top hat to flip it over and take possession of it; you must then hop over the shockwaves caused by his jumps, avoid or punch away the rocks he throws at you, and put a beating on him when he’s stunned. As the fight progresses, Bowser jumps faster, throws more projectiles, defends himself from your punches and tries to swipe at you with his tail, and spews out flames in anger, but he’s not particularly difficult to best in the main encounters. After defeating him, you’ll need to capture him to use his massive claws to escape, which is pretty fun (if harrowing because of the temporary platforms).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Mario’s primary power-up is his ability to capture enemies and other objects with Cappy; this allows you to leap higher, protects you from lava, activates switches, allows you to flip, fly, or travel to new areas, and is crucial to solving some of the game’s puzzles and tracking down the Power Moons. There are, however, other power-ups you can find in each Kingdom; bubbles will restore your air meter when swimming, Life-Up Hearts temporarily add three extra hits to your life meter, Keys unlock additional Power Moons, scooters and catapults will allow you to travel quickly across areas, and Rocket Flowers let Mario blast ahead, and up sharp inclines, with a burst of speed but at the cost of his manoeuvrability.

Purchase collectibles and new outfits using your Coins.

Although there are no extra life mushrooms, cap power-ups, leaves, or invincibilities in the game, you can capture Yoshi in the Mushroom Kingdom and use his flutter jump and long tongue to eat fruit, and you can also spend your Coins on stickers to adorn the Odyssey with, souvenirs to fill it with, and outfits to change Mario’s appearance. Each Kingdom has one door that is blocked to you unless you buy and wear the regional outfit, but otherwise these are purely cosmetic items to wear. However, the range of them is quite impressive: you can dress up as Doctor Mario, Luigi, Waluigi, Wario, and even Diddy Kong; wear Mario’s Hawaiian shirt, his spacesuit, and even be rendered as his polygonal model from Super Mario 64 or in blocky 8-bits. You can dress up in the Broodals’ outfits, wear Peach’s wedding dress, and even mix and match the head wear with the clothing to create bizarre combinations. Sadly, though, these are simply costumes rather than new skins and the only character you’ll ever play as is Mario, which is a shame considering Luigi was playable in Super Mario Galaxy.

Additional Features:
With nearly 900 Power Moons to collect, you’ll never be short on things to do in Super Mario Odyssey. After you defeat Bowser, you can travel to the Mushroom Kingdom to find more Power Moons (this time rendered as Power Stars), rebattle the game’s bosses, and be awarded additional Power Moons for completing Toadette’s objectives. You can also return to the previous Kingdoms to track down Princess Peach for another Power Moon and break open Moon Rocks and access tough platforming or puzzle sections for additional Power Moons, and cause even more Power Moons to be spread across each Kingdom. You can keep track of these in the – menu by reviewing your lists, and once you have powered up the Odyssey with 250 and then 500 Power Moons, you’ll unlock two new areas of the Moon Kingdom.

There’s still lots to do, find, and challenge yourself with after beating the main story.

Dark Side has you scaling a tower and battling the Broodals in a tough gauntlet with no checkpoints or health power-ups between or during the bout, and the Darker Side is home to the game’s most challenging, and frustrating, course as you must cross lava, avoiding spikes, fireballs, and all manner of hazards and obstacles in a true test of you skills. Furthermore, players can find Luigi in each Kingdom and take on the Balloon World mini game, which is basically an online version of hide-and-seek and has you racing to locate balloons and comparing your time and scores with other players. The game can also be played in a rudimentary two-player mode where one player controls Mario and the other controls a captured enemy, and you can also use Amiibos and the Switch’s snapshot feature to find additional hints or unlock costumes, respectively.

The Summary:
I was actually very surprised by how much I enjoyed Super Mario Odyssey. I had heard so much about the game since it first released, all of it nothing but praise, and it was getting to the point where the game felt a little overhyped to me. Once I got a Nintendo Switch, I knew that the game was going to be a must-have for my collection, but I was a little apprehensive as I have a bit of an odd relationship with Super Mario games. However, it didn’t take long for my worries to be completely set aside; Super Mario Odyssey harkens back to the days when games could be played in fun-filled little bursts and its addictive gameplay and eye-catching visuals make it a title that’s simple to pick up and hard as hell to put down. The game gets progressively more challenging as you progress and visit new Kingdoms, but it’s never unfair or punishing and any mishaps you might make simply come down to a mistake on your part rather than due to a janky camera or controls. Mario’s athletic prowess and the additional abilities afforded to him by Cappy mean that there is always another way, or multiple ways, to accomplish tasks, explore further, or obtain Power Moons and the sheer amount of options available to you is impressive, but never too daunting. Colourful, endlessly entertaining, and fun from start to finish, Super Mario Odyssey is a fantastic entry in the franchise; I loved the call-backs to Super Mario 64, particularly the rendition of the Mushroom Kingdom, and all the outfits available to you (though it was disappointing to only be able to play as Mario again). The Kingdoms were all fun and unique areas, finding Power Moons was a great little distraction, and the bosses were enjoyable little challenges that never outstayed their welcome. There’s something on offer here for players of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced players who fancy tackling the super-tough optional areas, and I found myself having a great time from start to finish.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Have you every played Super Mario Odyssey ? If so, did you enjoy it and how do you think it compares to other 3D Mario titles? Which of the game’s Kingdoms was your favourite? What did you think to Cappy and the capture mechanic, and which enemy was your favourite to take possession of? Did you enjoy collecting Power Moons or were you a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount to find? What did you think to the game’s bosses and the Broodals? Did you ever best the Dark and Darker Side of the Moon Kingdom? Which outfit was your favourite and would you have liked to see skins or other playabale characters? Whatever your thoughts on the Mario’s cap-based adventure, feel free to sign up and leave a comment below or leave a comment on my social media.

Game Corner [Zelda Day]: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Nintendo Switch)


On 21 February 1986, The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo EAD, 1986) was first released in Japan. The creation of legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, The Legend of Zelda launched one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, with its silent protagonist, Link, and his vast fantasy world of sword and sorcery not only enduring over time but constantly evolving and improving as the series progressed.


Released: 20 September 2019
Originally Released: 6 June 1993
Developer: Grezzo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console (Original/DX release)

The Background:
As some of you may be aware, my very first introduction to the Legend of Zelda series (Nintendo EAD/Various, 1986) was with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (ibid, 1993) on the original Game Boy. Beginning as an unsanctioned side project of programmer Kazuaki Morita and evolving from a desire to port the incredibly successful Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (ibid, 1991), it was incredibly impressive how the developers were able to cram so much into such a small cartridge. Link’s Awakening was critically acclaimed and is widely considered to be one of the best Game Boy titles ever released. The game received a slightly enhanced colour upgrade on the Game Boy Color in 1998, which was also received very well, but I was stunned when Nintendo announced an all-new, high definition remake for the Switch in 2019 as the game always felt like more of a cult favourite compared to other mainstream Zelda titles.

Link’s Awakening was my introduction to the Zelda series and it’s gratifying to see it get remastered.

The Switch remake of Link’s Awakening was spearheaded by Grezzo, the development team who had ported and enhanced Zelda’s Nintendo 64 efforts to the Nintendo 3DS, and the team immediately sought to separate the game from other Zelda titles by not only returning to the classic top-down perspective but adopting a quasi-isometric, diorama-inspired look that made the entire game appear to be constructed out of plasticine figures. Upon release, Link’s Awakening was met with glowing reviews as critics praised the visual presentation, music, and quality of life improvements; it was also the fastest-selling Switch game of 2019 and scored very highly across the board, assuring that Link’s Awakening was finally recognised as one of the best Zelda titles out there.

The Plot:
After defeating the dark wizard Ganon and rescuing Princess Zelda, Link embarks on a quest across the sea in search of enlightenment and ends up caught in a terrible storm and washing up on the shores of the mysterious Koholint Island. Link finds the island tormented by monsters who are the creation of the malevolent “Shadow Nightmares”, a dark entity who will do anything to keep the legendary Wind Fish from waking. However, Link takes up his sword and shield to oppose Nightmare, only to discover that not everything is as it seems on the all-too-familiar Koholint Island…

Gameplay:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a top-down (well, more like a slightly isometric) action/adventure role-playing title in which players are placed into the familiar green hat and tunic of Link, the long-running protagonist of the series. As is the case in many Zelda titles, you can customise Link’s name at the file select screen; you get three save files (and a temporary autosave file) that you can personalise, and characters will refer to you by that name throughout the story. For those keeping track, this is the same Link who starred in A Link to the Past, making Link’s Awakening one of the rare Zelda titles to feature the same Link, and which possibly explains the many similarities between the two titles. Link begins the game with three hearts representing his health and stripped of his sword, shield, and all of his recognisable weapons but is quickly provided with his trusty shield, with is mapped to the ZR button and allows him to block incoming attacks and push through certain enemies. You’re then tasked with using the shield to head down to the beach and retrieve your sword, which is mapped to the B button; you can tap B to swipe at enemies or hold the button to charge up Link’s trademark Spin Attack, which sees him spin around in a circle and damage any nearby enemies once the button is released. Link can also pick up and throw certain items and objects (such as Cukkos and, later, pots), using the A button but he’ll need to journey to a whopping nine dungeons to retrieve the rest of his gear and further explore the mysterious Koholint Island.

After acquiring his sword, Link sets out on a new adventure fill with hijinx and dangers.

Along the way, Link will encounter a number of non-playable characters (NPCs), most of whom offer hints about where to go next, ask for specific items to be brought to them as part of the elaborate trading sequence, or comment on the events happening in the game or on the island in general. Some will actually follow you around, which becomes necessary to enter specific dungeons; a blue-hued rooster will follow you and allow you to fly over gaps to reach the Eagle’s Tower, for example, a ghost will start to follow you and eventually gift you an empty bottle, and Link’s saviour, Marin, will accompany him to move a walrus out of the way and let him access Yarna Desert. Not all NPCs are entirely harmless, though; attack Cukkos or dogs and they’ll hit you back, you’ll need to use a Chain Chomp to navigate through the Gopongo Swamp, and the shopkeeper will electrocute you to death and you’ll be branded a “THIEF” for the rest of the game if you steal from him. As mentioned, Link’s health is measured in hearts; as you explore, you may find Heart Pieces hidden in caves, buried underground, under water, or generally strewn around the environment. Collect four of these, and your maximum health will be refilled, and you’ll automatically gain an extra heart after defeating each dungeon’s Nightmare boss. Unlike a number of other Zelda games, players don’t need to worry about a magic gauge in Link’s Awakening; instead, there’s a greater emphasis on collecting Rupees, the currency in the Zelda franchise, in order to purchase additional items, objects for the trading sequence, and even collectibles such as Heart Pieces. Rupees are primarily found by slashing grass, defeating enemies, digging in the ground, and opening treasure chests and Link appears to be able to hold 9999 Rupees, so you don’t need to worry about upgrading his wallet or anything. I tend to spend my time in Zelda games furiously swiping at grass and defeating onscreen enemies, so I’m used to collecting as many Rupees as possible, but other players may find it a bit tedious, though it’s absolutely necessary if you want to progress because you need the shovel and the bow in order to access later areas and you’ll never collect everything the game has to offer without paying money for some of them first.

Koholint Island is huge and full of pick-ups, warps, NPCs, and enemies.

You can jump to the equipment subscreen at any time with the + button; here, you can view key items you’ve collected and assign two items from your inventory to the X and Y buttons, save or load your game, or flick over to the map screen (which can also be accessed with -) to plot a route to your next destination. The map is initially shrouded in fog but more of it is revealed as you explore, and you can use pins in to set reminders for yourself; Link can also review “memories” from this screen, which allow you to re-read advice from the mysterious Owl and certain previous conversations so you know where you’ve been and get some idea of where to go next. The Owl will appear in key areas across the overworld offering hints and encouragement, and you can call Ulrira in Mabe Village for further hints, but you’re basically free to explore at your leisure. You won’t be able to access certain areas without weapons or items from dungeons, though, and generally you need to tackle the dungeons in a specific order so that you can access the next, but your journey across Koholint Island eventually gets easier as you defeat the Nightmare bosses. Initially, you won’t be able to lift rocks, clear gaps, or swim, for example, but you’ll acquire the tools necessary to overcome these obstacles in the dungeons; similarly, you can activate fast travel warp points and, later, learn a song for your ocarina that will enable you to use these freely.

Dungeons are filled with puzzles, some simple like pushing blocks and others more frustrating.

Still, the game doesn’t make too much of an effort to hold your hand and it can be tricky to figure out where to go next, meaning that you have to be a little proactive to figure things out and experiment a bit. This is especially true in the game’s dungeons, which can be quite labyrinthine and see you travelling between different floors and acquiring small keys to unlock doors. Each dungeon has a compass and a map that will greatly assist with your progress; these allow you to see all possible routes and even indicate when there’s a chest or item in a room, but they’re often locked behind a series of puzzles. These may be as simple as stepping or pushing a block on a switch, pulling a pulley, pushing blocks together, or defeating all onscreen enemies but they get tougher as the game progresses. Sometimes you’ll have to defeat enemies in a specific order, or guide a pathmaker around to create temporary paths, or pick up and throw a weighted ball into columns, or toss some chess pieces in just the right way so they land in specific spots (a very frustrating mechanic, for sure). Sometimes, rooms and hidden passageways are hidden behind breakable walls (which must be exploded with bombs) or rocks (which must be lifted up) both in dungeons and on the overworld; other times, you’ll need to hunt down specific items or work through a looping maze in the right order, and you can even increase the game’s challenge by playing in “Hero” mode from the file select screen (which sees you taking twice as much damage and losing the benefit of enemies dropping hearts).

Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, screenshots do not do this game justice; the plastic figurine look used to bring this world to life is absolutely amazing and I find it such an adorable, whimsical stylistic choice that really makes everything vivid and charming to behold. The soundtrack is equally imaginative, composed primarily of woodwind instruments and flutes and such, and adds a lot of appeal to the game and even features a bit of the classic chip-tune music in the credits, which was a nice touch. You know things are kicking up a notch after Link acquires his sword and Koji Kondo’s iconic Zelda theme kicks in, but each area is brought to life as much by the music as the attractive visual style of the game and all of the characters and models are full of visual quirks and charming little animations that just make the game a joy to play and look at.

The game’s visual style and variety is charming and gorgeous, and it even includes some anime cutscenes.

Koholint Island is quite a large area for Link to explore and full of many of the usual Zelda environments and trappings; he begins in a quiet little village and journeys to a desert, a crumbling tower, a boulder-strewn mountain top, and a desolate swamp while traversing a vast field peppered with enemies, obstacles, and such sights as a graveyard, bridges, a castle, and a foggy forest. Contrary to the original title, and other top-down Zelda titles at the time, the entire overworld is connected without any screen transitions unless you enter a building or cave, which really helps speed traversal up and makes the world feel interconnected and alive. Some NPCs will relocate as the story progresses, which is fun, and you’ll often be required to take the long way around to reach some of the dungeons (especially in the first instance), though the interiors of the dungeons are often somewhat interchangeable. This isn’t always the case, of course; Bottle Grotto (fittingly) contains a lot of bottles), Catfish’s Maw and Angler’s Tunnel veer more towards water elements and puzzles, and Turtle Rock features and abundance of lava, and you’ll notice more and more maze-like elements as the difficulty of the dungeons progresses. Every dungeon also features at least one 2.5D sidescrolling area that sees you using ladders, moving platforms, and the Roc’s Feather to hop around in short platforming sections and the game is opened and ended by some beautiful (if very brief) anime cutscenes, and while there is no voice acting, sound bites and voice clips accompany both Link’s attacks and reactions and the in-game text boxes.

Enemies and Bosses:
Koholint Island is inhabited by a number of recognisable Zelda enemies and traps that will constantly try to impede Link’s quest; you’ll encounter stone-spitting Octorocs, spider-like Tektites, and annoying Zora’s will pop out of water to fire projectiles at you. Zols often appear in dungeons, with the red variants multiplying with each hit, bat-like Keese and the snake-like Ropes often appear in caves, and you’ll even encounter a number of enemies that can’t be traditionally bested. Most of your enemies can be dispatched with just one swipe of your sword, but others require a bit more strategy: the Moblins and Darknuts will defend against your attacks with their shields and must be stunned by deflecting their sword swipes, Spiny Beetles and Helmasaurs must have their rocks and masks removed to better attack them, and the Pols Voice can’t be damaged by your sword at all. Oddly, Link’s Awakening contains a number of enemies from the Super Mario franchise (Various, 1983 to present): Thwomps, Bob-ombs, Goombas, and Shy Guys are all over the place, and you’ll even come across an evil version of Kirby!

A number of mini bosses must be defeated to activate warp points ad acquire new weapons.

Each dungeon, and certain other areas in the game, features at least one mini boss; defeating these will activate a warp point in the dungeon and often leads to you acquiring the weapon or item necessary to defeating the Nightmare boss. These range from larger versions of regular enemies, such as the Moblin Chief and Armos Knight, and familiar Zelda enemies like the Master Stalfos (who must be damaged with bombs when reduced to a pile of bones) and Gohma (who can only be damaged by firing arrows into their open eyes. The most recurring of these is the golem-like Hinox, which will grapple you or throw bombs your way, but are easily defeated with your trusty sword, and you’ll sometimes have to battle more than one in the later dungeons. Often, these require a little more strategy than the average enemy; you need to jump over the Spike Roller’s spiked pole to get to him, toss bombs into the Dodongo Snakes’ mouths, and can only defeat Rover by throwing its weighted ball back at it, but you’re usually rewarded with a life-restoring fairy for your efforts (to say nothing of the extra weapons).

After a simple first boss, you’ll need to use Link’s new weapons and be adaptable to triumph.

Each dungeon contains a magical instrument that is guarded by one of eight Nightmares; often, the key to defeating the Nightmare will lie in the weapon you acquire in that dungeon, and each one gets progressively difficult as you journey on. The first boss, Moldorm, is a walk in the park: this worm-like creature randomly pulsates around the enclosed arena and can only be hurt by hitting the glowing weak spot on its tail, which will send it into a frenzy and cause it to become more and more aggressive as the fight progresses. In the Bottle Grotto, you’ll battle the clown-like Genie, who tosses fireballs at you and hides in his bottle to avoid your attacks. You’ll need to grab the bottle and throw it against the wall to crack and, eventually break it, then swipe at Genie when it becomes corporeal to finish it off. The Slime Eye at the end of Key Cavern requires use of the Pegasus Boots to split it in two so you can swipe at its eye, but the two gooey monsters will drop down from the ceiling to either land on you or stun you with a shockwave, making them tricky to land a hit on at times. The fearsome Angler Fish is fought in a 2.5D perspective and underwater, meaning that your movements are as limited as your attack options; you’ll need to swim your way past the debris it drops from the ceiling, fending off its smaller minions as you try and swipe at the glowing tendril on its head.

Bosses get increasingly tougher as the game progresses but are generally not too challenging.

Probably one of the more difficult bosses for me was the Slime Eel; this fight is complicated by a mace-like tentacle in the middle of the stage that you must jump over as you try and snag the boss’s head with your hookshot and expose its weak spot. Facade can also be a bit tricky; this gigantic face leers at you from the floor and causes tiles and pots to fly at you from all around the room and can only be damaged by placing bombs on it while watching for the holes it causes to form in the arena. When you finally manage to reach the top of Eagle’s Tower (easily one of the game’s more obtuse and annoying dungeons), you’ll battle the Evil Eagle; this giant bird hovers just out of reach and tries to skewer you with feathers, charges at you with its beak, and flaps its wings to try and force you from the platform and to the spikes below. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to shield against his attacks and toss your boomerang up at him, or fire off arrows and swipe at him as he flies past trying to attack you. The final dungeon is guarded by  Hot Head, an anthropomorphic fireball that emerges from a lava pit to blast molten rock at you, and which can only be damaged with the Magic Rod. Once you’ve blasted away its outer shell, it’ll bounce all around the arena trying to pummel you to death, but is easily finished off if you keep your wits about you.

The game’s final boss assumes many forms, with some representing the game’s toughest challenge.

Once you’ve acquired all of the magical instruments, you can scale Mount Tamaranch to play the “Ballad of the Wind Fish” on your ocarina and gain access to the Wind Fish’s Egg; however, this final dungeon is a looping maze that you’ll never be able to navigate without completing the trading sequence and acquiring the magnifying glass to read a book in the Mabe Village library that has directions to the final boss. Shadow Nightmares is easily, and fittingly, the toughest boss in the game and boasts six distinct forms: the first is a giant Zol that bounces and materialises around the arena and can only be damaged by sprinkling Magic Powder on it. Next, the boss assumes the form of Araghim from A Link to the Past and is battled in very much the same way; Araghim teleports around and fires two types of projectiles at you, one that explodes in your face and one a fireball that can be smacked back to damage him. Afterwards, the boss becomes a shadow version of Moldorm, which is a bit of a let-down, but it more than makes up for it by assuming the form of Ganon! Hands down the hardest fight in the game, Ganon twirls his trident and fires flaming bats at you before tossing his trident your way, giving you a very limited window to loop around behind him or charge into him with your sword. The next form is simply a Lanmola that cannot be damaged by your sword but only needs to be hit once with another weapon to force the boss into its final, truest form: Dethl. A large, shadow, pulsating mass sporting two mace-like tentacles, Dethl isn’t really too difficult to defeat; simply jump over its arms and fire arrows into its big green eye when it opens and the Shadow Nightmares will finally be destroyed, the Wind Fish will awaken, and Koholint Island will disappear forever.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned, it doesn’t take too long for Link to reacquire his traditional sword and shield, and as you progress through the game’s dungeons you’ll acquire a number of recognisable weapons and items to add to Link’s arsenal, such as the Power Bracelet to lift items (and the Powerful Bracelet to lift even larger items), the hookshot to stun enemies from a distance and cross certain gaps using stones and other specific parts of the environment, bombs to blast open walls and defeat groups of enemies, bottles to store life-restoring fairies, and an ocarina that is useful for accessing certain areas, warping across the map, and accessing the final boss.

Link can acquire some familiar weapons and even pick-up temporary power-ups.

Other pivotal items include the shovel (which is necessary for digging up collectibles), the traditional boomerang (which can only be acquired through the trading sequence), and the bow (which must be purchased). Magic Powder allows you to damage certain enemies and light fires (but becomes completely redundant once you acquire the Magic Rod), you can fire bomb arrows by equipping the bow and the bombs at the same times, the Mirror Shield lets you reflect lasers and certain projectiles, and the Roc’s Feather allows you to jump. The Pegasus Boots let you charge ahead (and can be used in conjunction with the Roc’s Feather to clear longer gaps), the flippers let you swim and dive under water, and you can sometimes find Secret Medicine to restore your health upon death. Additionally, you’ll sometimes come across temporary power-ups: the Guardian Acorn and Piece of Power will temporarily reduce the amount of damage you take and increase your attack power, respectively, which can be super useful in certain situations.

Additional Features:
There are thirty-two pieces of heart to find scattered throughout Koholint Island’s overworld, which will increase your health up to twenty hearts; sometimes you’ll dig these up or knock them out of trees, other times you can buy or find them in hidden caves or under water and such, and other times you can play for them in mini games. These include a mechanical claw game and a fishing game, both found in Mabe Village and costing you some Rupees to play; manoeuvring the claw and landing a big fish can be a bit tricky, but it’ll grant you an extra bottle, Heart Piece, ammo and Rupees, items for the trading sequence and a number of Secret Seashells. There are fifty Secret Seashells to find, and it’s well worth your time seeking them out with your shovel, lifting rocks, and exploring with your different weapons and items as they can be cashed in at the Seashell Mansion to gift you with a sensor that alerts you when they’re closer and a more powerful sword that fires out an energy beam when your hearts are full. As alluded to, there’s a lengthy trading sequence that’s necessary to acquire the boomerang and navigate to the final boss; this sees you acquiring specific key items (such as bananas, a Yoshi doll, and a magnifying lens) and bringing them to specific NPCs to swap for another item, which is a fun little distraction that gives you an excuse to talk to as many characters as possible.

Search for Seashells, switch to a new tunic, and create your own dungeons!

There are also figurines to collect and place on certain stands in houses (though I was only able to find two) and the Color Dungeon from the GameBoy Color version is also present. This optional, additional dungeon can be missed but it’s well worth your time seeking out as, once you best its enemies and puzzles, and defeat the gigantic Hardhit Beetle, you’ll be able to pick from either a blue or red runic to increase your defence or attack power, respectively (personally, I chose the red tunic as I’m a more offensive player). Finally, there’s a new addition to the game in the form of Chamber Stones; these must be brought to Dampé, who will challenge you to create custom dungeons by mixing and matching rooms, puzzles, sub-bosses, and bosses from the game’s existing dungeons. Each time you beat a regular dungeon, and Dampé’s tutorials, you’ll gain additional Chamber Stones, +Effect Panels, and collectibles and it’s quite a fun little addition since you can create your own dungeons to play through and challenge others to complete.

The Summary:
Even after all this time, I still adore The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening; it was the first Zelda game I ever played and owned, and I used to enjoy playing through it on the old GameBoy brick even before I picked up the Virtual Console version of the GameBoy Color deluxe version, so I was super excited to hear that it was being completely rebuilt for the Nintendo Switch. This new version is everything the original game was but rendered in such gorgeous detail that it’s so much more than just a throwback to a simpler time of Zelda videogames; the plastic figurine aesthetic is charming and whimsical and I’d love to see it evoked for future recreations of older Zelda titles, and it may very well be the most visually appealing game I’ve played on the Nintendo Switch so far (and yes, that includes it’s bigger and more expansive cousin). It’s amazing how big Link’s Awakening is; it definitely feels like there’s more in this version of the game, but the developers didn’t add any new dungeons or areas or anything (which is a bit of a shame, to be honest). It’s just that big of a game, which just makes the original seem even more impressive in hindsight. There’s loads to do and keep you busy here, from backtracking to previous areas, to hunting down collectibles, to completing the trading sequence and, of course, tackling the game’s dungeons, and the game is just the right level of challenge; some puzzles and dungeons are trickier and tougher than others, but that’s par for the course of a Zelda title. Honestly, it’s worth picking up for the gorgeous graphical style and music as much as the engaging, classic Zelda gameplay and I can only hope that Nintendo revisit some of Link’s earlier adventures in the same way going forward.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Have you played this new version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening? How do you feel it compares to the original and its colourised counterpart and where would you rank it amongst all the other Zelda titles, specifically the 2D adventures? Were you a fan of the more surreal narrative elements in the game, and the difficulty and challenge it offered? Which of the dungeons and Nightmares was your most, or least, favourite? Were you able to navigate the Wind Fish’s Egg without directions? Did you ever steal from the shopkeeper? Were you able to find all of the Secret Seashells? Which Zelda game is your favourite and how are you celebrating the franchise today? Whatever your thoughts on Link’s Awakening, sign up to leave a comment below, or let me know on my social media.

Game Corner [DK’s Day]: Donkey Kong (Nintendo Switch)


In 1981, Shigeru Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo R&D1 created Donkey Kong, an arcade title that was not only one of the earliest examples of the platform genre but also introduced gamers everywhere to two of Nintendo’s most recognisable characters: Mario and Donkey Kong. Mario, of course, shot to super stardom but today’s a day to celebrate everyone’s favourite King Kong knock-of and to say: Happy birthday, Donkey Kong!


Released: September 2018
Originally Released: 15 July 1983
Developer: Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki
Also Available For: Game Boy Advance, GameCube (via Animal Crossing (Nintendo EAD, 2001)), Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

The Background:
Early into 1981, Nintendo had run into a bit of trouble; their plans to expand into North America with Radar Scope (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1980) had failed and then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi turned to young designer Shigeru Miyamoto to create a new arcade cabinet to turn their fortunes around. When plans to base this new machine on the popular comic strip character Popeye fell through, Miyamoto, inspired by Beauty and the Beast (Barbot de Villeneuve, 1740) and King Kong (Cooper and Schoedsack, 1933), retooled the concept into Donkey Kong, a classic tale of man versus ape that would see gamers guide the character of Jumpman across conveyer belts and up construction sites to rescue Lady from the clutches of a cranky, stubborn ape. Following some suggestions from Nintendo’s American distributors, “Jumpman” and “Lady” were renamed to “Mario” and “Pauline”, respectively, and Donkey Kong was released across the United States in July 1981 and became the financial and critical success Nintendo desperately needed to break into the U.S. Naturally, ports soon followed; versions of Donkey Kong showed up on the ColecoVision, Atari 2600, and Intellivision as well as other home systems like the ZX Spectrum and MSX. A modified, scaled-down version of the game was also released as one of the launch titles for the NES, the console which dragged the videogame industry out of its darkest hour, and it is this version of the game which was later released for the Nintendo Switch Online and which I’ll be discussing today.

The Plot:
The cantankerous ape Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline and taken her to the top of a construction site! Her only hope is Mario, a plucky carpenter with the jumping skills necessary to scale Donkey Kong’s tower and rescue the maiden from his hairy clutches.

Gameplay:
Donkey Kong’s genre is a bit difficult to define given that videogame genres hadn’t really been fully established back in the early eighties beyond space shooters and obscure puzzle games but it is, essentially, a vertical action/platformer in which an early iteration of Nintendo’s flagship character and mascot, Mario, must run and jump up and across a series of platforms while avoiding hazards in order to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches at the top of the screen. Generally, I find Mario to be quite a slippery and unwieldy character to play as but, in his debut appearance, he moves more like he has lead weights in his shoes; his default movement is a steady but weighty jog and his jumps constantly feel like he’s struggling against the pull of gravity. The game also employs little to no momentum-based physics, meaning it’s easy to clip hazards and lose a life as a result.

Take care when jumping (or doing anything, for that matter) as it’s easy to wind up dead.

Gravity continues to be the bane of your existence as Mario takes a ridiculous amount of fall damage in Donkey Kong; drop from any height, be it one platform above or from the top of the screen, and you’re going to die. Leaping from a moving conveyer to a small platform that’s slightly below you? Instant death. Accidentally fall down a hole when you remove the rivets from stage three? Dead. As a result, there’s little margin for error in Donkey Kong and, if you screw up, you’re gonna die; there are no second chances here. As you play, you’ll notice a ‘Bonus’ score counter in the game’s limited heads-up display (HUD). This continuously counts down as you play, reducing the bonus score you’ll get upon completing a stage if you take too long. Also, if it reaches zero, guess what? Yep, you lose a life, making it a combination bonus score/time limit for additional pressure.

The game’s three stages loop continuously, getting faster and harder with each playthrough.

Unlike the original arcade game, the NES version of Donkey Kong features only three stages: the first is a construction site, the second features conveyor belts, and the third and final stage has you removing rivets to bring Donkey Kong crashing to the ground. Each time you complete these three stages, the game continues on a loop, getting faster and harder with each subsequent playthrough, however there is no true end to the game; Mario simply keels over and dies once you reach stage twenty-two, meaning that your main incentive to play the game again and again is to beat your own personal high score.

Graphics and Sound:
Donkey Kong is as 8-bit as 8-bit can be; stages consist of a stark, blank black background and are dominated by the iconic red girders and the large, looming, grinning features of the titular ape. While the arcade original was one of the first games to tell an onscreen story through the use of simple animations that we would, today, describe as cutscenes, the NES version omits these entirely but the game is charming enough to look at regardless.

The game’s graphics are charmingly simple, with Donkey Kong being the standout.

Mario is an extremely simple and yet surprisingly expressive bit of sprite work; unlike other avatars like Pac-Man, he has clearly-defined features such as a prominent nose, moustache, and his signature overalls and cap meaning that he easily stands out against the game’s otherwise-limited colour palette. Pauline looks like a bit of a mess but, luckily, Donkey Kong makes up for it by being big and full of character despite his obviously-limited frames of animation. The game features some iconic and simple melodies, boasting such features as separate tunes for the title screen, each of the game’s three stages, and for completing a stage. It’s limited by the hardware of the time, clearly, but it’s enough to have you humming along as you play.

Enemies and Bosses:
Far from the Goombas and Koopas that would later plague Mario’s every waking hour, Donkey Kong mainly has you avoiding barrels tossed at you by the giant ape. These can roll along, drop off ledges, and fall down ladders seemingly at random, meaning you constantly have to be on your toes to make split-second decisions about when to jump or climb a ladder. These barrels can also bounce around the screen, drop down vertically, and take a dip into some oil to transform into anthropomorphic flames. In stage two, Donkey Kong will also toss bouncing springs at you; as the game speeds up, these can be extremely difficult to avoid as the window of opportunity is so small and the game’s hit boxes are deceptively big.

Barrels, springs, and living fireballs are the game’s primary hazards and enemies.

In stage three, you’ll also have to watch out for more troublesome balls of fire that wander around the stage seemingly at random, going up ladders and suddenly changing direction to cost you a life. Of course, the game’s primary antagonist is Donkey Kong himself; should you brave his many hazards and attempt to tackle him directly, you’ll lose a life. As a result, the only way to defeat him is to get to the game’s third and final stage. Here, you’ll have to avoid the aforementioned fireballs while jumping over eight rivets. Once all eight are removed, the girders will vanish from beneath Donkey Kong and he will crash comically down onto his head so you can make love hearts with Pauline. Honestly, it’s probably the game’s easiest stage as the first two can get pretty hairy when the game speeds up, making the climax a little anticlimactic even for an 8-bit title.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you jump your way to rescue Pauline, you’ll be able to earn points by leaping over enemies (whatever you do, don’t jump on to them like you might expect Mario to do!) and collecting (what I assume are) Pauline’s parasol and purse from across the stages, Mario’s sole method of fighting back in this game is his trusty hammer; two hammers can be found in stage one and three (you’ll just have to fend for yourself in stage two) and collecting one will send Mario into barrel-and-fireball-bustin’ frenzy as a frenetic tune plays. The hammer will destroy anything it touches, allowing you to clear the way for your progress, but you cannot jump while holding it which, honestly, makes it kind of useless as hazards will have respawned by the time you’re ready to progress further.

Additional Features:
Being an 8-bit title, the main motivation for playing is to achieve, or beat, a high score. The game does offer four gameplay modes: two for a solo player and two for two players but I don’t have anyone to play with so I was only able to play the one-player game. From what I can tell, though, the two-player mode is a case of each player taking it in turns to play rather than a simultaneous co-op mode. When playing Donkey Kong on the Nintendo Switch, you get a few extra options that dramatically reduce the game’s difficulty thanks to the Switch’s ‘suspend menu’ mode, which allows you can create a save point at any time and rewind the game back so you can correct and miss-steps you might have made.

The Summary:
I’ve played Donkey Kong before; I’m pretty sure I had it on the Amiga back in the day and I remember sucking at the version that was included as a mini game in Donkey Kong 64 (Rare, 1999) but this is the first time I’ve properly sat down and put some time into the game. It’s a simple bit of 8-bit fun and an enjoyable slice of nostalgia; gameplay is easy to get to grips with and the controls are responsive even if Mario does feel a bit weighty in his movements. The sprites and music and charming and indicative of their era and the game offers a fair amount of challenge thanks to it speeding up the more you play. It’s obviously limited in terms of its features and options, which does affect my rating of the game, but it’s a fun enough title that’ll keep you occupied for as long as you feel like playing (in my case…about half an hour or so).

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever own Donkey Kong for the NES back in the day? Perhaps you played the arcade version out in the wild; if so, when and what was that like? Which port of Donkey Kong is your favourite? Which Donkey Kong videogame is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Donkey Kong’s anniversary this year? Whatever your thoughts on Donkey Kong, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Switch)


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March has been “Mario Month” as I have celebrated everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber on each Wednesday of the month.


Released: 18 September 2020
Originally Released: 1 November 2007
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii and Nvidia Shield

The Background:
The concept of Super Mario Galaxy’s gameplay finds its genesis in Super Mario 128, a tech demo designed to showcase the power of Nintendo’s GameCube compared to the Nintendo 64 and other consoles at the time. Specifically, it was the concept of running, jumping, and exploring shifting, spherical bodies that caught Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s imagination and many of the game’s concepts and ideas were thought up before Nintendo Wii was even developed, including new gameplay mechanics such as adding a spin attack to Mario’s arsenal to make it easier to attack enemies on spherical, 3D plane.

Super Mario Galaxy incorporated a number of new mechanics to spice up Mario’s gameplay.

After tweaking the gameplay to make things a bit more challenging for players, the team worked on implementing unique ways to take advantage of Mario’s space-based adventure, including gravity-based mechanics, new transformations and ways to play, and focusing on making the game fun to play rather than simply rushing to finish it. Super Mario Galaxy was a critical and commercial success, selling over 350,000 units in Japan during its first week alone and over 12.80 million copies worldwide by March 2020. The game also won, or was nominated for, numerous gaming awards and received an equally-well-received sequel in 2020. While that game wasn’t included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo, 2020) for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Galaxy was, meaning that I recently finally got the chance to play this game through, my to my delight.

The Plot:
All of the Mushroom Kingdom has gathered together for the centennial Star Festival. Unfortunately, the diabolical Bowser, King of the Koopas, gatecrashes the celebrations and kidnaps not just Princess Peach but her entire castle, hurtling them into outer space! Guided by Rosalina and the Lumas, Mario resolves to explore the entire galaxy, collecting both Power Stars and Grand Stars to power Rosalina’s Comet Observatory and rescue Princess Peach.

Gameplay:
Super Mario Galaxy is a 3D action/platformer that brings back many of Mario’s controls and abilities from Super Mario 64 (Nintendo EAD, 1996); not longer hampered by a water-spewing jetpack, Mario is, thankfully, once again able to backflip and long jump in addition to using his patented triple jump, side jump, and wall kicks to navigate the game’s many and varied Galaxies.

Mario has a few new tricks up his sleeve that change the way you play.

Mario can still hop on the heads of his enemies to dispatch them or use his ample rump to squash them flat but, in the absence of his punching attacks, players can now use the touch screen to gather and launch “Star Bits” at the screen to attack enemies, destroy certain objects, and reveal Yellow Coins. This allows a second player to work alongside Mario in a pretty lacklustre implementation of a two-player co-op mode but, thankfully, Mario is gifted with a new spin attack that allows him to take out enemies and helicopter his way across tricky gaps.

Travel to the game’s many Galaxies to retrieve all the Power Stars.

As in the previous 3D Mario games, Super Mario Galaxy is structured around a central hub world (in this case Rosalina’s “Comet Observatory”) from which you can enter the game’s forty-two different stages (referred to as “Galaxies”) from different areas in the hub world. Each Galaxy has anywhere from one to six different missions, the completion of which awards you with a Power Star; once you collect sixty Power Stars, you’ll be able to access the game’s final Galaxy and battle Bowser, but you’ll need all 120 to see the game’s true ending.

There are many Galaxies and missions to complete, with additional challenges on offer.

It may seem, on the surface, that Super Mario Galaxy has far too many stages on offer but not all of the Galaxies are accessible right from the start or even while you’re visiting that Galaxy. Other areas of the Comet Observatory will open up as you collect Power Stars, with numerous small, more challenging Galaxies cropping up along the way and Mario’s skills being tested by a series of “Prankster Comets”. These see you return to previous Galaxies to earn a new Power Star with only one sliver of health, racing against Mario’s doppelgänger, “Cosmic Mario”, completing the Galaxy within a time limit, and contending with much faster enemies and obstacles.

Super Mario Galaxy‘s main selling points were space, spheres, planets, and gravity.

Furthermore, Galaxies are actually quite small in a lot of ways and tackled in sections; you’ll be dropped into a Galaxy and be tasked with navigating spheres, jumping to platforms, and blasting across the area using Launch Stars, with each mission allowing you, and tasking you, to access different areas of the Galaxy to mix up the stage each time you visit. Super Mario Galaxy’s main selling point is its use of gravity- and space-based stages; almost every planet, block, or platform you stand on has its own gravitational force, allowing you to run all around it without fear of falling to your death and you can easily jump to another traversable body and get sucked into its gravity to make platforming a simple but, eventually, challenging affair as you’ll have to use all of Mario’s skills to jump and navigate across Galaxies without being sucked into a black hole and to his death.

You’ll have to complete a wide variety of missions to get all the Power Stars.

Gravity also comes into play in other ways, such as hitting clock-like arrows to change its direction or navigating across walls, blocks, and platforms while the gravity shifts in different directions. You’ll also be required to perform specific tasks or do some extremely light puzzle solving to cross the Galaxy or access the Power Star. This includes pounding on switches, collecting five yellow Star Chips to assemble a Launch Star, directing Banzai Bills or tossing Bob-ombs to blow up cages, hopping up or across temporary platforms, collecting five Silver Stars, finding Star Bunnies, racing against certain enemies or a time limit, or using a Koopa shell or manta ray to dart through rings underwater or through a water slide.

Ride the air currents with a Floaty Fluff or put Mario’s Olympic skills to good use when on ice.

Other times, the environment will assemble itself around you or become intangible thanks to a ghostly light, which will test your reaction times as much as your patience, or Mario will have to run over flip switches to progress, collect a Key, or grab a ? Coin to spawn musical notes to collect. You’ll also have to grab on to a Floaty Fluff to float across air currents, rotate Bolt Lifts by running on them to reach platforms, hitch a ride in a bubble, awkwardly run across (or skate by pressing Y) icy platforms, smash coconuts to damage certain enemies, hit levers, or fling Mario across the arena using sticky Sling Pods.

The game is at its most frustrating when you’re forced to use the Pull Stars or ride a Star Ball.

Some of the game’s more troublesome sections come from the inclusion of blue Pull Stars; you need to tap the screen to draw Mario towards these little bastards, holding down to keep him hovering there and releasing it at the right moment to slingshot across the area, usually while in a race, against a time limit, or avoiding a load of obstacles. By far the most frustrating gameplay element, though, are the missions that require you to hop onto a Star Ball and navigate mini golf-like obstacle courses full of hazards and platforms to roll off. Though Mario can jump when on the Star Ball, you are forced to use the Nintendo Switch’s lousy gyroscopic controls to roll him about, which is needlessly annoying since I found it extremely difficult to hold the machine in a way that actually made Mario move where I wanted him to and, often, Mario simply rolled wherever he wanted, often to his death.

Mario is quite weak this time around but, luckily, 1-Ups are plentiful.

Similar to its predecessors, Mario’s health is again measured with a pie chart but, this time around, Mario can only take three hits before he’ll lose a life. Mario can still replenish his health by collecting Yellow Coins, though, and a number of checkpoints appear in the game’s Galaxies (though I found there was no onscreen indication of when you had passed one of these checkpoints) which means you won’t always have to restart the Galaxy from the very beginning. Extra lives are extremely plentiful, however, with 1-Up Mushrooms placed helpfully in or near the game’s trickier sections and Mario can earn an extra life for every fifty Coins and/or Star Bits he collects and, later in the game, Princess Peach will gift you with five extra lives via a Toad courier.

Many classic Mario staples make a welcome return in Super Mario Galaxy.

It’s highly advisable to collect every Star Bit you see as hungry Lumas will appear within the Galaxies and in the Comet Observatory and feeding them is the only way to unlock all of the game’s Galaxies. You can keep track of your progress by speaking to various non-playable characters (NPCs), such as Rosalina, the Toads, and the Lumas and a map of the Comet Observatory shows you which Galaxies you need to revisit by use of a little crown to indicate when a Galaxy has been completed. Finally, unlike its predecessor, Super Mario Galaxy not only returns to the kind of stage variety we saw in Super Mario 64 but also brings back classic 2D Mario staples such as warp pipes and ? Blocks.

Graphics and Sound:
If there’s one area that Super Mario Galaxy excels in it’s presentation; the game is absolutely gorgeous, popping with colour and variety and oozing a cartoonish charm at every turn. It retains the cute, cuddly, almost action figure aesthetic of Super Mario Sunshine but improves upon it immensely, with all of the game’s environments brought to life through a fantastic use of colour, lighting, music, and intractable elements. Each Galaxy is populated by a variety of NPCs, including Toads, Lumas, Honeybees, Gearmos, and Penguins, all of whom each talk to you through speech bubbles or can be spoken to for hints or more useful rewards like Power Stars. Toads and Lumas also begin to populate the Comet Observatory as you progress, which really helps to bring some life to the hub world, which disappointingly otherwise takes more inspiration from Princess Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64 than the lively Delfino Plaza.

Super Mario Galaxy‘s stages are full of colour, challenge, and variety.

Thankfully, Super Mario Galaxy is almost the exact opposite of Super Mario Sunshine when it comes to level and gameplay variety. Each of the game’s Galaxies is unique in its presentation, with Mario visiting Galaxies of ice, lava, water, sand battleships, beachfronts, and toy-strewn bedrooms. In the Ghostly Galaxy, you’ll explore a haunted mansion that is reminiscent of both Big Boo’s Mansion from Super Mario 64 and the titular mansion of Luigi’s Mansion (ibid, 2001), explore sunken pirate ships, clamber up honey-drenched walls, race across stony platforms to avoid being sucked into deadly quicksand, and blast out from an active volcano, with every Galaxy and Star mission being an energetic and fun, yet challenging, burst of action and, at times, intensity.

The game uses are variety of storytelling methods to convey its fun and simple plot.

Perhaps best of all, Super Mario Galaxy brings back a lot of classic Mario tunes and sound effects to really bring the title back to its roots. Rather than using full blown voice acting, the game opts for speech bubbles, brief voice clips, and a heavy use of gibberish and pantomime for the few instances of dialogue. Cutscenes are also heavily reduced compared to its predecessor, with the opening cinematic split across a brief tutorial and the game opting to tell the story of Rosalina and the Luma’s through an adorable children’s book.

Enemies and Bosses:
Many of Mario’s recognisable enemies make their return in Super Mario Galaxy, with each one being slightly tweaked to accommodate Mario’s new mechanics. You can jump on Goombas to dispatch them, which will produce a Coin, but if you spin into them and kick them away you can get Star Bits, for example, adding a little strategy to how you play. Bullet Bills are often fired at you from the cannons of Bowser’s many battleships, you’ll need to toss Bob-ombs to destroy garbage or break open cages, Bloopers patrol beneath the waves, and Chomps freely roll around various Galaxies looking to take a bite out of you. Boos also make a return, now being completely immune to all of Mario’s attacks and only vulnerable to beams of light, and you’ll also encounter old favourites such as Koopas, Pokeys, Wrigglers, Twomps, Piranha Plants, and Magikoopas (who conjure fireballs your way and teleport to avoid your attacks).

Enemies old and new provide a minor nuisance to Mario’s galaxy-spanning quest.

New enemies include the bomb-throwing Cluckbooms, explosive Bomb Boos, electrified jellyfish, and easily-dispatched bugs. Just as Gombeetle’s protect themselves from your Star Bits and standard jump attacks with an armoured shell, Crabber’s can only be attacked from their exposed rear and you’ll need to use your spin attack to put out Lil’ Cinder’s flames before you can dispatch them. Mandibugs will charge at you with their pincer-like jaws, Micro Mecha-Bower’s try to roast your behind, and Monty Moles like to burrow under the dirt to catch you off guard but, while your butt stomp will serve you well in taking care of these enemies, you’ll need to use your spin attack to push the members of the Topman tribe into electrified walls to end their threat.

Run around the Dino Piranha to whack its tail but watch out for the flames!

You’ll battle sixteen bosses throughout the course of Super Mario Galaxy, with eight of them needing to be fought more than once. The first boss you’ll have to contend with is the Dino Piranha, a large, aggressive, and hungry variant of Petey Piranha. This boss stomps around a small sphere trying to trample you to death and can only be defeated by hitting its rock-encrusted tail with a spin attack. Later in the game you battle a far more formidable version of this boss, the Fiery Dino Piranha, in the Melting Molten Galaxy. Though the strategy remains the same, this battle is much more difficult by the fact that the Fiery Dino Piranha’s tail becomes engulfed in flames and the boss’s ability to spit fireballs out at you.

Use Mario’s spin attack to knock King Kaliente’s shots back at him.

Another boss you’ll go up against twice is King Kaliente, a gigantic octopus that emerges from lava to shoot flaming projectiles at you; unfortunately for him, though, he also spits out a coconut, which you can hit with your spin attack to damage him. He crops up again in Bower Jr’s Lava Reactor with the battle being made more difficult by the fact that you’re now stood on a series of small platforms that sink into lava and King Kaliente’s more frequent and aggressive attacks (though, again, the strategy remains the same; you should also be prepared to parry coconuts with the boss since it likes to knock them away as the fight progresses).

Major Burrows and Bouldergeist require a little more strategy on your part.

Major Burrows and Bouldergeist are also fought twice across the course of the game, with the battle being much tougher the second time around. Major Burrows is, basically, a giant Monty Mole and is only vulnerable when he pops up from the ground; once he does, you can perform a ground pound to scare him completely out of his hole and then attack him as he runs around the spherical stage. Bouldergeist is, by comparison, much tougher since the only way you can break off his rock-like hide is to trick Bomb Boos into colliding with him. Once his exterior is smashed, Mario must then swing a Bomb Boo into Bouldergeist’s exposed core using his spin attack but before it explodes in his face, all of which is made much more troublesome by Bouldergeist’s desire to pummel you with his hands, smash you with boulders, and erect destructible rocky walls to box you in.

Super Mario Galaxy features some big, colourful, and unique bosses battles.

Interestingly, the boss you’ll encounter the most isn’t Bowser; it’s Topmaniac, the gigantic leader of the Topman tribe who is easily disposed of by jumping on its head to get rid of its spikes and then using your spin attack to bash it into the electrified walls of the arena. The game’s bosses are all quite large, memorable affairs though: you’ll need to lure Bullet Bills over Megaleg’s legs to destroy the cages on its head; navigate icy platforms and use wall jumps to reach Baron Burr and thaw him out with Mario’s spin attack; dispatch waves of Mandibugs to ground pound the large Stink Bug Parent; you’ll need to use similar tactics (in conjunction with Banandelions and Mario’s Bee power-up) to defeat the bomb-dropping Bugaboom; fire yourself at Tarantox’s glowing red boils with Sling Pods; and fire Koopa shells at the skeletal remains of Kingfin as it swims through the dark waters.

Bowser Jr only shows up for one boss battle but you’ll fight with Kamella more than once.

Despite his prominence in the last game and frequent appearances throughout Super Mario Galaxy, you’ll only battle Bowser Jr the one time; Bowser Jr shoots cannonballs at you from his flying pirate ship and can only be damaged by throwing Koopa shells at him. This gets very intense during the final stages as Bowser Jr also starts firing Banzai Bills at you, meaning there are a lot of projectiles and hazards to watch out for at the same time. In comparison, you’ll fight Kamella three times, with each battle having a very similar strategy to fighting Bowser Jr; Kamella conjures both fireballs and green shells that you can throw at her, though she also summons Magikoopas, wandering fireballs, and teleports about the arena to make it harder for you to hit her.

You’ll face Bowser three times, with the final fight being a three stage boss battle.

As in Super Mario 64,you’ll also battle Bowser three times throughout the game, with your strategy to defeating him remaining relatively unchanged in each bout. Bowser likes to generate shockwaves across the small spherical planet you fight him on and must be lured into pounding through a sheet of glass to set his tail on fire; as he flees in pain, you can hit him with your spin attack, which can be hard to do as Bowser slides all over the sphere in an erratic pattern on the back of his shell. When you encounter Bowser again, he’ll perform his own spinning attack and launch numerous fireballs your way but it’s the finale battle of the game where Bowser is at his most formidable. This is a three phase boss battle that first sees Mario having to time his spin attack just right to hit Bowser out of the rocky exterior he has protected himself with, desperately outrun Bowser’s powerful spinning attack, and puts your jumping and reaction skills to the test avoiding the many shockwaves and fireballs that Bowser fills the small arena with. As long as you keep your wits about you and watch Bowser’s frenzied spinning, charging, and jumping attacks, these battles mainly come down to a question of properly timing your spin attack to put en end to Bowser’s latest threat.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As in all Mario games, you can collect Yellow Coins in each Galaxy; you no longer need to worry about collecting a hundred of these for a hidden Power Star, or any Red Coins (which is a blessing after Super Mario Sunshine’s massive overuse of the concept), but you will get an extra life for every fifty Coins you collect. The game’s big, new feature is the Star Bit mechanic, which allows you to fire at enemies and objects on the screen; it’s advisable to frantically swipe at any and all Star Bits you see to add to your grand total and collect extra lives but don’t get so distracted to you lose focus on what you’re doing!

Be sure to grab a Life Mushroom or Rainbow Star whenever they appear to give yourself an edge.

At various points throughout the game, you’ll find or be given the opportunity to purchase a Life Mushroom, which will double Mario’s health meter; if you spot one of these, grab it as you’ll probably need it for an upcoming boss battle or tricky section. Mario also has a number of transformations this time around, some which are familiar, some which are new, but none of which are as prominent as you might expect. You can grab a Rainbow Star to briefly become invincible, allowing you to run through enemies and hazards without fear, for example, but this only lasts for a short period of time.

Grab a power-up to temporarily gain access to some new, and familiar, abilities.

Other temporary power-ups include the returning Fire Flower (which allows you to shoot fireballs and defrost snowmen), the Ice Flower (which allows you to walk across water and wall jump up waterfalls using ice platforms), and the Red Star (which allows Mario to fly unimpeded like an upgraded version of the Wing Cap). It’s a shame that these power-ups are so limited in their appearances and use, to be honest, as it would be fun to revisit the game’s Galaxies and explore them using Flying Mario or open new areas as Fire Mario, for example.

Mario’s new power-ups are certainly fun, if a bit unwieldy at times.

Mario has other, less temporary power-ups at his disposal as well: the Bee Mushroom allows him to fly for a short time by tapping or holding A and to climb up honey-covered walls; the Boo Mushroom transforms Mario into a Boo, which allows him to float indefinitely and pass through certain walls by becoming temporarily incorporeal; and the Spring Mushroom allows Mario to bounce extremely high into the air with a well-timed press of the A button. Each of these transformations will be lost if Mario touches water or an enemy and, of the three, Bee Mario is the most often used and Spring Mario is easily the most unwieldy thanks to Mario bouncing all over the place, but none of them are as prominent as power-ups in previous Mario titles such as the Wing Cap and Raccoon Mario (which both feature on the front covers of their respective games).

Additional Features:
As in its predecessors, Super Mario Galaxy requires you to collect a number of special objects to progress further. There are 120 Power Stars to be found in the game, including Grand Stars to be won from boss battles, and rarer Green and Red Power Stars found in hidden Galaxies or from finding Mario’s brother, Luigi, in specific areas of each Galaxy. You only need sixty Power Stars to battle the final boss but, once you finish the game, a new Galaxy will appear and you’ll be tasked with collecting the remaining Power Stars to see the game’s true ending.

The Purple Coin trials are some of the game’s most frustrating challenges.

This new Galaxy introduces you to the Purple Comet mechanic; when the Purple Comet is in orbit around a Galaxy, you’ll have to collect one hundred Purple Coins to earn a Power Star. This can be quite frustrating and troublesome as you’re often racing against a time limit, which continues to count down even after the Power Star spawns, with Luigi’s Purple Coin mission being easily the most maddening trial of them all since it forces you to run across disappearing and rotating platforms over an endless void and against a time limit. If you’ve missed any of the other Prankster Comet Stars, you’ll have to chat to a Luma in the Comet Observatory to put them in orbit and collect any you’re missing.

Collect all 120 Stars to play through the entire game again as Luigi and earn that elusive 121st Star.

Once you have all 120, you then have to go through the game’s gruelling final Galaxy and battle Bowser again in order to see an additional cutscene and unlock Luigi as a playable character! Yes, finally, after the lacklustre rewards of the last two games you actually get something substantial for all your hard work. You can switch to Luigi when accessing your saved file, which will begin a new game from the start as Luigi, who jumps higher and further than his stoutly brother. Sadly, though, you must then play through the entire game all over again, collecting the same 120 Power Stars as Luigi, in order to access the game’s final final Galaxy and claim the elusive 121st Power Star by collecting another one hundred Purple Coins during the Star Festival celebrations. I don’t mean to complain about this since I have been waiting to play as Luigi, and get a decent completion reward, since Super Mario 64 but, as much as I enjoyed the game, it’s a bit much to ask players to do everything all over again as Luigi since you’re pretty exhausted after getting the first 120 Stars.

The Summary:
Super Mario Galaxy was an incredibly enjoyable experience; right from the start, as soon as I experimented with Mario’s controls, I knew that I would prefer this game over Super Mario Sunshine. It plays much more like Super Mario 64, returning a lot of Mario’s abilities and controls from that game, which makes platforming and gameplay all the better. Add to that the game’s fantastic presentation, use of classic Mario elements, and unique setting and you have an extremely grandiose and accessible Mario adventure.

It’s a massive, gorgeous game with loads of replay value and some real challenge.

While it was disappointing to see Mario still confined to a hub world and acquiring Power Stars on a mission-by-mission basis, and the game was maddeningly frustrating at times, Super Mario Galaxy does some pretty impressive things with its unique concept. Through clever use of its gravity mechanics, a rising level of challenge, and being packed full of bright, colourful environments, characters, and content, there’s certainly a lot more on offer in Super Mario Galaxy than in its predecessors and the game is presented in a way that encourages short bursts of gameplay, making it a perfect title to play on the go or in your down time.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think of Super Mario Galaxy? Did you play the original Wii version and, if so, how do you find the Switch remaster holds up? Were you a fan of the game’s space- and gravity-orientated gameplay or do you feel like the concept was a bit outlandish even for Mario? What did you think to the game’s level of challenge? Which Power Star did you struggle the most with, which Galaxy was your favourite, and what did you think of the new characters the game introduced? Did you ever finish the game as Luigi and get all 121 Power Stars? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and memories of Super Mario Galaxy, and your feedback regarding Mario Month, in the comments below.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo Switch)


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


Released: 18 September 2020
Originally Released: 19 July 2002
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo GameCube

The Background:
After the success of Super Mario 64 (ibid, 1996), a sequel had been in development for several years; however, despite a title apparently in line to be released in the early days of the Nintendo GameCube’s release, Nintendo opted to focus on Mario’s brother, Luigi, for the GameCube’s launch.

The sequel to Super Mario 64 spend many years in development.

Beginning life as a tech demo tentatively titled Super Mario 128, Super Mario Sunshine was retooled to both expand upon the mechanics and gameplay of its predecessor and to have Mario utilise a water pump as both a weapon and to navigate his environment. Upon release, the game garnered widespread critical acclaim for its presentation, music, and gameplay, though some did criticise the game’s camera and more frustrating moments. For my part, I had been attempting to buy a copy of the game for many years, having only found it to be extortionately expensive for such an old title, so I was delighted when the title was included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo, 2020) for the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
Mario arrives at Isle Delfino for a vacation with Princess Peach, her long-time steward Toadsworth, and several other Toads. However, upon arrival, they find that the once-pristine island has been polluted and plastered with graffiti and Mario, as the prime suspect, is charged with cleaning up the graffiti, recovering the missing Shine Sprites, and uncovering the mystery of his shadowy doppelgänger.

Gameplay:
Like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine is a 3D action/platformer. However, while Super Mario 64 had you leaping through magical paintings inside of Princess Peach’s castle, Mario finds himself jumping and hopping around the tropical island resort of Isle Delfino and its surrounding areas.

Mario’s jumping skills are good but not quite as versatile as before…

While, at first, it seems as though Mario retains all of his abilities from Super Mario 64, this isn’t actually the case; Mario can still run, jump, double-, and triple-jump, wall jump, and perform a sideways jump to reach higher areas but he can no longer duck, crawl, long jump, or perform a backwards somersault. This is massively problematic coming into this game right after playing Super Mario 64 as you don’t realise how helpful those abilities are until they’re missing.

Use F.L.U.D.D. to attack enemies and hover to out-of-reach areas.

Also, Mario can no longer punch or kick enemies. He can still perform a running dive (and can now use this to slide away like a rocket if he dives onto wet ground) and a ground pound, which is useful, but his primary mode of attack and manoeuvring is to utilise Professor E. Gadd’s Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device (“F.L.U.D.D.”), a water-blasting jetpack, of sorts, that not only allows Mario to clean up toxic waste, sludge, and graffiti but also to blast at enemies to stun them or topple them over and hover short distances. Mario gains a slight amount of height the longer you hold the jump button to help him reach higher areas but it’s an awkward and cumbersome system, one that makes platforming and jumping far more frustrating than it needs to be as Mario tends to spiral off like a madman, spewing water everywhere, or fall just short or reaching far away (or high up) platforms thanks to F.L.U.D.D.’s limited tank and the game’s bothersome controls.

Shadow Mario has framed Mario and spread goop and graffiti throughout Isle Delfino.

Since Isle Delfino has been polluted and graffitied by “Shadow Mario”, and the population holds Mario himself responsible, you’ll be spending a lot of your time spraying your environment with water. Entering any of the many (many) bodies of water allows Mario to not only swim and dive but also refill F.L.U.D.D. Even when F.L.U.D.D. is full, though, you can’t just spray until the tank is empty; instead, your water will sputter out after a short time whenever you try to spray stuff for a long time. If you get muck on you, you can wash it off in water or by wriggling the control stick, which can also double as a whirlwind-like jump that I, honestly, found little use for.

This time, there’s no reprieve in water or from Coins other than the common yellow variants.

As in Super Mario 64, Mario has a health meter, this time measured by a glowing sun. While health can be replenished by collecting Yellow Coins, you’ll no longer instantly regain health by entering water, though you can keep yourself from drowning by collecting Coins and sucking in air bubbles. Also, while you’ll still find Red and Blue Coins in the game’s various stages, these won’t refill your health, though Mario is far less likely to plummet to his doom this time around since there is always a massive body of water to break his fall.

Rather than Stars, Mario must find 120 Shine Sprites across a number of tropical locations.

Rather than being confined to a castle, Mario has the run of Isle Delfino, a bright and lively seaside port town that is populated by Piantas (goofy little characters who offer vague hints and task you with bringing them fruit) and a few of Peach’s Toads. Still, the general premise is the same; explore a hub world and enter into one of the game’s eight stages, seven of which featuring eight missions (known as “Episodes”) that allow Mario to recover one of Isle Delfino’s 120 Shine Sprites. Mario can, again, also find Shines in the hub world and by collecting 100 Coins in each of the stages (and easily keep track of any missing Shines using the map/totals screen) but, unlike in Super Mario 64, each Shine can only be obtained in its corresponding Episode (the Red Coins, for example, don’t appear in every Episode) and you’re still unceremoniously spat out of the current stage every time you collect a Shine (even a 100 Coin Shine), all of which means that, while each stage changes in various ways from Episode to Episode, there’s a lot less freedom and choice to how you recover the Shines.

Shine missions range from the easy, to the lazy, to the maddeningly annoying!

To recover the Shines, you’ll be tasked with performing such familiar tasks as defeating bosses, collecting eight Red Coins, or racing against another character. Each Episode also has you chasing after Shadow Mario, spraying him as you go until he yields a Shine, while some have you collecting another eight Red Coins in a startling example of laziness on the developers’ part. Other times, you’ll be running around in circles desperately trying to figure out what you need to do; each Episode opens with a short cutscene to help guide you in how to obtain its Shine but a lot of the time it’s very difficult to figure out what you need to do. Other times, you’ll be racing or collecting Red Coins against a time limit, returning to previous stages with new upgrades and abilities to get missing Shines or be tasked with performing needlessly difficult tasks, such as rolling watermelons to a pier or surfing on a Blooper without touching anything as you’ll have to start all over again or lose a life, respectively!

The damn obstacle course stages can go burn in a fiery pit!

While the game is much prettier and far more aesthetically pleasing than Super Mario 64, the same blocky visuals make an unwelcome return in the game’s many obstacle course stages; these hidden areas are found in each stage and see Shadow Mario steal away F.L.U.D.D., leaving you to run and jump across various moving, rotating, and temporary platforms without the aid of your water jet or Mario’s more useful jumping skills from the previous game. Generally, you can find at least one, if not two, 1-Up Mushrooms in these secret stages and you are going to need them as, while the game’s camera allows for full 360 degree control and is much improved over the last game’s camera, it’s still sometimes painfully difficult to get a decent angle, to say nothing of Mario’s continued slipperiness and instability (seriously, it’s like he doesn’t even try to stay on or hang from ledges!) Add to that the fact that you’ll have to frantically run around long rotating platforms, try not to slide off of cog-like blocks, and be reliant on Piantas throwing you to far away or high up platforms in these stages and it all amounts to the game’s most frustrating moments by far.

While the game is gorgeous to look at, I wasn’t exactly blown away with the stage variety.

While Isle Delfino is a much livelier and visually interesting environment, with lots to see, do, and find compared to Peach’s Castle, the variety in the game’s stages leaves a lot to be desired. It sounds stupid but the game really does rely way too much on F.L.U.D.D. and its tropical island theme; this means that every stage is full of water and such clichés as beach fronts, theme parks, and ports. While it’s nice that you’re far less likely to fall down a bottomless pit and that you can see the other stages way off in the distance, it got pretty tiresome and boring quite quickly as all of the game’s stages felt far too visually similar. Super Mario 64 was full of stage variety; one minute you’d be exploring sunken depths or sliding about in an ice and snow world, the next you’d be flying through the clouds or exploring a gas-filled maze. While some Episodes in Super Mario Sunshine inject some variety, with a haunted hotel being the focus for most of Sirena Beach and Pianta Village featuring a distinct (if frustrating) cage maze beneath it, I never got the same feeling of diversity while playing through the game and, when it did try something new, it was often frustrating shit like clambering up temporary platforms, trying to not slide off of moving and twisting fairground rides, or shooting yourself into the air using spontaneous sandscastles.

Graphics and Sound:
If there’s one thing Super Mario Sunshine has going for it, it’s its bright, colourful, and attractive graphics and presentation. In keeping with the tropical theme of the game, Mario is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and will not only doze off when left idle but also wipe sweat from his brow when in the shade. He, and all of the game’s characters, also have a plastic, action figure-like quality to them and are far more expressive thanks to the game’s greater processing power.

The water effects are fantastic and the stages are full of characters and life.

While I grew tired of the tropical theme pretty quickly, the developers definitely went all-in with it; the water effects are amazing, with waves rippling, rising, and falling in the many instances of sea, and the lighting effects really make it feel as though you’re caught in the unrelenting heat of tropical sunshine. Each of the game’s worlds, and the hub world, are populated by Pinatas, all of whom have funny little reactions to being squirted or jumping on and offer vague hints to your goal for that Episode, which really helps to make the place feel alive compared to Peach’s Castle, which was basically deserted.

Some Episodes spice things up but the game’s aesthetic doesn’t really alter until the final stage!

Though each stage doesn’t really deviate from the overall tropical theme, there are some distinctions to help them stand out; you’ll be traversing ropes and running up a hill in Bianco Hills, fly on the back of a stone bird through the skies of Gelato Beach, and dive into the polluted depths of Noki Bay, with different Episodes offering slightly different variations on each stage in an attempt to spice things up. Things don’t really become visually different until you reach the eighth and final stage, Corona Mountain, which is a volcano full of instant death spikes and lava and awkward boat steering sections.

Beautifully done, fully voiced cutscenes tell the game’s simple story.

The game relates its incredibly basic story with beautiful, fully voiced cutscenes. While Mario still only communicates through pantomime and characters use the tried-and-tested speech bubbles outside of the cutscenes, it’s refreshing to see Mario embracing full motion cutscenes for a change. As for its soundtrack, long-time series composer Koji Kondo and Shinobu Tanaka largely eschew the traditional Mario themes for an appropriately tropical theme which, while fitting for the game’s aesthetic, wasn’t quite as memorable to me as Super Mario 64’s music.

Enemies and Bosses:
Despite taking place in an entirely new environment, Super Mario Sunshine sees the return of a number of Mario’s traditional enemies, though many have undergone a slight aesthetic change to better fit in with their tropical locations. This means you’ll be coming across Bob-ombs, Boos, Bullet Bills, and Piranha Plants but you won’t just be able to smack them or jump on the to take them out this time. Instead, you generally must make use of F.L.U.D.D. to clean them off, whittle them down, expose them, or stun them to toss them at other enemies.

You’ll need more than the direct approach to take out the game’s array of enemies.

You’ll also come across a number of new enemies as you explore Isle Delfino’s sun-drenched locations, many of which are rather troublesome to take care of: Chain Chomplets must be doused with water until they cool off and then ricocheted into water to dispose of them; Cataquacks will fling you into the air when you get near and must be stunned with water so you can butt stomp them; and the Electrokoopas will throw their electrifying shell at you and are only vulnerable for a short time. By far one of the worst obstacles, though, are the swirling clouds that appear in various Episodes; these will dart at you and are very difficult to dodge, meaning you’ll probably be knocked out of the air mid-jump or sent plummeting off a high ledge to have to climb all the way back up again.

You’ll come up against a few mini bosses on more than one occasion.

Super Mario Sunshine features far more bosses than its predecessor; some of these are more like mini bosses, such as the aforementioned chases against Shadow Mario, the Piranha Plants made of sludge that need water sprayed into their mouths until they are defeated in order to open up new areas, and the Monty Moles who incessantly shoot Bob-ombs and Bullet Bills at you from cannons.

Petey Piranha and Glooper Blooper pop up for a couple of boss battles.

Twice in the game you’ll have to contend with Petey Piranha and Glooper Blooper in Bianco Hills and Rico Harbour, respectively. The first time you battle Petey, it’s in an enclosed area and he shoots gunk at you that spawns enemies or headbutts you if you get too close. The second time, he’s flying around Biano Hills and must be shot out of the sky but, in both battles, you must frantically squirt water into his mouth to make him reel over and vulnerable to a ground pound. Glooper Blooper, meanwhile, sits there spitting ink at you and trying to squash you with its tentacles; you must ground pound all (or most) of his tentacles to give yourself enough time to pull out the cork stuck in his mouth and send him flying away (though you can make this easier by pulling off his tentacles in the same way).

Wiggler and King Boo return, bigger and badder than ever!

As in Super Mario 64, you’ll also battle Wiggler and King Boo; this time around, Wiggler is a far more troublesome foe as he stomps around Gelato Beach in random patterns and can only be toppled over by causing sandcastles to spring up beneath his feet, leaving him open for a ground pound or three. King Boo is also far more formidable; this time, you have to content with three spinning rings and a roulette, which will see enemies, Coins, and fruit tossed into the arena. The only way to damage this King Boo is to grab a spicy red pepper, toss it at him, and then toss a different fruit at him three times, which isn’t immediately obvious when you first drop into the arena.

Phantamanta and Eely-Mouth can be frustrating boss battles.

Two of the game’s more unique, if frustrating and troublesome, bosses, for me, were Sirena Beach’s Phantamanta and Noki Bay’s Eely-Mouth. The Phantamanta is little more than a shadow that glides over the sandy beaches and resort leaving icky sludge in its wake; spraying it with water is the key to defeating it but, every time you do, it splits into smaller and smaller parts which, combined with the life-sapping sludge, can make this a tricky battle. Eely-Mouth is a giant eel fought in the dark depths of Noki Bay; Mario dons a diver’s suit for this battle, which means you are constantly fighting with the controls as Mario bops and hovers and darts all over the place seemingly at random, slowly drowning as time passing, and you’re desperately left trying to clean the eel’s foul, rotten teeth with F.L.U.D.D. to unearth a golden tooth that is your true goal without drowning or being eaten up.

It’s tough to get a good shot at Mecha Bowser since you’re strapped to a rollercoaster!

Though a prominent force throughout the game, you never actually battle Shadow Mario in a boss battle; after being revealed to be Bowser Jr in disguise, you take on a giant mechanical version of Bowser in Pinna Park. In this battle, you’re forced into a rollercoaster and must shoot rockets at Mecha Bowser while also blasting Bullet Bills out of the sky. While this is good practice for a particularly annoying timed Shine mission that has you shooting balloons with just as little control, the rollercoaster’s constant speed and spinning means getting a clear shot is easier said than done and that’s without factoring in Mecha Bowser’s fire breath.

Bowser might be gigantic but the biggest hazard is the precarious nature of the boss arena.

After finally getting through the treacherous Coronoa Mountain, you’ll go head-to-head with Bowser once more; this time, he’s grown to giant size and is sitting inside of a jacuzzi tub full of caustic water. Bowser tries to fry you with his fire breath and burn you with the acid-like sludge while Bowser Jr shoots homing Bullet Bills at you. The only way to win this battle is to use F.L.U.D.D.’s rocket nozzle to perform five rocket-powered ground pounds at the five spokes of the arena. However, while this eventually leads to Bowser’s defeat, it causes the already-unstable arena to further crumble and the two dragon-turtle’s attacks to increase in speed. Still, probably the hardest thing about this boss battle is not slipping or tumbling from the arena and to your death.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Although Mario can still collect 1-Up Mushrooms for extra lives, Yellow Coins for health, and both Red and Blue Coins for Shines, there are no invincibility power-ups to be found this time around and, after swapping flowers and capes for special caps in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine primarily revolves around you making good use of F.L.U.D.D. to traverse the game’s various tropical environments.

The rocket and turbo nozzle allow you to blast away in a burst of speed!

Though versatile, F.L.U.D.D. is largely more of a pain in the ass than an asset thanks to some awkward controls and mechanics at times. However, you can acquire a couple of additional nozzles to make things a bit easier; the rocket nozzle allows you to charge up and release a burst of water to go flying high into the sky and the turbo nozzle allows you to blast away across both land and water, both of which are incredibly useful for reaching new areas and out of reach or temporary Blue Coins.

Yoshi finally gets his time in the sun (…literally) but be sure to keep him away from water!

After being relegated to an after-game cameo in Super Mario 64, clearing the fourth Episode of Pinna Park will see Yoshi eggs appear in each of Super Mario Sunshine’s stages (with the exception of Corona Mountain) and the hub world. If you bring the egg the fruit it asks for, it will hatch and you’ll finally be able to ride either a pink, orange, or purple Yoshi! Yoshi can eat up fruits and certain enemies with his long tongue, use his flutter jump to reach platforms, and each Yoshi can create goopy platforms of a different nature (ascending, stationary, and forward-moving, respectively). As great as it is to actually be able to ride on Yoshi, though, there are some drawbacks; the first is that you can’t ride the traditional green Yoshi, then there’s the fact that he can’t spit fireballs and his supply of fruit drains over time, and, of course, the glaring flaw that your Yoshi will explode when it comes into contact with water, which is particularly frustrating when trying to reach a secret Shine in Delfino Plaza.

Additional Features:
Similar to how Mario’s brother was left with a purely solo adventure for his GameCube outing, this is once again a solo adventure for Mario; even after clearing the game, you can’t unlock any additional characters to play as, which is a real shame considering we missed out on playing as Luigi in Super Mario 64.

Finish the game and you’ll get to wear a snazzy shirt and revisit the airstrip.

If you talk to the various Pinatas in the game’s Episodes after collecting enough Shines, they’ll eventually gift you a pair of sunglasses that slightly darken the game’s presentation. After clearing the game for the first time, you can pair these with a super snazzy Hawaiian shirt (though neither of these can be worn outside of the Episode you are playing, unfortunately). Clearing the game once also allows you to return to the Delfino Airstrip to collect eight Red Coins for another Shine.

Getting all 120 Shines will require more patience and skill than I have…

While that’s slightly more than in Super Mario 64, it’s still a bit disappointing; once again, you don’t need all 120 Shines to clear the game but having them all slightly changes the ending you get. However, obtaining them all is no mean feat; I finished the game with 90 Shines, which was all eight stage-based Shines, all 100 Coin Shines, and a handful found around the hub world but, to get them all, you’re going to need to find all of those Blue Coins and secret stages, which can be needlessly frustrating.

The Summary:
I was super excited to finally play Super Mario Sunshine; I missed out on it back when I was playing the GameCube on the regular and have been putting off getting it for ages (literally years). The bright, colourful graphics and my fond memories of Super Mario 64 really appealed to me and fuelled my desire to finally get my hands on this game.

As great as it looks, I was left disappointed and frustrated by the lack of variety and awkwardness.

Yet, despite a promising start, I was left disappointed. There’s a lot to see and do and to like; the graphics are gorgeous, the F.L.U.D.D. concept is interesting (if flawed), and it’s great to be able to ride Yoshi again but there are so many frustrating elements to the game that really let it down. There’s very little stage variety, too many missions per stage (with too many repeating, such as the Red Coin challenges), too much water for my liking (no matter how fitting it is for the game’s setting), and just far too many instances where you slip or fall from platforms, ledges, or ceilings or fail to make jumps because of an awkward camera angle or Mario just deciding to miss or fall. The secret obstacle course stages are an absolute ball ache and, just as the game seems to be getting interesting, it’s over in uncharacteristically anticlimactic fashion, leaving me feeling disheartened and drained rather than encouraged to hunt down the last few Shines.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What are your thoughts on Super Mario Sunshine? Did you play it on the GameCube back in the day or, like me, did you first experience it on the Nintendo Switch? What did you think to F.L.U.D.D. and the game’s tropical island setting? Were you also frustrated by the controls, mechanics, and over-reliance on the setting or did you, perhaps, enjoy the different direction the game took and the challenge it offered? Were you glad to be riding Yoshi again and did you manage to find all 120 Shines? What other setting would you like to see Mario placed into? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and pop back next Wednesday for the final instalment of Mario Month!

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo Switch)


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


Released: 18 September 2020
Originally Released: 23 June 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS (Remake), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

The Background:
By the end of 1983, the videogame industry was dead after crumbling under the weight of countless overpriced consoles and poor quality titles. From the ashes, Nintendo stepped in and pretty much single-handedly rebuilt the industry with the release of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom)/Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a machine marketed not as another home videogame console but as a more market-friendly “Entertainment System”. The videogame industry was resurrected from the dead with the NES and the blockbuster success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) and given a massive kick into overdrive following the release of the SEGA Mega Drive and Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991). The “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties resulted in some of the greatest 8- and 16-bit releases, a series of videogames that defined an entire generation, and ensured that videogames were big business once more. Very quickly, though, the story became about which developer could be the more innovative than the other and who would crack 3D gaming first. SEGA attempted to break into the 32-bit arena with a series of expensive add-ons for the Mega Drive while Nintendo played the long game, discussing various CD-based options with both Sony and Panasonic and inadvertently creating one of the industry’s biggest gaming powerhouses, the PlayStation, when talks with Sony fell apart.

After cutting ties with Sony, Nintendo developed their own 64-bit machine.

Initially developed as the “Ultra 64”, the Nintendo 64 was Nintendo’s first fully-3D home console and was officially announced to the world on 24 November 1995; although the console favoured more expensive and limited cartridges over CD-ROMS, this dramatically sped up the load times of its titles and helped to reduce piracy. The console also utilised a unique (and massively under-rated) controller that included an analogue stick for full 3600 movement and could be fitted with Rumble and Memory Paks, and the system launched a number of first- and third-party titles that would be exclusive to the console. One such title was, of course, Super Mario 64. Developed over the course of three years, Super Mario 64 sought to showcase exactly what the Nintendo 64 was capable of by offering large, open 3D worlds that allowed for exploration, experimentation, and offered a diverse field of view. The game was a massive critical and financial success and is still the best-selling Nintendo 64 videogame of all time; just as Super Mario Bros. had set the standard for 2D sidescrolling platformers back in the day, so too did Super Mario 64 set the standard for 3D platformers in this new era of gaming. The game was later ported to the Nintendo DS in what is, in my view, the definitive version of the game thanks to the additional elements it provides but it was also included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo, 2020) for the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
Princess Toadstool (finally referred to as “Peach” for the first time outside of Japan) invites Mario to her castle with the promise of cake but, when he arrives, he finds that the diabolical Bowser, King of the Koopas, has kidnapped the Princess and hidden the castle’s Power Stars within a series of paintings throughout the castle. Never one to back down from a challenge, and motivated by the promise of a sweet treat, Mario leaps into the castle’s magical paintings to retrieve the Stars and rescue Peach and the castle’s Toad guards from Bowser’s clutches.

Gameplay:
I think it’s safe to say that everyone who owned a Nintendo 64 back in the day also owned Super Mario 64; it was the first (and, for a long time, the only) Nintendo 64 title I had when I got the console and all of my friends had it, too. Thanks to the realities of life, it was also the first Nintendo home console I owned and the first main-line Mario game I had ever owned and, honestly, it was a pretty great way to experience of Mario’s unique world and cast of characters (not to mention mind-boggling through its crisp 3D models and tight controls).

Peach’s Castle is the game’s hub world, with Stars hidden in paintings and needed to open doors.

Super Mario 64 is a 3D action/platformer in which you play as the titular Mario. The game takes place entirely within Princess Peach’s Castle and the grounds outside of it; within the castle are a series of magical paintings that lead Mario to a total of fifteen Courses, each with six mission-based Power Stars to collect and one hidden Star. You can also find a number of additional secret Stars in other paintings and mini Courses scattered throughout the castle and you’ll need to collect a certain amount in order to open doors to more Courses. Once you have enough Stars, however, Courses can be attempted in any order you wish but you may be limited in what you can do if you haven’t unlocked the game’s three cap-based power-ups and you’ll need a boss key to access the castle’s upper and lower areas, plus at least seventy Power Stars to battle the final boss and all 120 to see the game through to 100% completion.

You’re required to fulfill certain objectives to acquire each Course’s Stars.

When you enter a Course, you must select a Star Mission to tackle; at first, you’ll only be told of the first mission but, once you’re in the Course, you can generally attempt to obtain any Star you wish (with some exceptions). This means that you can free the Chain-Chomp instead of racing Koopa the Quick, for example. Each Star comes with a vague hint about how to acquire it (“Lil’ Penguin Lost” or “Shining Atop the Pyramid”) but it’s not always massively clear what you have to do to obtain these Stars, encouraging exploration and experimentation (or a quick Google search). Collecting one hundred Yellow Coins in every Course will also award you with a Power Star and, sometimes, you’ll have to revisit secret Courses to obtain another Star you may have missed but, generally, the Star Missions are quite similar across all courses (battle a boss, find five secret areas, utilise a cap, scale to the top, etc).

Mario’s jumping abilities have vastly improved.

As in his 2D outings, Mario’s primary form of traversal and attacking is his ability to jump but this ability has been expanded exponentially to allow for a far more diverse means of movement and to showcase the capabilities of the Nintendo 64. Pressing jump once will see Mario perform a hop; press it again and he will jump higher, and press it a third time while running and Mario will somersault even higher, allowing him to reach out-of-reach ledges with ease. If you press the R button while running and then press jump, Mario will throw himself forwards to cover faster distances in one dramatic leap, which is great for reaching faraway platforms or navigating Mario at a faster pace.

Mario’s wall kick helps him reach higher areas…when you can see what you’re doing…

It doesn’t end there, either; Mario gains momentum as he runs and jumps, meaning if you jump onto an enemy’s head while running, you’ll get a boost upwards and jump further. He can also perform a wall kick to scale vertical shafts quickly but not, it has to be said, with a great deal of ease; as will come up numerous times in this review, the wall kick is somewhat hampered by the game’s janky camera and how difficult it can be to properly judge your perspective and alignment to certain walls and objects. When you can pull it off though (which, to be fair, is more often than not and can be perfected with practise), it’s a nifty little trick that you can combine with long jumps and triple jumps to move Mario’s pudgy behind at a break-neck pace.

Mario has a lot of melee attacks to send enemies flying.

For what I believe is a first in the series, Mario can also perform a series of melee attacks to fend off his foes. Pressing the attack button once will see him perform a punch but press it twice more and he’ll perform another punch followed by a big ol’ kick to send enemies flying. You can also perform a sweep kick while crouching, a jump kick, and a diving attack by running, jumping, and hitting the attack button, a ground-pound (where Mario will flatten enemies with his butt), and also pick up certain blocks and even enemies to toss them at other enemies. It’s quite a deep control scheme, to be honest, offering a range of smooth and crisp combat and movement options; you can run Mario in any direction at full speed and, with a twitch of the analogue stick and a press of the jump button, side-flip around to get the drop on enemies, wall kick your way up to otherwise inaccessible areas, or backflip your way to another Power Star with ease.

Although Mario can grab edges, the camera makes it easy to slip or misjudge your jumps.

Mario can also grab onto ledges to save himself from accidental falls and pull himself up from tricky jumps; however, this isn’t as reliable as you might think and it’s just as easy to bounce head-first off of a platform or ledge and fall to your death or go careening down a bottomless pit or into a river of butt-burning lava. Similarly, the game’s camera can sometimes get stuck behind other objects, which can cause it (and Mario) to freak out a bit; Mario also stutters and jitters if positioned too close to an edge and will most likely fall to his death if you don’t quickly tap that jump button.

Mario visably feels the affects of low health but it’s easily replenished through a variety of means.

Thankfully, Mario is far more durable than in the majority of Mario videogames; he has a life bar (represented be a colourful pie chart) that loses a segment each time he takes a hit or other damage. Once all segments are drained, Mario loses a life and is unceremoniously spat out of the Course he was in and will have to attempt the Course over from the beginning. Luckily, Mario can refill his health by running through spinning Hearts dotted around each Course, collecting Coins, or taking a dip in water and is only dependant on Mushrooms to gain an extra life.

Be sure to get your cap back as quick as you can if you lose it as you take double damage without it!

Take care when swimming, however, as Mario’s health will slowly deplete and he’ll eventually drown unless you collect Coins or suck in an air bubble and he’s also not capable of surviving being sucked into quicksand. Compounding matters is the fact that certain enemies and hazards will cause Mario’s iconic cap to fly off; if you lose your cap, be sure to collect it as quickly as possible as you’ll take double damage without it!

Graphics and Sound:
Even now, after the release of so many technically superior 3D action/platformers, Super Mario 64 holds up ridiculously well. It’s a testament to how diligently Shigeru Miyamoto and his team worked to showcase the power and capability of the Nintendo 64 as character models still look spot on to this day, seamlessly retaining their quality and stability (unless you move Mario too far away from the camera, of course), and the game is just as silky smooth as ever. Sure, Bowser doesn’t look so great these days (and he, along with all of the character models, were vastly improved in the DS remake) but it’s cute to see all of Mario’s eccentricities, from his enthusiastic shouts when he hops around, his triumphant cry of “Her-r-re we go-o-o!” whenever he grabs a Star, and the way he falls into a mumbling sleep when he’s left idle for a short time.

Bob-omb Battlefield is a perfect introduction to the game’s basic mechanics.

Having said that, though, there are some issues that are more noticeable with the benefit of hindsight. The game’s Courses vary wildly in their scope and quality; the first, Bob-omb Battlefield, is basically a tutorial area where you’ll quickly get to grips with the game’s controls and mechanics. As user friendly as you could like, Bob-omb Battlefield features some basic enemies and hazards and is completely devoid of bottomless pits, something the vast majority of the game’s other Course cannot say.

In most Courses, you’re only one stupid mistake away from plummeting to your death.

Courses like Whomp’s Fortress, Cool, Cool Mountain, and Tall, Tall Mountain are all much more limited in their scope, substituting a quasi-sandbox arena for vertically-themed stages that hover over a bottomless pit, meaning you’re always one stupid mistake away from falling to your death. Things don’t get really frustrating, however, until you reach the game’s final Courses; Tick Tock Clock and Rainbow Ride suspend you over a vast, empty void that will truly test your skill and patience thanks to the game’s dodgy camera and some very tricky and frustrating platforming elements.

Courses are carefully thought-out sandboxes restricted only by the finicky camera.

Other stages, like Jolly Roger Bay and Hazy Maze Cave, also feature an abundance of water; this isn’t a massive issue as Mario is quite a capable swimmer but he’s not exactly a fast swimmer and the game’s controls noticeably lag when he’s under water. Combine this with the aforementioned camera troubles and how easy it is for the camera to get stuck behind objects and these Courses can be difficult to navigate. The camera is serviceable for the most part, to be fair, and automatically and diligently following Mario around to provide the optimal viewpoint but Nintendo really should have integrated full 3600 camera control into the Switch version to correct this one glaring flaw.

There’s both variety and a lack of variety in Super Mario 64‘s Courses…

Still, the game offers a fair amount of variety in its Courses; Big Boo’s Haunt and Lethal Lava Land are standouts for me thanks to their unique mechanics and visual presentation but, at the same time, it lacks variety in a number of other instances. For example, Jolly Roger Bay and Dire, Dire Docks are essentially the same stage with the same music and, as much as I like Snowman’s Land, did we really need two snow/ice-themed stages? Plus, playing the game now, it’s really hard not to notice how basic a lot of the stage geometry is; everything is very angular and blocky, which isn’t surprising given it was a Nintendo 64 launch title, but it’s one of the many reasons why I prefer Banjo-Kazooie (Rare, 1998) since it improved and expanded upon everything Super Mario 64 pioneered.

Cutscenes with some charming voice acting bookend the game’s plot.

The game only really has a handful of cutscenes, all of which are rendered using the in-game graphics and are simply there to establish the game’s simple plot, relay that you’ve opened up new areas or discovered a Star, and convey the game’s ending. These are accompanied by a few instances of voice acting from Peach as Mario, Bowser, and other enemies are limited to a few sound bites, grunts, and yelps, which adds to the game’s cartoonish charm. Finally, Super Mario 64 is bolstered by a bombastic and catchy soundtrack from long-time Mario and Nintendo composer Koji Kondo; a lot of the tracks are re-used on multiple Courses but they’re so fitting and memorable that I can forgive it and if you don’t find yourself humming along to the main castle theme then you honestly have no soul.

Enemies and Bosses:
If I’m being brutally honest, Super Mario 64 doesn’t feature much in the way of enemy variety; within the first handful of Courses, you’ll have encountered pretty much all of the enemies and hazards the game has to offer but, to be fair, these are all used sparingly and to great effect. They’re generally present to cause you some issues when trying to jump and clamber up to new areas rather than being formidable challenges in their own right; you’re far more likely to get bumped off a ledge and to your death rather than beaten to a pulp by these enemies.

Some of Mario’s most iconic enemies get a slick 3D makeover.

You’ll come up against classic Mario enemies such as Goombas (who now hop up in alarm and charge at you head-first when you cross their eye line), Bob-ombs (who chase you relentlessly as their fuse ominously burns down before exploding in a shower of Coins), Boos (who turn incorporeal when you face them so you’ll have to sneak up on them from behind or perform a backflip into a ground-pound), Koopas (give them a thump to ride their shell like a skateboard), and Shy Guys (annoying little bastards that buzz all around you shooting fireballs your way and send Mario into a whirlwind spin if he jumps on them). Each of these has been brought to life with a snazzy 3D makeover that imbues them with simple, but charming, attack and movement patterns and characteristics.

Watch out for the game’s larger and more troublesome enemies…

You’ll also come up against some new enemies; Amps will spin around in a tight circle and electrocute Mario if he touches them, Bubba will swallow him whole if he enters the water while exploring the “Tiny” side of Tiny-Huge Island, three different varieties of Bullies will try to knock Mario off platforms and to his death, Chuckyas and Heave-Hos will also try to throw Mario to his doom, and Klepto and Ukkiki will steal Mario’s cap if given half a chance. You’ll also have to sneak up on the sleeping Piranha Plants to knock them out without getting bitten and watch out for that Goddamn piano in Big Boo’s Haunt as it’ll randomly spring to life to scare the piss out of you!

The strategy for beating these two will serve you well for the remainder of the game’s bosses.

Not every Course in Super Mario 64 has a boss battle but nine out of fourteen isn’t bad. The first one you come across, King Bob-omb, teaches you the fundamental mechanics Mario will need to defeat not only Chuckyas but also Bowser himself as you’ll have to run around the King to grab him from behind and then throw him three times without being thrown off the top of his mountain to defeat him. The second boss, the Whomp King, is even easier to defeat; simply run beneath him or dodge out of the way when he tries to squash you and ground-pound his back three times and he’ll burst into pieces to award you a Star.

Big Boos and big eyes haunt the decrepit mansion…

In Big Boo’s Haunt, you’ll do battle with three Big Boos but, despite their intimidating size, they’re as easily dispatched as any other Boo with the only troublesome one being the Big Boo you battle on the balcony at the top of the haunted house because of the risk of falling. You’ll also encounter a large variant of the Mr. I enemy in this Course but, again, it’s defeated in exactly the same way as any other Mr. I (simply run around it until it gets dizzy and explodes). You’ll also encounter larger variants of existing enemies in Lethal Lava Land and Snowman’s Land, in this case the Bullies; again, though, the hardest thing about fighting these guys is making sure you don’t accidentally slip off the small platform you fight them on or let them push you into the molten lava or freezing water, respectively.

Bosses might be big and talk a good game but they go down pretty easily.

Finally, you’ll have to do battle with the Eyerock inside the pyramid in Shifting Sand Land and a Wiggler on Tiny-Huge Island; the Eyerock is probably the most challenging boss before the final battle with Bowser as it constantly shields its one (well, two really) weak point (the eye) in its rock-like fists, tries to squash you at every opportunity, and can easily shove you off the platform and to your death (luckily, though, you’ll restart right before this battle if you immediately enter the painting again). The Wrigger is pretty much the same basic deal as the Whomp King; although he looks intimidating due to his size, he only looks big because you’re small and you simply ground-pound him three times to take him out, making sure to dodge him as he wriggles around the arena faster and faster with each hit.

Bowser is a bit of a pushover the first time you face him…

The game’s true boss is, of course, Bowser, Mario’s long-time enemy and most persistent foe. You’ll battle Bowser three times and each time you must have the correct number of Stars to access a troublesome mini Course that leads to the Warp Pipe into Bower’s arena. Each time you face Bowser, the general strategy is the same; avoid his attacks and run around him to grab his tail, then rotate the analogue stick to swing him around and then press the attack button to send him flying into one of the many bombs that line the outskirts of each arena. The first time you face Bowser, he’s pretty weak; he’ll stomp around in a circle, slowly spitting fireballs at you, and isn’t much of a threat as long as you don’t run into him, get hit by his burning flames, or fall off the platform and you’ll only have to toss him into a bomb once to take him out, making him functionally weaker than King Bob-omb.

Things (literally) heat up in the second encounter with Bowser…

The second battle ramps things up a bit; Bowser can still be defeated with one bomb but he’ll now jump up and come crashing down on the platform, tilting it into a steep angle that will send you sliding into a bomb yourself or down to the fiery depths below. Bowser also now teleports across the arena if you get too close to him to prolong the battle and will tilt the stage each time he leaps up to the arena from a missed throw so make sure your accuracy is on point when you send him flying.

Bowser isn’t messing around in the third and final fight and throws everything he has at Mario!

The final battle is where Bowser really brings his A game; the music is far more ominous and foreboding and Bowser can now charge at you, spit a slew of fireballs onto the arena (including blue ones that bounce all over the place) and produce shockwaves that must be jumped over every time he lands from a jump. To make matters worse, Bowser must now be thrown three times before he is defeated and, after taking two hits, will stomp around the arena in a tantrum, causing parts of it break off until it resembles a Star and limiting your options for escape and movement. It’s not all bad, though; some of Bowser’s flames will produce Coins to replenish your health and, technically, the strategy remains the same; as with every Bowser battle, it’s just a question of patience and getting your shot lined up to throw him into the final bomb and finally get your cake!

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Although Mario can still collect a 1-Up Mushroom for an instant extra life and three different types of Coins (Gold, Red, and Blue, each offering different increments to your total Coin count), no other traditional Mario power-ups are present and unlike in other Mario videogames where Mario would collect a Super Mushroom to grow bigger and gain an extra hit or a Fire Flower to throw fireballs at enemies, Super Mario 64 takes inspiration from Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992) and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (ibid, 1994) by giving Mario access to three different caps to aid his progress.

Soar through the sky, pass through walls, or become invincible with Mario’s special caps.

The Wing Cap gives Mario the ability to fly after performing a triple jump or being shot out of a cannon; by diving and pulling up, you can fly higher and further but just make sure you land before it wears off or you’ll suffer a damaging fall. The Vanish Cap turns Mario invisible and incorporeal, allowing him to walk through enemies and wired cages and the Metal Cap allows Mario to walk underwater and renders him functionally invincible at the cost of his speed and more elaborate jumping mechanics. Each cap must be activated by ground-pounding giant switches inside three different hidden mini Courses and are essential to collecting all 120 Power Stars but, it has to be said, their use is surprisingly sparse and you’ll be relying on Mario’s base moveset for the vast majority of the castle’s challenges.

Additional Features:
As big and involving as Super Mario 64 is, there’s sadly not a whole lot of replay value to be had especially compared to the DS remake, which featured four playable characters, additional Courses and Stars, and mini games to pass the time. You can mess around with Mario’s big, goofy 3D face on the title screen, stretching and distorting it at your leisure, which is a nice touch, and the game also allows you to have four different save files and to erase or copy each one, allowing for multiple playthroughs.

Secret Stars are hidden in each Course and all over the castle so search everywhere.

Additionally, while you only need seventy Stars to take on the final battle against Bowser and clear the game, you won’t get 100% completion unless you collect all 120 Stars. This is easier said than done, especially on Courses like Wet-Dry World, Tall, Tall Mountain, and Rainbow Ride which have lots of difficult platforming sections, bottomless pits, and barely enough Coins for you to get those hidden one hundred Stars. You’ll also need to search the castle thoroughly for hidden Courses (like the Princess’s secret slide), talk to the Toads scattered throughout the castle, and catch Mips the Rabbit to find some hidden Stars. Stars are also obtained by finding eight Red Coins in the cap and Bowser stages and other hidden Courses around the castle; luckily, you can track your progress from the pause menu and from the file selection screen so you always know where you might have missed a Star or two.

Find all 120 Stars and you’ll get…very little of value, to be honest…

Sadly, though, finding all 120 Stars doesn’t really offer much in terms of a reward. If you defeat Bowser with all 120, he’ll have some slightly different dialogue to acknowledge your efforts and, after reloading your completed save file, you’ll find you now have access to a cannon on the castle grounds. Use this to blast yourself onto the castle rooftop and you’ll find Yoshi, who has a special thank you message from the developers and awards you with one hundred lives before buggering off. Unfortunately, though, this is completely redundant as you’ve beaten the game and acquired every Star so there’s no real incentive to explore the completed Courses again with your abundance of lives. Perhaps it would have been better to have Yoshi be accessible from a new save file, or even placed within Courses to offer a new Star challenge. Hell, I would have even accepted a ‘New Game+’ mode where the entire game is mirrored but, instead, you get a tantalising cameo and a whole shit load of extra lives that are basically pointless as you’re more likely to just start a new game from scratch than to go back through stages you’ve already completed to 100%.

The Summary:
Super Mario 64 is still an absolutely gorgeous and incredibly fun gaming experience; even now, some twenty-three years after its release, it still holds up remarkable well as one of the tightest, slickest, and most engaging 3D platformers ever. While the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998) are technically far superior games, Super Mario 64 set a standard for all 3D platformers to strive to achieve and which many failed to match.

Sadly, Nintendo didn’t take the time to improve on the game’s few shortcomings for the Switch port.

It cannot be denied, however, that the game does still have some lingering issues; the camera, for all its diversity, is the most glaring and Mario’s tendency to get a bit stuck on platform edges or to hug walls when standing too close to them as well as his willingness to just slip to his death can all lead to some frustratingly unfair deaths and game overs but, for the most part, all of the game’s shortcomings can be overcome with the right degree of patience, skill, and experience. Once you master the game’s simple controls and mechanics, you can perform all kinds of nifty tricks and feats to aid your progress and you’ll find that the game has given you more than enough tools to find all 120 Stars if you’re skilled enough.

Super Mario 64 still holds up really well and is still one of the best 3D platformers ever made.

With its stunning, colourful visuals, tight and responsive controls, catchy music, and addictive gameplay that is easy to learn and master, Super Mario 64 is positively brimming with gameplay variety. There’s always a new area to unlock and explore, new Courses and hidden Stars to discover, and the attention to detail is staggering for a Nintendo 64 launch title. My only regret is that Nintendo didn’t add in a widescreen feature or patch in that two player co-op mode they had planned or even the ability to play as Luigi after finding all 120 Stars in the Switch version but none of that diminishes the fundamental appeal of Super Mario 64.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Did you play Super Mario 64 back in the day? Was it your first game for the Nintendo 64 or did you pick it up later? Perhaps you first experienced it on the Nintendo DS; if so, which version of the game do you think is the best? Which of the game’s Power Stars, Courses, enemies, or bosses caused you the most (or the least) hassle? Do you think Yoshi and his one hundred lives was a good enough reward or would you have liked to see something else; if so, what? What are your fondest memories of the Nintendo 64? Perhaps you hated the system; if so, why (and what’s wrong with you?) Whatever you think, comment below and let me know and don’t forget to come back next week for more Mario content.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Mario Bros. (Nintendo Switch)


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’m making March “Mario Month” and celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber every Wednesday from today.


Released: September 2018
Originally Released: 9 September 1983
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Apple II FM-7, Arcade, Atari, Commodore 64, Game & Watch, Game Boy Advance, ZX Spectrum, Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console), Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console), PC-88

The Background:
Mario made his inauspicious debut in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983); in that game, the avatar formally known as “Jumpman” would die from the briefest of falls and was originally a carpenter. However, after playing with the concept and exploring other gameplay mechanics, creator Shigeru Miyamoto redesigned Mario into a format where he would be capable of carrying his own arcade title (fitting, considering Miyamoto originally intended for Mario to be Nintendo’s go-to, catch-all character to feature in numerous titles and roles). Released in Japan on 14 July 1983 and in North America on the 20th, Mario Bros. featured Mario (and introduced his palette-swapped brother, Luigi) knocking over baddies in the sewers of New York. Though the arcade cabinet was only modestly successful in Japan, the NES port sold over 1.60 million copies and, despite the title being massively overshadowed by its NES follow-up, the title has been ported to numerous systems, the most recent of which being the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I’ll be talking about today.

The Plot:
The sewers have been infested by all kinds of creepy-crawlies and only two portly plumber brothers have the jumping skills necessary to clear the pipes!

Gameplay:
Mario Bros. is a wraparound platformer in which players take control of either Mario or Luigi and venture through thirty-five largely-similar stages (called “Phases”); the stages are set within the sewers of New York City and, as was popular in arcade games, players and enemies can exit on the left side of the screen and emerge on the other (or vice versa) to endlessly loop around the one-screen stages.

Bop enemies from underneath to tip them over and dispatch them all to clear the Phase.

In Donkey Kong, Mario’s only defence was to jump over hazards or grab a hammer and smash them to pieces; in Mario Bros., the hammer is gone and titular brothers still can’t dispatch enemies by jumping on them. The only way to take out the game’s handful of enemies is to attack them from below; as they pass overhead, jump at the platform above you and you’ll either topple the enemy over or deal some damage to get them prepped to be knocked over, and then you can run into them to kill them off and earn some points. Dispatch all onscreen enemies and you’ll have cleared that Phase and can move on to the next; wash, rinse, and repeat. This is easier said than done, however; one of the biggest complaints I have with playing Mario videogames (especially the 2D titles) is how slippery and unwieldy Mario can be and Mario Bros. is no different. The characters slip and slide all over the place, meaning it’s pretty easy to run head-first into an enemy or miss-time a jump as you fly right past the platform edge.

The game speeds up as you progress, making that high score harder to obtain.

At the same time, Mario’s jump is nerfed; it’s literally like trying to run on ice and jump underwater as the moment you press the jump button, gravity does everything it can to make vertical movement difficult for you. You simply lose all momentum and easily miss a jump even when you’re standing right next to it, which can be frustrating when you’re just trying to make a simple jump upwards or across. Luckily, Mario and Luigi don’t take fall damage but, like a lot of titles at the time, it’s one-hit kills and there is no health bar or health power-ups. As you might expect, then, the objective is to defeat enemies and collect Coins in order to earn the highest score possible, earning more points for taking out enemies simultaneously. There’s not a lot to the game; Phases remain largely the same but enemies and hazards increase in speed and difficulty as you progress and you are invited to collect as many Coins as possible in the game’s timed Bonus Stages every now and then in order to increase your score.

Graphics and Sound:
It’s hard to get a more classic, pure-blood 8-bit title than Mario Bros.; it belongs in the same conversation as titles like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man (Namco, 1980), and Space Invaders (Taito, 1978) for traditional, 2D arcade action. By utilising a far more stripped back aesthetic and stage layout compared to Donkey Kong, the developers seem to have freed up some space for slightly more detailed sprites and enemy variety but it can’t be denied that it lacks the big, bold sprites of Donkey Kong.

The graphics are simple but there is a lot happening onscreen as things speed up.

While the Phases don’t change very much as you play, there are far more sprites onscreen at any one time (including two simultaneously playable characters if you have a friend to play with) and much more enemy variety compared to Donkey Kong. Luigi might be a simple recolour but it’s better than nothing and indicative of the hardware limitations of the time. What probably lets the game down the most beyond the lack of stage variety has to be the music as there’s no really memorable tunes here and it’s easy to see why this game would be forgotten compared to its big brother.

Enemies and Bosses:
Mario and Luigi will primarily be faced with little turtles known as Koopas Shellcreepers; though relatively harmless and predictable compared to the game’s other enemies, they’ll still kill you if they touch you so bump them from underneath to turn them on their shells and kick them out of there! You’ll also encounter Sidesteppers (which are basically just crabs and require two hits before they’ll tip over), and Fighter Flies (which hop around the stages) as you progress through later Phases.

Enemies increase in their frequency and difficulty but there are no bosses to fight here.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, red and green fireballs emerge from the pipes and sides of the screen, as does Slipice (which slides around and will transform platforms into literal ice unless you shatter them from beneath). Mario Bros. contains no boss battles or primary antagonist to test your skills against; instead, you’ll encounter more and more and increasingly-faster versions of these enemies. Each enemy will react to others or to Coins and change their direction, as well, meaning it can require a bit of strategy and forethought to topple them all when the Phases hit their highest difficulty.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There is very little to aid Mario and Luigi in their quest to clear up the sewers; there are no power-ups to pick up or weapons to obtain, meaning you’re forced to rely on your skills and ability to work with the game’s dodgy physics and controls. You can, however, attack a “POW” block to flip every onscreen enemy in one screen-shaking hit. The “POW” block can only be hit three times, however, and once it’s gone you’ll have to wait until the next one spawns in after a Bonus Stage so it’s best to save it for the game’s harder Phases.

Additional Features:
As a conversion of an 8-bit arcade title, the primary objective of the game is to achieve, or beat, a high score. You can pick from four different modes: two are for a single player and two are for two players but, since I don’t have anyone to play with, I could only play the standard ‘Game A’ game. If you do have a friend, though, you have the option of playing as Mario and Luigi in two player co-op, which I’m sure increases the replay value to the game exponentially. Even better, the Nintendo Switch provides a few extra options to make things easier for you; using the Switch’s ‘suspend menu’ mode, you can create a save point at any time and rewind the game so you can correct any mistakes you might have made.

The Summary:
Mario Bros. is a decent enough port of the original arcade game. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really a lot to the game to begin with and the NES version doesn’t really add or improve upon the format very much. However, as fun a distraction as Mario Bros. is and as attractive as the old school 8-bit sprites look, it definitely wears out its welcome a lot faster than Donkey Kong or its follow-up title. Within the first three or five stages, you’ve basically seen everything there is that the game has to offer and, though the game increases in speed and difficulty, there’s just less to it compared to other arcade titles or even Donkey Kong, which requires far more skill to get through. As a videogame, Mario Bros. is much better as a mini game to be included in other Mario titles (as it was on the Game Boy Advance) rather than a full game in and of itself and it’s not surprising that Nintendo was able to improve upon this formula when the bar was set so low.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever play Mario Bros. back in the day, on NES or out in the arcade? What did you think to it compared to other Mario titles and arcade games of the time? Which of the two brothers did you always play as and what was your best score in the game? How are you celebrating Mario Day this year? No matter what you think about Mario Bros. or Mario games in general, leave a comment below and pop back next week for another review as part of Mario Month.

Game Corner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

Released: 3 March 2017
Developer: Nintendo EPD

The Background:
As I detailed in my review of the first game, The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo EAD, 1986) was an extremely popular title when it released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and sold over 6.5 million copies. This, of course, was only the beginning for the series, which has become one of Nintendo’s most lucrative and popular franchises of all time, which made a successful jump to 3D with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (ibid, 1998) and has largely aimed to be bigger and better with each successive entry. Development of Breath of the Wild began sometime after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (ibid, 2011), a commercial success that was easily the largest and most complex Zelda title released at that time. For the next title, though, series producer Eiji Aonuma wanted to completely rethink the conventions of the franchise and create a much bigger, more interconnected world.

Over the years, Zelda has grown into an epic, large-scale adventure series.

After developing an 8-bit prototype to experiment with physics-based puzzles, Aonuma encouraged his team to rethink the game’s approach to puzzles and to create a grand, open world adventure more akin to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011). To further separate it from other entries in the franchise, it was also the first Zelda title to use voice acting in cutscenes (though Link remained unnervingly silent), the physics were purposely built to be the most realistic yet, and the game was specifically designed so that players were free to explore and experiment (they could even skip the story entirely, if skilled enough). Breath of the Wild proved immensely popular upon release; many reviewers considered the game to be a “masterpiece” and one of the most immersive videogames ever made. Breath of the Wild also won numerous awards, was the third-bestselling Zelda title at the time, and earned itself a direct sequel after Aonuma’s team found they had too many ideas for the game to be limited to downloadable content (DLC).

The Plot:
After a botched resurrection attempt leaves Ganon little more than a calamitous force of nature, Princess Zelda and Link, the warrior chosen to wield the legendary Master Sword, found their forces overwhelmed when Calamity Ganon corrupted the machines they built to repel him. After Link was gravely injured, Zelda placed him in suspended animation and magically sealed herself within Hyrule Castle to hold Calamity Ganon at bay. One hundred years later, Link awakens, his memories fragmented, and begins a quest to rediscover his destiny and end Calamity Ganon’s threat once and for all.

Gameplay:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a massive open-world adventure game in which players are once again placed into the role of Link, the elf-like hero who continually finds himself resurrected and reborn time and time again throughout the ages to oppose Ganon’s evil. Unlike the vast majority of Zelda titles, players have no option to rename Link, making Breath of the Wild one of the few games in the series to actually use the name “Link” as the character’s name; similarly, Link forgoes his traditional Peter Pan garb of green tunic and hat in favour of a multitude of different clothing options and these are the first indicators that the game is very different from traditional Zelda games.

Link’s combat options are simple but quite varied and rely on timing and strategy.

If you’ve played a 3D Zelda title before, particular Ocarina of Time, you’ll be immediately familiar with most of Breath of the Wild’s controls: players can target nearby enemies by holding ZL (sadly, there’s no option to target without holding the bumper), which will cause Link to immediately raise whatever shield he is carrying to block enemy attacks or reflect certain attacks back by pressing A. Pressing Y will allow Link to attack with his equipped weapon and pressing ZR sees him whip out his bow and shoot arrows for a ranged attack. Returning from Skyward Sword is the stamina wheel, which depletes when you hold B to sprint or when swimming, gliding, or climbing one of the game’s many hills and mountains. In a major addition to the series, Link can now jump whenever he wants with a press of the Y button or charge up a spin attack by holding down X and perform some jumping strikes and dodges just like in the Nintendo 64 games; he can also throw his weapons and perform a flurry attack by dodging incoming attacks at just the right moment.

You can’t just rush into battle or areas as your weapons will break or burn up if you do.

The biggest addition to the combat is the inclusion of destructible weapons; every single melee weapon, shield, and bow you acquire in the game has a limited number of uses and, the more you use them, the more you’ll wear them out. Weapons that are made out of wood will also catch fire (causing Link to catch fire and take damage in the process) as well and many shatter in only a single use, meaning that Breath of the Wild’s combat is much more about strategy and it is often far better to simply avoid or run away from battles rather than break your more powerful weapons. Honestly, it’s an annoying and frustrating system that means you’re almost constantly worrying about the status of your weapons and being prepared for the game’s more challenging obstacles. I feel like there could have been a middle ground where there are some weapons (wooden ones, for example) that break and some situations where you lose them (enemies could knock your shield out of your hands with larger weapons, for example, and weaker steel swords could shatter on stronger rocks) but, instead, every single weapon has a finite number of uses, which made me very anxious and made combat more exasperating than enjoyable.

Hearts are no long freely dropped by enemies; if you want more health, you have to work for it!

Combat is made all the more troublesome by the fact that Link is the weakest he has ever been; as always, you begin the game with three hearts of health and, because the game is so big (even the relatively enclosed opening area), it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by even the bog standard Bokoblin enemies. Unlike in previous Zelda titles, defeated enemies will never drop health-restoring hearts, meaning the only way you can replenish your health is by picking up edible items (apples, acorns, meat, and so forth) and eating them. Indeed, the key to bolstering Link’s stamina, health, and attack prowess is to make use of the game’s cooking mechanic, whereby Link can toss up to five items into a cooking pot and brew up dishes or elixirs to increase his maximum hearts, his stamina, attack and/or defence, his stealth prowess, or resist certain elemental conditions. The only way to permanently increase your hearts is to conquer the game’s four dungeons (known as “Divine Beasts”) or acquire Spirit Orbs from the many Ancient Shrines scattered (and, often, hidden) throughout Hyrule.

Track down and complete Shrines to earn Spirit Orbs and increase your health and stamina.

You’ll want to hunt down and visit these Shrines on a regular basis as, since the game has only a handful of traditional dungeons, these make up the bulk of your concern and are the only way of increasing your maximum health and stamina and, thus, your chances of success. Each Shrine also acts as a fast travel point once activated, allowing you to quickly teleport all across the vast kingdom of Hyrule from the main menu, but their primary function is to bestow Link with four (technically five, I guess) Shiekah Runes that are used to conquer puzzles both in and outside of the Shrines. These puzzles may be simple things such as activating switches, creating ice platforms to cross water, lifting metallic objects, creating electrical currents, or floating along on updrafts but they can also be extremely challenging combat scenarios against spider-like Guardian Scouts. As you progress and explore further, you’ll come up against some truly head-scratching puzzles that force you to freeze objects and attack them to build up kinetic energy, navigate through mazes, retrieve orbs from dangerous environments, and make full use of your inventory and abilities in order to solve them. Thankfully, the Shrines don’t need to be beaten to activate them as fast travel points but it’s highly recommended that you beat as many as you possibly can as you’ll refill your health upon successful completion and move one step closer to increasing your maximum health and stamina.

Day, night, hot, cold, even the Heavens themselves are all out to get you!

And you’ll definitely need to do this as, while you can head straight to Hyrule Castle to take on Calamity Ganon without tackling the game’s story, I really wouldn’t recommend it as I had a great deal of difficulty taking on even minor enemies and puzzles with the game’s mechanics. Breath of the Wild throws absolutely everything in your path to keep you from succeeding: at night, Stalfos and similarly-skeletal enemies will rise from the ground to chase you down; every so often, gameplay is rudely interrupted by the rising of the Blood Moon, which resurrects all enemies you’ve defeated since playing; and you’ll even be beset by a variety of environmental hazards. When climbing higher, the air temperature will drop, causing Link to shiver uncontrollably; when exploring Death Mountain, the air becomes unbearably hot, causing his wooden items to combust; and Hyrule is plagued by wind, rain, and thunderstorms that will causing Link to be struck by lightning if he’s got anything metal equipped! In many of these situations, Link will steadily lose hearts and be at great risk, meaning that you need to cook up something to stave off these debilitating effects or acquire, or buy, clothing to resist the elements.

Rupees are hard to come by and items have a steep cost, keeping you on the back foot.

As in all Zelda games, Link can purchase new items using Rupees; however, similar to how enemies don’t drop hearts, it’s very rare that defeated enemies will drop Rupees. As a result, the main way you’ll earn Rupees is by finding them in chests (usually after defeating an enemy encampment) or selling some of the many items and minerals you pick up along the way. Sadly, the best armour and more useful elixirs and weapons carry a high price tag, meaning it’s quite difficult to save up enough to buy what you want (it doesn’t help that the four Great Fairies, who will upgrade your clothing using monster parts, charge up to 10,000 Rupees just to “restore their power”). As a result, like with the combat, it feels like you’re constantly on the back foot as you never have enough money, never have enough ammo, and your weapons could break at any moment, all of which makes it a very stressful experience at times as you might spend Rupees to replenish your health at an Inn only to be decimated by a random Guardian out in the field.

Paragliding and climbing are two pivotal mechanics in the game and essential for traversal.

While Link can pick up a great many items, ingredients, and monster parts, his weapon inventory is extremely limited; sometimes, you may have to discard or use up a weapon to grab a better, more powerful one and the only way to increase your inventory slots is to randomly find Koroks hidden all over Hyrule. Each one you find gifts you with a Korok seed, which can be used to buy one extra slot at a time, with the cost of these inventory slots increasing each time. Two of the game’s more prolific mechanics are the paragliding (which I believe is a carry over from Skyward Sword) and climbing mechanics; once you acquire the paraglider, you can jump from higher areas or use air currents to glide along, covering vast distances (for as long as your stamina holds out), which is great for spotting Shrines or avoiding dangerous areas. Climbing is also heavily dependant on your stamina but it’s generally better to get to the high ground to find secrets and survey the area and you’ll have to climb up a number of Sheikah Towers in order to painstakingly map out the massive overworld map.

Fast travel across Hyrule or jump on a horse to take in the sights.

Since Hyrule is the biggest it has ever been, Breath of the Wild can be extremely daunting; travel is helped not just by the fast travel system but also the inclusion of horses and other ridable animals. When you come across a horse, you should press the left analogue stick to make Link crouch and take slow steps to approach it undetected, then you can mount the animal and sooth it with L. Once you’ve calmed the horse, you can ride it to one of Hyrule’s many stables to register it (for a price, of course); while your horse can’t follow you everywhere (they can’t cross the Gerudo Desert, water, or rockier areas, for example), you can call it by pressing down on the directional pad (D-Pad) to whistle and recover them from a stable (so, if you’re in the far West but left your horse in the far East, you can visit a stable and they’ll bring your horse to you). Horses can be named and have different statistics that determine how tough and fast they are but there are a couple of things to consider: thanks to the game’s dodgy physics, it’s easy to fall into water with your horse, which will cause it to become trapped if there’s no way for it to return to shore, and horses can also be killed if they take too much damage (usually by Guardians), though a Great Fairy will resurrect them if this happens. Similarly, as I mentioned, you can’t take your horse into the desert, but you can temporarily commandeer a Sand Seal to quickly traverse the temperate sandstorms.

A number of NPCs have side quests and missions for you, which can earn you a few nifty rewards.

Link’s journey involves a great many side quests and interactions with the largest number of non-playable characters (NPCs) ever seen in a Zelda title; even when journeying from one town to another you may stumble across NPCs who have side quests and missions for you, ranging from collecting a number of items, photographic objects, defeating enemies, or bringing them something. In the game’s larger towns, you’ll find more substantial side quests, many of which are tied into the game’s main objectives; you can’t just climb up Death Mountain to reach the Divine Beast Vah Rudania, for example; you first have to cook up an elixir to resist the heat or complete a side quest to earn heat-resistant armour, rescue a Goron from captivity, and then make your way up the mountain shooting at the Divine Beast while defeating enemies and taking out drone-like Guardian Skywatchers first, all of which can take a good few hours. Every time you complete a main or side quest, you’ll be gifted with access to Rupees, weapons, or other items so it can be worth it to veer away from your main objective and help out the multitude of NPCs in their often strange and convoluted requests.

The sheer difficulty of the game means even the weakest of enemies poses a significant threat.

There is, honestly, almost too much to do and see in Breath of the Wild: wild animals roam the countryside as often as enemies, many of which will randomly attack you but all of which can be killed off for ingredients; camp fires are scattered around, which allow you to advance time to avoid night-time attacks and weather; Beadle wanders around to give you the chance to buy supplies; NPCs randomly get attacked by monsters and will reward you with cooked dishes; towers can be climbed to find chests; enemies camp out all over the place; rafts often sit near bodies of water for you to sail to far off islands by using a Korok Leaf; chests must be magnetically pulled out from water, sand, and snow; and it’s super easy to stumble into ruins, small villages, and other areas of desolation or civilisation when trying to follow the main story. It can get a bit daunting at times: you’ve got the cooking, the breakable objects, and the Shrines to worry about, keeping you constantly on edge. Even when you conquer the Shrines, you need to travel to a town or village and find a Goddess Statue to pray at in order to receive your Heart or Stamina Container and, thanks to how easy it is for enemies to overwhelm you and defeat you, you’ll be seeing the “Game Over” screen over and over again without boosting your odds through food or clothing. Autosaves are frequent, however, and you can manually save whenever you like and it’s very easy to reload a previous save if you make a massive blunder along the way.

Graphics and Sound:
Full disclosure, the last 3D Zelda game I played with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo EAD, 2005), which was the biggest Zelda adventure at the time so to say that Breath of the Wild blew my mind is an understatement. Without a doubt, the game is absolutely gorgeous to look at; the overworld is gigantic, ranging from wide, seemingly endless fields to the explosive, lava-filled region of Death Mountain, to the desolate wastelands of the Gerudo Desert and snowy mountain peaks, with some areas featuring more than one weather and seasonal effects to worry about (the Gerudo Desert, for example, can be boiling hot in the day and freezing cold at night).

Hyrule is full of the remnants of lost civilisations and the ruins of a time long forgotten.

As soon as you step out of the Shrine of Resurrection, you can see the vastness of Hyrule but it’s not until you paraglide down into Hyrule proper that you see just how huge Hyrule now is. Without a horse or fast travel, it can take many actual, real-world minutes just to travel from one point to another and you’ll be beset by all manner of dangers along the way. Winds blow, rain falls, lightning strikes trees (and you…), and day turns to night turns to day in a constant cycle, all of which brings Hyrule to life as, perhaps, the most lively and realistic gaming environment I’ve ever seen. The remnants of Hyrule’s past glory and iconic locations from the Zelda series are everywhere, including destroyed outposts, the overgrown wreckage of the Temple of Time, and scattered, destroyed Guardians (be cautious when approaching for loot, though, as they’re often playing possum).

Each race of Hyrule lives in a distinct environment, which only adds more life and depth to the game.

Like any good Zelda game, variety is the name of the game when it comes to Breath of the Wild; a degree of traditional society is retained throughout Hyrule thanks to places like Kakariko Village and Hateno Village but you can also visit the rock-eating Gorons, the sea-faring Zoras, the woodland imps known as Koroks, the desert-dwelling Gerudos (a society comprised entirely of women), and the man/bird hybrids the Ritos. Each one has their own visual style and a lives in a distinct area: the Gorons dwell in and around Death Mountain, working in mines nearby; the Zora’s live in the gorgeously ornate Zora’s Domain, which is full of water and waterfalls; the Rito are surrounded by snow and mountains; the Koroks are hidden deep within a dense, misty forest that will kick you out if you wander in unaided; and the Gerudo dwell within a desert town and set the guards on any males who dare intrude.

Dialogue is given through text boxes and voiced cutscenes, though Link stays eerily silent.

Character models are of equally high quality; they don’t necessarily move all that much but they are generally quite varied and full of life and personality. Each of Hyrule’s races can be found all over the land as well, with Gorons wandering around selling wares, Zora’s popping up in bodies of water, and Korok sprouting out of the most random of locations. Each one communicates using speech bubbles and text but, when the game switches to its higher quality cutscenes, characters will also talk as well. Link, however, remains silent which, to be honest, is a bit weird as the game’s story and script is often geared towards characters specifically addressing him or asking him questions, which makes his silence really stand out. Oddly, many conversations you have with NPCs give you the option of one or more answers, implying that Link can speak so it just feels like the game could have been tweaked a little to cover for his silence in speaking cutscenes.

Cutscenes are few and far between but beautifully rendered and suitably fitting.

Cutscenes come in a variety of forms, from in-game graphics, higher quality cinematics, and distorted flashbacks to Link’s past as he uncovers more of his memories. Thankfully, you can speed up text scrolling with B and skip cutscenes if necessary and, often, the game skips over them for you (such as if you fall to a dungeon boss, for example). Musically, Breath of the Wild is the most elaborate of the series I’ve ever seen; a lot of the time, music gives way to ambient effects and slowly creeps in or suddenly kicks up to set the tone of an area or emphasise an enemy attack. It’s a grandiose, operatic score that escalates as you conquer the four Divine Beasts, defeat Ganon’s underlings, and take on the calamitous King of Evil himself in the finale, when the traditional Zelda theme kicks in with suitably dramatic impact.

Enemies and Bosses:
Hyrule is, as always, also populated by a wide variety of enemies, all of which freely roam its fields, mountains, and wastelands and will attack you on sight if they spot you, often calling for reinforcements if near an enemy camp, and all of which will drop weapons and monster items for your use. Some of the basic enemies include gelatinous Chuchus and bat-like Keese, which can be protected by elemental conditions, but, primarily, you’ll be fighting different varieties of Bokoblins. These goblin-like creatures like to set up camps, shoot at you from on high with arrows, and attack with spears and swords; they’re the most basic of enemies but are formidable through their sheer numbers and your comparative weakness and even rise from the grave to attack you in skeletal forms.

Enemies overwhelm you with either their numbers, versatility, or sheer brute strength.

They’re often accompanied by the much larger Moblins, which attack with kicks and bigger, longer weapons, but you’ll also have to contend with a variety of Lizalfos, who are often camouflaged or leap out at you from hiding, damn annoying Octorocs, who pop out from water to spit rocks at you that always seem to hit, and robe-clad Wizzrobes, who dance around mockingly shooting elemental magic at you and teleporting all over the place. Easily the most daunting of the regular enemies are the Lynels; these centaur-like creatures are basically like mini bosses and you won’t actually be able to defeat one for a long, long time as they’re just too tough. Once you get a healthy stock of hearts, food, and more powerful weapons (particularly the Master Sword), though, you’ll stand a much better chance of besting these ridiculously powerful enemies.

Guardians are a significant threat and extremely difficult to destroy or escape from.

However, there are only a handful of Lynels to worry about; the Guardians are far more frequent and troublesome as they often sit amongst the wrecked shells of their kind and fire what basically amounts to an instant-kill laser in your direction. At first, you have no chance of destroying these bastards and they’re only found in a handful of places but, once you conquer the Divine Beasts (and when you storm Hyrule Field on the way to Hyrule Castle), they’ll start to scuttle around the overworld in regular patrols. If they spot you, do everything you possibly can to avoid them, even if it means going far out of your way, and don’t even think about trying to outrun them without a horse! They can be defeated using special weapons and by targeting their limbs and eyes but, most of the time, it’s a fool’s errand and it’s simply easier to flee for your life! The flying variants are much easier to take out in comparison but once you see they’ve got a lock on, make sure you pace yourself to sprint away at the last second or else you (and your horse) will be toast.

The Divine Beasts need to be quelled before you can explore and restore them.

As there are only four dungeons in the game, Breath of the Wild is quite light on actual bosses; you will, however, have to do battle with Master Kohga of the desert-dwelling Yiga Clan in order to reach Vah Naboris, the Divine Beast of the Gerudo Desert. Kohga likes to hurl boulders your way but you can easily stun him with arrows and use Magnesis to repel his attacks in the brief windows of opportunity you get; honestly, sneaking through the clan’s hideout was more troublesome than the fight itself. The reverse is true of the dungeons, which focus on annoying puzzles and are largely devoid of enemies and populated mainly by “Malice”, a health-draining black/red goo that must be dispelled by shooting an eyeball. Just getting to the Divine Beasts and, thus, their bosses is like a boss battle in itself; each one can be tackled in any order and all of them must be quelled before you can enter them. I took on the Divine Beast Vah Ruta first, which spits ice projectiles at you that must be smashed with your Cryonis ability before using the bow and a special Zora outfit to swim up waterfalls and destroy the cannons on the Divine Beast. Similarly, Divine Beast Vah Rudania needs to be shot at by loading cannons with your bombs and a particularly hardy Goron. To bring down the Divine Beast Vah Medoh, you must protect yourself from the frigid cold and use the paraglider to destroy cannons on the Beast’s sides with Bomb Arrows while the Rito, Tiba, draws its fire away from you. Easily the most difficult of the Divine Beasts to bring down, though, was Vah Naboris, which forces you to stay within a protective field and surf, almost uncontrollably, across the sand using a Sand Seal while shooting a limited supply of Bomb Arrows at its feet.

Waterblight Ganon attacks from a distance with a deadly spear and ice blocks.

Inside each of the Divine Beasts, you must first rotate, tilt, and manipulate the gigantic structures to activate five terminals and then you’ll do battle with a “phantom” aspect of Ganon, each of which sports two attack phases that will truly test your mettle, especially in the early going and if you’re underequipped. I first took on Waterblight Ganon and it was like hitting a brick wall! Teleporting around the arena and attacking with a long spear, Waterblight Ganon can be hurt with Bomb Arrows but can end you pretty quickly with just a couple of hits. In the second phase, the arena floods and you’ll need to shatter Waterblight Ganon’s ice blocks with Cryonis and dodge its thrown spear, again using Bomb or Shock Arrows (or Ancient Arrows if you manage to get some) to deal the most damage. This was a tough hill to climb for me and the first time I had to go off and cook up some defensive food to give me an edge as its attacks were too much at the time.

Thunderblight Ganon’s possesses incredible speed and launches annoying electrical attacks.

Next, I took on Thunderblight Ganon, who was also quite the formidable foe thanks to his incredible speed! Thunderblight Ganon throws a few electrical balls your way, which are easy to dodge while firing arrows at him, but you have to have your shield up pretty quick when he dashes in for the attack or else you’ll miss your best opportunity to strike him. In the second phase, he drops a number of metal pillars into the arena and then electrifies them; you need to stay the hell away from these, grab one with Magnesis, and move it near him so he shocks himself, all of which is really hard to do as the camera and controls really get in the way here. This only stuns him, though, and he then follows up with even faster, more frequent attacks and you absolutely must make sure that you don’t have any metal weapons or armour equipped or else you won’t last long at all and eat or drink some concoctions to increase your defence, attack, and resistance to electricity.

Fireblight Ganon wields a massive sword and tosses a huge fireball your way.

I then decided to give myself a break and tackle Fireblight Ganon next; this battle takes place in a much bigger arena, making it a bit easier to keep your distance and catch your breath, though Fireblight Ganon wields a massive sword so it helps to stay up close to him. In the second phase, he launches a massive fireball your way so be sure to hide behind the main terminal in the arena; you should also use this for cover if he busts out his Guardian laser and be sure to unequip any wooden weapons and utilise any Ice Arrows or ice-themed weapons you have to hand (though I also did some decent damage with Shock Arrows when I ran out of Ice Arrows).

Windblight Ganon rains fire from up high and a distance with his laser pistol.

Finally, there’s Windblight Ganon which, again, takes place in a much bigger arena that is full or destructible columns that you can use for cover. Windblight Ganon hovers out of reach of your sword strikes and rapidly shoots at you with a laser pistol but you can bring him down using air currents to glide upwards and fire a few Bomb Arrows at him. In the second phase, he throws out tornados to wreck the arena and also sends out four drones to heavily magnify his laser attacks but I found it easier to simply concentrate on attacking him whenever possibly, scoffing down food as and when necessary, rather than be distracted by the drones.

The Divine Beasts will drain Calamity Ganon’s health to significantly reduce his threat.

With the four Divine Beasts restored and taking aim at Hyrule Castle, you must then storm the Malice-ridden castle itself, which acts as a quasi-dungeon of sorts and is full of Guardians, enemies, and treasure, with only one Shrine for fast travel. There is, however, a shortcut up the West-side waterfall that takes you to the inner sanctum, where Calamity Ganon dwells. A monstrous, nightmarish amalgamation of the four phantoms, Calamity Ganon is the most horrific form I’ve ever seen Ganon in but this fight can be tipped greatly in your favour by defeating the other bosses as the Divine Beasts will drain half of Calamity Canon’s health. If you are stupid enough to go straight to the final boss without conquering the dungeons, or with less than four beaten, you’ll have to fight Ganon’s phantom forms before you can even take on Calamity Ganon so I really wouldn’t recommend going into this with just a stick and your undies.

Calamity Ganon is a massive, spider-like monstrosity that borrows attacks from other bosses.

Calamity Ganon mixes and matches attacks from the other bosses, swinging a gigantic, flaming sword at you, causing flames and fireballs the scatter across the arena, throwing a spear at you, and blasting at you with a Guardian laser. I rushed up close and went to town on him as quickly as possible with the Master Sword (which doesn’t lose its charge in Hyrule Castle), dodging and hitting flurry attacks if I was lucky enough, and shooting at him with Ancient Arrows when he scuttled up the walls. In the second phase, Calamity Ganon protects himself in an impenetrable, flaming shield and is completely immune to your attacks; he ups his fire game with Fireblight Ganon’s fireball and also conjurs Windblight Ganon’s tornados. In this phase, you really need to have mastered the “Perfect Guard” move (hold ZL to target and, right before an attack hits, press A to knock it away/back with your shield) as the only way to stun Calamity Ganon and thus damage him is to reflect his Guardian lasers back at him, which I found to be incredibly difficult to get right.

Ganon transforms into a rampaging beast and must be put down with some well-placed arrows.

Once defeated, Calamity Ganon transforms into a gigantic, Malice-infused, boar-like creature, Dark Beast Ganon, and rampages across Hyrule Field! Similar to the final boss of Twilight Princess, this battle takes place on horseback and the hardest thing about it, really, is keeping control of your horse as the camera and controls make manoeuvring around Ganon troublesome at times; touching Dark Beast Ganon will hurt you and cause you to be knocked from your horse so keep your distance and stay away from his face to avoid his big laser attack. When Zelda gives you the nod, golden symbols will appear on Ganon’s body and you must shoot at them with the Bow of Light (which, thankfully, has infinite ammo). When Dark Beast Ganon’s health is down to one sliver, a glowing weak spot appears on his forehead; now you must use the updraft from Ganon’s laser attack to glide into the air and use your arrows to strike the Malice eyeball and finally defeat Ganon and be treated to the game’s anti-climatic ending.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Breath of the Wild has an abundance of items, weapons, pick-ups, and power-ups for you; an overabundance, it seems at times, as you can pick up a variety of monster parts, minerals, food, and weapons to be equipped, sold, or cooked for a variety of effects. With all the food, meat, and fish (thankfully there’s no fishing mini games this time around) in the game, you can either eat some of them for a quick health boost or cook them up in a variety of combinations for stat boosts and extra help. I may have missed something but it doesn’t seem like there’s a way to keep track of your recipes so I kind of just tossed them in a pan and hoped for the best. When around a Great Fairy Fountain, you can sneak up on fairies and grab them, which is super helpful as they’ll restore your health a bit when all your hearts are empty.

Swords come in all shapes and sizes but it’s best to favour the unbreakable Master Sword.

As you explore, defeat enemies, and open chests, you’ll acquire different melee weapons; these come in all shapes and sizes, from simple branches and torches, to skeletal arms, to rusty swords, double-handed blades and axes, and even elemental weapons. You can also grab Magic Rods for limited elemental attacks and a lot of these weapons have buffs applied to them that increase their attack and durability. Each handles differently as well; bigger weapons will deal more damage and break tough rocks but are painfully slow and you can’t use your shield at the same time. Eventually, you’ll be able to acquire the legendary Master Sword but, to even pull it from its pedestal, you’ll need at least thirteen permanent hearts (temporary hearts are no good) to yank it free and, though it’s the only weapon in the game that doesn’t break and you can shoot beams of energy if you have full health, it does run out of energy and become unusable for a few minutes.

Sadly, no shield or bow is as durable as the Master Sword as they’ll all eventually break.

Still, it’s doing better than the game’s shields; again, these come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and with different buffs but the difference is that you can’t ever acquire a permanent shield. The best you can hope for is to liberate a powerful shield from Hyrule Castle but I found I was too afraid to equip it in case I wasted it defending against a regular Bokoblin attack. You can also acquire a number of different bows; some of these shoot further than others or even shoot multiple arrows at once, which I found to be more of a hinderance than a help as I was constantly running low on arrows. You can pick up elemental arrows (Fire, Ice, and Shock), which are super useful against water and fire enemies, Bomb Arrows (which are great for rock-based enemies and bosses), and the super powerful Ancient Arrows. Any Ancient gear is the most powerful in the game, especially against bosses and the Guardians, but they’re extremely rare and expensive.

You can mix and match outfits and even unlock extras through side quests and with Amiibos.

You’ll also acquire various items of clothing, each of which has different benefits; some protect you from extreme cold, heat, and lightning, some allow you to swim faster or up your defence, attack, or stealth, and others are more cosmetic or needed to enter specific areas. You can mix and match them, pay to dye them different colours (which is largely pointless), and upgrade and strengthen them at a Great fairy Fountain. Some are acquired through Shrines and side quests and the only way you’ll ever get Link’s trademark outfits is if you’re patient, skilled, and dedicated enough to conquer all one hundred and twenty Shrines (or fork out for special Amiibos).

The various Runes replace traditional magic and allow you to progress and solve puzzles.

Your first task at the start of the game is to power up your Shiekhah Slate (an obnoxious device that resembles a tablet or Nintendo Switch) with four Runes: the Remote Bomb allows you to throw or place either a spherical or square bomb; Magnesis allows you to push, pull, and move around magnetic metal objects; Stasis freezes certain objects in place and allows you to attack them to build up kinetic energy and move them about; and Cryonis allows you to form and shatter ice blocks. Later, you learn another Rune ability, Camera, which allows you to take photographs to solve side quests and such and each of these can be upgraded to make them more powerful or useful. Since Breath of the Wild is one of the few Zelda games to not give you a magic meter or other actual items (like the hookshot), these Runes take their place and the bombs are especially helpful for dealing some extra damage and saving your melee weapon from wearing out as you can throw an infinite supply and a limited only by a brief bit of cooldown.

Link earns helpful temporary abilities by taking down the Divine Beasts.

Similarly, every time you conquer a Divine Beast, you are awarded with a Heart Container and a key item that will greatly assist you in your quest: Mipha’s Grace is one of the best as it will completely restore your health and award you with additional temporary hearts upon death; Urbosa’s Fury allows your spin attack to unleash an electrical blast, which can be great for stunning enemies; Daruk’s Protection protects Link with a protective aura for as long as ZL is held down and will parry incoming attacks to give you a window to attack; and Revali’s Gale allows you to charge up a jump by holding down Y and blast you high into the air with an air current. You can activate and deactivate these at any time but, honestly, I don’t know why you would do that; each also comes with a limited number of uses and a cooldown period, meaning you have to wait about ten minutes before you can use them again.

Additional Features:
As I mentioned before, there are numerous side quests in Breath of the Wild and one hundred and twenty Shrines to find and conquer. The rewards for these vary from a few Rupees to new weapons and armour and, generally, it’s not always worth your time completing every single one of them unless you’re aiming for one hundred percent completion (which you thankfully don’t need to finish the game). However, the only way you’re going to see Link in his traditional outfit (or unlock the Dark Link outfit) is if you complete each of them; primarily, though, the side quests are there to emphasise how big and alive this version of Hyrule is and to strengthen your immersion in the game, so it’s entirely up to you, but it can lead to you acquire stronger weapons, armour, and some unique riding companions. Some of the Shrine challenges are very unique, though, like the one on Eventide Island that sees you stripped of all of your weapons and left to fend for yourself with whatever you can find as you strive to recover three orbs all without being able to save. Three others see you navigating labyrinths and one particularly long side quest sees you visiting specific areas of Hyrule to recover Link’s lost memories.

A number of sub-bosses and gigantic creatures can be found prowling around Hyrule.

Hyrule is also populated by a number of gigantic sub-bosses; be wary when you approach a big stone as it will probably come to life as a Stone Talus, which can only be felled by bringing it to its knees and climbing up it to attack the weak spot on its “head”. Far more frequently, you’ll come across the massive cyclopean Hinox; these are much easier to take on and defeat as you can stun them with a shot to the eye and attack them at will but they do have a tendency to rip up trees to swing at you and chase you almost relentlessly. Out in the desert, you’ll also encounter the Graboid-like Molduga, which burrow under the sand to attack you and are best tackled with your bombs. While you’ll also encounter three elemental dragons in your travels, these cannot be defeated and are simply there to cause destructive weather occurrences and to be mined for rare materials. I mentioned before that the ending is very anti-climatic and it’s true; it’s much more sombre and reflective than the massive celebration seen at the end of Ocarina of Time, for example, and it kind of felt like the developers either ran out of time or didn’t put much effort into the ending as the journey was the primary focus. When you finish the game, your save file gets a star marked on it but that’s it; you can return to your last save (which should be an autosave right before the final fight) so you can go after anything you’ve missed along the way but the only way you’re going to get additional content is if you shell out for the DLC. The expansion pass adds new gear, enemies, and challenges to the game and also includes an even harder story mode to play through but, since I struggled so much with the base game, I don’t think I’ll be paying for this any time soon.

The Summary:
There’s no denying that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a stunning achievement for the series, and in videogaming; the game is massive, full of life and variety and things to do, and will keep you busy for hours on end (it took me at least thirty days just to clear the main story objectives). Never has Hyrule been bigger and more immersive; just travelling a short distance can be an adventure in itself and you’ll find yourself fighting tooth and nail against even the most basic of enemies for the smallest rewards but even a bundle of five arrows can be a blessing when you’re running short on supplies. The graphics are more than impressive, bringing the Zelda concept truly to life in a way that titles like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess hoped for but could never quite achieve; it never feels like anywhere or anything is off limits and you can travel to the highest, furthest points as long as you’re properly equipped and prepared without worrying about barriers or invisible walls.

A gorgeous, gigantic game to be sure but also a frustrating and unfairly challenging one, too.

And yet…Breath of the Wild is one of the most frustrating an inaccessible videogames I’ve ever experienced. There really is far too much going on, way too much to think and worry about, and the simplicity and accessibility of earlier Zelda titles has been lost in service of appealing to fans of games like Skyrim. I think if Breath of the Wild had focused on one or two mechanics, or tweaked some of them a bit, it would have been much more enjoyable for me; as I said, not having every weapon break would be a good start, as would putting less focus on cooking and eating food to survive. In many ways, it feels like the most Zelda game ever but also, paradoxically, the least Zelda game ever as all the recognisable elements are there but they’re so drastically different, and the game is so dramatically difficult at times, that it was actually a turn off. I was expecting an epic, sprawling, immersive adventure and Breath of the Wild delivers but every battle is a stress as you can easily die or break your coveted weapons in the smallest of skirmishes, some mechanics like jumping, the frustrating instances of forcing you to use motion controls, and climbing can be a bit janky, as can the in-game camera and physics, and I just felt like the game was punishing me over and over again. To make matters worse, I didn’t even feel a cathartic sense of accomplishment after beating the game since the ending was so anti-climatic; I just felt drained and relieved and I’m hoping that approaching the remainder of the game’s Shrines and side quests in a more casual manner will allow me to think more highly of the game in time.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Where would you rank it amongst all the other Zelda titles, specifically the 3D adventures? Were you a fan of the new elements introduced in this game, the breakable weapons, and the difficulty and challenge offered by the game? Did you every conquer all the Shrines and which was your most, or least, favourite? What order did you tackle the Divine Beasts in and which of Ganon’s phantoms was the most difficult for you? Which area and/or race of the game was your favourite and what was your preferred clothing and weapon load out? What did you name your horse? Which Zelda game is your favourite and why? Whatever your thoughts on Breath of the Wild, drop a comment down below.