Monday, 17 September 2018

Future of Mario Kart - Casting in the Wilds for New Locations [Gaming]

The final of these Future of Mario Kart posts have come back around to looking at tracks that could be featured within a new game. Retro tracks started us off, and I’ve even looked a bit at crossover tracks, but now is the time where completely new tracks have to be considered.

Now, I’m not going in depth with these. No massive details about every turn and glide point. This is just to give general ideas as per usual. Just as with the retro tracks, the list below shows how the tracks would be set out with the guide of what they contain.

Mushroom – Luigi’s Balloon World / Craft Island / Wuhu Track 1 / Sunset Snowdrift

Flower – Skylit Heights / Mario Circuit / Chargin’ Chasers / Starshine Sands

Star – Painted Platforms / Wuhu Track 2 / Forgotten Falls / Peach Paradise

Special – Airship Firefleet / Jungle Jitter / Bowser’s Castle / Rainbow Road

Luigi has had three Circuit tracks to start off the cups, starting from Mario Kart 64. After a Luigi Circuit featuring as the starting track, a different Circuit would feature in the next game. Mario Kart 8 broke this pattern with Mario Kart Stadium, but to be fair the only Circuit tracks in the game were both Mario Circuits. I can certainly understand the want to get away from the Circuit name, as it allows track names to be their own thing rather than be tied to a naming theme. The only one which wouldn’t change is Mario Circuit – which is a staple as much as Bowser’s Castle and Rainbow Road.

For that first track then, I’m going for the name of Luigi’s Balloon World – and that won’t be the only tie to Odyssey on display with these tracks. It would be a simple design – as all first tracks are – tracing out two balloons side by side with their strings together. The overall look to the track would be similar to that of Luigi’s first Circuit track, with a lot of hot-air balloons in the sky.

Yoshi hasn’t seen a new track in Mario Kart since the DS with Yoshi Falls. Rather than name this specifically after Yoshi, I’m instead naming this after the hub of Woolly World. Craft Island is a name I am expecting to be used again in Yoshi Crafted World, but even if not, it can still contain elements within the track considering the crafted feel of the levels are still there. Combining the wool with the other craft materials would make for some interesting design.

Mario Circuit has always featured Peach’s Castle in some form – with Mario Kart 7 even giving a brief inside view. What if it was mostly based on the inside, though? You could say that hardly qualifies as a Mario Circuit if that’s the case, but you can hardly change the name of a staple track, can you? Now, imagine the layout of Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64. You’d start down in the basement, driving through it to reach the next level, reach the winding stairs and drift up them, drive through the window and glide down to where the warp pipe appeared, follow the path to the front of the castle, then dive down into the moat and back to the start line.

The track has circuit in its name, so having it be a marathon track is out of the question. But the two Wuhu Loops managed just fine, so the ability to explore more of the castle would be fun to make a track layout from, so long as the start and finish were still connected. And speaking of marathon tracks, Rainbow Road needs to return to being one, and not a long loop either. Make the Road name of Rainbow Road actually mean something and have it be a twisty long stretch of track. Half-loops would be a good idea to implement along with corkscrews to really give the feeling of randomness that country roads provide – but this one is IN SPACE.

To give a new character a track, I’m going with Chargin’ Chasers for not only the new character feel but also a new place to explore. Chargin’ Chucks look like they’re ready for some sporting action. Mario and co. have already been having sporting fun in games, so here is a race track for them to drive through. It might seem a little boring to have a regular sporting stadium as a track, but this one would have that special Mario touch. In the fact it’s based up in the clouds with a load of vines making up the perimeter of the stadium. A clear pipe is also a part of the track that breaks through the clouds and gives a very high view of the ground below.

Sunset Snowdrift would be a snow-covered track set to the orange glows of a sunset. Skylit Heights would be based on New Donk City from Odyssey during the night. It would involve driving around the towers and buildings, gliding or jumping between different ones. This would be a marathon track. Starshine Sands would be a track similar in visual style to the Starshine Beach Galaxy of Mario Galaxy 2. Jungle Jitter uses the name of one of the level themes of Donkey Kong Country 3 and bases a track on the visual style of the level it is used with.

Princess Peach gets her own track again. Titled Peach Paradise, it is a tropical resort that features a pool and a water slide. More than that, though, paintings will transport players to other areas of the resort such as the tropical forest, through a small section of the catering area [which would be very food based], and even into the sky to look down upon all of the resort before crashing down back into the pool. Other areas of the resort could also be explored, or even other resorts in completely different locations, as there’s a lot that could be done with the theme if managed right.

Airship Firefleet features numerous airships, and much the same as Airship Fortress from Mario Kart DS, features airships. Not just one this time, but a lot of them. And it’s a warzone, with various airships firing cannons at each other. The racers will be fired out of one of those cannons and will transfer between a few of the airships during the race. Painted Platforms is an attempt at making changes per lap in the fact that different colours will be splashed over the platforms that make up the circuit, with dark colours slowing racers down. There would also be branching paths, so making a quick judgement based on which has the most dark coloured paint is needed to do well.

Forgotten Falls might use a visual style similar to the Lost Kingdom from Odyssey, but is more its own thing. Yes, it features dinosaurs, but it would also feature those ‘forgotten’ characters and enemies and even locations that haven’t appeared for quite some time, or at least have hardly featured in recent times. Bowser’s Castle is the Bowser’s Castle, full of lava and statues of the great Koopa himself. Though that statue isn’t just for show, as racers will fly into its mouth and drop down it. They’ll also be driving up the backside of it. In fact, why not go the whole way and make the Bowser statue the castle?

Now, there will also be two new tracks on Wuhu Island. I haven’t named these, but they would explore new areas of the island that weren’t featured in Mario Kart 7. One of the two would go to the golfing area – Wedge Island, which is quite an area to explore. As for why there’s two new Wuhu tracks as well as the two old ones… I left this feature specifically for this moment, but here it is. Mario Kart 7 allowed people to create a cup of four tracks that would be shared with people via Streetpass. I’m proposing the same thing be implemented in this new game, but tied to your profile so anyone who races against you has access to your personal cup. Your Mii would race in this cup just like in Mario Kart 7.

And there you have it. Sixteen new tracks that could be used in a new Mario Kart. There are plenty of other ideas that could be used – for features, characters, or tracks. But for me, I’m done with ideas for Mario Kart. I’ve got a number of ideas for another series that just got recently announced in the Nintendo Direct – and if you read my thoughts on that, you’ll probably know that the new ideas generation series is looking at Animal Crossing. Forwarding the Village is the tentative name I have for it, so be on the lookout for it starting next month.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Nintendo Direct 13-September [Gaming]

Well, that was a content packed Direct. And it all started with Luigi’s Mansion. While I’m not big on the series, it was still great to see a third game announced as coming to the Switch. The original game being ported to the 3DS was also shown off with a new local multiplayer mode.

Other 3DS games included Kirby’s Epic Yarn going Extra Epic with a port, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey being shown off and given a date of 25-Jan, and Yo-Kai Watch Blasters getting new content at the end of the month.

Splatoon 2 is getting new content in Version 4. It looks as though some sort of 1vs100 mode is being added, so that should be interesting. Along with new styles and new weapons, it also looks as though there might be new things added to the solo missions and Salmon Run.

Mega Man 11 was shown off, Capcom Beat ‘em Up Bundle was announced with seven classic games being available for it, Katamari Damacy is being remastered for Switch, Diablo 3: Eternal is coming, as is Cities Skylines.

Mario Tennis Aces is getting four new characters, two of which I’m happy to be seeing. Paratroopa was one of my favourites in Mario Kart: Double Dash, and Petey Piranha was fun to race with, so getting them in Tennis Aces when both have seemingly dropped off the radar somewhat is a surprise. The other two are Birdo and Shy Guy.

A decent surprise in a deluxe version of New Super Mario Bros. U with New Super Luigi U included. The only two of these I’ve played are the DS and Wii games, and while I’ve got my eye on this, 2D platformers are not for me. I’ve tried countless times, but it never feels right with me.

Yoshi’s new game has appeared for the first time in ages, and it certainly looks a lot better than it did during E3 2017. Crafted World is coming sometime in the spring, and it certainly has taken the crafted feel to the maximum.

Pok√©mon Let’s Go: Pikachu / Eevee featured, as did Super Mario Party, and Starlink: Battle For Atlas. A sizzle reel included Warframe, Just Dance, FIFA, NBA, Team Sonic Racing, and LEGO DC Super-Villains. The World Ends With You Final Remix and the Xenoblade 2 DLC featured as well, along with Daemon x Machina.

Tabletop games are being brought to Switch via Asmodee Digital. Real tabletop games in video game form. Seems like it could provide some fun. Civilization VI is also coming to Switch with four player local play. Game Freak are also building a new RPG in the form of Town [Working Title] that keeps the focus exclusively in one village. I’ve got my eye on this.

Before the end, a Final Fantasy explosion happened. Crystal Chronicles is being remastered for Switch, and XV Pocket Edition HD is already out. These two we knew of. What we didn’t know of was World of Final Fantasy Maxima, Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon, VII, IX, X, and X-2. A lot of Final Fantasy, then.

Last was expected. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate content. After the special edition Switch was announced, Isabelle was shown in her office. She got an invite. TO SMASH! Yup, Isabelle is in Smash Ultimate. After showing her off in-game, the trailer shows Tom Nook. Surely he can’t be in Smash, too? Nope, ANIMAL CROSSING IS COMING IN 2019 FOR SWITCH!

I just wanted to know it was coming, and it is. The Direct was full of content, running at a very brisk pace to show it all off, and the announcements… I can’t choose what I liked the best. Well, Animal Crossing of course, but aside from that there was a lot shown off. Nintendo Switch Online had a charming trailer featuring Mario characters, though it didn’t show much off we didn’t already know. Those NES Joy-Con are good for people who like playing with them.

It was enjoyable, and thanks to the announcement of Animal Crossing, I know I’ll be in for a good time next year. And with that announcement, I can announce this early. The Future of Mario Kart series on this blog is ending, with the new series of ideas generation looking at Animal Crossing and how that can grow.

So that was the Direct of 13-September. I’ve had my say, so what did you like best from it?

Monday, 3 September 2018

September '18 Monthly Update [Network]

The Mario Kart Monday videos have started up, but the other series I was planning isn’t able to start up. See, what I had planned was a look at Forza Horizon 3 and its expansions along with Horizon 2 before Horizon 4 released. I could push on and get those videos done, but there’s just one factor to take into account. They won’t look good. My Xbox One hasn’t lasted well in the heatwave that struck the UK – it wouldn’t do with near five-hour sessions almost every day – so it’s struggling to run games at the minute. I’m getting a replacement in the form of the Forza Xbox One X bundle, which is out the same day the game releases.

Hopefully there will be more Mario Kart Monday videos this month, as I’ve held out so I could test how a video looks with the full sixteen races. But forgot to save the first four races to favourites to be able to do such a thing. Even if I forget to do that, there will be two Mario Kart Monday videos up on Youtube.

There will be more reviews as the next in the Republic Commando series gets looked at, and Solo: A Star Wars Story finishes my look at all the Star Wars films – at least until I get onto The Clone Wars. I also aim to get that final Look Inside the Morphing Grid posted up this month, as it is now almost a year since it originally should have gone up. The massive amount of delays with that series is less due to the franchise itself and more thanks to my lethargy I’ve been suffering due to a lack of energy.

I’m not going in-depth with the details, but I have a problem in my feet which has caused my body to use up more energy than it needs to, and since I’ve ignored it for ten years or more it has caused a problem that just seems to be slowly deteriorating. I’m getting it sorted, but it is taking time. And it is that reason that all the delays have happened. I’m taking things slow, and when I feel I can I’m putting everything into working.

Anything new will be posted about on social media – which now includes Twitter – along with when all of the stuff stated here releases. I also hope you can understand the situation I’m in with my health. I’ve been dedicated to this label for more than five years, and wouldn’t ever want to close it.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Star Wars - A Look at the Originals and Sequels [TV&Film]

It's coming two months after it was meant to, but better now than never. I started with the Original trilogy in terms of films, and say I prefer them over the prequels – Phantom Menace aside. The sequels have a special place having both released near my birthday. While my ordering of the originals on their own probably wouldn’t cause too many problems, when the sequels are added, then things start to get interesting. If you haven’t already, go and read my thoughts on the Prequel trilogy, then continue with my thoughts on both the originals and sequels here.

It can be jarring going from Rogue One to A New Hope in that the visuals are a definite downgrade between films. I never let the visuals deter me from enjoying a film, but with A New Hope there’s nothing really to call out. It’s effectively same world new style, and if you’re really going to get hung up on the visuals then there’s quite a lot you’ll miss.

The original that started it all, then. I really don’t have much to say. It favours style over substance in its set-pieces while at the same time making sure it fits the necessary detail about the world in-between. It’s a tale of a nobody finding their destiny but realising on their journey they had something special within them. It takes its time to build up what it needs to for a satisfying conclusion.

Luke is wanting a life outside of what he has. It’s clear he’s craving adventure. But he is held back mostly by his uncle. He gets a chance at adventure, but the loyalty – I call it that as Luke still has the bond to his family – isn’t allowing him to break it. It’s the Empire that breaks it, and Luke’s story is set. For Leia, she’s already active against the Empire, but has finally ran out of luck. Vader has her captured, but she remains strong in spirit. Up until the last moment, and even beyond then. I have no doubt that the destruction of her home planet only strengthened her resolve to strike against the Empire. It’s that set-up within the story that leads to the satisfying conclusion.

Han is definitely in it for the money. But I guess there’s something within Luke he sees that starts to eat at his sense of right-doing, shall we say. He believes he’s making a stand against the Empire in his own way and getting rich from doing so. He doesn’t need no hero’s honour. Even with Leia, I suspect he definitely sees something within her that he himself has – which is why the two don’t appear to get along. Of course, Leia won’t realise that until the next film, but we’re not there yet.

There’s a history between Obi-Wan and Vader, and it shows. Nearly everything about ‘the old times’ is all explored in the prequels, so having seen those first gives a different impression on these scenes. That impression is one of finishing what they started – which is obvious even without the history of the prequels.

A New Hope is just a standard fare for me. It’s always going to be. It’s a serviceable film, and it works the plot to give that great end. It’s the first hour of the film though. It offers a few bits of action, introduces the characters, and enough world building. But all the scenes on Tatooine drag on just a slight bit too long. Even more than Phantom Menace. Once the Death Star becomes a major part of the plot, things pick up, and maybe the slow pacing makes the ending feel better than it would had everything remained at the same pace.

The Empire Strikes Back takes the connections made during A New Hope and puts them to use. With the rebels found out on Hoth, they have to evacuate, though the Falcon gets into trouble without the ability to use its hyperdrive. Meanwhile, Luke is on Dagobah learning how to be a Jedi. Everyone comes together for a showdown on Bespin, where we get introduced to Lando.

Luke here seems a bit slow. As though he isn’t trusting anything about himself. Not even his Force sensitivities. Even on Dagobah, he fails to grasp the lessons being taught. Once he gets challenged by Vader, I see it as more his fear of the dark side and the true identity of his father that makes him let go and drop down the many levels of Bespin to what should have been his end.

Han and Leia are more interesting, and not just because of the romantic bond between the two. Han remained with the Rebels despite saying he would leave, and it’s clear he is only staying because of Leia. The two are still at odds, and there’s definitely the sense of this being pretty routine for the two. When they’re surviving within the asteroid field, the bonding through hardship is there, the closeness is there as the two continue to bicker but care what happens to the other. Then Bespin comes and the future uncertain makes them finally admit their feelings to each other with just a few simple words. It’s a progression that works, and something that Attack of the Clones could have used very well – despite the fact it already did copy the entirety of this romance plot but forgetting the key part.

Yoda is reintroduced here, and right from the start is testing Luke. However, even Yoda hasn’t learnt his lessons, it seems. Nor has Obi-Wan. Here the two are saying the future is always uncertain, there’s no way to predict what might happen, yet also insist that if Luke were to go he would be putting his friends in danger and destroy everything. They both have their own fears they don’t want to come to pass. Isn’t that what Yoda was always teaching – let go of everything you fear to lose? Yet here they are trying to keep Luke around for fear of him being turned.

Lando – from the little we see of him – is a different form of Han. He now has responsibilities but is clearly wanting the rush of not knowing what comes next. He has a different form of smoothness to Han, and the history between the two is shown mostly though these similar but different characteristics. He seems to protect and look out for only himself, but Han’s assessment that he doesn’t like the Empire is true enough that he risks everything to protect what he can of Han’s crew and undertakes the mission to find Han.

I find The Empire Strikes Back a lot better paced than A New Hope, with a lot of character interactions that barely seemed present in the latter. The action and impact of scenes is also better presented, with the final connections between Luke and Vader along with all interactions between Han and Leia being the strong points. Both of which being big parts of Return of the Jedi.

As much as I love The Empire Strikes Back, I find myself preferring Return of the Jedi slightly more. The Tatooine section of the film doesn’t drag with the build-up being executed well for that final payoff. There’s payoff for Dagobah in which Luke learns the most important lesson of all. Then we get to Endor and the end of the trilogy – which itself has been what the wins and losses of both sides have been leading to.

As I said, Han and Leia is a big part of Return of the Jedi. It marks the point that Han starts looking out for others rather than himself, having seen his friends risk everything to rescue him. And Leia played an important role in that, which he notes. Then come Endor and Leia is missing, Han leads the search for her. The two have some great interactions while together, with the bond between them solidifying during the Endor battle.

The other big part with Luke and Vader is the two finally realising the greatest lesson of all. Yoda’s death signifies one major lesson that at first Luke is unwilling to accept. That fear only works against you when you work against it. It was something Yoda had tried to teach both in different ways, but together the two finally understand the meaning. For Luke it is that he never gave up in his beliefs, even when it looked like his end was in sight. For Vader it is the understanding of his abilities and the choices he took that lead him to his current situation. He feared loss and tried to fight it. Thus, he made things worse. Now he instead uses that fear to his advantage to save someone instead.

The film is paced well with none of the dragging of A New Hope. The music works wonders here in setting scenes and giving character to the situations. And despite what some might say is the one with the least amount of plot, it doesn’t really need it when the characters are the driving force for the finale as a whole.

Despite the fact most of the plot elements are lifted straight from A New Hope, I actually feel The Force Awakens is more similar to Return of the Jedi. Yes, there’s just one current arc throughout, but the interactions between characters are what makes me say that.

Poe and Finn are the first pair I’ll highlight. Poe Dameron is an ace pilot of the Resistance, sent to Jakku to retrieve the piece of map to Luke Skywalker’s location. Finn is just a nameless Stormtrooper who sees the First Order for what they are and wants to run. The temporary alliance between the two to escape from the First Order bonds them together and cements that bond upon their separation. While we don’t see Poe’s journey off Jakku, Finn’s journey puts him into contact with Rey.

Both have been missing the bond of a real friendship. Rey has nothing but her own survival skills against a much tougher crowd. Finn has just had one friendship taken from him and now is placed into contact with a new friend – one he aims to protect. There’s also a similar situation to Han and Leia from Return of the Jedi where one of them saves the other which is then returned in a future event.

Han Solo. The weight of the galaxy on his shoulders. The feeling of being run down in a new era of lawlessness and chaos. He ran away from Leia when their son turned dark, ran away from his feelings and let them get the better of him. But the same can be said of Ben. Except Ben is emotionally vulnerable, as seen when he lets his anger overwhelm him and lashes out at whatever is available. Not people, though. After all, there’s still some good in him. Even his murder of his father works to the opposite effect of what he wanted, and by the end of the film, despite the fact he gets bested by Rey there the clear sense of him being a dangerous wild card in future events.

There’s a lot of great interaction in The Force Awakens, with maybe a few weak spots around. The callouts of Finn being a traitor – even though technically he is – hold no merit when there is no history in the film to say why this needs to be a big deal. The weak spots don’t detract from the overall film for me, with enough depth to the characters to carry the film themselves.

I still stand by what I said about The Last Jedi in terms of the characters. They are the most important part of this new trilogy, with every lead getting the focus and development they need to drive the story – even if the plot of this one could do with some work. And I say that not because of what most others have said. Think of it like this.

You expect the enemy to be toying with the good guys. That’s just what villains do. With The Last Jedi, how much focus on that particular point is there? It doesn’t just run through a scene or two. It pretty much is the whole movie. Everything is lead by the First Order toying with the Resistance. And that is the major gripe I have with it. As above, the characters remain strong, but when tied with a plot that could easily have been wrapped up as a win for the enemy and moved on to something else it leaves most of it feeling about as dry as the Tatooine wastes.

For the order, I hope this was made clear during the reviews, but for easier understanding I’m going to list them out.

The Phantom Menace
Return of the Jedi
The Empire Strikes Back
Rogue One
The Force Awakens
A New Hope
The Last Jedi
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith

And that concludes my look at all the Star Wars films. Solo isn’t included here as it is the latest film, but also because I was specifically waiting for the home release of it. As I said, all three of the new films have released very near my birthday, and without that incentive of celebration – even despite the fact it’s Star Wars – I probably wouldn’t have gone. Cinemas just aren’t my type of place to be for watching things, and aside from the new Star Wars films the only other film I watched at one was Power Rangers. As such, with the home release of Solo: A Star Wars Story next month, it’s possible a review from me will come.