Luigi’s Mansion

The overall feeling emitted by Luigi’s Mansion is, consequently, that of a game that could have been thicker in terms of content if it had expanded upon some of its ideas; more specifically, on the somewhat underdeveloped puzzle-solving element it boasts. As it stands, nonetheless, it is a pleasant launch title that, although undoubtedly not quite on the same level as the games Nintendo usually releases alongside its consoles, does hold up very well. Its ghost-hunting concept is undeniably fun, and it leads to a rather unexpected take on the Super Mario universe; one that merges a dark atmosphere, cartoonish art, humorous animation, and good production values. What comes out of that blend is a game that is simple, entertaining, and charming. And those values, accompanied by gameplay elements that are quite unique in the industry’s canon as a whole, carry the lovable and unlucky Luigi to the rightfully earned starring role in a franchise that fits his quirky personality like a glove.

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Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is, quite simply, a masterwork of the survival horror genre. It is a game as gripping as it is repelling, making players feel like moving forward even though they sometimes may not want to. And it achieves that fantastic duality through very original means, whether it is via a tightly connected plot that unfolds during two millennia, takes place in four distinct locations, and includes a dozen playable characters, each with their own struggles; or in a gameplay format that although featuring many of the staples usually seen in games of the kind, succeeds in feeling refreshing thanks to a chapter-based structure, a deep magic system, and stellar sanity effects that have the in-game protagonists as well as players going through heart-pounding hallucinations that make them question the very fabric of reality. And like that, even though it was developed far away from the halls of the company, Eternal Darkness presents a unique Nintendo touch that, in its case, is employed for the evil and disturbing rather than for the cute and whimsical.

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Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that embraces each and every kind of player who has an appreciation for the franchise it celebrates: those who love Nintendo’s magical touch for coming up with some great platforming; the ones that like to perform speed runs or have their game-playing skills tested to their utter limit by ridiculously tough stages; audiences who find amusement in watching the gimmicks of automatic and musical courses unfold; and folks who want to experience what fellow gamers who like to wear their Shigeru Miyamoto hats will come up with. And that goodness comes in piles that are virtually endless. Although immensely entertaining for both the camps who lean towards playing or creating, the game comes off as particularly spectacular to fans who like to do a bit of the two. In that context, Super Mario Maker 2 is capable of orchestrating an infinite loop of excellence, for one activity inevitably feeds into the other, as creation leads to curiosity about what others are up to and going through some platforming fatally gives way to new level-design ideas. As a consequence, even if a few punctual improvements could have been made, there is no denying that the game succeeds in not just paying homage to what is perhaps the greatest gaming franchise of all time, but also to the fans who have been witnesses to its unlikely run of sustained greatness.

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Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc

In spite of being based on the same simple format employed by its prequel, one that is quite different from the mold that was used by most platformers of the era, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc falls short from the excellence of The Great Escape. That does not mean, however, it is a bad game. Quite on the contrary, going through the artistic visuals of its worlds while accompanied by a solid uncomplicated mix of battles, light exploration, straightforward puzzle solving, and tight platforming is pure and relaxed fun. Additionally, the title’s more prominent focus on action, highlighted by the introduction of a scoring system, and the sheer challenge found in trying to maximize one’s performance in each stage will be greatly appreciated by those who enjoy fast-paced thrills. It is not hard to notice, though, that Hoodlum Havoc’s wilder tone, at times, gets out of hand, and that the general design of its levels, although aided by new gameplay-altering powers, is not as consistently inspired as that of its predecessor. Still, even if those traits stop the game from deserving either the classic status or of the universal recommendation awarded to The Great Escape, Hoodlum Havoc remains quite alluring and potentially fun to those with a love for 3-D platforming at its most basic and unpretentious state.

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Golden Sun: The Lost Age

The final chapter of a story arch divided into two pieces, Golden Sun: The Lost Age more than lives up to its position as the conclusion to one epic tale. As an immediate continuation to the adventure that preceded it, the title smartly preserves its predecessor’s visual prowess, musical quality, battle system, and gameplay staples. Yet, it is able to move forward and surpass it with style by boosting the scope of its mandatory and optional content; unexpectedly shifting the plot’s focus to the party that, in the original, played the role of the antagonists; and, most importantly, finding a way to augment the three traits that allowed Golden Sun to stand out from the crowd of role-playing games: its exploration, freedom, and puzzle-solving. Consequently, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a work as ambitious and flooring as the Game Boy Advance is able to sustain, and in the group of RPGs released for Nintendo’s systems, it is hard to come across a game that is as good, because the balance The Lost Age presents between being traditional and breaking away from the mold is a rare and pleasant sight.

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EarthBound Beginnings

As it stands, however, EarthBound Beginnings is merely average. In its best moments, it comes off as a rougher – yet charming – outline of a concept that would find its full maturity in the Super Nintendo; at its worst, though, it is badly hurt by spikes in difficulty that make a lot of its combats seem unfair and by an absence of direction that can easily cause one to get lost in its pleasantly vast and open world. Due to those shortcomings, the game becomes worth it only to those who are huge fans of the saga or to RPG lovers who can take the constant grinding without being overcome by frustration or boredom. Without those thorns, EarthBound Beginnings could have been thoroughly lovable in its strangeness and heart; with them, it becomes a quirky and moving tale that is obscured by a lack of much needed polish.

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Playing Miyamoto – Part III

With the arrival of Super Mario Maker 2 and its pretty spectacular level-making component, there also comes the opportunity for us fans to wear our Shigeru Miyamoto hats in order to try our hands at some level-design – an activity that ends up revealing itself to be not only rewarding, but also quite hard. So, like I did the last time around, I decided to gather the stages I have constructed so far in a post to share them with those who visit this space as well as to talk a little bit about what went into their creation.

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Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

There are plenty of complaints that can be throw at Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Save for the lack of polish exhibited by its wild jumps in difficulty, though, none of them are significant enough to hold the title back; and even in that case, it is possible to look on the bright side to see this excellent remake as a racing title that contains a magnitude of challenge that succeeds in pushing even the most skilled players to the very edge of their abilities. Everywhere else, the title shines as one of the strongest entries in the genre, achieving notable positions in the amount of content it sports, in the sheer depth of its demanding mechanics, and in the impressive variety of modes it has. And due to those awe-inspiring qualities, the frustrations that are bound to rise from the occasional encounters with absurd AI behavior are likely to come off as situations that can be overlooked in favor of the chance to appreciate the considerable achievement in kart racing that Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is.

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Cadence Of Hyrule

Cadence of Hyrule is as great as it is unlikely. And although much of its excellence can be attributed to the high quality found in the pieces that constitute it, the addictive gameplay of Crypt of the NecroDancer and the prowess in adventure of The Legend of Zelda franchise, the biggest reason for the experiment’s success lies in how it fuses those parts to form a quest that is similar yet different from the products that inspired it, forging a game that would have not existed otherwise. Its focus on quirky rhythm-based combats and its reliance on randomly generated environments hold it back from being universally recommendable, not just because of its peculiar mechanics, but also due to how some may end up perceiving it as repetitive. However, it is undeniable that Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games found an incredible middle ground between the global appeal of the properties of the former and the straightforwardness of the output of the latter. And Cadence of Hyrule reaches for greatness from that territory, smoothing out the roguelike grind of Crypt of the NecroDancer while boosting it with the visual and musical proficiency of The Legend of Zelda as well as with the franchise’s knack for birthing well-designed adventures, making it hard to conceive the partnership between a giant of the industry and an independent studio could have yielded something better.

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Resident Evil Zero

Resident Evil Zero is, much like its chronological sequel, a flawed game, with the shortcomings it exhibits being of a magnitude and frequency that make them very hard to ignore. At the same time, though, its prowess in matters of tension and fear is absolutely notable, because playing it is being constantly surrounded by sheer dread, whether stemming from an unshakable feeling that something horrifying is always about to happen or originating in its sometimes overwhelming shortage of resources, and that ability is boosted by a fairly original gameplay setup that finds its own signature both in a slightly heavier focus on action and in the presence of a duo of protagonists that must work together in order to survive. And it is thanks to those excellent features that the game justifies its existence, for although it does not succeed either in improving on the chapter that it works as a prequel to or in satisfyingly filling up the blanks it left, Resident Evil Zero plays sufficiently different but also pleasantly familiar to it, and even if such proximity does not continuously work for the best, it ends up being more positive than negative.

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