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Nov 302016
 

If you thought that the album Nintendo: White Knuckle Scorin’ was an obscure Super Mario Bros. title, check out this one. An old computer game called, Mario Teaches Typing is basically another typing program to help improve keyboarding skills, but in a more creative setting.

You can choose between three characters, Mario, Luigi, or the Princess. Their running and jumping skills are all equal, so it doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference.

Then there are several different levels, where you can only proceed forward by typing the correct keys. The first is a basic outside area with Koopa Troopas and bricks to bash. On occasion, there’s a random block with a symbol to type that brings you to a coin area in the clouds. It doesn’t do much, but it’s cool to see. To get through, you have to be able to type at least 10 WPM (words per minute).

The second level is an underwater stage, where you’re being chased by a bloober or Big Bertha. The faster you type, the faster you swim. However, the typing is more difficult because you focus on the numbers and other symbols, not to mention that you have to be able to type at least 30 WPM to get through.

The third level is in a castle where you run past thwomps and swim through quicksand. As for the typing, you move straight to full sentences. In case you were wondering, those sentences have nothing to do with the Super Mario Bros. franchise. By this point, you might think that there’s a new level to unlock when you reach the next goal. Apparently, there isn’t. As you continue to improve, you stay with the castle stage.

Even though there is a fourth setting, it’s not anything too special. You just move up a scrolling sheet of paper that Mario looks over and reacts to. I should also point out that there are no boss battles either. That would’ve at least made things a little more exciting.

Now let’s move on to the music. When I first played this on my computer at home years ago when it was new, there was no music. Then when I saw it on other computers at school, I noticed that there was music for each level that came straight from Super Mario World. Once again, that was the most hyped Super Mario Bros. game at the time.

I should also point out that Mario speaks in this game. Voiced by Ronald Ruben, this is actually the first time Mario speaks with an Italian accent. He never did in any of the Super Mario Bros. cartoons and in the earlier games, Mario had no voice at all. It’s pretty interesting if you think about it.

Considering that it’s really just a typing program, Mario Teaches Typing really isn’t too bad. Sure it’s not in the same league as other Super Mario Bros. titles, but it’s nice to look back on for nostalgic purposes. Though I can’t say the same about the sequel Mario Teaches Typing 2.

Nov 112015
 

I’ll admit that the Super Mario Bros. franchise can be difficult to keep track of because it often breaks continuity. So to help make this clear, New Super Mario Bros. U for Nintendo Wii U is the direct sequel to New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

This time Bowser tries something new. Instead of taking Princess Peach to his castle, Bowser takes over Peach’s castle and sends Mario, Luigi, and the two Toads far away. Now they have to work their way back home, which gives the adventure a different approach while still following the same formula as most of the other previous Super Mario Bros. titles.

The Koopalings also return. This time each of them has a separate airship with their faces out in front. There are still castles, but the Koopalings aren’t actually in them even though you still have to go through them.

Another big difference is that the guardian of each tower is Boom-Boom, and Kamek makes them more advanced with his magic. This sure reminds me of classic Boom-Boom from Super Mario Bros. 3, only more graphical.

I should also point out the change in power ups. In place of the copter hat and penguin suit is a flying squirrel suit. It allows you to fly but it’s very awkward. Unlike the copter hat that let’s you fly straight up, the flying squirrel suit always goes at an angle making it hard to control while in midair. On the bright side, there are P-Acorn power ups that let you fly through the whole level. It still took a while for me to figure out how that worked.

Normally navigation isn’t a problem in a Super Mario Bros. game, but there are areas that are very difficult to find your way around. Some of the ghost houses don’t have any clear paths and with a time limit that makes it worse. There’s also an area in the Soda Forest where you have to find the secret exit to continue forward on the map. That was so difficult to figure out, I had to look it up on YouTube. It never should have been that complicated. This is why I prefer the boss battles over the rest of the levels.

On occasion there’s a character called Nabbit that hides in a random level which has already been cleared. The object is to catch up to him as you go through the level and you get an item that he stole from Toad. It’s tough to do but at least the level ends once you catch Nabbit and not have to carry him to the end like the captured Mushroom people in the previous game.

As you get closer to Peach’s castle, Bowser shows how much more powerful he is by replacing the flags with Bowser banners and eventually surrounding the castle with an eerie tornado. It’s so cool when you hear the windy effect it makes.

Then it all comes down to fighting Bowser at Peach’s castle, which has lava everywhere. Once again you use the “bridge out” method at first, then Bowser becomes giant sized. I’ll tell you, this is definitely one of the most exciting Bowser battles I have seen yet. That’s especially because you actually get to fight him instead of running for your life and dodging lava that kills you in one hit.

This was certainly a good follow-up to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Despite the challenge being tougher than usual, there were plenty of redeeming factors. Mostly it’s for nostalgia coinciding with the new items like the return of such enemies as Torpedo Ted and the Sumo Brother that have not been featured since Super Mario World.

Jul 222015
 

It’s a well-known fact that the Super Mario Bros. video games were (and still are) so popular that the franchise extended to animated shows, a live action movie, and other merchandise. Now here’s a rare item that I haven’t thought of in years, but still remember well. It’s an album called Nintendo: White Knuckle Scorin’.

It was released in 1991 around the same time as the release of Super Mario World as well as the Super NES. The hype for this classic game was already high, so just the look of the album cover was enough to get anyone interested. That sure got me excited at first because at the time I thought it was some kind of Nintendo soundtrack.

However, I didn’t bother to get this album when I discovered that the songs had nothing to do with Super Mario World and were performed by various artists I never heard of before. As great as it looked, that makes this one of the most misleading album covers I had ever seen.

Now years later, I was able to do some research on it. It turns out that there’s a short comic that comes with it called White Knuckle Scorin’ the Adventure. It’s about Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach (known as Princess Toadstool at the time) going to Dinosaur Land for a vacation. Then of course Bowser and the Koopalings show up and capture the princess and it’s up to the Mario Bros. and their new ally Yoshi to rescue her.

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That already sounds interesting since I have always enjoyed the Super Mario Bros. comics. However, this particular comic was insane. It constantly leaves the impression that the characters are idiots except for the princess, though it keeps mentioning that she also has a “dynamite bod”.

It also doesn’t help that in this comic, neither Yoshi nor Bowser knows how to read. This is definitely something you would never expect from a Super Mario Bros. story, but it’s still good.

There are also points in the comic, where song cues are mentioned when the song title is in the dialogue. It’s not a bad idea but it would’ve been better if at least some of that dialogue had actually been in the album, like in The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience where the characters say their one-liners between songs. That would’ve been cool.

As for the songs themselves, they’re actually pretty good. There are ten songs total and it turns out that the first song, Ignorance is Bliss by Jellyfish, is in fact about the Super Mario Bros. characters. However, the other nine songs don’t but I can see them setting a mood while looking at the pictures within the comic.

Though misleading, this Nintendo album is an interesting one overall. I admit that it’s not a common item that comes to mind when I think of Super Mario and it’s very hard to find a copy nowadays, but it’s still a good one to at least look back on.

Dec 032014
 

The newest video game console I have played is the Nintendo Wii U, which is basically a perfected version of the Nintendo Wii, but this one is very different from most consoles. When I was growing up, video game systems were much simpler. You just hook it up, plug it in, and insert the game cartridge, then game on. After hooking up the Nintendo Wii U, you have to wait a long time for the console to download. That also includes every time you insert a new game. Despite that, the Nintendo Wii U is a nice game system.

The very first game I played on the Nintendo Wii U is Super Mario 3D World. Unlike most Super Mario Bros. titles, this one provides the option to play as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, or Toad and each character has special abilities. I know this sounds like Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES, but things are much different here.

I should also point out that Rosalina is also a playable character, but you have to unlock her first.

The objective is to rescue Sprixies and the Sprixie Kingdom from Bowser. I guess that after Bowser failed to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom so many times, he decides to go after another kingdom.

The game play is much like Super Mario 3D Land for Nintendo 3DS and provides the same powerups like Fire flowers, Tanooki leaves, and Boomerang flowers. It’s so interesting to see Toad and Princess Peach with these powerups since we don’t get to see that very often.

There’s also a new powerup called the super bell. That gives the heroes cat suits, allowing them to run faster, climb walls, and pounce on enemies as well as scratch them up. If you love cats, I’m sure you’ll find this adorable.

One item I struggle to understand is the double cherries. They just clone your character, which makes it more difficult to maneuver because they can easily be trapped in tight corners.

Remember the star coins? This time there are three green stars hidden within each level. It’s nice to explore, but sometimes you need a certain amount of stars to unlock later levels.

However, there’s other ways to collect green stars. For instance, there are areas where you complete a series of challenges to collect ten stars.

Then there are the Captain Toad levels, where you have to navigate Toad through puzzle-like areas to collect five stars. Those levels are hard because Toad doesn’t jump, the control and navigation are very awkward, and there’s a time limit. I’m actually surprised that Captain Toad is going to have his own separate video game for that.

The bosses are cool. Boom-Boom and Pom-Pom return, Bowser throws stuff from a fancy car, and there are new bosses that I can hardly describe but are still fun to battle. Once again, the Koopalings don’t return. It makes you wonder what they’re doing during this adventure.

This is a good game that I find enjoyable. However, I tend to struggle with the control when it comes to the 3D aspect, especially during the side scrolling stages. It certainly makes me appreciate the classic 2D platform games more.

Nov 152013
 

Following the success of New Super Mario Bros DS came the sequel New Super Mario Bros. 2 for Nintendo 3DS. From power-ups to enemies, this game has new features as well as classic ones.

The game play and sound are a lot like what’s on New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but includes a few things from Super Mario 3D Land as well. The main item I’m referring to is the Tanooki leaf that turns you into Raccoon Mario. You can fly as well as descend, which is helpful when trying to land on moving platforms.

The new power-up is a golden flower. One blast can destroy a group of bricks or vanquish tough enemies, turning them into coins. Speaking of coins, they seem to be the main focus of the game because each stage shows the most amount of coins you’ve gathered among the statistics on the map screen. I don’t know what the significance is for it.

Speaking of coins, the repeating coin blocks in this game turn into golden blocks that Mario can wear on his head and more coins come out as he moves through the level. I only find it useful as an extra hit point when going through a tough area. When hit by an enemy you get to keep your power-up but you lose the coin block helmet.

What I really find interesting is that the Koopalings return. As each one is defeated in his/her castle, another Koopaling snatches Princess Peach and drags her to the next castle. What is this, a tag team? More importantly, why doesn’t Peach ever put up a fight? Remember that she used to kick butt on the Super Smash Bros. games.

There are also towers in each world. Bowser Jr. doesn’t return in this game, so instead the boss is Reznor. That’s the group to triceratopses that sit on rotating platforms and can only be defeated when hit from underneath. Reznor’s first and only appearance was on Super Mario World as the boss of every fortress. It’s cool that these old foes make a comeback in this game, but why do they sound like elephants?

Oddly, there are only six worlds in this game. Only five of the seven Koopalings are featured before getting to Bowser’s castle in World 6. To get to the other two Koopalings, you’ll need to get to the warp cannons that send you to some special worlds. I was a little worried at first because it just doesn’t feel right when you don’t get to face all seven.

Speaking of the warp cannons, normally you just go in and it blasts you to the next world, but not in this game. After you’re blasted, you automatically run fast while you have to dodge enemies and jump platforms without an opportunity to slow down. If your timing isn’t perfect, you die. That is so ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to do that at a warp zone.

I really enjoy this game for its adventure, which would be expected from a Super Mario Bros. title. Bowser is still bigger and badder than ever, but the real enemy is that rising lava. That usually leaves me uneasy.