Thoughts on AM2R: Another Metroid 2 Remake (v. 1.5)

This could arguably be an “Updated Thoughts” post, given I looked at AM2R already around the time of its release. Though as a technicality, this is version 1.5; back then was version 1.0. It’s different… technically.

Nevertheless, as a quick catch-up, AM2RAnother Metroid 2 Remake—is a fan-made remake of Nintendo’s Metroid II: Return of Samus. It was in development for a billion years and finally released in 2016, then was given a cease and desist notice by Nintendo shortly afterwards. However, as evidenced by its subreddit, development is steadily continuing. Updates to the current package will feature even more content than before and, apparently, will feature a complete graphical overhaul.

It’s been five years since I played this for the first time, and while my impressions were good, I had some reservations. In time, I would come to prefer Nintendo’s official remake in Metroid: Samus Returns. Now, I’m five years older, five years wiser, and five years removed from a fan game that has apparently received some added polish. My Metroid marathon this year wouldn’t be complete without going back to one of the best Metroid fan games ever produced.

Continue reading “Thoughts on AM2R: Another Metroid 2 Remake (v. 1.5)”

Top 10 NFL Players Who Have Earned a Championship, but Probably Won’t Get One (2019 Edition)

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About five years ago, I wrote a piece on then-current NFL players who most deserved a championship win on their resume based on their on-field performance, but were unlikely to get one due to their team’s success or their current age. Since then, seven of the ten players I included onto the list have retired—only one of them ended up getting a Super Bowl ring. With an ongoing game such as the NFL, revisions are necessary in order to keep lists interesting and current, honoring players for their craft while also instilling a sense of history. Four seasons and seven retired players seem adequate enough to update this list. Continue reading “Top 10 NFL Players Who Have Earned a Championship, but Probably Won’t Get One (2019 Edition)”

My Expectations for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate After Its Final Nintendo Direct

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When the trailer for this game revealed itself for the first time, I was intrigued. When more detail was provided at E3, I was genuinely hyped. The Nintendo Direct that followed (revealing King K. Rool/Simon Belmont) made me hyped even further than I could imagine. All was pointing up for the series in my mind, which was something I wasn’t used to after the eventual apathy I had gained for the series following my “creative differences” with Smash 4. All that had yet to be revealed, which would ultimately seal the fate of the game for me was whether or not it would have a dedicated solo campaign, a la Adventure Mode or something similar. With the Nintendo Direct that occurred today, the last one to feature Ultimate specifically, we got an answer. Continue reading “My Expectations for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate After Its Final Nintendo Direct”

Day Eight: Mad Max: Fury Road (MotM 2018)

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Real life got a little ahead of me. This one will have to be quick.

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best films I’ve seen to date. The characters, the sets, the chaotic energy of the camera and the entire energy of the film is a sweet breath of fresh air. Not only does it make itself known through great visuals, but the weight of the characters decisions and motivations make for something impactful by the very end. Acting was phenomenal by all and it is, by far, one of the most thrilling films I’ve seen in my entire life. Dunkirk wishes it could be this intense. Continue reading “Day Eight: Mad Max: Fury Road (MotM 2018)”

Early Impressions: URAHARA [Dropped]

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(This series has since been dropped. There will be no entry for it for the foreseeable future.)

Three episodes in, it ended up not meaning anything.

With this gone, I am now down to only one seasonal anime to view on a weekly basis. If anyone has something to recommend that is not complete garbage, please feel free.

With the first episode of URAHARA, I was charmed by its attempts at appearing somewhat off. I had anticipated that it would take this incredibly avant-garde color palette and premise to places that would end up being intriguing to dissect. Through three episodes, I saw no signs of anything of the sort, so as my patience continued to wane, as did my interest in continuing along with the series. Truth be told, I didn’t even watch three whole episodes, only two and about twelve minutes of the third, only to skim through the rest to see if I would miss anything. I wouldn’t.

Three girls are within their own world of Harajuku (I believe it was called) when aliens come out of nowhere and start taking various artifacts of human culture to have for themselves. A talking shrimp puff that doubles as a scarf for a mysterious little girl explains that the aliens cannot think creatively for themselves, so they steal landmarks of creativity from other planets to compensate for it. The three girls are given powers (I genuinely cannot remember how or why) that allow them to combat these thieving aliens and the rest, well, kinda plays out like a villain of the week, Saturday-morning cartoon. All the clichés are present with none of the charm from the characters or consequences of the plot at hand.

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Skipping ahead from my normal structure, art is something that made me both stay at first and leave at the end. It’s very simplistic design, with a lot of rough-around-the-edges style of animation that made it seem incredibly amateurish. Once again, I was suspicious as to whether the series was doing this purposely as a form of parody or satire, which made me question the style they presented (lots of girly, light colors). With no evidence of anything of the sort, I can say with almost certainty that the animation is simply atrocious and the studio behind it takes numerous shortcuts that reek of low budgeting and laziness. Hell, characters don’t even have the same succinctness to their jawlines scene-after-scene.

There are some things I could say about the story of URAHARA, but there’s a deterrent to my further elaboration: what story? Aliens rob Earth of their culture, then a giant bubble surrounds a certain portion of the girls’ town and then… they do stuff. They do normal girl things and hardly worry about it. They talk to each other and develop their friendship. And at the end of each episode, an alien conveniently swoops in and starts shit, only to be defeated without much effort. That’s about as much as I can remember articulate. Simply put, it’s pretty dull, with only the expectation that better things are yet to come leading me along with this nonsensical production.

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It would at least be tolerable if the characters weren’t cardboard cutouts of… anything, really. There is so little differentiation between these three girls that it barely matters what any of them do. One is a blunt, yet shy fashionista (who I liked at first). Another is a soft-spoken and absent-minded accumulation of girliness. And the last, I guess she’s the “main” one, is the main character. Any veterans of the industry can immediately fill in the blanks with only “the main one” as context, sadly. Altruistic, you before me, normal in almost every regard, nothing stands out except their “chosen one” background. These three have little expression to them, nor do they have a lot of intriguing chemistry. Chemistry they have, but it’s nothing one hasn’t seen before. Almost akin to the chemistry one sees between background characters that’s never elaborated on.

I thought I’d picked a sleeper when the synopsis of this anime popped out at me. The burst of color, absurdist premise, and the hunch in my brain made it seem ripe with potential; for the first episode, I still believed it to be there. Time has gone by and nothing has shown for it. It’s dull and empty. Unbelievable that a plot this strange and an environment so colorful and bouncy can be this boring. I almost want to make my own URAHARA and fill it with strange symbolic gobbledygook parodying Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, while also establishing a point of emphasis on the way girls with superpowers in anime are expected to behave in the eyes of the general public. Oh, what could be with enough work.

Traveling Thoughts on Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (Chapter 8)

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And so we come to the point in the game where the fun and games are over. The story becomes remarkably grim and not a lot is given to the player in terms of what to expect. It’s time to incorporate the title of the game into the game itself; Mario and co. will now step through the Thousand-Year Door.

It goes without saying that after the events of the seventh chapter, Mario and co. have collected all of the Crystal Stars available. The only issue is how to get back to the surface. Running along the halls of the X-Naut Fortress, the player now has access to TEC’s room, where Mario can speak with the weakened supercomputer. With his, ahem, dying words, he tells Mario to give Princess Peach his regards as he activates the self-destruct sequence to send the base sky-hi—er… space-high? Worry not, there’s no race against time as TEC gives Mario all the time necessary to travel to a teleporter in an isolated room in the lower-region of the base. The player is transported to a building in Rogueport’s sewers, where leaving the building will trigger a meeting with Professor Frankly, who explains that he saw a suspicious figure go through the Thousand-Year Door with Princess Peach. With this new development, Mario is forced to open the Door himself and rescue Peach before anything happens to her.

If you’re asking yourself how the Thousand-Year Door can open without the Crystal Stars, you’re a smart student and deserve an A. More on that later.

Going through the Door will reveal a nicely-decorated opening room, complete with shades of purple and gold to provoke a sense of uneasiness and regality. I’ll be honest: going through the Door for the first time, I thought I would step into the pits of Hell or something. Instead, I’m treated to a slightly spooky grand gala of a fortress. Make no mistake, the Palace of Shadow, as it is referred to, is no hotel stay. Of every area in the game, this area gives the player ample opportunity to use everything they’ve learned prior into a collection of different puzzles, challenges, and meager annoyances. On top of that, different styles of enemies already encountered. Ain’t that a peach?

As frustrating as I make it sound, this area is actually the most fun I’ve had throughout the game. It can be frustrating, absolutely, but nothing along the lines of brutal difficulty that games from the NES era are known for. The challenge in this particular area is in terms of patience and trial and error. There are a lot of instances and obstacles that have subtle hints as to what to do with them—whether familiar or not—that the Palace of Shadow use to hinder the progress of the player. These include a (long) memory game, multiple instances of using your cursed abilities, and a tower full of vague puzzles. The volume of things to do in each room compared to areas in prior chapters increases exponentially, giving more of a bang for your buck in terms of interactivity. Personally, I’m just glad there aren’t a million fetch quests.

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What there are a million of, though, are bosses. And by a million, I mean five. Five bosses in the span of one chapter. You fight Gloomtail, the brother of Hooktail and the Shadow Queen’s personal pet. The Shadow Sirens (with the inclusion of Doopliss). Grodus, leader of the X-Nauts. Bowser and Kammy Koopa. And finally, the Shadow Queen herself. If you took it upon yourself to grind a little as the game went on, these bosses shouldn’t be much of a problem, with the exception of the Shadow Queen. However, you fight Bowser and Kammy immediately after Grodus, so that’s a minor inconvenience. Among the five (eight if you count every character), the least difficult is probably the Shadow Sirens, as the room you face them in has a HP/FP restorer and a Save Block, so one can ready themselves should they be expecting it (Or maybe not). Gloomtail is triggered upon entering a single room with little indication that he’s there, while the game gives every indication to show that Grodus/Bowser and the Shadow Queen are within a room’s notice. Pro tip: bring a lot of restoring items and spam a lot of Special Moves.

Aesthetically, the Palace of Shadow is pretty. Pretty forgettable. It’s the token “dark fortress” of any standard royal-like final boss. It doesn’t give a whole lot in terms of what any of the areas really mean for the palace as a whole, serving simply as a challenging gateway for Mario to tread through. I sometimes ponder whether the Queen goes into these rooms and wonders why there are switches to floating cubes in the corner. It’s dark, it’s deserted (aside from enemies), and it’s spooky, with a regal flair. The track that accompanies it isn’t much better. I can applaud a high-paced, stylized remix of various Super Mario classics into an ominous foray of noise, but it doesn’t really do much for me. Two versions of the track appear throughout the palace, but neither give me that sense of dread that the area probably does with its mosaic of testing grounds.

There is but one area within the palace I can applaud: the area mentioned briefly above with the tower of vague puzzles. Outside the tower is a peaceful, serene area with water streaming along the outsides and a park-like center with a variety of different structures and busts. There is no music accompanying this room, giving a sense that the area is a place of rest and relaxation, where those within can think peacefully and relieve themselves of their troubles. The color is very stark compared to the rest of the area; different shades of gray and light blue bombard the area with its presence, with a brown wall in the background implicating the depth of the palace. It is an area like this, inside a harrowing place like the Palace of Shadows, that makes its inclusion so mysterious and intriguing. The tower itself is even more mysterious. So mysterious that its entire purpose seems to be incredibly abrupt. Even so, the tower is probably spookier than the entirety of the palace. The accompanying track is like a soft whisper to the ear, with different noises popping up in wisp-like trances to throw off the rhythm and create a new one altogether. A pale blue waits upon each wall within the tower, with eerie hints guiding Mario through a variety of puzzles that reward him with pieces to progress him forward. It’s genuinely awe-strucking, in a weird sort of way.

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The fight with Gloomtail is a coincidence, but the Shadow Sirens reveal that the Professor Frankly Mario had talked to was Doopliss in disguise, tricking Mario into opening the Thousand-Year Door for them so that they could get inside. Good on you for paying attention, Mario. Encountering Grodus reveals that while initially he wanted Mario gone after the first Crystal Star, over time he began to let Mario do his dirty work for him, collecting all the Crystal Stars so that he wouldn’t have to waste the resources to do so himself. This is kind of half-assed, but hey, we need more plot twists. Bowser’s appearance is a joke, instigated by his antics in his side-quests throughout the game. Because of his intrusion, Grodus is able to sneak off with Princess Peach into the Shadow Queen’s… resting room, probably? It serves as her resting place and there are a lot of candles surrounding it. It is here where the game goes full RPG.

Ready for a shit-ton of explanation? No? Then why are you still reading this? Grodus’s ultimate plan was to use Princess Peach as a vessel for the Shadow Queen to be revived in a physical form. Grodus assumed the Shadow Queen would be so thankful for this that she’d be willing to serve him. He was wrong, of course, and the moment Grodus tries to order her around, the Shadow Queen “kills” him. (He doesn’t actually die because E rating.) It is then revealed that Beldam, the eldest sister and leader of the Shadow Sirens, was the one who started everyone on the wild goose chase for the Crystal Stars, telling Grodus about their power and even being the one to sell the map to Princess Peach at the start of the game. With all this talking out of the way, the Shadow Queen imprints herself onto Princess Peach and turns her into this blackened, evil form of herself, where the Shadow Queen has complete control. Once this happens, a (long) cutscene shows the world around Rogueport being shrouded in darkness, with the denizens looking on in confusion. Afterwards, the Shadow Queen offers a job to Mario to serve as her underling. Fun fact: the player can say yes, which triggers a game over screen. With the obvious answer being no, the final fight commences.

The player is not supposed to win in this segment of the battle, so all you’re required to do is damage her all you can and not die. During the battle, she turns back to her original form, which makes her immune to all of Mario’s attacks. Assuming the player doesn’t die, this drags on for some amount of turns when another (long) cutscene occurs. It shows Mario on the edge of defeat, WHEN SUDDENLY! The Crystal Stars start glowing and sparkling! They spin around Mario and shoot to the respective locations where Mario found them! The friends Mario made along the way speak into the Crystal Stars and give encouragement to Mario and co. in their greatest battle yet! The power! THE POWER OF EMOTIONS PREVAIL!!! This development causes the Shadow Queen to lose control of Princess Peach but for a moment, where she wishes Mario to take the last of her “power” so that he may be able to defeat the Shadow Queen once and for all! Completely rejuvenated by her last wish, Mario is riled up and ready to rumble—the power of friendship on his side!

Kill me.

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Mario can now damage the Shadow Queen, but believe me, this bitch is one tough nut to crack. One will likely be using quite a few healing items and maybe a few Life Shrooms in order to finish the battle. It took me quite a while of fulfilling my FP and SP to be able to get her health down at a consistent rate. Her attacks are relatively hard to avoid and can do a lot of damage. She can even poison you, confuse you, or absorb your health, which makes the battle all the more tedious. Pro tip: General Bobbery’s Bob-ombast move is a wonderful way to shoo away the Queen’s hands prior to her attacks. Just be sure to have a lot of FP generators with you.

Once the Shadow Queen has been defeated, she screams and cries “impossible,” like all of them do. She’s whisked away back into her tomb where she will stay forever(?). Princess Peach regains consciousness and the Shadow Sirens run away. Mario and co. leave the palace and a bright and sunny day awaits them outside. They say their farewells to the partners that accompanied them and the friends that they made as they sail back to the Mushroom Kingdom, where everything is normal once again. The player even gets a letter from Goombella telling them what everyone’s been up to after they’ve left. But that’s a post for another blogger. The game is done as far as I’m concerned.

Chapter Eight is the big finale, the granddaddy of them all. Aside from the incredibly cheesy ending sequences, the chapter is a fairly good one. Lots to do, a load of fun challenges (accompanied by a few annoying ones) and the story takes a few too many twists to be ignored. It’s a good way to send out the game with a lot of positive impressions, though one would likely believe this more from an emotional standpoint. It does what it must and more, providing good closure for everyone who cared for it. What else could one ask for?

I have one more post to document on this game (it’s not the Pit of 100 Trials) before doing the full review, then I’ll move on to my next subject for Traveling Thoughts soon after. Thanks for reading up until now and for those who continue to read over yonder!

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of NamiNami.)