Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stage Tour #1

Well, here’s the first part of many. In each of these, I’ll go over the basics of every stage, list all the traps, give you an idea of when and why you’d want to play this particular stage, and even rate the music. Hopefully, these will enlighten you on certain things about every stage in the game, but chances are it won’t. * indicates the stage must be unlocked.

Size: Small
Design: Three non-solid platforms over a floating island, two slightly above the ground, and one in the middle of the other two and high above the stage
Hazards: None
Comments: This is as basic and basic can get, folks. Battlefield best represents the main aspects of Smash Bros., with a size allowing you smash others off easily, and platforms to take advantage of your jumping. Of course, those platforms are pretty much the defining aspects of this stage: while it is pretty simple overall, the platforms can be taken advantage of both offensively and defensively. They help you avoid attacks, but they also make you an easy target in certain situations (especially for things being flung upwards, and upward attacks like Samus and Wario’s Up Specials). The platforms can also both help you perform some aerial attacks, while hindering your attempts to pull them off from the ground.
Some characters with good floating/flying (Peach and Jigglypuff) abilities can fly underneath the stage from one side to the other, not something you’re going to be pulling out during a heated battle, but neat nonetheless.
Danger Level: Low
Music: 4/5
Home to original songs (and when I say ‘original’, I mean remixes of the main theme) and songs from other Smash Bros. games. All of them are very good semi-epic battle music, with the Menu 1 remix being the standout. The Latin-infused Battlefield Version 2 is also great.

Final Destination
Size: Medium
Design: A completely flat floating platform.
Hazards: None
Comments: Some may say this is an even more simplistic arena than the Battlefield, lacking extra platforms that at least give you somewhere to jump. But, just like in Melee, Final Destination has one very interesting bit to it: there is nowhere to run, and when something gets thrown, shot, or tossed, you’re more likely to get hit by it. Things like sliding crates, Bob-ombs, Smart Bombs, and most final smashes become even more dangerous when you have no way to avoid them for long. Characters with ranged attacks will have an absolute field day (especially ROB). This means, especially with items on, you’re going to need to master both aerial and ground based evasive manoeuvres.
Danger Level: Low to medium
Music: 4.5/5
Final Destination houses some of the best tracks in the game, including the awesome main FD theme, and remixes for the intro/credits of the first two Smash Bros. games. The two Melee Final Destination songs on there are okay, but sound kind of weak compared to the newer ones.

Delfino Plaza
Size: Small to Medium
Design: Set on a small floating platform with a larger, semi-solid bottom (you can’t go through it from above, but you can jump through it from below) for a few seconds that changes the formation of platforms every time it reappears (sometimes it’ll be a basic three platform style, sometimes it’ll only be one big platform, sometimes there are two curved platforms, they can be more spread out) After a time, it will land in one of several spots, each with its own design:
*A slightly large, flat area with slightly curved edges and water on either side
*Three pillars rising above water
*A small island surrounded by water
*Another small island surrounded by water
*An area with a low center and stairs on both sides curving upwards with walk-off edges
*An area with one normal, flat section with some umbrellas you can stand on and a walk-off edge, with a lower section in shallow water to the left and another walk-off edge
*A slightly large main gate/tower, with a half-circle rising up in the center and two fairly medium-sized solid platforms on both sides
*Atop a number of buildings with lots of curves, walk-off ledge on the left and a pit on the right
*An area with solid ground to the right with a walk-off edge, a low shallow water area in the center, a small area of solid land with a transparent platform above it further left, and a small pool off deep water to the very left
Hazards: Water
Comments: One of the more interesting stages, if only because of the sheer number of different land designs that appear in it. Even the basic platform that takes you from spot to spot changes constantly, although since the platforms aren’t solid, you hardly even notice it. The order in which the floating platform lands is entirely random, so you the only real way to know beforehand where you’ll end up is by recognizing the various landmarks as the background stops in front of them. When the platform stops in front of Delfino Plaza itself, it signifies it’s just going to stay still for an extended period of time. Because of its small size and only one way to get back, the platform is the easiest place to get KOs, although none of the land sections make smashing people off any harder.
The water, for the most part, doesn’t pose much of a threat here, as the stage stays entirely still (unlike Pirate Ship). However, what the water contributes to is the possibility of you being left behind when the platform suddenly reappears and floats away, which isn’t going to happen if you stay near the center of the stage or aren’t slow as hell. Even so, it’s something you need to watch out for.
The stage is also rife with walk-off edges, making throwing your opponents into oblivion rather easy. It is especially easy for characters with grab-and-move techniques (Kirby and Dedede with their B specials, DK with his forward throw) to get kills for very little effort. They also make it easier to chase after a smashed opponent and add that little bit of extra distance to send them off the screen proper.
Danger Level: Low
Music: 5/5
This stage has quite a selection of classic Mario tunes, and not only are all of them great, they all fit the sunny, boppy atmosphere of the stage. I’m torn on my favourite – I love the Mario World remix, but I also love the NSMB theme. I even love the basic Delfino Plaza music. Oh, maybe Bob-Omb Battlefield.

Luigi’s Mansion*
Size: Medium
Design: A mansion with three floors of similar size, and all with openings on both sides. The top floor is the smallest (and when all players are on it, the rest of the mansion is covered by the front of the house); the second floor features two solid floors and one semi-solid floor in the center. The bottom floor is the biggest, as it encompasses the outside edges as well, and features two platforms slightly underneath the semi-solid floor of the second floor. A platform will appear on either side of the stage outside the mansion and slowly float up and down (it will go down if you jump on them), and then disappear after a while and possibly reappear on the other side of the stage. The only time both platforms show up is when the mansion has been knocked down.
Speaking of which, the two lower floors have two pillars, and when you smack one pillar enough, it causes that half of the mansion to collapse (you need to make the top part of the mansion collapse before you can make the bottom part do the same). Once all pillars have been destroyed, the stage becomes flat (this is about the only time both the floating platforms appear simultaneously). After a short time, the mansion comes back, good as new (but won’t become restored until after the ENTIRE stage has been destroyed. If half of it is gone, it’ll still like that forever).
Hazards: Pillars holding up the floors can be destroyed, levelling the mansion piece by piece (I already went over this).
Comments: The stage seems like a pretty simple variation to Shadow Moses Island, and while it doesn’t have much in the way of little interesting extra things, it’s still pretty damn fun.
One important thing is the two solid platforms that hang in the center of the stage. One could easily mistake these two for semi-solid platforms and waste time either trying to move down from them or jump through them, only to be blocked. It also gives the bottom part of the stage a narrow ‘tunnel’ feel, as you can really get bounced around. Of course, if those solid platforms really bug you (and they easily could), you can take them out of the picture for a while with a little effort. I guess that’s the other major attribute of this stage (more so than Shadow Moses) is that you can shape it any way you want.
I guess it’s also worth noting that the stage has a strange bottom structure: It is being held up being a thin pillar. Most characters will not be able to reach the thing holding up the stage, but fliers can. So, it’s not quite a floating island, but unless you have some weird skills, you won’t be able to take advantage of it. It’s just a quirk that happens to be there.
Danger level: Low
Music: 5/5
Another Mario stage with excellent music. I love the main Luigi’s Mansion theme, but I think the two Tetris themes steal the show, as they are catchy and (surprisingly) reflect their ethnic origins (that’s a weird statement, I know). The two ‘evil’ Mario themes are also well done, but are overshadowed by everything else that is offered.

Friday, June 6, 2008

And now...a ctrl+C/ctrl+V opinion piece!

I am almost done with the first Stage Tour, so sometime later this weekend/early next week it should be up. Until then, here's a relevant article I posted on my personal blog almost two months ago:

Here's my opinion: I don't think they should make anymore Smash Bros. games.

You might be thinking "The game's only been out for month (three months now)! You still have time to absorb what Brawl gives you! Why would you be thinking about the future now?" The reason I am is because others are, and I'm constantly surrounded by a fan base who started looking towards the future in February. So basically, I don't think for myself.

Apparently Nintendo has been sending out a survey asking whether or not you would like another Smash Bros. This makes sense, but on the other hand doesn't. Durrrr, I don't know; do you think the millions of people who bought this game would want you to make another one? Well, I guess I'm the exception to the rule. I wouldn't want them to make another one.

Errrr, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Would I buy another Smash Bros.? Of course I would, I'm a slave of the series. But I just don't think they should make another, which is about the fifth time I've said that, and I haven't even provided any reasons yet!

Why don't I want another one if I'm such a big fan? Pretty simple, really. I think Brawl is the peak, the farthest they can go with this idea. Any more games in the series would just be spinning the wheels.

I mean, just look at all the things in Brawl. Online, fully-realized adventure mode, stage editor, hundreds of songs, pretty much every major Nintendo franchise well-represented...what could they possibly add in a future game that would be new or exciting? Oh, and don't say 'a better online mode!', because that's not adding, that's just refining. And while the Brawl online isn't perfect, it feels fine for me.

Aw, the representation statement, better go into that. I can barely think of any other Nintendo series that NEED to be Smash Bros. (I think Punch-Out!! and Advance Wars are about the only two 'major' ones left, and they were both represented by non-playable things). And keep in mind, while I love obscure gems like Drill Dozer and Elite Beat Agents, I can completely understand while they weren't chosen to be playable, and why they probably never will. I look at all the character choices in Brawl, and pretty much every one represents something integral to Nintendo. It's probably harder to convince some kid why ROB or the Ice Climbers fit this bill, but they do. In a recent Dojo update, Sakurai mentioned how there seemed to be a large time gap between series represented in Brawl, and how Nintendo hasn't had that many titles in recent times that more or less work in Smash Bros. I laughed at the nerds taking this a sign that Nintendo is losing creativity or something along those lines, as those very same people almost always ignore the games I mentioned above. But I can see Sakurai's statement on two sides: good that Nintendo is branching out into new things, but I guess not so good if you love the character-based games of old. I guess that could go into another argument about how another reason there shouldn't be another SB is because they are moving away from making the types of games that support the series, but I won't.

So yeah, aside from the lack of possible new gameplay additions, I don't think they have many (or maybe any) characters they just HAVE to add into a future game. After Melee, there still were many characters that were just essential. Pit, Wario, Diddy, Meta Knight, Dedede...And guess what? They ALL got into Brawl. Hell, even SONIC, a character we all wanted but never expected, got in. After this...there just isn't anyone else who feels missing. And the side characters that keep getting mentioned by fans? Not essential at all. Also, I don't really accept the idea that more third parties lining up would solve this, as (1)they are entirely opportunist and thus don't have much chance of getting included and (2)having too many third party characters kind of dilutes the point of the game. As cool as finally getting Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, Pac Man, and what have you in the same game would be, it doesn't feel like it's a must for me.

On a slightly separate tangent, I can't help but feel partially responsible for spawning the terrible character cults and leading many online idiots to be disappointed in Brawl's final roster. As you may or may not have known, I was the one to tally up the number of character references in the very early Brawl 'give me suggestions and maybe I'll print'em!' deal. My numbers were referenced for long periods afterwards, and with each new character revealed (all belonging to the upper echelons of my list, and all of which were pretty obvious inclusions in any case), it gave several fans the idea that their favorite character was obvious. And then, after spending months talking about how awesome Ridley, Krystal, or Geno would be...you find out that they were relegated to non-playable roles, or in the case of Geno, not included at all. So to all you whiny freaks: I guess I'm kinda sorry.

So, lots of words to get two main points across: I don't want them to make anymore Smash Bros. games because there isn't any more essential features or characters they could add. I could have just posted this, but that would have saved you and me time.

"How about a DS Smash Bros.?" you may ask. Well, I'm not entirely for that either. No matter how they go about that, wouldn't it just end up being Brawl with less stuff? What would be the point, then? I know, the idea of portable Smash Bros. probably trumps any counterpoints, but I still don't support the idea. Maybe if they got the Jump Superstars guys to make a SB similar to their game, I could see more worth in it.

Speaking of new ideas, that's another thing I would be fine with them doing. Retire the Smash Bros. series and use the concept of bringing your favorite characters together in a different type of game. A puzzle game, a strategy RPG...as long as it's a genre I enjoy, seems good to me.

But as mentioned before, it's only been about a month. Maybe in another 5 years I'll change my tune. And then maybe I'll waste your time with another long winded essay about why I was wrong the first time. I'm weird that way.