Monday, October 24, 2005

Control the Chaos: Part II

Controllers are one of the most important aspects of a good game. If you missed part I, I looked at different controls that are used in video games. Some things I forgot:
  • Trackball. The trackball is a so-so substitute for a mouse, enabling point-and-click to come to arcade machines. Some very successful games such as Missle Command used trackballs.
  • Numpad. Although these are usually included on keyboards, they need special recognition in that they are mapped in a perfect grid, allowing some cool setups.
Now I will analyze some different controllers for video games.
  • Atari Joystick. Obviously the most basic joystick ever invented. One stick, one button. Not much simpler do they get.
  • Nintendo Entertainment System. Four buttons and a D-Pad. Still pretty basic here.
  • Nintendo 64. This was a major improvement on other controllers in that it had multiple triggers, buttons, and joysticks.
  • Palm Pilot 5000. Okay, not a game controller, but still controls, right? Touch screen, wheel, and buttons. Great handwriting recog. for the time.
  • Playstation 2. This is another great controller, of which there have been a few spinoffs by other companies for PC, like Logitech. Two sticks, four triggers, a D-pad and buttons.
  • Gameboy Advance. This was the first excellent portable gaming system, which utilized two triggers, a D-pad, and some buttons.
  • XBOX. This controller sucks. Bigtime. How can you remember which joystick does what while your hanging on a ledge? Oops, wrong one. Game over. Two sticks, two triggers, d-pad, and buttons.
  • Logitech MX 700. This is actually a mouse, but it's totally awesome. Forward and back buttons, scroll wheel, cruise buttons (for scrolling), and fast program switch. And it's wireless! My mom bought one, and my dad was so impressed he bought one for work.
  • Nintendo DS. Finally, a microphone and touch screen on a game controller! Also two triggers, four buttons, and a D-pad.
  • PSP. Ouch! Bad controller. Two triggers, four buttons, a D-pad, and a pseudo-joystick thingy. Not cool, not original.
I realize I have probably left some really cool controllers off the list, but my goal was to give you a good sampling, which hopefully I did. Were there any other controllers that you would have liked to see?

P.S. Sorry I haven't been around much. My mom changed her password, and I just re-cracked it (I'm working on a program to steal it so next time she changes it I won't be gone so long *cops music* ).

Friday, October 21, 2005

WWE Day of Reckoning 2

WWE fans, Gamecube owners, WWE fans who just happen to be Gamecube owners, rejoice as one of the most enthralling wrestling titles today has landed on the system. Since Aki Corp.'s departure from the WWF/WWE license post Nintendo 64, wrestling titles haven't been the same. Yuke's Media Creations that were at the time the sole developers of the Smackdown brand on Sony Playstation consoles took up the task of delivering to Gamecube owners a wrestling franchise to call their own. After a couple of well intentioned but severely lacking titles, things were taken into a new direction. Throwing the Wrestlemania license over to the XBOX platform, Yuke's began on a journey to make good on their offering to Gamecube owners a wrestling title that accentuated their talents and benefitted the potential consumer audience. With the new Day of Reckoning brand, Yuke's was well on its way to bringing that perfect title, but there was still some things that were out of place, at least until now.
STORY
Day of Reckoning 2 essentially picks up where the first Day of Reckoning title left off. After building your way up from the minor leagues into the WWE big time and after weathering allegiances and betrayal, your jobber would reign supreme with the World Heavyweight Title in tow. Well, somewhere between then and now, the title was lost in a match and due to a simultaneous double fault (pin/tap out) the General Manager of RAW, Eric Bischoff, was forced to vacate the title. With the title now up for grabs, a tournament between RAW's best (including you) is conducted to determine who would earn that championship belt. This is where everything begins to fall apart however as during the final moments of the tournament the title goes missing and of course everyone is suspect. Unfortunately for you, due to circumstances before and during the tournament your character ends up becoming the most suspect of all. Comprised of your standard, dramatized WWE storyline, you will once again be tested as you fight to clear your good name, weed through the lies and deception until one truth prevails and ultimately seek championship gold. In Day of Reckoning 2 even your best friend could essentially be your worst enemy.
Now, Day of Reckoning 2 doesn't steer very far from the over dramatized musings of the TV show but it certainly seems to amount to much more than the "pauper to king" storyline presented in the first game. The story also does a good job of keeping things moving as well as the player guessing as your progress from chapter to chapter. Throughout the storyline you'll be given choices to determine how your character will react in certain situations. For instance, if someone you know has been ambushed at ringside, you may be given the option of staying where you are and not getting involved, or risking your neck to go out there and provide some help. However, the way this impacts your character's integrity in the eyes of your peers could come into play despite your best (or worst) intentions. If there was any glaring fault to this aspect of the game, it would definitely have to be with the fact that you can't import your Day of Reckoning characters into this game. According to THQ, Yuke's changes to many areas of the game wouldn't allow the transfer of older characters into a new product. So yeah, get ready to put those creative juices to work in creating those custom characters of yours.

GAMEPLAY
In Day of Reckoning 2, the name of the game, is strategy. There are two aspects to Day of Reckoning 2 that makes it the most realistic wrestling title out there on the market today. One aspect is the visual quality of the game, the graphics; and the other has to do with the game's combat system. Anyone who has played wrestling titles since the N64 days knows what is usually expected of these kinds of games. Back then, strategy was the focus and now strategy is still the focus. Where Aki left off with games like WWF No Mercy, Yuke's has tried to re-establish and even surpass with the Day of Reckoning titles. With Day of Reckoning 2, fans of that particular combat style will have a lot to like about this game.
First things first, the light/heavy grapple system is more or less a centerpiece to this system. How you connect with your opponent and deal with the situation will determine your outcome. When grappling opponents there is literally a move for every situation you could get them in. If they're on their back or on their stomachs, there are moves to deal with them there. If they are set up in the "tree of woe" on the turnbuckle or caught up in the ropes, there are moves to punish them there too. The freedom of choice and types of techniques you can pull off allows you almost total control over any situation. From here on however is where things get interesting. The game's submission system for instance has been majorly tweaked, providing even more control for players to dish out their fury. Upon performing a basic submission hold, the game prompts you with four distinct options that are activated by pushing the C-Stick in that respective direction. You can choose to actually perform a dedicated submission hold on an opponent in order to get them to tap out, you can choose to drain their "Spirit" meter through the attack, you can choose to use the submission as a means to hold your opponent down while your character recovers both strength and stamina until the referee breaks the hold or you can choose to use the hold to drain your opponent's stamina.
However, be mindful that this new submission system, like the old one, can be effectively countered by your opponent, but even that requries some strategy as well. When you are prompted with those four options, your opponent will be prompted with them as well. Now, if your opponent happens to choose the exact same option that you do they will effectively break the hold and counter your attack, of course if they fail, then they get to suffer per the option you chose. The greatest thing about this feature is that is that it forces players to think as to how they should play their strategies. Should the attacker try to drain his/her opponents Stamina to put them at a physical disadvantage? Or should they go for broke and try to submit them for the tap out? As such, the person being attacked may want to keep an eye on their own physical condition as well as their opponent's to better anticipate where the attack will come from. If their stamina is already low, then it's likely that their opponent may want to try and eliminate the rest of that to try and sway the match in their favor, or maybe if the attacker's stamina is low, it is likely that they may want to use the submission as a means of catching their second wind. Understanding the specifics of the match will help in predicting when and how to counter effectively.

Now that it has been brought up, it's probably best if the Stamina feature was explained. New to Day of Reckoning 2 is another aspect to your character's physical condition called Stamina. Basically, stamina is just like what it is in the real world, a level of how long you can endure strenuous activity. With that said, it should be a no brainer that keeping an eye on your stamina and being mindful of how you fight should be top priority. For example, if you're a gung-ho fighter who likes to come out throwing fists, you may want to change your strategy or make sure that those punches you're throwing count. The more you do without providing a break of some sort, the more your stamina gauge will deplete. Once your stamina hits the red zone or hits empty, your character will begin to show signs of fatigue and will begin to move slower and fight less efficiently. Don't fret however, as the stamina gauge does build itself up automatically no matter what, because of this, running out of stamina will most likely be a consequence of reckless fighting or long endurance during matches. Nevertheless, it does provide even more reason to be in tune with the make up of the game as well as your character in order to keep things in check. In addition, the guard maneuver has been tweaked as well. Pressing either of the shoulder buttons will initiate a guard depending on their respective counter controls. The "L" shoulder button for instance will guard against grapple attempts, effectively pushing wrestlers away or defending against the grapple itself while the "R" shoulder button will guard against physical strike attacks by tensing up the body and taking the blow head on. Both of these guard techniques are called "withstand" techniques and while they are advantageous, withstanding too many blows with this maneuver will begin to take a toll on your stamina gauge as well so it's best to use these with caution.
Another notable aspect of the game's enhanced interface has to do with computer controlled opponents and how they deal with these new options even at higher difficulty level. One major notable positive is that computer controlled opponents aren't as cheap as they seemed to be in the first Day of Reckoning game. They'll realistically counter attacks instead of trying to counter everything thrown at them even three versus one onslaughts like in Day of Reckoning. They will also use more dedicated strategy based on the new submission system and the inclusion of the withstand technique. Momentum shifts also return in this game which are essentially last ditch efforts to turn a match over in favor of the one using the Momentum Shift. Of course Momentum Shifts can be countered which helps to stave off opportunists looking for that easy reversal victory.
As mentioned before Day of Reckoning 2 has taken large strides into providing a realistic combat scene that is dependent upon strategy and dedicated fighting techniques to win the day as opposed to your basic wear down and win scenarios seen in most other games of the genre. Nearly everything that is attributed to your success in the ring (or lack thereof) are based upon the choices you make and you literally have full control over such choices as well. Button mashers beware, as your antics will get you nowhere under the new guidelines presented in Day of Reckoning 2. As far as here and now is concerned, you will find no other wrestling entertainment title out there that does what Day of Reckoning 2 attempts to do and succeeds at doing so.
GRAPHICS
Yuke's Media Creations certainly went the distance to provide a more phenomenal experience with Day of Reckoning 2 in comparison to the first title. Increasing the polygon counts for each established superstar especially in the facial error made for a more visually stunning looking title. Day of Reckoning 2 could very well be the most realistically looking wrestler to date and possibly for the remainder of this console generation. The character models all look very lifelike in comparison with their real life counterparts. When the camera zooms in on Triple H's face during his entrance, you can see the wrinkles in his brow, the depth and contours of his facial profile, even the creases and dimensions of his muscular frame as opposed to it looking like simple texture work. With that, mannerisms and taunts during entrances and in matches are more authentic looking as well as other additions such as tattoos and other markings. Some characters who boast more sophisticated entrances, such as John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL), are spot on complete with a very polished looking, longhorn adorning limousine that rolls out onto the stage.Other minor additions such as sweat coming off of a wrestler after a fierce attack or watching a busted open brawler dripping blood on the mat and leaving stains as well takes the authenticity of the game's aesthetics to a realistic degree.
The wrestlers aren't the only aspects of the game that benefit from the increased visuals either. The various arenas and venues have been restructured which seems to give off a very noticeable amount of depth to the environment. Crowd models are also rendered in 3D as well and seem to boast variety in placement as well. Their chanting, screaming and overall activity is realistically affected by wrestler entrances as well as high and low points during matches. The presence of seeing fans going wild during John Cena's entrance from the front row all the way back to the nosebleed section on the balcony seem to only aid in showing how much larger and more lively these arenas have gotten. Created wrestlers also somewhat benefit from this as well. Although, certainly not on par with the established roster of superstars, created wrestler character models do look much more defined and detailed than they did in Day of Reckoning, even doing away with that pseudo-plastic look for more realistic skin tones and body body make-up. As far as visuals go, all around, Day of Reckoning 2 benefits from the virtual face lift.
MUSIC/SOUND
Day of Reckoning 2 sports a lively soundtrack much like Day of Reckoning with vocals as well as instrumental songs that play during menus or while in matches. Titantron entrance music is clear and doesn't sound as muffled as it did in Day of Reckoning. The basics of sound and music are all here which isn't a problem in the slightest, however, due to the smaller storage capacity of GCN discs, voice overs were omitted from the final product. For a game that improves in so many ways, the lack of this feature is a bit of a negative consequence despite being the only glaring flaw in this aspect. As great as the story mode is it does leave something to be desired when characters are still given the silent treatment as in Day of Reckoning. Announcer cues during entrances are there however, detailing the various superstars coming down the ramp as well as their statistics and and where they hail from. The Create A Wrestler mode even has prerecorded voice samples for generic characters like a "Ninja" and even some samples of common names such as "Kevin." While it doesn't make up for the former oversight it does provide some solace in other areas of the game.
REPLAYABILITY
Being the type of game that it is, Day of Reckoning 2 boasts a huge variety options that the game's appeal can last for an indefinite amount of time. While the Story Mode obviously has a beginning and end, the rest of the game outside of that is pretty much up to your own discretion. The variety of match types and customization options to create any match you want within those parameters can go a long way. Of course, there is also the Create A Wrestler feature which is a lot easier to navigate and setup than in the first Day of Reckoning and boasts a few more options to boot. You can also earn money in matches to spend at Shopzone for items to further personalize your characters or buy new items/weapons for use during matches. There are also "hidden legends" wrestlers which can be unlocked through play when you meet certain conditions.
CLOSING
Since the start of the Gamecube's lifecycle, WWE fans have had a rough run of things when it came to titles starring their favorite TV superstars. With Aki Corp. working on other, more varied projects and the developer in charge of the Playstation "Smackdown" series up to bat to develop for the Gamecube, there was no telling if the glory days of the WCW/NWO games on through to WWF No Mercy would ever return. While things aren't perfect yet, Yuke's Media Creations have made huge strides in delivering to Gamecube owners an experience based on the WWE license that stands on its own two feet as one of the greatest experiences among the genre within the Gamecube's game library. While there are some downpoints regarding the lack of voice overs and the inability to transfer data to a game that is essentially a continuation of a former story, there is still a lot to look forward to in Day of Reckoning 2 for those looking for a that wholesome experience. The prettiest looking wrestler to date and possibly beyond within this console cycle, an enhanced combat system that could very well surpass that of WWF No Mercy's and a conglomeration of quality features built up over the course of this generation combined into one package make it one of the best choices for WWE aficionados looking for an authentic experience unlike any other.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Political Gaming

this article (thats to my good friend, Da Cuzco, for allowing me to reproduce it here) is about politics inside of games.

Over the years, gaming has been rapidly evolving. With each new generation of consoles, we see improved graphics, storylines and depth. As these aspects of gaming improve, developers and writers have unlocked the potential to lend more of their own opinions and ideas to a game in way of character personalities and plots. In other words, while you can't really display any sort of opinions through Pong, you can easily send an anti-war message through a new WWII game. With increased realism, developers have been making great games based loosely around modern events, in which they can easily display personal political and worldly views. There are many examples of this, but I'd like to provide two very opposite examples in this article: Nintendo's bestseller Resident Evil 4, and the fairly underrated game Destroy All Humans. With both games, I'll point out where the political bias can be found and how the developers are able to put it in the game without pissing everyone off with an overload of propaganda.

Resident Evil 4? Huh, wha? Yep, believe it or not, RE4 has quite a bit of political bias in it, though it can be tough to spot unless you're really looking for it. I'm going to assume most people reading this site are pretty familiar with the story, but here's the quick version for those of you who are not:

Leon S. Kennedy is working for the US Government and has been assigned to search for the president's missing daughter. A lead sends him to a tiny European village out in the middle of nowhere. When he gets there, he's greeted by blood-crazed homicidal villagers. Things get worse when your typical Resident Evil monsters and mysterious shadowy figures start showing up. As Leon continues to investigate the situation, a vast anti-American terrorist cult group is uncovered. Lead by Lord Saddler, Salazar, and Krauser, they intend on turning the United States in to the hell the tiny village has become. Take over the world, blah blah, Leon saves the day, the end. You get the idea.

So what? It sounds like the typical action/Resident Evil/kill everything that moves game, right? Well, sort of. When you have a game with a story like that, politics kind of comes with the whole package.

Leon: What do you intend to do by restoring Umbrella?
Krauser: To bring order and balance to this insane world of ours.
Leon: A psycho like you can't bring order or balance.
Krauser: You don't think a conservative mind can chart a new course for the world, do you?

Leon (Not only in RE4, but also RE2) has always had a strong sense of duty and loyalty to his country and job. He knows what he believes in and nothing changes that. He's basically a pretty conservative guy. Then, on the other hand, we have our bad guys that you're not supposed to like. Their ideas of a world of "puppets" can be viewed as almost a messed up version of Communism. In short, though, they're cultist and terrorists; super extreme liberals to say the least.

Salazar: The sacred rite that is about to begin at this tower will bestow the girl with magnificent power. She will join us, become one of us.
Leon: This is no ritual, this is terrorism.
Salazar: My, isn't that a popular word these days? Not to worry, we've prepared a special ritual just for you.

The makers of the game can't make you hate certain political views, but if they make the views a tad more extreme and give them to characters who are complete assholes... Yeah, you get the idea. You hate the character, so you hate everything they stand for. Then, if you stop and think about what they actually are standing for, you realize that there are people in this world who think almost exactly the same way. Tone those ideas down a bit and you'll see that quite a bit of people, some even major political figures, have similar views.

Leon: What's so funny?
Saddler: Oh, I think you know. The American prevailing is a cliché
that only happens in your Hollywood movies. Mr. Kennedy, you entertain me. To show my appreciation, I will help you awaken from your world of clichés.

As the story develops, more and more small political hints sneak their way in to the story through cut-scenes and items found. These things come in such small subtle doses, that the average gamer might never pick up on them unless they were actually looking. While the message can be effective if you want it to be, those who don't care about politics will probably never notice. The writers and developers did an excellent job of stating their opinion without making it overpowering and altering the overall game.

Well, that pretty much covers RE4. Now, we have Destroy All Humans. Unlike RE4, the bias is not as difficult to find or as hidden. Everything about the bias in this game is far from similar to RE4.

Destroy All Humans takes place in 1950's America. Kind of a Leave It to Beaver type setting. Highly intelligent aliens who have lost the ability to reproduce need human DNA to continue cloning each other. They come to earth to steal human brains, then kill as many people as possible... sort of... These aliens aren't exactly what you'd consider killing machines.

Unlike RE4 which hides the limited bias, DAH makes the bias very well known. But then how do they game makers get away with it? Simple: comedy.

Cyrptosporidium: But they're covered with nipples!

This game has more political jokes than a bad late night talk show. Not that it's a bad thing, though. Most people, especially ones who would pick this game up, have a good sense of humor when it comes to the material found in this game. Plus, they use the political cracks in moderation, so you don't get sick of overdone propaganda.

Silhouette: Fool... do you think America is the only civilization on this planet?
Cyrptosporidium: Well, all the Americans seem to think so.


A horde of invading aliens isn't a group you'd expect to be patriotic or anything like that. This game is no different. However, the way this game differs is that you're on the side of the aliens. The aliens are viewed as the "good guys" and you want them to win. Remember what I said about the characters in RE4? The same goes for this game. So, you've probably guessed the political standing of the ones trying to stop you. Yep, the big bad republican scientist is doing his best to cover up any signs of alien invasion throughout the game, leaving the innocent, stupid American public in the dark.

Overall, DAH does come across as a lot more political than RE4. While RE4 could have easily been just as amazing without any political opinions thrown in, DAH would have taken a major blow to its humorous storyline without the running political commentary.

Soldier: Boy, I wish I’d been put in the Texas Air National Guard. We all know that’s easy.

Two good games, almost complete opposites, yet both affected by political bias. With more ways to voice opinions through games, developers are taking full advantage of the opportunities provided. Conservative and liberal ideals alike are being fed to us in new ways some would never expect. While, in a way, making certain games more realistic, do we really care about the opinions of those making today's games?

To see the actual article (even though this is a full replica, Ctrl+C Ctrl+V), click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Animal Crossing DS: Wild Wild World

well, its not quite out yet, just 2 months to go!

I'm sure that we have all played Animal Crossing for the Nintendo GameCube.

Well, as a recap, it goes like this:

Get a house
pay off the loan
make friends
earn money
live and have fun!

well, in the GCN version, you could make 4 characters, but they couldnt interact with eachother! i mean, whats the point then??

well, what happens when Animal Crossing for the Gamecube meets the DS's magical ability to go online?

Wireless interaction!

Coming out roughly in December, Animal Crossing will be coming out for the DS, and it will feature a few new characters and items, but it basicly remains the same as the GCN version except for the part about making literaly thousands of new friends.

As the title says, this is definitly gonna be a wild life...
--
The Nefarious Ryan Von Levingston

Friday, October 07, 2005

Control the Chaos: Part I

Controllers are among a few essentials to a gaming experience. A controller and how it is set up can make or break a game. When researching for this topic I found so much stuff I will have to split it into two articles. In this one I will explain different types of controls for game controllers.
  • Joystick. The joystick is just about the most recognized gaming controls around. The benefits include being easy to learn and use. It's great for both 2D and 3D controlling. I'm sure this control doesn't need much more explaining.
  • D-Pad. This is the cousin of the joystick. Practically the same, it differs only in appearance (there is no grippable piece in the center) and a little in function (most d-pads are 8-directional).
  • Button. This is also a very much recognized control. It serves to activate certain modes of play, fire a weapon, jump, pick something up, etc. It can also have certain effects when held down, such as an accelerator in a racing game.
  • Trigger. A close relative of the button (in that it is one), the difference is in how it is used. It is either pressed by the index or middle fingers, and is usually associated with weapon firing.
  • Keyboard. The only thing that sets this apart from a bunch of buttons is text entry. We all know how nightmarish it is to enter names into hiscores with two buttons.
  • Mouse. Somewhat similar to a joystick, except its movement is constant (no boundaries). If you can't reach that far, pick it up and move it toward you.
  • Throttle. This is essentially a single-axis joystick. It is normally used with speed, usually of air or spacecrafts.
  • Switch. Yes, it is different from the button. Switches are either in two states, on or off, and they don't require holding down by a finger, unlike the button. Switches also come in 3-state and 4-state varieties.
  • Scroll Wheel. This is most commonly found on mice and non-gaming devices (mp3-players, radios, etc.). It is usually used in the same way as a throttle or to scroll through a list.
  • Microphone. Used to detect claps and voice commands. The Nintendo DS has one of these, but it still isn't too common.
  • Touch Screen. Another DS control. This is mostly used for PDAs and tablet PCs in place of a mouse.
Now for some fun. These controls were all tested at one time or another, even though they sound rediculous.
  • Brain Band. Atari actually tried it, and it even worked! Unfortunately, it picked up muscle control as well, so most players played the game just by scrunching their facial features, leading to massive headaches. It never got out of the lab.
  • Eye Tracker. This is another Atari flop: watch where the player looks and use that as input. Unfortunately, the computers were too slow back then to make it feasible, and the computers got too confused anyway.
  • Bike. This has actually been used! On the special features of the movie Super Size Me, the guy goes to a school with a successful exercise program and finds these awesome stationary bikes hooked up to a PS2. Two kids are peddling hard as they battle it out in a motocross race. Pretty cool.
  • Virtual Reality Glove. This actually got on the market, but failed horribly, because the sensors pretty much sucked back then. This looks like it might make a comeback, though.
Anything I forgot?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

DS BS

So I open this months issue of PC World, right? I flip through it. Well, looky here! Another PSP article! And another! And one for the Gizmondo! I wonder if they have one for the DS!

Nope. It wasnt even mentioned in the text.

Well, things are definitely improving since the last time I wrote on this subject. Fred Meyer now has a "DS" section in the home electronics area, and I've been seeing more news articles on the DS recently.

But things are still bad. The DS has been out the longest, and hasn't garnished any reviews in PC World, while the PSP has had three and the Gizmondo (due out this month) has already had one. No doubt the N-Gage had one as well (I haven't had my subscription that long), but the DS is being left in the dust. (Edit: There are a few DS articles on the PC World website.)

And that isn't all. The XBOX 360 has had a review, and the PS3 review is no doubt on its way. The Nintendo Revolution has been mentioned in text. Once.

It's pathetic. For some odd reason, the media is completely biased against Nintendo. What can you do? Write. You can reach PC World at letters@pcworld.com. Tell them I sent you.

Any other instances of anti-Nintendo bias that you guys can think of? And why are they doing it?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mario Superstar Baseball

Mario Superstar Baseball
Arcade-style Baseball Hits the Mushroom Kingdom



In the latest release in the Mario sports genre, Nintendo brings America's favorite pastime to the Nintendo GameCube with a bit of Mario flair. The title revolves around the classic gameplay mode and the various mini-game challenges that add to the depth of the game. Controlling your character can take a bit of time to get used to, but luckily Nintendo threw in a great practice mode which will bring players up to speed in no time. In the traditional mode, Mario and friends slug it out on one of several wacky baseball stadiums. Each player selects a captain and then fills the eight other positions with a variety of classic characters from the Mario franchise. Each team's captain then becomes the primary rivalry, usually sparking some heated moments during the matchup. The gameplay essentially revolves around batting, pitching and fielding. You move your character around and press buttons to swing or throw, but Nintendo beefs it up a bit with arcade-style moves and abilities. Players can perform charged swings or throws, or use Star Power to perform their character's special ability at the plate or on the mound. There is the simple exhibition mode which is a quick play setup, or you can enter into a sort of "story mode" in which you traverse a Mario Party style board to various stadiums in an effort to beat every team in the Mushroom Kingdom in order to earn the right to face off againt Bowser's squad. Beyond the traditional mode are the several challenging mini-games, ranging from a twisted version of Home Run Derby, to tossing Yoshi eggs at Pirahna plants, to hitting a ball at exploding barrels. Each mini-game provides a different scenario, and as you meet point requirements for each, the difficulty level increases.



Mario Superstar Baseball also offers several hidden characters, stadiums and addition mini-games unlockable when certain requirements are met. The title truly lends itself to a great multi-player experience, but the single-player mode can become repetitive for even the most hardcore Mario fan. The game is not without its flaws, either. Baserunning is too complicated and fielding in the traditional game mode can be a pain due to the small size of the ball, even with the aid of the built-in "circles" that show the ball's landing spot. Overall, Mario Superstar Baseball is a solid game, though it is best experience with others. Fans of traditional baseball games looking for in-depth gameplay and lots of customization options will probably find the game a bit lacking. But for those looking for an arcade-style baseball game that's great to play with others, Mario Baseball is the best title out there.


Score: 7 out of 10