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Mario Maker

Okay, so Mario Maker is basically the best thing ever. The E3 demo was enough to put it high on my radar for 2015 games, but the most recent trailer now has me more convinced than ever that this could be the make-your-own game I've been waiting for.

Sure, some people will say things like "LittleBigPlanet already did that" or "Mario Maker looks too simplistic." But what Mario Maker has over similar games is, well, Mario. Whereas LittleBigPlanet is a wonderful game-making tool hampered by inconsistent gameplay and awkward physics, we all know Mario, if anything else, guarantees a great sense of control. Super Mario Bros., Mario 3, Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U are all the currently revealed aesthetics for the game, so if you can make stages based on those templates, that's something to be excited about. As for the simplicity, well, while it doesn't look like the game has the ability to make dialogue and cinematic options in the way LittleBigPlanet and its kin do, its focus on level design might be a case of less being more, allowing players to be more creative with the tools at work.

Nintendo already showed off the Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. U aesthetics back at E3, but actually seeing the Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World visuals (and sounds!) at play has now tripled my excitement for the game. And seeing the unique ways you can manipulate traditional Mario elements (canons shooting coins!) shows that there may be a lot more to Mario Maker than we at first thought.

There are, however, two concerns I have for the game: The first is that Nintendo has yet to announce if your created stages can be shared online. Last I heard Nintendo said they were "considering" it. Consider nothing, this is one instance where online capabilities are a must. Granted, actually making and playing levels will be the core of the game, but downloading other people's stages and playing through them should be the obvious extention of that concept. The fact that Nintendo is finally making a Mario level editor is a dream come true, but not being able to share your creations with other may put a damper on the experience. Let's hope Nintendo makes the right (and obvious) choice.

The other concern I have is more of an issue of preference. I have to wonder if all of your creations will end up being standalone stages or if you can (preferably) link a few of them together. I don't suspect you'll be able to make a full-on Mario adventure (even LittleBigPlanet 2 only allowed you to link so many), but if you could make a small series of levels (a "world" if you will) to be played together, it would definitely add something to it.

But aside from those two issues, I have nothing but high hopes for Mario Maker, as it's a game I've always wanted. Sure, some insufferable hacker types will insist that emulators exist, but not everyone has the patience (or technical savvy) for such things, and hacking through a game's code just doesn't have the same appeal as having it presented to you as a kind of virtual toybox. The fact that this is an official Nintendo game will most likely ensure it will be an accessible experience, one that hopefully even those of us who don't know the first thing about programming lingo can have a go at.

Let's hope Nintendo realizes what they have going here. After all, once people worked their way around LittleBigPlanet's editing tools, it seemed like the majority of players jumped at the chance to recreate the Mushroom Kingdom. Now we have it handed to us on a silver platter.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Early Reactions

After spending a considerable amount of time this last week playing Super Smash Bros. on Wii U, I think I can confidently say that it's more than likely the best Smash Bros. game ever. Yes, better than Melee, better than Brawl. It feels far more balanced than its predecessors, and there's so much more to it than the solid-but-lacking-freshness 3DS version.

At first I was iffy with Nintendo releasing the 3DS version first, but I think it ended up being the right move. The 3DS version gave you a great taste of what was to come, and the Wii U version is the main course.

I know people have already gone on about the "For Fun" and "For Glory" aspects of the game, but it's hard to understate how impactful these aspects are. Smash Bros. has always been a series with a broad appeal - some love the party game fun of it all while others enjoy the deeper fighting mechanics - and the Wii U version (and 3DS as well) hit a home run with catering to Smash fans of all kinds.

Yeah, it uses the same characters as the 3DS version, but there's just so much more to the game as a whole. Stage builders, screenshots, a better classic mode, Smash Tour, eight player battles, far more creative stages, better and more varied music (seriously, that music!), and the game looks absolutely gorgeous. There's just so much of everything, it's probably one of the most content-heavy games I've ever played. There's always something to do, whether its spending hours in one of its more robust game modes or just messing around with some of its smaller tools. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

I know, I'm ranting. But being a big fan of Smash Bros. I feel this is the game that could be seen as the series' definitive entry. This is especially great after the 3DS version, while great in its own right, felt more like a transition to handhelds than the next step in the series' evolution. But Smash Bros. for Wii U has a sense of freshness, and just so much content to it. It goes without saying that it's one of the best games on the Wii U (I'd put it neck-and-neck with Tropical Freeze, which was so much greater than it got credit for).

Smash Wii U is a definite must buy if you have a Wii U. If you don't have a Wii U, well, you have no excuse at this point. Get the freaking console already! It has a wonderful library that has built up over these last two years, and has now just been capped off with its most-hyped game (and plenty more in 2015), which more than lives up to that hype.

Big Hero 6, Intersteller, St. Vincent, Pixar Sequels, Super Smash Bros. and My New Website Soon...

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged here, both because I was hoping my list of 50 greatest video games ever could get some extra attention in this increasingly-barren GameSpot (by the way, here it is again for your enjoyment), and because I've been busy with college and whatnot. With that said, I have had some good time to go to the movies, so here's some quick opinion on them.

Big Hero 6:Let's get this out of the way, Big Hero 6 is no Frozen. But that's nothing to be ashamed of. Frozen took me by complete surprise, as I kind of grew arrogantly dismissive of Disney's inability to add a true sense of depth to their stories, only for Frozen to prove me dead wrong on so many levels. It turned the Disney princess movie into something thematic, and was also immensely entertaining.

By contrast, Big Hero 6 is a tried and true super hero flick. It's a good one, to be sure, but given that it's bound to be compared to both Frozen (its immediate predecessor) and The Incredibles (Disney's other super hero movie) - both of which also happen to be my two favorite Disney films - it falls short by some margin. But again, it's hardly a sin for an animated film to not be Frozen or The Incredibles, and by its own merits Big Hero 6 is pretty darned good. Baymax is an endearing sidekick, Hiro is a likable main character, the animation is top-notch and it has very good action sequences. It does have some faults: the four other members of the titular six are exactly who their one-note introductions say they are, and certain story elements feel rushed as to make more room for action scenes, and other aspects teeter on the predictable. again, it's a tried and true super hero flick.

But overall it's a whole lot of fun, and if it weren't for The Wind Rises and Tale of Princess Kaguya, it would be the best animated film of the year (I detest The Lego Movie and found How to Train Your Dragon 2 to be "just okay"). And Marvel fans will appreciate the little details added to the film to make it feel like the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without spoiling too much, Stan Lee gets his token cameo, and I advise people to stay for the credits.

Intersteller: Intersteller is one of those movies that's hard to talk about without spoilers, so this will be short. Overall a very great movie (albeit a long one). The acting is incredible, the visual effects are great (with one sequence being the first visual effect in years to really make my eyes pop), the story is great (save for a few wonky sci-fi elements towards the end), and the writing is strong. If you can sit through a three-hour movie, this is a definite recommendation.

St. Vincent: St. Vincent is a great movie overall, with Bill Murray being at his absolute best. It's funny and touching. Though I have to admit (again, without spoilers) there is some conflict introduced towards the latter half of the film that seems to magically resolve with no explanation. But aside from that, this is certainly an entertaining and funny movie that also manages to tell a good, character-driven story (something a lot of today's comedies need to brush up on).

Pixar sequels: So....Toy Story 4..... Yeah....

Don't get me wrong, I adore Toy Story, with the second entry in particular being one of my favorite movies. But surely I'm not the only one who felt Toy Story 3 was a fitting end to the series (that almost enforced the idea that it was the end, no less)? Part of me is really excited for it, but I also feel it's largely unnecessary. I get that Toy Story continued with TV specials and short films, but that felt like a good compromise. Extending the core theatrical films gives a little bit of a "is nothing sacred?" vibe.

Toy Story 4 comes on top of the already-announced Cars 3 (groan) and The Incredibles 2 (yay), as well as Finding Dory (skeptically excited). And of course this all comes after we've already had Monsters University, Cars 2 and Toy Story 3 in recent years. Pixar has been off of their game for the past few years, but now I'm beginning to wonder, with all these sequels in tow, has their originality dried up? I know some will point out The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out, and while those films may end up to be really good, I can't say they've really won me over yet (Inside Out almost just looks like a reworked Monsters Inc, but with ironically-less imaginative character designs).

I'm skeptically excited for Toy Story 4 and Finding Dory, have zero interest in Cars 3 (though I'll still probably end up seeing it), with The Incredibles 2 being the only one I'm truly excited for, seeing as it's the one Pixar movie I always felt could have had a sequel. It's just a shame that now The Incredibles 2 will be "just another Pixar sequel" in a lot of people's eyes.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U:Yes! It's out! I'll probably be picking it up later today, and I'm very excited. The 3DS version was, but more or less felt like it was just bringing the fundamentals of the series to the handheld realm. Thankfully, from everything I've seen and read (and the demo I played at E3) the Wii U version looks like the real deal, the next step forward for the series. I can't wait to play it. It's still just a shame Dixie Kong got snubbed while Dark Pit made it in (seriously, what was going through their minds with that one?).

My new site/blog: I have to admit I feel like something's been missing with the absence of my constant linking of my reviews here on GameSpot. Truth be told I haven't written too many reviews on my current blog for months, as I've been busy, but also trying to save some things for my new site, which I've been promising for too long. I actually have a good number of game reviews written for my new site, some of them brand new and others reworked reviews for games I've done before. I'm hoping that in not too much longer I can get it all together and launch my new site (and maybe a new Youtube channel to go with it). Honestly the only thing holding me back...I can't think of a good name! The site will primarily focus on games and animated films so for a while I was trying to go with something that said what it was... But I couldn't come up with something that didn't sound long-winded. So now I'm at a bit of a loss for a name. Maybe something that's simply fun (think "The Android's Dungeon" from the Simpsons...but not The Android's Dungeon from the Simpsons). I don't know, anyone have any ideas?

Anyway, I have more stuff I want to write, but this blog is already longer than it needs to be. So peace out for now!

The (Nearly) Impossible Task of Making a Top 10 Video Games List

My surveyed list of "Best Games Ever" will be done soon (no promises as to when, just in case it gets delayed). As you know it was made from my survey where I asked many people (including a good number here on GameSpot) their top 10 favorite video games of all time. Many of the people I asked had very similar responses, "I have so many favorites" "It's hard to narrow it down to ten but I can give it a try" "Only ten??!"

That is to say, they had trouble sending me such a narrowed down list.

I've always understood it can be tough to name your favorites of anything. Sure, there are always obvious picks, but then when you think you have it figured out, you start remembering other such things that have their own argument to being listed. Pretty soon ten becomes twelve becomes fifteen becomes twenty becomes thirty. But for the past few days I really realize just how difficult it can be.

A few days ago, my brother challenged me (or tagged me or whatever the term) on Facebook to name my list of ten favorite video games. I have actually been planning on making a list of twenty or so favorites for some time, either as a way to cap off my current website as I make way for my new one, or as a way to break in my new site. But slicing that "twenty or so" down to ten quickly became an ugly beast.

Like I said, some favorites are obvious, and will always stand out (in my case, Super Mario World is one of those games). But then other factors start to rear their ugly heads. Should I make a really diverse list, with games representing different genres or eras? Should I go with games I think are the most technically flawless (in which case Tetris and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night would probably have a place)? Or do I just go with personal experiences? The latter might just be the hardest to narrow down. The SNES and N64 alone could probably bring in ten games if I were going simply by personal experiences.

For me, I feel I have more of a pool of favorite games, enough that I could make that "twenty or so" list considerably more confidently. But I feel when narrowing it down to ten, I almost feel like I'm just picking and choosing. Ask me tomorrow and a few games from that pool might replace some that I mentioned yesterday. Granted, because of this fluctuating nature I'm probably over-worrying about how "definitive" my list would appear (seriously, I could just update it later. What the heck?). But since I've never "officially" made a list of favorites I guess I'm putting some extra thought into it.

So whatever top 10 I do decide on, in order to cram it together, will probably have to have a mix of the aforementioned criteria. Maybe pick a few games for their apparent flawlessness, pick a couple for the personal experience, and try to make it diverse without forcing said diversity (I've said in the past I'd prefer to see a list that appears biased but honest than one that's fair just for the heck of it, and I stick by that. You can't just not namedrop some favorites because you already listed another from the same franchise/genre. If it's a favorite it's a favorite. But like I said, I'm kind of just picking and choosing from twenty or so favorites anyway, so I'm not necessarily "denying" a game based on a fear of bias). I'm definitely not going to do the whole "one per franchise" thing for the reasons I just stated. But I'm definitely going to have to find some way to trim down Mario and Zelda since their are other games that have had similar impacts on me (just not on the same insanely consistent basis).

So long story short. Making a top ten list, or at least writing it down and making it feel "official" is freaking hard! Whatever I write on Facebook might end up being different from what I write on my site(s). But either way, I now feel guilty about putting this on so many others for my survey. But am all he more thankful for their contributions.

Smash Bros., Bayonetta and Princess Kaguya, Oh My!

Smash Bros.

So Nintendo's new Direct basically said "lol Smash Bros. 3DS may be fun but it's really a joke compared to the Wii U version lololololol." Seriously, battles up to EIGHT PLAYERS, DLC characters (Mewtwo!), an amazing looking stage builder, glorious, glorious music, and more new modes than you can shake a stick at (some, like Smash Tour, look like meaningful changes to the Smash formula, while others, like painting, look like stupid fun for the heck of it, which is great!).

I was excited for Smash Bros. Wii U before, but now that it basically makes the 3DS look like little more than an appetizer, I'm more excited than ever.

But can we just get Dixie Kong in the game now?

Bayonetta 2

I admit that I wasn't too big on the first Bayonetta when I first played it (I let the whole "sexism" argument get to me I guess, but I've since came to the conclusion that Bayonetta's is more humorous and, in a weird way, female empowering than a lot of other games), but the series has grown on me.

As anyone here knows, Bayonetta 2 scored Gamespot's eighth ever ten (reminds me of the days when Edge Magazine and Famitsu used to be so protective of that top score), so now I'm really interested. I've enjoyed basically every other game GS has rated a 10 to some extent (though I'm not sure I ever played Tony Hawk 3), so again, interested.

I've preordered my copy and will hopefully be picking it up ASAP. Between it, Smash Bros., the tragically-undermentioned Captain Toad and Hyrule Warriors (which I still need to pick up), the Wii U is all but having its way with my wallet.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

After searching high and low for a theater that was showing Isao Takahata's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, I finally managed to find one! I saw it last night, and what a gorgeous film! The whole movie is like watching watercolor sketches in motion. It's absolutely stunning.

I know this year hasn't exactly been great for animated films (The Wind Rises was released as a 2013 film even in the states), the two most popular/acclaimed animations this year were How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie, the former (like its predecessor), being decent but by-the-books and lacking any real imaginative spark, while the latter I found to be obnoxiously hypocritical and impossibly overrated. But even if this year had been a great one for animated films, Princess Kaguya would still be the best animated output. Hopefully Big Hero 6 can bring in another great 2014 animated film so that Kaguya won't be completely alone.

Other Stuff

As I wrote in my last blog, that "best games ever" list is going smoothly. I've had a lot going on so I haven't always had the time to write it, but hopefully it won't be much longer.

In other news, I should be making a new website/blog soon. I'll still keep the old one around and update it from time to time, but I'm hoping to make my new site something special. My oft-promised new site will be primarily about video games and animated films (of course), and hopefully that won't be much longer either.

Also, after finding something of a loophole in Youtube's rulebook, I think I will soon be able to make an all new channel and (hopefully) get money from it eventually. If you remember, I was going to make some kind of game-dedicated Youtube channel some time ago, but after Google cut off my payments (for reasons that STILL haven't been explained to me), I kind of lost motivation (yeah, I could do them for fun, but if you had started making money for making stupid videos only to have that privilege taken away you'd be disheartened too). But now I'm going to try to go through with it (once I think of the kind of videos I will make). Yeah, I'll have to start over (my old channel isn't going anywhere though), but at least I have the opportunity to earn something from Youtube again.

So yeah, I'm doing stuff. Aren't I great?

Best Video Games List Coming Soon! Also Smash Bros

Long time no blog.

The moment you've all been waiting for is... almost here.

Yes, I've finally began writing the in-depth list of best games ever as dictated by the results of my survey. I apologize its taken me this long to write it. I've had a lot going on the past several months and, although I've written a good deal of blogs in that time, I never seemed to have the interest to take the time to write this biggest of blogs. And I didn't want to write it when I wasn't feeling it, lest it not be as good as my last list.

This time I'm doing things a little differently. Last time I did this I decided to make the list a top 25, but this time I've decided to go with a top 50. To prevent from driving myself insane, numbers 50-21 have shorter descriptions than the games on my last list did, but the top 20 are looking to be about equal.

I'm not going to make any promises as to when the list will be done, just in case I am unable to et it done in time. But it should be soon. Now if only there were someone out there to read it...

Smash Bros

Anyway, I've been playing Super Smash Bros. on 3DS like mad. It's true, the Smash Run mode definitely needed some work, but the online modes have provided countless replayability. Still, as good as the transition was for the series' first entry onto a handheld, I still feel the Wii U version is the "real" Smash Bros. 4. The game plays great on 3DS for the most part, but I feel, from what I played at E3 anyway, that the Wii U version handles a bit better. And, well, I like the stages more in the Wii U version. So sue me. If anyone wants to trade friend codes let me know.

Super Smash Bros. 3DS Demo Impressions

I downloaded the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS demo a few days ago, and have already poured a few hours into it. So I figured I’d give some thoughts on it (even though there’s only so much to the demo and I probably experienced more of the game at E3). The demo only allows you to play as five characters (Mario, Link and Pikachu from previous games, plus newcomers Villager and Mega Man), and only the Battlefield stage is available. But even with these limitations, the demo proves that the Super Smash Bros. formula makes a great transition to the 3DS.

When playing the demo, it felt a little odd knowing that this is the first time Smash Bros. has appeared on a handheld. Aside from one distracting change in the control scheme (dodging is now performed solely by the R button, as opposed to both shoulder buttons, which can be fixed with customization in the final game), the gameplay feels very much like it does on the controller of a home console.

One notable restraint in the demo is that not only are you limited to basic ‘brawl’ matches against computer controlled opponents (or local multiplayer with anyone else who’s downloaded the demo), but you can’t change the two-minute time limit on the matches.

The limitations are understandable, being a demo, but the good thing is that, despite the limitations, I’ve enjoyed going back and playing a few rounds to see if I can better my performance (I’m quickly running out of the demo’s 30 uses).

But Smash Bros. has always been an easy series to go back to, for five minutes or two hours at a time. And the 3DS edition seems to be no exception, if the demo is any indication.

I’ve been using a 3DS XL when playing the demo, and everything looks great (the character animations haven’t lost anything in the move to a handheld), though I do have to wonder if the chaotic nature of Smash Bros. may get a little straining on the eyes for those who play on a standard 3DS.

Although only five characters are available in the demo, I feel it’s a good selection of characters, as each is quite distinct from the others. Mario, Link and Pikachu are virtually unchanged from Brawl (though notably, Mario’s FLUDD move no longer seems entirely useless), but Mega Man and Villager both bring their own spin to the series.

Mega Man utilizes various moves from his series, and notably lacks basic punches, instead using bursts from his mega buster for his standard attacks. Meanwhile, Villager uses an array of seemingly mundane objects (butterfly nets, flower pots, etc.) in very fun ways. Villager may even have the strangest Final Smash yet in the series.

There really isn’t too much more to go into about the demo, other than it shows a lot of promise for the full game. The gameplay has made a great transition to 3DS, and the new and returning characters look to bring some great variety to the series. Let’s hope that on October 3, that promise is fully realized.