The first great fight in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is against the corrupted form of the matriarch Queen Bean. The brothers Mario have several offensive targets to select, her crowned head and her two gigantic, body-builder-caliber arms that pound the ground and send shockwaves that injure any plumber that doesn’t properly jump over it. Pouncing on her noggin’ awards you nothing more than damage thanks to those pointy golden spikes, so you quickly decide to avoid that strategy, choosing instead to deflate her arms to knock the thing off and reveal her soft skull underneath. In this dazed state, she takes full damage and hacks up beans that hatch into additional enemies if the timing of your jump is off by more than a few frames of animation and you crack one open.
As is the great curse of every artist, the critic gets the last word. For the burlesque dancer Bayonetta, the Omnitient Critic grades her revue on a six-point scale of dirty Stone to Pure Platinum. It’s a good thing that her routine was so incredibly well choreographed that she can test it against her newest dancing partner, the mysterious and powerful Lumen Sage. The purity of the battle system comes alive against an evenly matched opponent and the vast armies of Paradiso and the hordes of Inferno, on the path to save the soul of a lost friend. So let’s look closer at our provocateurs moves and understand why they steal the show.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Final Fantasy VII had a major impact on me. It marked my introduction to JRPG’s and broke me of my N64 stockholm syndrome and its slow trickle of games to embrace the Playstation, the platform I look back on as the defining point of my gaming life. I spent so much time breeding chocobo’s and grinding that goddamn crashed Gelnika ship that I continued to play for months after I’d killed Sephiroth and avenged Aeris’ famous death. I hadn’t experienced anything like it. Then I came to despise it and what it became in the years after its release. I thought back on the tangled weave of Cloud’s angst and Sephiroths madness and the nonsense turns its plot takes. But when you can no longer remember why you dislike something, perhaps it’s time to return and look with fresh eyes.
∞ Play Time
Out of all Chrono Trigger’s significant contributions, New Game+ most epitomizes its soul. Not only does it recognize the player’s hard work, allowing them to return to the beginning of its story with all their experience and rewards, it’s consistent with its time-travelling premise. Of course, NG+ would be pointless if the games core wasn’t worth returning to, but it’s a wondrous adventure, stocked with a great cast of characters full of personality. Fitting a premise that can have small moments have big ramifications, it starts with a fateful encounter.
Lights Down, Curtain’s Up
Bayonetta’s prologue starts conservatively, with a nun clad in white quietly praying over a grave. It primes the world’s Victorian aesthetics with a puritanical morality up front that wouldn’t fool anyone who had seen even the box art. That a flock of angels descend from heaven and attack, cutting the clean fabric and revealing the scantily-clad Umbran Witch underneath who responds by flying through the air, using the two guns in her fists and the two on her feet to shoot most of them in the head and scissoring her legs around another’s, is perhaps the proper way to open the show.
Asura’s Wrath contains one of the most brilliant player-directed narrative sequences in videogames; a fist fight. The two brawlers dance about the screen, one trying desperately to explain his actions to the other among a flurry of attacks. To evade them, the player must nail the timing for the increasingly frequent on-screen button prompts as any mistake is punished with a fist to the face, interrupting the dialogue and completely ending the conversation.
Early on in A Link Between Worlds, the travelling merchant Ravio takes up shop in your house, lines it with the franchises complement of items and offers to rent Link each and every one. This event single-handedly eradicates the suffocatingly linear item-based progression that had reached its logical conclusion even before Twilight Princess put its staggering deficiencies on display. A Link Between Worlds is in many ways an alternate take on an old story, one that reveals its true ambitions at the beginning of the second act as Link squeezes through a tear in the fabric of Hyrule and discovers that every inch of the world and its seven palaces are accessible with the right tool in hand.