Super Mario World starts at Yoshi’s House and gives the pudgy Italian plumber the freedom to explore the overworld to the left or right. To the left is Yoshi’s Island 1, a bright and colorful place with tank top-wearing koopa’s, small purple dinosaurs and giant goddamn bullet bills. Beat it and the area around will come alive underfoot. The path dead ends at the Yellow Switch Palace sitting on top of a cliff and the large button that causes matching boxes to fill in throughout the world. With this one action, large scale change has swept across Dinosaur Land. It will never be the same.
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For all their merits, traditional JRPGs haven’t exactly positioned themselves as videogame’s most cohesive narrative experience. One reason is foundational to the genre: the separation of world exploration and menu-based combat breaks player immersion from the story and characters. The other reason is true for the majority of games period: they all know how to implement a story but few understand how to exist as one. While still very much a traditional JRPG, Mother 3’s story takes root at its core, finding ways to incorporate all its elements into a whole that is surprising and emotional.
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Videogames attempts to marry gameplay to music have long suffered from a case of ‘this’ or ‘that’. Narrative or pure mechanics, simon says memorization or notes on cue. Music rhythm games have been largely forced to pigeonhole themselves into working with a single mechanic with little flexibility. None of those games are Rhythm Heaven Fever.
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More than any other medium, videogames possess the ability to immerse people in worlds, of giving them a sense of place, one that can be populated, filled out and come alive before our eyes. But great worlds contain memorable characters with their own personalities- Pokémon has long had one of those worlds. Pokémon Snap is built around this singular idea- it puts would-be photographers on a Safari in a Pokémon nature preserve and equips us with a camera to witness, interact and record.
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Nintendo has defined videogames. Since it first threw its glove into the ring of arcade games in the 80’s, the company has changed the way people view, build and play games and Jeff Ryan’s Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America chronicles their rise from card game manufacturer to ubiquitous icons of the industry.
This book offers 280 pages of well-organized content that profiles the games, tech and personalities that set the standard for the medium. Covering everything from Nintendo’s days as a card game manufacturer to their successes with the Wii, Ryan introduces us to Hiroshi Yamauchi, the savvy entrepreneur who took his business into game cabinets, to his son-in-law Minoru Arakawa who put those machines in American arcades to Shigeru Miyamoto, the legendary game designer and Mario, his creation that he made the face of fun and quality. Continue reading “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America”