F-Zero Review

F-Zero

F-Zero has never had it easy. It was an SNES launch title alongside Super Mario World, and we all know which game became synonymous with the console. F-Zero’s innovative “Mode 7” graphics were a revelation at the time, and made racing games feel more immersive. But Mode 7 would soon be used for a little game called Super Mario Kart, and we all know which game is considered the more influential.

So while F-Zero may have been in the shadows of more prolific SNES games, on its own merits it’s a more than capable racer.

Players choose between four vehicles, each with their own statistics, and race through various futuristic tracks. You can choose between different cups and difficulty levels, even the easiest of which provides a good challenge.

F-ZeroThe races are fast-paced, turns are sharp, and not only do you have to worry about falling behind the other races, but about your vehicle being destroyed as well. Your health bar depletes every time you run into a wall or bump into other racers. Should it deplete entirely, your car explodes, and you have to start the entire cup over. Health can be replenished by driving on certain pits near the starting point of each lap.The added game over element makes what is already a challenging racer all the more difficult. It may not be for everyone’s liking, but it rewards those seeking a challenge.

The graphics are mostly pleasant, with the aforementioned Mode 7 allowing for scaling and rotation effects that still hold up. There are admittedly some areas where the graphics don’t hold up so well, but given that F-Zero was pushing racing games into new territory at the time, the shortcomings are forgivable.

A huge, retrospective drawback is the lack of multiplayer or any additional modes. F-Zero holds up in a lot of ways, but the complete absence of multiplayer takes a lot away from the experience. The racing available is tight and precise, but with very little else to offer takes away replay value. And without being able to share the experience with a friend, it’s no wonder that Super Mario Kart stole F-Zero’s thunder.

Still, you can’t take too much away from F-Zero. It was novel back in its day for its graphics and fast-paced racing, and everything it has to offer has held up well, but it lacks the substance of other SNES games. There is certainly fun and challenge to be had with F-Zero. But you may find that, just as was the case back in the day, your racing skills will most likely drift back to Super Mario Kart.

 

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Duck Hunt Review

Duck Hunt

Back in the day, Duck Hunt was one of the most prolific games on the NES. It gave gamers a simple task: Shoot ducks with the NES Zapper (a gun peripheral that came packaged with the game), or risk being mocked and laughed at by your dog. The simplicity of the game made an impact on the NES’ appeal, and Duck Hunt was so iconic with the console that it soon became bundled with Super Mario Bros.

Now that you can play Duck Hunt on Wii U, you can see how age has effected the game in both positive and negative ways.

 

On the plus side, the game is still fun. The NES Zapper is replaced with a Wii Remote this time around, with the motion control probably making the game more intuitive than ever (though some targeting blips still occur).

There are three game modes: Game A has you shooting at one duck at a time, Game B has two ducks flying on screen at once, and Game C shifts the game to shooting clay pigeons (two of which are on screen at once), with the clay flying from the foreground to the background, becoming harder to hit as they shrink in the distance.

All three game modes involve ten targets per round, with the player given three shots to hit every on-screen target. Hit the right number of targets per round and you can move on, miss the required number and it’s game over. Hit all ten targets to get bonus points.

All three game modes serve as fun little mini-games, and the simplicity of it provides retro charm. On the downside, all three modes put together don’t pack a whole lot of depth, which may effect the game’s replay value.Duck Hunt

The thing is, Nintendo has excelled at mini-game collections for years now, and regrettably, compared to even one of the mini-games of Nintendo Land, Duck Hunt feels shallow. It might seem unfair to compare an NES launch game with one from the Wii U, given the incredible leap in technology. But the sad fact is that while Duck Hunt may still be fun, it no longer feels as addictive as it once did. The simplistic gameplay is still charming, but the overall package doesn’t hold up quite so well on its own.

Duck Hunt is definitely worth a look on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, but you may find it becomes more complimentary to the rest of your Wii U and Virtual Console library than a gaming experience in itself. It may not be the go-to game on your Wii U menu, but it is a fun little deviation between meatier games.

 

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Big Hero 6 Review

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is Disney’s first animated film “inspired” by a Marvel comic, though it’s probably more of a love letter to anime than it is to Disney’s superhero subsidiary. Set in the city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 has the look and feel of the robot and superhero-fueled anime and manga from the 90s.

Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a boy genius who spends his time winning money in unsanctioned “bot fights,” after having graduated high school at an early age. Hiro’s brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) tries to persuade his brother to attend his university, where Hiro’s robotic knowledge would be more than welcome. There Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends Gogo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and Fred (T.J. Miller). But most importantly, it’s where Hiro meets Baymax (Scott Adsit), Tadashi’s healthcare robot.

This being a Disney movie, Hiro’s happy family doesn’t last long, and soon tragedy strikes and Hiro loses his brother Tadashi. Hiro then isolates himself from his friends and family, but once Baymax comes back into Hiro’s life, it leads the two on an adventure involving the mystery of Tadashi’s death, a super villain who stole Hiro’s invention ‘Microbots’  and is using them for a villainous plot, and eventually sees them, as well as Gogo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred, become super heroes.

 

If the setup sounds a bit like your typical Marvel movie origin story, that’s because a good chunk of it is. Big Hero 6 is a tried and true super hero flick in a lot of ways, which does prevent it from reaching the heights of some of Disney’s recent filmography, but it feels more honest and genuine than most of its live-action superhero counterparts, which makes it feel much fresher than the majority of super hero movies we’re bombarded with these days.

 

Big Hero 6It’s that heart that keeps Big Hero 6 afloat. Hiro is a likable main character, and the story allows him to show a wider range of emotions than we see from most Disney heroes. Baymax is surely one of the most endearing of Disney characters, he provides humor not because he’s a character created solely for comic relief, but because he’s a robot, and he acts like a robot. Yet, because he’s a robot dedicated to helping others, he helps boost the film’s emotional center. The relationship between Hiro and Baymax is what gives Big Hero 6 its heart. Through Baymax Hiro is able to get a better understanding of his brother even after his passing. It’s a super hero movie about overcoming the loss of a loved one.

 

Big Hero 6But while Hiro and Baymax may provide character development and depth, the other four members of the titular Big Hero 6 are unfortunately less fleshed out: Gogo fits squarely into the hardcore tomboy archetype, Wasabi is uptight and prone to comical freakouts, Honey Lemon is the girly girl, and Fred is the laid back comic foil. While Hiro and Baymax are given the time and attention to win our affections and earn our sympathy, the rest of the group are exactly who their one-note introductions say they are.

Another unfortunate aspect is that some of the film’s more story focused moments seem to go by too quickly, possibly as a means to fit as many action sequences into its running time as possible. The action scenes in question are all excellently done, mind you, but perhaps with a little more time dedicated to the story the other characters could have ended up as memorable as Hiro and Baymax.

In terms of animation, it doesn’t get much better than Big Hero 6 as far as CG is concerned. There is a painstaking attention to detail at work in Big Hero 6, which makes San Fransokyo feel like a living, breathing city (and keep an eye out for slews of Disney and Marvel Easter Eggs). Additional visual treats are provided by Baymax – whose “non-threatening, huggable” appearance make him one of the most unique of movie robots – and the Microbots, which join together by the thousands to create various shapes. In terms of the film’s scope and all the visual pop within it, Big Hero 6 may be the biggest spectacle Disney has ever made.

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is a charming film, and a whole lot of fun. But I fear that comparison’s to Frozen (it’s immediate predecessor in the Disney canon) and The Incredibles (Disney’s “other” super hero flick) may effect it’s appeal. Those two films took their genres, and added deeper thematics and storytelling to them. By comparison, Big Hero 6 feels like a more tried and true super hero movie. A really good one, mind you. But it may end up in the shadows of the two aforementioned films for not going the extra distance. It even tries its hand at creating a twist on its villain scenario, but it’s a twist that feels immediately predictable. Compared to the surprises of Frozen and The Incredibles, Big Hero 6 falls short.

 

You can’t dismiss Big Hero 6 for not being as good as Disney’s best, though. There’s a whole lot to love about it: Marvel fans are given plenty of fan service (Stan Lee cameo and post-credits sequence included), it gives the Disney canon some diversity in style, and it’s a highly entertaining love letter to Japanese anime. It’s beautifully animated and features action scenes as good as any super movie movie. But best of all are Hiro and Baymax, who elevate Big Hero 6 to being one of the most endearing movies in Disney’s recent resurgence.

 

Big Hero 6

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Welcome to the Dojo!

Welcome to the dojo!

To all who come to this opinionated website… Welcome! Wizarddojo.com is a place of video games and animations (and other movies). You will find reviews, top 5/10 lists, and other such writings on those subjects. Primarily by yours truly, but hopefully some other members of my fellowship will join in this venture. So stay a while and listen.

 

In preparation for the launch of this site, I already cooked up some reviews and other such things, so why not take a gander at them? Or you could look at that about page if you’d like. Get your magics ready and prepare for battle, you have entered the wizard’s dojo!

Top 5 Video Game Launch Titles

 

SMB

Video game consoles are defined by their best games. Sometimes, consoles don’t have to wait very long to receive a console-defining game. Sometimes such a game is available on day one, if not included right out of the box with the console! Although this trend of iconic launch games has dwindled in more recent years, there’s no denying the impact a launch game can have on its system. Here are what I consider to be the top five launch games of all time. But first, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions. Continue reading “Top 5 Video Game Launch Titles”

Why Today’s Disney Renaissance is Better than the 90s Disney Renaissance

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6, Disney’s most recent release, has kept the House of Mouse’s current hot streak alive. This hot streak, which began in 2009 with The Princess and the Frog, is often thought of as the “modern Disney Renaissance” in reference to the original Disney Renaissance that began after The Little Mermaid and continued throughout the 90s with such beloved films as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, ending with Tarzan.

A lot of Disney fans like to think of the 90s Renaissance to be something of Disney’s golden era, untouchable by any other generation of Disney films. But recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that the current wave of Disney films not only stands up to the 90s Disney Renaissance, but betters it. Granted, the modern Disney flicks in question currently stand at six, compared to the original Renaissance’s ten films. But it terms of diversity, creativity and storytelling, these six films give the 90s Disney canon a run for their money.

 

Little MermaidOne of the main reasons the 90s Disney films were so successful, and yet so restrained, can be summed up with both The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Both of which are charming movies (the former has aged in terms of its message, but the latter is still one of Disney’s finest), but Disney, looking to reclaim their former glory after their rather lackluster run in the 80s, was willing to play things safe. The Little Mermaid created the template for the generation of Disney films to follow, and Beauty and the Beast refined it. The rest, you could argue, simply replicated it. From character archetypes to story progression to the style of songs, the 90s Disney Renaissance, even with its best films, was largely unwilling to be different, or think outside of the box.

Hunchback of Notre DameArguably the sole exception to this was The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which I consider to be both one of Disney’s best and most underrated animated films). Hunchback of Notre Dame took the Disney template of the time, and wrapped it around a darker narrative and adult themes. The rest of the lot, even some of my favorites (Mulan, Hercules) wouldn’t have taken the creative risks that Hunchback did.

 

But that was one movie out of ten, whereas I think all six of the current Disney wave have far more distinct identities. Sure, Princess and the Frog and Tangled may fall under some of the same tropes as the 90s generation, but they at least cared to give their princesses personalities, and they as a whole have a stronger sense of characterization than the brunt of Disney’s films. Not to mention that both Tangled and The Princess and the Frog tried to add some twists to the formula, whereas the 90s films would have felt content sticking to the rulebook laid down by The Little Mermaid.

 

To top that off, the other modern Disney films include the charming Winnie the Pooh, a super hero movie in Big Hero 6, a video game love letter in Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen, which may look like ‘another’ princess movie from the outside, but narratively and thematically, is in a league of its own in the Disney canon.

Anna and Elsa

Winnie the Pooh is as simple and cute as you would expect from the bear of very little brain, but it has a sense of innocents and peacefulness that most American animated features lack. Big Hero 6, while a by-the-books super hero film in some ways, is genuine and honest enough to give it more heart than its live-action super hero brethren. Wreck-It Ralph is a fun story with a memorable cast of characters, complimented by a constant sense of visual inventiveness. Finally, Frozen took what could have been another tried-and-true Disney musical, and turned it into something meaningful, with believable, even relatable characters, a story that took creative risks, and a level of depth that makes it one of the few Disney films I’ve seen analyzed and interpreted on an artistic level. When was the last time a Disney film had themes that could be interpreted in different ways?

 

I know what you’re probably asking by this point: “What about The Lion King? What about Aladdin?”

The Lion KingTruth be told, I find both The Lion King and Aladdin to be nothing special. That’s not to say I think they’re bad movies, but I certainly don’t think they’re worth the immense praise fans have given them. Nor do they really belong in arguments of great animated films. Aladdin is remembered for the iconic Genie, but take him out of the equation and everything else in the film is pretty forgettable. The Lion King, while good, is a pretty basic plot with an inconsistent tone (one minute Simba is crying over his father’s lifeless body, the next a warthog is singing about farting). And both still stuck true to the established formula. Again, they aren’t bad movies, but I don’t see them as a great argument in favor of the 90s Disney Renaissance.

 

I know, I am now the villain of every 90s kid. But I’m certainly not writing off the nostalgic favorites of the Disney Renaissance. I simply think that Disney’s recent output feels more free. Perhaps Disney doesn’t feel so desperate as to recycle the same formula now that they have the likes of Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars to fall back on, and so their own films are now allowed to be more creatively daring. But whatever the reason, I feel that these past six Disney animated features, while they may not be equal among each other (Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh are no Frozen or Wreck-It Ralph), do feel equally free to be themselves. The Princess and the Frog didn’t write a rulebook like The Little Mermaid did. But it did open the door for Disney movies to be more creative. I would say that’s all the more impressive.

Bayonetta 2 Review

Bayonetta 2

Very few games have the energy of Bayonetta 2. It’s a non-stop barrage of style, color and flair. Most games would be utterly exhausted by its enthusiasm.

Bayonetta 2’s greatest strength is its intuitive gameplay. Bayonetta is crafted from the same mold as the likes of Kratos and Dante, but the end result is a far more polished and smooth work than its contemporaries. Every combo, every move, is tight and precise. It controls like a dream.

The story is less focused, and to be honest I barely understand a lick of what’s going on. Bayonetta fights angels and demons (both of which are after her soul) and must save her friend Jeane once she is dragged to hell, and (in true video game fashion) Bayonetta must eventually save the world.

The plot can feel a bit cluttered, and with all the ridiculous goings-on around Bayonetta, it gets even more lost. But the personalities involved are memorable. Bayonetta is a more fleshed-out character than her design (and strategically-placed camera angles) might suggest. Sarcastic but genuinely caring, Bayonetta’s personality makes her sexiness seem only complimentary. The supporting characters – from streetwise amnesiac Loki to the foulmouthed, bumbling Enzo – are a little more tropish, but no less colorful.

But enough of the narrative. Bayonetta is first and foremost an action game, and as stated, that’s where it shines quite brightly. The aforementioned combat is a constantly-expanding affair. By collecting Halos (more than a little nod to Sonic the Hedgehog’s rings) Bayonetta can buy new moves and more weapons (which can be assigned to her hands, legs, or both), all of which give a great sense of “easy to learn, difficult to master.” Bayonetta 2

It’s all glued together through “Witch Mode,” a kind of slow-mo state that’s activated by dodging enemy attacks, and gives the player a primed opportunity to unleash Bayonetta’s best combos. And the ‘climax attacks’ are button-mashing at its most fun, and create a Mortal Kombat like combination of violence and utter ridiculousness. Bayonetta 2

This gameplay is made all the more its own for its sense of style. Appropriately enough for a game that stars a character as extravagant as Bayonetta, just about every moment of the game is an explosion of style and humor, and filled with some of the most bizarre enemy designs in gaming.

One minute Bayonetta is flying through a hurricane in the sky, then she’s sent 500 years in the past piloting her own mecha. It’s outlandish, over-the-top and campy, but its swimming in imagination, and makes its predecessor look mundane.

There’s a new co-operative mode, called ‘tag climax,’ which now means the chaotic fun of Bayonetta can be enjoyed in multiplayer. This is a score attack action game that already demands replayability, but with multiplayer added to the mix that’s doubly true. Bayonetta 2

Some may cry foul at the oversexualization of the game, and I certainly found myself rolling my eyes more than a few times. But again, I find the camera easier to blame than Bayonetta herself. It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek, so its probably not worth getting too worked up over.

As an added treat provided by the game’s Wii U exclusivity, you can now unlock costumes, moves and weapons based on Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Starfox. The cute Nintendo aesthetics make for an entertaining juxtaposition, but the fact that they give the gameplay even more variety is the real treat.

In short, Bayonetta 2 is a game that plays like a dream. Its sense of control is up there with Nintendo’s own properties, and its so full of personality and style that there’s never a dull moment. It might be a little too chaotic or challenging for some, and the clunky narrative and forced sex appeal may be off-putting to others. But in terms of sheer gameplay, it’s as beautiful as Bayonetta herself.

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