The Rescuers Down Under Review

Rescuers Down Under

The Rescuers Down Under is often seen as the ‘forgotten’ film of the Disney Renaissance. Released in between fan favorites The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers Down Under had the unfortunate honor of being the bridge from one beloved classic to another. While The Rescuers Down Under does have some merits to boast, its status of being in the shadow of its predecessor and successor isn’t entirely unfair. In the end, it’s just not as memorable as Disney’s other offerings of the time.

The Rescuers Down Under does have the distinction of being the first ‘true’ Disney sequel, and one of the select few sequels that are considered part of Disney’s official canon of animated films, being a sequel to the 1977 film The Rescuers. At the time of Down Under’s production, The Rescuers was the last hit Disney had made, so a sequel was seen as a means to get the studio back on track. Little did they know that The Little Mermaid – which was in production at the same time as Down Under – would be the movie that revitalized the Disney brand. The Rescuers Down Under ended up being an honest effort, but a misdirected one.

The story revolves around an Australian boy named Cody, who befriends a rare golden eagle named Marahute, after saving the bird from a poacher’s trap. Said poacher, who goes by the name McLeach, then kidnaps the boy as to find out the eagle’s whereabouts.Rescuers Down Under

The animals of the outback then send a message to the Rescue Aid Society (the organization of international mice from the first film), who recruit returning heroes Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) for the rescue mission to save Cody. Along the way, Bernard continuously tries to work up the courage to propose to Miss Bianca.

It’s a simple enough setup, but the stories never quite mesh together. The Rescuers themselves aren’t even introduced until after a good chunk of the movie has passed, and when they do show up, they don’t seem nearly as important as Cody or any of his animal friends. It almost feels like the Rescuers were shoehorned into an entirely different movie, forcing an otherwise unrelated film to become a sequel.

Just the same, the storylines involving the Rescuers seem underdeveloped as they get lost to the bigger story. Bernard and Bianca’s relationship never gets the attention it needs. A kangaroo mouse named Jake even joins the duo in the outback, seemingly setting up a possible rival for Bernard over Bianca’s affections, but nothing really comes of it.

There is one charming sidekick character in Wilbur the Albatross (John Candy), who serves as the Rescuers’ transport to Australia, but he gets stuck in an unnecessary subplot involving a back injury that only serves to further distract the story. This is a shame, since a Disney character voiced by John Candy could have been gold if used properly.Rescuers Down Under

There are additional sidekicks with the various animals McLeach has kidnapped, who also try to help Cody escape, but they lack the humor and charm needed to make them memorable. This is echoed by the movie itself, as these animal characters seem forgotten by the plot as quickly as they’re introduced.

Cody may not be the most memorable character either, but he’s capable enough to not detract from the film. McLeach is also pretty forgettable, which is all the greater of an offense when you realize he’s one of the few Disney villains who can be described as such. Disney usually excels at creating villains you love to hate, but McLeach is the kind of mustache-twirler you boo solely on principle. He’s neither evil or entertaining enough to give him any real sense of presence.

By now this all seems largely dismissive, but The Rescuers Down Under does have its qualities. The animation is a delight, boasting a richness in detail and motion that proudly displays Disney’s production values. The action sequences are also well executed, with the flying scenes with Cody and Marahute in particular holding up to those of today’s animated films, which always seem to be trying to ‘out-flying sequence’ each other.Rescuers Down Under

As a whole, The Rescuers Down Under is one of Disney’s lesser animated features, and certainly the weakest of the Disney Renaissance era. Its animation may be top notch, and its action scenes well paced, but its characters lack the endearing qualities we associate with the Disney brand, and its story is never quite sure what to do with itself. It includes bits and pieces of a sequel that are seemingly forcing themselves into another movie, which only hurts both of its halves.

As a sequel to The Rescuers and as its own movie, The Rescuers Down Under is too unfocused to soar alongside Marahute.

 

5

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The Little Mermaid Review

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid is one of the most beloved of all Disney movies. Released in 1989, The Little Mermaid breathed new life into the Disney brand, creating the broadway musical-style Disney movies we still see today, as well as kickstarting the Disney Renaissance – a period that saw one Disney hit after another – that continued throughout the 1990s. In terms of pure entertainment value, The Little Mermaid remains a highlight in the Disney canon. In regards to its message and narrative, however, I’m afraid that The Little Mermaid shows a bit of age.

 

We all know the story by this point: the titular Mermaid Ariel (Jodi Benson) is the daughter of King Triton. Ariel is too free-spirited and rambunctious to be confined to the sea, she dreams of seeing the world above the waves. She finds the human world to be a more fascinating place, collecting so many human trinkets that she needs a treasure trove to store them all.The Little Mermaid

Ariel ends up saving the life of a human, Prince Eric, and she immediately falls in love with him. The sea witch Ursula (Pat Carrol) has the power to grant Ariel’s wish to live on land with Prince Eric, but at the cost of the mermaid’s beautiful voice. But Ursula has ulterior motives, and plans on using Ariel to get revenge on King Triton.

The Little Mermaid features some of Disney’s most memorable characters. Ariel is one of the stronger Disney heroines, showing a sense of ambition and drive that her predecessors such as Snow White never did, and Ursula is one of Disney’s most iconic villains with reason. She’s effectively scary and equally charismatic, making her a villain you love to hate.

Ariel’s sidekicks include Sebastion, a charming crab who serves as Ariel’s perpetually nervous caretaker, and Flounder, a fish who fills the ‘little buddy’ role better than most. There’s also Scuttle the seagull, who gives Ariel information on her human trinkets with less-than accurate knowledge.Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid boasts an appealing cast of characters, but its main stars might just be the musical numbers. Most Disney animated films have songs in them, but The Little Mermaid is one of the few (along the likes of Beauty and the Beast and Frozen) where the songs feel so integral to the narrative that it can truly be labelled a musical.

The movie’s centerpiece song, “Part of Your World” remains one of the most beloved of Disney songs, and the Oscar-winning “Under the Sea” is still one of the most fun. While the other featured numbers may not be as iconic, they are nonetheless just as entertaining (Ursula’s musical number “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is an underrated highlight).

On top of it all, the animation is lively and colorful, and expresses such quality that it’s hard to believe the movie was made during one of Disney’s rougher periods. There were no cut corners in bringing Ariel to life.

However, as entertaining as the film still is, there are elements in the story that haven’t aged so gracefully. The major drawback to the film is, strangely enough, Ariel’s infatuation with Prince Eric. As sweet and well meaning as the film is, the love story at the heart of it all feels a bit naive. That is, when it isn’t outright eye-rolling.

The problem is that Ariel, who on one hand was Disney’s first attempt to make their female characters interesting, basically falls head over heels (pardon, fins) for Prince Eric based solely on the fact that he’s the most attractive human she encounters. Before he even knows she exists, Ariel is ready to leave behind her life and family just because, well, he’s hot.The Little Mermaid

Sure, Eric ends up being a nice enough guy. In fact, he may be a little too perfect for his (or more accurately, his movie’s) own good. Prince Eric is, unquestionably, the most boring and bland character in the movie. Granted, he never needed to be as interesting as Ariel or as fun as Sebastion, but Eric’s cardboard personality only make Ariel’s infatuation with him seem all the more questionable. The Little Mermaid was supposed to be a sweet and timeless love story, but Ariel’s “love” for Prince Eric more often than not comes off as little more than a juvenile crush.

Perhaps The Little Mermaid isn’t the most meaningful Disney movie then. But it still is one of Disney’s most fun offerings. Aside from Prince Eric, the characters are memorable, the animation is lovely and the soundtrack remains one of Disney’s best. Its idea of love may be misguided and outdated, but in terms of sheer entertainment value, The Little Mermaid holds up. Swimmingly.

 

8

 

Most Wanted Smash Bros. DLC Characters

Nintendo has officially opened up a character ballot for potential DLC characters for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. For the first time in forever, Nintendo fans can officially make suggestions for characters they’d like to be added to the series, with the possibility of some suggestions becoming a reality.

If you want to vote for your favorite characters, you can do so by going here. Nintendo’s setup is simple enough: Name the character, the game/series they appear in, and give a brief reason why they should be in the game.

Naturally, I have already voted a number of times. There are some characters I wanted for a while that actually ended up in the game (Rosalina, the Duck Hunt dog), but there are some other favorites that didn’t make the cut. Some of my choices are a little more obscure, but some are characters who should have been in the series by this point. At the very least, they all make more sense than Dark Pit.

 

Dixie Kong

Dixie Kong

From: Donkey Kong series

Why she should be in Super Smash Bros: A better question is why hasn’t Dixie Kong been in Super Smash Bros. already? The Donkey Kong series, despite being Nintendo’s earliest franchise, as well as one of their most popular, is grossly underrepresented in Super Smash Bros. With DK and Diddy already in the game, the next logical choice would be Dixie Kong. She debuted in the second (and most beloved) Donkey Kong Country game, was the star of the third entry, and has remained a series mainstay. She was even the most useful partner in Tropical Freeze!

There really is no reason why Dixie hasn’t been in the series yet. She’s a fan favorite and represents one of Nintendo’s biggest series. Best of all, her prehensile hair could give her an incredibly unique moveset.

Fawful

Fawful

From: Mario & Luigi series

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: Fawful, having appeared in the first three Mario & Luigi games, is one of the more recurring antagonists in the Mario series. Smash Bros. could use a few more villain characters (Bowser, Bowser Jr., Ganondorf and King Dedede being the only ones in Wii U and 3DS), and Fawful is a great candidate. He quickly became a fan favorite due to his odd characteristics and bizarre speech patterns, and he can represent the ‘spinoff’ side of the Mario series proudly. He to, could have a unique moveset (imagine Wario meets Snake from Brawl) that could add some extra humor to the series.

Also, he has fury.

Geno

Geno

From: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: Few characters have been as requested for Smash Bros. as Geno (especially by me). The reasoning is simple enough: He’s the most popular character from one of the most beloved Mario games, and he, like the rest of Mario RPG’s original characters, have yet to return in another game. People want Super Mario RPG to be acknowledged, and Geno becoming a Smash Bros. fighter would skyrocket that game’s recognition.

Plus, Geno’s moveset writes itself! He could be a very unique, and very effective addition to Super Smash Bros.

Of course, we must address the elephant in the room: Square-Enix. Square still owns the character, and they’ve never been the most compliant of developers. The fans can request Geno all they want, and Sakurai could listen, but Square also needs to give the okay.

I certainly hope enough people request Geno as to open the eyes of both Sakurai and Square-Enix.

 

King K. Rool

King K. Rool

From: Donkey Kong series

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: Again, Super Smash Bros. seriously needs more Donkey Kong representation. And it needs more villains. King K. Rool therefore fills two holes in the roster. Similar to what happened with Dedede in Brawl, he has a moveset more or less ready and waiting for him from his various boss fights throughout the years.

Also, if K. Rool were to make the cut, he needs to have a Kaptain K. Rool palette swap. Because pirate crocodiles.

Granted, it’s hard to say just how good K. Rool’s chances would be, considering he hasn’t even appeared in a Donkey Kong game in years. But if he were to make it, he’d be a great addition.

Nights

Nights

From: Nights series

Why he/she should be in Super Smash Bros: While most Sega fans clamor for more Sonic characters to be added to the mix (God help us all if the Shadow fans have their way), the other Sega character I would like to see would be Nights. Given the nature of Nights’ games, I could easily see him/her being an aerial-based character.

Nights is a bit of a long shot, but no doubt he/she would make for a fantastic addition to the Super Smash Bros. roster.

 

Paper Mario

Paper Mario

From: Paper Mario series.

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: First thing’s first… NOT A CLONE!

With that out of the way, I have to point out that Super Smash Bros. doesn’t exactly shy away from having multiple versions of the same character on the roster (Mario and Dr. Mario, Samus and Zero Suit Samus, etc.), and Paper Mario seems like one of the few characters who would fall under this category who would be a welcome and unique addition to the series.

He could have something of a Game & Watch style visual look, and his moves could be based around his partners from the Paper Mario series or something. Just don’t ruin him with a Sticker star gimmick.

Toon Ganon

Ganon

From: The Legend of Zelda: The wind Waker

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: There are two primary reasons I want to see the Wind Waker iteration of Ganon added to the mix. The first is that The Wind Waker is, bar none, my favorite of the 3D Zelda games (Ocarina of Time be damned). It was like a culmination of what Ocarina started, with a style that was distinctly its own. Twilight Princess felt creatively restrained as it pandered to fans, and Skyward Sword branched out in some creative ways, but the results could be a mixed bag. But Wind Waker had it all figured out, and its only got better with age. Clearly, I just want more Wind Waker representation.

The other reason I’d like to see Toon Ganon is, well, I still can’t stand that Ganondorf’s moveset in Super Smash Bros. is cloned from Captain Falcon. Sure, Brawl and the Wii U/3DS games have ironed him out a bit, but the core of his character is still a Captain Falcon clone. Ganon deserves much better. Given Ganon’s penchant for duel-wielding swords in Wind Waker, I can only hope that could be used to make him a more unique character.

There are a few other characters I’d love to see, and maybe I’ll write about them later. I obviously do not expect more than one or two DLC characters to come out of Nintendo’s character ballot, but it’s fun to think of all the possibilities. Some of these characters should already be in the series. And given some of the characters who have made the cut, it makes the character ballot seem all the more desirable. Because seriously, Dark Pit…

Super Mario 64 Review

Super Mario 64

When Super Mario 64 was released all the way back in 1996 as the Nintendo 64’s key launch title, it was something of a miracle. For years developers had tried to make the idea of 3D gaming a reality, only for it to blow up in their faces. Then along came Mario, in full 3D, to show the world how it was done. Super Mario 64’s influence is hard to understate. Its design was such a creative and technical leap that it set the stage for just about every game that was to follow. The landscape of gaming was forever changed due to Mario’s debut outing in 3D.

What makes Super Mario 64 truly remarkable is how well it holds up. The N64 and Playstation generation is not one that has aged particularly well – with only a few handfuls of titles being as fun today as they are in memory – but Super Mario 64, the earliest of Nintendo 64 titles, is still one of the most fun and ingeniously designed games ever.

The plot remains unchanged from Mario’s past adventures. Bowser, that most perennial of video game baddies, has seized control of the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnapped Princess Peach. The twist here being that Bowser has trapped the Princess in her own castle with the magic of the Power Stars, which he then hid in various worlds that exist within the castle’s paintings.

Super Mario 64Mario must traverse the castle, enter these paintings, and uncover the Power Stars to progress further through the game. The Stars are the goal of each stage’s missions. Enter a stage the first time and you may have to wrest a Star from a boss encounter. The next time you may simply have to reach the end of an obstacle course. Mario partakes in footraces with Koopa Troopas, returns baby penguins to their mothers, and combs every stage for elusive red coins, to name just a few of the methods of earning a Power Star.

It’s a nearly flawless setup that remained the standard of platformers for years. The levels are a marvel of design, and include Mario’s standard fire, ice and water worlds, as well as more obscure locations like the inside of a giant clock, or an island that is both tiny and huge. These stages are stringed together through Peach’s Castle, which remains the single greatest hub world in gaming. Its outer gardens are a place of heaven-like serenity, while its inner design is so charming you would never guess that it’s currently occupied by the game’s villain.Super Mario 64

The level design of Super Mario 64 is still breathtaking to this day, with every stage, even those with repeated gimmicks, having an identity of their own. It would all be for naught though, if Mario didn’t play so wonderfully.

The Mario of 64 controls fluidly, and his actions are so precise that it’s a wonder how Nintendo managed to pull it off with their first try into this uncharted territory. Push the control stick gently and Mario tiptoes quietly enough to prevent a sleeping Piranha Plant from waking. Put some extra force into it and Mario sprints with wild abandon. Hit the action button once and Mario throws a quick punch. Hit it multiple times and Mario pulls off a combo straight out of a beat-em-up. And of course, there’s jumping. For the first time ever, Mario could somersault, backflip, triple jump, and leap off walls. Simple combinations of button presses and joystick motions perform these jumps, which added a whole new depth to Mario’s repertoire.

Mario has so many moves at his disposal in Super Mario 64, but Nintendo pulled it off with such finesse that the game is every bit as accessible as its 2D predecessors.

Super Mario 64The game makes brilliant usage of its (then) newfound space. Wide open worlds give Mario plenty of room to perform his new acrobatics, and enemies and obstacles are presented in such ways to leave players to test every last one of Mario’s moves. The fights against Bowser (of which there are three, which has remained something of the standard for the King Koopa ever since) are probably the greatest showcase of Super Mario 64’s understanding of 3D space. Run behind Bowser, grab him by the tail, swing him around and throw him into one of the bombs placed around a 360-degree battlefield. So much of Super Mario 64 was testing new waters, yet Nintendo crafted it with such playfulness and creativity that it never feels like a mere showcase of hardware. Super Mario 64 is a virtual playground.

Super Mario 64Mario’s list of power-ups was unfortunately shortened in the jump to 3D. Gone are the Fire Flowers, Tanooki Suits and Super Capes of Super Mario Bros. 3 and World. In their place are three caps. The Winged Cap is Mario 64’s premiere power-up, and grants Mario the ability of flight. The Vanish Cap makes Mario ethereal, allowing him to walk through walls. Finally, the Metal Cap turns Mario into an invincible, metal form, which can run through enemies with ease and sink to the bottom of water.

The three caps are a fun twist on Mario’s power-ups, though they’re maybe a tad underutilized, which stings all the more knowing that none of them have ever made a return appearance in the series. The Vanish Cap in particular seems like a missed opportunity, as it only shows up a small handful of times during the entirety of Mario 64.

Sadly, there is one aspect of Super Mario 64 that doesn’t hold up so well as the rest of it’s exquisite design: The camera. Even back in its day, some cried foul at Mario 64’s inconsistent fixed camera. Players have the ability to alter the camera angles themselves, but it only helps so much. Super Mario 64’s camera never feels broken, but you may find that, playing the game today, the camera will lead to more misplaced jumps and accidental plunges into the abyss than you’d like.

It’s not too big of a complaint, however, when you consider that this was Nintendo’s first attempt at 3D gaming, and that they were so wildly successful in so many areas. The visuals are obviously dated, but the color and personality of the characters and environments make you not really care about how blocky Mario may look. The music, while maybe not as catchy as Mario World, is nonetheless memorable (the theme music for the water stages is still one of the most beautiful pieces in the series).

But it’s the design, the genius structure of it all and the beauty of its execution, that makes Super Mario 64 such an enduring classic. The thrilling level design and the polished gameplay still hold up after all these years.Super Mario 64

Best of all are the little things, the throwaway details that display such creativity that most of today’s games wouldn’t even think to dream them up: The title screen which allows you to stretch and pull Mario’s face, which solely exists because it’s fun. The portrait of Peach that melts into Bowser’s ugly mug just before Mario falls through a trap door. The owl hiding in a tree, waiting to carry Mario into the clouds. The rippling walls that reveal themselves as entrances to secret worlds. And my personal favorite, the way the clock world goes into hyperspeed or a dead stop if the clock hands are in the proper positions when Mario enters its portal. Super Mario 64 is brimming with ideas both big and small.

Super Mario 64Super Mario 64 was a revolution in 1996, and it remains influential even today. But the greatest testament to its quality is how much fun it still is. The gameplay is still so entertaining, and the ideas still delight. The camera may prove troublesome to today’s gamers, and you may wish Metal Mario made a few more appearances, but make no mistake about it, Super Mario 64 is still one of gaming’s wonderlands.

 

9

Pokemon X Review

Pokemon X

It is a bit of an irony that Pokemon, a series that prominently features the evolutions of its titular creatures, has also proven to be Nintendo’s most un-evolving series. While Mario and Zelda are always looking for ways to reinvent themselves – oftentimes with wild success – Pokemon has remained content doing as its always done. New editions always mean new creatures, but to see the series aim for a sense of reinvention is as rare as its legendary Pokemon. While Pokemon X and Y may still not bring that reinvention, it does bring some of the most meaningful changes to the series since the Gold and Silver days.

Pokemon XThe most immediately noticeable difference between this Pokemon generation and its predecessors are the visuals. For the first time in the series, Pokemon is now played in a full on 3D environment, giving the series some much-needed visual liveliness. There are some framerate issues during Pokemon battles, a possible side effect of the visual overhaul, but it’s nothing too damaging given the series’ turn-based nature. The series has never looked better or more colorful, and the character animations and special attacks benefit from the 3D effects of the Nintendo 3DS.

The overall structure of the game itself remains nearly identical to past entries: You play as a Pokemon Trainer, choose a starting Pokemon, battle other trainers and catch wild Pokemon as you defeat eight gym leaders before facing off with the Elite Four and a final battle. Along the way, you cross paths with yet another villainous organization, this time in the form of Team Flare (can we just bring Team Rocket back?). But within this familiar design are some welcome changes to the formula.

Mega Evolutions – ever prominent in the games’ marketing upon release – serve as advanced versions of more powerful Pokemon (such as fully-evolved and legendary Pokemon) that can be summoned within battles to give you a temporary edge.Pokemon X

Improving your Pokemon’s base stats, which was once a taxing affair, has been mercifully streamlined with “Super Training.” Super training are simple mini-games that focus on particular aspects of a Pokemon’s base stats. Performing these mini-games over and over for each of your Pokemon can become tedious, but it is an improvement over the overcomplicated methods of past entries.

Pokemon battles also see some fun tweaks, with certain attacks being able to interact with background objects, or Sky Battles, where only flying Pokemon can compete. You can also come across large swarms of wild Pokemon in Horde Encounters.

Other small, but fun additions outside of battles include the ability to customize your player character, and the opportunity to have a “second starter” Pokemon in the form of the original Pokemon generation’s Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. And for the first time since Gold and Silver, a new Pokemon type is introduced in the new Fairy type.

Aside from the super training, these changes aren’t anything radical, but they do help bring a sense of freshness to the table. It’s just a shame that this freshness can’t be brought up to a larger scale. The gameplay itself remains fun, but the changes are too small to make it feel truly new, and the overall structure doesn’t stray from the beaten path.Pokemon X

It would be refreshing if Pokemon introduced more than the standard eight Gym Leaders. Or maybe a different setup for the adventure altogether. The new tweaks may bring a little life back to the series, but you kind of wish the series could be given a whole new life. As fun as Pokemon is, there is a strong sense of “been there, done that” to it that Nintendo’s other mainstays have actively avoided. Even when Mario was still chasing Power Stars, he found ways to change his foundations with water packs and trips to outer space.

Pokemon X is most certainly a solid gaming experience, and diehards will find that the game gives them what they want, with a whole new host of Pokemon and a fresh coat of paint to boot. But if you’ve grown a little tired of Pokemon being Pokemon, then you’ll still probably find yourself craving more from the series.

 

7

Nintendo Land Review

Nintendo Land

When Nintendo released the Wii U in 2012, the premiere launch title was Nintendo Land. Nintendo Land looked to do for the Wii U what Wii Sports did for the original Wii. Featuring simplified versions of iconic Nintendo franchises, Nintendo Land was aiming to bridge the gap between the more casual audience brought in through the Wii, and more experienced Nintendo veterans. Nintendo Land may not have ended up being the phenomenal success that Wii Sports was, but it is a whole lot of fun. Provided you can get a full group of players to join in with you.

The game has a simple setup. Players take control of their Miis, and traverse the titular Nintendo Land, a kind of theme park based around Nintendo, with the “attractions” serving as various mini-games inspired by popular Nintendo franchises.

The hub world itself is a thing of simple beauty. You can win prizes to decorate Nintendo Land to give it some added flair, and Miis from all over the world litter the place, giving you some insight to their high scores and showing off their Miiverse posts.

The hub connects the twelve different attractions, six of which are intended for solo players, three are multiplayer exclusives, and three that can be enjoyed by one’s self or in competitive and cooperative multiplayer. Not every attraction is equal in quality, but they all showcase different gameplay and visual styles.

The single player games include Balloon Trip Breeze, Captain Falcon’s Twister Race, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, Octopus Dance, Takamura’s Ninja Castle and Yoshi’s Fruit Cart.Nintendo Land

Donkey Kong’s Crash course is the best of the single-player lot, and – fittingly enough for the DK series – is also the most difficult game in Nintendo Land. Crash Course sees players titling the Wii U Gamepad to move a small trolly through extravagant obstacle courses inspired by the original Donkey Kong arcade game, with even the slightest bump or fall destroying the trolly.

Captain falcon’s Twister Race is a simple but fun racer where players use the Gamepad’s motion controls to steer their vehicle, with the Gamepad screen providing an aerial view of the track and the TV giving a third-person view of your vehicle.

Yoshi’s Fruit Cart is a clever display of the Gamepad and TV, as players must draw a path for a Yoshi cart to gather all of the fruit that appears on a stage. The fruit is only visible on the TV screen, so players must use it for reference when drawing on the Gamepad.

Octopus Dance (based on the Game & Watch title ‘Octopus’) is a pretty uneventful music rhythm game in which players use both the control stick and motion controls to memorize and mimmic dance moves.

Balloon Trip Breeze has the player’s Mii flying through the air with balloons on his back, with the player using the Gamepad’s touch screen to create gusts of wind to help the Mii travel from one island to the next and avoid obstacle. The Gamepad gives an up-close look at the player, while the TV provides a more zoomed out view of the stage.Nintendo Land

Takamura’s Ninja Castle is one of the more simple, but one of the more fun, single-player offerings. Ninja Castle sees players holding the Gamepad on its side, and swiping the touchscreen to throw shurikens at enemy ninjas.

The solo attractions of Nintendo Land provide their own sense of fun, but their overall appeal is short-lived when compared to their multiplayer brethren.

The competitive attractions are among the most fun in the entire package, and include Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. All three of which use a similar concept of one player using the Gamepad while the others use Wii remotes in a game of chase. But they are each done with a different take on the concept, giving all three games distinct personalities.

In Mario Chase, the Wii remote players all take on the roles of Toad-dressed Miis, and they rush through a Mushroom Kingdom-inspired obstacle course to catch the Mario-clad Gamepad player. Although seemingly at a disadvantage, the Gamepad user can see an overhead view of the entire arena and the Toad players’ locations on the touchscreen, while said Toad players have to rely on what’s visible on their third-person view on the TV.

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion has up to four players taking on the roles of Ghost Trackers, while the Gamepad player is a ghost. The action all takes place from a bird-eye view on a single screen, but the ghost is only visible on the Gamepad’s screen. The ghost player must sneak up and ambush the Ghost Trackers, while the Trackers must shine their flashlights on the ghost to deplete its health and defeat it. The trackers are made aware of the ghost’s presence through vibrations on the Wii remote, and they can revive their fallen comrades with their flashlights. This title provides a great multiplayer experience with good balance between the opposing teams.Nintendo Land

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is just as much fun, with four players taking control of animals who must gather candy from trees while avoiding being caught by two guards (both of which are controlled by the Gamepad’s two control sticks). The more candy the animals have the better their score. But more candy also means slower movements, making them easy pray for the town guards.

These three titles provide some of the most enjoyment in Nintendo Land, but they come at a price. These games are exclusively multiplayer, and require a group of five players to enjoy them to their fullest. Nintendo Land doesn’t feature any online capabilities, which means many people will rarely get the chance to get the most out of these three titles. As fun as these games are, they lose a whole lot of their appeal without the full group.

 

It is the team attractions, however, that provide Nintendo Land’s deepest experiences. The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Metroid Blast and Pikmin Adventure, while bearing uninspired names, feel like condensed but complete games in their own right.

In The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, three players can take control of sword-weilding Links, while the fourth uses the Gamepad and is armed with a bow and arrows. The Links all venture through a makeshift Hyrule, where they fight waves of enemies and solve small puzzles while on a fixed path. You even come face-to-face with boss encounters.Nintendo Land

Metroid Blast -the biggest game in Nintendo Land – sees up to four players controlling Samus-like characters on foot, while the Gamepad user controls a gunship. Metroid Blast can be played in modes that pits the on-foot players against the gunship, a free-for-all where players scramble for tokens, and a more extravagant (though traditional) mode where all players work together to take out enemies and boss monsters.

Pikmin Adventure has one player controlling Olimar with the Gamepad, who in turn commands small armies of tiny Pikmin, while the other players take on the roles of larger Pikmin. It’s a simple game where players must overcome enemies and obstacles and defeat the end-level boss to move on. Pikmin Adventure also includes a versus mode.Nintendo Land

The team games will probably be the ones that have you coming back to Nintendo Land, considering they work well with a solo player or with multiple players, without suffering from a lack of a full group. They also boast a surprising amount of gameplay depth.

As a whole, Nintendo Land is a winning collection of mini-games that has a lot more heft than Wii Sports ever did, and it remains one of the best showcases of the Wii U hardware. It includes wonderful art styles (fabric Hyrule for Battle Quest, clockwork creatures for Pikmin Adventure, origami ninja’s in Ninja Castle, etc.) and the remixes of classic Nintendo tunes, while not as extravagant as those in Smash Bros. are nonetheless delightful.

On the downside, not every game in Nintendo Land is a blast, with the likes of Octopus Dance and Captain Falcon’s Twister Race teetering on forgettable. Others, such as Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, are novel, but feel more like tech demos than anything. The multiplayer exclusive games feel incomplete unless you have a full party, and the lack of online multiplayer only magnifies these shortcomings.

With that said, if you and your friends can all get together for a few rounds of Luigi’s Ghost Mansion or Metroid Blast, then you have one of Nintendo’s very best party games at your disposal with Nintendo Land.

 

7

Animated Films That Won Live-Action Movie Awards

Since the early 2000s,  more and more film award shows and committees have been introducing awards for animated films. The Oscars now have the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, an award which was later replicated by the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Japan Academy Prize (Japanese Academy Awards). The up side to this is that it finally gives these award shows the opportunity to acknowledge animated features, which have been notoriously ignored in the past. The downside is that these awards often come as something of a token, as animated films are rarely even nominated for any other awards on these shows (lest they be for music or songs), despite whatever critical acclaim and admiration these animated films have received.

But every once in a while, the people behind some of these awards manage to overcome their biases, and there are some animated films that have actually won Best Picture awards and the like from some award presentations. I’ve given up hoping that the Oscars will some day crown an animated film with their top prize – considering only three animated films have ever been nominated for it (already a bit iffy), and that none of them were taken seriously as contenders – but that doesn’t mean others haven’t acknowledged the merits and timeless appeal of animated movies.

The following is a short list of some of the animated films that proved they could not only go toe-to-toe with live-action films at award shows, but even overcome their competition. Keep in mind that this is merely a short list of examples. I’m mainly focusing on the animated films that won the big awards at more prominent award shows, so there are probably a few others I’m missing. I’m also not including various critic awards, since it’s been long-established that critics enjoy animated films just fine, but award committees are tougher to win over.

So without further rambling, here are some of the exceptional animated films that overcame the odds, and won Best Picture awards that are usually reserved for live-action films.

 

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro

Won: Mainichi Film Award for Best Film

Hayao Miyazaki’s tale about two girls who meet a magical forest spirit is one of the most beloved Japanese films of all time. It is also the earliest animated film I can think of that nabbed a Best Picture award over live-action competition, winning the Mainichi Film Award for Best Film. What makes this win all the more notable is that the Mainichi Film Awards already had a long-established animation award (they now have two, the older of which now going to smaller features and the newer going to big budget animations). Totoro won their animation award, and then went on to win the big prize as well. Well deserved.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beauty and the Beast

Won: Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy

While Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, it became the first animated film to win the big prize at the Golden Globes. Beauty and the Beast remains one of Disney’s most charming features, and with a wonderful soundtrack to boot. How could it not win the musical category?

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King

Won: Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy

I may not be the biggest fan of The Lion King, but no doubt the film has a very strong appeal to many viewers, as is evidenced by its repeating of Beauty and the Beast’s win for the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture. It was the highest-grossing animated film ever at the time, and its Golden Globe win only capped off its success.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke

Won: Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture, Mainichi Film Award for Best Film

Hayao Miyazaki once again created magic when he released Princess Mononoke in 1997, which briefly became the highest-grossing film in Japan’s history (it still ranks in the top 10). It also became the first animated film to be nominated for and win Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards. It then became the second animated film to win the Mainichi Film Award’s top honor (also claiming its animation award). Princess Mononoke was a landmark animated film at the box office and in acclaim.

Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2

Won: Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy

The third animated film to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture is also, sadly, the last. Shrek, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles would all get nominations, but after the Golden Globes established their Best Animated Feature category, their rules state that any films nominated in the animation category are ineligible for either of the Best Picture awards (the least they could have done was named the newer award “Best Picture – Animated“). But at least this trend went out on a high note, as Toy Story 2 is one of Pixar’s best.

Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away

Won: Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture, Mainichi Film Award for Best Film, Berlin Film Festival’s ‘Golden Bear Award’ for Best Film

Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away, remains the highest-grossing film in Japanese history to this day. It also became the second animated film to be nominated for and win Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards (sadly, since the inception of the Japan Academy Prize’s Animation Award a few years later, no other animated film has been nominated for Best Picture).

Spirited Away followed suit with Totoro and Mononoke by winning the Mainichi Film Award for Best Film (where it also won the Animation Award, Best Director for Miyazaki, and Best Music for Joe Hisaishi). Spirited Away also became the first (and only) animated film to win the big prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. This string of awards would culminate with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, giving that award some depth and credibility in its early days.

When it comes to animated films winning live-action movie awards, Spirited Away is the big dog in this league of animated all-stars.

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Wallace and Gromit

Won: BAFTA for Best British Film

Given the huge popularity of the Wallace and Gromit characters, it still comes as a surprise to some that the duo have only starred in a small handful of short films and one feature film. But that one feature film is the only animated movie to win the BAFTA award for Best British Film. Not bad for an absentminded inventor and his mute dog.

Frozen (2013)

Frozen

Won: Japanese Academy Award for Best Foreign Film

Frozen has taken over the world (and rightfully so, it’s so lovable), becoming the most successful animated film ever made, and winning numerous awards for Animated Features and for its music. But Frozen’s impact has undoubtedly been biggest in Japan, where it ranks as one of the country’s highest-grossing movies (it was the first film since Spirited Away that actually contested Miyazaki’s box office champ). It broke all home video records in Japan (overtaking Spirited Away in this instance), and it has etched its way into Japanese popular culture. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that it also became the first animated film to win the Japanese Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (previously, Toy Story 3 was the only other animated nominee in the award’s history).

The Oscars apparently couldn’t get over themselves and give Frozen a Best Picture mention, but the Japanese Academy Awards made up for it by acknowledging the film’s unprecedented appeal.