Sunday, October 15, 2017

We Stood in Line for the SNES Classic and Got Mario Run Instead?

On September 29, Junior and I lined up outside our local Gamestop for the chance to buy a fragment of my childhood: the SNES Classic. I was eager to show my little one the games that I grew up with, but also, I wanted to play Super Mario World. After playing so much JRPG (Sen no kiseki and Sen no kiseki II), I longed for the simplicity of mindless platforming.

Although we arrived a full 30 minutes before opening, there were more than a dozen people ahead of us already. Nerds. A small line formed behind us, too, and we all chatted nervously about our chances of getting one of the limited units.

The store opened on time, and we all inched forward. As we got closer to the store proper, my heart sank as I saw the sign posted on the door: only 20 units stocked. I didn't know how many people were in line ahead of us, but I was about to find out.

One by one, the early birds filed out, gripping their purchases. About midway through, I spotted one lady with a larger bag--she had purchased three units! Soon enough, we were almost there. There were two registers, and the fellow ahead of us surged to the open one. Alas, the man at the register beside him had just gotten the final unit. We were all told this disappointing news, and we all filed away dejectedly.

I figured that since the fellow and I were next in line to get a unit, and there were 20 units available, and a lady had gotten three instead of one like everyone else had, Junior and I were actually customers #20. Had the villain not taken an extra two units, we would have walked out of there triumphantly instead of sadly.

Furious, I vowed never to give Nintendo my money again. I was so upset that when I saw a Kotaku article claiming that the SNES Classic rollout was going just fine, I deleted the site from my bookmarks. Take that, fake news!

And then I discovered Super Mario Run:

An iOS (!) Mario game! I read the glowing reviews and downloaded immediately. Then I played a little bit and gave Nintendo five bucks, because I am weak and also this game is super fun.

There are three modes: Tour, which has six worlds; Remix 10, which has shorter runs but goes up to 30 levels; and Rally, where you compete against other players to recruit Toads of various colors. This lets you build up your kingdom. Princess Peach joins once you complete the World Tour, meaning you can play as her during Rallies. You can also buy a buildings and decorations via the coins you collect.

Below is my kingdom, connected by a rainbow bridge:

The most interesting part about Super Mario Run is that Mario/bonus character can only move forward. (There are special tiles that let Mario leap backward, however, but then he quickly moves forward again.) So you really need excellent timing or else you'll miss the bonus coins, or die.

Other aspects of the gameplay are outstanding. Controls are smooth. The music is terrific: remixed versions of the good ol' Mario soundtrack. The extra modes prolong the game, and thus enjoyment. I'm almost halfway through Remix 10, and when I finish, I will probably be over that evil lady who stole my SNES Classic from under my nose. Maybe.

TL;DR: Nintendo did not make enough SNES Classic units but they still got my money.

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This post brought to you by preschooler cold virus!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a dumb, fun action movie. While bigger, louder, and more action-y than the original, it lacks the fresh premise, emotional arc, and character development of the first movie. However, it does feature an impressive array of talent, and a celebrity who’s having the cameo of his life. Overall, it’s an entertaining romp that sets up possible future movies in the franchise.

As in the first film, the Kingsman face a diabolical villain with global reach and a sinister solution to a real-world issue. Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) wants the war on drugs to end—and will sacrifice millions to achieve her goal. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know that most Kingsman agents and their bases of operation are the first casualties. Cut off from their resources, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) travel to Kentucky, USA for assistance from their “cousins,” the Statesmen.

The Statesmen provide a lot of laughs, especially their codenames: leader Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). Like Merlin, Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) is the group’s strategist/hacker, hence the non-alcoholic designation. Differences between the two secret agencies are glossed over, since the screenplay’s focus is on Eggsy and his journey – especially after reuniting with his mentor, Harry (Colin Firth). Again, not a spoiler if you’ve watched the trailers.

A lot of the emotional beats from the first movie came from Harry and Merlin’s guidance of Eggsy as he navigates the Kingsman training and the upper crust backgrounds of his fellow candidates. This time, Eggsy's character is fleshed out via his devotion to his steady girlfriend (!). This new romance makes sense, since he’s graduated from the student/teacher dynamic with Harry. However, all relationships in Kingsman: The Golden Circle are given short shrifts in favor of fight scenes.

And boy, the fights are pretty great. It’s hard to choose a favorite – there’s the opening brawl inside a cab, the mandatory bar fight, the besieged safe point, and the Final Battle. Actually, I’d say the best thrills were delivered by a scene that had no fighting at all: the one inside the ski lift. It also ended with a terrific joke.

Yes, we’re here for the spy stuff! Gadgets! Hacking! Impossibly elegant yet brutal fighting! Unnecessarily gruesome deaths! Kingsman: The Golden Circle delivers it all! And as a bonus, it does leave you with a question: how do you feel about drug users? Should they be helped? Punished? Our answers in the past have led us here, in this moment, with crisis after crisis involving substance abuse. What solution could work?

Clearly not the one devised by the cartoonishly evil president (Bruce Greenwood) in the movie!

TL;DR: Crazy fights! Loud noises! Clever quips! Why ask for more? 

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This post brought to you by pizza!

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)