Monday, March 2, 2015

Madcap's Reel Thoughts - "Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme" (2007)

Just before the era when someone put Sherlock Holmes into the suit of Iron Man (and also Sherlock Holmes), Marvel had not yet cut the mustard with a film adaptation. Sure, both the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises were doing exceedingly at the box office (well, until this year for the latter franchise, anyway), but Marvel had yet to be making it's own revenue stream completely independent of two production companies who haven't had an original idea since cancelling Firefly or the Playstation, respectively.  However, in the animated arena...they also weren't heavily ahead in the animated arena, either.  But we've covered some of that.

What we haven't yet covered is Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme. He's one of the oldest Marvel characters, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Stephen's story is that of a brilliant neurosurgeon who becomes egotistical and callous because of his great talent until he is met with a terrible accident that severs the nerves in his hands - completely destroying his fine motor skills and ending his career as a surgeon forever.  Desperate for a cure, he tries everything, and eventually finds his way to Tibet.  In the temple of a sorcerer known only as the Ancient One, Stephen saves the sorcerer from his evil apprentice and recommits himself to a higher purpose as the defender of every soul in his dimension from cosmic horrors we know not of.

Doctor Strange is one of the oldest and most powerful characters in the Marvel universe (y'know, when World War Hulk isn't nerfing him to hell and back). This is the guy who battles Cthulhu on a regular basis...and kicks his ass handily. So, one would think that a very, very big threat would be needed for him to contend with.  Well, as this is an origin story, we don't really have him on the level of fighting the primordial beasts from before the beginning of time.

I'll go ahead and say it, this movie is really good. I mean, really good.  If Marvel isn't following this movie as a blueprint for when he makes his Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance in 2016 (where they will be putting Sherlock Holems in the cloak of Doctor Strange), then they better have something more awesome - because this story has it all.  It gives more motivation and backstory for Stephen, we see very palpably in a montage the struggle he faces in having his fine motor skills callously taken from him, and we feel the triumph when he rises to a higher purpose under the Ancient One's tutelage.

The film begins with Stephen Strange (Bryce Johnson) as a cold, callous neurosurgeon living in New York and refusing to take any cases that don't get him either a substantial payout or high recognition for his craft.  Eventually, he is brought a case of a child with strange brain activity  as well as the comatose state of several others with the same condition...and is witness to the girl's nightmare of a face wreathed in flames, upon which he - understandably freaked out - refuses the case and leaves.  Then comes his terrible accident, where - in this version - he loses control of his car upon seeing apparitions of the children.  As stated above, the nerves in his hands are damage - he will never be able to so much as hold a scalpel again.

However, the good doctor refuses to take this lying down and we get a short montage of him speaking with various specialists - who all say that there's nothing they can do - coupled with others speaking of how his wealth and his lines of credit are no longer good, as we see him sinking deeper and deeper into despair. Even to the point of preparing himself to jump off a bridge...until a mysterious man by the name of Wong (Paul Nakauchi) comes to him with one last potential cure, hidden away deep in Tibet...

The entire sequence is quite intense and you really do feel for Stephen as he sinks deeper and deeper into misery. It also doesn't take up half the film, because they know the audience wants to get to the good stuff, and the film does deliver on that.
Talk to the hand!
From there, Stephen goes to Tibet and the temple of the Ancient One (Michael Yama) where he hopes to find a cure and instead...finds something greater. I have to say the voice acting is very good, particularly the always talented Kevin Michael Richardson voicing Baron Mordo - the Ancient One's former apprentice and Stephen's main rival. The animation is very well done and, indeed, heartbreakingly beautiful with some of the landscapes (mostly in Tibet, most of the "city" scenes are passable).The character designs all look pretty good, even the tertiary characters.  And yes, there are some side characters who were not in the original - apprentices of the Ancient One who are basically there just to be killed off by Mordo when he turns evil (spoiler alert).

Now seems like a good enough time to mention some of the backstory, so here we go: Stephen had a little sister who needed surgery for...a brain something something...and she died on the operating table when he took the case after several other surgeons refused to do it.  In the original comics, this was kind of the case with his sister - then named Donna - who died of a cramp while swimming, though I don't know if that lore has been touched upon in recent years.  This is represented in the film by a large, stone wall that Stephen is set to break down every day, only for it to be built back up again the next day.

From there...well, I've given you half the plot...the rest, you'll have to watch the film for.  Needless to say, it's a fun ride that gives just enough to get new viewers invested without bogging them down over the heavier concepts that Doctor Strange's mythos brings to the table.  There's only one mention of Agamotto - indirectly, via the Eye of Agamotto - and none of the Vishanti or the other powers that Stephen and other sorcerers call upon for power. Magic is also explained from a more scientific angle - the Ancient One no doubt trying to speak to Stephen's experience as a surgeon - while still retaining the fact that it's, well, magic.

I actually prefer this, particular in light of how Thor took the route of "magic is science that we don't understand yet". That's fine, though it's a bit more difficult to say that with Doctor Strange, who is clearly not using some form of technology beyond some artifacts (like the aforementioned Eye). So I take it as "magic is science that we don't understand yet...top tip, you aren't going to understand it on this level. Ever."
"Honey...you got real ugly..."
But, as stated before, this movie is good and yet could have done a lot worse with the concept...like they did in the 1970s. That's a train wreck for another time, however.  The only thing I can really say that is a bit of a disappointment is the ending, in which Stephen defeats Dormammu (Johnathan Adams) way too easily. Then again, Dormammu - the fiendish overlord of the Dark Dimension who has plots within plots within plots to gain dominion over all life - isn't really given much time to shine before he's defeated, and I'd hoped perhaps that he might get some more time in a sequel or the like. Here, he only speaks about four lines, has a rather dull plan and gets defeated in a really rather deus ex machina way.

A far cry from the Stephen Strange in the comics, who bound Dormammu to the Dark Dimension by knowing how to manipulate the Dread Lord's twisted sense of ethics.

Still, this film does achieve what it sets out to do - and does it well overall beyond a few minor complaints I have with it.  It's a more than adequate and enjoyable ride of not quite ninety minutes, and a good introduction to anyone who is more than a little curious about Doctor Strange before his big movie comes out in 2016, but doesn't want to be completely swamped.

Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme is now available from MLG Productions and Lions Gate on DVD and on Netflix Instant Streaming.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

MadCap's Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 19 - "SPAAAAAAAAACE!!!!"

"Oh, sorry, this isn't the self-help seminar, is it?"
Heading over to the Space Center, Andrew got to see a pack of Team Magma grunts heading for the place, followed by running into the engimatic Scott once again.  Finding him creepy as ever, Andrew was glad to see him leave and made his way into the building, where Team Magma had already set up shop.  Apparently, they want to steal the Rocket Fuel but made the unfortunate mistake of, well...announcing their evil plan before enacting it.

Doctor Doom doesn't have Twitter for a reason, guys.

Andrew fought his way through several Magma grunts to get to the stairs, coming up to be attacked by three at once...who were all kind enough to attack him one at a time with a single Pokemon each.  Besides the insane plans to either create more land or create more water, I'm beginning to think that Hoenn's criminal organizations are incredibly stupid.  Andrew was more confident in his own operation (Shroomish Highs still selling pretty well, you know).  Deeper within, he encountered Steven once more as the purple-haired man was accosted by two instead of one.
Space, Space, wanna go to space! SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!
And so, the plan is revealed that Team Magma does not, in fact, want to go to space! In a terrible betrayal of the values of the Space Core, they want to aim the rocket at Mt. Chimney and hold Hoenn ransom for...well...

...okay, not really.  They want to aim the rocket at Mt. Chimney to try and cause it to erupt, flooding Hoenn with liquid hot magma (so I probably should have found that clip, but bite me), thereby creating more land.  Steven requested Andrew's help and, being the only person with a working brain cell in the entire plot, Andrew decided to get involved and save the day once more.

Admin's Maxie and Tabitha were taken down in a fierce battle, where Andrew narrowly avoided the loss of another team member.  Maxie mused on his failings of being able to mind Groudon after he awoke, and failing to force the volcano to erupt with moon rocks back in Part 10.  Finally, for a brief moment, some character other than Andrew had a moment of thought that maybe what they'd doing is completely insane! Huh!

Then, they left and Steven invited him to come visit his home right there on Mossdeep. Given that he's now roughly 3 to 1 in terms of going to houses where he ends up being put into lethal situations, Andrew decided to give it a go and head there.  Steven was welcoming and gave him the Hidden Machine for Dive, which will allow Pokemon to...dive.  With this new power, after teaching it to Leviathan, Andrew went out to go explore the wide world of Diving.

So, next time...well, we'll see what happens...

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, February 27, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island"

I've spoken fondly of games from my past that shaped me into becoming a gamer in the past right here on this very blog. For me, it's been games like Pokemon or Banjo-Kazooie or the Super Mario series that were some of the first I ever played as a child.  But some of my earliest memories were in playing two particular games.  You see, I came into gaming at a time after the Super Nintendo, but before the Playstation, and my parents actually had a NES and got me a SNES, so I got the chance to play many different games from that era.  Like the original Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt.

...and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.  Let me be frank - me screaming obscenities for nine paragraphs is not a review, so no, I won't review this.

Then came the SNES where I played games like Jurassic Park, Scooby-Doo Mystery, and Super Castlevania IV, among others...like Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.  If you've read my review of Yoshi's New Island on the DS, then you know all about my lavishly described backstory in which my mother would play the game and I'd observe for some time until I developed the fine motor skills necessary (give me a break, I was four) to master the big, green dinosaur with a bizarre digestive tract.  After all, even then, I could play Super Mario and pretty well, but this was just something else. Yoshi could do so much more than just the running and jumping that Mario could do.

I can't even tell you how many hours of my life I gave to this game once I was playing myself. It has pretty much all you'd expect from a Mario title. Fun, addictive, and with fair challenge.  At least, that's how it was to me when I was in my...younger youth.  So does the game still hold up to what the rose-colored glasses say it is? Or have I allowed myself to think something is good for all this time only to return to it and find it isn't remotely what I thought?
The Yoshis learned from the Muppets how to travel by map, you see...

Let's begin with the story.  This is the earliest story in the Mario series chronology (no, seriously), beginning with a stork trying to deliver the adorable babies Luigi and Mario to their family in the Mushroom Kingdom when it gets attacked by Kamek, a "Magikoopa" who has foreseen the great trouble that Mario and Luigi will cause for Bowser in the future.  While his attack manages to net him Luigi, the stork drops Mario and the little bundle of joy falls all the way to the eponymous Yoshi's Island.  There he is taken in by the natives, taught their ways, and grows up to be a fine young man who is a great warrior and friend to all animals as the Beastmas-

...oh, wait.  That's that other guy.

Instead, the Yoshis decide to reunite Mario with his brother and go on an epic, multi-colored quest to do just that. With Mario on their back, each Yoshi will take on one level as they move through six worlds of madness in order to reunite the brothers. On the way, Yoshi gets the standard Mario powers - that is to say, running and jumping (along with a flutter jump to give a few more seconds in the air). However, each Yoshi can swallow most enemies whole and...err...eject them as an egg that can then be thrown as a projectile to either interact with the environment or as a weapon.

Crashing all those hopes (of getting an extra life) down the drain...
More than that, the Yoshis can use the power of Morph Bubbles that allow them to transform into various vehicles so they can traverse the environment in different ways for a limited time, as well as being nigh-invincible in this state. The trade off is, again, the limited time. If the player doesn't reach a "Yoshi Block" in time, they're sent right back to the area with the original morph bubble after the aforementioned limited time. There's also the Super Watermelons that come in red, green, and blue varieties that cause Yoshi to spit fire, seeds, or ice in addition to the eggs that can be thrown.

The Yoshis can also collect stars (not the Invincibility Stars of previous and later games) that play into the time-based health system. Yes, time-based as would be used in later games. Yoshi himself is virtually unkillable barring some of the more obvious deathtraps (e.g. giant spikes or falling down a pit) but when a Yoshi is hit, it causes him/her to buck, sending baby Mario flying into the air in a protective bubble.

From there, Baby Mario begins to wail in the most annoying noise ever.

More annoying than the Guild Leader telling you your health is low...more annoying than Sumter claiming that "Green Knight needs food badly!"...more annoying than the sound of Link's heart meter when he's about to die...actually, it's amazing how many really annoying sounds in video games are related to health, isn't it?

So Yoshi either has to catch him within a pre-allotted time or Mario will be captured and the player will be dealt a "Game Over". How do you up the time? By collecting stars, of course. The stars can be collected from Winged Clouds, from defeating certain enemies, and from completing some challenges found in the levels. However, the timer won't go above thirty seconds.  And after thirty seconds of hearing the incessant wailing of Baby Mario, you'll definitely want Kamek to take him...if not just hand him over yourself...
Little known fact, Kamek's mentor was Rita Repulsa
On the plus side, if you get a Super Star, then Baby Mario becomes Super Baby Mario, donning the cape from Super Mario World (the first one) as Yoshi regresses into a giant Yoshi egg and then is able to run through the level with invincibility and reckless abandon...for a limited time, anyway. Still, used properly, a limited time is all you need.

As far as collectibles go, there are also five Flowers in each level. On their own, they do nothing except grant points. On each level, there are thirty stars, twenty Red Coins, and five Flowers that all contribute to your final score. The highest score you can get, as you can imagine, is 100. If you manage to get all five stars in a level, then the end of the level's roulette wheel may land on one, which gets you better odds at trying a mini-game.

Needless to say - unless you're incredibly dedicated - you aren't going to get a perfect score on your first time every time, particularly in the later levels, where it's near-impossible unless you have the mad platforming skills.  Needless to say, I don't.
And the sidekick is recovered. All is well...
However, I will say that I find this game just as enjoyable as when it came out twenty years ago.  Going back to it now, it's nothing but fond memories brought back to life before my very eyes once again. It's one of the first games that brought me towards wanting to play games as a regular form of recreation, one of the first games I ever really played, and so I think it was the perfect choice for my ninety-ninth review.

...wait...ninety-ninth?! I've done ninety-nine reviews?! Really?! Holy moly!  I can't believe it! Ninety-nine reviews?! That means next is the Big One! The one double oh! Stay tuned, Madmen! For next time I come back with a review of a game, we're going to hit the one hundredth review! Stick around!!!

...oh, and Mom? Thanks.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is brought to us by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System/Super Famicon.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

...many falls, but one remains...

Friday, February 20, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Far Cry 4"

Remember when I reviewed Far Cry 3? Yeah, it was a hoot! A lot of the press releases at the time called it "Skyrim with Guns", which I found absolutely hilarious when I actually got my hands on it. Sure it had the open world experience and graphics that were all kinds of damn pretty, but it didn't really have the political situation or the same feeling of adventure.  Skyrim was another in Bethesda's wonderful sandbox adventure games.  Far Cry 3 on the other hand, is a very tight, interesting plot dealing with themes of insanity and free will versus destiny, among others that happens to have a sandbox added on.

And for that, I dare say that Far Cry 3 was actually far deeper than Skyrim.

Yes, you read it here (so stop staring at the screen like that), I'm actually choosing another game over a Bethesda game.  Clearly I'm going batty. However, back to my original statement, Far Cry 3 was an excellent first person shooter with a surprisingly deep storyline that made you feel for not only the main character, but bothered to make the villain somewhat sympathetic.  But it is not, however, "Skyrim with Guns".

...Far Cry 4 is Skyrim with Guns.

Elephants are awesome!

I'm not kidding.  There's a civil war brewing between the established social order and a ragtag band of native rebels, and a hero comes into the picture at an opportune time to have to pick a side and forever change the destiny of the nation they have been placed into.  Oh, and he has the power to command and ride a mythical creature into battle.  To anyone who disbelieves that statement, get the skill that lets you mount and ride elephants.  You will believe that elephants are magic.

But more to the point, Far Cry 4 forgoes the theme of insanity for much different one this time around - taking apart the Messiah cliche. However, this game goes for the Dune approach and pretty much - spoiler alert! - has no real right answer, it's all based down to personal preference.  Do you go with Guerrilla Leader #1 who wants to help the people but will create a Knight Templar-run religious state in the style of the "old ways", or do you want to go with Guerrilla Leader #2 who is the more pragmatic, wanting to use the nation's only natural resource - opium - to keep the country afloat while bringing it into a more progressive world-stance? Or do you just throw them both under the bus and take over the whole thing yourself? It's all up to what you want to do.  Anyway it goes, somebody's gonna get screwed over and the status quo will never be the same.

Min 2016!
That, of course, brings me to the main villain of the piece - Pagan Min.  Or, at least, that's what you're supposed to think.  In reality, outside of the homicidal killings out of nowhere, the dude is actually really, really awesome.  When the main character, Ajay Ghale (who I'll get to in a minute) comes to Kyrat, Pagan outright murders one of his men when he thinks he might have killed him.

 When he finds out he's not, he's immensely glad and apparently cleared his calendar just for him so they could party! Even when Ajay starts killing off his soldiers and traipsing through the jungle causing chaos, he's all too happy to call him up to chat about his future and about the Twitter of Kanye West (which is apparently hilarious).

The guy kinda sounds awesome, really.

Okay, so major spoilers follow from here, so I'm going to actually put up a warning before I continue. Past this point, if you haven't played this and don't want spoilers...turn back now.  Go watch Keyboard Cat and then go finish the game.

...okay, done? Good. Welcome back. Now we can move on.

Pagan Min was apparently giving it to Ajay's mother back in the day, when she was an agent of the Kyrat resistance movement known as the Golden Path.  However, she was also slinging leg for Ajay's father, who was the leader of said resistance.  However, if Ajay can learn that his father was not exactly the archetypal hero that the Golden Path makes him out to be, and murdered your half-sister, a child of Pagan and Ajay's mother.

As it turns out, and is evidenced very much by his behavior and actions towards Ajay, Pagan loved Ajay's mother deeply (they even had a daughter together, Ajay's half-sister) and sees his return to Kyrat with her ashes as the one chance to reconnect with his lost love and the only family he sees himself as having.  To Ajay, he's not a cruel overlord who wants to crush his spirit and command him entirely - he just wants to be an awesome stepdad who takes you out shooting guns and just having a grand old time.

After all, he's a violent murdering psychopath, but he treats his loved ones well.

"I can see my house from here! No, REALLY!"
You can even pick an alternate ending where Ming takes Ajay to where his half-sister (the "Lakshmana" she requested to have her ashes spread with) has been laid in state, then Min says they can now go "shoot some goddamn guns". There's no post-campaign gameplay after this, but here's hoping that Ubisoft will make some DLC based off this ending. I'd personally love to play the side of the Empire for once and crush some rebel scum (word of mouth is that they are).

Unfortunately, I can't really give the same praise to any other character outside of Longinus (the weapons dealer for the Golden Path, really awesome dude) and Rabi Ray Rana (the voice of Radio Free Kyrat). Both the leaders of the Golden Path (again, seeing a lot of Dune parallels) are rather dull, Sabal and Amita both being two sides of a coin as a mentioned before - one going towards the old ways and another towards progress.

Most damningly, Ajay, who says surprisingly very little throughout the game and is bizarrely easy going about joining up with a resistance movement and screwing up the power structure in the country ruled by a guy who has really been nothing but nice to him. Compared to Jason Brody, whose character and development was not only well done, but integral to the plot of Far Cry 3. It's just rather disappointing to see them dropping back into a character who is almost a blank slate and doesn't seem to operate by any sort of logic.

We know some things about Ajay, but we get very little in terms of who he is and what his motivations are beyond wanting to bring his mother's ashes back to her native country. Why exactly is happy to just drop everything to join a resistance movement against his psycho stepfather really doesn't make that much sense (yes, I know how that sounds, but it's really not that simple).  And unlike the rather colorful cast of Far Cry 3 (Vaas, Hoyt, Citra, Buck, etc...), few individuals stood out to me.

Oh, and Willis came back. And I still wanna shank him in the groin.

As for the gameplay itself, it's not that different from Far Cry 3.  Ajay traverses Kyrat with a single weapon at first, but can later craft holsters to allow himself more weapons in the style of the walking death tornado that was Jason Brody.   Crafting comes back, both with animal skins to create various holsters and packs, as well as syringes that Ajay uses so he doesn't have to heal himself after being gored by a leopard by tugging on his thumb.

Seriously, I'm pretty sure decapitation in the Far Cry universe can be cured by lightly tugging one's thumb.
Working for Pagan Min can give you such a crick in the neck...
Regardless, Far Cry 4 adds some new features that 3 had no, including player housing as mentioning in the inset picture right above.  Ajay gets the Ghale (pronounced "Gah-Lay" by the natives) Homestead and - along with bizarre trips into the mystical land of Shangri-La thanks to a magic (maybe it's magic, maybe it's weed) - it can be upgraded and added to using Kyrat's native currency as you go along through the game.  If you didn't have to climb a mountain to get to it, I'd call it prime real estate, though it does help to explain why it isn't a smoking crater in the ground.

The level up system is back in full force, experience points granting skill ranks that can be put into either the "Elephant" or the "Tiger" skill trees, which pretty much cover all the skills the Tatau gave back in Far Cry 3 plus a few tasty extras.  Like the ability to ride an elephant which is, to reinforce an earlier point, awesome!

My few complaints about it can be dismissed, alas, because this game really is awesome. Like it's immediate predecessor, it's clear that Ubisoft put a lot of work and care into it. Also, any game that lets me fire off an automatic machine gun from the back of an elephant that I'm using to charge into an enemy compound is absolutely going to get a gold star from me, no questions asked.

Mind you, I would still like them to go the extra mile and get us a jetpack in these games, but I'll take the wingsuit and now riding on elephants any day.

Seriously, I rarely outright give recommendations here, but if you happen to have not played this game yet, go play it.

Far Cry 4 is now available from Ubisoft and Ubisoft Montreal for Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

...Many touchstones try the stranger...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

MadCap's Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 18 - "Agua, agua, por todas partes!"

Twist: Team Aqua aren't pirates, they're internet trolls!
And so, with the stunning cliffhanger of Part 17, Andrew was left watching as Team Aqua hijacked Captain Stern's submarine.  Andrew and Stern entered just in time to see Archie do as a pirate does and steal the very ship in question, mentioning Team Aqua's hideout in Lilycove City...which Andrew already knew of.  With Stern having no options, it seems it's up to Andrew once more to save the day.  I'd make a joke about the ten year old having to once more save the day - especially this ten year old - but we've seen how utterly useless the adults are around here.

And so, Andrew flew back to Lilycove City to take on Team Aqua on their own home turf, which turned out to be just a normal cave on the coast and a far, far better choice than inside an active volcano.  Of course, Andrew found something far more dastardly than wild Pokemon within a center of molten hot magma - teleporter pads.  Navigating through them and annihilating the Grunts he found on the way, Andrew eventually found himself face to face with Aqua Admin Matt, who promised to stop him flat.

If you've been tuning in regularly, you know how silly that presumption is.

Alas, Matt was able to stall Andrew long enough to keep him from getting to the sub, which departed.  The moron also gave the suggestion to search the seas out by Lilycove for it.  While musing on the continued appearances of the plot convenience fairy, Andrew surfed out into Route 124, battling some trainers and coming across a Winggull that was caught and sent to the PC as "Crowe" before he went on his way.

...look, all the nicknames can't be gold.
Huh...house in the middle of nowhere. I can only see this ending well...
Eventually, he came across a sandbar, and found "Hunter's House". Luckily, this was not another psychopath with an itch to scratch or bizarre puzzles to solve, just a man who apparently dove beneath the waves to seek treasures - in particular Shards he's willing give various Evolution Stones for. Keeping in mind to look for Green Shards in particular, Andrew went on about his way.  Some more surfing got him all the way to Mossdeep City.

With the Space Center bragging to be "the closest place to space", Andrew walked around exploring but found little of interest beyond the apparently psychic child who told him where he put his Secret Base and Steven up at the Space Center telling him that Team Magma was apparently seeking to take the rocket fuel.  Then it was off to Route 125 (Andrew having no interest in staying behind) for more epic level grindings!

Believe me, lady, it's been a crazy 17 episodes...
And, Shoal Cave was discovered, and a Spheal was the first beast encountered. Captured, it was nicknamed "Left Shark" (don't say I'm not topical) and sent off to the PC.  By walking and surfing, he took to exploring and - of course - leveling.

Once everyone was at a cool Level 45 (thanks to keeping everyone alive via trips back to Mossdeep City's Pokemon Center), Andrew headed up to the Pokemon Gym to take on the psychic type trainers with Veruca at the head of the party.  Within, he found more teleporter pads (because those weren't getting old or anything) and the twin gym leaders who apparently have psychic ability.

Wow. Psychic twins. Never seen that before.

Andrew managed to defeat them, alas he was unable to do so without a cost.  It is my sad duty to report that Muad'dib, who has been with us since Part 11, fell in a battle with the duo's Solrock.  He fought bravely, and he shall be remembered as will all others who have so fallen in service to Andrew.  The Mind Badge was won, and Andrew took the time to ponder the cost and mourn the latest loss in his battle.
Long live the fighters...
Leaving the Center following his latest release, Andrew remembered Steven's words from earlier about the Space Center.  Team Magma was to show up once more, and Andrew had no excuse to not show up and give them some grief for leaving him stuck inside an active volcano.  Next time, he will take on Team of Dorky Red Pikachu Hats and perhaps see...spaaaaaaaaace?!

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and Game Freak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, February 13, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "New Super Mario Bros."

Mario, Mario. The Italian plumber known throughout the world as the savior of the Mushroom Kingdom. Constant menace to Bowser, a man with a love of daring adventure, everyone knows who he is and what he's all about.  Nintendo certainly isn't afraid to put this guy on everything.  From go-carting, to music, to paint, and even full blown party games, Mario is everywhere and has done everything.  The guy's even been a doctor!

But, of course - and everyone knows it - Mario is most well-known for his platformers. And why not? The original Super Mario Bros. stands today as a standard by which all other platformers are judged even to this day, thirty years later. If not by that game, then by Super Mario 64...which is also in the series. So it's fair to say that the Mario series is the definitive platformer in gaming. If games don't outright copy it, they at least owe their existence to it. And many will complain that Nintendo is just wringing every last penny they can out of what is a fairly simple and braindead concept.

...say what you will, it friggin' sells!

So it is once again time for Mario to put on his bright red cap and go save Princess Toadstool (yes, I know they call her "Peach" now) once again, through eight worlds of deadly dangers to stop the most evil plot of Bowser and Bowser, Jr. In a surprising show of confidence, Bowser, Jr. takes the reins of most of the kidnapping and stalling Mario throughout the game. This is largely because you fight Bowser  in the first castle and then outright murder him by dropping him into liquid magma.  Yes, you did this at the end of every level in the original, but we never actually saw death.

Now you're thinking, this is a Nintendo game.  Surely death isn't a thing! Let me correct you not once but twice with A) the story of a child gone mad going out dealing drugs, burning down buildings, and engaging in piracy, and B) the fact that at the end of the final castle in World 8 that Bowser, Jr. brings up the bones of Bowser and throws them into a cauldron to resurrect his father from the dead for the final fight.  However, this does mean that the other boss levels can actually be unique to the various environments.  Yes, Mario defeats them by jumping on them, but that's how Mario always solves problems, so we really shouldn't be expecting anything else.
Not that those can't be awesome...
After all, the last time that they tried to do something unique with Mario, they gave him a glorified water gun.

Mario has the standard armament when dealing with Bowser's goons - the Red Mushroom that makes him grow to normal size, the Starman that gives him a brief bit of invincibility, and the Fire Flower that allows him to feed his urge to burn everything to the ground with fireballs. But this time around, Mario has even more at his disposal such as Blue Mushrooms that make him shrink down so he can jump insanely high and get into secret areas, though it comes at the expense of being a bit of a glass cannon due to his size.  Then there's the Super Mushrooms which make the Mario grow! For a limited time, he's invincible and can literally walk through anything, including the flagpole at the end of levels (which is hilarious). Last, but not least, is the Blue Koopa Shell.  Like his longtime enemies, Mario can hide in his shell for protection and aids in swimming.

So new window trimming, but basically nothing that you wouldn't expect from a Mario game. Go on the epic adventure, save the princess, save the world.  After all, Mario does have the most braindead simple plot in video gaming besides "hit this ball between these two sticks". As for this? It's a good game. I very much enjoyed it, and I did find the challenge appropriate as it got into the upper levels. So, for the 200th rendition of Super Mario Bros., very well done.

New Super Mario Bros. is now available from Nintendo for the Nintendo DS.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

...The stranger's fate...the curses' bane...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

MadCap's Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 17 - "Oh, My God! A Giant Magma Rock!"

Oh, great...lost again.
With the immediate threat to Mt. Chimney on the rise, and the need to keep his land of profit from being threatened as well, Andrew flew to Lavaridge Town and jumped some slopes to get on the path to head up Mt. Chimney. However, there was nary a Team Magma or Team Aqua member in sight...just a bunch of trainers around the peak. So, after earning the team a little more XP, Andrew returned on the lift back down the mountain and entered the Fiery Path once more...and on the other end found Route 112.

Naturally a bit confused, the player decided to consult the wiki...I mean, Andrew checked his Pokenav.
"Hello? I've got Girl Scout Cookies!"
Then he took the car back up and headed for Jagged Pass, the Magma Emblem opening a doorway in the mountain.  Andrew entered to find.."Magma Hideout". How very on the nose. While navigating the volcanic terrain, Andrew happened upon a Torkoal that he captured. "Ms. Burns" went off to the PC and Andrew and the group continued on their way. Eventually, Team Magma grunts were encountered and fighting began!

Afterwards, apparently a few of Team Magma were smart enough to question why they were inside an active volcano, but not enough to actually...you know...leave...

...good for you?
From the look of it, Team Magma's plan was to unleash a legendary Pokemon called Groudon, which would further their plans to get rid of the ocean, apparently.  Nevertheless, as he made his way to the center of the base, Andrew once more encountered Maxie who had managed to unearth the legendary beast but not yet awakened it, but he did so with the Blue Orb. When Groudon left without Maxie getting what he wished, Andrew was all too happy to take the Team Magma Admin down in a fight which, thanks to Andrew's leveling, the man stood absolutely no chance in. He left to go lick his wounds and leave Andrew to figure out how to get out.

Once he did, Andrew decided to go check on his Shroomish crop and accidentally headed to Slateport via the flight of Q-Tip. Back in the city where he's wanted for arson, Andrew was nonetheless able to walk around without arousing any suspicion or indeed even getting a policeman's attention as he made his way to the Harbor to find a crowd to get caught up in. He watched Captain Stern being interviewed by that one reporter and her cameraman who won't leave him alone. Happy for the lack of attention for once, and back among someone who is in on the game (if you recall that package Andrew delivered to him back in Part 5), Andrew learns that Stern's explorations have borne some fruit - primarily knowledge of an underwater cavern on Route 128.

However, before he could learn more, Team Aqua interceded and took control of the good Captain's submarine!

Pirates actually doing something pirate-y! Who would have guessed?

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.