Category Archives: Article

Super Mario Super Challenge Day 2 – Super Nintendo Bros. Ending and Lost Levels…

Day 2 – The Realisation sets in.



So after a long day of work, I continued my play through of Super Mario Bros. The game’s difficulty increased, but not substantially  After the rest from last night, I was able to fly through the rest of the game pretty easily. Though I did get a large sense of pride when I finally got to the end of Castle 8-4, as it’s been an awful long time since I saw a chubby plumber get a kiss from a princess!


I then began my play through of Super Mario – Lost Levels.While it is really the second Super Mario title in Japan, we Westerners didn’t get it until the Mario Allstars version (which I am playing). Now, there is clear reasoning why the West didn’t get this game (and instead got Super Mario Bros. 2, which was released in Japan as Super Mario USA). In their wisdom, Nintendo of America after seeing the game in action, realised that not only was the game too similar to the original title, but the game was incredibly difficult. NIA thus released that if the game were released in the US, not only would the brand be diluted, but people might not play another Mario game.

If I’m being honest, I am very glad that NIA made this choice (though they made some terrible ones in that era! Namely scraping Mother’s English Translation at the last minute), as the game is one of the most difficult games I have ever played, and while it’s easy to speculate, it could have meant the death of Mario had it hit shelves in the US.

While there are plenty of super difficult games by modern standards, I feel I need to make it clear that while the game is difficult, it is (almost) never unfair. The game was designed for those who had mastered the original SMB, and thus is expected to be a challenge. As it is a Mario game, it doesn’t suffer the same idea of difficulty as say, the NES Turtles game (or in my opinion, Bloody Trapland), in the sense that the game’s controls are perfectly responsive and do not hinder the player. Still, it doesn’t make the title any easier…

In playing Lost Levels, you are essentially signing a contract that you are going to die a lot. Hundereds, maybe thousands of times. Frustratingly high amounts of deaths from turtles. tricky jumps and hammers. Oh, if I ever meet whoever suggested putting the Hammer Bros. in the Mario games, I will gladly force-feed them my controller!  But I persevered.  The game is difficult, but there is a certain level of reward in each level. Finally throwing up your controller in  celebration as your fastidious learning of a level (often the levels go down to muscle memory, it’s that intense), that you have concurred the odds, which as I’ve said, can result in hundreds of deaths if you’re not clinical with your jumps.

I understand to some people that this might seem as fun as putting a fork in toaster, but there is some joy to be had from it, though admittedly it’s a very hard slog. I got to the end of Castle 5-4 (I watched an entire Game of Thrones episode while dying on it…), before I called it a night. I am hitting some serious gamer fatigue, so while I will aim to complete the Lost Levels today (this blog is posted the day after because I had a late night), there will probably be a break from the start of SMB2.

– M


Super Mario Super Challenge Day 1 – Super Nintendo Bros.


So for those of you familiar with our podcast, I have undertaken a mission. I freely admit, it’s a task that would have some people baffled. It’s not to climb everest, nor is it to build a replica of the Eiffel tower out of match sticks, those in comparison, at least  to some folks, might seem a little saner. No, what I  have decided to undertake is not only less artistic, as well as possibly more time consuming than the pre-mentioned flammable French landmark, but it’s something that while it could be conceived as a waste of time, I want to do it. So there.


I lay it out here and talk about the challenge. It is simply to play through the Super Mario titles. Starting at Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and finishing with New Super Mario Bros. Wii U! That’s a whole 18 titles if one is to include Wikipedia’s chronological list of Mario titles. Where I can, I will endeavour to play the games on their original console (I am however frugal, so won’t purchase anything unless I have to – Be it All Stars or Virtual Console, whatever I have  the game on and is to hand, I will play it on). I will only use the game’s save features (no save states!) and I will also not use warp pipes, warp whistles or any other in game trick for skipping ahead a couple of worlds. After all, where’s the fun in that?

What promoted this you might ask? Well I don’t really know. I guess there’s my boyish pride at wanting to complete them all, there’s also the fact that Tom is currently playing through the Sonic titles, but I think in all honesty what really triggered it was the guys over at Super Rad (episode 3! Go listen to it naaaw!) talking about boss fights, and their hatred of Wart at the end of Super Mario 2. To my knowledge, I don’t think I’ve ever beaten the game, which made me realised I hadn’t beaten most of the series! While I was more familiar with the Super Nintendo and portable titles, I played very little of Super Mario Sunshine, and haven’t even played the Galaxy titles on the Wii!


With this in mind, I began my race to the ultimate goal. 18 Mario titles under my belt… let it begin!



Day 1 – To Begin At The Beginning!


Day one stated well. Tom and I thought it might be great to play a little 2 player Mario to ween me into the process. Yesterday, I’d played our copy of Super Mario Allstar’s version of the first title up until world 5, so was pretty confident that this would add some fun to the challenge. So after trying and failing to boot up our NES copy of Super Mario Bros. (damn you!), we decided to role with the Super Nintendo version.

We began, friendly enough, some general hints to each other, congratulating each other on an impressively fast run of the first underground level, until Tom’s first death at a tricky jump on 1-3. Then we realised that we both had our own ‘high score’ being logged by the game. Then it became less about fun, more about insulting the other player until they died by hammer throwing turtle or jumping fireball. Suffice to say, the game got sour fast, and competitive Mario proved not to be for the faint hearted. After I stole a late lead (and got into world 6), Tom’s frustrations began to show with the Hammer Bros. of World 5 (not to mention we had company!), and the game was done.

Naturally, being the anti-social guy I am, I then picked up the controller and played by myself, getting to the start of world 7 before calling it a day. Tomorrow I aim to complete the game, and hopefully will get the NES to work so I can see how the original compares to the game’s 16-bit remake.

Two thing I’ve defiantly noticed, that I’d forgotten was the loss of ALL power ups once hit (having a FireFlower doesn’t mean you become Super Mario when hit, but revert back to regular, tiny Mario!) which came as a shock at first, but quickly made the game feel more rewarding (a trend that continued up until Super Mario 3 in Japan!). The second thing I noticed, which felt pretty annoying, was the inability to always run and jump as smoothly while as Super Mario, but it’s something you get used to.

So that’s it. One day down, and almost a full game over. Join me tomorrow when I’ll try and complete Super Mario, and maybe also start Super Mario Land on my commute!

– M

The Xbox One Reveal Event



It is Tuesday, the 21st of May, today is the day Microsoft plan to reveal the new Xbox. The rain beats down on the window outside, and the hum of the kettle boiling in the background are almost inseparably intertwined. I sit on my couch and wait for the on-screen timer, currently ticking down at just under five minutes, to open the event. Music that can only be described as ‘epic‘ blares through the TV’s speakers, it drowns out the previously prevalent sounds of water, and does it’s job of getting me suitably pumped up for the reveal.

But this isn’t the usual level of excitement I’d feel before the usual streamed conference. This is something more. This feels like an event. I think about it for a second. Just how many people are just like me, at home right now watching this same event through their Xbox 360? How many people are at work or sat at the family computer, awaiting this stream through a browser? How many on buses or trains, waiting to see this first hand on a mobile device? Thousands? Millions?

As I sit here, awaiting the conference, I think to myself will this be the future? Is this now the landscape that gaming can conquer. Is the launch of a console, a device for playing video games, a media naively considered for children, students and people old enough to know better, now a cultural event?

The countdown ticks down slowly. I find myself counting down the last ten seconds like I’m bringing in the New Year. I guess at some level, that’s what it feels like. A new console generation, one already started by Nintendo with it’s Wii U, one continued by Sony with the announcement of the Playstation 4, and now by Microsoft with it’s #XboxReveal. I use the hash-tag the event was given on Twitter, because it addresses maybe why this feels like it does. It is the reveal of a console, that has not only been promoted like a Super Bowl or an FA Cup, but it is happening in real time.

This event is being streamed across the globe live, much like Nintendo has done with it’s Nintendo Direct videos, but this at least on the surface, feels more important. I guess this is the hype that money can buy, that an event like this feels like something more than simply the launch of a product. All this is running through my head as that countdown hits zero. In an instant, without a pause or even missing a beat, the countdown fades into live video and it begins.

Microsoft have taken notes. They’ve seen the backlash at Sony for a reveal without a physical console, so unsurprisingly the whole shebang begins with the thing we all wanted to see. The console itself is displayed in all it’s glory. I have to admit, my first thought was that it looked like a sleeker version of a Betamax player my Grandmother had when I was a kid. This might seem like a harsh comment, relating it’s aesthetics to that of a media format widely remembered for it’s failings, but it’s not a slam, I do genuinely like the console’s apparent girth, it gives the presence that Microsoft wanted to create, that this box is not only powerful, but a required presence in your entertainment set up.

And entertainment in clearly the focus of this presentation. While Microsoft are careful to use the word ‘gaming’ at each available opportunity, the focus of this presentation is more about establishing the new console as an entertainment hub, at least for now. Not only will it be your must have device for gaming, but for television, film and music. This is a feeling Microsoft want the consumer at large to feel, that what this box offers is everything you need to be entertained, an idea promoted by the console’s name, Xbox One (yes, I’m aware it doesn’t make chronological sense either).

After a look at the hardware itself, we are shown the peripherals it will ship with. The controller, is much the same as the Xbox 360’s in terms of it’s overall shape and layout, the modifications come in its aesthetic choices. The D-pad is now more akin to that of Nintendo’s classic patent, a simple rounded cross, slightly inset into the controller. The analog sticks have grip around the edges of where the thumb is placed, hopefully offering less wear that the dots on top of the 360’s sticks. The ‘start’ and ‘back‘ buttons now are now iconographic to their navigation functions in the console. The controller also now has slightly redesigned triggers, hoping to offer a more comfortable experience, as well as having their own rumble motors. The battery pack offers to be less pronounced, but also the iconic ‘X‘ home button of the 360 is offset to the top of the controller, and may no longer even be a button at all.

We are then shown not only the Kinect 2.0 as a physical product, but also it’s increased motion capture. Small movements such as wrist movements are now detectable, something Microsoft will allow better control of motion games. The presentation then shows the seamless flip between the ability to play games, and watching movies, using a function Microsoft are calling ‘Snap‘. All of which can easily controlled by voice, motion and hopefully, the pre-mentioned controller.

And this is where the conference goes wrong in my opinion. After revealing an impressive looking console, the flow of the presentation itself begins to meander. There is so much to be said, that an effort is made to hit all points without much clarity. We are shown the Xbox One is a TV Tuner, it has Skype and can act as a cable box. These are functions that sound great, however as a european gamer (here in Denmark we got Netflix finally around 7 months ago), I can’t help but feel that a lot of what’s being offered, I will never see.

The Xbox One then promises to have built in DVR, allowing you to record and share your gaming across the internet (with no word if Microsoft will pull a Nintendo and attach adds to these videos outside of XBL). There was also focus on Xbox Live, with an increased amount of servers worldwide (300,000), which Microsoft are keen to point out is more than the whole world’s computing power in 1994, will hopefully offer more reliable online gameplay and downloads in the future. There will be a new focus on achievements, which will apparently now tell a story about your game playing habits (with more to come on this at E3), but also the ability to search for matches based on your wants with like minded gamers. There was also brief mention of the ability to play one game, while matchmaking in another, although this wasn’t shown in any depth.

After a quick look at the visually stunning Forza 5, EA took the stage. They confirmed that not only would their next generation sports titles have improved visuals, a new engine and seemingly more accurate motion capture, but would offer downloadable content on a daily basis, with Fifa’s highly popular Ultimate Team being exclusively available on the Xbox One.

Microsoft then touches upon it’s first party launches for the 1st year of the console’s life, promising 15 titles, 8 of which would be new franchises, before presenting a trailer for Remedy’s new title, Quantum Feat (prepare to mistakenly call it Quantum Leap until it’s embedded in your vernacular). While it looks visibly impressive, the trailer offers no real hint as to what the game is. First person shooter? Third person action adventure? I assume more will be shown at E3.

It is after this brief 15 minute window of games (only one of which, is a new and exclusive title), we are straight back to TV. Microsoft’s Entertainment devision, along with Bonnie Ross of 343 Industries, announced a Halo ‘TV Series’ from Steven Spielberg. The show aims not only to expand on the lore of the Halo Universe, but Spielberg feels that the ‘Halo Universe is an amazing opportunity to be at that intersection where technology and myth-making meet to produce something really groundbreaking’. Hopefully this should be something to keep an eye on, and hopefully Microsoft can at least live unto the quality of the Halo 4 miniseries – Forward unto Dawn.
And then after a brief talk about fantasy sports TV interaction with NFL, the presentation begins to wrap up. The final message being that the Xbox One will launch ‘later this year’, and that we can stay tuned to E3 for more. The grand finale of the presentation is Activision revealing Call of Duty Ghosts, which despite already being announced and not exclusive to the console (although it will get DLC earlier than an other platform), takes up a whole 25% of the presentation. Whats more, is the presentation shows us the depth in which the models now are rendered. The helmets have screws, the soldiers have dirt under their fingernails, and oh yes, you have a dog companion (Fable 2 anyone?).

After a little in game footage, which despite all the claims of pushing graphical limitations, doesn’t really look that much better than the higher specced games of the current generation, although this may be due to the quality of the stream, the reveal simply ends, leaving you with the feeling of being ejected from a pub after last orders at 12 o’clock on the dot.

I was confused. After all that waiting, all the build up, all that was really shown was some TV functionality, improved games and ideas from the current Xbox 360, and to announce the name and specs of the console (8 GB Ram, 500GB Hard Drive and Blu-Ray support). Where were the crucial things? What about backwards compatibility? How much will it cost? What about the rumours of the console requiring an ‘always-on‘ connection to the internet? More importantly, would I be able to buy pre-owned games?

Well it seems some of those questions were asked after the stream ended, with Computer and Video Games talking of a ‘preowned fee‘, which would mean that once a disk has been installed, you need to pay to install it again, meaning not only will you have to pay on top of the price of a preowned game, but games rental services and the act of borrowing games from friends will also be effected. I guess this is why EA removed their online passes, not because of consumer feedback, but because Microsoft now look like the bad guys. Though I must add that since it’s initial posting, some Microsoft personal have tried to quash this story, hopefully meaning it’s not true. The console will also not be backwards compatible. Whether this is true for your achievements, DLC and other purchases on the 360 remains to be seen.

Now I can see why this presentation was structured as such. It has ticked a lot of boxes for it to be heavily written and talked about, not only by bloggers, magazines or TV news and technology segments, and regardless of whether this leads to good or bad opinions, it will mainly be talked about by the population at large. There were mainstream game announcements on some of the world’s biggest games franchises. There was talk of how this machine will allow consumers to watch TV in a more dynamic way. There was a presentation in which Steven Spielberg announced his involvement in a TV show about another hugely popular gamin franchise.

So while yes, the conference was messy in it’s presentation, messy doesn’t mean unsuccessful. The word of mouth this reveal should generate, will make sure that everyone is talking about the console until E3, at which time Microsoft can bring out the real games, and hopefully draw in those they appear to have turned their back on in this conference.

And this don’t forget, this is all based off of our feedback. We were the ones who took to social media in droves, to complain that Microsoft’s lack of games at E3, how they focused more on Smart Glass and Kinect, rather than giving us jaw dropping gameplay and AAA title announcements.

Well now we should hopefully get that, the tables are cleared and set for what we want. If E3 is nothing but a conference in which Microsoft reveals games, allowing in-depth looks at not only the 15 first party titles launching first year, but more exclusives from third parties, it could easily set itself up to one up Sony, who will have to dedicate a large portion of their presentation showing us the console and it’s functionality.

That being said, the important word here is If. And if E3 is another conference in which Microsoft tells the core gaming market, about fantasy football and how much they’ll enjoy playing existing franchises with slight graphical improvements, things could go very wrong for Microsoft, and put the ball very nicely in Sony’s court, who have up until now, clearly stated that this generation for them, is all about games.

But E3 aside, Microsoft could have done more at this conference not only to appeal to their core market, but should have taken a leaf out of Nintendo’s book, and maybe regionalised the presentation. As I mentioned earlier, I am a european gamer. Half (if not more) of that conference was specifically aimed at the US market, which while I understand is their main goal here, do I need to hear about functions that I will not only never get to experience, but that could possibly make my Xbox experience look less substantial than that of those across the pond. Surely there would have been a way to make it more specific to the local markets, which might have made the presentation (significantly) shorter, but would at least give the illusion that I was being catered to as a consumer.

It is still early days, and while some might say that this conference gives Sony the upper hand, this is still very early on to make decisions on either console. Neither has a definite price or launch date. Nor do we know exactly what games will launch on which systems, which of them will hold exclusives or Day-One DLC, let alone if there is more to the nature of either console’s online support. So until E3 at least, we know only this. The console is called the Xbox One, it will be released this year and it will be an all round entertainment system that offers new and exciting features. Lets just cross our fingers and hope Microsoft hasn’t forgotten what truly matters, The Games.