Category: Critical Analysis

My childhood favorite game was Paper Mario. That’s no exaggeration, up until the moment when I played Xenoblade Chronicles, the first Paper Mario game was easily my favorite game ever made. I loved the vibrant imagery, the funny characters, the cute story and tone, and the upbeat music. If I ever felt down, I could go to that game to experience a living, breathing version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Even in writing this, I’m recalling some of my greatest memories being associated with this title. The combat was awesome, a simplistic watered-down RPG that capitalized on the atmosphere of the Super Mario universe, while still paving its own way.

Paper MarioThis series, is in my opinion, the second most painful decline I’ve witnessed in our industry. Especially in a series that has at the very least, always made fun games. Super Mario 3D World doesn’t measure up to the Galaxy games in terms of atmosphere and overall quality. But it’s still a super fun party game experience, with some insane level design.

Fast-forward from the adventurous shot in the dark that was the first Paper Mario and take a dive into its sequel, The Thousand-Year Door. While this game isn’t my favorite in the series, there’s no denying that it is indeed the best. It offers everything that made the original titles good, and slaps on additional mechanics and controls to make a sequel that surpasses the original in every way. Even the story is deeper with more unique characters. Everything feels original and different, yet it’s a tried and true Paper Mario title.

Super Paper Mario is my favorite piece of this discussion, because that game shows that you can change every single mechanic in a game and yet, the game’s overall feel can still be true to the series it’s part of. RPG gone platformer, Super Paper Mario offers something that I truly value above all else. Story. Character. Atmosphere. Between its brilliant look into the minds of three favorite characters, Luigi, Bowser, and Princess Peach, and its unique and creative cast of villains, such as Dimentio and Count Bleck, Super Paper Mario brings a new level o f narrative to this classic franchise in a way that was never done before, and has never been done again.

I don’t want to go into the things that are so truly awful about Sticker Star and Color Splash, because I want to focus on what made this series great. Complaining about these two titles will come later.

Again, it’s never fun to watch a series you love decline in quality so much. From one end to the other, Paper Mario has undergone massive trials. Yet still I am truly hopeful that fans will band together and demand something great. I hope you all enjoyed reading this article, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

Yo, we’re about to dive into some major late game conversation. So if you have yet to play all three paths of Fire Emblem Fates, including Revelations, turn back now. If you want a spoiler free review of the game’s Conquest path, head here!

To be unequivocally clear, I have been a long time fan of the Fire Emblem games dating back to my young teen years. Sacred Stones always held a special place in my heart, and I loved Fire Emblem Blazing Sword and Awakening. So any critiques I have for Fates only come from a place of love for the series. To be blunt, I loved Fire Emblem Fates, but I absolutely hated the story. Characters felt very singular in their execution. Events were often unexplained or hidden behind unnecessary pay walls. If you wanted to experience Fire Emblem Fates in its entirety, at least from a narrative perspective, you’d have to pay something close to $105. Thankfully, I got my hands on the special edition early on, so I got to experience all of Fates as intended.

Last spoiler warning. We’re getting into the nitty gritty here! Spoilers for Fates and Awakening ahead.

The cast of Fire Emblem Fates Conquest (Left) faces the cast of Birthright (Right).

The cast of Fire Emblem Fates Conquest (Left) faces the cast of Birthright (Right).

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright opens a lot of doors. It shows you a lot of possibilities, and gives you glimpses of what could have been, should you have chosen the other route. It was no doubt the most “vanilla” of the paths. It was weak willed in execution, without really allowing the same level of emotional string tugging that Awakening had.

The best thing that was done in Fire Emblem Awakening was the death of Emmeryn. Being Chrom and Lissa’s sister made it sad enough, but the level of helplessness that the situation showed was incredible. But it wasn’t abrupt. It had build up. Three chapters of a wild goose chase trying to protect Emmeryn, only to find that she was set to be executed. Then, when you confront and defeat Gangrel’s army, he does his last ditch villainous deed to try and steal the Fire Emblem from Chrom. Then there was a whole chapter dedicated to grieving Emm. She was a voice of reason for several chapters. The pacing set events in motion at the right time.

Almost every event in Fates was abrupt, without reason, and without a chance to truly process it. You meet the mother character, Mikoto, and within mere minutes of gameplay, she’s gone. We don’t get to see the Hoshido siblings grieve, and that’s probably the worst part. Nothing tells you more about a person than their grieving process. A lot goes on during the processing of grief, including, arguably the most charming trait about Fire Emblem characters, the setting of goals. Grief causes you to make plans and follow dreams. Emmeryn’s death made Chrom want to be a king. It turned vassals into soldiers. It shook the political world, and it strengthened the loyalty between Chrom and Robin.

Mikoto’s death made no impact. All it did was further instigate a war with some of the arguably most dispensable casualties in this entire series. I don’t want to continue going on for too long, so I’m going to segment this off into various parts. But this was a big complaint I had with this game.

Fire Emblem Fates is mechanically strong, but the narrative falls very short in my book. For more on Fates and other cool strategy gems, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be in the position to review Super Smash Bros. Why? I can objectively look at all of my favorite games. I could talk your ear off for hours about what makes Paper Mario great. Or my favorite game of all time, Xenoblade Chronicles. I would consider my review of that game to be very objective. Those are two of my favorites, and I feel perfectly comfortable looking at them both as a consumer, and as an aspiring designer. Smash is easily the most complicated game series I’ve ever tried to address as a game journalist, even dating back to the old blog.

I have played every game in the Smash series extensively. I mean truly extensively, but I have to say, contrary to popular opinion, my favorite of them is Brawl. So that’s the game I want to talk about when I really try to critically break down, not why Brawl is objectively a good game, but what is the “wow” factor that makes it truly resonate with people.

To give some background, I am by no stretch a competitive Smash player. I would consider my skill level at the game to be above average, but by no means professional level. So I don’t look at these games from the angle of their competitive viability, as I don’t believe they’re supposed to be taken that seriously. Perhaps the combination of the super cartoony aesthetic and the overall tone give me that impression, but I see Smash as a fun way to settle those schoolyard debates between Mario and Link, or Peach and Zelda…nobody ever debates for Luigi. 🙁

Nintendo's greats all in one spot!

Nintendo’s greats all in one spot!

I don’t think there’s ever been a game that paid better tribute to Nintendo than Brawl. It manages to hit nostalgia points in ways no other in the series could do. Be it the new characters, such as Pit from the obscure classic Kid Icarus or Meta Knight from the Kirby series, the expansive cast includes characters that were seemingly forgotten in previous titles. Yes, Smash for Wii U and 3DS have even more classic characters, such as Duck Hunt, Little Mac, and even Pac-man, but it still doesn’t compare. Brawl introduced Assist Trophies, which allowed us to drag into the fray, those interesting characters that just didn’t make the cut for the main game. Characters like Waluigi and Isaac from Golden Sun.

Brawl introduced Final Smashes, which truly brought the best of each character to the foreground. Seeing Bowser turn into the mighty Giga Bowser from Melee for the first time, and learning that you could control him, was an incredible experience. Seeing Link’s Triforce Slash or Ike’s Great Aether showed us the light in which our favorite heroes could shine. It was a beautiful tribute to the majesty of these legends. Final Smashes in Smash 4 are better, don’t get me wrong. But the leap from Brawl to Smash 4 doesn’t compare from the leap Melee took to achieve the awe that Brawl could induce.

Along with these things, Brawl had a huge selection of interesting trophies, but it also had this huge book of stickers! Stickers from games as popular as Metroid Prime to games as obscure as Fire Emblem Sacred Stones. The sheer amount of content in this game surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Regardless of how you feel about its quality, the biggest and most impactful addition to Brawl was the Subspace Emissary. While I realize it wasn’t received as well as I enjoyed it, I gave it a real good think and understood why people didn’t like it. That being said, it was the first time in series history that we got some context (albeit not much) to the scenarios that made up the premise of Smash in the first place. We got to see our childhood heroes fighting alongside and against each other in a riveting adventure. Like this was a big deal, guys!

The cast of Brawl standing over the ocean.

The cast of Brawl standing over the ocean.

Alright. Now that I’ve gushed about Brawl, I think this post is starting to get a little long so I want to get to the point. The actual mechanics of Smash are fun. They’re awesome, and someday when I review the game officially, you’ll understand why I think they’re awesome. But most importantly, Smash is a tribute to decades of culture, and that is why people are always so excited. With stages, characters, music, and many more elements that honor the heroes and villains we hold near and dear, Smash will forever prove its mettle as one of the best options out there for gamers of all ages.

Thank you all for reading! Two posts in one day. Crazy, right? Gotta love Super Smash Bros! I can still think back to all the hours me and my brothers poured into Brawl. I could talk about it all day. As much fun as objective reviews can be, nothing really measures up to anecdotal recollections. I mean, that’s kind of what makes this whole thing fun. Exploring the way games impact us as people is probably the main reason I started doing this. Anyhoo, I’m getting rambly. Thank you all, it’s been a great day on the Game Room. For more on games like Super Smash Bros, and other kick butt titles for all ages, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

If you have yet to play through Life Is Strange, turn back now! This post is riddled with spoilers. Read something spoiler free, like this Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest Review!

 

If you’re a gamer, and have yet to watch a single “Game Theory” video, you are missing out big time! I’ve been a fan for years, and recently they did a video on Life Is Strange where they analyzed the impact that one’s personality can have on their decision making process, as well as the correlation between consumed media and personality type. I am a fan of studying the way psychology influences us as gamers, and I don’t think there’s been a game to date that could serve as a better study.

LS1Don’t get me wrong, morality games are nothing new between the likes of Fable and one of my personal favorites, InFAMOUS. But unlike
those aforementioned titles, there are no central mechanics influenced by morality in
Life Is Strange, as the morality element is the main mechanic. Making choices, and watching them unfold before you, is the sole purpose of the game.

To be clear, this isn’t a review, as that will come later, but this is more of a critical analysis, as well as a response to the Game Theory video, which centers around the final decision. Final spoiler warning, as we’re getting into the heart of this discussion.

The final decision of the game forces you to choose between your best friend and your entire town. Which is a big choice, and as I’m sure you can imagine, quite a heavy burden. It is handled rather effectively, and I want to explore why that choice was so difficult. But in order to do so, we have to look back at a lot of the major decisions in the game, and what makes them effective.

Chloe brings you, the player, and Max, the character you control, through quite a bit throughou
t the game. It is a very emotionally draining journey that tests your judgment as well as your concern for other people. The thing that
Life Is Strange does that makes it so hard to make that final choice, is create a truly multidimensional character that is difficult to relate to on some levels, but easy to sympathize with on others. The first interaction you see Chloe have is with Nathan Prescott, where she shows that she’s tough, and has a lot of gumption. She also shows a lack of caring for other people by the way she talks to Nathan, but when he pulls the gun out her demeanor takes a slight shift. Her genuine fear shows vulnerability and youth in a character that has thus far seemed confident and unbreakable.

The game then does a great job of making characters like David, Chloe’s stepdad, seem awful before you even see the two interact. Combine that with the Rachel Amber posters all around the school, and you realize that Chloe has it hard. Then you learn that her dad is dead and her best friend moved without warning, and it feels kind of harsh. Chloe’s entire circle has collapsed around her, and the only consistent figures in her life are Joyce, the hard working mother, and David, the very nervous and obsessive stepdad.

Then you get to watch Chloe make a series of stupid decisions, hanging out on train tracks, shooting David’s gun, and hunting down killers of her own volition (examples all mentioned in the Game Theory video). Also, arguably my least favorite thing that Chloe does in the whole game, is get jealous and angry when Max tries to talk to Kate Marsh (who is experiencing suicidal thoughts). Chloe is not a perfect character. But she does love Max. That shows, in the things she says, in a lot of the belongings that she kept in her house.

The end of the game even recaps a lot of your best experiences with Chloe before you’re given the final decision. You as the player choose how much you learn. You explore, and experience things by choice. You are Max. So the choice you’re making isn’t some binary video game decision. It’s a real choice based on experiences that you have had.

MatPat brought up that those with the “Mediator” personality are intuitors, more likely to save the town because they look towards the future. But I would argue that sensors are also somewhat likely to save Arcadia BaLS2y, simply due to how the storyline was structured. Those who value the past, and look to it to make decisions would understand that by the time the final situation comes along, Chloe Price has had her full character arc. She has grown and changed, and in the end, she not only accepts her fate but welcomes it.

Destroying Arcadia Bay isn’t even truly an option. To do so would be to deny Chloe the right to face her destiny. Perhaps this doesn’t hold up statistically based on the research that the theorists did, but it’s something to consider. Chloe is a character who struggles her entire life, and can’t make decisions on her own. Until her final decision, which is to accept the reality that she has to finally sacrifice for those she loves. That effective delivery is what made this game so great. Maybe the story didn’t wow me in every facet, but fact is, this game really did tell a riveting and meaningful story.

But with that, this post is getting to be kind of long! Thank you all for reading our first ever critical analysis. I do love breaking down game narrative and seeing it for its deeper value. Writing this has been a blast, and if you read it without playing the game, you kind of ruined it for yourself. But I would still play it anyway. It’s a fun and moving experience, so check it out when you get a chance! For more on the best games around like Life Is Strange and many more, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!