Sunday, 31 March 2013

What I Would Have Changed: New Super Mario Bros. U

It's no secret that right now the Wii U is struggling in sales, and while I don't believe that to be the case forever, I do think that it's certainly got a bit of an uphill battle compared to it's easy-to-understand predecessor. One of the main reasons for this is that the Wii U has yet to really demonstrate what it's potential is. Sure we've got Nintendoland, that while a fun game, serves little to show how a full-fleshed out game might be on this new console and more like a demo of neat tricks. There's ZombiU, an admittedly excellent game that brings the survival horror genre to new heights by being one of the most intense horror experiences since the original Resident Evil, but sadly that game hasn't really got mass appeal in the same way Mario does. Now let's look at Mario for a second, he has made his appearance on the Wii U in the form of New Super Mario Bros. U - A game that is the best 2D Platformer since Super Mario World for the SNES. However, could it have been even better, could it have surpassed World, or even my personal favourite Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES? It wasn't helped that a handheld New Super Mario Bros. game came out precisely three months earlier for the Nintendo 3DS, a game that really until the cool new DLC packs came out was very lackluster compared to both it's Wii and Wii U cousins. Now while I don't think any massive improvements to NSMB. U are going to skyrocket the sales of the Wii U, I do think that in my Hindsight of 20:20, there are certain things I would have changed to at best, make the game a system seller.



As per usual with these blogs, here are the rules:

  • I can only change things about New Super Mario Bros. U, I can't say "Don't release New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS, as that's unrelated to changing NSMB.U itself.
  • The Game has to be recognizable as a NSMB game. I can't simply say "Make it 3D" which would change it completely


First and foremost in any game is the gameplay. 2D Mario gameplay is also great, so why mess with the formula...? Well, I'm not going to. The Gameplay in the game is pretty solid, but the problem with it is just that... It's the same. It's the same as NSMB. NSMB.Wii and NSMB.2 - it offers absolutely nothing new. If you were to show me the front covers and Standard Def stills of NSMB. Wii and NSMB. U; without any of the power-ups of specifically defining characteristics of either game. I wouldn't be able to tell you which was which. Except for Wii is a red game case, and U is a blue one. So how am I changing the gameplay without changing the gameplay? Well, I'm not changing the core of the gameplay, I'm adding to it. How to do this? New Characters!


Perhaps it's just me and my friends but if you get stuck as Toad or worse, Toad-Clone, you're the butt-monkey of the group. Really? Does anyone actually like Toad... well some people do I guess... but in the entirety of nearly thirty years of Mario games are there not a few more characters you can play as. And to make matters worse, all the characters play exactly the same. Now Nintendo's rationale behind this is so that everyone gets the same experience... Well what you call "same experience" I call "dull and lazy". Why shouldn't Luigi get to jump higher like in Super Mario Bros. 2, for that matter, why isn't Princess Peach a character, make her able to glide. The ability to choose your character will get people to stop being Mario and play around a little, make the game a varied experience, as there were no power-ups in Mario 2, maybe now is the time to experiment with them a little, what if Luigi can jump EVEN higher with the Flying Squirrel power-up, or Peach's descent is longer than the rest now. What if Toad can fire up to three fireball/iceballs at once? Why stop at the Mario 2 characters, why not bring Wario into the mix with his unique dash ability only he has from the Wario Land games. What kind of unique power-up enhancements might he receive?

Power Ups

On the matter of Power-Ups, is it just me or are Nintendo running out of new ideas... Ice Mario, that's nice in a 2D game but isn't that great and we've seen it a few times now, a Flying Squirrell? Really? Well, if there are no new ideas, what about old ones. We've got the item menu right? Let's put it to good use like Mario 3. Where's my P-Wing, the Hammer Bros Suit, Frog Suit, all those rare interesting power-ups that made the game so much fun. I mean let's face it, wouldn't you want to see a badass Princess Peach hurling hammers at Goombas?

World Map

Onto the world map. It was a nice change to return to the continuous world map of Mario World's style... however I think it can be made better. There's a few times you can go different routes, but what if there were multiple routes through many levels that took you to different routes on the world map like in Mario World itself, routes that allowed you to access special levels and maybe find warp zones. It played with this idea a little but I'd really like to see it some more. Why stop at eight worlds, defy the norm create, ten, or twelve. In the handheld Mario Games it seems like many of the worlds are skippable easily and you only do half, the same in this game, you seem to choose the path of the worlds you want to do, so why not add more worlds to choose from, give us secret worlds like Star Road, the more content that ships with the game the more it'll feel like this is a brand new game and not yet another NSMB game.

Technology - Level Editor

Last but by no means least, we've just been given this brand new piece of tech in the Wii U GamePad and all you can think of is Off-TV play and creating blocks for people to jump on? Surely there should be more uses of the GamePad than that. What about a level-creator, how many times have you wanted to create your own Super Mario Bros. level but the technology of a normal controller was just all kinds of awkward for designing stuff, but with the GamePad, it becomes nice and smooth, like doing it on a PC or a Tablet. For that matter, this is the first Nintendo Console with solid online gameplay. While it's awesome to play this game in the same room as people, they needed to get consoles out the door, and no way is there better than "Hey, play this round mine... did you know we don't have to socially interact to play this awesome game!? Fuck yeah! Online Play!" Combine this with level-creation and Miiverse and you've got a vibrant community that would shit all over Little Big Planet and make NSMB.U, THE hot product to buy and play for the next generation. It would actually become a system seller. There's still time for a Level Editor, make a DLC to download and watch the money roll in... or dare it say it... watch it... Print in?

This is certainly something we're not likely to see any time soon...

So there you have it, the Mario series in general has always been pretty simplistic and I would never want to deviate from that, just to bring something new and interesting to it. This is not to say that the current game isn't great, it's a whole lot of fun and has a decent difficulty level, especially in the challenges that'll really put you to the test. But for now, this these are the changes I would have made to New Super Mario Bros. U

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Five Reasons Why Online Video is Better than Regular TV

The title is pretty self-explanatory; online video is taking over, live regular TV is diminishing in ratings. With that in mind, here are five reasons why online video is better than regular television and why it's taking over.

1. Available to Watch; Anytime, Anywhere.

Regular television had this problem, it can only be watched at a specific time and then it's gone until it came out on video. There have been efforts to counteract this over the years, replays, VHS recording, TiVo, Sky+, DVRs, etc. But it still forced the viewer into restrictions set by the TV Network. With the advent of online video things were up and available to watch whenever you felt like it, and for the most part weren't going anywhere, thanks to the ad revenue system, people could be earning money any time and views can watch content any time.

2. No Wasted Hours of Programming

With so many people working all day, everyday, only "Primetime" shows were watched, three or so hours after 7pm for TV Networks to air their stuff when people could watch it. That left roughly seven eighths of the day almost completely wasted airtime, leading to some people being forced to miss their second favourite show when it clashed with their favourite. Now, they're online all the time, so they can be aired any time they want, as well as the fact that if something goes up in the middle if the day, it's always going to be viewable later when people get home from work to relax.

3. Content in the Hands of Creators

YouTube,, Vimeo e.t.c. all have the ability to upload videos with no oversight committee of assholes, who wouldn't know their head from their bell-end, saying "I want you to change this". Now people can put their content online with only their view count to determine if someone likes their content. It means talented people who have great, unconventional ideas that TV Network execs, who are completely out of touch with the viewing audience, would shoot down before they even reach the pitching phase. Combined with crowd funding sites like Kickstarter, bigger, better projects can be made with the help of a community. In the case of a web-series, their fate for another season lays in the hands of their fans and their fans alone.

4. User Interaction

Despite the fact that in YouTube comment boxes you can find the lowest forms of human scum and obnoxious drivel. Comment boxes provide a way for fans and creators to interact with each other on a level that simply wasn't available with regular television. Audiences can now talk about their favourite shows with each other and the creators can read and what they're talking about. Regular television simply can't do this without something like a forum or dedicated manner. It's the power of social media at its finest, people interacting online with each other.

5. Competition Becomes Collaboration

Maybe I'm being a bit of an optimist on this one but when there's no need for competition between shows as there is no longer a time slot system, what was once competition for ratings between shows now becomes collaboration between them. They help each other out, collaborate on various things and work together for their mutual benefit. Just look at this video here: REWIND YOUTUBE STYLE VIDEO. It's nothing but collaboration based on an Internet meme song by Korean Pop Star. Everyone benefits from it, just like when crossovers happen online, they only serve to bolster each others view count and rating. A system that was once about crushing the opposition and stealing their views, now has become system of mutual help and benefit to each other, a "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" system.

So those are my five reasons why online media is eclipsing traditional television. Take it or leave it, I hope one day I can look back on this and be proven right, but only time will tell.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Fargo: A Screenplay Analysis

Screenplay Analysis by: Petros L. Ioannou  

Fargo is a 1995 film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen; colloquially known as “The Coen Brothers”. Right off the bat I’m going to say something many might consider controversial, even blasphemous; I am not a fan of the Coen Brothers. I think they’re really, really overrated but that Fargo and The Big Lebowski are excellent films. In this case I’m going to be saying what I really love about Fargo and why I think it’s such an excellent screenplay by two writer-directors who generally speaking I really dislike. I was not fan of Burn After Reading, I think No Country for Old Men and True Grit are highly overrated and The Ladykillers is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen to the point that in the cinema I actually walked out, which I didn’t even do during The Last Airbender, a film I consider to be an insult to writers, directors, actors, cinema as an art form, the viewing public, God and the universe. So despite my dislike of the Coen Brothers as writer-directors, I love two of their films, my favourite of which, is Fargo. 

The story is a zany and bizarre one. It’s about a man named Jerry.  Jerry is a desperate but greedy bastard who wants money and will do anything to get his hands on it, even something this despicable. He hires two criminals to kidnap his own wife so that they can con reward money for her rescue but then things go wrong and the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan and splatters all over Jerry’s not so proverbial plans and the humour for the audience kicks in. For all the rage-hate I have for the Coen’s this is their trademark, taking something to almost slapstick extremes with such a dark overtone you’re sometimes laughing out of sheer horror. The same kind of humour that would go on to influence films like The Hangover. I think this and Lebowski are the only two films they execute it successfully in and Fargo does it brilliantly.  

Looking at the language in the film it’s very interesting. Most films will write in Standard English or Received Pronunciation to make it clear and then the director and/or actors will make the role their own. There will occasionally be a slang term thrown in here and there to show off the characters personalities but this film has dialect running all the way through the film’s characters. Clearly the Coens thought about this meticulously when they wrote and it shows in the impressive language of the screenplay as nearly every character seems to have not just a unique dialect but a unique speech pattern and voice of their own that leaps off the page. I find this very impressive as it’s something that’s very hard to do. 

The characters aren’t the only great thing about the script; the plot is excruciatingly detailed, painstakingly plotted and very, very, twisted, both in the literal sense and the moral sense of the word. Fargo simply put is an excellent screenplay and by far the best of the Coen brothers rather average resume in my personal opinion, which is also another reason it stands out. It’s a masterpiece of a script that captures atmosphere, character in plot in the script without getting confusing, something that for most writers is bordering on the edge of impossibility.