Tuesday, January 7, 2020

(Some of) The Birds of Super Mario Odyssey

 Thanks to my three-year-old son Ryan, Super Mario Odyssey is now the only game I have ever 100% completed...twice. We had a bit of a rough patch this year where he decided the most fun thing to do in Mario Odyssey was to restart from the beginning, and even though the kid can't read, he did figure out how to navigate through four submenus to delete my save file and start a new game. And then Nintendo very helpfully overwrote my cloud backup with his new game.

So, we played the whole thing again. This was probably for the best, because my boy is very into Mario, and it's much more fun for him when there are moons to collect. It's so boring after you finished the whole game and already found all 999 of them. So, yeah, let's start over!

When you play a game as much as I've played Mario Odyssey, you start to notice little details you didn't see before. And when you're me--especially this year--the little details you notice are birds. Shockingly, I was not able to find a list anywhere on the internet identifying the real species behind the birds in Super Mario Odyssey, so it is now my moral imperative to create it. Here we go.

Monday, January 6, 2020

AI Dungeon 2: A Buggy, Incomplete, Inconsistent, Mind-boggling, Breathtaking Look at the Future of Entertainment

In September 1996, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64. Along with the release came Super Mario 64, the first 3D Mario game. Overnight, Mario discovered depth. No longer was he bound to left, right, up, down. Now the in-game camera could circle around him 360 degrees, and Mario could move through doors, up trees, down slopes, under water, and more. It's rare to have such an exact moment to point to when things changed, but it's accurate to say that after September 29, 1996, Mario, Nintendo, and videogames would never be the same.

That moment often gets talked about in games circles in wistful tones. Never again has a technology jump been so immediate and so groundbreaking. Never again has the next console generation felt so totally new. Instead, changes since then have been more incremental. Graphics get a little better every year. Processing power gets a little faster. There's a few more objects on screen. Nothing totally groundbreaking, just a little better every year.

Until 2019. June one month ago, I was lucky enough to have a moment that felt like a Super Mario 64 moment. Only time will tell, but I'm pretty sure we'll look back on AI Dungeon 2 as a moment where something very, very big changed in videogames--and all entertainment, for that matter.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Never change, Pokemon (with special guest, Dragon Quest XI)

Pokemon is like the Olympics for me: it comes around about once every four years, and when it does, it's all I care about for about two weeks. Then it goes quiet again and I don't really think about it much until the next one. But I love it so much every time.

For a lot of other people, though, Pokemon isn't the Olympics, it's life, and they're getting pretty frustrated about going in the same circle over and over again for 20+ years now. A lot of those kinds of fans see Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield as ignorant, lazy, wasted opportunities that don't understand the fan base. On the contrary, I'm pretty sure these games know exactly who's playing them, and it's doing it's best to not-so-politely ask them to move on because this has always been a "children's entertainment property."

**If it's even possible to spoil a Pokemon game anymore, this is your warning that I will now be "spoiling" Pokemon Sword/Shield**

Friday, January 3, 2020

Chess: 1500 Years Young

Have you ever been a chess player? I don't mean "have you ever played chess?" Everyone has played chess once or twice in their lives. I mean, have you ever determined, intentionally, "I'm gonna be a chess player. I'm going to really learn how to play."

I tried that for the first time this year. I think you should too.

Teamfight Tactics: The Circle of (Videogame) Life

Teamfight Tactics is a ripoff of a mod of a game of a mod that is a mode within a spiritual successor to the same mod as the second mod in this sentence.

Let's unpack that.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Wingspan: This Isn't Just a Game Anymore

Late in 2018, I saw a preview video for a board game. It was an absolutely gorgeous game in every aspect--artwork, components, design, just everything--and I immediately knew I wanted it, even though it wasn't going to be out for a while and I wasn't even fully sure of all the rules or even the price yet. My reaction was so immediate and so strong that it took me awhile to fully unpack it.

Some Games I Played in 2019

You know how sometimes you pretend you're in a conversation but actually you're looking at something on your phone? That was videogames this year.