quick pitch: super mario bros.

I know Nintendo acts like they don’t want me to write the perfect Super Mario Bros. game, but I have, and they’ll no doubt swoop on this post soon and Shigeru Miyamoto himself will call me on the telephone to congratulate me and give me money.

Here’s a quick breakdown. It’s a 3D platformer just like most of the recent flagship, non-New Super Mario Bros. games, only more in line with Super Mario Galaxy than Super Mario 3D World. In this one Mario and Luigi arrive in the Mushroom Kingdom just in time to find the entire WORLD being abducted. Peach, Toad, and the rest of the citizens are doing all they can to stave off the attack, but they just can’t seem to best TATANGA, the alien antagonist from Super Mario Land.

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Without hesitation, Mario and the rest rush to their trusty one-man planes (like the one from Super Mario Land), kicking off an introductory dogfight stage straight out of Star Fox. It’s a purely for-fun level that the player has no hope of winning, and every plane involved in the fight ends up in a scrap heap below.

After a display of bravado, Tatanga prepares to suck the entire Kingdom away, taking it to another universe Mario and his pals have no way of reaching. And just like that, he and his legion of spaceships and aliens disappear, pulling the Mushroom Kingdom into a vortex and leaving our heroes adrift in a black void atop a pile of smoking plane wreckage.

With nowhere to go, all hope seems lost, until the unlikely, squat dork Toad suggests they all just go to sleep. TOAD ARE YOU INSANE? No, Toad is a genius, because if they go to sleep they can enter SUB-CON from Super Mario Bros. 2, the land of dreams where anything is possible.

The only problem: So many years have passed that Wart is firmly back in power. Thus we have the first half of the game, which takes place entirely in Sub-Con and has players fighting familiar foes like Mouser, Tryclyde, and Birdo throughout an anything-goes dreamscape that takes the scenery of SMB2 and goes nuts with it. It all builds up to an intense showdown with Wart… who is eventually spared. Wart’s ace: Only he knows the way out of his dreamworld that leads to Tatanga’s realm.

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With that, your party of 4 becomes 5*, and you can now choose to play as Wart for the second half of the game: TATANGA’S UNIVERSE. This world has all the bonkers design of the Super Mario Galaxy games with a mix of enslaved and enraged enemies from the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. Tatanga has been using his time wisely, collecting worlds and harnessing the power of their unique wildlife to run rampant as ruler of his own. He’s taken in the best beasts from Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and even Yoshi’s Island. He outfitted the Super Mario World dinos with riders. He crossed Wigglers with Pokeys. You get the idea.

But there are some creatures he hasn’t figured out how to handle yet. Locked deep within the Towering Prison are the worst, most vile enemies, and Mario and company are going to help break them out, if they haven’t already lost their minds. It’s in the deepest, darkest corner of the prison that Mario eventually finds Bowser, driven mad and ready for a real fight.

Your showdown with Bowser leads into the game’s final act, and by this time there’s a full-on riot in the background of the stages. The enemies of the various Mario worlds you were able to rescue are colliding with Tatanga’s powerful minions, tipping the scales, and you now have a sixth player to choose from before each level: Bowser. He joins the rest of the crew in the final world, culminating in an appropriately explosive final battle with Tatanga that will decide the fate of every world in the Mario universe.

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When all is said and done each world is fully restored, and Tatanga is locked in a high-security space prison. This will, without a shadow of a doubt, be a perfect starter setting for the inevitable sequel.

Make that 6. I’ve gotten multiple reminders since posting that I forgot about Daisy of SML, and yes, she should definitely be playable, as well!

favorite comics of 2014

I didn’t get to read everything I wanted to—so much good stuff was released in the world of comics this past year—but I still wanted to note some of my favorites of the past 365. There’s no order to these, but here’s some of the stuff I enjoyed that was released in 2014.

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple

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This one was just tremendous. The Wrenchies is stacked with so much both in its lush watercolor visuals and its narrative that it warrants multiple readings. If there’s one book to put on your shelf this year, make it this one, because you’ll want to revisit it as soon as it’s over and you definitely missed more than one thing the first time through.

Twelve Gems by Lane Milburn

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Twelve Gems is the best ’80s sci-fi adventure that came out in the present day. Milburn goes nuts with the hatching and creates the comics blockbuster of the summer in the process.

Lose #6 by Michael DeForge

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This is probably my favorite single story by DeForge other than The Boy in Question.

Megahex by Simon Hanselmann

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If Twelve Gems was 2014’s big summer blockbuster, Megahex is its best stoner comedy. Hanselmann took some old children’s book characters and made them the stars of their own stupid sitcom with fantastic watercolors illustrating some great drug and horrible, despicable roommates humor.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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2014 produced one of the best horror anthology comics of all time in Emily Carroll’s wildly gorgeous Through the Woods. Her work in the latest issue of Youth in Decline’s Frontier series can sit right alongside it, as well, so be sure to get both and see why everyone’s been talking so highly of Carroll.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

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I can’t imagine how much pressure must have come with trying to follow up something as big as Scott Pilgrim, but O’Malley showed how much he has grown in Seconds. Add in some top-notch coloring by Nathan Fairbairn and drawing assistance by friend of subhumanzoids Jason Fischer and you’ve got one of the best graphic novels of the year.

Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs

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Safari Honeymoon is funny, bizarre, and brilliantly illustrated with neat line work and a nicely-executed all-green palette. Jacobs’ comic is further proof that you could feel safe picking up pretty much anything from Koyama Press in 2014.

Forming II by Jesse Moynihan

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No comic flipped my lid this year quite like Jesse Moynihan’s Forming II. I devoured the first book and its followup, and all I want is more. Despite the fact that the whole thing is available to read online, Nobrow’s titanic hardcovers are a must for appreciating Moynihan’s combination of Acryla Gouache and india ink (I only know specifically because I bugged him about it via email). No comic made me both laugh more and want to work harder and make more comics of my own.

I wanted to put some manga on this list but I’m kind of behind on releases and am mostly stuck in 2013! I caught up with the volume releases of One Piece, though, which is as amazing as ever. I might make a second post sometime this year as I catch up.

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This past Saturday I hopped over to Brooklyn to check out CAB (Comic Arts Brooklyn), which I had been looking forward to for a while. The day I went is basically just all exhibitors selling stuff, which is the best, because I was able to buy a bunch of new comics and get most of them signed on the spot.

I posted a general pic of my haul on Instagram and Twitter and whatnot, but I figured other big nerds like me might want a closer look at some of the stuff I picked up.

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I really dig Jonny Negron‘s stuff, but the only thing I have of his that isn’t part of an anthology is more of an art book. I think his work really explodes in color, but it’s cool to see it in a more lo-fi look, and the way Song of Mercury was printed gives it an ethereal quality that plays nicely with its theme.

This is the only one of my new purchases I’ve had a chance to read, so I won’t really be commenting on the content of the others yet.

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One of the books that was hyped prior to the show, Earthling, is the graphic novel debut of German artist Aisha Franz. Apparently she also has a ton of minis, though, so I really need to pick those up somewhere, too…

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Patrick Kyle‘s Distance Mover has been on my list for a while, and this was a really good time to finally buy it since he was sitting right at the table behind the stack.

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I’m really looking forward to Alex Degen’s Mighty Star and the Castle of the Cancatervater. Koyama Press isn’t putting it out until April 2015, though, so thankfully there’s this supplemental comic to tide us over until then. I haven’t read any of Degen’s work yet, but I dig what I’ve seen on his tumblr so far. He was there at the Snakebomb table, too, and was really nice and excited that people were seeking out The Philosopher.

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Ryan Sands’ Youth in Decline label does some of the best work for comics out there. The Frontier series, which is leading the charge both in printing quality and featured artists, is only getting better as it goes on, so I was glad to finally nab the Sam Alden issue.

Let me pull you aside and tell you something not-so secret: Sam Alden is awesome. His pencil work first blew me away in Backyard, and I love the two-color tones in this one.

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Emily Carroll‘s Through the Woods is one of the top comics of 2014, and it looks like she might have just the best issue of Frontier on top of that. I don’t know nothin’ about that myself, though, ‘cuz I haven’t read it yet. Just sayin’… it looks like it.

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Michael DeForge is great so I try and grab everything he puts out. First Year Healthy is his newest book, making its debut at CAB, and it looks like another departure, if not in style than in narrative at least. I can’t wait to read it but I also really want to savor this stack of comix and not blaze through them like I normally do.

ANYWAY, yeah! CAB was really cool! I want to have some comics of my own there in 2015!

ever deeper into the monstroleum

Back in May I wrote about the first volume of Monstroleum, a really fun illustrative journey that’s part adventure diary, part bestiary. JFish, AKA Jason Fischer, recently returned for more with volume 2, continuing the harrowing journey of Voluspa the Tall as she endeavors to learn more about the demise of her people at the hand of the Dragon King Smaurin.

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My copy with the requested Medusa-Hydra drawing

Like the first volume, this Monstroleum entry is a further exploration of Jason’s storytelling abilities, and it doesn’t disappoint. The illustrations are fantastic, but they’re best served as visual complements to the text, which makes all the little details in them that much more effective. The world is well fleshed-out, and the fact that you can see bits of other steps in the journey in the backgrounds—ladders lie barely visible in the darkness, precarious staircases crumble, and specters float behind fully-illustrated monstrosities—is icing on the cake.

I previously compared reading Monstroleum to a classic NES instruction manual, but it also reminds me of playing something like Shadowgate. The first-person perspective isn’t lost on the reader; enemies appear just as Voluspa describes the encounter. A Giant Slug peers down from a musty stone wall, Slimes creep toward the reader, and a snarling Wolfen gives you the old side-eye like it just got busted doing somethin’ afoul of the norm.

Monstroleum vol. 2 has its own natural arc to it, ending at just the right moment of respite, but still leaving you with more on the mind. Thankfully you can subscribe to the series so you won’t have to worry about missing the next leg of Voluspa’s increasingly wide-eyed and exciting adventure. 

Get individual volumes or subscribe to Monstroleum over at JFish’s website.

The Circle of TV Game Life

E3 is once again in full swing, and for some reason I feel compelled to write about it outside of my normal day job routine. I love making fun of everything that goes on throughout the week—so many blowhards making ridiculous promises or showing off half-cooked ideas—but it’s also one of my favorite weeks of the year. There’s something so routinely refreshing about all the hope that swells up just before a big slew of announcements, followed by the exhalation of disappointment and communal commiserating over whatever was or wasn’t expected from said showing.

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Last night’s Sony presser was wholly emblematic of this. Everyone waited with bated breath, expecting, maybe a little foolishly, for Team ICO to come out and show more of the long-gestating, probably dead The Last Guardian. Instead Sony showed off some familiar faces and new games like Suda51’s Let It Die, which might be their answer to the whole The Last Guardian thing were it not for their stubborn insistence that it’s still in the works.

Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Twitter react so harshly to something than when Sony threw up a quick shot of PSOne rhythm game Vib Ribbon without following up on it. Just a naztee tease to annoy all the late-90s import nerds.

The thing about following this stuff so closely is I almost immediately forget what happened earlier in the day. Staying glued to the screen to watch the Sony conference at 9pm makes it easy to lose track of what happened when I was glued to the screen during Microsoft’s around noon. I remember Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry, Okami, Bayonetta) coming out and announcing a new game called—actually trying to think of it off the top of my head as I type, so I’ll just take a quick guess—Scaleskin. Now I’ll look it up… Scalebound. Close enough.

From Software delivered what I was really waiting for during Sony’s two hour block of madness. Bloodborne comes from Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki, which isn’t even a name I knew off the top of my head until about a year and a half ago. Now he’s the president of his company and everyone wants to know what the hell he’s working on at any given moment. Like much of what we see over the course of the week, Bloodborne was just shown via cinematic footage, but From Software is one of those rare developers I fully trust to deliver on whatever they have cooking, so I’ll be getting a PlayStation 4 at some point.

Now I’m going to eat a banana and wait to watch Nintendo because this is what I do.