Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG - SNES Box

Anyways, this week we have Super Mario RPG for the SNES. Surprisingly a lot of people look at this game as a very odd one in the Mario franchise mainly because it’s an RPG and we all grew up playing Mario in platformer games. Nintendo and Square got things right on this one though. The game is jammed packed with a lot of interesting features and an awesome storyline. The battles are intense and fun as well as the enemies. Your allies have very interesting stories behind them and you can even play as bowser! You can’t do that in many mario games(except the sports ones).

Super_Mario_RPG_SNES_ScreenShot

The game brings your journey through a huge land with a lot of secrets to discover. Like any RPG, there are small sidequests that you are welcome to accomplish when you want to take a break from the quest.

I won’t say much more for those who still haven’t played this gem but I’ll tell you this, this game rocks! Everything is great about this game. I can’t see why anyone would miss out on this one! The only problems I had with this game are the leveling up system which only ended in level 30, and the fact that you couldn’t play as Luigi. You did see pictures of him explaining you how to play the game in the instruction manual but that’s not good enough!

Reviewing the game reviewers

Review Games
Review Games

Reviewing the game reviewers by J.A. Laraque

With games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Borderlands and Left 4 Dead it is understandable to see a lot of 9.0 and above scores on review sites. In my opinion many of the mainstream game reviewers are mailing it in when it comes to digging into the heart of a game to provide a in-depth review that can not only help the consumer find the right game, but hold software companies accountable for what they release.

Some may argue that it is not a reviewer’s job to call out software developers. However, it has been a long standing practice in the past that if a company cut corners or releases an unfinished product that it would be called out in the review. Game makers use to wait with bated breath for a review to be released. They knew a bad review could sink them and a good review could make their game a hit. Today, it is not quite the case.

Much like movie reviews you can easily find someone to give your game a good enough review so it can be quoted on a website and listed on packaging. Unfortunately, these are not obscure little places where positive reviews are found, but industry giants handing out A plus ratings and 5.0 scores like they were cable ace awards.

For those up and coming review sites many have faced unreasonable restrictions and strong arm tactics when reviewing upcoming titles. Like a partisan town meeting there have been reports of questions being submitted by the developers themselves to be asked. One incident I was part of was where an up and coming site was reviewing a new wrestling game. A Q&A session was offered where only very select questions were answered. Later we discovered most of the questions were submitted by the company and they only selected questions from the internet that had been already answered in other articles and reviews.

This may not seem so unusual today, but at the time it was quite a shock. Many were angry their questions were not answered especially considering that they were not questions that were against their own policy. There were guidelines on what type of questions we could ask and even though most followed the rules their questions went unanswered. When people complained the website got tough and in the next installment pressed the development team on the lack of changes and improvements to the game and boldly asked why anyone should spend their hard earned money on a game with almost no changes or improvements. Their response, they discontinued talks with the website pulling all Q&A sessions and review materials.

Tactics such as these are not done anymore basically because most companies only give review materials to outlets that will give them a pass. Now while it is true that many of these games that receive high scores do deserve them it is a troubling trend that these reviewers seem to go out of their way to not bring up flaws within a game. Too often the questions are softball-like and if there is a critique it is a very minor one that in the same sentence they will dismiss as such.

My question is why are the best reviews done by those who are doing it more for entertainment than anything else? Some of the best reviews today come from Yatzhee, just as some of the best news comes from John Stewart. I love them both, but they started more for entertainment and yet you get the most honest takes and real world commentary from these two.

There are a ton of up and coming websites and blogs that offer reviews, but one must always be careful. Just like in politics there are definite divides between people. Everyone has an opinion as far as taste in genre, console versus PC and even brand loyalty or distain.

While it is great to have so many places to go for information we still should hold the large media outlets accountable. Many will look at a positive review by an industry leader as reason enough to purchase a game. We also know many people will purchase a game solely on the fact that it was released by a developer they know. In this case a reviewer should point out that even if a game is good that more could have been done or if parts were rushed due to time or money and if features and options were left out only to offer them as paid downloadable content later.

With many software companies becoming superpowers in the gaming world now is the time that the people of the media should speak out and take them to task. It is what we expect and what we deserve as consumers. Nobody should get a free ride even if they have developed great games in the past. It is not what you did, but what you are doing now. If there are faults they should be brought to light for all to see and leave it up to the customer to make the final choice. The result is we all become better informed buyers and in the end that is better for all of us.

The Death of Customer Service – The new Lemon law

lemon law computer
lemon law computer

We all know whether we buy a two hundred dollar notebook or a seven thousand dollar gaming system we expect a product that works as advertised. Often in my time working with computers I have heard people refer to computers that experience issues time and again as lemons. Lemon laws are American state laws that provide a remedy for purchasers of cars that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance.

It is understandable that a person experiencing multiple failures could believe their computer is just a lemon and should be completely replaced. More often than not however, you will find that an entire computer is not a lemon. Perhaps a specific part or a combination of parts can lead to repeated issues, but if those parts are replaced or exchanged the issue will go away.

In this day and age the lemon is not with the computer, but the company it was sold from. It is one thing to have issues with a system, but receive first class service from day one and it is entirely another to receive good service at the start, but receive increasingly bad service during the life of your warranty and beyond.

When a computer company is formed the number one goal should be customer service. It should be the best it can be and remain consistent day after day, year after year. Computer issues can arise from many different areas from hardware, to software. Just surfing the internet can produce errors that will make you want to tear your hair out, but if you are able to call your computer company service line and get honest, helpful answers from them it makes the overall experience more tolerable.

The true lemon comes when there is a lapse in a company’s customer and technical service. This can happen for many reasons, but it mainly does due to the business model that if a department is not bringing in revenue it is not as important. When companies tighten their belts it is not the belts of the CEO’s or shareholders that get tightened, it is the belts of the customer and technical service personnel.

When this happens staffing is cut and personnel becomes overworked which can and usually does lead to lower quality and performance. In addition when new workers are added to fill positions due to large turnover rates, training is cut and lower skilled workers are accepted to match the lowered pay grade. Combined with overseas outsourcing and merging of departments and divisions, the once five star support you use to receive can quickly become two star or less.

With three to five year computer warranties being offered customers should expect the same level of quality throughout the life of their warranty and beyond. If a company changes its practices or policies which results in lower quality support the customer should be compensated. In a perfect world a company would do everything in its power to insure that their customers do not experience a drop in service no matter how long the company has been operating.

Unfortunately, as many companies grow larger and merge together the added money and personnel does not translate to improved support. On the contrary, it has been shown many times in and outside the world of computers that when this happens the first noticeable difference is a drop in customer satisfaction.

There are of course exceptions, companies that have grown or come together and made it a goal to improve service. This should not be an exception, but a norm. Just as a customer expect a product to keep a high level of performance so should they of the support behind it.

Over the next few weeks I will be showcasing examples of high and low end customer service in the world of the personal computer. My hope is to shed some light on the companies that turn their back on their customers and applaud the ones that don’t because I refuse to sit by and watch the slow painful death of customer service.

Building versus Buying PCs – The great debate

custom computer vs bought computer
custom vs bought PC

Building versus Buying PCs – The great debate by J.A. Laraque

When you get right down to it, the two main factors that come into play when deciding to build or buy a gaming PC is, costs versus time and service versus support. Normally when a gamer reaches the level where he or she has the skill and knowhow to build a PC it becomes a no-brainer in their eyes what to do. If one can search the internet for the best deals and build their own system, then it is all in their hands.

The question is asked; why pay for something I can do myself? It is a valid question and when you read more and more about how many computer companies are outsourcing their support and their service quality level continues to nose dive. Anyone is completely justified to ask themselves, what am I paying for?

Would there be resistance to buying versus building be lessened if top level service is provided from day one? Many who care a great deal about their car may spend hours maintaining it themselves. However, if they can take their car to a place where it will receive the same care as they provide then not only is it worth the cost, but the time you save is also of great value.

Too many computer companies have lost their perspective. They forget that PC stands for personal computer. A computer, for many, is much more than a tool; it is part of their daily life. To return to the car analogy, it is not just to get from point A to point B, it is the journey. When you call yourself a custom computer gaming company it should mean that you understand gamers who want a custom PC and who want to feel they have gotten what they paid for.

If you provide the best support from a support staff that understands their customer’s needs then people, even in tough economic times, will spend the money on a product they know the company they bought it from will stand by.

In the end a person’s budget will make the final decision, but knowing that the company they choose to go with will not only provide them with the system they want, but the service they demand then going the extra step in not a leap of faith, but a wise investment.

You cannot expect someone to pay for an elite system and not receive elite support. It is not just about lights and a paint job. It is more than processing and video power. Elite goes beyond the hardware and software and a company that truly understands that will earn the respect and hard earned money of the price savvy gamer.

Why I can’t stand the Wii

Wii Sucks
Wii Sucks

I completely expect to catch flack for this, but I am tired of being silent. I can’t stand the Wii console from Nintendo. I understand it has some good games like the new Mario, but the hype over the system and the fact that it’s not much more than a glorified accessory machine doesn’t help. We all know it has sold. I was not one who bought one, but I have played it. Now here is my reasoning.

The IMAC for a new generation

Remember the Apple iMac? Everyone had one, it was shown on almost every sitcom, but nobody ever used it. The Wii is the new IMAC, everyone got it because it was new and shiny, but in the end it sits unused like your treadmill.

When it was first released everyone talked about how fun it was. Funny thing is every time someone wanted to play it they were intoxicated on something. I guess the reason is nobody could have that much fun swinging wildly into the air unless you are drunk.

Now most of the people I know who have one have it sitting under a pile of accessories unused. We now play Rock Band when drunk.

Old people like it

You ever heard the saying that something is no longer cool once your parents like it? Now I don’t want to get in trouble with the AARP, but did you know there is a Wii bowling league for senior citizens?

Old Woman Wii
Old Woman Wii

Yes, that ultra hip piece of technology is the favorite plaything for the baby boomers. It narrowly beat out checkers and shuffle board. Wii Tennis has beat out not only Wolf Blitzer from CNN for things to watch after 5pm, but even Matlock gets TIVO’ed so grandpa Joe can get in a game of Tiger Woods-free Wii golf.

I have this thing called an Emulator

You know what is the number one response when I insult the Wii? “We’ll you can play old games like Excite Bike” Oh really? Well, it’s not like I ever had a chance to play that since ’85. I guess people never heard of something called M.A.M.E. or ZNES. Perhaps I am not supposed to speak about those to the public, kind of like Fight Club.

Even the so called new games like the sports pack are nothing more than glorified Yahoo games with an add-on so you can chuck hard plastic at your television.

Thanks to Dumpbase.net for the video

Hey Wii, the Game Cube called it, wants its graphics back!

Worst yet it reminds me of the console wars back in the Sega, Nintendo days except this time it’s PS3 and XBOX 360 fighting it out and the Wii getting the scraps. My question is how many Mario games can you look forward too? I love Mario, but damn. Speaking of Mario, is it just me or is it an abomination to see Sonic and Mario together in a game? I liked the back and forth of which was the better franchise. It’s like Coke and Pepsi coming out with a drink together. Well Coke tried that with New Coke and you remember what happened there.

Wii
Wii

My opinion doesn’t count

Nintendo could care less with the cash it is raking in and in the age of the ipod we know people like overpriced pretty colored devices so the Wii fits in perfectly. Between the Everybody Votes channel and the Mii’s Nintendo has the winning combination for our American Idol’d world. All Nintendo has to do now is add Farmville to the Wii and the final sign of the apocalypse will be upon us.

Happy Gaming!

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG

Though I had played various RPG’s on the NES and Amiga in the past it was watching my friend play Final Fantasy IV on the Super NES that got me heavily into RPG’s. My friend would come over and I would just watch him play for hours, so much so that my mother began to wonder why her son was sitting around watching another boy play a game for six hours.

At the time I was a big Mario fan. I had beaten all the games that had come out even earning recognition in Nintendo Power for beating Super Mario World. When I read that Super Mario RPG, made by Square (Now Square Enix) was being released I was ecstatic. By then I had already gone back and beaten all the previous Final Fantasy games, so to combine my love for Square RPG’s and Mario into one game was just heaven.

When I finally had it in my hand and loaded it up I was amazed by the quality and music of the game. The graphics had almost a claymation vibe to it and it fit the game very well. Some of the in game sound effects were a bit loud, but overall the presentation was very well done.

The open sequence had Mario on his way to Bowser’s castle to save Princess Toadstool. The isometric platform style of the game took a bit to get use to, but after a few battles it felt natural. Unlike some of the Square RPG’s before it, in Mario RPG the enemies were visible on the map and in most cases you could avoid them though some you had no choice but to fight.

Personally I wondered how the story would go since from the beginning you were jumping and fighting your way though Bowser’s castle to find the Princess tied to a huge chandelier. You have to keep in mind there was almost no place to go at the time to see reviews or spoilers, so when I defeated Bowser the first time I was generally worried the game might not have much to it, but I was wrong.

Before I continue with the story let’s talk about game play. The game definitely felt like a Square RPG, but it had all the elements you would expect from a Mario game as well. You could walk and jump pretty freely on the main world and once in battle you fought turn based style just as you would in Final Fantasy. Within the battle you had four choices, your main attack, items, your special attack and tactics such as run away or defend.

The game is fairly easy even if you haven’t played any RPG’s before. Whichever character you were playing had different attacks and when you used them you could hit a corresponding button to increase the damage. For instance if you are playing Mario and use his jump ability, if you hit the right button at the right time you will do extra damage and you would know you did it right because you would hear a special sound, in Mario’s jump attack case it was the one up sound.

You can time your defense as well, so when an enemy is about to hit you, you would hit the correct button and you will either take less damage or absorb the hit all together. Pretty much if you got the timing down you were unbeatable, if you sucked at timing you might find some of the boss fights pretty hard.

The overall story in a nutshell was that pieces of the Star Road fell to the world and were being collected by the evil Smithy gang, Smithy, a robotic blacksmith was a from an alternate dimension with aspirations of world domination. The Smithy gang was so bad ass they even took over Bowser’s castle and kicked him out.

The main protagonist is Mario who along with Princess Toadstool, Bowser and two new characters, Mallow, a strange-looking tadpole (with a secret) and Geno, a star spirit who has taken control over a doll, fight to get the star pieces back. But fear not there are a ton of other side stories and adventures.

Now this game came out in 1996 and there are a ton of reviews on it and you can even play it on the Wii, so I am not writing this so much as a review. However, as anyone will tell you Mario RPG was one of those games that once you started playing you would not want to put down. From the music to the boss fights to the hilarious shorelines, the game, in my opinion, perfectly mixed the worlds of Mario into an RPG format that did not get stale.

Personally the use of humor in the game was what made me fall in love with it. There are multiple laugh out loud moments from fighting a giant cake, a power ranger spoof and Toadstool’s forced wedding. Also, Square tossed in many little references to its other RPG’s including a fight against a very Final Fantasy-like character called, Culex which, in my humble opinion, was pretty hard to beat.

Overall it was a great addition to the RPG lineup you could find on the SNES. I believe it is still worth playing today and though I am not a fan of the Wii, if you have one I would suggest downloading it or if you have this thing called an emulator…. Oh, the Obsolete Gamer legal team says I can’t talk about that, never mind, just go check this game out.

If you want to listen to the original soundtrack click here