May 6, 2008

WII SPOTLIGHT: Getting fit (or fat) PLUS a review

Wii FitImage:Wii Fit PAL boxart.JPG
Though people will definitely leave room for doubt, Wii Fit has no doubt become a sensation in Japan, selling over a million copies and assisting Japanese all over the country in their conquest to get the body they've always wanted. Now, the time is nearing for English speakers worldwide to see why the Japanese love it so much, and who knows? Maybe it could help America lose some pounds!

This is how it works: you input your birthdate, height and the new balance board accessory will measure your weight and see if the weight of your body is distributed in each foot properly. After that, it calculates your BMI and sets goals for each day that you turn it on depending on whether you should gain or lose weight. If you fulfill the tasks needed in one day, you can put a stamp on its calendar (much like Brain Age) and end the session (or not).

It features a slew of Yoga poses, as well as Muscle Training activities. Though they sound tedious, it seems more fun than it looks in a way, because the game rates your balance during the duration of the pose and bypasses it if it senses that you're not even trying!

As you progress through each stage of each exercise, you unlock more. Same goes for its games which you control using the balance board. For example, one game tasks you to dodge the stuff that aren't soccer balls, and by shifting your weight from left to right, the character on-screen will move to that corresponding direction. It looks fun, really.

Personally, I'm not really compelled to buy the title because it probably costs a Rock Band (at least in a few certain countries) and... I don't know.

However, the balance board, in a perspective, has potential to become a huge peripheral for a lot of various games: skateboarding, snowboarding... the possibilities are almost endless!

Still, it's expected that this game is gonna be a big, unexpected blockbuster. And with Shigeru Miyamoto supervising, what could go wrong?

REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

In a nutshell: Branded by most as the best Mario game in years, Super Mario Galaxy exceeds my expectations and presents itself with tight gameplay and controls, beautiful graphics, and superb production values.

I haven't had the chance to play what they say is the defining platformer of the 90's- Super Mario 64- but at least I was lucky enough to play Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii instead of the critically panned Super Mario Sunshine from the last console generation. And when you see a classic, you just know it's a classic.

"Inventive" kidnap
When you start a new game, the title presents you with information regarding this certain "Star Festival" which is held every 1000 years and now, Mario is going near the Mushroom Kingdom's castle to take part in that specific festival. However, Bowser is back and he just can't resist kidnapping the Princess Peach and giving Mario his purpose in life. But it's not any ordinary kidnapping, he gets a huge crane of sorts and lifts the castle out of the ground and into outerspace and Mario gets dragged into some other planet.

Cheating on Peach
Mario then meets the mother of the so-called Lumas- Rosalina- and she tasks him with collecting the so-called Power Stars to generate the lost electricity of her starship. As Mario collects more Power Stars for Rosalina- no, they don't fall in love- Mario just gets closer to the center of the universe to where his sweet Princess is, along with her kidnapper.

If you ask me, despite the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy's graphics are still the one to beat, and it proves that if you don't underestimate the Wii's power, you can cook up something that could look and feel next-generation. See the cover art? It's how the graphics in-game looks like.

The cutscenes aren't pre-rendered either and use the game's majestic in-game engine so that everything has a uniform feel- and I actually like it this way because it feels very epic and breathtaking.

In a Mario game, story isn't important, it's the gameplay.

You use the Wiimote and Nunchuk to control Mario. The analog stick of the Nunchuk is obviously for movement, the Z trigger for crouching, the A button in the Wiimote is still jump, the B button underneath shoots Star Bits to stun enemies or feed Hungry Lumas, and shaking the controller makes Mario do a Spin Attack or transport himself to another part of the galaxy by way of Star Cannons.

The controls are very accessible, intuitive and easy yet tight, and it just feels right.

Besides the controls, the levels themselves could initially be too easy, and suddenly they can get very maddeningly difficult, especially in some of the coin-collecting variations of a few levels. Yeah, you could be laughing right now, because... it's coin collecting for crying out loud! Yeah, you're gonna say that now, but when you play some of those levels, you'll never view coin collecting quests the same ever again.

The levels, nonetheless, have some of the best level design ever found in any 3D platformer ever, if not genius, because it plays with aspects of gravity, physics, and a lot of other things.

The game has a legendary soundtrack and features a mix of new content and nostalgic ditties. Now, however, most of them are orchestrated (and sometimes, there's also a synth here and there). I have nothing else to say about its audio because it's just so damn great.

It depends on you. Me? Well, I could claim all 120 stars again using Luigi to unlock a bonus galaxy but... I don't know. Maybe another time.

The new transformations in this edition of Mario include the cute Bee Mario costume which enables you to fly for a specific period of time, the Boo Mario costume which- when you shake the Wiimote- lets you pass through certain walls and attract fellow ghosts, and Spring Mario which lets you jump really high.

They surprisingly mesh well with the older costumes, which are equally cool with Ice Mario making water into ice, Fire Mario shootinh fire when you shake the Wiimote (and melts snowmen), Rainbow Mario rendering Mario invinsible to anything (except holes) and a lot more.

It's not all perfect. Swimming, despite likewise tight controls, sucks anyway, although there is not much requirement to do that except if you're the so-called completist. Another aspect that needs improvement is Spring Mario: if you want to go to a precise spot, it's kinda hard, and well, the jumping just never stops!

Plus, when you quit to the title screen, no matter how many lives you accumulate, your lives always get reset to merely 4. Yeah, it's in the manual but come on, who reads it?

Despite those problems, they're fairly minor compared to the game as a whole.

If you're still in doubt as to whether you'll want to get Super Mario Galaxy or not, you shouldn't be! It's a FREAKING CLASSIC, no contest!

Rating: 9.8/10

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