Just because I feel like a huge penis right now, I’ll call your attention to this article, for which I researched the following point in order to rebut the stupid, senseless baseball salary cap argument:
"Perhaps 12 of 30 Major League teams have any possibility of reaching postseason play, and fewer still have a realistic hope of winning a pennant. Unless baseball changes the way it does business, it risks seeing its fans drift away, tired of their teams’ futility." San Diego Padres owner John Moores said that in 1999, a year after, rather hilariously, his team went to the World Series. But, comedy hypocrisy aside, is Moores right? Is it really only 12 of 30 teams? Well, to find out, let’s take a look at how many teams have been to the postseason since 1999.
It’s 25. Twenty-five fucking teams. The only teams that haven’t made it to the playoffs? The Orioles, the Royals, the Nationals, the Reds, and the Pirates. What do those teams all have in common? That’s right: extremely shitty management. So, in a nutshell, every team can make the playoffs, except those teams run by gibbons. So fuck the Yankees, amirite?
Just as a quick note: in the three years since I wrote those hi-larious zingers in which I compare several highly-paid baseball executives unflatteringly with monkeys, three of those teams have made the playoffs. Honest-to-god, it is now only the Royals and the Pirates that have not made the playoffs this century.
So clearly baseball needs intervention to fix its lack of fairness oook oook eeek eeek banana.
I spend a lot of time on this blog making fun of awful TV, radio, and web journalism, and that’s all fine and good, but the one thing I don’t tend to touch is print journalism. The reason for this should be blindingly obvious: because, contrary to what may be implied by my physique and wardrobe, I am not actually a caveman. I’m just willing to leave it as settled fact that nobody reads magazines anymore, and, as for people who read newspapers, well, I kind of figure they deserve what they get. So print journalism has just sort of been a de facto dead zone as far as the me-making-fun-of-it goes. Until today.
Due to a comedy of errors that is, in an ironic twist, not nearly comedic enough to bother making any jokes about on a snotty blog, I have come into possession of a copy of the February 2013 issue of Game Informer. I can’t be the only one who figures this is yet another manifestation of the secret workings of the Lord, can I? Clearly He wants me to complain about this thing, or He wouldn’t have put it in My mailbox by mistake. His will be done!
Before I start, let me acquaint you with Game Informer real quick, since I imagine you’re not cavemen either, so you’ve never read it. It declares itself the "world’s #1 video game magazine" right there on the cover, but it’s in a tiny little pathetic font. Here — if your eyes are really good, maybe you can find it yourself. I added a big red circle to make it a little bit easier. With all those Marvel characters oozing out of every corner of this thing, I can’t help but be reminded of the way Marvel — a company with a testicle or two — did exactly the same thing. Seriously, Game Informer, sack up; if you’re not comfortable bragging big and bold like that, then maybe just stay quiet and hope nobody notices you.
Logo comedy aside, I actually have a history with Game Informer. Ten years ago, I ended up with a one-year subscription to this rag somehow; I don’t remember if I won it in a contest or it was included with some other thing I bought or what, but the long and short of it is that, for twelve consecutive months, Game Informer appeared in my mailbox actually on purpose. And I’m pretty sure every single one of those issues contained an article about Final Fantasy 7 and an article about Metal Gear Solid. This was 2004, not 1997. So that’s just a nice little bit of introduction for you so’s you can get an idea of what kind of magazine this is.
The first thing we find upon opening the magazine is an editorial written by a dude whose little headshot makes him look like a grown-up, but which is — I shit you not — about how hurtful it is when people call you names in online games. Fuck the heck? Verbatim quote: "I’d pay any company an exorbitant fee to play on an age-gated service that actively and aggressively removes dirtbags." So, okay. Play private games with your friends, because, hey Andy, in the real world, you do have to cope with people who aren’t all just like you. Also: "stop telling people they are wrong" when they disagree with you about video games. Holy shit, dude, if you need a hug, I’m not helping you. I just paid like five dollars for your magazine — as far as you know, I mean — and I didn’t do so for the privilege of listening to you cry that people are mean to you when you add many whelps. Handle it!
So that’s the first thing in the magazine. Off to a good start. Next is reader mail, which can’t be bad; here’s what the letters are about this time:
- Grand Theft Auto
- Grand Theft Auto
- How do I keep my brother out of my Minecraft account?
- Uncharted movie
- This magazine rocks!
- This magazine totally rocks!
- Games are unrealistically and disturbingly anti-wolf
- No, really, this magazine is the fucking best
- Mario sucks
- Nobody makes shmups anymore
- Nobody makes RPGs anymore
Getting an idea of the demographic this magazine skews to yet? Like, that it’s really really young? And also clueless about video games? I can’t believe the guy claiming there are no shmups.
Next: Games of the year for 2012! Odd thing to run in February, but I like to think they did that just so I could make fun of them, because they did the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Game of the year for 2012: Halo 4! Woo! Which I guess is fine by itself — and even moreso if your audience is mainly 15-17 year old males — but Halo 4 did not win Best Shooter. Hate to break this to you, guys, but: that makes no fucking sense. Also makes no fucking sense: Best RPG of 2012? Mass Effect 3! Which is, you know, not an RPG. Curiously, Assassin’s Creed 3 somehow did not win Best Sports Game, but I imagine that was an oversight. The other best thing is the choice of 10000000 for runner-up Best Mobile Exclusive. Now, I’ve played 10000000, and it’s pretty fun, but, if that link didn’t give away the game, I’ve played it on the PC, because it’s not a fucking mobile exclusive. Good work!
Next there’s an article about how great the next Xbox is guaranteed to be, even though the Game Informer staff admits in the article that they know nothing about it whatsoever. All the details are entirely secret and they have no inside information at all, but they just know it’ll be the best! Then there’s a "top ten best dragons" list that at least only manages to include two things that aren’t dragons, though, bizarrely, does also include the fucking dragon from Adventure. What?
Next: an article about how great Halo 4 is, and especially how great Halo 4’s cutscenes are. I guess that’s in case you weren’t yet sure who paid the most product-placement money this issue. Then there’s a similar article about ZombiU, and then — so help me — an article recapping Spike TV’s idiotic video game award show, in which I guess Half-Life 2 was named Best Game of the Decade despite coming out last decade. The only worthwhile article in the magazine comes on page 34, with a two-page story about Pier Solar, which is a game you haven’t played and actually has a really interesting story behind its development. Sadly, Game Informer is maybe just a hair behind the zeitgeist on this one, since Pier Solar came out in 2010.
Then comes a big article about the Wii U launch ports, and how they compare to the versions already released on existing hardware. Spoiler warning: they hate all of them. Then they close the article with a really classy dig at Reggie for having the audacity to suggest that the gaming media’s report of the Wii U as a colossal failure for only selling four million units in three months (for comparison, the Xbox 360 sold 2.5 million units in its first three months) might reflect some institutional bias. This is followed by yet another developer interview about a game from last year. What the fuck, Game Informer? Is there really nothing at all to talk about? No news or information or even any cool pictures or codes like game magazines used to have? This whole magazine is like an American AAA developer circle-jerk. Then there’s a two-page article about how, if you want a tablet, you should get an iPad or an Android tablet or maybe a Windows tablet, which I’m not 100% sure counts as information. Then a full-page article about about how we’re all assholes for thinking Mass Effect 3 had a shit ending — Mass Effect 3 is a year old, Game Informer. You are not "informing" us about a goddamn thing! And the screenshot — which takes up half the page — is not a screenshot from Mass Effect 3. It’s just, like, a screenshot from some random game tacked on to fill space.
Finally we get to the cover feature: fourteen pages about Lego Marvel Superheroes. To save you some time: yeah, they don’t know anything about it other than what was in the trailer. Six pages about the new Shadowrun-themed XCom ripoff, but, again, they have no new information to share. Then there are some crap one-page previews of upcoming games that also don’t contain anything you haven’t seen on every web site ever. And then the reviews come! They review Devil May Cry on two consecutive pages, and give it two different scores, which I still can’t quite understand. But they love it because it has lots of blood and cutscenes. They actually didn’t like Ni No Kuni, which I think makes them the only people in the world who didn’t; reading through this review, the main problem is apparently that you spend too much time playing the game, which interferes with watching the cutscenes. Then there are a whole bunch of shorter reviews, and, in time-honoured balls-less reviewer style, everything gets between 6.5 and 8. So: all the games are "pretty good," and they’d all be better if they didn’t have so much goddamn gameplay. Then, finally, on the very last page, there’s actually something good in this fucking magazine: a big sprite-sheet of all the Mega Man bosses! I have no idea why, mind you, but I’m not complaining. At least it’s cool to look at.
Well, there you are. Now you know why you don’t waste your hard-earned money on gaming print journalism: because it’s fucking awful. Long gone are the days when magazines had any actual information to share; since they can’t update exactly as things are happening like the internet can, they’ve apparently been reduced to boring retrospectives on what happened in gaming last year, and the worst opinion pieces of all time. And, of course, the obligatory bought journalism that just tells you how rad the sponsor’s products are. After all, Jeff could tell you what happens to professional game journalists who don’t praise the sponsored games enough. And then how would these points of light get paid to whine about all those mean people on Xbox Live?
I was not one of the biggest fans of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t keeping company with this douchebag, but I didn’t love it. I found the controls often frustrating, with Mario wall-jumping constantly whether I wanted him to or not, and the goofy Wiimote-shake spin jump firing any time I so much as tilted the remote, and dumping me in pits all the damn time. My overall opinion of the game was that, principally due to the control issues, it was only pretty good.
New Super Mario Bros. U, on the other hand, is not pretty good. In point of fact, it is goddamn phenomenal. What I honestly expected to be a decent but unremarkable launch title turns out to be one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. The game follows the usual visual and audio aesthetic of the New SMB series, and is full of bright primary colours and lively landscapes and catchy background tracks that the mobs (and some environment details) move in time to, and that’s a good thing; the look-and-feel has always been a great strength of the New SMB series, since, frankly, after a while one gets tired of looking at drab, dark, pseudo-futuristic brownscapes, as I believe I’ve mentioned once or twice over the past few years. But New SMB U goes beyond just making things bright and pretty; every level I’ve played so far (and I’m on world 3, so it’s a fair few) contains some new thing you haven’t seen before, and almost all of them are interesting or exciting. I don’t think I’ve said "wow" so many times playing a video game since… ever, pretty much. There’s always something new and surprising popping up here.
The gameplay is probably more balanced than it’s ever been in a Mario game. For once, there isn’t one powerup that’s just better than the others; remember how you haven’t really ever wanted a fire flower since, like, the original Super Mario Bros. since there’s always something better? The raccoon tail in SMB3, the cape in Super Mario World, so forth. They all have the same problem: they give Mario an attack that’s maybe not quite as good as the fire flower, but then they also let you fly and fall slowly and deflect incoming projectiles and hit blocks form the side and on and on. Well, not this time; the glider suit Mario gets from the acorn powerup has no attacks built in, and doesn’t add nearly so many movement buffs; all Mario can do with it is double-jump and slow-fall, which means there are actually times you’ll want something else. On top of the powerup balance, this is the only Mario game I’ve ever played (and I think I’ve played all of them, including the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. and Wario Land on the Virtual Boy) in which the timer actually matters. You have to haul ass to get through the levels on time, even in 1-1.
Playing the game with the Wii U gamepad removes the control issues that dogged New SMB Wii; the game is also playable with a Wiimote (and you have to use a Wiimote for multiplayer), but at this time I’m unable to say if the spin controls have maybe been sensitived down somewhat or if it still throws you in pits constantly. Mario’s wall-jumping reflexes are a bit more on-target this time, though, and it’s not so common that you’ll be trying to make a bunch of rapid jumps and end up bouncing in weird directions you don’t want.
In addition to the campaign and the multiplayer modes, New SMB U also adds a bunch of challenges, which is good stuff. It’ll give you a level to beat in a certain amount of time, or a target number of coins to collect, or something totally oddball — one of the first special challenges has you seeing how long you can survive while dodging fireballs from a pair of Fire Bros. None of this stuff is necessary to play the game, so if it’s not your bag, you can completely ignore it; it’s just a fun little extra from the main menu. There’s also Miiverse integration, which means you can post comments on levels and look for suggestions and such on a spot you’re stuck on without leaving the game at all; I’m not sold on this, but it’s also easy to turn it off, so I really can’t complain. It’s there for people who want it and not there for people who don’t.
If you have a Wii U, there’s no excuse for not getting this game. It’s brilliant. I just hope they have some brilliance left over to use on the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy game.