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Super Mario Maker 2 builds on Nintendo’s rich history – TechCrunch

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In 1992, Nintendo released Mario Paint. The SNES title was a strange departure, even as far as the diverse and wide-ranging gameplay of Mario’s world goes. For one thing, it shipped with a mouse, perhaps the unsexiest of all Nintendo peripherals.

For another, it was far more focused on creation than gameplay — drawing, music, animation.
The title provided a cursory glimpse at the creation side of gaming, and for a generation of young players, a taste of what it might be like to build a game themselves.

2015’s Super Mario Maker was a spiritual sequel of a kind. Released on the Wii U (then later, mercifully, the 3DS), the title was a more straightforward take on Mario world building. Released on the 30th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros., it played on the company’s biggest strength: offering a new spin on a familiar franchise.

 

As the name implies, Super Mario Maker is a more direct sequel to its predecessor. It’s a broadening of the Wii U title in just about every aspect imaginable. In fact, Nintendo’s been happily teasing it out, block by block in recent months — and likely will continue the approach until the game finally arrives on the Switch on June 28. It’s a similar approach to the one it took with Super Smash Bros., only Maker is far more concerned with features and gameplay dynamics than hidden characters.

Playing the title at a Nintendo-hosted event last week, I was fairly impressed with the game play out of the box. The mechanics of world building can be tough to master with the Switch controllers provided, requiring players to scroll through a lot and memorize some less than intuitive button combinations to build courses. Though you should be pretty comfortably up and running within about five minutes or so.

Where the title really succeeds is in the sheer depth of gameplay. In the days of $1 smartphone games, $70 can seem like a tough pill to swallow, but as with just about every other Mario title, Maker 2 is an immensely replayable game. The new story mode lets the player hop in with 100 Nintendo-designed levels, or you can simply sample what others have been working on, competing on a world-wide stage on third-party creations.

Like the best Mario games, it’s a healthy mix of nostalgia and new ideas — and here it quite literally takes the player through four decades of Mario gameplay. The building blocks cleverly remix Marios of yore, including Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario 3D World.

For this old and old-school Nintendo player, most were familiar and some were new — the cat suit and pneumatic glass pipes from Super Mario 3D World in particular took some getting used to. As did the team mechanics of the multiplayer mode, which finds Mario, Luigi, Toad and Toadette teaming up to get through the levels in one piece.

I enjoyed the hour or two I had with the game, but ultimately it only felt like scratching the surface.

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28 years later, Super Punch-Out!!’s 2-player mode has been discovered

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Enlarge / Up until today, Nintendo had never announced a two-player mode in a Punch-Out!! video game. As it turns out, one has hidden in plain sight for nearly 30 years.

Aurich Lawson | Nintendo

While Punch-Out!! has been one of Nintendo’s most beloved “fighting” series since its 1984 debut in arcades, it has rarely featured something common in the genre: a two-player mode.

On Monday, however, that changed. The resulting discovery has been hiding in plain sight on the series’ Super Nintendo edition for nearly 30 years.

Should you own 1994’s Super Punch-Out!! in any capacity—an original SNES cartridge, a dumped ROM parsed by an emulator, on the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, or even as part of the paid Nintendo Switch Online collection of retro games—you can immediately access the feature, no hacking or ROM editing required. All you need is a pair of gamepads.

Finally, you can be the Mad Clown

Credit goes to the coder responsible for the @new_cheats_news account on Twitter, which has routinely posted discoveries of leftover modes, menus, and gameplay features in classic games since 2014. Many of the account’s findings require Game Gear codes or hex edits to original ROM files to access them since the modes are often left behind in the games’ original code, never meant to be seen by average fans.

Yet today’s Super Punch-Out!! discovery revolves around a simple series of button combinations, which require nothing more than a second controller. The two-player mode is hidden behind an additional, previously undiscovered menu, which lets solo players skip directly to any of the game’s boxing combatants. It’s essentially a “level select” menu, which many classic games featured for internal testing, and speedrunners could arguably use it to practice against specific opponents more quickly.

This menu can be accessed by holding the R and Y buttons on player two’s controller at the “press start” screen, then pressing Start or A with player one’s controller. Do this, and a new menu appears, displaying all 16 boxers’ profile icons. Pick any of these icons to engage in a one-off fight; once it’s over, you’re dumped back to the same boxer-select menu.

In this menu, friends can access a two-player fight if player two holds their B and Y buttons down until the match starts. You won’t hear a sound effect or any other indication that it worked. Instead, the match will begin with the second player controlling the “boss” boxer at the top of the screen. Combine the “ABXY” array of buttons with “up” and “down” on the D-pad to pull off every single basic and advanced attack.

Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech captured the two-player mode hidden inside of Super Punch-Out!! while testing on a retail Nintendo Switch.

I have thus far confirmed that this works on an original SNES cartridge, along with both the SNES Classic Edition and the game’s version on Nintendo Switch—which I used to record the above video demonstration of the game’s wimpiest character, Gabby Jay, swaying from side to side. In traditional one-player modes, Gabby Jay stands still before throwing a few slow punches.

Thus far in my testing, I would not necessarily describe the game’s long-hidden two-player mode as “balanced” for competitive play, owing to both the boss characters’ high levels of power and their obvious pre-punch “tells.” The latter typically come with long pauses that solo players have studied for years; dodge them, and the boss is left open to be stunned and pummeled. Thus, I don’t imagine Super Punch-Out!! will land on competitive stages like Evo anytime soon. Still, the button-tap latency for the boss characters is fluid enough to make the mode an amusing option for longtime SNES fans to try out with their friends.

A more balanced version of the concept is featured in the series’ 2009 Wii version, which only allowed players to fight as palette swaps of longtime series character Little Mac. This week’s discovery of a two-player mode on SNES adds a much wider range of battling options for the second player.

The game industry’s history of hidden menus and Easter eggs is certainly bountiful, but today’s news arguably most resembles the 2016 discovery of a cheat menu hidden in the first three Mortal Kombat arcade games. This required inputting specific buttons on an arcade cabinet in the correct order, even without inserting quarters, and could unlock anything from “fatality” animations to free-play modes.

The Punch-Out!! series’ NES version was previously the subject of fan scrutiny in 2016 when frame-by-frame analysis confirmed a visual tell of when to punch some of that game’s toughest bosses. Years before that, an interview with one of Punch-Out!!‘s original developers suggested more secrets were inside the NES classic that fans had yet to discover. Might there be a two-player mode hidden inside the older game as well?

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Excel esports on ESPN show world the pain of format errors

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Enlarge / Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to modelllllllll!

If you watched ESPN2 during its stint last weekend as “ESPN8: The Ocho,” you may have seen some odd, meme-friendly competitions, including corgi racing, precision paper airplane tossing, and slippery stair climbing.

Or you might have seen “Excel Esports: All-Star Battle,” a tournament in which an unexpected full-column Flash Fill is announced like a 50-yard Hail Mary. It’s just the latest mainstream acknowledgment of Excel as a viable, if quirky, esport, complete with down-to-the-wire tension and surprising comebacks.

The full Excel Esports All-Star Battle.

The Financial Modeling World Cup (FMWC) hosts regular international competitions, both invitational and open to anyone, in which Excel pros strive to solve as many questions as possible from a complex task. You can download all three of the tasks used in last weekend’s battle for free.

ESPN showed a 30-minute edited version of the full two-hour-and-48-minute all-star battle between previous champions. The ESPN broadcast showed one of the three rounds; it focused on calculating how many points different spins of a free, online slot-machine-like game would generate for players. There were many spins and some quirky scoring rules.

First problem in the Excel Esports All-Start Battle.

Featured in this all-star battle was 2021 FMWC World Cup winner Diarmuid Early, an FMWC grandmaster from Ireland who claims 10,000 hours in Excel. (He would be Lambda if he were a function, he said.) The winner of the first championship in 2020, Joseph Lau (28,600 hours, Isological), also competed, along with six other highly ranked function warriors.

Diarmuid took a commanding lead in the first slot-like task, racking up more points more quickly in a first round than anyone has in an FMWC competition. Others faced the kinds of challenges that regular users see in less combative Excel work. Polish competitor Gabriela Strój told the hosts that “one stupid error”—leaving a formula linked to the wrong sheet—likely cost her hundreds of points. David Brown from the US said that his major problem was pasting from his 32-bit Windows-based Excel to the official online Excel answer sheets, which left his formulas treated as text.

The top four of the eight competitors moved on to round 2, simulating a yacht regatta in Excel. Diarmuid and third-ranked Andrew Ngai made it through. The two competed on creating a score-tracking mechanic for an entirely Excel-based retro-style 2D platformer, “Modelario.” Ngai eked out the win, although with only 411 of a total 1,000 possible points. Ngai’s reward for a more than two-hour cell-based marathon: a trip to Tucson, Arizona, for the FMWC finals.

Part of the fourth level of the Excel-based platformer
Enlarge / Part of the fourth level of the Excel-based platformer “Modelario” that two FMWC competitors had to score based on controller input. Neither contestant made it to the fifth level.

If you feel like you’ve found your sport after watching that kind of linked-sheet sprinting, consider the FMWC Open, which requires no invitation, ranking, or specific experience. Qualifiers and the competition take place in late October.

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Indie devs outraged by unlicensed game sales on GameStop’s NFT market

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Aurich Lawson | Getty Images

In the first week of GameStop’s recently launched NFT marketplace, the NiFTy Arcade collection stood out from the pack. Instead of offering basic JPEGs, the collection provided “interactive NFTs” linked to HTML5 games that were fully playable from an owner’s crypto wallet (or from the GameStop Marketplace page itself).

There was only one problem: Many of those NFT games were being minted and sold without their creators’ permission, much less any arrangement for the creators to share in any crypto profits.

While the man behind NiFTy Arcade has since been suspended from GameStop’s NFT marketplace, he’s still holding on to the tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency he made by selling those NFTs before the suspension. And while the NFTs in question are no longer listed on the GameStop NFT marketplace, the unlicensed games themselves can still be accessed on GameStop’s servers and across a blockchain-based file storage system, where they may now be functionally impossible to remove.

What if an arcade, but with NFTs?

NiFTy Arcade creator Nathan Ello told Ars his collection grew out of a desire “to highlight potential use cases for NFTs beyond static images.” But Ello got a bit abstract when asked to explain the utility of freshly minted NFT versions of games that were already freely playable elsewhere on the web.

“If people find value in these NFTs, that’s a bonus, but my intent is to create and showcase games that are playable within NFT marketplaces and within NFT wallets,” he told Ars. “Should someone want the convenience of playing the game directly from their wallet or their own profile page on the marketplace without having to navigate to mine, then they’re welcome to buy a copy.”

The NiFTy Arcade collection, as it appeared on the GameStop NFT marketplace on July 15.
Enlarge / The NiFTy Arcade collection, as it appeared on the GameStop NFT marketplace on July 15.

Ello ended up selling hundreds of NFTs based on the NiFTy Arcade collection’s first three games, making at least 46.7 ETH (worth about $55,000 at the time) from those sales as of July 15. But for at least two of those games—Worm Nom Nom and Galactic Wars—Ello admitted he never sought the necessary permission from the original creators before selling them. There’s also evidence that Ello minted and distributed a number of other games through NFT marketplaces without the creators’ permission, including Breakout Hero, Super Disc Box, and Invader Overload, according to Joseph “Lexaloffle” White, the creator of the PICO-8 pixel game engine.

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