Nazis, demons, and autodidactism

I was about to commence this with the term “PC Gaming Master Race”, but that may be a poor choice of words considering this post starts with Wolfenstein 3D, a game about Nazis.

Wolfenstein 3D was the game that moved me in the direction of PC gaming. It was a world far removed from the ease of console gaming. It was a world in which you had to check your IRQs and DMAs and make you sure you had enough expanded memory allocated, and when you made it all work through some arcane magicks it was a thing of joy that you could actually play your game. Plug ‘n’ Play? What was that? Console exclusive gamers didn’t know how easy they had it.

It was Wolfenstein 3D that ushered in this new glorious PC gaming era for me.

Sure it wasn’t the original First Person Shooter game (that milestone perhaps belongs to Maze War or Spasim that were developed in the 70s), nor the first FPS game that had free movement for the player within a 3D space. It was however, the FPS game that defined the genre in the public consciousness and showed that fast arcade game experiences could work on the PC.

When I was a child, we would visit the Easter Show each year at which I would purchase showbags. About the time I was 11 or 12, there was a PC Gaming showbag on sale that came with some shareware games. I didn’t have a PC of my own yet but my father the teacher had just happened to bring one home from his school that he had borrowed for the holidays. Inside this showbag was a shareware software magazine with the new Wolfenstein 3D game on the cover:

The Ultimate Arcade Game Collection November 92 Volume 1 Number 2 - Wolfenstein 3D on the cover

Glorious VGA graphics!

It was Wolfenstein 3D that also introduced me to the notion of modding PC videogames. After finishing the game multiple times and killing Mecha Adolf Hitler, I acquired a level editor and sprite editor for the game from a high school friend. He obtained it from a BBS in those dark days before the modern internet.

Map of level 1-1 from Wolfenstein 3D level editor

Perhaps my present day objectives to make games stem from this moment when I realized that I didn’t have to be just a passive user of videogames but could also be an active creator who could shape them to how I saw fit. I would play my self-made levels repeatedly to gauge what worked and what didn’t.

My next flash of game development autodidactism came from Wolfenstein 3D‘s successor Doom. I’ll continue this in the next post and describe how it was that in playing around with a level editor for Doom 2, it dawned on me that I had the ability to teach myself what I wanted to know to make what I wanted to make.

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How I killed Adolf Hitler and won the war

My name is William Joseph Blazkowicz, or “B.J.” to my friends, and this is how I killed Adolf Hitler and won the war.

B.J. Blazkowicz

I was born in 1911 on the 15th of August . My parents were from Poland and arrived in New York City a few years before my birth, looking to make a fresh start in the new world. A great war had spread like wildfire across Europe and they were anxious to leave and start a family here in the safety of the United States.

I grew up to be an athletic and active child, never one to sit still for too long a time, so upon finishing school, a career in the military seemed the right choice. I enlisted in the army and quickly rose up the ranks and in 1939 at the age of 28 I was invited to join the elite Office of Secret Actions (OSA). War had broken out again in Europe and Germany had invaded Poland, the birthplace of my parents. I was eager go there and right the wrongs that were being committed by our enemies.

Opportunity graced me, when I was sent on an espionage mission to Poland. Rumour had it that the Third Reich were conducting some strange experiments to help them win the war. It sounded crazy, but there was talk of the Nazis trying to create an army of mutant soldiers from people they’d experimented on. It was said that some Nazi scientist was grafting weapons into the bodies of these alleged mutant soldiers. I couldn’t believe it myself, but I had to go there to find out if there was a shred of truth to it.

Upon arriving in Poland though, we were discovered. I don’t know what happened to my fellow agents. Perhaps they were killed. I was captured though and taken to the nearby Castle Wolfenstein where I was thrown into a damp and dark prison cell to rot.

However, not all was lost. Each night, a guard would enter my cell and quickly throw some barely edible food into the room. Why they were keeping me alive, I couldn’t say. Perhaps they wanted to turn me into one of those supposed mutant soldiers they were apparently creating. Well, I wasn’t going to stand for that.

One night I took cover to the side of the prison cell door, waiting for the guard to drop off my evening meal. I waited and waited, and then just as I thought he wouldn’t come that night, I heard the slow click of the lock turning. The door squeaked open as he slowly entered the room. He didn’t see me in the shadows as I whacked him unconscious and he fell to the ground. I took his gun and made my way out. Many Nazis died that night by my hand.

B.J. Blazkowicz kills a guard and escapes his cell.

It was clear what I had to do. The only option was to take out the head of this all this insanity – the Fuhrer himself!

Inside Castle Wolfenstein I had discovered the location of where Hitler was based at this time, including a map of his headquarters. This could come in use, I thought. So I made contact with the OSA and informed them of my plans to assassinate him. It would have to be a one man job though, they told me. He was too well guarded for a large scale full frontal attack. I’d have to sneak into his headquarters and eliminate him before anyone could notice me.

I travelled to the small Polish town where his current headquarters were based. There were Nazis everywhere! I could access his headquarters via the nearby sewerage tunnel that fed into an unused maintenance room. It was a huge security flaw that you would think they would have noticed. They were overconfident though. I could do this.

I wadded through the sewerage tunnel. It smelt disgusting as I struggled through the filthy excrement and slime that clung to every surface. At the end of the tunnel was the shaft into the maintenance room. As I left the disused maintenance room I entered the hallway and noticed something shimmer in the distance. I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but there was something floating in the distance. No, there were multiple apparitions patrolling the hallway! They wore wavey black robes that resembled clergy garments. They hovered slightly above the ground and they all had the face of Adolf Hitler! What voodoo was this that the Nazis were playing at? Then from the chests of the ghostly Hitler beings, a stream of red hot fireballs emerged towards me. I strafed to the left to avoid being hit and then rotating myself in a circle, fired my gun at them. At once they collapsed to the ground and disappeared, leaving only their robes behind.

I had to be close now! I passed down the next hallway. This was where the real Adolf Hitler was. I opened the door with my machine gun at ready and there he was in the middle of the room. He wasn’t surprised. Perhaps he knew somehow that I was coming. It was what he was wearing though that took me by disbelief.

He was inside an armoured suit that was equipped with four large chain guns – two on each arm. He shouted the German words “Die Allied schweinehund!” at me. I was no pig dog. I was William Joseph Blazkowicz and I was here to kill Hitler.

He fired his chain guns at me and I ducked for cover. I returned with my machine gun and didn’t let up. He had no time to fire back at me as my bullets damaged his armoured suit. I could see the smoke rising from the suit. It must’ve had some mechanical components inside it.

He removed himself from his suit and came at me now with two chain guns he swiped from the broken armoured suit. I dodged his stream of bullets again and pulled out my pistol. I fired a single shot that went right through his neck. The blood trickled down his body and he collapsed to the floor barely breathing. “Who… are…you?” he gasped at me. “The name’s Blazkowicz”, I replied. “And I declare the Third Reich over”. Rage burned in his eyes as he started to froth at the mouth. I fired multiple bullets into his body and he fell to the ground in a bloody heap. Lastly, I stepped down hard on his head with my steal boots and felt his skull collapse under the weight of my foot. It shattered into shards of bone and a mixture of his brains and his blood oozed out onto the floor. The Fuhrer was dead.

I rushed back down the hallways and into the maintenance room and then down the sewer to the nearby forest where allied trooped were waiting for me to learn of my success.

Many people called me a hero after that day, but I’m no hero. I’m just someone who did what had to be done to stop a monster who had to be stopped.

“Very creative Mark (and disturbingly morbid) but it’s not very historically accurate” – my year 9 history teacher

Mecha Adolf Hitler

The above depiction of Adolf Hitler and his death at the hands of American solider B.J. Blazkowicz may not be entirely historically accurate according to my year 9 history teacher. However, I disagree. I’ve found proof that my history teacher was wrong.

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Thoughts on EA controversies

EA has had a rough relationship with segments of the internet in recent times. Let’s recap a few of the controversies.

First, there was the negative reception from the changes made to the series in Dragon Age 2. I liked the game, in spite of the repetitive game locations and the story focus being largely on the area Kirkwall instead of the grand narrative in Dragon Age: Origins that encompassed more places for the player to visit. I liken the game to the middle Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back that lacks the same blockbuster explosiveness of its predecessor but is instead a more personal, quiet, and darker film that ends on a cliff hanger and lays the groundwork for the following film that concludes the overall story.

Next, there was the matter of BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler who dared to have an opinion and suggest that games could have a fast-forward button to skip combat just as many games already have a skip option for dialogue and cutscenes. It’s not such a novel idea as it’s one that Nintendo for example incorporated in New Super Mario Bros Wii with the “super guide” that enables the player to skip a level after failing it eight times. Players who want to be challenged by the game can simply ignore the super guide. What would the harm be in incorporating this into a BioWare RPG? Yet for the crime of speaking her mind she was declared on Reddit to be, “the cancer that is killing BioWare”. Also, because this is the internet, and the internet has yet to grow out of its dudebro juvenile misogynistic mentality, she received hate filled sexist vitriolic attacks. The sad reality was that her opponents instead of engaging with what she had to say and trying to collaborate to improve videogames, attacked her personally and in the end, no-one won.

Then there was the controversy over the ending to Mass Effect 3. I haven’t as yet played Mass Effect 3 (or any games from the series yet) so I can’t for now comment on the specifics of the story. However, from an outsider’s perspective, the commotion seemed a little extreme. My understanding is that players were disappointed with the ending for not acknowledging the player’s choices that were made in the games leading up to that point? I’ll find out when I eventually play it. To be upset with the ending if that’s how it was is fair enough, but to then petition BioWare to change the ending seems over the top to me. Once again, I haven’t played it, so maybe I don’t know the full extent of the disappointment, but hey, while I loved the original Star Wars films, I didn’t greatly enjoy George Lucas’ prequels to them. Should I (and the other fans who were disappointed by the Star Wars prequels) expect him to rewrite and refilm them? Of course not! We get on with our lives and watch other films and consume other media.

Speaking of Star Wars, there was the matter of EA being criticised for planning to add same-sex relationships to their Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. Yet why is this even an issue? It may come as a shock to some people, but there are a lot of gay people in the world. There always have been and there always will be. Homosexual characters in EA’s game is just reflecting that reality of human sexuality. “There were no LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) characters in any of the Star Wars films”, proclaimed the Florida Family Association on its website. To which I say, “pfft”. Have they really seen the Star Wars films? C3PO and R2D2 are the token gay robot couple.

Seriously though, there have been homosexual characters in videogames for a long time now. I recall the bisexual gypsy prostitutes way back in Ultima VI and Dupré scolding the Avatar for wasting time with sex instead of saving Britannia . So why all the fuss now with homosexuality in The Old Republic?

Scene from Ultima VI in which the Avatar has sex with prostitutes

Lastly, there’s an EA Indie Bundle on Steam now which has caused the internet to do a double take because “EA” and “Indie” in the same sentence appears to be oxymoron of the grandest proportions possible. At first glance, it seems obvious that EA are trying to cash-in on the public goodwill at the moment towards independently developed videogames. However, what is an “indie” game these days anyway? Is it really just a game that has been developed independently of the support of a commercial publisher? Or does “indie” refer more to the style and ascetics of the game? I’d argue that it’s more the latter. After all, Notch, our poster child for indie success with Minecraft now has his own company and employs people. By his own admission, he no longer considers himself to be, “indie”.

Take another example with Valve who made the videogame digital distribution system Steam and have given us many successful game series such as the Half-Life series, the Team Fortress series, the Portal series, the Left 4 Dead series, to name just a very few. They’re not a publically floated company and they self-publish all their games. If we define, “indie”, as independent, then that’s what they must be.

While none of the games in the EA Indie Bundle were made in somebody’s garage by a team of a few people on a budget of a couple of dollars, they’re hardly triple-A games made on a multibillion dollars budget either. So arguing about the semantics of indie-ness and criticising EA for trying to sell some games (when that’s its job – to sell games) is probably futile. They’re a publisher of videogames. They’re not the Third Reich. Nor are they “America’s worst company” as they were voted last month by readers of the Consumerist. That’s just hyperbole.

To conclude, EA is not without its faults. For example, the recent “goof” over Rock Band for iOS was bizarre. As is the way they have handled Tetris for the iPad. Also, it was back in 2004 when Erin Hoffman published her EA Spouse blog to highlight unethical work practices at EA. They’re not perfect, but in spite of the legitimate problems that EA have had, I can’t help but feel that sometimes the internet, or parts of the internet, can blow some matters out of proportion.

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Global Game Jam 2012

I participated last week for the first time in the Global Game Jam.

I hesitated at first to be involved, fearing that I was too much of a novice still. All I could think of upon arriving at Wollongong University, where it was being held, was that everyone else was going to be amazingly talented and that my greenness would stand out like a sore thumb. I kept thinking to myself how I should’ve been more prepared – that I should’ve been tinkering extensively with engines such as Game Maker, or that I should have studied Unity more, and so on.

Incidentally, I’d had a fever for some days and it wasn’t going away. I’m sure sleep deprivation and copious amounts of junk food wouldn’t hurt right? Riiight.

I hadn’t formed a team in advance and was planning to join up with other teamless randoms. Maybe I really was mad! And wait, I hate social situations. So why did I think creatively collaborating with strangers over a 48 hour period would be a good idea!!!? ARGGHGHGH!!!

Big Deep Breath!

It wasn’t so bad, except for where it was, but that’s okay.

The theme was an image of of the Ouroboros symbol. I found some people to team up with and we discussed the theme for many hours. By 2 am the first night we had vaguely decided the approach we wanted to take. We had taken longer than I had hoped in agreeing to what we would do, but at least we had something to work with now. You would be a snake that eats orbs made out of the four elements (earth, fire, water, and wind) which would make your tail grow longer. You fly around a torus shape and eventually your tail grows so long that you have to try to avoid eating yourself.

We slept for a few hours and then early morning we jumped into making the game using Unity but at some point later in the day our programmer decided that the idea wouldn’t be possible to make in Unity and instead we would have to switch engines and start again now in Flash.

tick tock… tick tock… tick tock

Time was running away from us.

There was a lack of unity. And a lack of Unity too.

Come late Saturday night (about 4 or 5 am) I finally decided to grab some sleep but found myself feeling incredibly unwell. I could tell that I wasn’t going to make the full 48 hours, and as the sun came up I made the decision to leave. I felt awful abandoning my team like that, but it couldn’t be helped, and we had most of the game finished. Hopefully they could finish the remaining bits without me.

Orboros screenshot

The end result is certainly not a finished game, and instead feels more like a tech demo. I’ve uploaded it here at this link on my deviantart account if you would like to try it. Use the arrow keys to move the snake and make it speed up and slow down.

I named it Orboros because you collect orbs and the theme was ouroboros and I like puns.

So do I regret participating when the results were less than stellar? Not at all! It was a worthwhile experience in spite of getting sick and in spite of the troubles. I learnt what to expect next time and I consider it an educational experience. You don’t learn from being perfect. You learn from failing and then picking yourself up, reflecting, and then trying again.

I’ll be there next year, but I think I’ll go next time with a prepared team. However, I’ll have twelve months to improve my skills, and I start my new course at AIE this Wednesday, so this is just the beginning.

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Katawa Shoujo

I was first intrigued by Katawa Shoujo when I read Leigh Alexander’s write up of it two years ago, but only recently got around to playing it. Katawa Shoujo is an eroge visual novel in which the protagonist Hisao has a heart condition called arrhythmia and is sent to Yamaku High School for disabled students in which he learns to live with his condition and find friends and maybe find love.

The game is incredibly sensitive and respectful to its subject matter, which is maybe surprising considering that the idea for it originated out of the 4chan imageboard website, a controversial place not generally known for its maturity or compassion.

The Eroge genre is not commonly known in the West with the nearest Western equivalent perhaps being the Choose Your Own Adventure story genre. Katawa Shoujo does contain explicit sexual material, as is consistent with other Eroge visual novels, but it never feels exploitative or gratuitously pornographic. Instead, the sexual aspects of the story are presented as a natural development of the relationship between Hisao and whichever of the girls at Yamaku High School he closely befriends and romances.

This is not a game about fetishizing people with disabilities, but rather it’s about depicting them as just other human beings who have the same wants and desires as all of us do. It’s not about representing them as freaks but as people with unique personalities who have their own sense of agency.

One may argue though if it is necessary to stress that people with disabilities deserve respect and to be treated as equal human beings. After all, shouldn’t this be obvious?

In a perfect world, it would be obvious, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Neither do the characters in Katawa Shoujo. At one point in the narrative, Hisao expresses his confusion to Lilly the blind girl that there exists prejudice among students at the high school designed for disabled students. He expects that kind of misunderstanding and narrow-mindedness in the outside world, but in a place meant exclusively for people with disabilities, he assumes there would be more tolerance and understanding. She kindly tells him that he’s naive. The kids in Yamuku have disabilities, but they’re also just as human as anyone else, and with that can come all the ugly preconceptions that any person can have.

Lilly in Katawa Shoujo

That prejudice includes me too, as Katawa Shoujo humbled me and forced me to reflect on my own disabilities and how I treat others with disabilities of their own. It’s to my shame that without any malicious intent, that there have been times in the past when I have met people with obvious disabilities and found myself uncomfortable and uncertain on how I speak to them. How do you ignore the elephant in the room?

I can recall a friend of my grandmother who was born with small undeveloped arms caused by her mother taking the drug thalidomide during pregnancy. I remember meeting her about a decade ago and feeling uncomfortable around her. Her arms! I couldn’t get past them. I couldn’t look her in the eyes without thinking about her deformity. And why was this so? She was still a person just like me or anyone else. She couldn’t help what happened to her before she was born. So why was I so uncomfortable when speaking to her? I feel like a monster for recalling my awkwardness around her then, but as Katawa Shoujo reminds us, it’s not so unusual. I should know too as I can’t forget how people react to my “disabilities”. They’re not physical disabilities, unless you count asthma which never feels like it hinders me thanks to preventative medication that prevents asthma attacks, or short-sightedness which is pretty damned common and at least I can see with the aid of glasses. Instead, what I’m referring to are mental disabilities. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Social Phobia. I’m always hesitant to reveal this about myself because I know how people can react to physical disabilities (as I did!) let alone mental disabilities such as these. I have to admit that I’m nervous about admitting it here on the internet of all places because I’m aware of the misconceptions that people can have. I’ve had people grimace at me when I’ve told them before as if I’m some nutcase. So why was I so uneasy with my grandma’s friend’s disability when I should have been aware how people can be towards mine? How hypocritical of me. I suppose it shows that I was as human as anyone else with my prejudices. It doesn’t make it right, but I’m glad that I can reflect on it. We fear what’s different without taking into account that we too are different and that there is no perfect human.

Yuuko and Hanako in Katawa Shoujo

Sometimes people whom I tell are surprised especially about the Social Phobia. However, Anxiety Cat knows how I think on that. I’ve described it before as like a duck swimming on water. It looks calm on the surface, but meanwhile it’s frantically paddling underneath in order to stay afloat. I either let myself crawl into a cave and drown or I go on living regardless of my limitations.

It’s what I love about the characters of Katawa Shoujo – how they don’t let their disabilities stand in their way. They don’t let their disabilities define them. I love how Rin is a girl born with tiny stumps for arms (similar to my grandma’s friend) and yet she’s an artist! She paints with her feet. Emi is a girl with amputated legs below both her knees, and she is a runner. She describes herself as, “the fastest thing on no legs”. These are people not to be pitied and feared. They are people to be admired. They are people who know their limitations and succeed in what they want anyway.

Emi from Katawa Shoujo

Ultimately, that’s the strength of Katawa Shoujo – that it depicts characters who are people first and disabled second. It’s how we should view everyone we meet regardless, but as the game’s story points out and as my own experience had demonstrated with how I viewed people with disabilities or how people viewed mine, we don’t always act that way. It compels me to never think of people with disabilities as I did before and it encourages me (as the girls in the game do) to not let my own disabilities hinder me in succeeding in my goals.

That we should treat everyone equal is a truism that needs repeating (because how many times has the human race repeatedly screwed up in doing so?) and Katawa Shoujo with its honest and heartfelt storytelling is a game that needs to be experienced. It’s available for free from the developer’s website.

I have no patience for arguments questioning if it’s really a videogame or “just” a story. It gives an experience through the use of digital media and I’ll take its experience any day over another bland videogame about generic dudebros fighting aliens and zombies. It’s one of the best videogames that have appeared in recent times, and it needs to be experienced and enjoyed. The game has touched a lot of people, myself included, with its earnest storytelling. The graphics are beautiful with some gorgeously painted cutscenes and the original music is also amazing and appropriately accompanies each scene instead of being just background filler. Overall, I can’t recommend Katawa Shoujo enough and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

You are not alone, and you are not strange. You are you, and everyone has damage. Be the better person.

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Stumbled into the third dimension

Learning 3D modelling has been a new skill that I’ve stumbled into during my course at TAFE last year. I had always avoided 3D, putting it into the “too hard” basket and instead concentrated on 2D art. At first, 3D modelling frustrated me, but then I started to comprehend more and more of what I was doing and I started to enjoy it. I wanted to make this post to document my journey with 3D thus far.

We start with Boxy, this robot character that I made:

Boxy the robot

He was inspired by the robots of Puzzle Bots and Megaman‘s Servbot. Best to begin with something block shaped when starting out I figured. However, I must say that I prefered making this 2D flash animation for the same character:

Doing that made me realize that if it happens that I don’t end up working in videogames, then I could easily see myself happily working in animation, perhaps in children’s cartoons.

Next up I attempted a more organic character. I sketched out a generic looking elf that I named Xannry Treepath:

Xannry Treepath sketch

Except the execution didn’t go entirely to plan:

Xannry Treepath render

He looks rather deformed, and he has giant hands. Not exactly what I intended.

It’s all part of the learning process though. Expecting to be perfect straight away when learning something new is unrealistic. You have to fail to succeed.

And finally, I endeavoured to make another organic model, which I then animated. This time it’s of a young girl dancing in a forest. I used the famous Joan of Arc tutorial available online to learn how to model her so precisely. I’m mostly happy with how she turned out, although I didn’t put any weight maps into her hair so it looks as though she has a ton of hair spray in her hair when she jumps upside down. Also my final render (which took at least ten days!) is grainier than I had hoped. Perhaps it was my render settings or my lighting. I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I like the ethereal and whimsical atmosphere of it as she dances through the forest:

(best watched in HD if doesn’t play in that automatically–>)

I’d like to be now able to make such a detailed model again by myself without needing to reference a tutorial as I did for this, but that ability will come in time with more practice.

All of the above models were made with Lightwave. Next up, I need to start using Maya as AIE where I’ll be studying this year uses it.

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Super Mario 3D Land (Can Nintendo save us again?)

Crisis had returned to the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser had kidnapped Princess Peach and once again the plumber Mario was tasked to rescue her. That is the plot of the new Super Mario 3D Land game for the 3DS. Quelle surprise!

Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach... again.

Perhaps the game shouldn’t be judged too harshly on its narrative as that has never been the strong point of the series. Instead the focus was innovative mechanics and strong level design that resulted in games that were a joy to play.

Nintendo spoke prior to the launch of their Wii console, of wanting to “disrupt” the industry with its introduction, and this is what happened in 1985 when they released the original Super Mario Bros for the NES. It defined the platform game genre and spawned countless imitators by competitors.

With every iteration they release of a Mario platform game there has been subtle changes to the formula. However, basically, we’ve been playing the same game ever since and the same could be said about their other flagship title, The Legend of Zelda which is also a series that has been flogged over and over with only minor variations.

Super Mario 3D Land is a fun game though, with clever level design and if the game is fun, it might be said that this lack of innovation does not matter. If you’re happy with your familiar meat and potatoes meal then maybe you don’t need anything more adventurous and exotic. Nintendo haven’t changed the menu but they cook quality food and if you own a 3DS then Super Mario 3D Land is one of the few quality tasting recipes available on that system at the moment. Okay, I’ll stop now with the food analogies.

Mario cupcakes!

To its credit, Super Mario 3D Land does make impressive use of the 3DS’ 3D feature which is used as a game mechanic and not just a gimmick or as it was used in Dead or Alive : Dimensions – to look up the skirts of female characters.

Mario’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto has said that it’s a “3D Mario that plays as a 2D Mario game”. The game’s camera view switches between 3D and 2D perspectives, as suiting the level, and the use of the Tanooki suit harks back to its previous use in Super Mario Bros 3. However, whereas Super Mario Bros 3 was an inspired spiritual successor to the original Super Mario Bros game that greatly improved upon the original game and added many new concepts to the platform game genre, Super Mario 3D Land instead feels like more of a mash up of elements of Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario 64. It takes advantage of the 3DS’ 3D capabilities and adjusts the formula slightly, but never enough to feel fresh and inventive. It’s just retreading the same ground that we’ve already been a plethora of times now.

Tanooki Suit in Super Mario 3D Land

If you have a 3DS and you’ve enjoyed Mario platform games in the past, then you might find something entertaining here to tide you over until more unique content appears on the platform, but note that you’ve played the elements of this game already, over and over for the last twenty five years.

Satoru Iwata, the President of Nintendo, hit out at the industry in his keynote address at the Game Developers Conference last year. He criticized mobile phone and social network game developers for flooding the market with quantity over quality. Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime prior to this, added that the cheap games on these platforms are “disposable”. Nintendo was instrumental in restoring confidence in the industry in the early 80s in America when the market had indeed been flooded by poor quality “disposable” games, thanks largely to Atari and their dominance at the time. Nintendo launched the NES with quality innovative games such as Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda which helped revive the fledgling industry in the States. Does Nintendo truly see itself in the same role now? The glasses-free 3D technology of the 3DS is impressive no doubt, but when their main software is a repeat of the same game they’ve continuously rehashed, one doubts if they’ll be the saviour of the industry this time around.

Mario kicking a green shell at some goombas in Super Mario 3D Land

It’s a Mario… again.

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