Heya, I'm Alex Giannavola, a 26-year-old writer and artist who digs videogames, anime, poppy punk rock music, diet soda, and nice people.
Favorite Games: Bioshock Infinite
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy IX
The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker
Mega Man X
Metal Gear Solid 4
No More Heroes
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Super Mario World
Like many, I began my gaming story with an original Nintendo Entertainment System and a Super Mario Bros. cartridge. When I was younger, my mom would periodically take me to a small town in southern Arkansas to visit family there. These family members included my Nana, Pop, aunt, uncle, and three cousins. The youngest cousin, Mason, was my best friend. He was one year older than me and it was a friendship forged with a love of SpaghettiOs, cartoons, and videogames. My first gaming memory is playing Super Mario Bros. with him in the den of my aunt and uncle's house.
I do not believe this was my first time playing the game. This particular memory has me running through World 1-1 with familiarity. At age four, I KNEW where the first mushroom was. I KNEW where the hidden extra life near† the cliff was. I KNEW where the Star was. The first actual play sessions must be lost somewhere in my mind before my memory began, because at that point it was instinct.
Mason and I would sit side by side on the floor in the glow of the television for hours-- handing off the controller, or paddle as we called it, to each other any time one of us completed a level or bit the pixelated dust. We played a plethora of other games, including Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3, as well, but the original was a staple of every visit. As our family visited in the living room, we would be in the den kicking shell and saving princesses. I wouldn't say we were loners but we weren't nearly as sociable as the rest of the family. Shy guys stick together.
Early on, I didn't have a "regular Nintendo,Ē so going to Mason's house was my only opportunity to play. That was, until my dear sweet Nana got me one of my very own for my sixth birthday. It was hooked up to the 13-inch wooden panel TV in my parents' bedroom. I remember coming home from kindergarten and playing after that day's episode of Power Rangers, of course. It was nice being able to play without making the three hour drive, although slightly jarring to go it alone. My little sister couldnít help, try as she might. Her two-year-old thumbs just couldnít handle it. But all in all, life was good. I had a Nintendo of my very own. What could be better? Another trip down to see the family would answer that question.
As my mother and I walked into the living room of my aunt and uncle's house, I noticed something that looked suspiciously like my old plumber friend running and jumping across the TV screen. WHAT was this? It was familiar but strange. It seemed like Mario, but the game was more colorful, flashier, had better music and ... oh my God, is that a dinosaur you can ride?! It was Super Mario World on a new machine, a Super Nintendo.
This was the first Mario game I remember NOT knowing how to play. Not only was I learning a brand new game, but I had to learn to control it with a new paddle. It was curvier and had more buttonsÖ oh man, did it have so many more buttons. Mason, acting as the older brother, as Mario, showed me how to get through this new World.
We had a favorite level, Vanilla Dome 3. It was set in a cave with a flowing river of lava that we had to ride across on rafts made of skulls that I can only assume came from those who had fallen before us. Our favorite thing about the level was a very goofy-looking dragon, named Blargg, who would rise up from the lava and throw his stupid face at our raft. Too slow to be the threat Iím sure he wanted to be, Blarggís appearance brought laughter, nayÖ glee, almost every time.
We did eventually get so good that we had to make new challenges for ourselves, our favorite being what we called "the can." When playing as "the can," one holds down on the D-Pad the entire time so that Mario is always crouching and using the jump button with the left and right buttons to navigate the level as what looked to be a hopping moving can. We still take the can challenge to this day.
Super Mario World was one of the first tangible examples that something I already loved could be improved upon. Before seeing it, it never even crossed my mind that my videogames could look better, sound better, and be better than what I already knew. It didnít end there.
One summer afternoon in 1996, I remember seeing a TV commercial for Super Mario 64. This marked the first time I saw something new related to Mario that Mason did not show me first. A very excitable man yelled about the game while standing in front of game play footage, imitating Mario's moves. Strangely enough, I was not into it. This wasn't videogames as I knew it. Being confined to a 2D space until that point, I believed a 3D world would be too difficult to navigate, too difficult to enjoy. I was a stodgy old man refusing to accept new technology at the age of eight.
Sometime that fall, Mom and I made another trip to see the family. When I walked into the living room, I saw a Nintendo 64 on the floor and Super Mario 64 on the TV. Should I have even been surprised at this point? Mason was playing through Bob-omb Battlefield and showed me how you could play each level multiple times for different Power Stars. He handed me the new, even more perplexing, paddle and asked me if I wanted to play. Still feeling my initial distaste from the commercial, I reluctantly gave it a shot, hoping we could play some real Mario after.
Iím not sure if Iíve ever reversed an opinion so fast in my entire life. One run up the mountain and I was having fun. One flight of the Wing Cap and I was sold. Contrary to my initial impressions from the commercial, running around this 3D space was captivating, and flying around it was exhilarating! I felt free. It was easy, and it was fun.
Super Mario 64 is one of the few games Iíve 100% completed. The motivation behind this stemmed from the supposed appearance of our dinosaur friend, Yoshi, waiting for us on top of the castle if we obtained all 120 Power Stars. I remember Mason telling me about it and showing me a picture from a magazine of Yoshi in the game. A picture in a magazine! This wasnít just the playground rumor mill-- it had to be legit. Collect everything and we could ride Yoshi. IN (3D) SPACE!
Collect Power Stars, obtain hats, and defeat Bowser thrice we did. The canon outside the castle did open and Yoshi was indeed waiting for us on top, just like the magazine prophesized. But instead of being able to ride him like we naturally assumed, all he had for us was a ďgood job, kid,Ē a pocketful of extra lives, and a new special sparkly jump. And then he just bounced.
This might have been the first time I was truly disappointed after putting so much effort toward something. All I wanted to do was ride around on Yoshi in the fully 3D world that had won my critical heart earlier.
I learned the same lesson twice in Super Mario 64: Things aren't always what they seem. Loving the 3D world after initially thinking I wouldn't taught me to give things a chance. On the flip side, the Yoshi incident taught me that sometimes hard work comes with disappointing results. Life lessons of an eight-year-old.
I was brought into three generations of new Mario games at that house. Contrary to what you may think from reading this, Mason and I did play other things besides Mario, and actually did do other things besides play videogames. And like with games, he led me to other interests including anime and music. One day in summer 2002 he brought over a Trigun DVD that would introduce me to the world of anime and a new geeky fandom that would become just as prominent in my life as videogames. He is also largely responsible for the music I listened to back then, mostly nu-metal, that led me to some of the music I love most today.
I really did play the part of the little brother, of Luigi you could say. I was very prone to hero worship and copying, to his annoyance, Iím sure. I did eventually branch out on my own during my later high school years, growing into my own music, anime, and yes, videogames. But it was those early years, those nights staying up late playing Mario with my cousin and best friend that laid the foundation for a love of videogames that will last for the rest of my life.
As many of us know, the original No More Heroes is making the jump to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. When I first heard this, I was immediately giddy with joy at the thought of my favorite Nintendo Wii title with a fresh coat of pretty HD paint. After the initial excitement wore off though, I started thinking about some things.
After playing an HD version, will I want to go back to the Wii for No More Heroes 2 in SD? Should I even get the sequel upon release, or wait for an HD edition of that too? Will the HD even look that good? Some of the screens Iíve seen donít seem to have kept that cel-shaded charm. The motion controls were actually kind of fun on the Wii; will the combat get too repetitive on a standard controller?
Letís have a look at both sides of this.
Bringing No More Heroes to other platforms gives a lot more people the chance to enjoy a great experience that I think shouldnít be missed. I want people to enjoy this game just like I did. I want people to not be able to pull away from their TVs for three days until they have beaten it, and then love it so much that they immediately do it all over again. Suda51 and company will earn a little more money for their efforts and hopefully get some more recognition, rightfully deserved.
This also gives the developers a chance to fix and add some things. Itís pretty mutually agreed upon that the open world aspect isnít NMHís best feature, and while Iím sure they wonít overhaul the whole thing, there are some little things they could do to make it a bit more bearable. Better control of the motorcycle comes to mind, as well as better driving physics in general. I would be fairly happy if I didnít come to a dead stop every time I hit the littlest thing, or even a wall. Give me a crash or something!
The one thing I always wanted is a boss select screen! This would make a great unlockable feature after you beat the game. For me, the best part of No More Heroes was its crazy bosses, from their quirky personalities to their unique fighting styles. I was always immensely satisfied after I figured out how to beat each one. I would love to replay my favorite battle, with Bad Girl, right now but I donít want to have to play through the whole game again to do it.
Another little tweak that would really help this game out would be a ďretryĒ option after those fights where you canít get hit even once. Those things were brutal, I donít think I ever beat even one. Came close, but no dice.
Trophies/Achievements are an obvious addition, and while I donít consider myself a trophy whore by any means, I am a little excited for this because NMH is one of the few games I can see myself getting 100% on. Except I bet theyíd make beating all those ďno-hit fightsĒ one of them, damn.
And of course the most prominent advantage of bringing No More Heroes to the PS3 and 360 is the upping of the graphics to HD quality. My main disappointment with the Wii version was that the graphics were nowhere near as good as those of the first trailer. If they made NMH look like that (while keeping some of the design changes) then I would be one happy hero.
My only hold-up with the graphics upgrade is that what Iíve seen so far doesnít look very cel-shady. I hope this is just my bad eyes or bad images, because I would hate to see this game go the way of regular polygons.
Obviously, bringing No More Heroes outside the realm of the Wii will change its control scheme dramatically. This is the one thing that got me thinking maybe this re-release wonít be quite as good as I initially thought it might be. Some have said maybe it will be compatible with Sonyís Motion Control or possibly even Microsoft Natal. Sonyís Motion Control I could see happening, but Natal? I donít think so. Iím going with the assumption it will be redone with standard controls.
I know motion controls arenít a lot of peopleís jam, and are almost considered a sin in the gamer community to not mind waggle that much, but I do believe No More Heroes on the Wii got it right. Its use was subtle most of the time with choosing the position of the beam saber. Motion controls werenít used solely a majority of the time, so it didnít feel overdone. They picked the right times to implement them, and it was extremely satisfying when you used them because of that.
Mapping the combat to the buttons while using motion just for finishing blows and wresting moves was a stroke of genius. These were methods of finishing that particular enemy off, and changing up the control to do it made it feel that much more epic. There was nothing better than taking a swing to take some guyís head or to slice him down the middle. I just donít see how they can make these moments feel any different from the rest of the combat on a standard control. When you get down to it, No More Heroes is a hack and slash game, without those deviations from button mashing, it seems it would get very repetitive very fast.
On a standard controller, the job mini-games would be more a chore than they already are. I was already tired of doing them after the first time I tried. Some of them might be better than others, but can you really imagine pumping gas using only control sticks? Well, using sticks for the graffiti cleaning job would remind my slightly of Jet Set Radio (even though Iím cleaning OFF the graffiti), and that can only be a good thing.
And I'm sorry, using the Wii remote as a phone was one of the coolest and most clever things they could have done. I nearly flipped the first time it happened.
Oh, and charging up your beam saber wouldnít be nearly as fun on a standard controller.
While Iím skeptical of a change in control scheme, Iím still extremely excited about this. I canít wait to see what they do with it. Day one purchase for me, definitely.
[BTW, I started writing this before the news of Ubisoft saying they wouldnít publish it. Hopefully another publisher picks it up, and some of the potential awesomeness Iíve mentioned can be realized.]
Hello there. Gah! I'm so bad at introducing myself, but since you asked; my name is Alex and I am 21 years old. Iíve been lurking around Destructoid for almost a year now. My first taste of this place came from watching Hey Ash, Whatcha Playiní on GameTrailers. There was just something so quirky and awesome about it that I had to have more. When I had watched every HAWP video on GT, I decided to check out the site that it came from, and here I am. Since then Iíve made Destructoid my primary place for videogame news, am a regular listener of the podcasts, and have become one of those pretentious types looking for deeper meanings in videogames (Thanks a lot Reverend Anthony, ya jerk).
Anyways, Iíve decided to come out of the bushes just watching you guys, and hop over the fence to join the party. So let me tell you a little bit about myself (in the form of those ďTen Things About MeĒ lists I saw everyone doing a while back).
1. Iíve been playing videogames since I can remember. My earliest memories include going to my cousinís house and playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES together. Good times, seriously. Then for my sixth birthday, my grandmother bought me my own NES with Super Mario Bros. 3. Isnít she sweet! Since then Iíve owned a Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Gameboy Color, Nintendo 64, PlayStation 2, Gameboy Advance, DS, PSP, Nintendo Wii, and PlayStation 3.
2. I was very much the videogame nerd as a child. But around my high school days, I fell out of the habit, moving my nerdy attention towards anime. It wasnít until I got into college that my love for videogames reawakened in a big way. Only this time around I started thinking of them in a more serious way, which was only propelled further when I got here :)
3. Speaking of anime, I'm into that stuff too. I started off with Trigun years ago and it remains one of my favorites to this day. I also love Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Full Metal Panic, Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL and Oh My Goddess.
4. I guess you could say I only recently joined the hardcore. Up until my purchase of the PlayStation 3 slim, all I had this generation was a Wii. Oh man, have I been missing out! But donít get me wrong, Iím still a huge Nintendo fanboy.
5. (j)RPGs are my favorite genre of games to play. No, I havenít been very happy this generation. My favorite game is Final Fantasy IX, btw.
6. Destructoid IS the reason Iím addicted to podcasts. It all started with a simple desire to relive the games of yesteryear with an iTunes subscription to RetroforceGO. Much enjoyment came from that, so sheer curiosity got me to listen to an episode of Podtoid. Then I was hooked! Iím subscribed to 6 gaming podcasts now because I canít go to sleep without people talking about videogames in the background. Is this a problem? I think not.
7. I'm currently in school pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in Writing. Since this degree won't make me any money, I will probably hit up grad school (for Mass Communication) after this. Like I bet a lot of you, I hope to get into a career that has something to do with videogames some day. Hopefully something in videogame JOURNALISM.
8. My other passion, besides videogames and anime, is music. The listening part, that is. My absolute favorite band is The Used. Some other favorites include Something Corporate, Ben Folds, (old) Linkin Park, and much more-- mostly hard rock stuff. I'm not really into classic rock which I know makes me a bad person. As for the playing music part, I'm teaching myself to play piano with slow but sure progress.
9. I usually don't have too much time to watch TV, but when I do I love watching shows that make me laugh. My favorite show ever just may be Futurama (a lot of people say I remind them of Fry, don't know if that's a good or bad thing, hmm...) I also love Scrubs, Spin City, That 70's Show, Itís Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and CSI:NY. Firefly will always hold a special place in my heart.
10. Favorite movies are the hardest thing for me to pinpoint. Again, I love stuff that makes me laugh, low-brow or high-class comedy, and some of the deeper stuff that makes me think. Some that I consistently love are Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Billy Madison, Knocked Up, Garden State, Repo! The Genetic Opera, and A Clockwork Orange. Oh yeah, and Serenity blows my fucking mind every time I see it.
So there you have it, a (not so) brief introduction of ME. Only problem now is I donít know many of you, but I hope to fix that soon :)