What I'm Playing - No. 91
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Super Mario Sunshine (Switch)
Next up for me on the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection: Super Mario Sunshine. Unlike Super Mario 64, I owned, played, and finished Sunshine in its original console release, so playing it on Switch was a nice walk down memory lane.
One thing I had kind of forgotten about is that Mario goes to jail during this game, albeit briefly. The basis of the plot is that Mario and Peach go to Isle Delfino for a vacation, and when they get there Mario is blamed for defacing the island with goop. He’s been framed by the enigmatic Shadow Mario, but the authorities don’t believe this and lock him up while awaiting his trial anyway. At the trial, Mario is sentenced to clean up the entire island, which should hopefully cause the island guardian’s, the Shine Sprites, to return and bring wonderful sunny days back to the inhabitants. Mario is equipped with FLUDD for this task, a water-spraying backpack with several attachments including a jetpack. FLUDD is the main gimmick here, and I really like the water-spraying mechanic.
Presentation-wise, it’s so nice having this game in widescreen. The UI elements also look really crisp, so those (and likely other elements as well) must have been swapped out for higher res versions. As a whole, the graphics have held up quite well, even with some blurry textures. I had fewer issues with the camera than in Super Mario 64, but sometimes I still had to fight it a little. It definitely helps having the 2nd stick available to manually move the camera with more precision.
Collecting Shines was a lot of fun most of the time, but the missions in Sunshine are structured differently than in 64. In Super Mario 64, you could collect Stars out-of-order if you wanted. In Sunshine, the missions in each world are linear. In order to get the 2nd Shine, you first need to complete the 1st Shine mission before the 2nd one becomes available. You can still freely move between the unlocked worlds, so there’s still some freedom of choice. Unfortunately though, there’s no specific number of Shine Sprites you need to finish the game. Instead, the final stage only appears after you’ve completed the Shadow Mario mission in each world - usually the 7th mission. This made getting to the ending feel like a chore to me. There were some missions in the later worlds that I really wasn’t enjoying, and I just wanted to skip them…but I couldn’t, since I needed to complete them to get to the required Shadow Mario mission. The later worlds and Stars in Super Mario 64 were similar in this regard, but unlike in Sunshine I could mostly ignore those worlds and gather Stars from the levels I enjoyed more.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed replaying Sunshine. The FLUDD mechanics make it very distinct from Super Mario 64, as well as the setting. I love Isle Delfino and its tropical environments, and I think I prefer them to the less cohesive worlds of Super Mario 64. All in all, Super Mario Sunshine holds up quite well. It does some things better than its predecessor, and the reverse is also true. I’m looking forward to playing Super Mario Galaxy soon. Many people say Galaxy is the best 3D Mario platformer, and I remember really enjoying it in its original Wii release, so I definitely have high expectations for it!
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (PS4)
This Vanillaware-developed game saw its international release this week, and I had pre-ordered a copy because I really enjoyed the last Vanillaware game I played, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. The 2D visuals have the same wonderful style I enjoyed so much in Odin Sphere, though the gameplay is very different. 13 Sentinels is comprised of 2 parts: visual novel segments, and strategic combat.
The game’s opening is linear, and introduces you to several of the game’s many characters, having you control them in succession, with each segment separated by a tutorial battle that shows you the ropes of the combat system. Battles have you controlling the same characters as the story segments, but now you’re controlling them as they pilot giant mechs called Sentinels, fighting against giant invading machines called Deimos. Battles use a real-time with pause system, where the actions pauses when you’re deciding orders for a Sentinel. After you choose an action, if it’s an attack the Sentinel will execute it while the action stays paused, and then the battle switches to real-time mode while the Sentinel enters a cooldown phase for a few seconds before it can be given orders again. The tutorial battles were very straightforward, but I can easily see how they could become quite chaotic and challenging as the game progresses.
After the tutorial/intro segment is done, things become a lot more non-linear. You’re able to pick from many of the characters’ stories in the visual novel gameplay mode, though some are locked until you’ve met certain conditions like seeing an event in another character’s story path, or clearing up to a certain point in the combat mode. Also at this point, battles are no longer automatically interspersed between visual novel segments. Instead, you can choose whether you want to play the visual novel or battle modes. I found myself gravitating toward the visual novel segments, since the tutorial left me way more interested in all the characters, their relationships, and the overarching plot being crafted. Like other visual novels, there are branching paths in the story based on your actions, and that’s always an enticing prospect! What’s interesting is that I think the battle segments all take place after the events of the visual novel. The visual novel mode does an excellent job of gradually answering questions you might have about the characters and their relationships, and then it adds brand new mysteries on top of those to entice you to experience more of the story. It’s very well done, but that’s not to say the combat mode should be written off!
After I eventually tried the combat mode, I realized it was way more interesting and fun than the tutorial battles made it out to be! For one, of the 13 Sentinel pilots you have available, you have to assign them to either attacking or defense, with a maximum of 6 attackers allowed per battle. A pilot can only participate as an attacker in 2 consecutive battles before they become overloaded, and need to rest before they can be used again as either an attacker or defender. The more consecutive battles you fight, the higher your score will get, but the fewer pilots you will have to work with since they will inevitably become overloaded and need to rest. You can recover all your pilots immediately by ending your battle streak, but then your score multiplier resets. It’s an unexpectedly arcade-like system of shooting for a high score, but it seems pretty cool! On top of this, your pilots also gain experience when they’re attackers in battle, and level up. Also, you can upgrade your pilots’ abilities and purchase new skills for them, which adds further appeal to combat mode. As a nice cherry on top, there are also way more enemies in each battle. All these features that weren’t revealed in the intro make combat way more exciting!
I’m really looking forward to diving further into both the story and combat next week, as I still feel like I’m just scratching the surface of 13 Sentinels, despite being nearly 6 hours in now! I realize I didn’t cover the details of the story much at all. It’s rather involved, to say the least, and I’m still piecing a lot of things together. I’ll likely write more about the story’s specifics in a future post!