Sunday, October 14, 2007

a new season's cusp, whore

A hulking figure lurches towards the hoop. A basketball is tiny, dwarfed in his vast hand. Suddenly, he twitches, lays the ball up, and misses.

"Dunk the fucking ball, you big monkey motherfucker!!"

No, I'm not suddenly racist, I'm screaming at Donkey Kong.

Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is the latest game (DS) to fall victim to my undeniable skills. I scored the cart up in Seattle, a couple weeks ago: used, for just under a Jackson. It'd been on my radar for a while, since it had the reviewputation of having some of the best graphics on the DS, and the Penny Arcade chaps'd discussed it at length on the first podcast of theirs I ever heard.

A new purchase was basically out of the question, though. I've given SquareEnix more--MUCH more--money than I need to've, and I've got a pretty solid allergy to Mario products.

Beating it was a simple, though difficult matter. The reviews are right: this is a HARD game. Part of the difficulty is in the chaos-and-unpredictability level of the Marioized sport. There's a ton going on, from panels on the floor to crap floating in the air to people bombing the court to the hoops themselves moving around of their own (fucking) volition. Sometimes yr players can't hardly move, and sometimes they fall down if you try to move 'em too fast. Your opponents throw crap around, and I'll be damned by hell if I know how they always manage to snag the available rebounds. All that being said, there's what, four cups to win, each with three rounds, one game per round, and a fourth round for the last cup? Each game comes down to five minutes, so this isn't the longest cart, stripped down to the games you win.

But it might take a bit to win a round. Yer playing three-on-three, but there's no, uh, basketball here. Mario characters and their idiosyncratic relationship with physics. No plays, no way to call for a pick. No substitutions. If you manage to get a teammate open and hit 'em with a pass, there will always be time for an opponent to catch up. There's a ninja character: leave him open long enough, he'll conjure three separate portals in order to dunk the ball on yr sorry ass.

I never got a single offensive rebound. I screamed--frequently--about unexpected enemy manouvers. And I lost a ton of games. Most every shot I took seemed to melt into slow-motion, allowing an opponent to arrive, to challenge my shot. Somehow, though, I never felt like the game was unfair. I lost five-minute games by 200 points, and felt certain that, if I only played right, I could win the rematch. I can't give praise much better than that.

Less than a beer after I finished the game, I restarted a mid-level tournament, just to try to better my performance. The wins...are...satisfying.

I could add details, but the crux is this: if you like fast games, slightly dumb, with a high level of difficulty, but a plausible level of beatability, then you'd prolly like this game. In context, it's nearly as good as MechAssault, and the experience was essentially identical. MechAssault gets the nod because it was substantially longer, and maybe because giant robot warfare is niftier than fantasy basketball. Oh, and the soundtrack for Mario is intensely remininscent of the atrocity that was Capcom vs. Marvel 2. Incredibly bad.

While I was writing this, I started up another midlevel tournament. I'll prolly finish it before I pass out. And tomorrow, before I head out for coffee, I'll prolly trade out the cart for MechAssault--it's been too long since I've snuck a Puma behind enemy lines.

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