Luigi’s Mansion

Introduction

The Nintendo 64 marked Nintendo’s official entry in the fifth generation of consoles. The success of one of its launch titles, Super Mario 64, helped jumpstart the medium’s 3D revolution. Though countless developers from id Software to PF Magic had dabbled in 3D for quite some time, Super Mario 64 ended up being ground zero for the leap. What made it such a remarkable effort was that there were no signs of growing pains. The camera could be controlled by the player, yet was incapable of phasing through walls due to being operated by a real character. Mario’s shadow could always be seen underneath him because it helped players gauge where he was on a platform. Levels were made far less linear because players would be naturally inclined to explore the space in which they found themselves. Though these design choices sound prototypical when summed up on paper, future development teams attempting to create three-dimensional experiences would take cues from Super Mario 64 and many of Nintendo’s other pioneering 3D efforts such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in the coming decades.

Despite the acclaim these games received, Nintendo’s success did come at something of a price. Thanks to a combination of Nintendo sticking with ROM cartridges in lieu of adopting the increasingly popular optical disc format and third-party developers having to adhere to their strict policies, they soon found themselves face-to-face against Sony and their PlayStation console. The juggernaut electronics company had entered the console race as a result of the failed partnership between themselves and Nintendo to create a CD-based peripheral to compete with the Sega CD. Because many prominent developers such as Capcom, Konami, and Square began making games exclusively for the PlayStation, Nintendo began rapidly losing their dominance. Even the overwhelming critical success of games such as Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time did little to make up for their loss in market share. At that point, they needed to innovate quickly in order to remain in in the business.

The year 1997 marked the launch of a graphic hardware design company named ArtX. It was staffed by twenty engineers who previously worked at Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) – the company that helped develop the Nintendo 64’s hardware. They were led by Dr. Wei Yen, who had been SGI’s head of Nintendo Operations and outlined the console’s architectural design. ArtX partnered with Nintendo in 1998 in order to craft Nintendo’s entry in the rapidly approaching sixth console generation. Initially codenamed “Flipper”, the project was first announced to the public at a press conference in May of 1999 as “Project Dolphin”. Shortly after this announcement, the company began providing development kits to second-party companies such as Rare and the newly formed Retro Studios.

ArtX was then acquired by ATI in 2000, though the Flipper graphics processor design had been mostly completed. A spokesperson claimed ATI was to become a major supplier to the game console market and that the Dolphin platform would be the “king of the hill in terms of graphics and video performance with 128-bit architecture”. The console was formally announced as the Nintendo GameCube at a Japanese press conference in August of 2000. It was at the Electronic Entertainment Expo of 2001 that the GameCube’s fifteen launch titles were unveiled. Curiously, there appeared not to be a single Mario game in the lineup. However, a closer examination revealed that a game set in the Mario universe would be among the launch titles, but with his brother Luigi in the lead role.

During the Nintendo Space World exposition of 2000, many technological demonstrations were designed to showcase the GameCube’s capabilities. These took the form of full motion video clips – one of which depicted Luigi running from ghosts. After creating the footage, Nintendo decided to turn the demo into a fully realized game. It was shown again at the 2001 Electronic Entertainment Expo alongside the other launch titles and the console itself. This game, Luigi’s Mansion, was to offer an experience the likes of which had never been seen in a Mario title. Though the idea for the game had been conceived as early as 2000, once it became a GameCube project, Luigi was chosen as the protagonist to keep the experience new and original.

The GameCube launched domestically on September 14, 2001 and in North America the following November before receiving European and Australian releases in May of 2002. From a commercial standpoint, Luigi’s Mansion was the most successful GameCube launch title, being the single best-selling game in November of 2001. Nintendo attributed Luigi’s Mansion as the driving force behind the GameCube’s launch sales, for it sold more copies in its opening week than even Super Mario 64 in its own. Critically, Luigi’s Mansion was mostly positive, with critics especially taken aback by its stellar presentation. Despite this, the reception wasn’t quite as warm as that of Super Mario 64. Was Luigi’s first true adventure precisely what the GameCube needed for a successful launch?

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A Question for the Readers #12: “…and Stay Out!!”

You don’t really review games and films on the side without amassing a sizable collection of both. As a rule, I typically keep a work around until I’ve experienced it in full. Once I have done so, I make a decision as to whether or not it’s worthy of remaining in my collection. If I decide it isn’t, that’s when I decide to place it up for sale; no need to keep total disappointment around, after all. Admittedly, I don’t have a cast-iron rule; for video games, it usually needs to get a passing grade for me to not want to sell it. I may sell old editions of a work if a compilation appears, but if I award it a passing grade, you can safely bet it’s still in my collection. Meanwhile, for films, I tend to only keep the ones I awarded (or would award) an 8/10. Every so often, however, I’ll come across a work that, for whatever reason, I just want out of my collection as soon as possible.

To be clear, this anecdote doesn’t concern instances in which I deliberately bought a stinker for the sake of bashing it. As such, you won’t see me mention films such as You’re Next or video games such as Ride to Hell: Retribution or Ninjabread Man. Instead, I’m talking about instances in which I was genuinely looking forward to experiencing a work, yet by the end, I wanted nothing more to do with it. Keep in mind that I don’t consider most of the following works bad per se; if I do, they have more redeeming qualities than the average effort on the tier in which I placed it (or would place it). Granted, the easiest way a work can accomplish this is by having a terrible ending. Despite this, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you’re interested in seeing these films or playing these games, your best bet is to skip to the next subject.

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Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975)

The year is 1972 and a man named Sonny Wortzik stormed into the First Brooklyn Savings Bank along with two accomplices. Sonny is clearly inexperienced in the art of bank robbery, as the plan begins to go awry in a matter of seconds. One of his accomplices, Stevie, loses his nerve after Sonny produces his weapon and asks to be let out of the bank. To make matters worse, they have arrived after the daily cash pickup, leaving a paltry $1,100 in the vault. From there, the plan that should have taken ten minutes snowballs into spectacle entrancing the neighborhood and later, television viewers across the nation.

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Free Solo (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin, 2018)

El Captain, a vertical rock formation in Yosemite Valley, has fascinated potential rock climbers since the sport started gaining traction. Rock climber Warren Harding made history in 1958 when he, along with Wayne Merry and George Whitmore, ascended the cliff over the course of forty-seven days. They accomplished this by employing fixed manila ropes. Though they would occasionally break due to the cold temperature, they persevered and made history. Over the next decades, more climbers would conquer this cliff. Royal Ribbons was the first to ascend the mountainside solo while Beverly Johnson would be the first woman to accomplish the task. In the year 2017, a climber named Alex Honnold seeks to accomplish something nigh-unthinkable – to complete the first free solo climb of El Captian. That is to say, he is to ascend 3,000 feet (915 meters) of granite alone and without the use of ropes, harnesses, or any kind protective equipment. Knowing the consequences, he gathers a crew determined to capture this piece of history on film.

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Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais, 1959)

A French actress hailing from Nevers has traveled to the city of Hiroshima to help shoot her latest film. While there, she meets a Japanese architect who hails from the city. As the film she is to star in is an anti-war piece, they proceed to have an intimate conversation in which they reflect on the devastating damage done to the city as a result of the atomic bomb. From there, they begin a brief, yet passionate affair. She is scheduled to return to France the next day, though the feelings she has developed for this man along with having experienced Hiroshima’s desolation through various museum exhibits and monuments may cause her to change her mind.

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If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)

Fonny and Tish are two African-Americans deeply in love with each other. Their relationship begins with optimism and hope, but reality rears its ugly head when Fonny is falsely accused of rape. To make matters worse, Tish learns shortly after her lover’s incarceration that she is pregnant with his child. What should have been a moment of celebration and joy is instead a source of great tension shared between both families. Tish’s family soon hires a lawyer to defend Fonny in court, hoping that in doing so, they can find enough evidence to acquit him before the baby is born.

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Ys III: Wanderers from Ys

Introduction

With Ancient Ys Vanished and its sequel, Nihon Falcom had a franchise that eclipsed Dragon Slayer in terms of popularity. Though Dragon Slayer helped codify the action RPG, the Ys duology was what helped it truly soar in popularity. Despite the second title being dubbed The Final Chapter, the team began work on a sequel in response to its immense popularity. This new installment, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, was released on the PC-8801 and MSX2 in 1989. Within the next few years, it would see additional ports on the prominent fourth generation consoles, including the TurboGrafx-CD, Super NES, and Sega Genesis. The TurboGrafx-CD port was particularly timely, being released in North America two years after the international debut of Ys Book I & II, a remake that combined the series’ first installments. Because of this, many versions of Ys III were translated into English despite the series’ obscurity abroad. Those who have played Ys III consider it an overlooked gem in the fourth-generation library. With a pair of impactful predecessors, how does Ys III hold up?

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The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa, 1956)

Captain Inouye leads a battalion of soldiers during the Burma Campaign in the Second World War. Among his group is Private Mizushima, a man fluent in Burmese who plays a harp (saung) to raise morale for his fellow troops. They are offered shelter, but quickly realize they are being watched by the opposing British and Indian soldiers. Spying the advancing force, Captain Inouye tells the men to sing to give the enemy the impression that they are unaware of their presence. To their surprise, the British soldiers begin singing the same melody. Shortly thereafter, they learn the war has ended with their own country having surrendered. Despite this, a group of soldiers secluded in a nearby mountain insist on fighting the war to the last man. A British captain asks Private Mizushima to convince the soldiers to stand down. Though he couldn’t have known it at the time, this simple mission will cause Mizushima to go on a spiritual journey of enlightenment.

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Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)

Osamu is a day laborer who has been forced to leave his job following a severe injury. He is a member of an impoverished family in Tokyo. He lives with his wife Nobuyo, sister Aki, nephew Shota, and grandmother Hatsue. As a way of saving money, Osamu and Shota routinely shoplift goods, using an intricate system of hand signals as a means of communication. One night, they see Yuri, a girl from the neighborhood they have regularly observed locked out on an apartment balcony. Feeling sympathy for her, they bring her to their home.

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Bumblebee (Travis Knight, 2018)

The distant planet of Cybertron is populated by robotic beings. It is currently in the middle of a violent civil war. The Decepticons, led by Soundwave, Shockwave, and Starscream, will stop at nothing to conquer the galaxy. In response, the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, have formed a resistance to stop them. Unfortunately, the Decepticons have pushed the Autobots into a corner, and the latter faction must evacuate the planet. In a desperate gambit, Optimus Prime sends his friend, B-127, to Earth to set up a base of operations where the Autobots can regroup.

Shortly after landing there, B-127 is attacked by the Decepticon Blitzwing. B-127 is able to vanquish his enemy, but not before the Decepticon tears out his voicebox and damages his memory core. Before his vision fades, B-127 scans a nearby 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. Meanwhile, a teenage girl named Charlie Watson notices a similar vehicle in her uncle’s scrapyard.

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