Mother games:

1989: EarthBound Beginnings (Mother)
1994: EarthBound (Mother 2)
1999: Super Smash Bros. ¹
2001: Super Smash Bros. Melee ²
2006: Mother 3
2008: Super Smash Bros. Brawl ³
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
2015: Super Mario Maker

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Ness is an unlockable playable character.
  2. Ness is a playable character and their are two stages based on the series.
  3. Ness and Lucas are playable characters and there are two stages based on the series.
  4. Ness and Lucas are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  5. Various characters from the series are playable via Mystery Mushroom.
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EarthBound Beginnings

EarthBound Beginnings (a.k.a. Mother) is the first game in one of my absolute favourite video game franchises. Originally it was only released in Japan (in 1989) but then in 2015, it was released internationally, which is a very pleasant turn of events. In fact, it was my favourite piece of news from E3 2015.

The Mother series has three installments and, ironically enough, this was the one which I played last. Considering that the second and third games were on the SNES and Game Boy Advance, I was a bit worried that the first game might seem less good due to the fact that it was on the technologically inferior Famicom.

Thankfully, while the game does show its age in some areas, it is still very fun and evokes the same magical, sentimental and surreal feelings as the other two. Just like the later installments, it takes the JRPG formula (usually associated with fantasy settings) and applies it to 20th century America. It works really well.

You play as a young boy named Ninten (who is very, very similar to the better-known Ness) who suddenly finds strange paranormal activities occurring within his home. His father then tells him that his grandfather had investigated psychic powers and Ninten sets off on an adventure to save the world from similar paranormal anomalies which are happening elsewhere. You soon find out, that to do this you must find the “eight melodies” which merge together into one long piece of magical music.

Then, after that, you’re basically left to just figure out what to do by yourself. You can head out into the world and pretty much go where you please – interacting with strange, comical people in towns who will tell you things and ask you to do things for them. You’ll end up exploring cities, desserts, caves and even bizarre dreamscapes on your quest to find the eight melodies. The world isn’t as big as the world of the later games, but it’s still fun to explore and there are lots of strange and interesting things to find. You don’t have to do things in a set order either, which is nice.

As you explore the world, there’ll be random encounters with various creatures, ranging from regular animals to weird and wacky aliens and robots. You then face them in a turn-based fight. The fact that the world is generally quite normal (other than the strange creatures in it) means that it can sometimes be quite creepy. There’s that feeling of 1950s America, UFOs and Roswell.

One of the only problems the game has is that sometimes I think the graphics just look kind of bad. I’m pretty accepting of retro graphics, but this game sometimes feels too minimalist. I also felt that the lack of direction made the game a bit too hard at times, because I did spend quite a while just wandering around trying to figure out what to do. You also need to do quite a lot of level grinding at times – which I actually enjoy, but I know some people hate it.

But, ultimately, for a game of its age, it is very, very good. I’d say that it is one of the very best NES/Famicom games. It might not be quite as good as the other two, but it’s still a great start to the series and something which I think fans of Mother/EarthBound and fans of retro games should definitely try.

Rating: 8.9/10

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Sister

Once again, I’ve thought to myself that I too often write blog posts about misunderstandings and awkward situations that I find myself in, and not really nice things that happen to me. So today’s blog post will be a about a nice thing.

When I was growing up, I had two brothers but I always hoped that I would one day have a sister too. In fact, I would sometimes even dream about having a sister with whom I got along with very well. But, of course, it never happened and I never really thought about it as I got older. This provides some useful background information for the story I’m about to tell.

During my university years, I made some very good friends. One year, shortly before Christmas, I had arranged to have a nice day with one of them before they returned home to their family for Christmas. I know she doesn’t really like her name to appear online, so I shan’t mention it, but the point is the pair of us had a very nice day.

It was cold and wintery outside, but comforting and warm in. We drew pictures, listened to music, watched DVDs and had a lovely time before dinner, when we headed out into Bath town. Once there, we got to enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights and then a delicious meal at Nando’s (which, though I don’t mention it often on this blog, is my favourite restaurant chain.)

Throughout the day, I had had a little bit of back pain. Being quite tall, this is occasionally an issue for me. As my friend is a very kind person, she offered to give me a massage to help it. So at the end of the day (and just after a nice meditation session) she give me a really nice massage before bed – it did help to relieve the aching and I liked it a lot. After that, she asked me if I’d mind massaging her shoulders too. I hadn’t done anything like that before, but I said I would try and she seemed to quite like it.

“You know,” she said mid-massage, “I feel lucky I met you. I can trust you entirely. Meeting you was like gaining a new brother. A big brother who always looks out for me.”

“Oh my,” I said, overcome with positive emotion. “That’s very nice of you to say. Knowing you is like having a sister too – a big sister who always looks out for me.”

Then we had a nice long hug before going to bed. As I went to sleep, I remember feeling totally happy and content. That day is a very fond memory which I can escape into whenever I feel a little sad.  My “sister” has now been a very positive addition to my life for almost six years. She’s one of the most caring and considerate people I know and though circumstances mean we may not see each other as often these days, I look forward to the experiences which we will share in future. I don’t like to designate a “best” friend, but if I were forced to do so, she’d been one of a very small number who might fit that description. Today is her birthday and I thought this could be a nice way to reflect her importance to me.

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Accidental Date

I was recently invited out to the nightclubs with a group of friends. Though this has been the sort of activity I haven’t enjoyed much in the past, I had quite a nice time. I think time spent with my very best friends is always going to be time well spent.

Historically, I’ve often come back from night clubbing experiences with stories of awkward encounters with strangers. Unfortunately, this most recent visit wasn’t any different in that regard. But the awkward encounter I’d like to tell you about this time is a little different – it wasn’t a brief encounter with a stranger, it was a drawn out interaction which lasted a few days.

Anyway – I was in the club and I was enjoying myself, dancing away. While dancing in clubs used to be less appealing to me, I now find it to be quite a nice way to live in the moment and to release stress. I was having  great time, when a women a couple of years younger than me indicated that she wanted to say something. I leaned forward so that she could talk in my ear.

“If you’re trying to catch my friend’s attention, there’s no point – she’s taken,” she said.

“Ha! No need to worry about that. I didn’t even think about trying to catch her attention,” I replied.

“That was my way of asking you to dance with me,” she said.

“Oh, okay. Fair enough!” I replied. I thought her communication skills were a bit poor, since that’s a very indirect way of asking a question, but then I did also reason that alcohol can inhibit a person’s social skills.

So then she took both of my hands and the two of us started dancing. The me of several years ago would have been very unhappy about the idea of a stranger holding both of my hands, but I’m quite comfortable with physical contact these days, so I wasn’t too bothered. I was quite proud of myself, in fact.

“Do you think I’m good looking?” she asked me.

I thought this was a bit of an awkward question.

“First of all,” I said, “everybody is beautiful. Of course, that includes you. But second of all, you shouldn’t concern yourself with the opinions of strangers in nightclubs.”

“Aww, you’re really sweet,” she said. Which was nice – although what I’d said wasn’t really “sweet” it was just an objective statement on my perspectives. I decided to just accept the compliment and thanked her.

Over the next hour or so, the pair of us continued to dance. Throughout this time, she kept giving me compliments – pretty much all of them tied to my appearance. I thanked her each time and said that it was good that she liked to give out a lot of compliments. Some of the things she said, such as “Just go ahead and do what you want to do” and “You’re not religious are you?” were statements which I would look back on with a different interpretation later.

Eventually the time came for her to go home. Before she left, she told me her full name and showed me her Facebook account. She asked me to add her as soon as I got home. The night concluded for me shortly after and I thought it had been a pleasant evening. Though slightly tired, the next day I sent a message to the new friend I’d made and I suggested that we meet up. After all, I always like to take any opportunity I can to solidify a new friendship!

However, I began to grow a little concerned when, after explaining what had happened to my friends, they expressed that I might have inadvertently arranged a romantic date for myself. This made me somewhat anxious, because I was not interested in going on a date with this stranger. I sent them a few messages about how I liked making new friends and I hoped that that would be the end of any potential misconceptions. After all, I thought to myself, why would somebody assume something was a date if there had been no overt romantic context to our interactions?

A few days later, the pair of us met in Costa. I ordered a delicious hot chocolate and she arrived a little later. We chatted for a while, talking about our lives and so forth and everything seemed to be going fine. This was just like meeting any of my platonic friends and I had nothing to worry about. I thought, however, that I should be 100% sure…

“Yes,” I said, “I am pleased you decided to meet me today. I love making new friends and each time I meet a new person who I get on with, I invite them to meet up with me. Friendship is probably the thing which is most important to me in life.”

She didn’t give much of a reply to this, but texted something on her phone. A tad rude, I thought, but who am I to dictate what a person does with their autonomy? The conversation resumed very briefly, but then all of a sudden she had a call about a suspicious washing machine related incident, so had to leave right away to assist her housemate.

I didn’t think that this sounded genuine, and couldn’t help but smiling in amusement to myself as she apologised and left. I finished the hot chocolate, which was particularly delicious, and then decided to get some groceries. Perhaps, I thought, she had thought it was a date and then, once I made it clear that it was not, she had been too embarrassed and made an excuse to leave?

For a moment, I felt bad. That was awfully cynical. It wasn’t entirely impossible that the washing machine related incident had been genuine, after all and I do like to trust people. But then I saw her casually wandering around the streets with her friend and I knew that it had been a lie. In order to save her an awkward interaction, I  prtended not to see – but again, I couldn’t help but smile to myself, proud that I had not been deceived.

In retrospect, the “do what you want to do” might have been in reference to some physical, romantic affection she wanted me to bestow upon her and the question about religion may even have been in relation to the fact that some religious people are averse to casual sex. There had even been a time when I thought she was leaning forward to say something in my ear, only for me to lean forward myself and accidentally headbutt her in the mouth – as if she had been trying to kiss me.

It was an interesting experience for me. I just wanted to make friends and, it seems, she wanted something else. It’s a shame that people don’t communicate more directly about these things – it could have saved us both some time! But we all learn from our mistakes and grow following each experience. Hopefully I won’t accidentally go on a date again.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 2 by Sui Ishida

The second volume of Tokyo Ghoul picks up exactly where the last one left off. I would advise against starting to read the series here and I also wouldn’t advise reading this review if you haven’t read volume 1, as I may talk about things which would be considered spoilers for the first volume.

Kaneki now works in the ghoul’s coffee shop “Anteiku” where he’s trying to better integrate with ghoul society and to learn more about them. The first volume already did a good job of humanising the ghouls and being careful not to portray them as “evil” and this second instalment takes thing even further. There is a mother and a daughter ghoul who I was very fond of (named Hinami and Ryouko) and the two of them do a fantastic job of illustrating the fact that ghouls are just people and that it can be very hard for them.

This volume also introduces the Ghoul Investigators who are not ghouls who investigate things, but humans who investigate people to discover whether or not they are ghouls. Of course, this organisation was formed due to the fact that they fear the race who survive by eating human flesh, but the fact that ghouls are not necessarily bad means that the investigators are a bit of an ambiguous group.

Speaking of the ghouls eating human flesh, this does of course present a bit of an ethical dilemma. How can somebody be morally good if they eat the flesh of living, sentient beings capable of feeling pain? Well, that question is answered quite satisfactorily. The moral aspect of the series is something I enjoy a lot.

I was also quite pleased to see the character Touka get used more in this volume (as I expected she would after the first) as I find her very intriguing. Yoshimura, the owner of the ghoul cafe, is also a very interesting and likeable character who gets a little more focus. I look forward to seeing these two ghouls in later volumes.

Overall, the second volume provides an excellent continuation for the plot. Things got off to a great start in the first volume and there has been no drop in quality in this second volume, which I enjoyed equally.

Rating: 8.8/10

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Heat Imposed Creative Block

It’s weird how much an increase in temperature can effect us. I don’t tend to feel like the heat has that much of an impact on me, but I can certainly tell that it makes me lazier. Not only does it make me lazier, but it also stifles my creativity. It’s odd because you’d think that creativity is something which could not be at all affected by such an external factor, but it’s feeling hot and the ideas just aren’t coming. Yes, I do have a handful of readily formulated ideas which are due to become blog posts, but they all feel too long just now. The heat does not make writing a very appealing task.

So I am afraid you can consider today’s blog post a sick note, or an excuse, or whatever. I really, really hate to make blog posts which are just about finding it hard to come up with ideas, but I guess I have never found the heat to be something which slowed me down significantly in the past, so this is quite an interesting new observation and so it has the tiniest modicum of value and is therefore worth sharing. Do you ever find strange things make it easier or harder for you to write?

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Anxiety, Confidence and Insecurity

Recently, I’ve had a fair few people describe me as being quite confident. Others have also said that they think that I am self-assured to a healthy extent and that I seem quite secure. I’m always very happy when people say nice things like this, but I also find it very interesting. I’m not saying that I lack confidence or that I am insecure, but I do think that I come across as more confident and assured than I am.

For example, I know that a lot of people worry when somebody doesn’t reply to their messages. This is something that doesn’t bother me – but only because I make a conscious effort to stop it from affecting me. Maybe someone won’t reply to a few messages and I’ll momentarily think “Perhaps they’re not interested in responding to me” but then I instantly identify this as an irrational thought and identify that there is a very large number of reasons that somebody wouldn’t reply, which have nothing to do with their opinion of me or their interest in engaging with me. To assume that it’s to do with me is both pessimistic and very ego-centric. As soon as I identify the irrational thought, I can dismiss it quite easily.

Similarly, if I am meeting up with a large group, I might find it a little difficult to to join into a conversation for a bit and so sit quietly for a while, simply enjoying my friends’ company, rather than actively engaging with them. In these cases, occasionally a negative thought might pop into my head “My friends are probably disappointed that I’m not speaking much and thinking that I’m not worth spending time with” again, this is also entirely irrational and I can instantly dismiss it due to the fact that the same thought would never enter my mind if the situation were reversed.

These kind of thoughts aren’t things which occur to me very often, but when they do my process for dealing with them helps to stop them from ever getting to me too much. Being able to identify when your concerns are irrational is a very useful skill to develop as it means that you’ll be able to reassure yourself when it comes to most things quite easily. I’m particularly pleased that I was able to cultivate this ability, because in the past I was quite an anxious person at times and these days I wouldn’t say that I am an anxious person at all.

Obviously, I am very lucky in that anxiety is not something which affects me to a serious extent and I know that it will be a lot worse for other people. Knowing how people can start to feel anxiety over such little things, I like to offer positive comments to friends when I interact with them, so that there’s no risk of anxiety caused as a result of an interaction with me. Positive reinforcement can go a long way. I also thought it was worth sharing all of this because I know a lot of people do become anxious about little things and I thought this method may be helpful. Logic and rationality are always very useful, I find.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Sonic Dash

Free games are always appreciated, especially when they’re part of established video game franchises. Sonic Dash is a free, infinite runner game available on various smart devices and would be a pleasant addition to most smartphones.

The game is pretty simple. You play as Sonic (or one of his friends) and you automatically run forward through various locations from the series. Obstacles and enemies appear as you go along and you can either jump to go over them, or roll so that you can go under or through them. If you hit something, you lose, though you do have a few continues (and can buy more.) Every now and then, you come across a boss battle too, where you have to avoid shots and then tap the screen at just the right time to fight back.

While you play, you collect rings and these rings are then used to buy power-ups and to level up the characters. As characters level up, it becomes easier to collect more rings and to run further than last time. Rings can also be used to buy extra characters.

The characters are all pretty much the same in terms of gameplay, but unlocking them is still fun. I was sad that Big the Cat was not included, but you’ve got Knuckles, Tails, Amy, Shadow, Silver and the others that you’d expect. Unexpectedly, they once did a special event where you could unlock characters from Angry Birds Epic and another where you could unlock Sanrio characters (like Hello Kitty.) Its a little frustrating that those limited time characters are no longer available. You can also pay to unlock Classic Sonic and a Green Hill Zone area.

It might not sound like much, but since you’re not paying for it, it’s definitely worth a play. You’ll find that it is really rather addictive. Whether you like Sonic or not, you’ll probably enjoy it as it’s very accessible. The paid content isn’t really worth it, but it’s a fun game all round.  It also looks great and has a lovely soundtrack (there are some annoying sound effects though.) I recommend it.

Rating: 8.2/10

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Group Meet Ups or One on Ones?

Back in the past, I only really enjoyed meeting with people in a one on one context. I didn’t like to meet in large groups of people because I felt that I often didn’t get a proper chance to speak to anyone and I also felt like I was talking over others. I was never truly relaxed in a group; group events would make me feel anxious.

As I grew older and mellowed, I realised that I had no reason to dislike group events. They were a chance to meet up with lots of friends at once which was often very fun and exciting. Seeing so many friends in one go creates a level of excitement which is quite unique. My annual Christmas meals are large group events and they’re some of my favourite things to do.

On the other hand, interactions with groups seem to lack the depth that you’ll find when interacting with people one on one. You can focus all of your attention on one person and have nice long conversations. In a group, I personally feel I’m being spread a little thin – the more people there are, the less the value of each interaction.

It’s a difficult balance to get right, but I think I probably like both equally these days. People act different in small, subtle ways when they’re in a group and you find out more about some people by seeing them interact with you and other people in these different contexts. I think it’s quite important, socially, to interact with people in both one on ones and in groups. They’re different experiences which are both quite valuable and, by doing both, it helps you to appreciate each thing more.

Or, at least, that’s what I think. Everyone’s different, after all and if you find that this doesn’t apply to you then so be it! I would not mean to suggest that my perspective is an objective standard.

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Envy of Visual Artists

I like looking at fanart and other works by independent artists online. It’s something which makes me quite jealous, because I struggle to get my own artistic skills up to that level. I know it’s just a matter of dedicating more time to it, but there’s only so much time in the day.

Being able to draw nice pictures, especially of people and fictional characters, is an incredible skill. I know, it’s unhealthy to compare your own abilities to those of others, but it’s impossible to avoid doing entirely. My favourite kinds of images to look at are those of characters and of people.

In order to try and improve my skills, I’ve actually opened a DeviantArt account. I’d appreciate it if you take a look. Kind strangers often “favourite” my pieces or leave me very encouraging comments. What I like to do, is to draw characters in a set, rather minimalist way. It means that I can make things look alright, even without much skill. Over time, I feel like my abilities have started to improve by doing this and I shall continue.

I was somewhat inspired by Pop Figures, which, for those who don’t know, are small plastic toys of various fictional characters and famous people which are all done in the same, simple style. I wanted to do something similar with drawings. What I do is a draw all the characters who have appeared in my works of fiction, which sometimes includes well known characters since I sometimes do fan fiction. Looking over them then makes me feel happy about the amount of writing and drawing I’ve produced.

Ideally, I’d like to be able to do detailed character drawings, along with great backgrounds, but I guess I need to take it one step at a time. There’s one DeviantArt user who draws different incarnations of The Doctor and has even invented a few of his own. He also draws other characters from popular culture. His style is so good (so check him out) and if I am ever able to produce things to the same quality as him, I shall consider the visual art world conquered – though I realise I’m a million miles away from it.

We all work and improve at our own pace and looking at what others have achieved can be a good form of motivation.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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