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Nintendo (#110 of 13)

Sinful Cinema Super Mario Bros.

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Sinful Cinema: Super Mario Bros.
Sinful Cinema: Super Mario Bros.

Let’s get one thing straight: You can say whatever you want about Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel’s Super Mario Bros. (1993), but you need to remember that it wasn’t cheap—in fact, a more brazenly commercial product of this size and sweep may never have crawled out of studio hell in the 1990s. Furthermore, the conditions that leavened it—a hotshot husband-and-wife directing team propelled into the eye of a sprawling, committee-bred, synergetic summer-blockbuster hurricane, well after shooting began—would probably never be repeated again. The result is a queasy jumble of genre tropes (re-appropriated to hit kids’ sweet spots), and remarkable modernist visual gags, packed with political subtext, yet tossed off like so many cheap pizza napkins.

Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog

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Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog
Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog

Though Sonic the Hedgehog celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday, the spiky-haired Sega mascot’s appeal has always come down to his enduring teenage spirit: He tears through every environment (be it side-scrolling 2D levels or his very iffy forays into 3D games) at a breakneck pace, he aloofly throws innumerable hand gestures at the player to put the accent on each victory, and he’ll start impatiently tapping his feet and checking his nonexistent watch if you ignore him for longer than five seconds. Sonic had always served as the edgy antithesis to a certain squeaky-clean Italian plumber, the unruffled cool to offset the loveable buffoon, the Rolling Stones to Nintendo’s genial and affable Beatles. And while bridges have since been built between the two, a collaborative effort between Sonic and Mario would have been unthinkable at the peak of the early-’90s console wars. To declare your childhood allegiance to Sonic over Mario spoke volumes, and hinted that your next 10 years might be spent listening to Beck and watching Tarantino films.

E3 2011 Press Conferences The Biggest Loser

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E3 2011 Press Conferences: The Biggest Loser
E3 2011 Press Conferences: The Biggest Loser

Widely regarded as the most important trade show for the video-game industry, the Electronic Entertainment Expo brings developers and media every year to the Los Angeles Convention Center, giving large hardware companies space to show off consoles and innovations, and publishers an opportunity to parade new games and reveal future software lineups. There’s an enormous show floor where trailers are screened and upcoming games can be played, but for the gaming press E3 is mostly about running back and forth between live demos, presentations, and press conferences. These conferences have become so prestigious that they can now be streamed live over the Internet, giving gamers the chance to experience new announcements at the same time as the media.

Two thousand eleven is an important year for video games. Compared to other mediums like film and television, video games are relatively young, and the industry is still trying to figure itself out, struggling to adapt and survive. Just years ago it would have been unfathomable that a graphically underpowered movement-controlled “gimmick” device would outsell mainstream games and consoles, yet Nintendo’s Wii annihilated its competitors in sales, carving out an entirely new audience separate from core gamers. Ditto the rise in mobile games and Apple’s handheld devices as exceptionally popular—and exceptionally profitable—gaming platforms. Trying to rationalize these changes and simultaneously appeal to a core and mainstream audience is the problem faced by the holy trinity of industry juggernauts (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) as well as the hundreds of publishers and developers struggling with the rising costs and team sizes required to create games. Games themselves present a series of quandaries, with so many different platforms and genres and budgets, from mobile games to big-budget blockbusters to smaller indie and arcade games; achieving success and profit can involve walking a fine line between familiarity and innovation, but neither originality or pre-established interest guarantee success in the current difficult market.

A Decent Primer for Greenhorn Artists Art Academy

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A Decent Primer for Greenhorn Artists: Art Academy
A Decent Primer for Greenhorn Artists: Art Academy

Starving artists—and satiated artists, for that matter—usually shell out what little money they may have on expensive supplies. Fortunately, Nintendo’s styled a portable, virtual art studio that budding Gauguins and Renoirs can utilize on the DS, freeing up funds usually spent on pencils and paints.

Art Academy uses the DS stylus and touch screen to present several drawing and painting tutorials. If it sounds like a glorified Microsoft Paint, you’d be mistaken, because the game also teaches fundamental elements of 2D art: shading, color theory, perspective, how to use light, etc. There are 10 lessons available with on-screen instructions and several different stages. For example, in the “tree” lesson, the first stage involves using one of three types of drawing pencils to sketch an outline. You can also choose which effect the pencil will have—that is, drawing with the lead’s point, or on the tip’s side for a shading effect. Next, you’ll switch to one of six paintbrushes to colorize your creation.