Some theories on Super Mario Odyssey design influences

The Electronic Entertainment Expo – E3 –  united millions of video game developers and fans this week. Nintendo’s efforts stood-out from the crowd. Their new game, titled Mario Odyssey, received some attention. We finally had a chance to see the game play.

I want to dig a bit deeper into some of the ideas and inspirations behind Nintendo’s new Sand Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. The Kingdom introduces a rusty red, cold and dry desert level.

Eagle-eyed gaming and theory enthusiasts might notice several cultural facts and references from myths influencing the design when Mario arrives in Tostarena Town.

In this post, I wanted to touch on what some of these influences are.

Samantha Robertson, Assistant Manager of Product marketing at Nintendo Treehouse, interviewed Nintendo’s developers. Robertson’s interviews reveal some of the main design influences:

  • The game play foundations stem from the dense but fascinating spaces Nintendo created in Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Sunshine.
  • The concept “Hakoniwa”, which translates into “Miniature Garden”, inspired the overall game design.

Nintendo have created a set of miniature gardens to play in.

They want to invite their fans to explore a miniature version of the real world, and it is likely their aim is to invite their fans to see the familiar world in a new, playful way.

Some Super Mario Odyssey character designs callback to past Nintendo titles. Specifically, the “Moe-aye”, inspired by Easter Island Moai statues.

“Moe-aye” are the basic sounds of the word Moai, which makes pronouncing the word easy. Super Mario Land for the Gameboy featured these statues. It is likely that “Moe-aye”
connect back to Nintendo’s early handheld Mario games.

The addition of the sunglasses is also a fun way to re-imagine the Moai statues.

Moeaye

Nintendo connects events of the past with its stylish new game in a playful way. Mario encounters a stone creature called a “Jaxi”, which resembles an ancient Mayan mask.

There is a reason for this resemblance:

It’s likely “Jaxi” combines the words jaguar and taxi.

Mario can call a ride from these stone Jaguars to get a lift across the vast red sands at breakneck speeds. This explains the taxi part of the name. But why a jaguar?

Mayan mythology regards the Jaguar as a symbol representing the energy of the sun. Similar to the sun god Apollo from the Greek pantheon, the Jaguar sun deity, called Ahau-Kin, travelled across the sky during the day.

My theory: this myth inspires the “Jaxi”

Like if Apollo became a ride share driver with his sun chariot.

Another playful idea from Nintendo that reaches back into past traditions.

Jaxi

Samantha Robertson says that Super Mario Odyssey embodies all the great experiences that the development team had while travelling overseas from Japan:

“[Mario Odyssey is] a love letter to our experiences travelling”

Kenta Motokura – Super Mario Odyssey Director, and Developer at Nintendo.

Nintendo’s Youtube channel contains all the E3 announcements from this week. Including the footage of the Sand Kingdom, and New Donk City, which I’ve added at the end of this post.

For more gaming content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

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Starting a voice acting career with Nolan North

Nolan North didn’t realise his career in voice acting would be a big deal, or how far he would travel in a career delivering voice and motion capture roles. This post summaries the stories and advice he told on voice acting careers at the Supanova Gold Coast convention in 2017.

North didn’t believe that after recording the line “Grenade! get down” over and over again that this extension of his screen acting would be a viable option.

North continued to find roles that pushed into the new voice acting profession. Like in any profession, his passion for making funny voices caught some attention. Like in any profession, actors improve by meeting and working alongside people who have a higher skill level, or more years of experience. An emerging actor, or even an experienced actor, can always benefit from being willing to learn from new experiences.

The actors job, according to North: “To me, an actor’s job is to deliver a performance. To deliver what I am supposed to.”

Physical acting skills developed and enlisted to build character with gesture and posture, flowed into motion capture sessions. North called on his physical acting repertoire to deliver a performance.

He confides that the willingness to play make believe remains an essential part of acting and creativity.

There’s a clash, however, between the logical, bottom-line focused thinking of delivering a performance, and the creative, powerful thinking of belief and imagination that can be traced back to childhood games. Balance and flexibility, and the ability to retain some autonomy to be creative and play, even when working toward a deadline, comes across as vital in creative fields, and particularly essential to voice acting careers.

Technical skill is important – repeating movements that match up with the direction players want to send the character in with a touch to a screen, control stick, or their W, A, S, and D keys, is one example North highlighted.

Being able to crouch, walk, and sprint from zero, ninety, one hundred and thirty, and one hundred and eighty degree directions from a standing position can prove difficult. North finds that the choreography difficult to repeat, but the technical skill and endurance of moving in different directions cannot be understated. He still dislikes going from a crouching position to sprint backward – sprint 130 degrees back. This type of cardio is a tough workout on an actor’s thighs and shins.

Another reality is that voice actors sometimes fall out the loop – their character directions might change, and their are no realistic channels for the news to reach the actor.

North has found out about dramatic character changes from social media questions often long before he receives a brief or update. This appears to be the reality of a busy corporate decision making network running at a different pace to the professional life of an actor.

In summary, North says that playing iconic roles represents a responsibility to be taken seriously. Consider the other actors in the field. Ask if they are well known for voicing a certain role before. Weigh up whether it fits with your career to taken on a character voices and brought to life by another actor.

And on that topic, North comment in a few lines on his impact created through voicing Deadpool.

You can find more games and film related content on the wallflyer.wordpress.com and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer

 

 

How to Catch Celesteela in Pokemon Moon

Celesteela is only available in Pokemon Moon version. If you have Pokemon Sun, you must trade for this Ultra Beast

This post plainly describes one method of catching the Ultra Beast known as Celesteela in Pokemon Moon Version.

What you need to catch Celesteela: Beast Balls from Aether Paradise, and healing items like Hyper Potions.

The main item you will need is a Beast Ball.

To obtain Beast Balls, you will need to follow a the sequence of events that form the Ultra Beast side quest. Note that you will also need to progress this sidequest, and capture the initial Ultra Beasts to reach a point where Celesteela will become available:

  1. Complete the main story, including a battle against the Elite Four and Champion.
  2. Go to the north coast of Akala Island, and enter the hotel on Route 8, which will trigger the Ultra Beast Sidequest.
  3. Fly or ride the Ferry (the ferry is a far slower travel method around Alola) to the Aether Paradise. Beast Balls are given as a gift in the basement laboratories.

While you can catch Ultra Beasts in ordinary manufactured PokeBalls, the Beast Ball has a far higher catch rate, which will make capturing all the strange and enigmatic Ultra Beasts easier, especially if you are aiming to catch one with a specific nature.

Healing items for your Pokemon team are also essential. I recommend Full Restores. Hyper Potions will do if you are low on PokeDollars. A way to raise some money for items is to send your Pokemon into the caves in the PokePelago to find rare treasure. You can also battle the elite four repeatedly.

With items accounted for, you will need to prepare your team.

Pokemon that will help you catch Celesteela: A Pokemon with high attack power and False Swipe, and a Pokemon that knows a status changing move like Sleep Powder or Thunder Wave.

Bringing Pokemon who can content with a steel type is essential. Steel type are all about physical defensive. A Pokemon with false swipe and a high attack power speeds everything along – Scyther or Scizor are good choices. Using False Swipe will always leave a Pokemon with 1 HP remaining.

A Pokemon who can inflict status conditions helps stop Celesteela from demolishing your team. Sleep and paralysis strategies will both help you. Alolan Raichu using Thunderwave, or a grass type using sleep powder or spore traps Celesteela, reducing its chances to attack.

As an added strategy, I added a Pokemon with focus energy and baton pass to my team. A ghost and flying type Pokemon first introduced in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl called Drifblim for example. One of these Pokemon arrived on my PokePellago’s Isle Abeens. Drifblim used focus energy and baton pass to send the boost to Scyther, which helped to add an extra attack bonus when using False Swipe.

A note on Pokemon natures and Synchronise

You can use a Pokemon with the ability Synchronise to influence the nature of wild Pokemon. An Abra with a modest nature and Synchronise will increase the chance of finding wild Pokemon with a modest nature by 50 per cent. Be aware that if your Pokemon with synchronise is at a low level, escaping from wild battles might be harder. If your Pokemon with synchronise is fainted, however, it’s ability will still work. You can also equip the Pokemon with a Smoke Ball item to ensure an escape from battle if you don’t want to leave a Pokemon fainted.

Where to find Celesteela: Malie Gardens, or Haina Desert on Ula’Ula Island.

The Ultra Beast lurks around Ula’Ula island – The largest of the four Alolan Islands. It can be found either in the Haina Desert, or in Malie Garden. Two Celesteela are available to capture.

I decided to search for Celesteela in Malie Gardens, since they were close to the Malie City Pokemon Centre, just in case anything went wrong.

Celesteela can be found in any patch of grass in the gardens, and appears on level 65.

My team had Scyther (lv67) and Drifblim (lv56) in the battle. My Abra with Synchronise was a far lower level, and I switched out Abra quickly. I used a Victreebel I had transferred from Pokemon Red version to put Celesteela to sleep with Sleep Powder.

After about five to seven turns, Scyther weakened Celesteela, lowering its HP. I then caught the Ultra Beast in a beast ball.

You can find more games related content here, and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

A review of A New World: Music from Final Fantasy – seven leading pieces from the Brisbane performance.

The New World Players perform music arranged from the 30 year history of Final Fantasy. These eleven musicians, and one conductor in Arnie Roth, toured through Australia before their international tour continues overseas. This post is a short review of the Brisbane performance, and a list of some of the Final Fantasy pieces the ensemble performed.

Their sound allowed the audience a chance to hear the music of Final Fantasy in a new way, which I guess is where the title “New Worlds” stems from.

Alternatively, several of these pieces were new, and performed for the first time in Australia, or performed for the first time worldwide.

Some of the leading pieces, those I thought defined the event, that the ensemble performed that night were:

1. Two Final Fantasy traditions – The Victory Fanfare and the Chocobo Medley

An exacting string section, precise percussion, and energetic brass and woodwind performers worked together flawlessly alongside a solo guitarist (and ukulele expert!) to strike up a brilliant version of these well know themes. The victory fanfare marks the end of each battle in the Final Fantasy games. Hearing it live gives an insight into the technical work behind even the simple or smaller musical scores. Chocobo’s, for example, are brought to life with a simple but playful melody, which the Ukulele expert played with chill precision, and a bit of swagger.

2. The Gold Saucer piano arrangement

Benyamin Nuss’ solo piano performance invigorated and expounded the sounds and themes of Final Fantasy. In particular, Nuss premiered a piano arrangement of the Gold Saucer theme from Final Fantasy Seven, and it was a fun surprise. Nuss other performance from Final Fantasy Seven stunned the audience.

3.The Those Who Fight piano arrangement

This and high energy battle theme performed close to the end of the second act turned the piano keys from fiery to incandescent. Nuss’ high-speed performance earned lengthy applause from the audience.

5. Temple of Chaos theme

Audience members can find a closer glimpse into the technical construction of each piece. Delving into history, an arrangement of the Chaos Shrine from the first Final Fantasy game displayed the technical brilliance of the New World Players, and the attention to detail that series composer Nobuo Uematsu, and Tsuyoshi Sekito.

6. Ivalice Landscapes

An arrangement of separate pieces from Final Fantasy Twelve marked the end of the first act. It wove a journey through the vast and complex world of Ivalice, from the Estersands, through the Salika wood, to the booming waves of the Phon Coast, into the gloom of the Feywood, and away through the mists of Nabudis. This was definitely an exotic and moving piece.

7. Safe Haven (Camp Theme)

From the first game, all the way to the most recent game in the series, the performance include a piece from Final Fantasy Fifteen, which is impressive, considering the game was released only recently in November, 2016. A relaxed arrangement of Tetsuya Shibata’s music, which contrasted with the more active and emotional sounds in the performance such as To Zanarkand, and the popular One Winged Angel.

Overall, the sound quality was polished, capturing the atmosphere of adventure, whimsy, and magic embodied in the music of Final Fantasy. For more information on the Final Fantasy New Worlds tour, the ensemble website has more information.

Boomerang trivia from Breath of the Wild

Since I shared one of Tristan Cooper’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild discoveries this week, I thought I would share one more. This trivia relates to the Boomerang item. It’s worth watching the animated gif in the embedded tweet to see the Stal-Lizalfos arm flying.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild fighting for mental health.

Content Warning: This post discusses mental health and suicide. Please contact a counselling service or mental health professional if you need help.

It is always good to see a game reaching out to touch on, and check in on, the audience’s mental health. Dorkly articles editor Tristan Cooper has made many discoveries, and tweeted a list of small but stunning details in Breath of the Wild.

While Cooper found many instances that play out like a short stories while exploring Hyrule, just one stood out to me. When standing on the edge of a bridge, one Hylian man will talk Link down from the edge. They will encourage Link to come down, and offer to talk to him for a while. Even if there is a shade of comedy to a non-playable character being concerned for a hero with a full health bar a programmed encounter, a simple sidequest, can adjust the audiences world view. A basic encounter could save a life. I’m not exaggerating.

On the other hand, such an interaction in game might been seen as annoying at best, or a superficial and fizzling stand against suicide at worst. I think it is a big deal. Small details placed strategically can have more impact that one large message designed to have widespread appeal. And glancing at all the detailed discoveries Zelda fans are talking about online, Nintendo is standing up for mental health.

You can ready the full list of Tristan Cooper’s finds at Dorkly. Beyond Blue has information and resources for anyone in need of mental health assistance.

Heavy content, but very important content. For something more lighthearted, I’ve also written about the Link Breath of the Wild Nendoroid.

This The Last Guardian art has high detail

Ko_Dinae is an illustrator and artist who published a highly detailed piece this week (March 6, 2017) featuring the main characters from The Last Guardian – the protagonist, and the griffin-like, chimera Trico.

The piece captures the powerful fantasy of the game, and the connection the player builds with Trico, expressed here as Trico stares out at the viewer.

The sense of adventure is there, as Trico raises one scaled limb: ready to leap forward. The high detail shows the expanse of the game’s environment.

You can follow Ko_Dinae on Twitter and Instragram to see more of their detailed and expressive art.