This is Chris dot com
Music, Movies, & General Geekery: Life.
by Christopher Grant Harris

Thursday, 18 December 2014

New Article: Mario Kart 8 DLC Numbah Wahn!

Link on a Bike!

That’s not a horse…

Nintendo is doing something super-smart with Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. They’re releasing DLC (DownLoadable Content) for it. They’ve never really done this before for their Mario Karts, and it is a simple and genius idea. Instead of coming out with a new Mario Kart every few years, just come out with some new tracks and new drivers periodically!

So the first DLC set came out a while back (I wanted to write about it then, but there were… problems), and I thought I’d write some thoughts about the new tracks and drivers. And then you can watch a 1-minute recap video of each of the new tracks! NEAT!

First off, the new drivers!

Tanooki Mario

marios-headIt’s Mario! In his Tanooki Suit from Super Mario Bros 3! That’s right, this is NOT Racoon Mario. This is Tanooki Mario. Tanooki does not equal Racoon. They’re different animals. A very aesthetically pleasing design, but doesn’t seem to play any differently than regular Mario. Or maybe he does? Sometimes the differences between drivers are incredibly subtle.

Cat Peach

peachs-headPeach dressed up in the Cat outfit that everyone got in one of the more recent Mario Games. Honestly, I haven’t tried this driver much because it uncomfortably blurs the line between being an outfit and being a wank destination for furries. *Shudder*

Link

links-headMario Kart’s first foray outside of the Mario franchise! Nintendo has decided to open up Mario Kart to the wider Nintendo world, much like Super Smash Bros. Their first choice is a grown-up link, similar to the classic Link from Ocarina of Time. It’s pretty interesting to see him bumping karts with Donkey Kong and Toad and the like.

There are 8 new tracks in the DLC, divided into 2 new Cups (Egg and Triforce). For the Egg Cup, I chose Link and his motorcycle. For the Triforce Cup, I chose Tanooki Mario and the badass Blue Falcon—Captain Falcon’s hovercar from F-Zero! Wait, why would I do that when the Legend of Zelda track is in the Triforce Cup? You’ll see…

Egg Cup

Yoshi Circuit (Gamecube)

This is one of the tracks from Double Dash, which is still my all-time favorite Mario Kart. Though I have to say, I barely remember it. This is a straight-ahead ground race. There are no hills, no anti-gravity segments, no nothing except turns and turns. In fact, the map of this course is an outline of Yoshi’s silhouette. Hence the name of the track, I suppose. An interesting inclusion, I suppose to contrast the very up-and-down nature of the rest of Mario Kart 8.

Excitebike Arena

THIS is why I chose Link and a motorcycle for the Egg Cup! This is a very simple course with a very cool hook: it’s just a simple, two-turn oval (much like Double Dash’s Baby Park course), but it’s chock-full of ramps and jumps and mud straight from old-school, 8-bit Excitebike! And here’s the hook: every time you play the course, the positioning of the jumps and muds and whatnot is randomized, so it’s a (slightly) different course each time! Plus the music is a great remix of the original Excitebike theme song. This course is a lot of fun, but I wish it would have been 5 laps (like the original Baby Park, which is my all-time favorite course) instead of just three; it’s a bit too short as it is.

Dragon Driftway

A heavily Asian-themed course that is almost 100% anti-gravity. You wind yourself along the body of an enormous Asian dragon (NOT a European-style dragon) over a very old-timey-looking Asian village. The music is very… Asian. Y’know, if it weren’t for the fact that this game was designed by Japan, I would think this course bordered on uncomfortable stereotypes. But it is one of the prettiest courses out there.

Mute City

Incorporating a track from another racing game into Mario Kart? This is a great idea! When this DLC was originally announced they made a big deal about how Mute City was going to be a 100% anti-gravity course. But it comes immediately after Dragon Driftway, which is an almost-100% anti-gravity course, so it seems a little weird. There are some awesome touches in this course, like the way you collect coins by driving over the healing strips from F-Zero. There’s also a really cool shortcut you can take if you have a mushroom.

Triforce Cup

Wario’s Gold Mine (Wii)

For some reason Mario Kart 8 got rid of Mario Kart Wii’s “half-pipe” gameplay mechanic in favor of the anti-gravity mechanic. I’m not sure why they couldn’t do both? So this isn’t a 100%-faithful translation of the Wii’s Wario’s Gold Mine course. But they did bump-up the prettiness factor quite a bit.

Rainbow Road (SNES)

The final boss of the original Mario Kart! The original Rainbow Road was a deadly course with only 90-degree turns and a perilously narrow track. Unfortunately they dumbed it down quite a bit in this version by making the course WAY too wide. It’s actually kinda difficult to fall off, whereas in the original Mario Kart it was kinda difficult to NOT fall off. The Thwomps making the track ripple is an excellent touch, though (especially since you can stunt off of the ripple like they were jumps), and it sure is damnably pretty. It’s just way too easy.

Ice Ice Outpost

I think maybe this is supposed to be an Ice Clibmers themed course? I’m not sure. But the track is divided into two halves that twist and wind themselves around each other. There are a bunch of shortcuts and alternate routes you can take on this track, and one of them you don’t need a mushroom to use…you just have to be willing to drive off the edge of the track at the correct spot! The course has an interesting design, and there’s a bunch of interesting things going on in the background that I never get to look at because I’m too busy driving (is that a Yoshi helicopter flying around in the background?).

Hyrule Circuit

Y’know, maybe it would have made more sense to play as link in this Cup and use the Blue Falcon in the Egg Cup… but OH WELL! This is actually a pretty standard course, with some curves and jumps and such, but it has a couple of cool features. For one, instead of picking up coins you’re picking up Zelda-style Rupees, complete with Rupee-collecting sound effect (in fact, the whole course is filled with Zelda sound effects and music). Also, when you enter the castle there’s a neat little secret—if three crystal switches are activated in the hallway leading up to the Master Sword room, a secret ramp raises itself (complete with the classic Zelda “secret” sound effect) and you can actually jump up and touch the Master Sword! And since you’re in anti-gravity mode, touching something gives you a boost. So not only do you get to bypass an entire curve, but you get a boost out of it.


And there you have it. Eight new courses, bringing the grand total up to a bulging 40 total. That’s pretty badass! And there’s another DLC on the way this spring, that introduces an Animal Crossing Villager into the driver mix. Who is excite? I am excite! If they keep on extending the life of Mario Kart 8 like this, it could be well on its way to becoming my favorite of them all.

Categories: Articles, Video Games.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Get Your Ass to Mars

NASA has fancy plans... and pants to match [image source]

NASA has fancy plans… and pants to match [image source]

This morning something kinda small but absolutely extraordinary happened. We took our first step towards landing a human being on Mars.

A Delta IV Heavy rocket system carrying the brand-new Orion Spacecraft launched on at 07:05 (Florida Time).

This was the very successful first step in a multi-stage plan (see the image at the top of this post) that ends with human beings setting foot on Mars sometime in the 2030s. Right about the time my daughter will be old enough to buy Alcohol. Perfect timing!

Phil Plait has a good run-down of this launch at his blog, Bad Astronomy.

Actually, one of the most exciting parts of this whole plan is the middle step, where we launch a robot rocket into an asteroid and then push it into a stable orbit around the moon. How cool would that be!? Shoving mineral-and-ore-rich asteroids into stable orbits could be the future of heavy metal mining.

I must admit I got a wee bit emotional watching that launch video. By the time I was born we had long since stopped going to the Moon, so I’ve never actually been alive for any human being touching any celestial object. Tons and tons of robots, yes, but no people. So to have people land on an asteroid and then Mars within my lifetime (hopefully). Is a tremendously exciting prospect after more than 40 years of drought.

You can read a bit more about the planned “Journey to Mars” at NASA’s website.

Categories: Science, Videos.

Monday, 1 December 2014

“Of the Month” December 2014

Link of the Month:
Amazon Wishlist
My Amazon Wish List!

That’s right! You think in this, the most wonderful time of the year, that I’d waste my one-and-only link of the month on something selfless? EFF THAT! I want you to click on this link and buy crap for me! Crass commercialism EFF-TEE-DUBYA, baby! Mwa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa!

Holiday Special of the Month:
PnSxMas
The Paul and Storm Nondenominational Perennial Holiday Special – Part One

An animated holiday special written and performed by comedy musical duo Paul and Storm, with animation by those guys who did Homestar Runner? Hmmm… yeah, that does sound good to me. It’s a special about Cyber Monday and its surprisingly Jamaican mascot, Cyber-Mon. And the villain is a small business owner (voiced by Matt Chapman of Strong Bad fame) who does a delightful riff on the “Miser” songs from “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” What’s that? Why, yes, of course you can watch it right here:

And speaking of Paul and Storm and the holidays…

Album of the Month:
PaulNStormItMightBeChristmas
Paul and Storm: It Might Be Xmas

You see, folks, WAY back in 2009 Paul and Storm did something rather remarkable. For 8 consecutive days they released an original holiday song in the style of They Might Be Giants. And, boy howdy, did they ever nail it. These are the most TMBG-ish songs out there. You can hear specific TMBG song influences in each P&S-penned tune, and it really helps that they can do an absolutely uncanny impression of John Flansburgh. And, blessedly, they learned a thing from TMBG about keeping the songs short and sweet. They get in, state their business, and get out. It’s funny and frighteningly accurate holiday fun.

Categories: Christmas, Of the Month.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

One More Fools Play Show in November This Saturday!

Last chance... for now!

Last chance… for now!

This coming Saturday (11/29) is Fools Play Improv’s last show in Tacoma in the month of November, so all y’all should really get on over to the Tacoma Youth Theatre to see it. Who knows when Fools Play will be back around Tacoma again? Just look at that poster up there; the 29th is the last date listed on it! CASE CLOSED.

Actually, look at that poster up there again. I’m not even on it! BOOOOOO! Well, here’s a better photo that has a much more handsome person in it:

Fools, all of 'em.

Fools, all of ‘em.

Yeah, that’s better.

Details:
Fools Play Improv in Tacoma
Saturday, 11/29 8:00 PM
@ Tacoma Youth Theatre
924 Broadway, Tacoma, WA 98402 (map)
All-Ages, $10

We shall see you there. And we shall remember you, Skyfire. We shall remember.

Categories: Fools Play, Tacoma.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Tiny Musicians & a Sad Phone: The Official Music Video for The Jesus Rehab’s “Sallie”

The Jesus Rehab: Sallie

TINY TJR!

Yesterday The Jesus Rehab (aka the best rock band in Seattle right now) released a music video for their song “Sallie” from their 2014 album The Zoo at Night (which I reviewed in-depth here). The song itself is a joyous celebration of death after a life well-lived, and the video is a funny little skit about a sentient phone punctuated with a tiny version of TJR appearing here and there via the magic of low-fi special effects. Seriously, the retro bluescreen effect is charming, as is the jittery stop-motion animation. It captures the playful spirit of the band excellently. Take a look-see:

Now everyone wants to recycle their electronics, right!?

Categories: Music, Videos.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Mario Kart 8 Error Code 104-1852

Hey, so, I was GOING TO write an awesome article over the weekend about the 8 new tracks (as well as the new characters and vehicles) that were just released as DLC for Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. I was GOING TO upload highlight reels of each track to YouTube so you could see them in action.

But, well…

Something seems to have gone wrong ever since the DLC was released. I can’t upload any clips to the YouTubes anymore! The Nintendo support website is no help, only saying, “We are currently reviewing this situation. If you are experiencing this error code when uploading a video, please try again at a later time.”

And it seems like I’m not the only one with this problem…

I guess we’ll all have to wait until Nintendo patches this problem up. In the meantime, I guess you can read these old articles I wrote about video games:

4/25/06
The Diary of Dr. Kick: Mysterious Stone Archaeologist

10/13/05
Chris Houlihan’s Ticket to Immortality

11/27/04
Mikie: Headbutts and Heartbreak

6/17/04
They Did “The Bash”

5/31/03
What Ever Happened to Chef Peter Pepper?

And here’s an old highlight reel of an old track that I uploaded many a month ago:

C’mon, Nintendo, Get your [CENSORED] together!

Categories: Updates.

Friday, 14 November 2014

More November Wins: John Oliver’s Salmon Cannon

Lock & Load!

Lock & Load!

You know how earlier this week I made the claim that November was winning the internets with all of its awexome videos? Well, add another one to that list: Last Week Tonight did an unbelievable segment on Washington State’s very own Salmon Cannon invention. Watch this and be amazed:

Sometimes I’m very proud to be a Washingtonian.

Categories: Videos.