A Dark Souls Counterpoint

It’s been almost 18 months anything was posted here, and in that 18 months, other people have written things. One of those things was written by Stephen Beirne and it linked to my post about nihilism in Dark Souls. It is a well-written counterpoint to my post. It’s called And you with it, speck of dust and you should read it. His post is especially enjoyable if you want to read something about Dark Souls that is not in the form of a list.

Turtle Farm

The frantic pace of my 8-week calculus 2 sad time has meant that I’ve pushed “difficult” video games aside in the last few weeks to reap the pure relaxation of an easier video game experience between the integrals and vectors. Recently, this has led me back to Final Fantasy XIII, a game that I still think is better than most.

I played it through in December of last year and I decided that I would pick that save up and get though all of the postgame content. “Postgame content” in this case comes in the form of Mark missions, where you talk to a “C’ieth Stone” and then you go kill the monster (Mark) it asks you to kill.

Things were going well until I got to mission 54, which is to kill the Gigantuar. He’s a big, surprised cactus who makes a formidable foe, and a side trip to level up a little bit has led me into a black hole of adamantoise* farming. That is to say, I’ve been running in circles killing adamantoises for the last 4 game hours.

I don’t really have any excuse for farming except that it’s fun to hold x while the Crystarium fills up, but this is my relaxing time, so an excuse isn’t really needed. What I want to talk about is that this is the first time that Final Fantasy XIII has made me feel bad about my actions.

Majestic Adamantoise

Majestic Adamantoise

You can kill an adamantoise the “real” way by using your weapons and magic like a standard enemy, or you can be “cheap” by using Vanille’s Death spell to kill them instantly if you’re lucky. I’ve been using the latter way and am working up to killing them legitimately so that I don’t have to farm so much before each fight, but there are a few moral difficulties with the fight that I’d like to look at. We’ll go through the fight as if we were using Vanille’s Death spell:

This girl's name is Vanille and she's going to kill you.

This girl’s name is Vanille and she’s going to kill you.

Let’s start with before the fight, when these creatures are completely docile. They won’t fight you unless you actively seek it out. There the adamantoise goes, lumbering by, not noticing my party until they attempt to tackle the ankle of the great beast. Once you’ve started a fight with one of the innocent creatures, it starts out like this:

Start of the fight

Your tiny, human sized party is going to try to kill this hulking turtle. The turtle’s attacks are stomps and earthquakes that can hit your whole party for massive damage. How do you stop them from hurting you? In this case, you call Vanille’s summon, Hecatoncheir:

Vanille's Summon

The summon instantly knocks out the adamantoise’s front legs and knocks it down. That looks like this:

Injured Adamantortoise

It’s not even on it’s knees…I have actually injured it to the point where it can’t support itself. It can’t attack in this state, so this, of course, is when I start casting status abnormalities on it and trying to cast Death on it to kill it. Death is a spell with a 12% chance of hitting. If you and the adamantoise are both lucky, Death will hit and you’ll get tons of experience and some fly loot. If not, the adamantoise will hoist itself back to it’s feet and kill you in about 30 seconds with it’s stomps.

Vanille's Death Spell

Vanille’s Death Spell

Here are videos of adamantoise fights using Death and without Death (I did it!).

There are other games where you kill, or at least have the option of killing, innocent creatures. Pat Robertson points to classics like Grand Theft Auto and Maim KillMetroid and Shadow of the Colossus both come to mind, but the most recent one I’ve played is Dark Souls.

Priscilla the Crossbreed

Priscilla the Crossbreed

In the Painted World of Ariamis, you leave by jumping off a ledge behind the “boss” enemy, Priscilla the Crossbreed. When you get into her area, Priscilla the Crossbreed just wants to have a conversation:

  • First time speaking to her
    Who art thou?
    One of us, thou art not.
    If thou hast misstepped into this world,
    plunge down from the plank, and hurry home.
    If thou seekest I,
    thine desires shall be requited not.
  • Speak to her after the first time
    Thou must returneth whence thou came.
    This land is peaceful, its inhabitants kind, but thou dost not belong.
    I beg of thee, plunge down from the plank, and hurry home.

Then you attack her, because you’re a person playing a video game and she’s there to be attacked:

  • When attacked
    I expected as much from thee.
    Why dost thee hurry toward thine death?

Then the fight’s over:

  • When killed
    But, why… What seeketh thee?
  • When she kills the player
    Why could thou not let us be?
    Didst thou not see why Ariamis created this world?

JEEPERS CATS. No matter how it ends its depressing. She’s so disappointed! In spite of this, the atmosphere of Dark Souls colors this fight in such a way that I’ve never felt especially “guilty” about killing Priscilla. The fight itself is outside of the “requirements” for completing the game, but this is a game where the closest thing I ever get to camaraderie is when someone invades my world to kill me. All you really have in Dark Souls are your enemies. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure this is the worst thing you do in Dark Souls. Besides, in Dark Souls, nothing matters.

Priscilla's Dying

I like how blase my character looks in this picture of Priscilla dying.

The adamantoise example from Final Fantasy XIII strikes me differently because it’s only in the postgame that you can reasonably farm them, rendering fighting with them completely unnecessary to getting through the game’s story. In fact, most gamers probably don’t even experience this fight. They all know well enough to quit after the final boss is dead. It’s something you have to seek out. You have to set yourself a goal, like this:

Kill big cactus asshole.

After that, you have to decide that the best way to meet your goal is to start fights with innocent adamantoises. Then, you kill them by knocking their legs out from under them and shooting them like Old Yeller.

I win?

I win?

It might not even be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that I’m farming them, but I am, meaning that this imagery is pretty much all that I’ve seen in the last four game hours. It makes me feel like a ruthless turtle killer, which is not a feeling I am familiar with.

If we say, for the sake of argument, that the goal of a video game is “immersion,” is this an unanticipated part of the developer meeting this goal? Let’s define immersion for this post: Immersion is the state of “flow” a player enters when they’ve been “sucked in” to a game. The player is operating at the highest level they’re capable of and loses track of time. Developers want you to be immersed so that you feel the world they’ve created.

If a developer wants me to be immersed, I can see where they might want me to feel joy or grief, but the price I’m paying to fill my Crystarium up is measured in the blood of virtual turtles, and that makes me feel guilty. There aren’t any extensions of the themes from the main game involved in the fights…these are fights for the sake of fighting and getting stronger so that I can fight and win with greater ease. The guilt I’m feeling isn’t plot driven; I bring it upon myself my engaging in optional activities.

Let me be clear: I don’t actually feel bad about farming adamantoises. In real world terms, every time I reload the game, all of the adamantoises are back where they were before I killed them, none the worse for wear. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was running and I helped a real turtle out of the middle of the road. I like turtles and turtle things. However, the imagery of the adamantoise falling over and struggling to get up before my pink haired death monster of a party leader kills them is something I’m very familiar with now, and if I am to be “immersed” in Final Fantasy XIII, is Adamantoise Guilt part of what the developers want me to feel as I work my way through the postgame? Nothing else explains the systematic way that one has to go about killing the adamantoises or their animations once you’ve knocked them over. Nothing else explains the near necessity to use them for endgame experience and item farming since no other enemy comes close to them in terms of value.

Maybe killing them is tied into the main game thematically. The tie might be something like:

You’ve just saved the world from imminent destruction and vanquished evil. To obtain even more power, you have to trample the innocent.

That would be funny, since the adamantoise attacks by stomping.

More to the point, doesn’t that make me as bad as the tyrant I spent the entirety of the main game opposing?

*In the game, there are several variants of the “turtle” class of monsters: adamantoises, adamantortoises, shao long guis, and long guis. All of them look and behave similarly, so I’m just going to lump them all under the name “adamantoise” for simplicity.

Further Reading
Final Fantasy XIII isn’t bad like you think it is by me
Dark Souls as a Nihilist Manifesto by me

Servant of Velka

I’ve been on a Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls kick for the last couple of weeks, so it’s time to talk about their interesting difficulty again.

YouTube user VaatiVidya has a playlist devoted entirely to Dark Souls lore. The videos are all taken from the in-game engine and cutscenes and talk about the game’s backstory.

Ornstein the Dragonslayer

Ornstein the Dragonslayer

The videos are useful because the publisher of both Souls games, From Software, has engaged in a noble endeavor with these two games to not force feed a terrible narrative to the player through poorly acted and choreographed cutscenes. Rather, all of the backstory in the game is drawn from the brief opening sequence, item descriptions, and the locations where you found those items. A small example:

Early in the game, the player may happen upon a key called the “Watchtower Basement Key”. A casual player, namely me, will just try to open doors with it until it works. Eventually, it will open a door in the Undead Burg, which leads to a basement where an enemy knight bashes your head in with his great big club.

Havel the Rock

Havel the Rock

In contrast to this bumbling approach to gameplay, if you’re using the information given to you by the game and you read the description of the key, you would see this:

“Key to the basement of the watchtower in the Undead Burg.
The basement of the watchtower forms a stone cell. There are rumors of a hero turned Hollow who was locked away by a dear friend. For his own good, of course.”

The key not only tells you where to use it, but it also tells you a bit about the person behind it. The fact that someone locked him inside that crappy basement explains why he hit me with that club. The text even has a bit of sympathy for the knight, which might push the player to try to find out more about him.

It’s an excellent example of the way the story in this game works: items tell you their function, give a little commentary about their origins, and then invite you to look around a little more for yourself.

Chaos Witch Quelaag

Chaos Witch Quelaag

This is a creative narrative style, but it can also be confusing, and that’s where VaatiVidya’s lore videos come in. They put everything together for you with an Australian accent for that extra narrative weight. I’d like to focus on one in particular today, and that’s “Velka and the Crow”. You should watch it, because otherwise, this next bit might be confusing:

To summarize, there’s a crow that takes the player from the tutorial area (Northern Undead Asylum) to the main game area (Lordran). The video speculates about why there’s a big crow and what he’s doing, and ties it back to a goddess named Velka who is something of a rogue deity out to punish the sinners of the world. The crow is a servant of Velka and is commanded to ferry the chosen undead (player character) to Lordran to kill the sinners there. If the chosen undead dies at the hands of the sinners, the undead will be resurrected to strike at the sinners again and again.

This is a Prometheus getting his guts ripped out for eternity type of interpretation, and if it’s what the designers intended, I wish they would have pursued it further than having it be part of the game’s inconclusive lore.

Priscilla the Crossbreed

Priscilla the Crossbreed

In my ideal version of Dark Souls, there’s a second mode you can play called “Servant of Velka” wherein boss enemies become a little bit weaker if you damage them and then they kill you. Perhaps if you reduce the bosses health by 50%, they have 2% less health the next time you try to kill them or they can’t do one of the attacks they could the first time you fought them. I realize there are a few problems with this, namely that it would drastically decrease the difficulty of the game overall and I don’t know how regular enemies would be handled. Maybe enemies you kill would permanently die so that there are only a set amount of souls to be had in the game?

There are numerous other gameplay problems that would have to be worked out, but the point is, I’m not sure how it would work, but something like this would add some extra narrative weight to the chosen undead’s actions without taking away any of the story’s moral ambiguity. It would also draw people into the game who were turned off because of its difficulty. The ability to be resurrected would feel much more like an ability this way, rather than feeling like you just died again, and that could go a long way towards getting new people to pick it up.

Gravelord Nito

Gravelord Nito

What do you all think? Would this be a good idea? Is there some other way you might like Dark Souls to change? If Dark Souls was changed at all, would you be an angry Internet person? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks to VaatiVidya and carson-drew-it.com for letting me use their fantastic media! People like them are helping to make the video game community better, and for that they deserve your support! Links to their sites are below.

Further reading:
VaatiVidya’s YouTube channel – Tons of well thought out Dark Souls content and analysis. One quality video a week!
carson-drew-it.com – Delightful drawings of Dark Souls characters and other less bleak things.

Forest Sprite Hilarity

I’ve been playing through Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere for the PS2 this week. Odin Sphere is an action RPG about a war in the fantasy world called Erion. The game takes the symbolism and ideology from Norse mythology (Vikings!) and creates a world that the player experiences through five different characters, each on opposing sides of a global conflict. It’s a game known for its lush artistic style more than it’s brawling gameplay, but what’s underplayed is the dark tone of the plot. For example, it’s not uncommon to stumble on a skeleton talking about the maggots eating his brain or an instance of patricide.

Adorable bunnies and walking skeletons AT THE SAME TIME.

Adorable bunnies and walking skeletons AT THE SAME TIME.

In spite of being a game where an entire population of characters are anthropomorphic bunnies, Odin Sphere has plenty of content meant to make you think about things and generally depress you. The game is played from the viewpoint of five different characters who each have their own set of levels. The third character is Mercedes, the Fairy Queen.

Mercedes, the Fairy Queen

The other four characters are differing degrees of tanking melee types who can take a lot of damage and kill their enemies with a standard four strike combo. Mercedes differs in that she can use her wings to fly and she uses her crossbow for ranged combat. To balance her, she can only take a couple of hits before she dies, so playing her story involves a lot of hit-and-run style combat. Her’s is a coming of age story in which she kisses a frog and finds her confidence, and while her story has as many dark elements as everyone else’s, she’s been saddled with the responsibility of providing comic relief for the middle portion of the game.

Take the shop owners interactions with Mercedes. For the other characters, the merchants just say something like, “Don’t stab me! I just want to sell you things!” They have a different tone with Mercedes though. It’s a tone that waffles between incredulity at the sight of a fairy and eagerness to take advantage of a fairy.

No one illustrates amazement and opportunism better than the first vendor you meet, who starts excited:


And then gets down to business:


Then there’s this guy, who is just excited to be around so many fairies:


Or maybe you shouldn’t be sampling your supply so much.

Next we have this little bunny vendor, for whom business has apparently been slow:


That bunny is not reflecting well on his business venture.

And finally, there’s this human merchant who seems a little presumptuous:


Well that’s very nice.


Maybe we should get to know each other a little first.

Mercedes has several other encounters of hilarious note, but my favorite is with the ghost of a king who destroyed his homeland with his thirst for power. Mercedes and her dwarf companion have just had an icy exchange with this ghost, who has finally decided the time for words is over:


Oh dear. This seems threatening.


Mercedes reflects my own disappointment at this underwhelming surprise. Her voice acting is spot on here. She could not sound more bored. That’s because this is the third time the player will have fought this boss, and he is not much of a challenge. That is to say, he’s no challenge at all. You just have stay behind him and shoot him, and he’ll never hit you. Sometimes he’ll turn around, so you’ll go to his other side and still not get hit. Ugh.

Dwarf, what do you think?


I suppose that’s true, but you forgot to mention his eggshell. That’s quite a balancing act. Here’s a video so you can see these three lines delivered with all of the weight their creators intended:

I appreciate when developers recognize that their work is serious to the point of exhaustion, particularly in a game as long as this one that will probably end after about 35 hours of play. The humor works here because its incidental, and it fits with the character of Mercedes and the strange encounters a fairy would presumably have if she went to the supermarket. These tiny distractions also don’t take the form of a grating minigame, which is a device that RPG developers go back to all too often. I’ve played through Mercedes’ story now and am back with a depressing character in the form of Oswald the Shadow Knight, but my time with the fairy queen was a welcome oasis from all of the depressing fantasy tropes that Odin Sphere adores.

What uses of humor in video games have you appreciated? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Further Reading
Atlus’ official Odin Sphere web site
A comprehensive article about Odin Sphere on HG101
The Odin Sphere wiki, full of story related info and excellent art from the developers and fans
Developer Vanillaware’s official web site (Japanese)

Just Let Me Wear A T-Shirt

I’ve been playing Sleeping Dogs lately and it’s quite good. It’s an open world sandbox action great time in the vein of Grand Theft Auto or Saint’s Row, and it does its job really well. As undercover police officer Wei Shen, you’re supposed to infiltrate the Chinese triad and stop it’s principal elements from engaging in criminal activity. The driving is arcade like and the combat is fluid and crunchy. Shoving a man’s head through the rear of an apartment window air conditioner never felt so cool.

I’m not going to waste any more time on the things I liked in this game though. Today, I want to complain about something that annoys me across genres: “customizable” clothing systems where the clothes improve the player’s avatar somehow.

In Sleeping Dogs, the player starts out with a default character in default clothing, but you can buy new clothes at stores or earn them as mission rewards and then change them by interacting with the wardrobe at your apartment. You can make the player character Wei Shen wear all kinds of things! There are t-shirts with t-rex skeletons on them and outfits that pay tribute to movies like Ong Bak and Kill Bill. It seems sort of exciting until clothing bonuses rear their heads.

If you have a coordinated set of clothing on, you get a bonus like “5% bonus melee damage” or “10% bonus Triad experience”. There are three tiers of each bonus: 5%, 10%, and 15%. The bonuses motivate the player to be constantly changing clothing depending on what stage of the game they’re in so that they can have the best possible bonuses. I can see two reasons for this system:

  • The developers want you to see all of the neat clothes they made for Wei, so by having different bonuses and different tiers, it motivates the player to buy and use new clothes to make use of the bonuses.
  • The game needs something that seems useful to spend the obscene a mount of money you make from missions on.

The whole things seem silly to me for a few reasons. First, metrics like your melee damage or experience gain are never measured by visible numbers in game, so the player has no point of reference for the bonuses conferred by these items. Is my Triad experience bar 10% longer because I have put Wei in an unseasonable puffy coat? I have to assume it is, but I’ve seen more than a few instances where items don’t do what they say in a game, so I can’t be sure.

The bonuses are small. This is a game where you might have to hit an enemy upwards of 10 times to knock them out, so a 10% increase to your melee damage will only save you 1 strike. That’s not a noticeable difference when you’re fighting 6 enemies at once. Since I can repeat any of the relatively short missions for 100% of the original experience, an item that gives me a 10% increase in experience is redundant.

The entire thing reeks of something that is there just to be there, but it still nibbles at the back of your mind if you’re not using it. That fight was great, but WHAT IF I WAS CAUSING 10% MORE DAMAGE WHEN I HIT PEOPLE??? That mission would have been more fulfilling if I had RECEIVED 15% MORE COP EXPERIENCE AT THE END OF IT. The idea of being able to customize your avatar is completely deflated when the game incentivizes wearing  certain clothes over others this way.

A similar, even more superficial system appeared in Need for Speed Underground 2 for the PS2, a racing game. It was another excellent game in its genre that was made a little worse than it should have been with a “clothes bonus”. In that case, you could customize your car’s insides and outsides, which was great! It makes sense that replacing the engine with a better engine would make your car go faster. However, each part on the exterior of the car came with a “visual rating”. Your visual rating plays a role in deciding if you can get magazine and dvd shoots, which are essentially free money in this context. There is never any reason not to have the parts with the best “visual rating” and you need a decent visual score for that free money, so everyone’s car will look the same by the end of the game rendering the bullet point on the back of the box about all of the ways to customize your car irrelevant.

These are small things that don’t completely ruin a game experience, but if a developer is going to put a customization system into a game, they shouldn’t be implementing barriers that hold the player back from enjoying it.

I Need to Play Resident Evil Again

I’m spending the afternoon at my in-laws creaky house on a windy day, so it seemed like a good day to watch a speedrun of the original Resident Evil on the PSX. Resident Evil was the progenitor of the survival horror genre, so there’s no better way to spend the day when the gutters are insistently banging against the side of the house.

First, you should watch the opening video if you haven’t before. To this day, it is the best opening cinematic ever created for a video game. It sets a tone for the game, and the game sticks to it come hell or high water.

The tone that is set, of course, is one of b-list hilarity. The awful writing/voice acting combo might be the best part about Resident Evil now that the clunky polygonal models aren’t so scary. If you scroll to any location in this transcript of the script, you’ll find some gold. While I was watching, I wondered if the script was as bad as it is before it was translated to English from it’s original Japanese. I know that the Japanese voice acting was so bad that there was only English voice acting in the Japanese version, but I can’t imagine that the writing was this bad in it’s original Japanese. “It’s a weapon; it’s really powerful, especially against living things,” makes so little sense that it’s hard to imagine a professional being paid to have written it.

Aside from that, I think the game seems like it’s held up pretty well. The enemy variety is impressive, especially for a game from this era, with almost 20 different enemy types in the original game. The first few games were not so much about weird tentacle monsters as they are now, either. The developers just used things like a big snake or a big spider, and that’s enough to be scary with the tight environments and clunky controls. I appreciate that simplicity and it makes me wish the newer games would go back to this design philosophy. I still strongly dislike those gaddang spiders.

It made me feel panicky watching zombies almost grab the player, and that’s really the essence of the original Resident Evil experience.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that the modern video game player is patient enough to play a game like this unless they are being pushed forward by nostalgia, so we probably won’t see a game like this one again. Surviving by the skin of your teeth in terms of maneuvering the character and ammo and health consumption is where the horror in these games come from, and these are not elements that exist in video games anymore. The modern Resident Evil games speak to this. Since Capcom created the over the shoulder camera perspective and inserted an overabundance of pistol ammo in Resident Evil 4, the rest of the series seem set to be action games rather than horror.

Further reading
Resident Evil: 15 Years Later, Still Fantastic
by VGJunk
Resident Evil speedruns on Speed Demos Archive
Longplay from Cubex
Original review on Gamespot

Go-Karts Built For Two

After last week’s lengthy report on Metal Gear Solid 2 and the reasons I did not enjoy it, I’d like to break things up with a brief ode to one of my favorite games from my college career: Mario Kart: Double Dash!!


Double Dash was released in 2003, 7 years after Mario Kart 64, it’s direct predecessor. If you have played a Mario Kart game, you know what to expect here. You pick a pair of racers and a kart and then try to cross the finish line first while throwing all manner of debris at your opponents to try to slow them down. There are a few different modes, but I usually just stick to the grand prix.

The other modes are “Balloon Battle”, “Shine Thief”, and “Bob-omb Blast”. These are more direct pvp modes where you drive around an arena and try to pop your opponents’ balloons, steal the “shine sprite” from them, and blow them up with bombs respectively. I don’t know much about them because I’ve only ever played the grand prix mode. I play Mario Kart to race, and that’s what we’re going to talk about in this post.


I would estimate that I’ve put at least 200 hours into this game since I got it in 2005, almost all of it devoted to multiplayer with my college roommate and other friends. I am a person who spends a lot of time playing video games and loves them from deep within the recesses of my soul. When I got to school I was met with a college roommate who had grown up on a farm and never owned a video game system. He dabbled a bit in fighting games and SSX with me in our first year, but it wasn’t until we played Double Dash at a friend’s house that he found a game that really clicked with him. We still play it to this day whenever we get together! There are a few reasons for him liking this game that I think also point to why it’s such a great multiplayer experience:

Cartoony, timeless visuals

Double Dash is a Mario game produced by Nintendo, so it follows that the visuals are goofy and timeless. Nintendo really understands how to create graphics that don’t age and I would wager that Double Dash still looks just as good in motion as it did when I first got it. You haven’t lived until you see a pleased Petey Pirahna flapping his leaves in the wind after a victory.

Perfect learning curve


The game has 4 different difficulties disguised as engine sizes for your kart (50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and mirror) with 4 grand prix circuits of escalating complexity for each difficulty. Essentially, Double Dash has 16 difficulty levels that slowly force the player to introduce new techniques like powersliding and slide dashes into their game in order to compete. The circuits are short too; if you find yourself out of your depth, you only have to suffer for 4 races before you can go back a circuit and practice your technique.

Like riding a bike


The controls for individual actions, even the advanced techniques, never ask you to press more than one button at once in conjunction with the control stick. This makes controlling your kart a simple endeavor and it’s easy to pick Double Dash up again after you haven’t played for a few months.

You’re never out of the race or Screw your friends


In Double Dash, you can pick up items to use against your opponent by running into the item boxes that litter the track. If you’re in first or second, you’ll probably just get a green (non-homing) shell or a banana peel, but if you’re close to the back of the pack, your chances are high to get lightening bolts that shrink all of your opponents or a blue shell that homes in on the lead kart. Rather than using a “slingshot” mechanic, whereby racers in the back get increased speed in hopes of catching the lead kart, Mario Kart uses this item based system to keep every race fair. At least fairer for the people in the back anyways.

If you’re playing the single player mode, the losing racers’ ability to get powerful items is an infuriating decision, because the computer blue shelling you at the end of the last race of a circuit and knocking you into second is awful. However, in multiplayer mode, this gives every player a chance to win, particularly if they’re smart about using powerful items and forcing people into ditches or pits. Mechanics like this don’t make a balanced game fit for a tournament, but they do make it a lot more fun to play with friends of varying skill levels.

Consistent computer controlled threats


Petey Piranha, King Boo, and Wario are the “best” computer controlled opponents, meaning that they end up in first a lot. I think this was a great choice by the developers. Having a full racing field, but only having 3 of them be truly threatening, gives them a bit of extra personality that makes you try harder to hit them with shells and cuss a little more when they pass you. The three have earned the nicknames “The Plant,” “The Ghost,” and “The Fat Kid,” from my roommate, which, even if they’re not the most creative names, shows that they engender a bit of extra animosity from players who aren’t even familiar with the Mario universe.

Voice acting

The voice acting in Double Dash is a small point and it was a criticism against the game in some circles, but I love the character voices in this game. Using a combination of Daisy and Birdo to annoy your opponents or anyone else unlucky enough to be in the room by switching them repeatedly and having them alternately say “Hi I’m Daisy!” and “ROOOWWWRRR” over and over again is still one of the great pleasures in video games. Here is a short video of the technique in action:

See how annoying? It’s just brilliant.

That’s Mario Kart: Double Dash!! I imagine that my roommate and I will continue to play this game whenever we meet until our Wii’s crap out. It’s not a great single-player experience, but I don’t think it’s meant to be. The game embodies everything that a multi-player game should be about: accessible controls, handicaps for the people who need them, and screwing your friends.