If you're reading this site, chances are good you're not an astronaut.**
I don't want to infer none of you are astronauts for any negative reason. Quite the opposite. Though we're taught as children that becoming an astronaut is one of the highest career achievements possible, only a tiny percentage of the population gets to dance amongst the stars. Does that mean the rest of us are garbage? Of course not! Non-astronauts can live perfectly good lives. Some of the best people I know aren't astronauts.
Still, let's be honest. If you work in accounts receivable and you go to a party that's also attended by an astronaut, Astro Boy / Girl is the party attendee who's going to get all the attention, all the adoration, all the awe. It's not a slight against you; there's only so much time in a day, and people are going to spend that time with the pinnacle of human excellence.
It's the same with video games. Let's say your trusted reviewers here at USgamer size up two games from a genre you like. One is branded with a 3.5 and praised as "fun and cute." The other gets a 4.5 or a 5, and is celebrated as a new benchmark in its category.
If your budget and / or time is limited, it's unlikely you're going to reach for the 3.5 game, even if it's described as being warm and light-hearted. You're going to want the near-perfect game.
Totally fine. Totally understandable. Fortunately for most developers, truly stunning games are a rarity -
– Which is what I'd be saying if it wasn't 2017.
This year has been bonkers for amazing games. Persona 5. NieR: Automata. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nioh. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
The year is barely half-over, people! It's unheard of for so many A+ games to populate the usually-barren spring and summer window. Worse (as if having a deluge of awesome games is such a hardship in this political and social climate), many of the above games are long, winding titles that gobble up hours. I poured 130 hours each into Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 alone, which hasn't left me much free time for NieR, Final Fantasy XIV, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, or Horizon Zero Dawn (Caty wasn't a fan, but I still want to give it a go).
In other words, I haven't had time to tackle many of the best games that came out just this year. Which means I've had less than zero hours to dedicate to the games that usually tide me over this time of year: The 3.5 and 4 games that aren't stellar experiences, but are nice to tuck into, like a good meal or a warm blanket.
The one exception is Ever Oasis, which I damn well made time for as a rabid Secret of Mana fan. My consensus doesn't stray far from Kat's: It's a warm and sweet RPG that carries some significant flaws. Very much the definition of a 3.5-out-of-5 game. Any other year, it'd be a perfect recommendation for the slow summer period. But 2017 isn't any other year.
So I'm just going to keep on working through Final Fantasy XII and wonder when I'll be able to catch up with this year's triple-A releases. Then maybe I can cast my thoughts towards the likes of Puyo-Puyo Tetris, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia, Pyre, etc, etc...
Sorry, developers. It's not your fault. This year is nuts.
**If you are an astronaut: Hey! Thanks for joining us. I'm really jazzed about this whole "possible life on Europa" thing.
Featured Midboss of the Week
When I started featuring actual midbosses in this column, I profiled Boom-Boom from Super Mario Bros 3 and only gave a passing nod to his predecessor, Birdo from Super Mario Bros 2. That was wrong of me. I apologize. Birdo is one of the first midbosses to populate a Mario game. She deserves her due.
In the original Super Mario, each world terminates via an encounter with a Bowser imposter. In Super Mario 2, however, Birdo is clearly her own underling. Her bag of tricks even grows as you go deeper into the world of Subcon.
You initially face off against a pink Birdo who fires one egg at a time. Just pick up her own projectiles, fling 'em back at her, and your victory is assured. Before long, however, you find yourself up against the red variation of Birdo, and before you can wonder "Did Nintendo make a coloring error?" she spits three eggs in rapid succession.
The rapid fire is one thing; it suddenly becomes more difficult to leap on an egg, pick it up, and fling it back at Birdo when she's lobbing them non-stop at your face. But to make things really interesting, Birdo occasionally spits a fireball out with her eggs. You can't pick up fireballs and throw them back at her, obviously. You touch it, you die.
There are also green and grey versions of Birdo that spit fireballs exclusively (separate projectiles are placed nearby to help you defeat her), and Super Mario Advance even has a "Robirdo" mechanization of the lizard-boss. For me, though, neither blew my mind like going up against my first red Birdo, jumping on a fireball, and dying. I was like, "No fair! They changed the rules!"
I felt so betrayed.
Birdo has since gone on to become a friendly rival in the Mario series. She can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on her mood. Does that make her a turncoat? I don't know. I'm not about to tell her what she can and can't do. She's got eggs, and she knows how to use 'em.