Starting Screen: What the Hell Is Wrong with Super Mario Odyssey's New Donk City?

STARTING SCREEN | This place is freakin' me out, maaaan!

Whew. I didn't believe it at this point last week, but it turns out there is life after E3. I bet you're all as shocked as I am.

It was a busy show, but we had fun. Did you have fun? I hope so. Kat had such a good time, she fled to Vegas as soon as the show was over. So I'm taking over Starting Screen this week.

I'll go seize Kat from Gamblor's neon claws as soon as I'm done work today.

For my money, Nintendo gave us the most surprises this year. I don't just mean Metroid Prime 4 or Metroid: Samus Returns, either. Those only rank as surprises in a roundabout way. Like, you think to yourself "Nintendo's done with Metroid, it's never going to reveal a Metroid game at E3 – oh my goodness, what is thaaaat?" It's still a surprise, sure, and a very pleasant one, but deep inside that single chamber of your heart that's not yet world-weary, you knew it was coming.

No, Super Mario Odyssey's hat-possession trick is the Nintendo surprise that really knocked my head backwards. I thought I learned everything I need to know about Mario Odyssey when the game was revealed back in January. I said, "Mario travels across different weird environments to save Princess Peach, eh? OK, cool, I can dig it."

Then E3 rolled around and I learned a small additional detail: Mario can possess any unfortunate hatless schmuck by throwing his own hat at them. I'm equal parts disturbed and thrilled about this mechanic, and I'm not the only one.

Nearly everything about Mario Odyssey's New Donk City blows my mind, to be frank. I haven't played the game, so I can't agree or disagree with Kat about whether New Donk City serves well as a demo stage, but its existence alone makes my lizard brain scream in alarm. The harder you peer into the city's cement-and-steel bones and veins, the more clearly you notice its people and their lifestyle are off-kilter.

Let's review:

City streets, parks, and concert stages are stacked on top of buildings -- New Donk City was once under siege by the mighty gorilla Donkey Kong, and having learned more about the city's structure, I've wondered if all its inhabitants are descended from apes and monkeys. I'm not talking about the "shared ancestor" cop-out humanity hears about, either. I'm talking about some weird evolutionary twist that sees New Donk City's denizens live, drive, and play on barrier-free rooftops like it ain't no thang.

I'm not too afraid of heights, but if I lived in New Donk City, I'd spend most of my time scrunched in the fetal position. If I had to go to the store, I'd curl up on a skateboard and slowly hitch my way over there, buy milk, then gradually wheel myself home.

"Who lives beneath the clouds?" Well, you know how Chrono Trigger has the "Enlightened Ones" and the "Earthbound Ones?"

Nearly everyone wears a grey suit -- For a city of probable orangutan people, New Donk's citizens sure dress conservatively. These guys literally live on the edge, but they don't reflect their daring life choices through their attire.

I'm weirdly reminded of the planet Camazotz from the novel A Wrinkle in Time, where conformity is valued above all else and dissenters were severely punished. What's Mayor Pauline up to? Speaking of:

Pauline rules New Donk City like a God-Queen -- New Donk City has its own currency, and that's odd enough, but said currency has Pauline's face on it. Any mayor who says, "I'm going to establish a unique currency for my city, and I'm going to put my face on it" is a mayor who has no intention of surrendering her position through peaceful democratic means. Yet, the people of New Donk City tell Mario they love Pauline even though she lords over a city where the streets float uselessly in the sky and rats scurry in the alleys. Granted, the people of Camazotz are likewise required to say they adore the pulsating brain that rules over them.

New Donk City's prime law: only Pauline is allowed to look utterly fabulous.

I'm going to give Pauline's people the benefit of the doubt and assume they're sincere about their adoration, though. Maybe Pauline is a good guard dog against Mario's mind-possessing hat-trick. Maybe she can sense Mario's approach – she does have a close bond with him, after all – and she drops whatever she's doing to flick on New Donk's Emergency Broadcast Signal (it sounds like apes screaming) and warn her people about his imminent arrival.

Imagine Pauline's stern but beautiful face flickering across televisions city-wide. "Hats on, citizens of New Donk City!" she barks. "The Possessor approaches! Protect your mind against his invasion, or suffer the consequences!"

Make no mistake: There are consequences. If you don't put on your hat, Mario will put it on for you, and you won't like where things go from there.

All right. I'm glad I wrote all this out, because now I understand that Pauline has no choice but to rule New Donk City with an iron fist wrapped in velvet. Tough times call for tough rulers.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: All-Star Rest Area from Super Smash Bros Melee

All things considered, I hope nobody objects to starting this week off on a softer, calmer note. The Rest Area theme that awaits you in between matches of the furious All-Star battle mode in Super Smash Bros Melee is one of the most relaxing pieces of game music I know, and it has a lengthy pedigree, too.

The Rest Area tune comes from the Kirby series. In fact, it was penned as a considerably more energetic piece for the very first game. Later, it was made softer and slower, and placed in Kirby Super Star's save rooms. Super Smash Bros Melee couples an especially gentle version of the theme with background imagery of a park, and adds a bit of birdsong to the peaceful scene. It's the perfect come-down during an All-Star bloodbath. Sit down, take a deep breath, and try to erase the memories of Mr Game & Watch's obscene massacre your mind.

Mike's Media Minute

Wonder Woman has that heat! The film's take this past weekend was $40 million, representing only a 30 percent drop week-over-week, which is frankly absurd for many films. If Wonder Woman holds onto this pace, we're looking at Deadpool-like legs, which was a film that stunned folks last year. Wonder Woman is off to a weaker start than that film, but it's drops are much smaller in addition. It's the second largest third weekend for WB, dropping behind The Dark Knight and the film's current worldwide take to $571 million.

So what's next? Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a rebuild for Sony, with Marvel doing most of the legwork. The film is tracking for a $90-100 million opening, which would put the film in-between the opening weekends of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3. Could be better, but that's a great start for the Spider-Man brand, which Sony has tarnished with the releases of Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 back-to-back.

And the year isn't over! Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok are going to round out 2017 when it comes to superhero films and there's other genre fare out there! War for the Planet of the Apes, The Dark Tower, It, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Blade Runner 2049, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi will bring 2017 to a close!

Caty’s AltGame Corner

Imagine you're sitting in front of a dusty CRT, playing another one of those 8-bit platformers, and scanlines are obscuring your vision. On these old games, scanlines were just another part of the charm—warping everything in their path from the outside, adding distortion like film grain adds to film. In Scanline, from developer rxi, scanlines are your nemesis.

Scanline is a procedurally generated platformer designed with 8-bit graphics and a CGA 4 (Color Graphics Adapter) color palette, as per the rules bestowed by the recent CGA Game Jam. CGA was the first color display card for computers way back in the early 1980s, and thus, quickly became the standard across computers.

The limited palette is apparent in Scanline, but it shines in spite of its tight restraint. The color are bright neons, like of cyan and magenta. The player's character dashes forward, blasting away little snakes with their gun, as they navigate the game's procedurally generated levels. The scanline, once loved by players back in the day, is now hot on your tail, and might as well spell out defeat if it catches up to you.

Scanline is downloadable for free on itch.io for PC and Linux.

Matt’s Monday Mornings

E3 2017 is finally over, which means I spent the weekend not playing any video games. I did however watch the season finale of American Gods , which at eight episodes is very much worth a binge watching session. I don’t want to give the whole thing away, but I’m definitely looking forward to season two when it comes out middle of next year (ugh).

I’ve also started reading a new novel called The Magpie Murders, a book so into the idea of being a modern Agatha Christie novel, author Anthony Horowitz includes fake book reviews into the story comparing his work to Christie. It’s a bold move which I think could pay off given that real book reviews pretty much say the same thing. It also has a really interesting format where there is a full novel within a novel, where one story is an editor reading the manuscript for the fictional book titled “The Magpie Murders”, which you also read. Very Inception-y stuff I know but I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the story.

Tagged with E3 2017, Feature, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Starting Screen.

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