Category Archives: Video Games

NECA Turtles in Time Baxter Stockman

“Big Apple, 3 AM”

When NECA finally received access to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license to release product at retail, the company decided to focus on three pillars: cartoon, movie, video game. The cartoon product, being the most sought after, was exclusively sold at Target stores in the United States. The movie line, probably nearly as desirable as the cartoon, but not as deep, was to be sold exclusively at GameStop and has since been moved to Walmart. The third pillar, and probably the least desirable, was the video game brand. Those figures were to be sold across various comic and specialty shops. Basically, anyone who sells collector-grade action figures can place an order for these. Which, incidentally, made it possible for a retailer like GameStop to at one point sell both movie and game figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The design of the original cabinet was so bizarre. This odd Baxter fits right in that.

The video game line was always going to be the lease desirable because it’s the most gimmicky. All of the figures feature a pixelized deco to create the illusion that they came out of a video game. Only, this sort of thing is basically impossible to properly replicate since pixels, by their nature, are arranged in a very strict fashion and any three-dimensional object that can bend and move in the third dimension is going to break those rules. It also was a line designed primarily for repaints and re-releases. The turtles themselves had been originally released as a comic con exclusive already along with Shredder and the Foot. They were based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, but NECA’s line for retail was to be based on Turtles in Time. Still, the turtles didn’t change enough from one game to the next to warrant new sculpting, so instead the pixel deco was modified slightly and each figure came bundled with a surf/hover board based on the bonus level Sewer Surfin’. As for the rest, well most could just be repaints of the cartoon line or re-releases with slight modification. Shredder, for example, had his shoulder pauldrons adjusted while Slash received a new head to differentiate him from his toon counterpart. And since these were priced under the usual NECA Ultimates price point, they tended to just come with a few extra hands and a weapon or two.

It seemed like that was all the line would be. NECA also expressed interest in winding it down in favor of a new line based on the original Mirage Studios source material, even though there were still a few boss characters missing. NECA didn’t want the line to just fizzle out though, so it decided to do a couple of special releases. One is a two-pack of Bebop and Rocksteady which is due any day now, while the other was the line’s first Ultimates release: Baxter Stockman.

The video game version of the character always struck me as a great deal more creepy than the cartoon one.

Baxter, like many characters from the game and this line, have a cartoon counterpart. NECA released Baxter alongside Splinter in early 2021 so NECA double-dipping with a game repaint was not a surprise. The only thing was, it didn’t make a ton of sense. Baxter in the cartoon is a diminutive, mutant, fly. He’s a pip-squeak. In the video game though he’s pretty beefy. Maybe because he’s a boss Konami felt he needed some presence because he’s as big as the turtles, if not a little bigger. He also looks just a little different. His head is a bit more grotesque and he has this one, ugly, tooth that makes him look like an old man. NECA could have just faked it and did Baxter up in a different color scheme and called it a day, but most probably would have called them out on it.

Two different interpretations of the same character. I do love how that toon one turned out.

Rather than make Baxter a lesser release, NECA did the opposite. They upped the price to an Ultimates tier which gave the company the freedom to do a new sculpt. Now, some of his parts are probably sourced from other, non-Baxter, figures, but some is also unique. He also got his own, unique, packaging in the Ultimates styled box with the fifth panel for product shots and artwork (and the front of the box is basically NECA’s interpretation of Baxter in the same style as the turtles were presented on the original arcade cabinet). It also meant more accessories! Baxter comes with the usual assortment of extra hands, but he also has two guns, a flight stand, and an effects piece with a stand of its own! It’s quite the package, and it’s nice seeing NECA sink a little extra love into the video game line.

Thank goodness his union kept their dental plan.

Baxter stands at around six and a quarter inches, making him nearly two inches taller than his cartoon version. He has shaggy, red-orange hair, and bulbous pink eyes and a hideous grin. He has a purple sweater vest and red bowtie to go along with some tattered, white, dress sleeves and blue pants. It’s tough to get a good look at a sprite in a 16-bit video game, but this looks pretty consistent with the arcade game. His flesh is a fuchsia or hot pink which also includes those extra arms on his back. The wings are just lightly sculpted and feature a powdery, pink finish, that are ever so slightly transparent, but functionally not. The pixel paint job seems less intense than some of the other figures released. It’s mostly on the front of his vest and sides of his pants while the gray shading on his sleeves is given a boxy edge. They really didn’t attempt anything on the head, save for the diamond pupils in his eyes, nor is there any on his wings or extra appendages. I think it looks fine and I prefer the pixel effect to be underplayed as opposed to overplayed, and the paint application in general is quite clean. In terms of parts sharing with the cartoon Baxter, I can’t see any. I thought they might have the same pincer arms, but those are different as well. The hands, feet, arms, torso, even the bowtie are all different. He probably shares legs and arms with Vernon from the toon line, and whatever is under the sweater vest as well, but this guy is largely unique.

He’s trying to look tough, but he really could use some more meat on his bones.

All of the ingredients are there for Baxter to be a visual splendor, but I do think he has one obvious flaw. He’s just not chunky enough. The character model in the game was about as tall as the turtles, but noticeably thicker. This Baxter has the height, but he’s pretty thin. I’m sure some of this perception is magnified by the fact that he’s kind of hunched over in the game and squat. Even if I try to scrunch him up though the effect still isn’t achieved. Is it a deal-breaker? Well, almost. I really waffled on this release for a bit as I liked it, but just didn’t think it was a terrific likeness of the video game art. I really only gave in because of availability and my own desire to just get a new toy. Plus, even with the likeness issue, it looked like a fun toy because of all of the stuff. Anybody interested in this figure will just have to decide for themselves if the likeness is good enough or not. I think NECA brings it on themselves here since a lot of their toon figures look like they stepped right out of the television so that’s a standard we’ve come to expect for their TMNT figures, whether they’re based on a cartoon, movie, or video game.

Baxter, I told you not to try to swallow a fistful of sugar cubes.

In the game, Baxter attacks from the air and land so such a character needs to be able to achieve a variety of poses and this Baxter is more than up to the task. He’s pretty loaded when it comes to articulation. His head sits on a ball-peg and has some solid functionality there made even better by the fact that his head sits on a rather large neck with a hinge at the base. This does help him achieve that stooped look he has in the game when on his feet, and if in the air, he’s able to look down at his target just fine. At the shoulders, he has the usual ball-hinges and they have a terrific tolerance for moving around and out to the side. For this guy, NECA used their slightly unusual double-elbows that the cartoon Baxter had. When these elbows are used on a sleeveless character like the movie Casey Jones they look really bizarre, but on a character in a dress shirt like Baxter they look fine. He can bend well past 90 and the arms swivel above the elbow as well. And since you can point that hinge wherever you need it, Baxter can basically bend almost as well as a character with a butterfly joint at the shoulder. He can reach across his chest, achieve two-handed, gun holding positions, or even choke himself! At the wrists, he can rotate and hinge, but all of his hands have in-out, horizontal, hinges which is unfortunate as vertical ones are better for handguns. He has some articulation under his shirt, but it’s not particularly functional as the shirt doesn’t feature a cut anywhere. He can crunch forward slightly, but mostly his waist is available to swivel. At the hips he has ball-joints underneath one of those soft, “diaper,” pieces. I’m happy to report that the diaper appears structurally sound with no cracking or flaking present on mine, though the hips are too loose for my liking. He does have a slight thigh twist there and the standard double-knees. On the rear of the figure, his wings and pincher limbs are the same as cartoon Baxter. They swivel and hinge where they meet the body, but there’s no “elbow” or pinching articulation which is kind of a bummer. Lastly, he has a hinged jaw which I always love on NECA’s figures. They just add so much personality without hindering the sculpt and with Baxter the same is true.

He didn’t like my mocking his toughness earlier, so now he’s got a gun.
Make that two guns.

Baxter’s articulation is pretty impressive. The pincher limbs lacking a little more is basically a nitpick. My only real criticism rests with the loose hips. I’m able to get Baxter to stand, but sometimes the legs kick out to the side and he tumbles over. It’s less an issue with this figure than it was with the frogs because he’s made for a flight stand, but he should still be able to stand on his own without fear of falling. He can definitely achieve basically any pose from the game, be it standing, hovering, or even his damage pose. Beyond that, he can achieve any sort of flying pose you could want. He has no problems lifting his head and looking straight-ahead when flying parallel with the ground. And since virtually none of his joints came stuck and his joints are all cast in the proper colored plastic, he’s really a joy to mess around with. I said the likeness gave me pause, but I’m happy to say my assumption that this guy would be fun was definitely the correct one to make.

Sorry Leo, you’re the sacrificial lamb today.
This is fun, but damn, does it require a lot of space. The surface of my deep freezer is definitely not a permanent solution.

And Baxter is made fun because he has a nice assortment of accessories. In terms of optional hands, he has three sets: fists, open, and trigger/gripping hands. For weapons, he has two guns: a submachine gun, and a revolver. These are taken from the game as the boss fight begins with Baxter wielding the machine gun and then he loses it and switches to the revolver-styled weapon. Of course, that one doesn’t fire bullets, but a gigantic hand thing. When flying, it comes out like a yellow, goopy, slap while on the ground it would form into a fist. NECA provided this hand effect weapon, though it doesn’t match the game. Rather than use a slap or fist, they went with a grabby hand as they likely felt that would work better with the turtle figures. I do wish they had included a fist part to swap as the hand can swivel and probably separate there, but I’m mostly fine with this artistic license the company took. It pegs in rather snugly to either gun, so if you want the machinegun to fire the hand it can. The guns and hand have the same pixel deco as the figure and look fine. NECA also did what they should have done with the toon Baxter and tossed in a flight stand. It’s similar to the one they sell at retail and it’s functional. It’s not my favorite flight stand, but it works. This one has an added hinge which make it better than the retail version so maybe they plan on replacing it with this new model. There’s also a second stand for the hand effect since it’s pretty hefty. It just clips onto the “body” of the effect and helps to keep it suspended in the air. It works for straight-on poses and for angled, flying, poses. The only thing that sucks is the hand is so heavy it doesn’t work great when it’s actually clipped onto a turtle. That makes it even heavier so you have to account for that somehow in how the turtle is positioned, but it’s also so high off the surface that it makes it hard to do that. You almost need a third stand for the victim. It can be finagled, and the accessory is still fun and welcomed, but it can get frustrating trying to achieve the “perfect” pose.

The added functionality to the stand plus Baxter’s excellent head/neck articulation means he can achieve a variety of flying poses.

The Turtles in Time Baxter Stockman is a figure that looks great, even though it doesn’t perfectly match the source material, that’s also a lot of fun to pose. NECA put the effort into this release to make sure it came with everything it needed and the results speak for themselves. I was very close to passing on this one, but I’m glad I changed my mind. Now, my only regret is not having the actual video game turtles to pose with him. I should have them eventually, but for now I basically have a collection of gaming villains ganging up on one electrified turtle. I don’t know which turtle that is, but it sure sucks to be him. As for Baxter, the only other downside is trying to decide how to pose him. I like the two-handed weapon pose, but the hand effect is too fun not to use. On the other hand, pun intended, utilizing that attachment means dedicating some serious shelf space to this one figure as the hand is about seven inches long, not including the gun it has to peg into. These are good problems to have though and I’m very happy with my purchase. Baxter Stockman ended up being a worthy first video game Ultimates release for TMNT and now he’s got me hoping that he won’t be the last!

That poor, poor, turtle.

Chrono Trigger (DS)

Chrono Trigger was originally released in 1995, but has been re-released numerous times since.

One of the great hallmarks of the Japanese Role-Playing genre of video games is Chrono Trigger. The 1995 Super Nintendo game was crafted by a dream team of the era’s best RPG developers. Produced by Squaresoft, the title was a collaboration between Square and Yuji Horii, who at the time was best known as the creator of Dragon Quest. The designer for the title was Hironobu Sakaguchi who was credited as the father of Final Fantasy. For RPG fans in the 90s, Squaresoft working on an RPG that was essentially Dragon Quest + Final Fantasy was an RPG fan’s wet dream. How could it be get any better than that? Well, it did, because numerous other talented individuals worked on the title. Akira Toriyama handled (Dragon Quest, Dragon Ball) character designs and a young artist by the name of Tetsuya Takahashi was also part of the art department for the game. Composers Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu were onboard to provide the music while a trio of Final Fantasy vets, Akihiko Matsui, Takashi Tokita, Yoshinori Kitase, handled the directing duties. A lesser name at the time, Masato Kato (Xenogears, Final Fantasy VII), contributed as a writer on the project and would come to be the main architect of the Chrono Trigger story.

Needless to say, this was a huge project for Squaresoft and the Super Nintendo in the mid-90s and was the spiritual merger of Square and Enix years before that merger would become a reality. Unfortunately though, the game was almost too big and too late arriving in the first quarter of 1995 after the Japanese launch of Sony’s PlayStation and roughly 6 months before that console’s US release. Another obstacle to the game’s success was its price. In the US, the retail price of a new copy of Chrono Trigger was $80, a pretty massive sum of money for a single game that wasn’t part of an established franchise. RPG gamers, particularly in Japan, had reason to be excited for Chrono Trigger and were likely willing to pay such a price, but the casual gamer had no idea what this was and the JRPG subgenre was still finding its footing in the west. All of that is to say, it’s not particularly surprising that, despite largely strong review scores in gaming mags, the game didn’t sell vast quantities when initially released. The production run was likely modest, and many people simply missed it.

It’s easy to see a little Dragon Ball in Toriyama’s designs for Chrono Trigger.

In 1995, I didn’t quite miss Chrono Trigger, but I also didn’t get the full experience. The title was a rental for me, and even though SNES JRPGs aren’t as long as modern ones, a single rental still wasn’t enough time to experience everything the game had to offer. I distinctly remember getting to the point where the character Frog leaves the party, and I don’t believe I made it much farther. The game somewhat quickly came to be regarded as a missed classic. I think this was largely due to the explosion in interest in the genre following the release of Final Fantasy VII, but even a mere 2 years after the SNES release, the game was already hard to come by. Prices on the after-market were routinely $100 or more, and even though we should have still been used to higher priced games, it was hard to justify that kind of expense when brand new PlayStation titles were $50.

For many, their first introduction to Chrono Trigger would come from emulation. Emulators for 8 and 16 bit consoles were becoming popular and many used them as an alternative to paying exorbitant after-market prices for rare games. I know I gave Chrono Trigger another shot on an emulator, but I don’t recall making it very far. For me, there was always a logic hump to get over when it came to playing console games on the PC. I also lost interest because not long after that Squaresoft announced a PlayStation port of Chrono Trigger. The title would be released alongside Final Fantasy IV as Final Fantasy Chronicles in 2001 (ironically, quite late in the lifecycle of the original PlayStation). I was a day one buyer of the bundle and it was in that form that I finally completed a playthrough of Chrono Trigger. Unfortunately, the PSX version of the game wasn’t the best way to experience it. In porting the SNES game to the disc-based PSX a new problem was unleashed: load times. The loading was a necessary evil to enjoying the game as simply going from gameplay to the menu included a load of approximately 5 seconds. It may read as inconsequential in text, but in playing the game it’s annoying and monotonous. Still, it wasn’t all bad for the PSX version as it did include some flashy new animated segments from Toriyama’s Bird Studio and animated by Toei, who also animated Toriyama’s most famous franchise Dragon Ball.

Aside from availability, the big selling point of the PSX release were the new cutscenes.

The PlayStation release was a flawed one, but not so flawed that it could sap all joy from Chrono Trigger. Still, I have wanted to replay the game for years now, but was reluctant to return to that PSX port even though I still own it. And ever since 2008, there really has been no need to as that is when Square-Enix released what many consider to be the definitive version of Chrono Trigger on the Nintendo DS. The DS version kept the good parts of the PSX port but returned the functionality of the SNES version. It also contained improvements in the form of a refined translation and display mode tailored to the DS which basically removed all visual clutter from the main screen and moved it to the bottom one. It also made the game portable, and really the only sacrifice one has to make is the loss of being able to easily play the game on a television. When the DS version came out it slipped under my radar. I was likely just too preoccupied with whatever I was playing at home to grab it. Only recently did I finally rectify that, though similar to the SNES version back in the late 90s, my procrastinating did hurt me in the wallet to some degree though not as badly as it would have in 2000.

My desire to play Chrono Trigger in 2021 stems from the fact that most of my experience with the game was in an inferior form 20 years ago. Since then, the game’s reputation has only managed to grow and many now regard it as the greatest RPG of all-time. The RPG podcast Axe of the Blood God even did a March Madness style bracket for its listeners to vote on that resulted in Chrono Trigger besting the likes of Final Fantasy VII, Skyrim, and The Witcher 3 to be crowned the best ever. Now, one RPG podcast is hardly the final say on any single game, but I found it telling that a subscription-based userbase for an RPG podcast would still settle on Chrono Trigger as one would imagine anyone paying to listen to an RPG podcast is quite likely a diehard RPG enthusiast. And I personally had no real qualms with the result myself as I personally hold Chrono Trigger in very high regard and the end result made me realize that I just need to experience it again for myself.

The DS version really declutters the main screen by moving all of the informative graphics to the bottom screen.

If you’ve read this far and have no idea just what Chrono Trigger is allow me to explain. It’s a pretty traditional JRPG from the 90s. As the player, you control and manage a party of up to 3 characters with more in reserve as you go from town to town in the game talking to non-player characters to find information on where to go. Traveling from these towns to the next destination unfolds over a world map; a zoomed out view of the game’s world where characters can traverse miles in seconds. Upon entering hostile areas, the player will encounter enemies which triggers a battle sequence. Unlike its peers, Chrono Trigger’s transition from exploration to battle is entirely seamless. There’s no change to the art style, no loading of a new screen, the characters just simply pull out their weapons and commence fighting. In battle, characters can attack, use magic, use items, or flee when it’s their turn. Turns are determined by the character’s underlying speed score which affects how quickly their action meter fills. For RPG veterans, they know this as Square’s Active Time Battle System first implemented in Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger makes no real changes to it. Where Chrono Trigger does distinguish itself from Final Fantasy is in the removal of random encounters on the map as enemies will now appear on screen before a battle begins. The other distinguishing trait is in the Tech system, which I’ll get to shortly. For the most part though, the game plays like any other JRPG. When the battle is over, character’s gain experience which contribute to them leveling-up and seeing their base stats improve. They also gain ability points which are applied automatically to their magic and skills and will eventually result in them learning a new ability. Characters can also be outfitted with a weapon and three forms of armor that enhance their native abilities and are gradually replaced overtime as better equipment becomes available.

What sets the wheels in motion is essentially a misunderstanding and an overzealous Chancellor.

That all is pretty conventional, but Chrono Trigger changes this up a bit with its emphasis on time and its Tech system. The word tech is essentially a synonym for magic in other games, though the game doesn’t consider all techs “magic.” They’re the abilities characters learn as they get stronger and the only way to learn a new tech is for a character to participate in combat, which is different from earning experience towards leveling up as inactive characters will still earn experience. Techs come in various forms, some are simply strong physical attacks, others are elemental spells like Water and Fire, and some are support abilities like healing and buffs. Each character has their own unique techs to learn and they basically shape how that character should be used. Some are naturally more physical fighters with the character Ayla in particular lacking a magic attack. Some are magic attackers, some are more of a support character, and a few try to blend both. That part is pretty standard, the part where Chrono Trigger introduces a new wrinkle is in the form of dual and triple techs. Each character will eventually learn a tech that’s compatible with another character. This starts off slowly, but by the end of the game basically every character has a tech that works with another. Learning them is simply a matter of the two characters participating in battle together when they both know the tech needed to create the dual tech. Like standard techs, they take on various forms and can be healing or attacking in nature. Some allow the non-magic users like the previously mentioned Ayla to add an elemental component to an attack, but mostly they’re just high impact moves as the damage output is greater than the sum of its parts. The same is true for triple techs which just incorporate all three active characters.

The Tech system is certainly flashy which helps cover up its lack of depth. Very little player input is required to learn them and it becomes more about balancing risk vs reward. Especially early in the game when the speed of the characters is both slower and more varied. Dual and triple techs are only usable when all of the characters involved have full action gauges so waiting on slower characters means there are moments when characters aren’t doing anything. Towards the end of the game it’s less of an issue as you will likely have access to multiple characters that have maxed out or near maxed out speed. The only added wrinkle is there is one, optional, character that has no dual techs and only a few, hidden, triple techs. Deciding whether or not to utilize that character can be tricky because you’re losing the ability to combine attacks. That character is also entirely offensive in nature which means someone else is going to have to be the healer in the party and usually that character is weaker and not the best choice for dual-teching. By the end of the game though, it’s again rendered somewhat moot as there is at least one character capable of healing that also can dish out plenty of damage.

I know they don’t make any sense, but I do miss the World Map that was prevalent in every JRPG in the 90s.

The main focus of the game’s plot and design revolves around the ability to travel through time. The game begins with the main character, default name Crono, encountering a runaway which leads to the main character getting into a rather sticky situation. It’s not particularly unique for the genre, but it will result in the player getting sent 400 years into the past. As you progress through the game more periods become available. They’re accessible via permanent warps in certain areas and they’ll take you to the future and even further into the past. A key component of advancing the plot involves traveling to the future to obtain something only available there and then going back in time to change something in a later period. Even though you’re essentially playing with the time stream the whole game, it’s still a linear experience for the vast majority of the game. Only towards the end does it open up a bit, as do many of its peers, when the player gains access to a vehicle that both flies and functions as a time machine removing the need to backtrack to specific warp points.

The game is certainly still fun after more than 25 years. The game cycles characters through early on which keeps things fresh and exciting. Level-ups occur at a brisk enough pace and new abilities are added at a suitable pace as well which can become addicting. Seeing each era available in the game also provides incentive to keep going, it’s once you’ve seen them all that the game starts to lose a little steam. Players will naturally gravitate towards a preferred trio only really swapping characters out to make sure abilities aren’t neglected. It’s helpful that you can swap at will, though saving the game is still relegated to the world map and designated save points. By the end of the game, a tedium will start to set in as it becomes apparent that Chrono Trigger’s lack of random encounters doesn’t mean all confrontation is avoidable. Rather it would be more appropriate to describe Chrono Trigger as a game of scripted encounters. Many enemies are onscreen, but completely unavoidable. This becomes annoying in traversing to the various time warps as many will always feature battles in certain spots, even when the party is far beyond the enemy’s talents. One optional string of quests late in the game involves going back and forth between a dinosaur village in two time periods that is just a constant string of fetch quests and backtracking. You will come to know all of the encounters in your way as you battle through them again and again. You may even come to miss random encounters as at least they had some variety as opposed to these scripted ones which never change.

The seamless transitions from exploring to battle are pretty neat, though the non-random encounters aspect of the game has been oversold.

Where the game has not suffered though in the ensuing years rests in its presentation. Toriyama’s digitized character designs are still as charming as ever and the inclusion of the anime cutscenes serve as a reminder of what these sprites represent. The script is mostly light-hearted with plenty of moments of humor. I don’t think anything in this game made me laugh out loud, but it was something I definitely enjoyed for the most part. The score is also a strength, even on tiny DS speakers, though I do feel like it’s missing a signature track similar to how Final Fantasy back in the 90s had its victory theme. The world design is enjoyable though with eras of typical fantasy fare, but also there’s the variety inherent in the future world and prehistory period. The future is quite impressive given the sheer amount of clutter forced into each area. It could have become too messy and busy to look at, but instead remains impressive after all of these years. Certainly, if you’re more of a modern gamer and something like the PlayStation 3 was your first console you may not appreciate the visuals as much as someone who started gaming in the 70s or 80s, but hopefully most will still find them pleasant enough.

And this takes me to my final thoughts and how I view Chrono Trigger as both a product of its time and something that is inherently timeless. Which is to ask, is Chrono Trigger worthy of being viewed as the best RPG ever? I find it hard to argue that it is. I can certainly see how someone who first played it in the 90s can form an attachment to it. It has a terrific team behind it, looks great, sounds great, and it’s just different enough from a Final Fantasy or a Dragon Quest to feel unique. And if you’re into time travel then you really have a recipe for a terrific gaming experience. Where I think it comes up short though is largely in its systems. There’s almost zero customization available to the player as each character has a defined role. Actually, if anything, their roles aren’t defined quite enough as it’s not hard at all to just pick 3 favorites and stick with them. Especially towards the end of the game when all techs have been learned and you can just spam the best dual and triple techs to get past just about every encounter. Enemies basically have just two tricks, they’re either susceptible to physical attacks or magic ones, and not much else. All of the challenge is found in the first 10 hours or so when you’re forced to adapt on the fly, but come the end of the game when it should be getting harder it’s actually getting easier. The final dungeon is almost painfully boring as it’s very linear and offers little or no challenge. I just powered through with the team of Crono, Ayla, and Frog and never had to turn to another character. And I didn’t do any grinding (which is actually another feather in the game’s cap) and was around level 50 come the end. I wasn’t having a bad time with the game or anything like that, but I was certainly ready for it to be over and was reminded why I never embarked on a New Game+ back on the PSX version.

The game boasts an enjoyable cast of characters, though main character Crono is basically just a cipher for the player.

That’s not to say that Chrono Trigger isn’t a competent RPG or an enjoyable experience in 2021. It very much is, and I think a lot of people fell in love with the game because it is so accessible and the presentation is rather flashy for a game form 1995. It’s just not the deep, RPG, experience some might prefer in the genre. I think there’s still a debate over whether or not it’s even the best SNES RPG available. Final Fantasy VI is quite epic in scope with a touch more depth, while Final Fantasy V is very much a systems-focused RPG experience at the expense of story and presentation. In looking at the offerings in the console generation to follow, I still think highly of Final Fantasy VII and I’m also a big proponent for the game’s sequel, Chrono Cross. Then you have games like Suikoden II, Tactics Ogre, Xenogears, and more and I’m reminded that the late 90s and early 2000s really were the golden age of the RPG, the JRPG in particular. And I’m left to honestly wonder if this game can compete with the likes of Skyrim and The Witcher. Those modern titles offer something almost completely different in terms of gameplay, but if I was in one of those annoying scenarios that literally never happen and I had to pick just one RPG to play forever am I picking Chrono Trigger? Am I even considering it? I don’t think so. There is a New Game+ option once the game is over and there are extra endings to uncover, but like the systems, they’re more style than substance. I probably will play through this again since I have the DS version now, but I’m not currently itching to so it may be awhile.

One thing I am certain about in my replay of Chrono Trigger is that the DS version is indeed the way to go. I love making this a portable experience and even though you can’t save at will, at least a DS can be placed into sleep mode to hold your progress. The new display is superior to what came before it with the menu shortcuts on the bottom and the gameplay on the top. I enjoy having the cutscenes even if they don’t add a ton they’re still enjoyable to look at. And from what I can tell, the new translation is superior to what I remember, though admittedly it has been a long time since I looked at the original. The added DS specific content is kind of worthless though. You get a battle arena and a new dungeon that’s just more tedious than anything, but if you’re not tapped out on the game’s combat by the end it’s there. It’s also entirely optional and adding this new content to the game did nothing to harm what had already been created. If you liked Chrono Trigger before, you’ll still like it now. And if you’ve ever enjoyed a classic JRPG, you’ll probably like this as well. It moves at a good clip and it’s very approachable. I would just caution first-time players to not come into it expecting the greatest RPG known to man because that’s an impossible standard for any game to live up to.


The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

Few games have taken me longer to complete than The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. When it was originally released on the Nintendo 64 in 2000, I did not own a Nintendo 64. I experienced the game in fits and starts at the homes of friends, but never really was I able to sit down and play it by myself. When the game was released on the Nintendo Virtual console in 2009, I bought it and installed it on my Wii, but never finished it. When the Nintendo 3DS came out one of the big titles announced for it was a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which I bought on the day of release. It was all but assumed a remake of Majora’s Mask would follow, but it took Nintendo a few years to make that a reality saving the title until 2015. And at the time of release, I was not in need of a new game so I passed o it initially and I ended up waiting a few years to purchase Majora’s Mask 3D when it was discounted in the summer of 2017 or ’18. And it has taken me since then to finally beat it. I never beat it on the Wii, and I played it irregularly on the 3DS. Sure, I’ve physically spent more hours with games than I have Majora’s Mask, but in terms of the passage of time from the first time I played it to my finishing it I’m not sure anything compares.

Majora’s Mask is in many ways the first true sequel for a game in The Legend of Zelda series. Canonically, the second game in the series is a sequel to the original as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link takes place after the events of the original The Legend of Zelda. However, it’s an entirely different game as Nintendo opted to switch to a side-scrolling perspective and add RPG mechanics to the character progression. About the only thing linking the two was the catchy soundtrack. On the Game Boy, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a sequel to the Super Nintendo title A Link to the Past, but obviously going from the Super Nintendo to the Game Boy necessitated quite a drastic change in playing style. Link’s Awakening ended up being one of the most offbeat Zelda titles, and it also introduced a jump mechanic to the top-down Zelda gameplay popularized by the very first game in the series.

Majora’s Mask though, being a 2000 release, is very much the sequel to Ocarina of Time. The Link character present in both games is the same, and the gameplay engine was recycled. Previously, every Zelda game was constructed from the ground up, but likely lengthy development cycles arising from the technological advances in gaming and simply the cost in crafting a gameplay engine meant Nintendo had a lot of reasons to do a more traditional sequel. It’s something Nintendo really has resisted with Zelda as since Majora’s Mask the only games that qualify as traditional sequels are the DS titles. Because of that reality, some questioned whether or not Majora’s Mask should even be considered a full-fledged Zelda title upon release, which was a bit absurd. It’s an entirely stand-alone game with as much content as basically any other Zelda title up to that point. And since it was built on the back of one of the most popular and critically acclaimed games of all-time it seemed doubly crazy to criticize Nintendo for essentially fast-tracking a Zelda game. If anything, content-starved owners of the Nintendo 64 should have been doing backflips to receive another Zelda game a mere 2 years after the previous one.

Top: N64 original, Bottom: 3D remake.

Majora’s Mask would not be as well received as Ocarina of Time, but you would be hard pressed to find a negative review of the game from 2000. And the same is true of the remake for the 3DS, so why did it take me so damn long to actually finish it? Well, Majora’s Mask is constructed around a time travel gimmick. Ocarina of Time was as well, but Majora’s Mask takes it in a different direction. This game is basically the equivalent of Groundhog Day for video games, only the events of the game unfold over the course of 3 days instead of 1. In it, you once again play as a child version of Link, the Hero of Time. He has ventured away from the kingdom of Hyrule and arrived in the region of Termina when the game begins. Unfortunately, he quickly loses his horse and comes to find out that the town is doomed. The Skull Kid, whom players should remember from Ocarina of Time, has stolen the cursed Majora’s Mask and has used its power to summon the moon to crush Termina. It’s a slow moving moon though, with a creepy visage upon it, that won’t actually strike for 3 days. Link is expected to unseal the power of four lost deities which should stop the moon from crashing into the planet. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time to accomplish that goal so Link will need to turn to his trusty ocarina to constantly rewind time to the start of the first day in order to acquire all of the items needed to foil the Skull Kid.

The Skull Kid from Ocarina of Time is back and he’s kind of a dick now.

What this means from a gameplay standpoint is that you’re constantly managing an in-game clock. If left to its own devices, the three days unfold at an equivalent of one gameplay hour equaling one real world minute. If you let the clock run down, you lose and everyone gets destroyed. This means you’re always running around and trying to accomplish as many tasks as possible as going back to the dawn of the first day means the entire world gets reset. Any consumable items you may have acquired like bombs and arrows are lost, as are the contents of any bottles and such. If you had to undertake certain tasks in order to gain access to a dungeon or similar area, you may have to redo them in order to pick up where you left off. The only things you’re allowed to keep when traveling back in time are key items like the bow and hookshot as well as heart containers and masks. This all results in a gameplay experience that is best described as tedious. Just like any other media centered on time travel, there’s always going to be repetition in the plot and it’s a pretty subjective take on how much is too much. Some people consider Back to the Future Part Two the worst film in the trilogy because so much of it is a rehash of the first film, even though it’s by design. And others love it for that very reason.

Link’s first mask will be the Deku mask, but it won’t be the last.

Because of its gameplay style, Majora’s Mask may be one of the most controversial Zelda titles ever released. I know people who can barely tolerate it, and I also know others who think its the best Zelda title ever released. Because the game is a constant loop of three days, every non-player character in the game has a schedule. You know where they will be on any given day at any given time. For some people, I think such a concept is very rewarding. It’s certainly a tad gimmicky, but it’s a gimmick that definitely wasn’t common on consoles in the year 2000. I personally don’t recall encountering such patterns in NPCs until I played an Elder Scrolls game, though in those games it wasn’t a loop of three days, but still characters could be trusted to be in certain places, on certain days, at certain times. And the ability to play with and manipulate time certainly has some charm. Not only can Link rewind time when needed, he can also slow down the passage of time essentially doubling the amount of time available, or he can move forward in time. Being able to do so plays a role in many side quests as they’re dependent on encountering characters at certain times of day, and rather than waiting around, you can simply move forward in time to wherever, and whenever, you need to be.

Every time Link transforms he screams and I can’t decide if it’s a scream born of terror or pain. Maybe both?

All that said, I am not one of those people. While I found a certain thrill in playing with time each time I started up a game of Majora’s Mask, it was something that wore off. Around the time I got to the second, main, dungeon of the game in the mountains I hit a wall. That’s where I left off for years on my Wii version, and it was the first time I put the 3DS version down for an extended length of time. I came and went over the years though and at long last I can finally say I have beaten Majora’s Mask, the 3D version anyway. Which is fine for me as we’ll get into it soon, but this is the superior version of the game. And while I did beat it, I did not accomplish every little thing in this title which is unusual for me when it comes to a Zelda game. Typically I get every item and find every heart piece, but I was content with this one to just get all of the masks. It’s not a hard game so the heart containers really just start to feel like filler at some point, the last few are also incredibly annoying, but that’s another thing we’ll get to in time.

You will gain access to a lot of masks in this game, some of which only have one application, but in the case of the Stone Mask it’s rather memorable.

Being that Majora’s Mask is built on the same engine as Ocarina of Time it should come as no surprise that the two games look pretty similar. That’s true of the original build, as well as the 3D remake. I played this on an original model 3DS and rarely touched the 3D setting. When it occurred to me to do so, I would, but only for cinematics. The remake is largely a cosmetic improvement over the original as all of the polygons have been smoothed over and rounded off better while the muddy textures of the N64 have largely been removed. The original looked okay in 2000, but the remake is pleasant to look at now and likely will remain that way for a lot longer than the 2000 release did. The upgrades are not just cosmetic though as Nintendo implemented a number of quality of life improvements, as it did with the Ocarina of Time remake. The bottom screen serves as your inventory and the ocarina itself is easily accessible now. Better, you can also see all of your songs displayed as you play so you don’t need to memorize anything. Link can equip four items at a time making it less cumbersome to swap things in and out and the Song of Double Time now allows you to select an hour in the future rather than just move time forward in preset intervals. All of the transformation masks have also received tweaks, some more severe than others. The most notable is Zora Link now swims a lot slower, but he can speed-up by consuming magic which feels like more of a downgrade than an improvement, but it is helpful when swimming in tight confines. There are also far more save points now, which is something that’s appreciated for any game.

When transformed, Link can’t use any of his items except for a transformed version of his ocarina. He does, however, gain access to new abilities and items like the Goron powder keg.

The main game asks the player to explore the world of Termina and acquire masks, which serve as the main feature of the gameplay gimmick. The masks largely replace the specialized items we’re used to finding in past Zelda games. The Goron mask, for example, basically gives Link the same “powers” as the hammer from Ocarina of Time while the Zora form has a boomerang attack and gives Link the ability to swim. The other mask, and the first one you get, is the Deku Scrub mask which gives Link the ability to hop across water and utilize the Deku flowers to basically hover a short distance in the air. There are still items to be found in dungeons, but far fewer than the typical Zelda experience. The masks themselves though are visually interesting and thematically as well as each mask is actually inhabited by the spirit of a deceased individual. It’s a bit sad that when Link is wearing one friends of the dead fellow mistake him for their dead friend or relative, which adds a tragic element to the story.

Swimming as Zora Link has been altered so that he swims much slower. This make navigating some tight spaces more manageable, but it’s less fun. Plus it’s still swimming and swimming is always annoying in games.

There are four main dungeons in the game that have to be completed in a specific order. If that makes the game sound short, it’s a bit longer than you think as each dungeon has basically another dungeon that has to be completed first. The first dungeon usually contains an item needed to progress the story or is necessary in opening the location of the dungeon you need to access most. Those four main dungeons each contain the mask of a deity, and assembling all four is needed to stop the moon. Those four masks are unwearable, but that doesn’t mean there is any shortage of masks in the game. There are 20 total masks, the majority of which do very little and are relegated to a specific purpose that once taken advantage of is no longer needed again. Some are neat though, like the one that turns Link’s head into a bomb and allows him to self-destruct thereby giving you infinite bombs. My favorite is probably still the Bunny Hood, a holdover from Ocarina of Time, which just makes Link run much faster. It’s annoying to get, but definitely worth it once acquired. The last mask you can get is basically a bonus item. Dubbed the Fierce Deity mask, it turns Link into an adult version of himself that’s over-powered that turns all boss battles into a mere formality. It’s the type of mask you should probably go after once you’ve beaten the game once, unless you prefer the final boss be a pushover.

Goron Racing is one of those annoying things you have to do and it pretty much sucks.

Which is something that isn’t needed anyway as the game is pretty easy. Even the puzzle elements aren’t particularly tricky and the ones that stumped me the most were usually the ones that required the least amount of thought. I got stuck for a bit in the last dungeon because I simply didn’t kill every enemy in a specific room, but the enemy was a statue that only comes to life if you touch it, which is the type of enemy where the purpose seems to be to avoid touching them! And these two were even situated in lava, so go figure. Combat is by far the most dated aspect of this game as it’s very simplistic and really not a whole lot of fun. Only one enemy will attack Link at a time if you’re locked onto them and the vast majority can be defeated just by smacking them. Others require the player to either deflect or parry a strike, then counter. Most of the bosses have been tweaked from the original release as well to add a weak point that you need to strike in a fairly obvious manner, then smack them around with your sword. Only the underwater boss gave me any trouble, and the final boss was a bit disappointing in how easy it was to fell. I suppose it was better than a boss fight that required a bunch of switching of masks or something, but lackluster combat isn’t a new problem for Zelda and it was even my biggest criticism of Breath of the Wild.

You’ll memorize this friggen song during the last dungeon, whether you like it or not.

I can live with the simple nature of the battle system in this game, but what drove me nuts was just the little things. The camera isn’t great, even when playing with the Circle Pad Pro which allows for manual manipulation of the camera, and it’s something I found myself fighting with more than expected. The targeting system can be finicky, but at least there’s no shortage of health available so that didn’t bother me too much. What would bother me the most are the alternate forms of Link, specifically Goron and Zora Link, as controlling them was such a chore. Goron Link has a rolling ability and there are moments in the game where you have to roll on a track while Zora Link has to swim and swimming is just never any fun in video games. The end of the game features some optional dungeons that drove me insane as it puts the lackluster camera and controls for those two forms in the spotlight and if you want every heart container you just have to soldier through it. The penultimate dungeon also introduced a mechanic where you flip the dungeon upside down which proved incredibly tedious. The last song you learn for Link’s ocarina, The Elegy of Emptiness, also allows Link to make a duplicate of himself for the purpose of standing on a switch. And you can duplicate Link as many times as transformations you have! The problem is you’ll end up doing this over and over as you leave and re-enter the dungeon, which is required to flip it and complete it, and watching those mask transformations and songs over and over is maddening. Nintendo apparently either loves its cinematics too much to make them skippable, or it hates its fans. I don’t know if it rises to the level of the infamous Water Temple, but the overwhelming tedium of this game just wore me down by the time the end arrived.

There are at least a few rewarding side quests in this one, and not just in terms of the item you get at the end.

I have a lot of complaints and mixed feelings when it comes to Majora’s Mask 3D, but in the end I do think it’s a good game and worth playing, I just think reactions to it will be volatile from person to person. It’s a game you can’t be in a hurry to play or else it will frustrate you, but sometimes you’re staring at a red battery light on a handheld and time becomes precious. When I ranked the Zelda games almost five years ago, I called this the seventh best game in the series. When ranking them then, even though I had never finished the game, I was reminded of how a lot of games in this series feature some degree of tedium and gimmicks that overstay their welcome. What distinguishes this game above some of the others is that the gimmick at least feels clever, and that’s a feeling that doesn’t really ware off. Sure, the combat doesn’t impress and the end game starts to feel a bit “samey” when most enemies just require the bow and sword, but there is a charm to the game’s structure and some of the characters are actually memorable, when Zelda plots are often just “meh.” And if you are going to play just one version, the 3D remake is definitely the superior one. While the changes to Zora Link make that last, optional, dungeon super annoying, that’s not enough to outweigh the other quality of life improvements and increased visuals. The only thing that stinks about playing the 3DS version is that you’re confined to a portable. You can certainly do better than the old model 3DS I have, but Nintendo has yet to make 3DS games available on Switch or introduced a 3DS player (there are third party hacks that can accomplish this, but nothing official) so that’s unfortunate, especially because the game contains a fantastic soundtrack. It’s a shame it’s trapped on those tiny speakers, but I suppose you could hook up some nice headphones. It was nice to get a Zelda fix though, especially with Breath of the Wild 2 still without a release date, and at least I can finally say I have beaten Majora’s Mask.


Jakks Pacific Classic Sonic the Hedgehog

Not way past cool, but cool.

Ever since I was introduced to the character Sonic the Hedgehog via the Genesis game of the same name I’ve found the character just very aesthetically pleasing. And that’s apparently intentional as Sega relied upon tried and true designs like Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse when it instructed artist Naoto Ohshima to come up with a new mascot that could rival Nintendo’s Mario. Now of course, it’s not necessarily Mario’s design that made him a star, but it certainly can’t hurt. Sega needed to pull gamers away from their Nintendo system with something flashy, and Sonic apparently fit the bill. And like Mario, it turned out his game was pretty good too and a rivalry was born!

Back in the early 90s, there was no shortage of toys at retail. Action figures, which really took off in the 80s, were still going strong and brands like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were raking in revenue. Strangely, the mascot characters from the world of video games largely sat things out. While fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were able to force their way into toy stores, Sonic and Mario instead found themselves relegated to the Happy Meal. Maybe because neither character was really associated with action figure tropes like guns and other weapons their respective parent companies didn’t see a reason to seek out a toy deal that included action figures or maybe producers weren’t interested. There were some non-articulated PVC figurines and even plush options, but no true action figures that I can recall.

Not the usual collector grade packaging I look at.

Today, things have changed and both Sonic and Mario can be found occupying space at retail alongside the likes of Star Wars and He-Man. Interestingly, it’s Jakks Pacific that has the licensing rights for both Mario and Sonic when thirty years ago that might have seemed somehow wrong, though DiC did produce cartoons for both. Nevertheless, Sonic has had a toyline for awhile now and most of those have been focused on bringing the modern Sonic to toy form. When Sega launched the Dreamcast in 1999, it was released alongside a brand new Sonic game titled Sonic Adventure. For that title, Sonic received a slight redesign. He dropped the spherical torso he borrowed from Felix and replaced it with something longer and trimmer. His legs were also lengthened, his shoes were redone, and his eyes made green. It wasn’t particularly radical, but it was noticeable.

The cross-sell seems to contain two additional classic interpretations of characters and one that is definitely not classic.

Sonic’s new look was fine, as far as I was concerned, but I did miss the slightly more chunky iteration of the hedgehog I knew and loved from his days on the Genesis. And even though I’m supposed to have aged out of toys (hah!), my desire for a classic interpretation of Sonic has never fully gone away. Recently, when browsing the toy aisles at my local Target, I came upon the latest from Jakks Pacific: a classic Sonic complete with a bouncing spring. It’s a figure that adheres to my chosen aesthetic for the character, and considering it runs a mere 10 dollars, I decided to purchase it and take a look. Is this the Sonic I was desperate for as a child, but never had the opportunity to purchase? Or, is this just a cheap, piece of crap designed to sucker kids and their parents into making a foolish purchase?

Sonic and his trusty spring! That’s a thing, right?

Sonic comes packaged on a standard blister card. There’s a picture of the character in the top corner and he’s surrounded by a printed, gold, ring. The package affords a good look at the figure within, which is appreciated since it allows for some inspection before purchase. Freeing the hedgehog from his plastic confines is actually a bit tricky since he’s wedged in there pretty tight, but considering this isn’t meant to be resealable packaging one can muscle him out. Once placed on a surface, Sonic stands roughly 4″ tall, probably a tick under, and is mostly head. He’s a fairly light shade of blue, almost teal, and his eyes dominate his visage. He has his long, rounded, nose and trademarked red shoes. He has six spikes on the rear of his head and two more on the back of his spherical mid-section. His little tail pokes out like an extra spike, though curled in the opposite direction of his spikes. He seems to adhere to the design of classic Sonic as presented in the game Sonic Generations. That Sonic was meant to resemble the Genesis era Sonic, but he’s a lighter blue and has yellow buckles on his shoes. I think I would have preferred a slightly darker shade of blue and no buckles, but it’s not a big deal. It’s near enough though that I think the sculpt is fine.

Spikes! I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they counted the amount of spikes present on the model in Sonic 2.
The side view gives you a good look at the iffy paint on the shoes.

Since he’s basically two colors, there isn’t a lot of paint to speak of with Sonic. All of the blue is molded plastic as are the arms in that peach color. The white of the eyes is quite sharp as is the belly, but the rest of the painted areas all feature some fuzzy linework. It bleeds a bit, especially on the mouth, which I don’t know if that’s been painted properly on this figure. It looks like there’s a sculpted line of teeth that I presume should be white, and is, with the rest of the mouth intended to be red? Instead, the white continues past the teeth and there’s just a line of red above it. Perhaps knowing this area would be the most problematic, Jakks declined to include any promo images on the rear of the box that feature the mouth prominently so it’s hard to say what should be going on here. It’s unfortunate since I don’t think an open mouth was even necessary. I always associate classic Sonic with a simple smirk. The white stripes and buckles on the shoes also aren’t terribly clean, but there’s at least no random splotches of paint. For a 10 dollar figure, the paint is fair and is better than some of the Hasbro Power Rangers I’ve purchased recently, so that’s a plus.

He can kind of run. It’s the lack of a head tilt that really hinders the posing.
It looks a little better when you turn the head, but what he really needs is just a plastic base that simulates his legs in motion.

Given the size and design of this figure, there isn’t a ton of opportunities for articulation. Jakks has largely kept things fairly basic in that area. Sonic’s head is on a swivel and can rotate. Since he doesn’t possess a neck, he can’t really do anything else. There’s a tiny bit of play that allows for him to ever so slightly look down, but I think that’s just the head moving on the ball peg that’s likely in there. Sonic’s arms are traditional ball-hinges that can rotate and raise out to the side just fine. His arms are permanently curved as he lacks elbows. The gloved hands can rotate and have some in-out as well as up-down play, though without the aid of hinges. His right hand is a fist, while the left is a gripping hand even though he has nothing to grip. There’s no articulation in the torso at all, which is expected of a character with Sonic’s anatomy, while his legs are on ball-hinges. They can swivel where they meet the torso and can kick forward and back pretty well. Since they’re ball-hinges, you can also rotate them to put Sonic into a split, if that’s your desire. Sonic does have knee hinges while his feet appear to be on ball pegs, like the hands, so they can rotate and have some play in all directions. It’s honestly better articulation than I expected and the only area I wish had more is the head. If he could look up that would have been terrific, but would have probably required a bit of clever engineering considering the lack of a neck. Even though he’s considerably top-heavy, he’s not too difficult to pose. I was able to get him to stand in a slight running pose and I suspect that’s what a lot of people want him to be able to do.

There’s a surprising amount of tension in the spring as the weight of the figure isn’t enough to push it down.

As far as accessories go, there isn’t much to talk about. Sonic comes with one spring platform that does at least have a spring action to it. It’s pretty boring looking though as it’s just a piece of red plastic for the top and gray for the base. A little black paint on the sculpted spring would have made this look a lot nicer, but wouldn’t really change a whole lot either. What’s missing is a power ring, which is made all the more obvious by the fact that he comes with a gripping hand perfectly suited to grasp such a ring. None of the figures in this wave appear to come with one which is bizarre, and it makes that gripping hand feel out of place. I’d much rather he have two fists for a true running pose. The gripping hand isn’t far removed from a fist so it’s not that big of a deal, but how much cost would a plastic, yellow, ring really add to this thing, Jakks? Even better would just be an extra hand with a ring molded into it, but swappable parts isn’t something I expect out of a 10 dollar figure. I also would have preferred a base to the spring. Just a piece of molded plastic for Sonic to stand in that resembles his running animation from the game would have solved some of the posing issues. Jakks could have even put it on wheels if they felt a play element was needed with the figure that would be lost by dropping the spring.

I think you’ll find he doesn’t really scale with much. He’d probably look fine beside one of the Mario figures though if you want to stage your own Mario vs Sonic at the Olympic games.

The Jakks Pacific Classic Sonic the Hedgehog is perfectly fine for what it is. It’s an inexpensive, simply painted, representation of the character’s classic look that does a good enough job with the sculpt to justify its existence. My complaints and criticisms with the figure are, at best, nitpicks and it’s important to remember what this figure is meant to be. It’s a kid’s toy first, collector item second, and that’s probably a distant second. And considering it does a good enough job with the aesthetic, I’d say I’m happy. Prior to getting this, I had been tempted by the Nendoroid Sonic release. That’s a figure modeled more on Sonic’s modern look, but the Nendoroid aesthetic means it works pretty well as a classic interpretation too. It’s also more than four times the price of this figure, so while I’m sure it’s superior, it’s probably not four times superior to this figure. This guy will look fine amongst my classic gaming artifacts and should one of my kids want to play with him, I can at least hand him off with no worries. Now lets see if I can suppress the urge to grab Tails and Knuckles as well.

This picture could really use a Mega Man.

Boss Fight Studio Sam & Max

Sometimes a toy comes along that I just can’t ignore. There’s just something neat about it, or the aesthetic so on point, that I want to own it even if I have little or no attachment to the source material. Such is the case with the Boss Fight Studio release of Sam & Max. I am only aware of the existence of Steve Purcell’s Freelance Police duo. I mostly remember them from advertisements in video game magazines since their point and click adventures were fairly popular back in the day, at least, as popular as that genre ever could be. I’ve seen a little of the animated series that aired on Fox Kids and even covered the Christmas episode in 2019, but that’s the most in depth I’ve ever gone with the property. Still, I always found the duo pleasant to look at and I am drawn to the property as it certainly sounds like something I would enjoy (in particular the graphic novels), but I’ve just never taken the plunge.

When Boss Fight Studio started teasing these figures back in 2018 I mostly had no reaction. When the full reveal took place in February of 2019 I thought they looked nice, but was able to just file it away in the back of my mind. As time went by I’d get more and more looks at these guys and they just started to really captivate me. When they were finally released in late 2020 I was fully onboard and intrigued enough that I knew I wanted them, and I held out until Boss Fight Studio revealed their Christmas deals. Even though these guys weren’t on sale, I used the excuse of free shipping and the desire to add another Bucky O’Hare Storm Toad to grab a pair.

Sam & Max began life as a comic, but has since migrated to other forms of media.

It’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t hooked from the get-go, as you probably noticed in that last paragraph that there was a lengthy development cycle associated with this duo. I don’t know if there were any challenges that pushed things back on the development side. I would guess since these guys are very much their own thing it takes some time to get stuff together at the factory. Boss Fight may have elected to wait for the pre-orders to clear a certain amount before going into full production to ensure profitability. And then, of course, COVID eventually messed things up. In the US, we tend to think of COVID as a 2020 problem, but for toy makers it was a 2019 problem as well when factories in China shut down as the virus spread and didn’t restart for months. And when they did restart it was with skeleton crews that persist to this day. Even big toy producers were hit hard, so a smaller shop like Boss Fight was especially impacted. Patience is a virtue though, and as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Sam and Max have arrived, and hopefully for fans of the property, the wait was worth it.

Both Sam and Max come packaged in a very attractive window box. It features new artwork from Steve Purcell with a comic strip printed on the back. There are some product shots as well as a summary of the items on one side. Max is labeled as 01 and Sam 02 and I do not know if there are any plans for more figures in this line. My guess would be some variants are probably under consideration so that Boss Fight can squeeze a little more value out of these molds, but even if it’s just a duo, it’s a nice little display piece for collectors. And the box is attractive and it’s easy to reseal should you desire to. I’m a big fan of the resealable blister Boss Fight has utilized with Bucky O’Hare, but this is pretty nice too!

Max, resident “Rabbity Thing” and most of his stuff.

Since Max is considered the first figure in the wave, we’ll start with him. He’s rather diminutive and would be even in the smallish Bucky O’Hare line. He’s roughly about 3″ in height not including the ears. Since he’s essentially all white, or a slightly off-white, he has a really clean and simple appearance. The articulation is not overpowering so there’s very little that breaks up the sculpt. Even though the character is fairly simple in design, Boss Fight sculptor Daniel Rheaume should still be credited with nailing the expressions for Max. He comes packaged with an open mouthed, toothy, grin that imparts just a touch of Max’s somewhat maniacal nature. It’s never easy to go from 2D to 3D, but I suspect the video games aided in finding the right way to position the mouth, eyes, and nose on a spherical head.

I enjoy the juxtaposition of the rather violent gun display with the peace sign.

The articulation for Max is fairly basic. His head sits on a ball-joint and can rotate freely with a little bit of room to move up and down. His shoulders are in sockets with hinges and he rotates above the elbow which contains a single hinge. The hands are just pegged in and can rotate. There’s no articulation in the torso or at the waist. His legs are on ball-joints with single-hinged knees. While I like how clean the sculpt is, I do think there’s room for more articulation with this guy. Boss Fight did say they tried to do something with the ankles, but apparently it wasn’t working. It seems strange since we have Bucky O’Hare, a fellow rabbit-thing, to compare to and he has ankle and toe articulation, but maybe they just didn’t like how it looked with Max. The other aspect of the articulation that’s a bit odd concerns the knees. Max is drawn with pronounced kneecaps so I see why Boss Fight sculpted those on, but it does look a bit weird when he bends his knee as the kneecap is attached to the lower leg. This is where a double-joint actually would help the sculpt as the kneecap can kind of exist in-between, but Boss Fight stuck with a single-joint. I think it may have looked better to have the kneecap affixed to the upper leg instead, but it’s not a big deal.

“Hello?! You’ll have to speak up, I’m dealing with a rat problem!”
Less elegant than the gun, but it makes a satisfying crunch!

Max comes with an assortment of accessories to dress him up. Being that he is a mere 3″ and retails for $40, he kind of needs to justify his pricepoint with a lot of stuff and Boss Fight mostly delivers there. For starters, he comes with two extra heads. One has a huge grin and the other features no mouth at all. I will say, I love all 3 heads and choosing a display is tough. I actually like the no-mouth look for comedic reasons, though I can’t see myself going with that. Toy photographers will probably have a lot of fun with it though. Swapping heads is not exactly fun as his head is on there real tight. Heat it up and apply consistent force and you’ll get there. Getting the others on is also trying and requires both heat and patience. It’s a sturdy joint so the risk of breaking anything is probably minimal, but be careful. I did find that after swapping heads for the first time the joint appeared to be more loose. His head is rather heavy relative to the rest of the sculpt and it is just barely supported by the joint. One little touch on either side will cause it to bobble. The ears pop out and in easy enough though as they’re shared with all of the heads. Boss Fight also labeled them so you shouldn’t have any trouble remembering which is left and which is right. The hands are also quite tight and when removing them you will want to make sure you secure the figure’s forearm to prevent applying too much force to the elbow joint. If done incorrectly with a Bucky O’Hare figure, the peg above the elbow will usually just pop out and can be re-inserted, but I do not know if this figure is constructed in a similar manner. His arms are very thin so you definitely want to be as careful as you can. The good news is, switching hands will leave your own fingers a little sore and likely discourage you from putting too much stress on the figure over a short period of time.

The mouthless head works to convey a shocking phone call.
Also useful for when Max wakes up in the morning to find his ears missing.

In addition to the extra heads, Max also features 6 extra hands. He comes packed with dueling trigger fingers, but also has a set of open hands, fists, and one pointing right hand and one “peace sign” left hand. He’s also got some stuff he can hold with those trigger hands like his trusty pistol of German origin and a hammer, because a hammer is always useful. He also has an old rotary phone and I absolutely adore it. It has a spiral chord on it that’s plenty pliable and Max can hold the receiver just fine with his trigger hands. If the actual dial could spin, I’d be doing backflips. I don’t know why, I just think it’s neat. Lastly, there’s a rat. He’s painted really well for a non-articulated little figure and he’s holding up a finger. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be taunting Max or how the two are supposed to feel about each other, but he looks pretty nice. It’s enough stuff that it makes settling on a shelf pose rather challenging. I like the expression hands like the pointing finger and peace sign, but I also like the accessories he can hold. They’re pretty easy to work into the hands too, which is certainly a plus. I almost feel like the fists are wasted as I don’t see myself ever posing him with those, but it’s always nice to have extras!

Sam is very happy with the size of his gun.

Figure number 2 is the canine shamus Sam! He is much bigger than his little buddy as he stands about 5 1/2″ without his hat. Popping him out of the box immediately feels a lot different than taking Max out. This is a chunky, dense, figure with a pretty intricate sculpt. He comes packaged with an open mouth happy face and he has three pieces of hair/fur sticking up on his head that the hat fits over. His torso is sculpted and painted all around it, even the parts hidden by his suit jacket, which is pretty impressive. No corners were cut here. His dress shirt looks so lifelike that it’s almost a shame to see it hidden under the coat. And the coat itself is soft plastic over his body with the sleeves part of the sculpt. This is a pretty common approach for jacketed characters and it works well here. The tie is soft plastic as well and can be moved and manipulated as needed since it’s attached to the collar which just slips over the ball-joint for his head. If you wanted your Sam to be more casual and ditch the tie you can just slip it off. He certainly looks the part and it’s hard not to be blown away by this sculpt.

He can get a bit angry if you take that gun away.

Sam is articulated a bit more extravagantly than his partner. His head sits on a ball peg that can move around which would typically allow for more up and down movement, though his collar and jacket limits him there. At the shoulders, it looks like his jacket should keep his arms from being able to come out and up at his sides, but it’s engineered really well and the sleeve will actually dip under the shoulder pad in his coat pretty easily. Maybe if you do this a lot there will be some rubbing damage, but you should be safe to pose him however you wish as long as you don’t go nuts. The arms can go all the way around too and there’s the usual single-hinge with a swivel at the elbow and the hands are once again just on pegs. He has a nice ball-joint at the waist so he can not only swivel all the way around, but also tilt forward and back and side-to-side. And the sculpting of the shirt works in tandem with the articulation here and slides easily behind his belt and over it. It’s really satisfying to mess around with. His legs are on a barbell joint and can come out to the side quite a bit, though not a full split. There’s a swivel at the knee and a single hinge. At the feet, he has a hinge and a generous bit of tilt so he can rock side-to-side and swivel. And what I love about both figures is that their feet are nice and big so they’re very easy to stand.

Poor Sam found himself injured. Max was fairly amused by it.

I did have one issue with Sam though, and it was a pretty big issue. His paint looked great and all of his joints were quite free and easy out of the package except for those knees. They just peg into the thigh with the hinge below the peg. I’m not a fan of this method of knee articulation, and it’s something I didn’t like about the Super7 Raphael back when I reviewed that. When I bent a knee on that figure, the peg popped right out without much warning. I wish that had happened with Sam, for when I went to bend his left knee it snapped. There was really no warning either, it was just a quick, clean, break. I then tried the right knee with a little heat from some hot water and a more delicate touch – snap! That one left a bit of the peg still on the lower leg and just for shits and giggles I tried heating that stub up and seeing if I could get that hinge to budge and I had zero success. I then went to YouTube to see if I could find some video reviews and see how people handled theirs on camera and noticed most of the reviewers received a letter with their set basically warning them about tight joints and to just go ahead and heat these guys up. It sounded like Boss Fight wanted them to not even attempt to work the joints at all without first applying heat. They did not include such a letter with my order. I wish they did, but also I have to say every other joint on both Sam and Max worked great right out of the box. It was only these knees that offered any resistance so maybe I’m just unlucky and got a bad Sam.

“Well, no sense letting this go to waste. Think I’ll try a stew.” “Hey!”

I reached out to Boss Fight via email and it took them a couple of days to get back to me. When they did, the rep from their store apologized and promised to get replacement parts out to me soon. It was nice to not have to deal with any condescension as I was half-expecting a lecture on proper action figure handling. Maybe they saw how many orders I’ve place with them over the years without any quality control issues and took me at my word that I know what I’m doing. While waiting for the new parts to arrive, I was able to have a little fun at poor Sam’s expense. Max, to his credit, found it all very amusing.

A week later, Sam’s new legs arrived at no additional cost to me. Each one was in a separate bag and the knee was bent on both probably to make sure the joint was fine. Getting the old stumps off of Sam was pretty easy and getting the new legs on was no trouble at all. All in all, a minor inconvenience that was remedied by the manufacturer and that’s all you can ask of toy makers.

After all of that trauma, Sam deserves a little treat.

Sam comes packaged with a fair amount of accessories, as did Max. He comes packaged with gripping, trigger, hands and in the box are a set of open hands and a set of fists. Removing and swapping hands is easier than it is with Max, largely due to Sam just being a more generously proportioned creation. He also has a pseudo-extra hand in the form of a brown bag puppet with Max’s face on it. I believe this is from an episode of the cartoon, but the bag looks pretty great and has a peg inside of it so it can peg into Sam’s forearm. There’s also a set of orange, melty, popsicles that I take it Sam is a fan of. They’re pretty easy to position in his hand since the stick end is rather small. Lastly, Sam has his massive revolver. The barrel on it is curved slightly to really give it a toon quality and I absolutely love how it turned out. The handle on it is pretty substantial, so you’ll probably end up warming one of Sam’s hands up to fit it in properly. Once you do, chances are you won’t want to take it out.

The “Ooo” mouth works well with the Max puppet accessory.

Sam also comes with a pair of extra heads. His default look is an open-mouthed happy expression and Boss Fight chose to give him the same, but with angry eyes, as one option and another where he’s making an “O” mouth, as if he were talking or whistling. I don’t think of Sam as the angry type, so I’ll probably stick with the happy look. The whistling head is pretty tempting though as it’s quite cute. Popping Sam’s default head off is pretty easy and you’re likely to do it by accident when testing out the range of articulation at his neck. Getting the others on is definitely a struggle. Even just examining the different heads, the opening on the default head appears to be larger and there’s a gradual slope to the front of the opening that would appear to exist to facilitate swapping. The angry head has that as well, while the whistling one just has a hole. You will want to heat the heads up when swapping if you want any chance of getting them on properly. It was still a bit odd as they didn’t seem to “pop” into place even after heating, but just kind of slid on. It’s a real workout for the thumbs.

The Freelance Police stand ready for action!

Sam and Max are mostly what I expected. Swapping parts has never been the strong suit of the Bucky O’Hare line and it isn’t here either. It’s kind of a chore, but I’m still glad to have the extra parts as they do a lot to liven up a display. The issues I had with Sam’s legs was something I did not anticipate, but to Boss Fight’s credit, they rectified it at no cost to me and without hassle. As a wise man once said, no harm, no foul. As for the figures themselves, what we have here is a tremendous representation of the characters in plastic form. Sam is easily the star for me, even with the broken legs, as he looks great and is a lot of fun to mess around with. Max also looks good, but his very basic articulation is a bit of a bummer. He’s kind of pushing it at $40 too, considering he’s a three inch figure. Niche license and a small company often means a bit of sticker shock. I know I had it with Bucky, and Sam & Max fans probably felt it a bit here. I suspect the Sam & Max diehards (and most fans might fall into that category) are okay with the cost. I obviously bought a set and I’m a casual at best fan and the cost didn’t deter me. Other, more casual, fans may want to wait a bit and see if there’s ever a promotion at Boss Fight or one of the third party retailers who are stocking this set. One likely isn’t coming anytime soon, but they probably won’t retail for $80 forever. As for me, I like these figures and I’m further comforted by the fact that I’m supporting a small toy maker that is also local to me. I think Boss Fight Studio runs their business the right way, and I like to support them and I intend to continue supporting them in the future.


TMNT Loot Crate 2 – Turtles in Time “Shell Shock”

It took awhile, but the second in the series of 3 TMNT Loot Crate releases has finally arrived.

The Covid-19 pandemic that has gripped the entire globe in 2020 has really thrown a wrench into release dates and windows. Virtually everything has been impacted that requires global transportation with certain items becoming hard to get, or even impossible. As a result, it’s no surprise that the 2020 releases for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed Loot Crates has been pushed back repeatedly. The first of three crates was originally scheduled to arrive in June, but slipped to August. The second crate was originally supposed to release in September, but Loot Crate pushed it back to October. Then November. And here we are in December, the month most consumers finally received their second crate. I’m pretty understanding when it comes to delays, but it was hard not to get annoyed as Loot Crate kept moving the release window, only to move it again. Just say it’s coming in the fourth quarter! How hard is that?

The view for me upon opening the crate.

Making things worse is that I was definitely looking past this crate. From day one, my eyes have been on the third crate which will ship with not one, but two NECA action figures. And those figures look to be exceptional. This crate was announced as being an arcade themed crate with an image of the original arcade game used to promote it. That ended up being a red herring of sorts as the crate is actually themed around the second arcade game, Turtles in Time, and features a figure from NECA based on that game. And that figure? An electrified, “shell shock,” turtle, which while certainly unique, is not exactly something anyone was asking for. NECA’s approach to these crates, and NECA owns Loot Crate, is to pack-in a figure that is not essential for TMNT collectors, but is fun or offbeat. The first crate contained a repaint of the previously released Mirage Shredder, which was probably more “essential” to collectors than this figure as that Shredder had only been made available once before in a convention exclusive box set. This one is definitely more of the offbeat variety and definitely feels like a middle release as it’s not as desirable as a new take on the Mirage Shredder, nor is it as fun and goofy as the Easter Bunny Bebop and Rocksteady coming with crate 3.

A t-shirt! This one features long sleeves.

Before we dig into that action figure, lets talk about the other stuff first that comes in the crate. The crate arrives in a black box with a sticker on it which announces the theme of the set. It seems like a bad way to distribute these as there is no additional mailer box so if you’re not home this thing just sits by your door announcing its contents to anyone who happens to take a look. And considering this arrived during peak porch-robber season, it strikes me as a dumb way of doing things. I didn’t want to interrupt the Christmas stuff on this blog for a post about a Loot Crate release, but this one took about a week to get to me after shipping and I’ve had it since early December.

The pins.
Stickers.

The contents of this crate is a lot like that of the first crate. Turtles in Time is the prevailing theme of everything and it’s a better theme than a made-up TCRI company picnic as this crate doesn’t overuse the same logo on everything like the previous one. Like the first crate, you get: a figure, a t-shirt, a keychain, and a pin. In the case of this crate, you get two pins! One features Krang on his little pedestal thing from when his body is blown up in the game. The other is a slice of pizza and both are heavily pixelated to mimic the look of the game. There’s also a sheet of puffy stickers each containing a buzzword associated with the game: Cowabunga, Shell Shock, and Attack! The keychain is a metal, spinner, design featuring the silhouette of a pizza sewer monster. One side is the monster jumping to the right, and the other is the inverse only he’s also swiping his claw. The metal is heavy and the pins are metal with enamel and look pretty sharp. I’m not a pin guy though, so I don’t know what to do with them. The keychain is nice, and probably more durable than the one in the Mirage crate, but I don’t want it to get messed up in my pocket so I’m hesitant to actually use it.

A spinning keychain.

The new stuff this time around sort of follows the same pattern as the other stuff. It’s kind of neat, but functionally useless. First up is a gold coin. It’s about the size of a silver dollar and pretty heavy and comes in a little Ziplock styled pouch. One side features a turtle head like the turtle icon next to the health bar and it says “Cowabunga Dudes” across the top and bottom as well as “In Pizza We Trust” along the side and 1up below the turtle face. The reverse features the same pizza slice the pin appears to be based on and says “Pizza Power” across the top and “Radical” across the bottom. The same “In Pizza We Trust” is on it as well plus the legal stuff. It looks fine, but again, what do you do with such a thing? Stash it in a drawer, I guess, and hope it’s worth something in a decade or so.

A one-up token.
The reverse side of the token.

The included t-shirt is a bit different this time around as well. The previous one was a white t-shirt with the TCRI stuff on the front in black font. This time around we actually get a long sleeve t-shirt in a pretty loud shade of blue. I love blue, so this isn’t a negative for me, but some might wish for something a bit more understated, I guess. The image is the same turtle face from the coin, only now all four are present and it says “Turtle Power” in a yellow, pixel, font. It’s cute and something I’ll wear so that’s cool.

The included TV is pretty cool. I’ll find something to do with it eventually.

The last unique item other than the figure is kind of like an accessory for the figure. It’s a little, plastic, television set with a lenticular image on the screen from the game’s intro. It switches from April O’Neil with the Statue of Liberty in the background and an image of Shredder from the TV set the turtles actually watch in the game. It’s sharp, and if you’re a NECA collector it should be familiar as this has been released a few times already and is actually a part of an upcoming accessory set based on the first movie. It has an 80s look to it with a bunch of dials and it’s real boxy. The dials do not function on it so don’t try and crank them. The Shredder image is definitely the more dominant of the two, which is fine as I would have been happy if it was just this image of Shredder. Oddly, this item is not listed on the index card that comes with the set which details the contents so I’m curious if it was a late addition. Maybe someone felt this crate needed a little something extra, maybe the costs came in lower than expected, it could be this was thought of as an accessory for the figure that didn’t fit in the box, or it could just be a simple oversight when it comes to the index card. Whatever the reason, I actually like this and I hope NECA comes through with a sewer lair in the future because I will definitely put this in there if it doesn’t come with one. Maybe I can even add a mini, to scale, Super Nintendo as well!

That’s everything in the crate with the exception of the thing you’re probably most curious about: the action figure. The Shell Shock Turtle comes in the same Turtles in Time box as the other releases in this line. The back of which features some product shots of Shredder blasting the turtle as well as a green foot soldier (unreleased, as far as I know) shooting him. The figure itself is the same turtle body that’s been released several times now in the cartoon and arcade line, only the belt has been removed and its cast in glow-in-the-dark, semi-transparent, plastic. Where the belt used to plug in on the front and back has been filled and it kind of stands out when in-hand, but not really when placed on a shelf. The various pads are painted black and there’s a black, skeletal, deco applied as well. The only new sculpting is the head, which is in an almost horrifying looking shape. The mouth is open nearly 180 degrees with a tongue protruding from it that can rotate. The eyes are big, black, spheres and the knot in the mask is black as well. There’s even some sculpted teeth in the mouth that may not show in pictures since it’s black on black. This is also the same head-shape the turtles make in the game when shouting “My toe! My toe,” so maybe a painted variant will arrive one day. Probably as another Loot Crate.

That head makes me think of the old Reach toothbrush commercials.
You can see the spot where they had to fill the shell as a consequence of removing the belt.
A close-up on the horror!

Since this figure is the same as the other turtles, it’s articulated in the same way. The head can still look up and down and rotate, just not as much given the irregular shape. The shoulders can rotate and the arms can come out to the side, not quite 90 degrees though. The left shoulder on mine doesn’t want to budge at the hinge, but I don’t really intend on posing this one differently than how he was posed in the box. As such, I haven’t spent much time applying heat to it, but what little time I did spend at the faucet didn’t help much. There’s a bicep swivel and single joint at the elbow while the hands rotate and feature a hinge in the middle. There’s a joint in the diaphragm that’s now more visible given the lack of a belt, but the shell still prevents it from having really any functional application. The legs can go out, forward, and back with the rear of the shell hindering them some there. The knees are double-jointed and the feet are on ball-pegs. It’s a sculpt that could really use a refresh as the lack of double-joints at the elbows hurt it and the feet need some more love. For this figure though, it’s not really an issue as it’s designed to basically display in one pose.

“My toe!”

As far as accessories go, there’s little to speak of. The figure comes with open hands and there’s also a set of gripping hands if you want to give this thing a weapon. It’s better than nothing, but I’m honestly never going to use those gripping hands. It’s a Loot Crate toss-in, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was really hoping for a stand of some kind. This guy is designed to be displayed as he comes in the box, which is impossible without some kind of a stand. If you were hoping to utilize a Roadkill Rodney, think again, as that figure is far too light to prop this one up. NECA does sell stylized stands and it would have been nice if they tossed one in. I’d trade pretty much anything in this crate, except the TV, for one. Since they didn’t include one, I grabbed one when I was last at Target and while it’s not really designed to support a turtle, it seems to be working well enough.

Let it glow!

Obviously, the main feature of this guy is the glow-in-the-dark aspect of it. And, yeah, it works. When I first saw images of this thing I was curious if it would come with some kind of lighting device like the Spirit of Splinter crate, but no such thing was included. It has me wondering if glow-in-the-dark was the best way to capture the look this figure is going for. It was certainly the easiest way, and probably the most cost-effective as well, it’s just limited. It leaves me feeling like this figure is just missing something. I kind of wish they had used a different packaging that instead was louder and displayed the figure akin to how it is on the product shots. Then I would have just left it in-box and been content. As is, I feel like it needs a proper backdrop like a diorama. Something lit with the big, yellow, electric, spark behind it. I’m left feeling the figure was a better idea than it is an actual action figure.

If you want to display this guy, I recommend a stand.

The Turtles in Time Shell Shock crate from Loot Crate arrives largely as expected. Most of the contents of the crate are done well, it’s just also a bunch of knick-knack styled items that serve no purpose beyond merely existing. Some people love that stuff, and some don’t. I’m kind of in the middle in that I like little, useless, things as long as they display well. I haven’t found a way to display much of the stuff from the first crate and I suspect the same will be true here, but if you’re concerned about quality know that at least that seems to be present. The t-shirt is something I will wear and I do like how it came out and the TV is cool and I’ll find some way to incorporate that into my TMNT display. The figure is the real selling point for these crates though, and if you only had interest in the figure then you might feel a little let down since these crates retail for twice what a figure would. It is what it is. NECA didn’t want to include must-haves in these things, and they certainly pulled that off here. This figure is the kind of figure that would normally be a GameStop exclusive or something that eventually winds up on the clearance rack. It’s not for everyone. If you have a vibrant arcade TMNT display then you’ll probably enjoy this one more than most. If you’re like me and have only a couple figures from that line and only subscribed to this Loot Crate bundle for the bunny boys then you’ll probably just put this thing somewhere and start looking forward to that third crate.


Dec. 25 – Sonic Christmas Blast

Original air date November 24, 1996

It’s Christmas morning, and if you woke up to a tree packed full of presents you have only one person to thank for that – Sonic the Hedgehog! What? You didn’t know that Sonic took over for Santa back in 1996? Oh, well find yourself a comfy chair and a plate of chili dogs while I tell you the tale of An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas Sonic Christmas Blast!

Back in 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog was so popular that he warranted two separate cartoon series: The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the more plainly named Sonic the Hedgehog. Adventures was the direct-to-syndication cartoon and aired on weekday afternoons, while the other cartoon aired on Saturday mornings as part of ABC’s block of cartoons and came to be known as Sonic SatAM. Both cartoons were produced by DiC and both featured everyone’s favorite nerd (at the time), Jaleel White, as the voice of Sonic. The executive producer on both was Andy Heyward, who you may recall was also the executive producer for The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. He may be the first person to work on official productions of both Mario and Sonic, which I guess is pretty cool. While the Saturday morning program had a more serious tone, the afternoon Adventures was more of a typical screwball comedy where the wily Sonic outsmarted and outwitted his nemesis, Dr. Robotnik (Long John Baldry), on the regular.

Sonic has arguably never been as popular as he was in 1993. That’s because he had a host of games on the Sega Genesis that were well received. In 1996, Sega was promoting the Sega Saturn console and looking to unleash its mega-popular hedgehog on that machine. The game was to be called Sonic X-treme, and in order to market it, someone got the bright idea to commission a Christmas special. It would be in the style of Adventures and would be produced by DiC, though it would no longer be in conjunction with Bohbot Entertainment. The problem was, the game was never released. Sonic X-treme was cancelled, but Sega still had a cartoon it paid money for and intended to air. The solution: simply change the title!

This one is like a regular episode of the show, but it’s Christmas!

Sonic wasn’t leaving the 16-bit world in the dust just yet as Sega was prepping a title for the Genesis: Sonic 3D Blast. It was an experimental game that attempted 3D on the aging Genesis hardware via an isometric perspective. If you do not remember it there’s a good reason: it was terrible. Bad game or not, it was still worthy of promotion so the Christmas special was re-named Sonic Christmas Blast and released on VHS and aired on the USA network.

A few days ago we did Mario Christmas, so it only felt right to do Sonic as well. Plus, Sonic has the distinction of being the best movie I saw in a theater in 2020. No, it’s not a fantastic film, but it got to win that coveted crown by simply being the only film I saw in a theater in 2020! Thanks, COVID!

Meet today’s audience surrogate: Ugly Kid. He has no name, but an ugly character model, therefore we shall call him Ugly Kid.

This one starts off with a festive remix of the traditional intro, except most of the footage has been removed and just replaced with clips from the special to come. Boring. It then picks up in the city of Robotropolis, a city from Sonic SatAM that I do not believe was ever depicted in Adventures. At any rate, it doesn’t resemble the city from the other show, it just shares a name.

Something’s not right with this Santa…

Citizens are gathering to view a giant television that is apparently about to broadcast a message from Santa (do they not have malls here?). The camera is rather focused on an ugly little boy with no name (Eric Pospisil). I don’t mean he’s ugly as far as Sonic Society is concerned, just that his character design is rather offensive to the eyes. Santa (Jay Brazeau) appears on the big television screen with a rather important announcement. For one, he’s clearly a robot as he has pins in his elbows and he doesn’t appear to move very well so I am rather suspect of this forthcoming announcement.

Robotnik has somehow become even more insane looking.

And that announcement is that he is retiring! Yes, the unthinkable is happening at Christmas! Not to worry though, for Santa has already named a replacement. And that man is: Robotnik Claus! Yes, the evil Dr. Robotnik is set to take over for Santa and he is introduced to a stunned audience. For some reason, he looks like a homeless Santa as his suit fits rather poorly exposing his hairy gut and his shoes are torn. Robotnik’s first announcement as Santa is that this year things will be different. Rather than Robotnik Claus delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls of the world, they are to deliver presents to him! The madness!

Judging by that smile on Ugly Kid’s face, it would seem he was initially hopeful about this whole Robotnik Claus thing.

Scratch (Phil Hayes), the robotic chicken with the incredibly annoying voice, and Grounder (Garry Chalk) are positioned as cheer leaders for Robotnik Claus, but they annoy him more than support him. We then have it confirmed that this world does indeed possess malls as we see Robotnik Claus seated in a chair with a line of children waiting to see him. Ugly kid from earlier hops on his lap and Robotnik rather enthusiastically asks the child what he’ll be giving him for Christmas. The kid responds by punching him in the gut and informs him that he will do no such thing. Robotnik is rather pissed, but apparently he is still only cartoonishly evil as he doesn’t kill the little squirt, but he does order him imprisoned in his robot factory.

Hey! Look! It’s Princess Sal, in her original pilot colors! She looks like she has something to say in this image, but she actually has nothing to say. Absolutely nothing.

Elsewhere, Sonic is gearing up for Christmas with Princess Sally Acorn (Tabitha St. Germain is credited, but the character has zero lines). Apparently Sally gave Sonic a fancy ring last Christmas and he gave her squat, so he’s dead-set on getting her a bunch of stuff this year, even though she apparently wants nothing. Before she can utter a word of rebuttal, Sonic takes off with his buddy Tails (Chris Turner) to go do some shopping. While he runs, he decides to jump up and grab onto a tree branch for no particular reason and just dangle there. A bird in its nest takes notice of Sonic’s ring that Sally gave him which features an unusual marking. Ah, he grabbed the tree as a plot device since this ring is going to be important. Logical.

These two clowns are up to no good, but at least they’re well dressed.

In town, Scratch and Grounder are going door-to-door Sheriff of Nottingham style to collect presents for Robotnik Claus. They confront one poor sap who claims he has nothing to give, so they tell him they’ll be taking his house. And not in a way a bank would, but by literally using an excavator to take the man’s house while he begs them not to. Vicious.

Oh, good. Ugly Kid made it out of Robotnik’s factory unharmed. I was real worried for a sec.

Sonic and Tails arrive at a mall to find it completely barren. Someone has taken all of the wares and Sonic is apparently out of the loop. Outside, they run across Ugly Kid who tells them that he escaped from Robotnik Claus and informs Sonic of what’s going on. Scratch and Grounder then appear and like good, ineffective, hench-robots, inform Sonic of Robotnik’s plan to take over Christmas and get lots of presents for himself. They also tell him that they kidnapped Santa and used a robot to transfer his role over to Robotnik without a hitch. They even brought the robot with them as proof of their misdeed. They also brought some giant tank too.

Well, at least they seemed to have come prepared. Not that it will make any difference.

Scratch then wishes Sonic and his pals a “Merry Crush-mas!” as he tries dropping a big, spiky, block on the trio. Sonic is too fast for it though, and he goes all buzz-saw and lands in their cockpit. He then controls the giant arm of the tank to position a magnet over them sucking up the three robots and then dropping them to the ground in a heap of parts.

Nothing puts me in the Christmas mood like a pile of broken body parts.

As Scratch and Grounder begin reassembling themselves, while mostly ignoring the destroyed Santa robot, Sonic comes waltzing by dressed as a janitor. He’s a bit like Bugs Bunny in this show in that he can always produce a not-so-clever disguise that fools the bad guy every time. He plays friendly and gets the two to spill the beans on where Robotnik is keeping Santa before splitting, but not first without revealing his identity to Scratch and Grounder and smashing them to bits again with a garbage can.

Why does he have a butt?

Scratch and Grounder head to the home of Robotnik which is currently being outfitted with many, many, chimneys. Robotnik is even demanding more of his robot minions for he wants enough chimneys on his home so that every citizen in the city can enter his home at once with big sacks of presents. The brainless duo flags down Robotnik with the bad news, and they’re informed that they can no longer expect a Christmas card this year. Robotnik then orders his defenses be increased while also informing the duo that they are to bring him the most important of Christmas presents this year: Sonic the Hedgehog! Hey, that’s the same thing my kid asked for!

Some “scary” looking robots.

Sonic and Tails are shown in a cold environment heading to the location of the kidnapped Santa. It’s surrounded by Swatbots, but they do not at all resemble the Swatbots from Sonic SatAM. They just look dumb. Sonic gets past them rather easily and finds Santa in a frozen cell. He tells Sonic they need to get to his workshop fast if they intend to save Christmas.

A clever use of exponents.

At Santa’s workshop (apparently titled Ho cubed), the heroes find out that Robotnik Claus has already paid a visit to the workshop and stolen everything! Santa is rather despondent, but Sonic thinks there’s still time to recapture the presents and save Christmas! As they sit and think, Santa notices Sonic’s ring. He recognizes the marking on it from the cave Robotnik had kept him at (how convenient!) and they return to consult some glyphs. Apparently, Sonic needs to complete a series of trials to unlock the secret of ultimate velocity. I don’t know how Santa got that much out of the wall, but it should fill some time.

Well, that was hardly a challenge.

They head to the location of the first trial: Ice Pick Peak. Sonic merely has to race up a mountain – no problem. Trial number two is to snowboard down Calamity Cliffs. This is amusing since the Mario Christmas special rather prominently featured a snowboard as well, and it too was orange!

Nothing’s more “X-Treme” than snowboarding, man!

As Sonic snowboards, Scratch and Grounder spy him and place a giant bear trap in his way. Sonic sees it, and just swerves out of the way spraying a bunch of snow in their face which buries them with the bear trap. Sonic then grasps a hang-glider and soars over the pair and dumps his snowboard on them.

This Santa is a real buzz kill. I think I like Robotnik Claus better.

The last piece of the trial is a bike ride. Sonic rides over the frozen tundra dodging moving icebergs. The animation is offensively bad and little of interest occurs during Sonic’s ride. When all is said and done, they’re back at Santa’s workshop and Sonic has apparently attained super speed. He didn’t physically receive anything, there was no flash of light, he just is faster, I guess. Santa still thinks all is for naught though, but Sonic is ever the optimist!

I am legitimately shocked at the absence of exposed butt-crack.

Sonic speeds off to Robotnik’s home where the jolly, fat, man is rummaging through the presents under his tree. He’s in an impossibly good mood, so it’s the perfect time for Sonic to swipe everything! He moves as a blue blur taking not just the presents and ornaments, but Robotnik’s clothes as well, leaving him to stew in his underwear proclaiming his hatred for that hedgehog.

Well, looks like he’s happy. I don’t know what I would have done if Ugly Kid didn’t get to have a merry Christmas.

We then check in on Ugly Kid, who is in his living room with a naked Christmas tree. The blue blur whizzes inside and decorates the tree while depositing a large amount of gifts under the tree. The kid can’t believe it, but he knows who to thank. He opens his window and shouts out thanks to Sonic.

Once again, you would think she’d have something to say.

Alone on a snowy hill by a campfire, Sally does her best Karen impression from Frosty the Snowman as she looks cold and lonely. Sonic then pops in with an arm full of presents he promptly buries her under. She says nothing, just looks surprised, while Sonic rambles on about wanting to give her a merry Christmas. He removes a present to expose her head, waves some mistletoe over her, and smooches her forehead before re-burying her. He then runs off before she can even react to his gesture. Honestly, I don’t know why they bothered including her if she wasn’t even going to say a word.

And now Sonic is Santa, how’s that for a resolution?!

Sonic returns to Santa’s workshop to celebrate a Christmas well done. There he receives some rather shocking news: Santa does indeed intend to retire! Sonic can’t believe it, but Santa informs him there’s no need to worry, for he has found a suitable replacement: Sonic! Tails slaps a hat on his head proclaiming him Sonic Claus. He seems unsure at first, but one look in a mirror seems to convince Sonic that this is the way. He and Tails then stand and wave at the camera while Sonic wishes us an “X-tremely Merry Christmas,” the one relic of the original title, as the credits roll.

And that’s the story about how Sonic came to be Santa Claus! If your tree is looking rather bare and has been for years, that’s likely because you’ve been leaving out a plate of milk and cookies as opposed to chili dogs and Mountain Dew (I just assume Sonic would do the Dew). I suppose I should have filled you in on that important piece of information prior to today, but there’s always next year!

Sonic Christmas Blast is a terrible Christmas special. Things just happen to advance the plot, and almost everyone is dumb and annoying. Sonic is fine, and I have no issue with Tails, but all of the other characters are just too stupid to even be funny. I’ll give it credit for coming up with an original plot. It’s sort of like The Grinch, except Robotnik is direct and open about his thievery, with a dash of unconvincing trickery too. It’s still not entertaining, and the resolution of Sonic becoming Santa is rather preposterous. I guess it’s the kind of thing you can do when you know there are no more episodes of this particular show coming.

I will say, as ridiculous as he is, I do mostly like this take on Robotnik.

Adding further insult to the special is the fact that it looks pretty bad. It’s definitely in style with Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, but it was also handled by a different animation studio. Believe it or not, this actually looks slightly better than a typical episode as far as character animation goes. The backgrounds though are terrible, and the non-regular characters (like the ugly kid and various robots) look like they were designed in five minutes, and drawn just as quickly. There isn’t any one scene or piece of animation that I’d call fun to look at while the audio is basically what you would expect of any episode from the show.

If you wish to ignore my warnings and spend Christmas with Sonic, Sonic Christmas Blast is X-tremely easy to come by. It’s currently included with a subscription to Amazon Prime so you can freely stream it there. It’s also available for free on YouTube along with apparently every other episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and in great quality at that. It also was released on DVD and will probably be in discount racks tomorrow for five bucks, but the only folks who should own this one are Sonic diehards and they probably already have it.

This concludes the 2020 edition of The Christmas Spot! It was a truly bizarre and eventful year and I’ll be happy to kiss it good by in a week, but hopefully these past 25 days have helped bring you a little Christmas joy. Thanks for reading, and merry Christmas!


Dec. 23 – The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! – “Koopa Klaus”

Original air date October 23, 1989

During the late 80s Nintendo was on fire in the US. The Nintendo Entertainment System came storming into living rooms, basements, and dens across the country making Mario and Luigi household names. In addition to video games, there were tons of licensing deals for clothing, school supplies, bedding, you name it. If it could be sold to a kid, then it had a Mario on it. This naturally made everything associated with Nintendo desirable for things like cartoons. Other older video game stars made that leap before Mario and found success, so it’s no surprise that Nintendo was willing to take the plunge as well.

Good old DiC was the first to come calling. By now, DiC is practically on top of the cartoon world in the US. The company has had some big hits while the former Hanna-Barbera juggernaut is starting to flounder and will soon be purchased by Ted Turner. Because of their stature in the world of animation, it wasn’t a surprise to see Nintendo go with DiC. Well, it’s not when you ignore that there are plenty of far more talented animation studios in Japan that Nintendo could have turned to, but their cartoon was clearly being targeted towards Americans so that likely explains the choice.

Danny Wells loves being Luigi.

For DiC’s first stab at a Nintendo cartoon it turned to the Super Mario Bros. It handed things over to Inspector Gadget creator, Andy Heyward, and trusted him to bring Nintendo’s mascot to the world of cartoons. That was hardly a surprise, but what was a bit surprising was the decision to include a live-action component in the show. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! would begin with a segment featuring actors playing the brothers Mario and Luigi. They would have their own plot to untangle that would be setup in the opening act before the show would transition to the cartoon segment. The cartoon featured Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and her attendant Toad as they traveled through the vast Mushroom Kingdom always crossing paths with the evil King Koopa. When the cartoon concluded, the show would go back to the live-action portion where it’s story would progress and then resolve in the final act.

Why did DiC feel the show needed this live-action component? Well, it probably didn’t, rather DiC just saw an opportunity to knock the costs down. Who knows what Nintendo charged for the license, but my guess is the live-action was a lot cheaper to produce than animation. The actual cartoon in each episode is only 12 minutes or so in length. And the live-action part is just shot on a soundstage. There’s no on-location filming, wardrobe is pretty consistent, and they could probably bang out a few of these things in a day. Plus, it also allowed for the show to have some guest stars when the opportunity presented itself.

Monday through Thursday 1989, little dudes like me were “treated” to a Super Mario Bros. cartoon as part of the Super Show.

To add another wrinkle to the program, is that the show was actually 3 shows in one. It was a direct-to-syndication program that aired on weekday afternoons in most markets. Monday through Thursday featured a Mario cartoon and on Friday the Mario cartoon was swapped out for a Zelda one. During the lead-up to Friday, a sneak peek of the Zelda cartoon would be featured too so that when Friday came it almost felt like a re-run. It was an odd setup, but Mario and Zelda were like a packaged deal during this era, if cereal could be believed.

This is not a show with a large budget.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! lasted just the one season before it was replaced with a show based on Super Mario Bros. 3. The show produced 52 Mario cartoons and 13 Zelda ones. It also produced a pair of Christmas segments. One of which is the subject of today’s post, “Koopa Klaus,” in which King Koopa tries to ruin Christmas. The other Christmas segment was the live-action “Santa Claus is Coming to Flatbush.” Why the two weren’t paired up I have no idea. It makes no sense, especially since this one aired before Halloween in 1989 and the other on the more appropriate date of November 29. Instead, this one was paired up with “Little Marios” which is actually one of the more memorable segments for me since it features a ridiculous flashback in which the same actors portray kid versions of themselves. At any rate, it has nothing to do with Christmas so I’m just going to ignore it.

Better than a toilet…

Every episode opens with the very catchy theme song, “The Plumber’s Rap.” There are actually two versions of the rap, the one at the beginning of the show and then a different, much shorter one, that introduced the cartoon itself. Let’s just get it out of the way right now: this show sucks. However, I unironically love “The Plumber’s Rap.” It is perfect for what it is. When the opening credits are done, the episode begins with the first segment in the “Little Marios” plot. Now, I already said I’m going to ignore it, but while we’re here, I’ll just make some observations. For one, Mario is played by former professional wrestler Lou Albano and Luigi by Danny Wells. Both men are, unfortunately, no longer with us. They mostly look the part, I suppose. They’re definitely a little older than how I would have pictured the Mario brothers, but they have the colored overalls, blue undershirt, and big moustache. Albano even shaved his signature beard for the role, which was quite a commitment for him. Their home, which doubles as their place of business, makes no attempt to disguise itself as something other than a set. It’s very open. For some reason, the telephone is always shown in the middle of an actual pizza and it’s covered in cheese and pepperoni. The Mario brothers basically speak in Italian stereotypes and seem to consume nothing but pizza and spaghetti. The show makes very liberal use of a laugh track which makes it feel even more dated than it is.

Behold! Koopa Klaus!

When we get to the cartoon, we get the other opening credits with the modified rap. The lyrics are different and tell the viewer how the Mario brothers came to be in the Mushroom Kingdom (they found the secret warp zone while working on the drain). When the cartoon itself finally begins, we’re dropped into a factory where Koopa Troopas are dumping toys into a machine to grind them up into junk. King Koopa (Harvey Atkin, easily the best part of this show) is decked out in a Santa suit and is delighted to see the toys being smashed. He hates Christmas and he’s made it his mission to ruin the holiday for everyone. The three-headed serpent, Triclyde, approaches and he’s wearing a reindeer outfit. Koopa addresses him as Randolph the red-nosed triclyde. Apparently, Koopa’s sleigh is ready for him and he announces he’s off to Santa’s workshop to bomb it. He takes off with a sleigh full of bob-ombs being pulled by a pair of albatross with bicycle handles for reindeer antlers, a superior solution than what the Grinch settled for.

Mario gets to wear this stupid outfit the whole episode.

Mario and the gang have just popped up out of the ground like fucking Bugs Bunny for some reason in a very cold environment. Mario is dressed for some place much warmer and we find out that Toad (John Stocker) gave him some bad directions which has taken the four to The North Pole instead of Hawaii-Land. It would seem Toad may have done this on purpose for when Princess Toadstool (Jeannie Elias) realizes where they are Toad eagerly suggests they pay Santa a visit. Mario (voiced by Albano, Wells voices Luigi to keep things consistent with the live-action portion) then adds an entry in his “Plumber’s Log” as the gang starts walking towards the work shop. This is an obvious homage to Star Trek, though we never see a physical log book for Mario so maybe he just does this in his head to feel important.

FYI: if you didn’t already hate Toad, you’re about to.

Toad is rather excited about the whole thing with a major focus of his holiday love being the presents. Oh Toad, will you ever learn the true meaning of Christmas? He hopes Santa will give him his present now, which reminds the Princess that she has a gift for the little shroom and pulls it out. It’s a snowboard, and Toad is more than pleased with this development. He zooms around on the thing without so much as a “Thank you,” but the Princess seems to be enjoying this new development that has left her loyal attendant in a more infantile state.

Toad grave. Sadly, it’s short-lived.

The sound of sleigh bells get the attention of the Princess, but when she looks to the sky it isn’t Santa she spies, but Koopa Klaus! He drops some bombs which explode on impact and appear to be a direct hit on Toad. He’s not blown into bits though, he just goes soaring through the air and lands in a pile of snow. His snowboard follows and lands with one end in the ground forming a crude tombstone. When Toad emerges from the snow, he shrieks about his precious present and gives it a hug. The others then surround him and the Princess is rather pissed he doesn’t seem to care about their well-being. When confronted by this, Toad can’t even muster much of a defense aside from “well, it is Christmas” before finally asking the Princess if she’s ok.

This shot of everyone staring angrily at Toad is going to be repeated a lot in this one.

Luigi then rightly forgets about the dumb, little, fungus and wonders what Koopa is up to. Mario realizes that Koopa was flying towards Santa’s work shop which sets Toad off once again. As expected, he’s worried about the toys and the others have to glare at him to get him to add “…and Santa” to the list of things he’s worried about. No one is concerned for the elves.

The icy work shop, and our first animation gaffe of the episode as Mario is depicted in his red overalls.

The gang then comes across Santa’s work shop only to find it encased in ice. I guess somehow Koopa’s bombs can freeze stuff as well as blow up? I don’t know. They’re all pretty shocked at what they see, but worse, there’s no sign of Santa! They then spy Koopa Klaus (and I find it funny they keep calling him Koopa Klaus) flying away with Santa hogtied on the back of his sleigh. Toad starts crying about never getting another present while Koopa (rightfully) laughs his ass off.

That son-of-a-bitch kidnapped Santa Claus!

The Marios give chase as Koopa is heading…to the frozen work shop? I don’t understand his strategy. Mario is also so committed to saving Santa that he’s still in his vacation attire. Anyway, they happen upon a playground and Mario declares it’s a playground for the elves. Usually elves are little old men and women, but okay. Mario especially eyes a teeter-totter, only it’s not what I would call a teeter-totter, but a seesaw. Maybe it’s a regional thing? He tells Luigi to get a block of ice, only it’s too heavy for Luigi to toss over to Mario so he has to hobble it over. Mario then places it on the seesaw and instructs Luigi to jump off of his shoulders and onto the other end. Luigi does as he’s told and the block gets launched through the air and strikes Koopa’s sleigh. He and Santa fall, but Koopa uses his empty bomb sack as a parachute to slow their descent. I guess Mario was counting on Koopa doing that otherwise Santa would have just plunged to his death.

It’s Snoweegi!

When they hit the ground, Koopa keeps a firm grasp on Santa and uses his sack like a wind sail and lets the breeze pull he and Santa across the snow. Mario and Luigi respond with…snowballs. Koopa, who has a big, spiny, shell on his back could probably just weather the storm here, but he actually stops. He catches some snowballs in his sack, then throws it back at the Marios. Mario gets knocked over, while Luigi ends up covered in snow resembling a snow Luigi.

And I bet you thought Bender did it first.

Koopa Klaus carries Santa across the tundra, and it’s at this point I am just now realizing they aren’t leaving footprints in the snow – cheap animation budget! Mario and the others are right behind them, so Koopa does the reasonable thing of using Santa as a taboggan. As Mario and the others watch Koopa race away on his Santa-sleigh, Luigi worries aloud about the potential for thin ice ahead. Luigi, you’re at the North Pole. I’m pretty sure that ice is plenty thick. Toad then says something smart and points out if the ice can hold Santa and Koopa then it must be pretty thick. It must have been standards and practices that demanded they acknowledge the possibility of dangerous ice ahead or something.

This little guy doesn’t have much of a threatening aura to speak of.

The gang slides down on their rumps and crash land on the ice. Koopa then summons his Koopa Flurries, the little ice skating guys from the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2. They enter to the boss theme from the same game and spin-up some ice blocks to toss at the Marios. Their aim sucks, and Mario declares they must fight fire with fire! No, he’s not whipping out a fire flower, but tossing the ice block back at the flurries. Luigi makes the obvious observation that they’re actually fighting ice with ice, while he and Toad help Mario give it a push. All three wind up on top of the block as it whizzes towards the flurries who just…stand there. In tight formation, so we can get a bowling pin joke. No wonder why Koopa always loses.

Looks like certain death awaits you if you go in the cave.

Lamenting the defeat of his flurries, Koopa races into a cave still dragging Santa behind him (Koopa must be absurdly strong considering how easily he yanks this obese man all around the frozen north). The good guys arrive at the mouth of the cave, but hesitate once there. Luigi seems to be afraid of the dark, but the Princess declares the whole world will be a dark place without Christmas! Toad chimes in with a reminder they need to save the presents or some shit, but really this thing is sending mixed messages at this point. It would seem, per the Princess, that there’s no Christmas without Santa. Since Santa is just a jolly fat guy who brings presents, it would also seem that the implication is there will be no Christmas without presents! Hah! Check-mate, Princess!

It’s worth pointing out that it’s only the bad guy who has festive, holiday, attire.

They go after Santa and slide through the cave, though not smoothly. They end up essentially just going through a tunnel and emerge back out on the tundra. Koopa Klaus is above them though with Santa and he’s ready to dump the fat man over a cliff. He also slips into an Edward G. Robinson impression for some reason, as he spells it out. He ends his evil monologue with his catchphrase of the episode, “Bah Hum-koop,” which he shouts over and over until the predictable occurs: he starts an avalanche.

Is the background ice or water? Eh, it’s just a kid’s show.

The horribly animated avalanche falls on Koopa and Santa. In order to save Santa, Mario relies on that tool he’s most famous for, a plumber’s snake! Yeah, not a power star or flower or even a Koopa shell, but a plumber’s snake. He uses it like a whip to retrieve Santa, while leaving Koopa Klaus. When he asks what he’s supposed to do, Mario just makes a diving gesture. Koopa refuses, but has no choice in the end, so he jumps into…the ice? The background looks like more frozen tundra, but the animators layer a splash effect on it and Koopa behaves like he’s in water, but it looks ridiculous. Koopa hauls himself out of the water and onto some ice to feel sorry for himself. He asks “What else could go wrong?” and is greeted by an angry polar bear. We now leave Koopa to die.

Koopa’s new friend.

Back at Santa’s work shop, the big guy is pretty happy about being rescued, but things look dire. Santa (Stocker) doesn’t see how he could possibly unfreeze the work shop in time for Christmas. Surprisingly, no one seems concerned about the elves or reindeer encased in ice. They should be pretty dead at this point. Toad doesn’t give a shit though since he has his snowboard. He races around like a show-off, while Santa cries.

That is one punchable face.

Toad the infinite moron, then asks “What’s wrong?” when Santa walks off to be sad. The Princess has to dumb it down for him, and then Toad gets to flip a switch in his stupid little brain. He hands over his snowboard to Santa and tells him to give it to someone for Christmas. Santa, in an extreme overreaction, embraces Toad and tells him he’s never seen anything quite like the gesture Toad just made. His exact words are, “In all my life, I’ve never seen anyone express the true spirit of Christmas quite like you did.” What an astoundingly stupid thing to have Santa say. The little mushroom donated a snowboard, not a kidney!

Toad using Santa’s beard to dry his tears feels way too clever for this show.

Santa starts crying, and then everything melts because of Christmas. The Princess and Santa spell it out for the kids at home, in case they couldn’t figure it out, that the spirit of Christmas has warmed Santa’s heart to the point where the ice is thawing. It’s dumb, and an easy out. The elves and reindeer even seem fine, and Santa is able to prep his sleigh for Christmas Eve.

Looks like they saved Christmas after all.

Santa is ready to depart, and once again gives all of the credit to Toad for saving Christmas. Never mind that the little brat did almost nothing to actually rescue him from Koopa Klaus. That was pretty much all Mario. He then declares he has a special present for the lot of them and invites them to ride with him tonight to deliver presents. Toad gets to sit beside Santa, while the other three get stuck in the back. Santa is running lean too since he only has four reindeer and apparently two elves. They take to the sky and Santa calls out “Mario Christmas to all and to all a good night!” and does a moon fly-by to close it out.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting the show to have an eight reindeer budget so I’m not even mad about it.

That’s how the Mario brothers saved Christmas. This is a profoundly stupid and cheap Christmas cartoon. I hate the Toad character as he’s annoying even when he isn’t acting like a child and he’s also kind of dumb looking, if I’m being honest. His arc is plainly obvious from the get-go and his selfishness at the beginning is just so over-the-top. Santa should just boot him out of the sleigh when they’re over the ocean.

The rest of the characters are fine, though none are particularly entertaining. Mario, who sounds like he was recorded over the phone or something, is the leader with all of the right ideas. Luigi is just there to be a sidekick and question Mario while the Princess is mostly along for the ride. She explains things, I guess, but in a cartoon lacking subtlety explanation is rarely needed. We don’t get any fun Mario power-ups in this one, and there’s a real lack of bad guys outside of Koopa Klaus. I did enjoy the Triclyde and birds with handlebar antlers, at least.

King Koopa, or Koopa Klaus, is the only redeeming part of the show. He’s over-the-top as well, but it works. He’s just an entertaining villain, even if he’s mostly inept, and the voice of the late Harvey Atkin is just so unique in this role. He and Stocker were pretty much the only voice actors that DiC would hang onto for the other Mario cartoons, as everyone else would eventually be replaced.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! is a relic of its era, a licensed cartoon designed to simply boost the profile of the main characters leading to sales of other merchandise. It’s not a good show, and this isn’t a good Christmas special. It is a widely available one though as Netflix currently has the streaming rights. It’s also available, cheaply, on DVD if you for some reason need to own this thing physically. You could also just stream it for free too, as it’s available on YouTube without the need for payment. Like I said, it’s not any good, but sometimes you just have to DO THE MARIO!

Swing your arms…

Tiny Arcade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Turtle Fighter

Ready to experience the classic game…Turtle Fighter?

The best way to quickly view the passage of time is through technology, and perhaps no piece of technology is better suited for such an exercise than video games. What was once high-tech is now novelty while the modern video game is almost incomparable to what passed as a game 30 years ago. And one of those measurements of time is available via the Super Impulse Limited run of Tiny Arcades. These devices are smallish arcade cabinets, so small they all have a keychain affixed to them, that contain one classic game. They’re not actually emulated though, or even really ports, but are actually remakes that aim to capture the look and feel of the original. Most of these games are so simple, like Pac-Man and Galaga, that it’s not readily apparent you’re not playing a ROM unless you’re super familiar with the originals.

Notice the only thing the box promises is that it’s functional.

Super Limited apparently wants a challenge, and one of its latest releases is an interpretation of the classic 1989 arcade brawler Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Adapting this game is considerably more ambitious than anything Tiny Arcade has done before. The promotional images looked promising though as the cabinet was decked out in the familiar imagery of that old cabinet complete with Konami logo. It promised authentic gameplay too, but I was rather skeptical. At approximately $20, it seemed like a worthwhile purchase as a novelty item. I certainly didn’t expect it to be a great way to experience the old game, but I was far too curious to resist.

At least they didn’t try to cram four joysticks onto this thing.

Things have changed since the first unveiling. I first noticed the shape of the cabinet is a little different when I picked this sucker up recently at a nearby Target. The screen appears to be a little bigger, but also orientated different for a more vertical display. As a result, the base below the screen has been shrunk making the controls lower to the ground while maintaining the same height of approximately three and a half inches. It’s unfortunate since I was really interested in this as a display piece for action figures. It was already too short, but now it’s even shorter and I’ll need to factor that in when I got to make a “riser” for this thing. If I do. The Konami logo has also been removed, either because Super Impulse didn’t want to pay for it or perhaps because Konami didn’t want to be associated with this thing. The button layout was also changed and instead of the usual two buttons with the nub-stick it actually has four. The unit is powered by three AAA batteries which are included and it comes in the familiar clear plastic packaging with some licensing art emblazoned on it.

It kind of looks the part, though my camera is obviously going to make it look worse than it is.

Turning this thing on and you immediately will notice the music is different. The original begins with the cartoon theme, and Super Impulse assuredly didn’t want to pay for the rights to that song. It’s been replaced with a very generic and very annoying new tune. Otherwise, the beginning is pretty familiar, aside from the lack of a Konami logo. The turtles still burst out of the sewer and you’re treated to the same four-panel image introducing each one. After that though, a rather ugly user interface comes into view that can only be described as utilitarian. You can turn the music and sound effects off and on and adjust the volume as well. What you can’t do is select a turtle as you’re assigned Donatello.

I can forgive the game its shortcomings, but can we at least do better with the stickers?

After that, the game returns to being fairly authentic. There’s a fire at a nearby building and Splinter sends his pupils off to save April. The difference is Michelangelo doesn’t fall on his ass as the turtles land on the rooftop and enter the building. Once the gameplay starts though, you’re in for a shock. The Donatello sprite and the background looks okay. The resolution of a tiny screen is obviously not fantastic, but it’s acceptable. Moving Donatello though will expose how this sucker has a severely reduced framerate. The other Tiny Arcade stuff I’ve played is similar, but it’s far less noticeable with something like Pac-Man. This game feels like it’s moving at 10 frames per second, if that, and it’s very choppy. All of the sound effects seem like they were optimized for Leonardo as there’s lots of clashing sword strikes. It’s definitely not pleasant.

There’s a keychain on the back for those who like impractical things.

Controlling Donatello has also been adjusted from the original. The stick moves him around as expected, but he has two jump buttons and two attack buttons. This was done to allow the user to rely less on the actual joystick, which can be imprecise. One jump button makes Donatello jump forward, and the other makes him jump back. Same with the attack buttons. Repeatedly pressing a jump button will keep him in the air longer which is necessary for avoiding certain obstacles like the giant bowling balls or cars in later levels. Donatello will be confronted by waves of Foot Soldiers of various colors armed with various weapons. Sometimes, a Roadkill Rodney appears and in later levels there are mousers. It is impressive how many enemies this thing can put on the screen at once, so much that they start to look like a massive blob of limbs and weapons. The game doesn’t appear to slow down further during these moments, but it’s hard to imagine it running any slower than it naturally does.

Next to a Pac-Man from the same series. You can see how the screen size has been changed leading to an adjustment of the unit’s dimensions.

Super Impulse was able to get the bosses into the game as well. Rocksteady appears at the end of the first level, followed by Baxter in the sewer, and so on. It is only 3 levels long though, and I have actually yet to beat it. I can make it to the street level following the dual boss fight with Bebop and Rocksteady where things just get really cheap. Foot in cars or on motorcycles will fly by and they’re a one-hit death. I even reached this scenario with all of my lives intact, but died when I got hit by a motorcycle. The game respawned me in the path of a Foot missile, another one-hit death, and it was an unending cycle that took all four of my lives in the span of a few seconds. Prior to this though, I found the game extraordinarily easy. The bosses are staggered when struck and they can’t break out of it so this game is one you can essentially button mash through. You really only have to make sure enemies don’t surround you and learn to avoid the few level obstacles there are. Defeating enemies seems to restore your health bar as there are no pizza pick-ups. The environment also cannot be interacted with like it can be with the original, so no smashing fire hydrants or traffic cones.

At least he seems to be enjoying it.

I think most who pick this item up are doing so for the sheer novelty of it. And considering that, it’s still lacking. I find it rather deceptive of Super Impulse to not inform the consumer that only one turtle is selectable. I thought maybe they were going to release multiple versions, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The actual game plays like a Java cell phone game from 2007. It’s so jittery that it barely feels like a full video game and more like a Tiger handheld. I expected this thing to have issues with the inputs, but I wasn’t expecting the video to be so poor. If Konami didn’t want its name on this thing it’s not hard to see why.

At $20, this item leaves a lot to be desired. I would almost rather a Hallmark ornament of this arcade cabinet instead since I was mostly interested in it for the aesthetics. Its dimensions are odd though, and the low-res images on the sides and marquee leave something to be desired as well. I thought this would be a fun addition to a someday NECA sewer lair for my action figures, but now it feels more like something I’m going to return to the store on my next visit.


The Power-Ups of Super Mario Bros. – The Definitive Ranking!

Pay not attention to the mustachioed statue.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a video game post. In the spirit of the season, being Halloween, I decided to dive into…Mario power-ups? All right, hear me out. I’ve more or less exhausted The Misfits and everyone and their mother will have posts this month about horror themed movies, games, and TV shows. And what is a Mario power-up? It’s a costume! Sure, a costume with often magical properties and no real horror element, but a costume is a costume and not everyone gets dressed up as something spooky for Halloween.

Since the Mario franchise as we know it truly launched, power-ups have almost always been a major feature in the games that followed. The only outlier really is Super Mario Sunshine since the gameplay of that one focused on the user of a water pack. The other outlier is Super Mario Odyssey, but there’s a good reason there as Mario was gifted Cappy for that one which basically turns every enemy into a power-up of their own! A ranking of the various things Mario can turn into in that game is a ranking all its own, so I’m going to ignore that one. I’m also ignoring the power-ups removed from the main Super Mario Bros. franchise (like the RPGs) and the ones trapped in Super Mario Maker. I’m also ignoring the temporary accessory items Mario has been able to pick up, like the shoe or the blockhead thing in New Super Mario Bros. 2. I also excluded the intentional game-breaking power-ups like the Invincibility Leaf which gets offered to the player when they die too much. And lastly, I decided not to treat Yoshi as a power-up so he’s not included, nor all of the Yoshi-specific power-ups. What I’m left with was 34 power-ups, so since this is going to take awhile, we might as well get started. And we’re starting with the worst:

Tubular…

34. Power Balloon – The Power Balloon, or P Balloon, first appeared in Super Mario World and will forever be associated with the bonus level Tubular, the level most cite as the worst in the game (and one of the worst in general). It’s actually not that bad, and Nintendo has put far more annoying levels in its games since, but the P Balloon, which simply inflates Mario like a balloon for a short amount of time, is annoying to control. It’s not particularly enjoyable, and just the sight of it is anxiety-inducing. Sort of like an under water level in a Sonic the Hedgehog game since its effects are temporary and when it wares off there’s a good chance Mario is plummeting to an early death.

Even Mario would rather no bother with this one.

33. Spring Mushroom – This little power-up first showed up in Super Mario Galaxy, a game that unofficially brought the power-up back into style for Mario and oddly made them all mushroom-based. It, like the P Balloon, is ranked so low because actually getting the power-up is done out of necessity, not want. No one wants to control a spring-loaded Mario, just as no one wants him to control like a balloon. The Spring Mushroom sequences in Galaxy were, by far, my least favorite.

They’re no Ghostbusters, but they get the job done.

32. Light Box – The Light Box was brought into the universe via Super Mario 3D World and it serves one singular purpose: to thwart ghosts. And it’s good for that, but nothing else. It works, but it’s boring and honestly I almost didn’t include it.

At least he looks cute.

31. Frog Suit – The Frog Suit was one of the many power-ups found in the classic Super Mario Bros. 3. Getting it in World 3 was pretty exciting, until you actually used it. If underwater, the Frog Suit is great as it allows Mario and Luigi to swim faster and with more precision. On land though, it’s a nightmare and you’ll be searching for an enemy to knock you out of it. Maybe if Mario had been given a tongue attack or something it would have worked better.

The evolved form of Gravel Mario.

30. Rock Mushroom – Another Galaxy addition is the Rock Mushroom. It basically turns Mario into a Mario Golem that can roll around and smash stuff. It’s not particularly fun, but since Mario is nigh indestructible in this form it’s not as annoying to control as the Spring Mushroom.

Look at me! I’m a cloud!

29. Cloud Flower – Introduced in Galaxy 2, the Cloud Flower turns Mario into…Cloud Mario! This allows Mario to create cloud platforms to assist him in reaching new heights. It’s useful, just not particularly sexy. Unless you have a cloud fetish, then it’s very sexy.

All right, Bowser, now I’m-ah gonna fuck you up!

28. Canon Box – Mario has always lacked the fire power of Bowser and his minions, but the Canon Box evens those odds to a degree. It turns Mario’s head into a literal canon and he can blast anything in his way. It’s not particularly refined or cute, but it is pretty damn effective!

Sadly, not T-1000 Mario.

27. Metal Cap – The signature power-up of Super Mario 64. That game was a revelation when it came out, but one thing that it always lacked from the start was interesting power-ups. The Metal Cap turns Mario into Metal Mario, which is basically just good for letting him walk on the bottom of a sea floor without the need to swim. And swimming for the first time in 3D was quite the challenge so the Metal Cap was certainly welcomed, it’s just not particularly fun.

Mario’s got a nice set of cherries.

26. Double Cherry – In Super Mario 3D World, Mario gained the ability to split in two, or more, copies of himself. He’s always had the ability to gain extra lives, but never to live them simultaneously! It’s an interesting concept, but it’s less a power-up and more a method for puzzle solving or to get a star coin or something.

Admit it, you probably overlooked this one.

25. Life Mushroom/Life-Up Heart – A very useful power-up without really any “fun” component, the Life Mushroom in Galaxy just doubles Mario’s health. It’s something I’ll go out of my way to get when playing a level, but it doesn’t give Mario a fun ability or cool, new, look. It just makes him stronger.

Weee!

24. Penguin Suit – The Penguin Suit from New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the opposite of the Life Mushroom. It’s really fun and silly looking, but kind of a pain in the ass to maneuver in. It’s not as bad as the Frog Suit, and it gives Mario the ability to slide on his belly and to fire ice balls. It’s also the type of power-up that gets in the way and you may blame a death or two on this one before the level is over.

Angelic Mario.

23. Wing Cap – Mario had flown before, but the Wing Cap in Super Mario 64 was the first time he flew in 3D. And it was pretty cool to do so the first time, even though controlling Mario was a bit tricky and the level it’s available in feels more like a Pilot Wings demo than anything. It would have been a lot cooler if Nintendo could have integrated it into other levels like a more traditional power-up, but there was just no way to do it without breaking the game. I rank it as low as I do for that reason as it’s mainly just a diversion.

Red Star Mario reminds me of Red Son Superman, who was a communist. Is this Communist Mario?!

22. The Red Star – Basically the Wing Cap, but in Super Mario Galaxy. It drops the wings and just lets Mario fly like Superman. By Galaxy, controlling such a thing was far more refined and thus more fun, but like 64 it’s basically just a reward for players who stick with it and doesn’t feel like a true power-up.

He’s certainly owning this look.

21. The Blue Shell – Introduced in New Super Mario Bros., the Blue Shell is basically the Hammer Bros. Suit without the hammers. Instead, Mario can run and do a slide attack. It’s functional, doesn’t intrude on Mario’s basic controls, but also doesn’t impart much in the way of special abilities. It’s fine.

How small can he get?

20. Mini Mushroom – The Mini Mushroom was also introduced in New Super Mario Bros. and it felt like a longtime coming. We had the traditional Super Mushroom that makes Mario big, so why not have a small one that does the opposite? The Mini Mushroom makes Mario tiny and hard to hit while also seemingly boosting his running speed. He’s also light and floaty which makes him more challenging to control, but does let him run across water. It’s another power-up that has a very specific application usually in order to access secret areas. It’s fun to use though and adds a bit of challenge without making things too frustrating.

You best not get any sick ideas while invisible, Mario!

19. Vanish Cap – This one from Super Mario 64 renders Mario intangible. He can’t be hurt and can pass through certain things. Since it’s from 64 it has very specific applications, but it’s cool. It’s just not exciting to look at since it’s just regular Mario only he’s now transparent.

It’s a known fact that when you die your tongue increases in mass several times over.

18. Boo Mushroom – The Boo Mushroom lets Mario become that which he fears most: a ghost! He gets to float around and pass through fences and read a dead language reserved for ghosts, so it has a puzzle component to it. And it looks cool! What more could you want?

I’m-ah coming for you, Culken!

17. Bee Mushroom – The “big” power-up, I suppose, from Super Mario Galaxy turned Mario into an adorable honey bee. It grants temporary flight, the ability to walk on certain surfaces, and grip to others. It’s actually pretty fun and there’s definitely a rush of excitement when a Bee Mushroom is spotted in a level. The only thing that sucks is it’s from Galaxy, so once the level is done you can’t take it with you.

You can probably hear this image.

16. Super Star – The venerable Super Star, around since the beginning and a staple of 2D Mario gaming. It makes Mario invincible for a short amount of time and in some games augments his jump or running speed. Everyone loves a Super Star and it’s one of those power-ups you’ll run after when it pops out of a block, sometimes recklessly. And the best power-ups are the ones you don’t want to get away when they show.

Mario! Smash!

15. Mega Mushroom – Like the Super Star, the Mega Mushroom makes Mario invincible briefly, but only this time he grows to gargantuan proportions and can smash through pretty much anything. The only downside really is that once you’ve seen it and experienced it once a lot of the fun is removed since you literally just go right the whole time. And yet, if I see a Mega Mushroom pop out of a block I’m going all out to make sure I get that damn thing!

I don’t think I’d eat that…

14. Super Mushroom – The venerable Super Mushroom. What’s not to like? It turns Mario into Super Mario bestowing a precious extra hit point to Mario while often granting him an extra ability or two, like the drill jump in Super Mario World. It may be unsexy, but the Super Mushroom is undeniably useful and it has no negative side effects other than a larger hit box, but that’s hardly a trade-off since it makes Mario stronger.

I already made a testicles joke with the cherries, two would just be gratuitous.

13. Superball Flower – Super Mario Land was the first Mario experience on the Game Boy and it brought along the flower power-up. Only since the Game Boy lacked a color palette, Mario couldn’t easily be depicted tossing fireballs so Nintendo chose to go with Superballs! They do work a bit differently as they fire at an angle and bounce around. It’s the main power-up of Land and Super Mario Maker has given it a new lease on life.

And he was feeling good when just wearing the shell!

12. Boomerang Flower – Way back in 1988 we got the Hammer Bros. suit in Super Mario Bros. 3 and we had to wait until Super Mari 3D Land in 2011 to get the logical complement, the Boomerang Flower which grants Mario the Boomerang Suit. It’s the same thing, only Mario gets to toss a boomerang instead of a hammer. It’s pretty cool, but no hammer.

If this list were purely on aesthetics then this one would rank higher.

11. Ice Flower – Another one that took awhile, we’ve had the Fire Flower since the beginning, but the Ice Flower took it’s sweet time in making it to a game as it first appeared in Super Mario Galaxy. In that game, it was a temporary power-up like a Super Star, but it’s since become a permanent power-up in the New Super Mario Bros. series. It gives Mario the ability to toss ice balls which freeze enemies on contact turning them into blocks of ice which also have their uses. It’s not as good as old reliable, the Fire Flower, but it’s pretty fun to have ice powers and it doesn’t come with the limited movement of the Penguin Suit.

And this one would rank lower.

10. Super Acorn – One of the most recent power-ups, the Super Acorn was introduced in New Super Mario Bros. U and is basically the logical evolution of the Super Leaf. It grants Mario the Flying Squirrel Suit which allows him the ability to glide with a one-time height boost per flight to reach high places. He can also flutter slowly, but he descends quickly when compared with the Super Leaf. He can also cling to a wall when in this suit which has its uses. It’s a fun item to get ahold of, but also kind of terrifying as gliding is really tempting and blindly gliding over a level can end badly, especially if Mario loses his power mid-flight. It’s propensity for introducing trouble is why I don’t rank it higher.

More of these suits and powers should probably include a helmet.

9. Propeller Mushroom/Propeller Box – The flying item for New Super Mario Bros. Wii was the Propeller Mushroom which grants Mario the Propeller Suit. Basically, when wearing this Mario can do a double-jump that rockets him high into the air and allows for a slow descend. It’s a simple way to integrate a flying component into the game that’s not game-breaking, but it’s lack of an extra attack limits its use. The Propeller Box in the 3D games essentially functions as the same thing, only without the cool suit.

Like cats? Well, have I got a Mario game for you!

8. Super Bell – Introduced in Super Mario 3D World, the Super Bell lets Mario live out his dream – as a cat. It’s a simple power-up, but one that is always welcomed as it lets Mario run faster, climb walls, perform a dive attack, and gives him a claw attack as well. It’s awesome! And who doesn’t love Mario and his companions in an adorable cat costume?

Is this maybe too cute?

7. Carrot – The somewhat forgotten power-up of Super Mario Land 2 is the Carrot. Not Super Carrot, just Carrot, and it gives Mario…bunny ears? Yes, like the Super Leaf, it gives Mario the power to fly without making much sense, but who cares? Mario can fly! He flaps his new ears to clear large gaps. He can’t go up, but can travel horizontally in the air indefinitely and also slow his descent when falling. It is kind of game-breaking, like a lot of the flying abilities during this era, but undeniably fun to use and the signature power-up from that game.

Super Mario Bros. 3 Fire Mario is the best Fire Mario.

6. Fire Flower – Old reliable! The Fire Flower has been a mainstay and it’s never not useful. It lets Mario shoot fireballs at enemies and most of those enemies are not interested in taking a fireball to the face. It’s certainly been overshadowed over the years by flashier power-ups, but it still remains a hard power-up to pass-up when it shows itself in any given level.

Meanwhile, this look is a bit much…

5. Gold Flower – Everything that is good about the Fire Flower, only it also turns enemies (and a lot of other stuff) into coins and who doesn’t love money?! Sure, New Super Mario Bros. 2 probably went overboard with the whole coin focus, but the Gold Flower certainly fit in and it’s the Fire Flower, but better, so it’s ranked here.

Pure joy distilled into a single piece of Mario art.

4. Super Leaf – The Super Leaf gave Mario a raccoon tail and ears and changed the series forever. For the first time, Mario could fly! It was all anyone wanted to talk about when we first started getting a look at Super Mario Bros. 3. Since that game, the Super Leaf has resurfaced in a neutered form as it often just retains the ability to hover and tail-attack. That original one is still the best as the flying was easy to use and made exploring the levels a lot more interesting than they had been previously.

Mario’s most hug-able power-up.

3. Tanooki Suit/Statue Lead – It’s the Super Leaf, only it makes Mario both more adorable and more destructive! Mario goes full tanooki with the costume and never looked better giving him the same abilities as the Super Leaf. It also has the added ability to allow Mario to turn into a statue making him invulnerable to attack and able to smash stuff. It doesn’t get much better than that which is why it’s at number 3.

Mario! Hammers are for pounding nails, not throwing!

2. Hammer Suit – The most illusive power-up in Super Mario Bros. 3 is the game’s best. It gives Mario the ability to essentially be a Hammer Bro. His hard shell makes him impervious to fireballs when ducking and his hammers do massive damage. If you manage to hang onto the thing all the way through Bowser’s castle you’ll be rewarded with a really easy final battle. If you put it on though and then immediately lose it you’ll be left wishing that old game had a save feature and you could reload. The Hammer Suit is awesome, and if it only had a flight component it would be the ultimate Mario power-up.

All of those years he was calling himself Super Mario when he didn’t even have a cape!
  1. Feather – No power-up for Mario is as powerful as the simple Feather. It gives Mario a bright, yellow, cape and in a video game a cape can only mean one thing: flight. And unlike the Super Leaf, this cape can keep Mario airborne indefinitely once the user gets the hang of it making it the most game-breaking of all the power-ups. It’s probably the reason why power-ups like the Red Star are reserved for just certain areas in its games. And not only can Mario fly, he also gets a cape-attack which is incredibly useful throughout Super Mario World. Useful attack plus unlimited flight? Yeah, the Feather is the ultimate power-up.


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