The 'Shroom:Issue 138/Critic Corner
Welcome to September, where we offer you things such as the beginning of Fall if you're in the northern hemisphere, or Spring if you're in the southern! Either way, it's a season of change and transition. Of what, you ask? Halloween prep! By the end of next month is objectively the best holiday of the year, full of ghouls, ghosts, goblins, and goodies. I encourage you all to help celebrate the occasion by giving your section a spooky theme if you already write for us, or if you want to start or send in a one-time piece!
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves because we still have some nice sections here for you this month to hold you over!
Section of the Month
Could Have Been
Hello everyone! Alex95 here once again with Could Have Been. I'm returning to the Mario Kart series once again, this time covering my favorite title in the series, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Why is this my favorite? …I don't know, to be honest. Perhaps it's the two-player karts? The solid soundtrack? Nostaglia? Or maybe that it took so gosh dang long for me to unlock the Parade Kart? Well, whatever the reason, I like it, so I'm diving right in and taking a look at what could have been.
The earliest demo of this game was shown at E3 2001, where we see Mario and Luigi racing separately in standard go-karts. Mario and Luigi are using their models from Super Smash Bros. Melee, and nothing shown in the trailer resembles the final game at all. Not even the name! "Mario Kart for Nintendo GameCube". Catchy.
These next batch of screenshots were shown off on April 23, 2003. Many of these screenshot share the same general tidbits. The speedometer goes through some changes, going from a Mushroom shape to a circle to the one we know today. The HUD is also different, having the numbers shaded differently and in narrower font. In a few of these screenshots, we can see that the game can't tell who is in what place, with one pic even showing two Bowsers on the course, which obviously can't happen. Some stage differences include hot air balloons in Dry Dry Desert and two Wiggler Wagons in Mushroom City. One screenshot also shows the results screen looking different, similar to how it looked in Mario Kart 64. I actually have a promotional poster for this game showing some of the screenshots! (Enjoy this low-quality image of the poster!)
We have some unused models and graphics here, too! One of these is a logo and trophy models for a "Reverse Cup". This would've been an extra cup where racers have to race the course backwards! I don't mean drive in reverse, I mean you start facing the complete opposite direction and go from there. Unlike Mirror Mode where the courses are flipped horizontally, this mode would've added additional features to the tracks to make racing them in reverse possible. Rainbow Road would've been interesting to race on backwards. There's also an unused map of Sherbet Land with some differently shaped ice rinks and roads, along with a graphical set of the characters…which includes Donkey Kong Jr. rather than Diddy Kong.
These next bits aren't exactly unused or pre-release information, but they aren't commonly seen by most players. Leftover in the game's code is a Time Trials code. After finishing a race in Time Trials, the player can press in that order to pull up a code. This code was used for a Japanese contest, but is completely useless in other regions. For another oddity, there seems to be a bad case of texture mapping for Baby Mario. Clipping the camera into his legs will reveal he has his entire set of textures mapped to both of his legs. Apparently, Baby Mario's UV map is textured incorrectly, though Baby Luigi manages to escape unscathed.
What Could Have Been?
So, how would Mario Kart: Double Dash!! have been if they stuck with the original demo? The only thing I can think of would be something like Mario Kart 64, but with GameCube graphics. I don't know if they would've gone as far as Mario Kart Wii, or even if selectable karts would've been a thing. But they would've still had a lot of time to work on stuff, so who even knows really? One thing's for sure, it wouldn't have been called "Double Dash".
As for the batch of pre-release screenshots, some elements would've been interesting to keep. The earlier speedometers look better than the one we ended up on to me, especially the Mushroom one. Having the characters face more forward in the HUD also seems more pleasing to look at to me, though some of the faces needed to be touched up. Also, the game had great difficulty keeping track of who was in what place in the early prototypes, but that gives me an idea: "Scramble Mode". Racers' positions are constantly changing on the HUD, which sounds absolutely terrible and hectic. I love it, make it happen, Nintendo! (It's a terrible idea, don't do it)
Of the cut elements, the most notable have to be Donkey Kong Jr. and the Reverse Cup. Donkey Kong Jr. has since mostly faded into obscurity after Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64, with Diddy Kong taking over since. Had Donkey Kong Jr. had stayed, not only would've this have likely served as a last hurrah, but it also would've added to the identity confusions as the current Donkey Kong is still in the game. …That's probably why they swapped him out, actually. Regardless, Jr. can still be found in the game, in Waluigi Stadium's audience!
The contest code is a strange one. The characters are translated, so it's possible a Time Trial contest was planned for other regions, but then cut for some reason. Japanese players would've submitted their code online to do… something, but it seems there wasn't an equivalent for other regions. Not that it matters now, the tournament is defunct anyway.
As always, there's more to this game and more screenshots that can be found on our list of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! pre-release and unused content page, or on the The Cutting Room Floor. Thanks for reading, and until next time, see you around!
With the Awards Ceremony already over by the time this issue is posted, this should hopefully be this year’s last edition of:
Part 5 of Anton’s Half-Baked Pre-Written Reviews 2018, featuring stuff I tried months ago and only did minor notes of and then actually started writing during the usual work period so these actually aren’t prewritten much at all. This month’s edition is Asian Supermarket Roundup where it’s a grab bag of all of the other stuff I bought that didn’t fit neatly into a specific theme that I have to liquidate into what’s surely going to be a long section so I can get to other stuff in my enormous backlog, and conveniently are pretty much all of the entry-level “white person tries Japanese stuff” foods, minus Pocky since I’ve already tried that in the past. Tl;dr review is they don’t taste that special and if anything are just a more expensive gimmicky version of Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes that you get less of and are smaller. Just buy those unless you prefer the texture of them being skinnier.
Ramunesome white dude back in the late 1800s, becoming a cultural hit, which ironically has nowadays become very widely marketed towards western Americanized nerds hankering for genuine Japanese products to splurge on in increasing availability as the mainstream power of geeks continues to exponentially rise. It’s a wonderful example of cultures blending as isolationist policies are pulled away. Rather than joining the Otaku masses signaling to each other their patrician far east tastes by spending $4.99 on one at FYE in a dimly lit corner of a shopping mall next to a dying Sears, I went to an Asian supermarket and picked up some for like $1.50 each. In a concession of fairness, novelty sodas are a pretty American thing, and they’re pretty easy to find in dedicated candy shops in an enormous variety of flavors. They’re a measly 200ml so even $1.50 is more than I’d prefer to spend, but factoring in the novelty of it plus being able to fluff up my review section made the price more palatable. Crippled with indecision, I ended up only getting two flavors from the one that looked middle-of-the-road name brand, Shirakiku: Lychee and Melon. The lychee just tastes like some kinda of lightly flavored fruity drink. To those keeping track of the Half-Baked Historia, I tried ramune well before Calpico, and having an overall pleasant experience with this is what made me select a lychee Calpico drink to my subsequent disgust. Artificially flavored things should all be somewhat similar, and it’s evidence that our universe will end with an exponential increase in entropy that artificial flavors of the same name don’t taste the same. Melon looked like a melted Jolly Rancher, complete with the fake overpowering syrupy watermelon flavoring that all companies believe is how a watermelon tastes even though it’s actually one of the most subtle and refreshing and watered down flavors. I didn’t get the original because I assumed it would just be flavorless soda water, but I later found out that it’s a lemon-lime basically-Sprite flavor, so I regret not expanding my flavor selection, and may do more in the future, review fluff or not.
Actually tasting it aside, we can now move on to the part of ramune that struck me the most: its bottle design. To open it, you have to pop the plastic top part off and pop the center of it out and invert it. With this plastic doohickey you then jab at the glass marble that’s blocking the opening, plunging it into the bottle to be caught by the narrow bottleneck. While it's pretty neat from an engineering perspective, it results in you getting literally just a few drops of the soda before the marble just falls back as you tip the bottle and blocks all liquid, or just flows so slowly because the soda basically has to drip from the bottom of the bottle through the constricted part holding the marble. Unless that blue top is also supposed to come off, it makes it feel like a sippy cup with a sip portion control since I can’t take any big gulp from it. To effectively try each flavor I poured the remaining bit out into a glass so I could actually get enough in my mouth to sample it instead of just feeling some vague sugary carbonated sensation. Sources tell me that the marble is part of the experience, with the Codd bottle design, and invention by some other white dude, offering nostalgia. The Wikipedia article for ramune even states that “People trying Ramune for the first time sometimes find it difficult to drink, as it takes practice to learn to stop the marble from blocking the flow.” This pinned me down pretty perfectly, but am I wrong to want to drink a soda to feel refreshed instead of playing some marble labyrinth game just to get a few drops like a lab test monkey? Spending effort on trying to balance the marble parallel with the earth's gravitational pull is too much effort when I just want to slurp the entire thing in one gulp. Ramune is offered in different bottles, similar to the ones in standard use now, but is that even ramune at that point if the selling point of it is the summertime nostalgic vibes?
Explanation: If the argument to defend this is that it’s a superior bottle design then I’m gonna have to call shenanigans, but I can definitely get behind it being nostalgia, aesthetic, and brand recognition enough for it to be a cute novelty for a particular moment, rather than mass intake and consumption. I have no investment in this particular nostalgia, and it’s not for me, so I just can’t get into it and instead can only accept it and judge it in a utilitarian sense.
Hi-Chew is a brand of chewy fruity candy produced by Morinaga & Company, originating in Japan, but now with an American branch. As with ramune, this is something that at the time it was suggested was difficult to come across and I had to find in a specialized Asian market, but by the time I’m fully writing this and this issue goes up here in September 2018 it has become widely available in the most common grocery stores, and even on the impulse racks of places like Forever 21. In all actuality, international food sections in general seem to be expanding lately, which means that all of the stuff I’ve been trying and reviewing are certainly accessible with low effort to anyone reading this and feeling inspired to go out and try stuff for themselves! Hi-Chew has like 12 flavors in America according to Wikipedia: Strawberry, Green Apple, Mango, Grape, Peach, Banana, Melon, Cherry, Kiwi, Açai, and (exclusive to Hawaii) Pineapple and Lilikoi, plus apparently a few others I found that this list doesn’t account for. I went and tried as many as I could find. The actual chewiness of them is pretty alright, and is pretty distinct from anything in the standard American market. They don’t have any stickiness to them, and they’re not some glossy gummy coated in some kind of sugar. Instead, they’re matte and feel a bit more dense; not to the point that it strenuous on your jaws, but is something you can actually chew on without feeling compelled to swallow for a relatively longer period than something not designated as chewy. The closest thing I can compare it to is a caramel cube that’s been rolled around in flour to remove its stickiness but then dusted off. The texture between all of them is pretty much the same, with the only difference being the flavor, and each of them tastes and smells pretty much exactly like what they claim to be, rather than some artificial version of it, which was pretty astounding to me. To categorize each different flavor I will once again resurrect these gorgeous emotive scales with notable remarks if notable enough.
Tastes real, smells good; probably the best-smelling one.
CherryCough syrup flavor.
Received retching sound effects from one person, resulting in me forcing other people to also try it to the effect of them also retching before I actually tried it myself. Didn’t taste special one way or the other.
Brings the unnatural artificial grape flavor that the Grape Hi-Chew didn’t have, but it’s ok because I like fake grape flavor.
A subtle enough sour to make it genuinely taste like grapefruit.
Has chia seeds in it for some reason, which was kinda funky, but ultimately didn’t really change the flavor or experience at all beyond “wow there’s chia seeds in here??”
This one was the most difficult one to find out of the ones I found at all, and subsequently was the most expensive at $1.65 for a pack, while I paid either $1 or $1.25 for the rest. Tastes like a mix of grape and blackberry; very subtle.
Explanation: Chocolate covered pretzels are one of humanity’s greatest creations and a token of our value to the universe when we are judged on the intergalactic court scales to determine whether we are worth remaining extant. Dark chocolate covered pretzels, though, are ehhhhhhh an acquired taste. They are purported to be fancier and a finer product, and while that may be true, their innate bitterness makes them really unable to be devoured by the fistful. Whether that’s a virtue is up for debate, and is subject to what you prioritize in a snack. Hi-Chews have a more sophisticated flavor than many other candies on the market, but physically chewing them is more of an exercise for jaws than most. There’s no right or wrong, here, just a careful balancing act.
Kit KatsOne of the fun facts that nearly everyone just knows by a certain point in their life is that Japan is bonkers for Kit Kats. While we here in America are blessed with the original variety, we are still only given the measly crumbs that are the uninspired white chocolate and dark, with much of the variance being in the shape, form, and size of the chocolate-wafer combo. This is a result of Kit Kats having a sort of split ownership, where it’s owned by Hershey’s in America, but Nestlé on a global scale, and Hershey’s is apparently a lot less adventurous than Nestlé.
Matcha, or maccha, or however it’s spelled, is basically just specialized green tea, native to Japan, but is at a fever pitch among trendy foodies and marketers in America. It makes sense that a Matcha Kit Kat flavor would exist, and that it would be the one I can find the most easily in import and specialty stores. Being one of the quintessential “you gotta try it!”s for international food, I knew I had to get it when I saw one, and at the same place I found Calpico I found a 12ct bag of mini fun-size Matcha Green Tea Kit Kat bars for $4.99. It tastes like old chocolate from about four holidays ago that you just haven’t gotten to yet so the sugar and lipids have separated from the cocoa, but still has that fresh texture. That’s really the only flavor difference I could tell, like, it may as well have just been white chocolate with green food dye. I’d rather just have a regular Kit Kat. Conveniently, I was at 2257’s place’s place when I tried them, so I made him try some. He said: “it really does taste like tea”, “idk, it was good” and “I would eat another one”. I gave the rest of the bag to him for do as he wished with.
Explanation: An excellent buy for the novelty, or for friends and relatives you don’t actually care about that much but still have an obligation to get them a gift but don’t want to spend more than $10. Otherwise, if this is for yourself, just skip on it entirely and spend your money on either better chocolate or a green tea at Starbucks, whichever toots your fancy. It’s not bad, just not worth the extra like $2.
Explanation: Per the Hi-Chews
Now, the advent eating chocolate cold is not new to me. I grew up keeping Reese’s Cups in the freezer, and even went as far as Snickers and PayDays--further evidence that insatiable milk consumption renders teeth superhuman. The chocolate has a very similar vibe to Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme, distinctly separate from regular white chocolate, and even has bits of...something in it, I guess graham cracker crumbs. The strawberry wafer definitely tastes like the usual strawberry flavoring, but is subdued, either through the ingredients or a virtue of eating it frozen, but regardless is much more enjoyable than BAM! STRAWBERRY! Additionally, as a result of them being freezing cold, the two separate wafers that are connected as per standard Kit Kat design are difficult to break it apart without the edges snapping awkwardly and splintering pieces everywhere. This puts me in a terrible quandary: do I spatter tiny chocolate chunks all over the place and encourage cockroaches to come out of hiding, or do I not split the sticks apart and just brutishly chomp into the whole bar like an unwashed barbarian?
Explanation: At the bottom of select bags rests rare spectacles to behold: off-brand Mini M&Ms. While they are a beauty to behold, they are small and few. The Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kats are pretty good, but for the price it’s just not enough, resulting in more energy being put into rationing them than there is enjoying them.
Calbee’s Seaweed & Salt Potato Chips
Samanco Red Bean Ice Cream Sandwich
Tasted really stale, and as you can tell by the image I provided you can see that even at the time of this issue’s release it still has just under a year left before it expires, and I purchased this back in September 2017. The cake casing thing doesn’t feel very dense, and is pretty similar to the experience of an off-brand cake wafer cone from a small town ice cream parlor, but is rendered softer and a bit flimsier like wet cardboard I guess by being in complete contact with the ice cream inside rather than just having a scoop resting on top, making it kinda hard to chew apart and instead had to be ripped at with my teeth like a person eating a tough rack of ribs that was accidentally overcooked. I’m not a fan of beans to begin with, so electing to get the adzuki/red bean filling instead of chocolate was quite a perilous choice for me. They were adequately sweet, at least the juice slop from it was, but I just couldn’t get used to them being actual beans and the texture involved with it; the concept of a soft peanut just doesn’t sit well with me. The vanilla ice cream itself seemed like standard mass produced vanilla ice cream so I was pretty neutral about it.
Rating: 8.75oz bag of Trail Mix Chex Mix that you get at a gas station for $2.19 when you want something more exciting than yet another cosmic brownie.
Explanation: The substandard quality is pretty much what to expect from ice cream novelties to begin with, so I’m not sure why I may have expected more. It was cheap enough, it was cold, the flavor it said it was actually was noticeable and recognizable, and it was something different, so it gets a passing grade. I wouldn’t buy it again myself for the novelty of it, but if for some reason I was offered one, or if a heatwave obliterated my physical body specifically when I’m near the one specialty store probably in a 200 mile radius that has this product, I wouldn’t decline.
Tune in next month for a spoOoOoOoOoky review! Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars has been around for a good while now. We know the originals so well, and many avoid the prequels like the plague. The issue is, this new trilogy still hasn't properly found its footing. While they're certainly better than the prequels, they still keep drawing too much from the originals to set themselves apart.
As much as I enjoyed The Force Awakens it was hard not to see it as A New Hope just with different characters, and the same goes for The Last Jedi. As much as I like it, the overall plot feels too similar to Empire Strikes Back, in which the Resistance is nearly wiped out by the First Order and needs to spend the majority of the film fleeing them, while the young Jedi who has everyone's hopes pinned on them is training with an old master in self-imposed exile. On the bright side, there is at least some differentiation.
The main differentiation, and the one that works well is Luke's refusal to train Rey, due to his reservations after training Kylo Ren. As annoying as it is to watch this refusal, it works well with Luke's overall character, and he has a really good development arc throughout the film. However, one part that doesn't work just as well is Finn and Rose's mission for the codebreaker. Nothing interesting come about because of it, and with a film that is already two and a half hours long, it just stinks of padding.
And yet despite being around two and a half hours long, some parts of the movie just feel undeveloped. Leia's force powers were barely touched upon in the originals, and I don't remember anything of the sort in The Force Awakens, and suddenly she's able to survive in the vacuum of space, and pull herself towards the spaceship. Likewise, Admiral Holdo is such an underdeveloped character that you never know whether you're supposed to be rooting for her or not, and Emperor Snoke is just a plain disappointment for the film.
I have an issue with films that go on too long, if they're over two hours most of the time I end up losing interest. And this happened to me during this film. The casino subplot may have kept us from focusing on one thing for tool long, but that in of itself was too dull to catch my interest.
Despite its length, I did enjoy The Last Jedi and it certainly has a lot of strong points and sets up the final film in the trilogy pretty well. Unlike Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom it didn't feel like a stop-gap, and it can stand up as its own film. I can confidently say that this film has wet my appetite for the final film.
Bitchin Kitchen started out as a webseries that eventually was greenlit for a slot on the Cooking Channel. I watched it when I was in high school, and it's one of my favorite cooking shows, period. The food, the humor, the SHOES. So good, all of it. It was a short-lived show, but it was really good. Kinda the kick-ass cooking show we never knew we needed.
Now, the book. Let's talk aesthetics first. I have a small handful of cookbooks that are in black and white. Feels kinda eh, not enough pictures, pages aren't shiny, you know the deal (looking at you, Robert Irvine). This book is not one of those books. The entire book is in full color, every recipe has an accompanying picture, and the pages are glossy without being irritating. It's got a good weight to it without being overly heavy, but it is paperback so it can be fragile.
Content is up next! This book collects recipes from the second season of the show. But it's not only recipes, my friends! No, the content here is grouped into episodes of the show, for example, you've got Dysfunctional Family Pizza Night, Depression Desserts, and Nonna Recipe Showdown. You get not only the recipes from that episode, but you'll also get Nadia's intros and outros to the episode and banter from the Panos, the Spice Agent, and Hans, the food correspondents. A guide to the Italian/Nadia G. slang is included in the back of the book as well, and you might want to drop some of it into your own vernacular. There's a broad range of recipes, and even though some of them call for ingredients that might be hard to find, there's something for everyone in this book. My personal favorite recipe is the chocolate cheese brownies. Tangy and sweet are hard to beat with these suckers. The work you put in will be worth it!
The only gripe I have about this book is that it doesn't feature enough fashion. Part of the reason one watches the show is to see what stylish/crazy outfit Nadia G. will wear, and what fabulous shoes she pairs with said outfit. This book features almost none of that, and that's a shame, because most of her heels and dresses are truly bitchin. A small complaint, I know.
Really, what else can I say about this one? It's a great read even if you don't like cookbooks. It's funny and witty and stuffed full of gorgeous colors and pictures of tasty food. If you collect cookbooks, or maybe edgy comedy books, don't miss out on this one, it's a real treat. You won't regret it, especially if you make those chocolate cheese brownies. Man are they good.
That's all for me this time, readers and chefs! Check back next time for a fresh Graphic Novel review!
By this point I have played every game in the New Super Mario Bros. series, but judging by the recent Nintendo Direct this trend is soon to end. As I have both New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U, there seems to be no point in me getting a game that only has Toadette and Peachette as a draw.
As much as the New Super Mario Bros. series gets a lot of flak for unoriginality, with New Super Mario Bros. 2 being a prime example, it did manage at least one original thing: Nabbit. I really liked Nabbit's introduction, it was something new for a series that was starting to stagnate. Unfortunately, he was underused in this game as he'd show up in a level, and then you'd need to chase him down for an item. And it's not like you were chasing him through exclusive levels, it was just the same ones that you'd already been through.
His role was then bizarrely extended for New Super Luigi U, in which he inexplicably became a playable character. Now, I'm not massively objecting, as I did want to see more from Nabbit, and his thief levels were pretty dull, but even I was taken aback by this sudden promotion. What was even more strange was that apart from lava and bottomless pits this guy was invincible, something that had never been hinted at before.
However, what surprises me the most about Nabbit is how often he doesn't appear as a playable character. Since his introduction, Nabbit has only been playable in two spin-off games, Mario Golf: World Tour and the 100m Sprint in Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. And this disappoints me, if Nabbit has enough prominence to be playable in a main series game, you'd imagine he'd have more playability in spin-offs like Mario Kart or Mario Party, alas he only has a small role in Mario Party 10.
I like Nabbit, I think he's an interesting addition to the series, but it would be nice to see him do more than steal in his appearances, although Paper Jam Bros. was a nice surprise. And likewise, I want to see him in more spin-offs, he firmly deserves a spot there. Hopefully, my wish will soon come true.