Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Haitian Representation through Video Games and Media

As a proud first-generation son of Haitian immigrants, it's been an interesting journey witnessing the emergence of my culture through society. Growing up in New York City, the haven of immigration, it was still favorable to be Haitian or be a descendant. Cruel children made assumption that all Haitians came to America on a boat, made accusations of Haitians practicing dark arts and believed  Haitians to be less intelligent. Many straight up disliked Haitians for no other reason than being born in Haiti. The large social stigma never felt justified except as society's need for a punching bag. The hatred caused numerous kids, many I knew personally, to lie about being Haitian or, if they were to admit it, lessen the connection by saying they were "half" Haitian and mixed with another ethnicity. This was usually a fabrication to protect themselves from possible ridicule.

Like other underrepresented immigrant peoples in the United States, Haitian Culture is distorted and and distilled into simple yet exaggerated stereotypes for the sake of convenience. These notions do nothing more than marginalize the people and culture while distracting from beauty and history of the country, such as being the first free black republic.

My mission today is to highlight some of the Haitian representation that have graced our video games, televisions and movie screens. I'm highlighting some of the common misconceptions and  showing the evolution of Haitian characters and Haiti as a whole. Without further ado!

Big Wolf on Campus
Fox Family
You can clearly see where most of the budget went

If you have never heard of this show it's likely you wasn't born yet or knew better things to watch. This little Fox Family (now Freeform) show, drenching in late 90's 
gaudiness, was about a teenager who transforms into the world's least convincing werewolf. This was the first television series I can recall to feature a character of Haitian heritage. Just one little issue I had - 
You know us Haitians never leave the house without our Voodoo dolls
He was a voodoo priest. Of course he was. Don't get me wrong, Voodoo is practiced in Haiti but the whole world is under the impression that all Haitians participate which is a misconception. In actuality, Roman Catholicism is practiced by more than half of the population. And I forgot to mention, the character was named "Male Nurse St. Jacques". Seriously.

After watching the episode, I was pretty miffed as a 12 year old. Finally a character shares my heritage but adhered to a stereotype, all the while being played by an actor who's not even Haitian (I checked, he's not). The one scene I vividly remember: the main character, a bargain basement teen wolf, mistakenly referred to Haiti as Hades, the Greek God of the underworld. Male Nurse St. Jacques quickly corrects him on the pronunciation. It was the first I realized Haiti isn't as well known as I believed.

                                             Traditional Haitian Outfit.
Watching this episode again almost 15 years later, my resentment has settled a bit. The premise of the show is supernatural adventures with a shoestring budget, so it's natural they went for the quickest cliched stereotype as erroneous as it is.

The funniest and faithful yet probably most unintentional aspect of. Jacques  is him being a nurse. Nursing is a pretty popular career goal in the Haitian community, right under being a doctor, lawyer and engineer (if you're Haitian you know this!)

If you're glutton for punishment you can find the entire episode and more YouTube.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City
Rockstar Games
Of course the Voodoo references never end.
Grand Theft Auto Vice City is a game which needs no introduction. This PS2 classic is one of the most vital games to my gaming experience being the first GTA fully played. It also helped me understand the craze GTA had over the industry. More importantly it has one of the best licensed soundtracks I have heard in a video game. 

Due to  real-life Florida's geographical location it is understandable for there to be an influx of Haitian immigrants in major sectors and for the game developers to inject some realism in their Miami stand-in Vice City, Rockstar Games decided to add Haitian and Cuban minority groups to the game which is fine and dandy except they were added for the sole purpose of being gang members. As far as I can tell,  Haitians and Cubans don't have a history of gang feuds but it could have been added to play on the Miami drug war of the 1980's.

I'm not crazy about their fashion but at least they sound like real Haitians
One of the coolest facets of having Haitians in a video game was hearing actual Haitian-Creole language, not some accented imitation (more on that soon).

Granted it sounds like only one person is doing the voices for all the Haitians but to be fair, there are only two character models for the Haitians ( I came from much simpler times).

Released in October 2002, Vice City quickly became the best-selling Playstation 2 game but it wasn't without controversy.

I'm assuming they want you to kill all the Haitians.
Th major point of contention came from a couple of missions where the protagonist Tommy Vercetti sides with the Cubans and the game lightly suggests to decimate the enemy gang members - just kidding- The game reminds you over and over and over again to KILL ALL THE HAITIANS. After the game was released, Haitian Community leaders in New York and Florida caught wind of some of the offensive in-game dialogue and they were by all means, furious. The Haitian leaders and groups and even then-New York City Mayor Bloomberg demanded Rockstar Games remove the demeaning dialogue and so they did. Later versions of Vice City removed all mentions Haitians entirely.

You can't even read her dialogue without thinking in a Jamaican accent
Personally, the most reprehensible part of Grand Theft Auto Vice City was Auntie Poulet. I was absolutely displeased with her portrayal because she was voiced by non-Haitian actress, psychic fraud (the late) Miss Cleo known famously for her bad Jamaican accent who was now doing a bad Haitian accent! Except she wasn't doing a Haitian accent at all; she kept her faux-Jamaican patois dialect! This woman is notorious for doing a terrible accent. Auntie Poulet is the Haitian gang leader and matriarch so it's befuddling how Rockstar could be so tone-deaf  in stunt casting this actress yet the Haitian pedestrians/gangsters have genuine Haitian-Creole accent and dialogue. It's bizarre but is it really?
Haitian Matriarch with a fake Jamaican Accent? C'mon Rockstar...
Not excusing Rockstar Games' lack of research but Caribbean culture back then (and even today) was pretty niche to mainstream audiences, especially concerning distinctive dialects from Caribbean islands and countries alike.  Ask any person to do an island accent and there's a high chance it's going to be a Jamaican accent. Still it's uncomfortable watching your culture showcased erroneously and creating a long-lasting misconstrued image in society's psyche.

Despite some displeasurable shortcomings, my enjoyment and nostalgia of Vice City remains. 

But this wouldn't be the last time we had to deal with "Hollywood Haitians".

Bad Boys II
Columbia Pictures
Two sitcom kings in one bad movie.
Ah Bad Boys II, a sequel eight years in the making with no substance whatsoever. I'll never forget watching this in the theaters, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith trade forced witless banter despite their natural charisma and comedic timing add cringy dialouge, hamfisted acting and bloated bombastic action sequences - you know this has to be a Michael Bay joint. Alas I can go on all day but this is a critique on their depiction of Haitians.

Haitians are well-known for repping Jamaican and Rasta colors. The more you know.
And wouldn't you know, it's painfully and offensively inaccurate. These counterfeit Haitians more resembled imagery and stylings of the Jamaican Rastafarian movement. The faux-Haitians played a significant role in the first half of the movie as the antagonistic voodoo gangsters involved in two major action scenes 

"If I pucker my lips and deepen my voice, I'll surely speak Haitian!"

There were numerous actors pretending to sound "Haitian" with accents ranging from Hollywood Patois to atrociously-incomprehensible-accented yelling. Nothing came close Haitian dialect, unsurprisingly. I can imagine non-Haitian audiences eating up what this movie delivered as Haitians but as a descendant raised in the culture, it was too insulting.

I was literally shaking my head in my seat. 

Voodoo, Voodoo, everywhere
It sounds like I was expecting a lot out of Bad Boys II but in reality I wasn't. I was appalled with all the inaccuracies and lack of care to detail in the portrayal of Haitians. In many ways it hurts because it feel like your culture is so insignificant to the mainstream media, as if there is no incentive on getting it right. At the time I wasn't familiar with Michael Bay's work but after watching the Transformers franchise and looking back at Bad Boys II, it makes so much more sense.

Michael Bay in Haiti
Well I'll remove some sins off Bay since he flew down to Haiti with medical and rescue specialists after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Hopefully this experience has educated him bit more the culture.
Say one more word in that fake accent. I dare you.

I'll say right off the bat, I haven't finished watching Heroes. Yes, I know it's an old show but I do promise to get around to it. This is basically glossing over everything I know about The Haitian character thus far. First and foremost we finally have a real Haitian actor Jimmy Jean Louis,  portraying a Haitian character. This is revolutionary territory right here folks! We now have an actor who can speak proper Haitian-Creole language except one thing, he doesn't really talk much. He apparently uses his advantage as a silent soldier to force his enemies to underestimate him.

Using his natural powers to stay sonnin' people.
Criticism of the character argues he's nothing more than glorified lackie and falls in the "Magical Negro" trope. While there is some validity behind the criticisms, it does not take into account decades of  fallacious and stereotypical portrayals of Haitian characters on television and movies. Maybe as far as Black Americans go he may seem like a step back but for Haitians on a major network show, this is a first step in the right direction. 

Orange is the New Black
Color me impressed, it's not a book about Juju magic or some crap.
Never thought I would be writing about OITNB on this blog but here we are and  at long last presented with a multifaceted Haitian character named Miss Claudette. Though she's in jail (no spoilers here) she's not a gangster or a voodoo priestess/witch doctor/whatever mystical mumbo jumbo normally associated with Haitian fictional characters in American media. She ran a business, has a stern personality and has a disciplined attitude similar to many strong Haitian women I've had the pleasure of knowing. She also has a compelling backstory mixed with her flaws creating quite an interesting character.

Miss Claudette even rocks the mouchwa ever so often.
I've given flack to bad Haitians accents and I would be remiss if I didn't` mention the accent created by actress, Michelle Hurst (who I don't believe is Haitian). Her accented speech: nondescript is the best way to describe it. I recall some scenes where Hurst tries to put authenticity in her accent but it always sounds like a vague Caribbean accent. In this case, the good outweighed the bad so it didn't bother me as much as the other examples above.

These actors were speaking Creole. It warms my heart.

I'll give the show credit for having a few actors speak in Haitian-Creole and it was refreshing to see proof that some research went into making these characters feel real and authentic.

The most unique aspect of Miss Claudette is she doesn't feel like character slapped with a Haitian label for the sake of diversity but Haiti is intertwined with her character's history. I'm certain many immigrant Haitians could see themselves her. A truly breakthrough character in terms of Haitian representation in America.

Haiti as a Setting

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Sucker Punch Games
I like the Sly Cooper Games. They are a sweet combination of 3D platforming, stealth mechanics and a colorful world filled with stylized anthropomorphic characters. These series of games focus on a Racoon and his ragtag team operating heists all over the world. In a level from the first game, the gang travels to Haiti in search of a Fiendish Five member Mz. Ruby.

This cartoonish version of Haiti delivers as much as you expect. The jungle in this Haiti is generic aside from decorations of bones, skulls and other Hollywood voodoo designs. The music is ambient and doesn't even reflect the country. The entire level doesn't capture any essence of the Haitian culture and is more likely used as backdrop for the sake of globe hopping variance. It could have been called the Amazon or Brazil, it wouldn't change anything.
Then there's Mz. Ruby who's described as a Haitian Alligator but speaks and acts with a Cajun flair. Her goal is to the raise the undead. She also has an army of roosters and likes to play voodoo Simon Says. Her boss theme even has shades of Louisiana Creole guitar strumming.

This plays very stereotypically while being a mishmash of Creole culture and voodoo convention. It's really bland you try looking any deeper. It's Haiti in name only.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Nothing more than just base in Haiti.

Haiti is featured as the final level in Call of Duty: Black Ops II and that's all I can say about it. Literally, it's just an enemy base located in Haiti in the near future. Well on the bright side at least it's not haunted with undead spirits of voodoo, am I right?

But even if the level could have taken place anywhere in the world, it's nice feeling developers included the country. Maybe in the future we'll get a Call of Duty level with the same detail as the infamous Brazil level in Call of Duty: Modern War 2.

Quantum of Solace 
Sony Pictures

Yeah I was hyped when I first saw this.
The 2nd James Bond film in the Daniel Craig era is also one of the most mixed. I thought it was just okay if not a bit forgettable. Haiti is featured as one of the movie villains hides their money in Haiti's banks. Bond, being the globetrotting spy he is, follows him to a hotel in country's capital, Port au Prince. There, a fight ensues in the hotel room, then a motorcycle chase and  they top it off with action scene in boats. Another day in the office for 007.

Bond is as shocked as I when I learned they weren't in Haiti.
The Port au Prince shown in Quantum of Solace felt like Haiti, especially inside the hotel. There wasn't a lot of dialogue going but anyone who did speak on screen didn't really have a strong Haitian-Creole accents. I thought that was odd so after doing some digging, I discovered they filmed all the Port au Prince scenes in Colon, Panama. Color me impressed, I was fooled upon my initial viewing.

The setting was pretty convincing Haiti to me.
A video game tie-in with the movie was released on most major consoles circa 2008. I didn't play this game but  thought it would be interesting to note since the PS2 version does feature a level in Haiti. The level itself isn't really grand in scope and most of  the level takes place inside the building.
This is the PS2 version of Quantum of Solace.

Assassin's Creed Freedom Cry

Freedom Cry is the game that inspired me to write a short post on Haitian Flag Day and is one of the reasons I created this entire article. The main character himself, Adewale, is not Haitian, but a former Trinidadian slave turned Assassin. The entire game takes place on Saint-Dominique known better in the future as Haiti making this the first game to realistically portray the island in the digital realm. The game first started as a DLC add-on  to Assasin's Creed III Black Flag but you can purchase it as standalone game on the Playstation 4.

It's surreal to see a digitally recreated Haiti.
What I love most about the game is how it captures the island beauty of the caribbean. The townsfolk speak French and Haitian-Creole, you can see elements of the French supremacy through the slaves being sold and working in the fields with machetes. Sometimes you can hear the field slaves singing African hymns as they labor.  It may be highly fictionalized but the attention to detail around the environment is impressive.
Can't say it doesn't feel good to take on some slave masters.

During the game's 3 hour campaign you can take on sidequests to liberate slaves, and I must say it's very gratifying. I don't think any video game has tackled the historical aspect of slavery and it certainly feels different to interact with Black people who've been ripped from their homeland. Ubisoft handles this with regard and historical gravitas. I would love to see their take on the Haitian Revolution  and it would be so awesome to have a Haitian Assassin.

A Haitian woman who proves most useful during the game.

Haitian Representation is vital to the respect and understanding of the Haitian Community but we cannot rely on solely on other people to write and tell our stories. We have to put ourselves in positions to narrate these viewpoints. Slowly but surely more Haitian-born and of Haitian descent appear ready to take on the challenge. The success of other high profile Haitian and Haitian-descent figures is transforming the world's perception of Haiti. Of course we cannot ignore the scholars, authors, and artists who continue to move the culture and history forward. We're a far cry from when kids would have to deny their ancestry to avoid ridicule. Nowadays the stigma has practically disappeared and it's "cool" to be Haitian.

 In the realm of video games we need those with the passion, creativity and technical prowess to create interesting digital worlds which reflect the nature of Haiti and character of the culture.

I'm glad to see how far we've come as a people and I eagerly look forward to seeing more and better Haitian representation in video games and the media.

Just a sample of high profile Haitians; from entertainment, sports, music, arts, and authorship. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Star Wars: The Influence on Video Games

Guess who's turning 40? That's right, one of the most successful film properties in history; Star Wars! Aside from being one of the most lucrative licenses ever, Star Wars has an influential reach throughout pop culture, from storytelling right down to merchandising. The Star Wars phenomenon has inspired and entertained generations of fans in addition to helping up the ante for special effects across the movie industry. During my childhood I didn't see any of the Star Wars movies but its cultural impact was so strong, purely through osmosis did I know about Jedi, The Force, Death Star, Han shooting first, and numerous quotable line along with the infamously often misquoted "Luke, I am your father!". That's how powerful Star Wars is! So it should come as no surprise why Star Wars has etched a place in pop culture eternity. Shaping the imaginations of fans old and young alike, you can see references to Star War in a multitude of media whether it's music, TV shows or - video games. There's definitely a crossover appeal between science fiction media and video games and many times game developers like to sprinkle winks and nods towards Star Wars, usually as a token of appreciation. I'm listing a few of the Star Wars references and inspirations I've observed during my video gaming experience. This is no means an ultimate list of all Star Wars references in video games, just a shorthand guide in no particular order:

1. Star Fox 
Find me a more iconic foursome after these two...besides the Beatles...Ninja Turtles...A Tribe called Quest...uh nevermind.

The title alone is a homage to the popular sci-fi franchise but most of the references I remember are from the Nintendo 64's unsurprisingly titled Star Fox 64. Arwings are the strongest visual reference to Star Wars even right down to pronunciation (Arwing/R-Wing = X-Wing). When you begin Story mode you're greeted with a short narration of the Star Fox lore reminiscent of the iconic Star Wars title crawl (except it's conveniently voiced). Many characters and relationships are representative of those found in Star Wars as well; Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi are the Luke Skywalker and Han Solo of the team, respectively. 

A comparative look at the Arwings (l.) and X-Wing (r.)
Other references is the Gorgon Station bearing resemblance to the Death Star and the ending scene having shades of  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

2. Jet Force Gemini
I guess the creepy eye stare is a homage.
Yup, definitely a homage.
The most obvious reference to Star Wars are the forced-to-collect Tribals who evoke (to put it nicely) the style of the Ewoks. The main and only human characters, Juno and Vela, are likely proxies for Luke and Leia as they are both sets of twins. The robotic assistant FLOYD is also a callback to the fan favorite droids, C-3PO and R2-D2. I'd like to think their dog Lupus was the Chewbacca of the crew since they're both canine (-ish) armed soldiers.


Can never go wrong with dogs (and Wookies) with guns.

3. Super Smash Bros. Series 
One cuts the other one smashes.
Although Star Wars wasn't the first work of fiction to feature the idea of a Lightsaber weapon-type, it sure did popularize it! The Beam Sword from Super Smash Bros undoubtedly owes its existence to most iconic movie weapon of all time. Hell, the Beam Sword had the same sound effects as the Lightsaber which unfortunately was removed from all versions of Smash Bros outside Japan.

Light vs Dark | Pink vs Navy
Another inspiration from Star Wars is in the character Meta-Knight who shares elements with Darth Vader. Despite Meta-Knight appearing first in the Kirby series, his inclusion on this list is because his voice wasn't realized until Super Smash Bros Brawl where he exuded a vocal likeness to James Earl Jones' iconic voice role. In addition he's the dark counterpart to Kirby's lightheartedness harnessing the moral dichotomy Star Wars is famous for. He too also wields a sword and walks around with a dark flowing cape - truly the son Darth Vader always wanted. 

4. Mega Man X series
A Jedi and Reploid walk into a bar...
The Mega Man X series evolved the Mega Man franchise in many ways, adding new moves, a new storyline and a gritty futuristic backdrop to name a few. One of the more popular characters to emerge from the series is Zero, who's the "Mr. Cool Guy" counterpart to Mega Man and eventually got his own series in Mega Man Zero. One of his main weapons is the Z-Saber and just by its visual nature you can already tell what it's based off of.

Well they got the lowered-head brooding walk down.
The last boss in Mega Man X Command Mission, Epsilon could have been inspired by Darth Vader because of his imposing height, dark color scheme and long flowing cape.

5. Viewtiful Joe 

The Force and The Viewitful.
Viewtiful Joe somehow always makes my lists. I guess because it takes a little of everything from comics, movies and tokusatsu. One big obvious homage to Star Wars is the last level in the first game of the series, this level not only takes place in space with armies of enemies lined up but it features enemy spacecrafts called the Die Fighters, a unique tank that has a cannon similar to the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, a poster designed similarly to A New Hope and the end boss reveals a deep dark secret not unlike Darth Vader's confession to Luke.

Who knew armies clad in all white could be so scary... oh wait..
Even little details are easy to spot.
That's all for now, but if you play video games, you know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Star Wars references and inspirations in video games. I'll definitely follow up with some more for the curious few. Until then, "May the Force be with you."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A small thought on Haitian Representation

Happy Haitian Flag Day!

I would like to give a special shoutout to Assassin's Creed IV's Freedom Cry DLC. This is one of the first games to depict a historically realized Haiti, Haitians and the Creole language. As Haitians, we are more than cannonfodder and we are more than Voodoo stereotypes. As a proud Haitian man I would love to see more powerful and positive Haitian represenation not only in video games but across all media; just waiting for it to happen is not an option. We have to become the creators and curators of the culture.

The motto on the Haitian flag reads "L'Union Fait La Force" meaning Unity is strength and it's a proud reminder that learning together, growing together and working together can accomplish all our dreams and goals.

After writing this, I'll be working on an article about my experience has an Haitian American witnessing non-Haitians showcase my culture from videos games to television and movies. 

Stay Tuned! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Super Mario Run Review

It's almost surreal to see Nintendo developing games for a different platform because financially it didn’t seem to make sense. The App Store and Google Play created platforms to sell cellphone apps and games which indirectly became Nintendo’s (and I guess Sony) biggest competitor in the handheld gaming market. To be fair, the quality of games released on smartphones vary from cheap cash grabs to full blown quality games and ports. Cell phones have a much larger install base and it's much more convenient to carry around a cellphone that can play games instead of a dedicated portable gaming device. Also, quite a few of my favorite DS games are available as ports on iOS.

In 2016, Nintendo decided to start releasing games on cellphones. However, they made sure that the games would be a different experience than their usual games as to not take away from their own portable market share. As of this writing, Nintendo has released 3 games for iOS and Android (not counting Pokemon as that wasn’t developed by Nintendo). Miitomo was the first game in which players created a Mii (basically an avatar) and you could dress it up and design a house. It wasn’t really the type of game most people expected from Nintendo. Where are Mario and Zelda??

Well, we wouldn’t have to wait too long to start seeing some real Nintendo properties as Nintendo announced that Super Mario Run would be released along with a couple of other games throughout 2017. So let’s take a look at Super Mario Run

The problem with bringing a traditional video game experience to a cell phone is primarily the control option which is a touch screen. Most smartphones are controlled completely by touch screens and a lot of games that are ported to phones function fine but are very difficult to control. The best cell phone games are usually developed from the ground up with the touchscreen in mind. Nintendo believes that Mario would be best suited to one-touch controls with New Super Mario mechanics which works well for the most part. Mario runs automatically but can do a variety of moves that are context sensitive to when he jumps. Most enemies Mario can simply vault over with no buttons pressed, however, certain enemies need to be avoided by jumping or other means. Controlling Mario is simple and works well for the most part. My only issue with the control is that it there isn’t enough of it. Mario games have shined on being able to get Mario to do whatever you want him to do with ease and this game’s design doesn’t allow for it. It’s a little bias but I wish I could have more control over Mario.

Stages are creatively designed to get the most out of the one touch controls. Each of the 24 stages has its own challenges and the game introduces unique twists such figuring out to navigate tricky ghost house puzzles or jumping on enemies precisely to discover hidden areas. The stages are a tad short but they offer replayability with the option to replay each stage and look for special colored coins which can be difficult to find.

                                                  It's a me Mario on your phone

Toad Rallies are a pseudo-multiplayer challenge mode where you compete against another player’s ghost in order to impress Toads to get them to come to your kingdom. The game awards you rally tickets for completing challenges and stages. These rally tickets are used to compete in a Toad Rally. It’s a timed competition for both players to see who can do the most tricks and gather the most coins. If you win, you get different colored Toads to come to your kingdom. If you lose, you will actually lose a few toads from your own kingdom. The rally tickets seem to be easy to come by so you shouldn’t have any problem participating.

So why would you want Toads to come to your kingdom anyway? Well if you ever wanted to design your own mushroom kingdom, you are going to need as many Toads as you can get. Basically, after gaining a certain amount of Toads, your castle will expand allowing you to further customize your kingdom with an assortment of Mario themed flora and architecture. This is the weakest aspect of the game as this doesn’t do anything for the gameplay. It’s purely cosmetic. Maybe some people will enjoy this, but I didn’t. A number of Toads you possess do serve another purpose as they also unlock new playable characters which control differently than Mario. Luigi jumps a bit higher, Toad runs a bit faster, and Peach can float for a limited time. This adds variety and replayability making each stage play slightly different. You can unlock these character by collecting Toads.

                                        This is what the Kingdom Builder looks like.

There are two big issues with Super Mario Run. I don't think the game is worth $10. Basically, you can download the game for free and play the first 3 stages of the campaign, participate in Toad rallies, and start designing your own kingdom. The rest of the game cost $10 to unlock and that includes 21 additional stages to the campaign. The game can be finished in maybe two hours if you go straight through it. Replaying each stage to find the special coins can significantly lengthen the game, but other than that completionist feeling, there is no reward for finding these coins other than buildings to customize your kingdom and Toad Rally tickets which, as of this writing, I have 99 (max) of. The second problem is that the game can only be played while you have cellular or wifi service. Granted, this will not affect everyone but I do travel on the subway (where I do most of my portable gaming) and there isn't always service. This is acceptable in a free-to-play game but a game I pay money for I think is unacceptable. I can understand the Toad rallies not working but I don't understand the regular campaign not working as well without service.
                                                   I don't think this is worth $10

I think this is a fun enjoyable game that is ridiculously overpriced. To put it in perspective, you can get Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run together for $5 which offer two great games in the same style as Mario with a lot more value. If Nintendo brings the price down, this would be a great purchase but until then, try out the free portion of the game and wait for a price drop.

Score 5.5/10