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You Never Forget Your First Time #1: Super Mario Brothers
Oct 16th, 2012 by Eric


 

Join me, Eric, in my new video game series where I try and remember what it was like to play games from my youth for the first time. Our exciting first entry, Super Mario Brothers.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword First Impressions [GO]
Nov 21st, 2011 by Dan

Zelda 029

A little on the nose there, Nintendo, but you're right. This game dropped on the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda

Skyrim and Skyward Sword are two vastly different games, but playing Skyward Sword made me realize just what felt off about Skyrim. It’s that uncanny valley problem again. When your game strives for photorealism as much as Skyrim does, it can’t help but feel a little off when your character doesn’t move like a real person. LoZ: SS has none of those problems, as you might imagine, because it looks so stylized.

As you might imagine, Skyward Sword is yet another Wii game trying to do more with less. In motion and outside of cutscenes the game looks perfectly fine. It’s only when you zoom in for those cinematic moments that you have jaggies and aliasing and the seams start to show. I really do appreciate the brilliance of the Nintendo artists because games like this and Kirby’s Epic Yarn both look fantastic on a 480p connection.

Zelda 002

The collector's edition bundle, complete with special Wiimote Plus

I’ve still got to put more than two or three hours in, but Skyward Sword is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of this fall for one reason: character. If there was one thing that Twilight Princess lacked, it was character. Everything was dark and dreary and realistic just like every other stupid fantasy game out there. It was especially glaring after what we got in Wind Waker with its vibrant colors and eccentric characters. So far, Skyward Sword has that in spades.

Zelda 044

Her hair is a pendulum. It's awesome.

The Skyloft area is a hub of zany fun. Link’s classmates are hilarious archetypes with the pompadour-ed bully and his goofy looking lackeys. Zelda and Link’s relationship reminds me of anime high school relationships and his headmaster is named Gaepora! Fly outside of the city and you also get characters like the bartender at the pumpkin bar place who I’m now in thrall to thanks to a chandelier…er…accident. It was awesome!

Zelda 041

Property damage has never been so fun!

Our interaction went something like this. I walked into the bar and the camera showed me that there was a heart piece hanging from the roof. When I spoke to the barman’s daughter she told me not to try to knock it down because it wouldn’t work. Naturally I went right up to the second floor and knocked down the chandelier. Everyone in the bar was super shocked and then the barman started yelling, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!” It…was…awesome. Now I have to sell soup for him, but it was totally worth it for that absurdist moment there. That’s what Twilight Princess was missing. When TP got absurd it got creepy and weird.

Zelda 040

The most hilarious moment of the session. I love how this game comments on the mayhem that most players cause in the world

Below are the rest of my miscellaneous observations:

– Not having access to fine tune settings like text speed is a little weird for me. I hate the glacial pace that the text flows and there’s no quick way to fast forward it.

– On the other hand, they did give me the option to remove most of the UI and that is awesome. Nothing worse than an overcrowded UI.

– There are new mechanics that are neat. Actions all seem to drain stamina in a Mario-style pie chart. Running, hanging from ledges, climbing, rolling, spin attacks…It’s not a huge change, but I like it.

– The way they bind motion option selections with a string is brilliant in a way that makes me wonder why no one has ever thought of it before. So much better than hunting for menu items with the pointer.

Zelda 028

Why has no one thought of this before? It's really quite brilliant.

– Like I said earlier, Headmaster Gaepora! Awesome. Can’t wait to find more mythology tie-ins

– Ok…using the sword is super cool. Sometimes I get a jab when I want a swing, but that’s usually when I’m being lazy. Getting swarmed was tough to deal with at first, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it as time goes on. Doesn’t help that my shield has a health bar. What gives?!

Zelda 020

Maybe I should have named Link Min instead of Daniel

– Flying is initially clumsy because you control it with the wiimote, not the cursor. I’m getting better at it, but it flies against first instinct.

– It’s the little touches. Always the little touches:

– The Zelda found secret stinger is played on a harp since the arc instrument in this game is a harp
– In the bazaar the music changes to reflect each vendor’s motifs, adding and dropping instruments based on proximity. In fact, all of the music in this game is pretty awesome so far.
– Everyone’s house/room tells a little story about who they are from someone who collects cute things to someone who clearly doesn’t dust at all. No one room is a generic “room”. Skyrim doesn’t have these emergent stories. Homes are homes with scant little to differentiate or personalize them.
– There was a woman with antiques who charged me every time I broke her stuff by rolling into the wall. I emptied my wallet laughing so hard and breaking all her shit. That was so much fun.

Zelda 026

Looking in people's cupboards reveals a little bit about them...at the cost of a minor scolding.

– If there was one terrible thing, it’s the constant reminders about rupee denominations. I KNOW! It’s annoying and it doesn’t add anything to keep reminding us what everything does every time we run into it.

Wii U [GO/ER]
Jun 8th, 2011 by Dan

Project Café now has a “real” name, kids: Wii U. The video above will explain just what it is while simultaneously confusing the hell out of you with respect to just what this thing is.

I have a lot of faith in this idea. It’s ridiculously cool and it could have tons of potential, but I’m just scared that, despite its ability to handle the current generation of games, it’s going to be left in the dust as the competition shifts generations too. I guess I don’t have to worry about that until 2012 (EDIT: good catch, Dave), but that’s my only real Wii U concern. All I want now is to be able to play it already.

EDIT: Actually, my biggest question has to do with the system’s online capabilities. Will Nintendo hamstring the system again or will it open up like Microsoft and Sony?

Zelda Reorchestrated [Game Overview]
Jan 22nd, 2010 by Dan

Right around Christmas of 2009, Zelda Reorchestrated completed a pretty ambitious musical project: a reorchestration of the Ocarina of Time soundtrack. The free, 82-track download is available to download here and I’ve given the songs a listen or two and they’re fantastic.

As someone who actually owns the original Ocarina of Time soundtrack, I was impressed by the high quality work that this fan group was able to bring to bring to the project. Not only are the tracks faithful to the original music, they’re actually a vast improvement from the original MIDI-synthesized tracks that we’ve all become accustomed to.

A month later I’m impressed that the work hasn’t seen some sort of cease-and-desist or been sued, but I wouldn’t wait around too long to download the collection if this kind of thing interests you. It’s really only a matter of time before Nintendo cracks down on this.

Rock Band News

This week the Rock Band Network, the service enabling non-Harmonix-employed musicians to chart their tracks for Rock Band, entered open beta for anyone interested in working with the software. Recent interviews give reason to believe that the service is within a few months of launching, which represents a way awesome breakthrough on the platform, least of which is because I’ve seen the Rx Bandits listed as a band who will be utilizing the service.

I’m just really excited to see the game move forward as a new way to experience music and not see them cash in as much as Activision has with its Guitar Hero franchise. That’s not to say that Harmonix won’t be releasing any new games this year. Both Green Day: Rock Band and Rock Band 3 are expected to launch this year, but I know I can live with a two-year Rock Band cycle, so I don’t mind too much.

Mother 3 Review [Big N]
Jan 12th, 2010 by Dan

Great Mother 3 art

Wallpaper courtesy Pet-Shop on DeviantArt

Ruminations on video games as an art form – this could very well become a Mother 3 review. There will be spoilers here. Seriously, don’t read it if you want to play Mother 3 and not have the plot spoiled.

There’s a trite comparison that floats around the internet almost every month that always gets my eyes rolling. Inevitably, someone will call such-and-such the Citizen Kane of video games or ask what the Citizen Kane is or claim that the medium is immature because we’ve yet to hit our Citizen Kane. It’s exhausting and, quite frankly, futile and stupid. To begin with, Citizen Kane opened with good reviews and was generally well-received, but it didn’t start to gain notoriety for ten years. It didn’t even make #1 on a top movies list until twenty years had passed. When the Citizen Kane of gaming hits (god I hate that phrase), we probably won’t know it for quite some time. The more important point is that movies and games are apples and oranges.

The day that we stop worrying about whether books or movies are better than games at expressing a particular artist’s point of view is probably the day that we’ll realize that we’ve already got fine examples of games that are reflections of authorial control already. Brütal Legend was not a great game, but Tim Schafer’s hands are clearly evident all over it. Anyone who’s ever played one of Fumito Ueda’s games knows precisely how a game can effectively be used to bring out your emotions through simple mechanics. Goichi Suda (AKA Suda 51) has been making games that show clear, artistic direction through his use of bizarre symbols and incomprehensible plots for years. My point is, we’ve been here for a while.

You may have heard of Shigesato Itoi, but chances are, you have no clue that he’s one of the most famous and respected men in Japan to such a degree that his dog was probably the most recognizable animal in the entire country for a few years. In America, we know him as a video game designer, specifically the man behind Earthbound, but not much else. Interestingly enough, Itoi is actually more famous for being an essayist, interviewer, and slogan generator than his work for Nintendo. His association with Hayao Miyazaki is well known enough that he’s famous for the Kiki’s Delivery Service slogan (“Ochikondari mo shita kedo, watashi wa genki desu” — “I was a little depressed for a bit; I’m okay now”) and he even voiced Mei’s father in My Neighbor Totoro (a role that went to Phil Hartman (rest in peace) when the movie was dubbed in English).

In his younger days, Itoi found himself sick and unable to do much but play Nintendo as he recovered. It was in this state that he discovered Dragon Quest, which set the wheels turning in his head. This experience was the impetus behind the Mother series and led to Itoi’s long, fruitful relationship with Nintendo. In case you were wondering (protip: you probably weren’t), Shigesato Itoi is the guy who came up with the name for the Game Boy. True fact.

It’s not surprising to me that most of the names I’ve mentioned were not always video game designers. The most bizarre of the bunch, Suda, was an undertaker before he tried his luck in the video game industry while Ueda was an artist and the aforementioned Itoi was a…well there’s no easy word to describe someone like Itoi. He was (and is) a cultural personality.

“If you immerse yourself too single-mindedly in your chosen art form, whether it’s video games, movies, comics or whatever,” he continues, “your work can easily become just a reflection of what others are doing in that field, rather than breaking new ground.”

Jordan Mechner

Now, Schafer is, himself, a product of the industry, having held no other jobs, but he’s the exception, a true creative mind that is not crippled by his feedback loop of doom. Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Psychonauts, and Brütal Legend could not be more different from each other, but just think of how rare this is. For every Schafer or Ken Levine out there trying to bring new influences into the industry, there are tons of Star Wars- and Lord of the Rings-inspired games produced each year retreading on the same, tired stories game in and game out. How many World War II games do we really need?

BOING!

In 1989 Shigesato Itoi looked at the video game industry and said “How many sword and sorcery RPGs do we really need?” 2009 just passed us by and I’d say we’re still mostly mired in these medieval locales in 95% of all RPGs. Mother, Itoi’s freshman attempt at a video game, was set in “modern day” America. Earthbound (Mother 2) wasn’t exactly breaking with Itoi’s norm by being set in America yet again (in 1994), but it’s still a light among the sameness that pervaded the industry. Mother 3 is ambiguous about its timeline, but it feels like a scaled back modern day. In any case, like in the other games of the series, the weapons aren’t swords and bows, but sticks, yo-yos, and baseball bats. It’s really only a cosmetic and tonal shift, but it makes all the difference.

That’s exactly what makes Shigesato Itoi so great as a game designer. Perhaps it’s his outside status or maybe it’s just his brilliance, but Itoi understands video games to a scary degree for a man who only undertook them on a whim. I applaud him most for understanding that a game is an interactive piece of art and reflecting that with his systems. To wit, every Mother game revolves around music. The first game had the character searching for the Eight Melodies while the second repeated that idea with Eight Sanctuaries (each with a musical theme associated with it). Earthbound’s instruction manual (in Japanese) contained a little song that Itoi wrote for the player to sing as the main melody played on the overworld. Every line of text in the Mother series is written in kana (katakana or hiragana), so that the person has to vocalize Itoi’s often lyrical writing style. Mother 3’s focus on musical themes and leifmotifs (from the Masked Man to the Magypsies) is also emphasized through every character’s attacks in the battle system.

From Lucas to Salsa the Monkey, every character has a musical instrument associated with his attacks. So does every enemy. Each enemy also has a musical theme that plays in the background. Once you attack, you can continue to press the ‘A’ button to extend your combo to 16 hits if you can keep time with the (sometimes fiendishly difficult) beat. Just like that, something Itoi has always wanted the player to do (become musically involved with his world) becomes integrated into the activity the player does most in the game, battling.

Itoi also loves to toy with player perception to a hilarious degree. In an early sequence in the first chapter of the game, Flint becomes covered with soot after saving a friend’s kid from a fire. Why? Because that’s what would happen if you were running around in a fire. As he makes his way back out of the woods, you can bet that every person you talk to will question why you are covered from head to toe in black soot. Even better, if you hop into a hot spring to recover, the soot will wash off of your character from the neck down, since the Mother 3 hot spring animation always leaves the head exposed. It’s not until much later when it starts to rain that the soot washes off Flint’s face, this time to emphasize that we’re not joking around anymore, Flint’s family was still missing after the fire and they were almost certainly in danger.

An even more brilliant sequence comes much later in the game when the player is washed upon a tropical island with 1 HP and no equipment. The only way to progress through the jungle without dying is to eat one of the psychotropic mushrooms growing on the island. A bizarre sequence of events follows as you make your way to the next Magypsy with your perceptions completely torn asunder. Replicas of your family and friends attack you, which isn’t that unique for an RPG, but the way the narrative is presented and the visuals are warped, it becomes seriously unsettling. The one moment of calm comes when you arrive at another hot spring and recover, only to continue back into the horrors of the jungle.

Once you get to the Magypsy’s house, you’re constantly bombarded with insults about how bad you smell. It makes no sense though, because the player has done nothing different that would cause such a foul smell. Still, when your perception is returned to normal, there is a visible stench rising from Lucas and his compatriots. A quick dip in the bath follows and you’re no longer “smelly”, but, as a curious player, I wondered what had happened in the first place. Instead of continuing forward, I dove right back into the jungle to get to the bottom of it. halfway through, I was feeling a bit fatigued, so I popped on over to the hot springs and it all made sense. In my hallucinogenic state, I was unable to recognize that the pond I dove into for recovery was a festering, toxic-looking garbage dump of a pond. Off to the side, where no conceivable player would ever go, was a door into the real hot spring.

I couldn’t believe that some players would never find out the mystery behind why they were so smelly. Returning to that hot spring is hardly mandatory. Maybe that’s why it felt so amazing to see these little narrative games played with my perception of what was going on in the Mother 3 world at the time. It’s also interesting to look at from a player trust perspective, because when I saw that disgusting pond, rendered in all its GBA, low-fi glory, I felt nauseous and I know it was partly due to a feeling of betrayal. I have a feeling that this was exactly how Itoi wanted me to feel at that point.

Shigesato Itoi admits that the original draft for Mother 3 was way darker than it already is. It was written shortly after his divorce was finalized, which I think has a lot to do with the emotional betrayals of even the finalized version of this game. However this game was very nearly vaporware that was never released. Its development started for the SNES in 1994, but was quickly shifted to the N64 and the ill-fated 64DD not long after. Anyone familiar with the 64DD peripheral knows that this was going to prove troublesome for Itoi and his team. The game was even canceled at one point, but it was eventually decided to put it on the Gameboy Advance and announced around the re-release of Mother 1 + 2, no doubt to help drum up sales.

No one but the team knows just how dark the original narrative was, but Itoi claims that the story that eventually made it to print was the result of him finally becoming a good person. It boggles the mind to realize that it could have been any more dramatic, especially for a game that looks as friendly and cute as this one. In fact, this is the reason why Nintendo of America claims it will not localize the game. They claim the narrative is too mature and depressing for the way it looks and, really, the tone and the subject matter are alternatively irrelevant and deathly serious, so I kind of get what they mean. At one point you have a guy telling Flint that he’s got good news and bad news. The good news is something irrelevant and stupid while the bad news is that Flint’s wife, Hinawa, is dead. What follows is a scene that is so emotionally gripping that my little brother was affected even without hearing the music and sound associated with the scene. Flint completely flips out and starts beating on the guy who gave him bad news and even starts lashing out at the townspeople who are trying to calm him down. He is knocked out by a friend and put in a jail cell that has never before been used in the town’s existence.

It’s this weird juxtaposition of the inane and the deathly serious that creates the dissonant feelings I mentioned before with the hot tub scene and makes the player feel uneasy about what’s going on. When Hinawa’s father, Alec, is trying to tell stupid jokes to help Flint not be so tense about the certain danger his son is in. I wanted to tell him to shut up and let him focus, but I could also see that Flint was obsessing to a dangerous degree and that Alec was right in trying to calm him down. You also have the lighthearted love story of Salsa and Samba being ruined by the brutal and sadistic torturer Yokuba (Fassad in the fan-translation). It’s like Itoi is trying to say that the world is a screwed up place, but you can’t let it get you down.

I’ll tell you right here, I’m a huge sucker for any story about brothers. Later on in the game, it becomes fairly obvious that Mother 3 starts to center around the struggle of twin brothers Lucas and Claus as they attempt to collect more plot coupons than the other. The game series is called Mother for a reason and this one in particular focuses on the differences between each of Hinawa’s boys and how they came to deal with her untimely death. While Lucas comes out of his shell and becomes a healthier, more assertive and confident boy despite his absentee father, Claus foolishly rushes out for vengeance and finds himself enslaved by the Pig Army in its quest to end the world. The climactic final battle reunites the family once again, but the reunion is bittersweet. Claus has almost killed Flint and Lucas must face him alone to the death, even though he’s yet to realize that the Masked Man is his brother. Once the mask is knocked off and Lucas is staring into his own face (they are twins after all), the battle becomes a masterpiece. Selecting attack will cause Lucas to intentionally pull his punches or miss his attacks completely. Sometimes he’ll even refuse to comply. Claus, having lost most of his humanity, will continue to attack until Hinawa begins pleading for him to stop. Eventually, Claus comes to his senses and realizes that Lucas is his brother and that he is no longer anything close to himself. At that point, Claus commits suicide in a peculiar way. It becomes apparent that the Courage Badge that Flint gave to Lucas (via a Mr. Saturn in another example of absentee parenting) is actually a Franklin Badge, an item that repels lightning in the Mother world.

The heartbreaking thing about this whole sequence is that there’s nothing the player can do once Claus decides that he must kill himself to save the world. Lucas may not be physically (or psychically) killing his brother, but there’s nothing he can do but watch his brother kill himself using an item that he is holding. When it’s all over and Claus is dying in Lucas’ arms with Flint nearby and Hinawa’s ghost above them, the reunion is finally completed and the family is happy for a brief second before both Claus and Hinawa depart the world leaving Lucas to pull the last plot coupon. The world literally ends and it all fades to black. Everyone (who was alive before) is still alive in the finale, but the world is darkness and it’s not made clear what the true outcome of the whole battle was. We do know that the world is safe and everyone makes it, but not much else beyond that, it’s left to the player to decide, I guess.

If you want to really see a strangely tragic, chilling ending for a character, consider the fate of Porky, the antagonist in the game. The conflict in this game is motivated by his desire to see the world end. Porky’s mind was so warped by Giygas in Earthbound that he has remained in a permanent immature, childlike state even though he is now hundreds of years old. His influence corrupts and nearly destroys everything about the idyllic and peaceful Tazmily village and he is the one responsible for sapping Claus of all of his humanity. In his final encounter with Lucas, when it becomes apparent that he will not win the battle, he encases himself in the Absolutely Safe Machine, a capsule that renders him absolutely safe from all attacks both interior and exterior. Because it was just a prototype, there was no way to escape it, meaning that the ageless Porky can never die, but he can never leave the capsule nor can he communicate with anyone on the outside. For someone like Porky, an agent of entropy like the Joker in The Dark Knight, this is truly an ending worse than death. When all is dead and gone, when the universe dies of heat death, when existence is nothingness, Porky will still exist, alone in that capsule. It gives me chills just to think about it.

There’s so much about this game that just doesn’t quite add up and leaves the player feeling strange about the relationships they are seeing. Duster, the limping thief, is very clearly verbally and probably physically abused by his father, Wess, yet they seem to be a team and there does seem to be some love there. It’s unsettling on all levels because Itoi wants to take the player from comfortable and happy to uneasy and sad throughout the whole game.

Games like this, they make me appreciate things, like my family and my life, and think about things, like the nature of society and happiness. I’m being simplistic here, but my point is this, what is art? Wikipedia calls it, “…the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.”

So I say yet again, why are we questioning whether or not video games are art? Wake up and smell the sunflowers.

One of the most interesting and artistic chapters of the game.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part XV: Someone’s Got To Be The Worst [II]
Oct 22nd, 2009 by Dan

How awesome would it be to see this guy outside your window during a flight?

How awesome would it be to see this guy outside your window during a flight?

After a fun few days in Sapporo, it was finally time to head back to Tokyo. We were officially on the home stretch of the trip with only three teams left to see. I was starting to see the end of the trip in my sights and, I’ve got to admit, it was depressing to think that all the fun would be done so soon, but I was also ready to get back home to my own apartment.

The first thing I did that morning when packing was promptly break one of the sake glasses I got as a souvenir. Damn.

Since I had discovered that the walk from Sapporo Station to the hotel was pathetically short, I opted out of a taxi and walked to the station. Along the way I ran into the most evil-looking bird I’d ever seen. I’m sure it could sense how afraid of its evil I was, because it allowed me to get really close with my camera without even budging.

Hes tough to intimidate. Must be from the 9th Ward.

He's tough to intimidate. Must be from the 9th Ward.

The rest of the walk was uneventful as was the trip to the airport. Once I got into the airport, the language barrier became an issue as I had gone up to baggage claim without first checking in and getting a ticket. It’s a bizarre process, but it’s required, so I was sent to the check-in queue and then back to the luggage queue.

I also learned that Sapporo’s airport is way more vigilant than Kansai International. Security pulled me aside to empty out my very full carry on bag. I was confused until the security officer managed to get out the phrase “dining set” and I remembered that I had stuffed some ANA utensils (a knife and spoon) into my bag. He also checked that the water bottle I was carrying on board was sealed and water. What this amounts to is that the staff at Kansai allowed me to travel with a dinner knife and a bottle of water without investigating. That’s some crack security work there guys. Reminds me of Seinfeld’s bit about airport security in the pre-terrorist attack days.

While I hunted for food in the morning, I noticed a model of the Pokemon-themed ANA planes that were in service out here in Japan.

The cutest way to get from A to B.

The cutest way to get from A to B.

I’d heard about this line of ANA planes before, but I’d never seen one in the flesh, much less been on one. tim rogers made references to them being used mostly for domestic flights and, lo and behold, here was a model of one for domestic flights. Boy, wouldn’t it be cool if I got to fly on one of these…

I totally got to fly on one of these.

I totally got to fly on one of these.

So, what’s the difference between a Pokemon ANA plane and a normal ANA plane? Not a whole lot. The seat covers that are used in every ANA plane are now Pokemon themed…

Cuteness overload.

Cuteness overload.

…And the drinks come in Pokemon-themed cups.

Orange Juice! I choose you!

Orange Juice! I choose you!

The flight attendants were all dressed in their normal uniforms and there wasn’t any special Pokemon entertainment on board, so it’s really just an aesthetic thing (and a half-assed one at that). Still, I flew on one of the famous Pokemon planes and I think that’s pretty neat.

I just noticed that the jet turbines have pokeballs on them. Thats awesome.

I just noticed that the jet turbines have pokeballs on them. That's awesome.

Nintendo’s missing out on a huge opportunity here. Could you imagine how much business they could drum up if they offered exclusive Pokemon downloads on these planes? They’d make ANA a racket and have to officially sell their souls, but still…think about it.

We took a taxi to our favorite place to stay, the Tokyo Garden Palace Hotel, and, after putting my stuff down, I rendezvoused with Susan to catch a pre-game dinner before she left for America. Susan and I stopped in a Chinese restaurant and had a nice dinner as we shared our stories about what we’d been doing since the tour split up. I had to run to the game after that, since I was running late, but it was totally worth it and I’ll have to be sure to see Susan and Marc the next time I’m in NYC.

I see what youre doing here Tokyo, but you dont need the New. Youre not New Tokyo...

I see what you're doing here Tokyo, but you don't need the "New." You're not New Tokyo...

By the time I managed to make my way through the Tokyo railway system and get to Yokohama Stadium, it was already the third inning and Yokohama had struck first. The Swallows were down by two, which made me very happy, and the BayStars could very well shut down the Swallows for the entire trip for me (I don’t count the tie as a win, so the Swallows were 0-2-1 in games I’d attended). Things were looking up, even though I was late!

An outside scoreboard had me jumping for joy as I entered the ballpark. Surely this last place team couldnt botch a small lead...

An outside scoreboard had me jumping for joy as I entered the ballpark. Surely this last place team couldn't botch a small lead...

The outside of Yokohama Stadium is pretty plain and it’s nestled within a city block, like most of the stadiums in Tokyo. Perhaps it’s because I was late to the game, but it was also pretty empty outside the ballpark, a major contrast with most other stadiums that feature food stalls and merchandise outside the gates. The interior hallways were pretty bare and empty, kind of like the ones at Meiji Jingu, where the Swallows play.

I spotted the BayStars mascot taking pictures with kids in the hallways.

I spotted the BayStars mascot taking pictures with kids in the hallways.

Since I was already late, I decided that I would look around for a jersey before I took a seat. It was proving to be pretty difficult, since the stands all seemed to only offer a polo shirt-type thing that wasn’t the full button down. What kind of bush league stadium doesn’t sell their team’s official jerseys? I thought to myself as I wandered around the various stalls. Then I noticed something in one of the publicity photographs/posters on the wall and the full horror of the situation began to become clear: those abominations were the jerseys.

Now, there will be a post about the jerseys coming soon, but I won’t be giving much away to say that this one was the worst of the pack. I almost considered not buying it.

The interior is probably as nice as your typical AAA American stadium. For some reason, all of the seats within the stadium are orange or blue, but the uniforms are blue and white and all of the seats are that molded, rough, hard plastic that you might expect to see in an outdoor setting, but haven’t seen in a baseball stadium in ages.

The seats were pretty uncomfortable. The row we sat in even moreso.

The seats were pretty uncomfortable. The row we sat in even moreso.

Worse still, the row we sat in was right at the front of the second bank of seats. Instead of having a bar or something to separate us from the walkway, we had nothing. If I stretched my legs at the wrong time, I was liable to kick a poor beer girl right in the face. Standing up to cheer for big plays was almost impossible thanks to the diminished leg room and lack of forward stability. The endless torrent of beer girls and fans made it almost impossible to see the plate or concentrate on the field. On the plus side, our increased visibility got us on the jumbotron (Did I remember to mention that I was on the jumbotron at Koshien too? I’m pretty sure I forgot).

Thats right, I was on that very screen, but not at the moment of this photograph.

That's right, I was on that very screen, but not at the moment of this photograph.

If I had to go and give the BayStars just one compliment, I’d say that their cheerleading squad stands out as the most attractive of the bunch I’d seen and the only one that had similar cheering maneuvers to American squads. Then again, I drank more beer this game than any other because the stadium, game, and team were so atrocious, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Bieru Goggorus?

Bieru Goggorus?

They also had this weird black bear with “TBS” written across a t-shirt he was wearing. I have no idea what he was there for, but I like him a lot more than their usual mascots. He’s the one who should be going on the road.

My assessment seems to be right about some of these cheerleaders...I mean, what a strange bear thing, huh?

My assessment seems to be right about some of these cheerleaders...I mean, what a strange bear thing, huh?

There was a ballgame that night too, wasn’t there? The BayStars put two up, and then checked out for the rest of the game. Not able to let me be happy with their failure, the Swallows went and scored six, which, for those of you keeping score, means they won. Since the Tigers were knocked out of the Climax Series by the Swallows by one game, I’m going to blame Yokohama for screwing this up for them. Way to go, chuckleheads.

He probably struck out...man this team sucks.

He probably struck out...man this team sucks.

Really, how much this team sucks makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it. Starting with the name, the BayStars, you start to get the feeling that they have no idea what a good team name might be. It turns out that the former name for the team was the Yokohama Whales, but whaling restrictions and a believed curse put upon the team by dead whales (their parent company makes a lot of money from whale products) caused them to change the name…to the BayStars. It’s bad enough that the team name makes no sense, but then they go and make their mascot a couple of human bodies with star-shaped heads. It’s dumb.

They really are the dumbest mascots Ive ever seen.

They really are the dumbest mascots I've ever seen.

Feeling dejected by the loss, I headed home to sleep and re-energize after the early morning I had in Sapporo. As I drifted off to sleep, only one thought crossed my mind: What in the world was that black bear?

You cant go wrong with dreams about strange bears and cheerleaders. Too bad the Stars were there too.

You can't go wrong with dreams about strange bears and cheerleaders. Too bad the Stars were there too.

ONE SECOND! Totally forgot about this awesome Engrish:

It makes sense as a sentence in English, but it mostly doesnt.

It makes sense as a sentence in English, but it mostly doesn't.

BlazBlue, Twitter x WoW, Lucasarts Back Catalog, Ueda vs. Miyamoto, and More [Game Overview]
Jul 10th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

I figured I’d start with BlazBlue today, since the game just came out and I sunk an evening in playing it. I don’t have all that much to say about it yet, but it’s intriguing in a very not Street Fighter way. The fighters are all insanely detailed and designed in an intricately anime fashion, leaving no moe niche unserved and the fighting system is deceptively simple, but actually WAY complicated, as most of these things are nowadays. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sink into it, especially because Street Fighter IV has nabbed my attention yet again, but I will keep posting impressions as I play.

Get BlazBlue!

Get Street Fighter IV!

Indie Darling Gets on XBL

Fez has been confirmed for 2010 release on XBL, according to Giant Bomb. I don’t know much about the game other than that the press loves it and you play as this little white dude with a block head. I’m sure someone out there is jumping for joy, but then crying a little bit because it means the 2009 release date has been pushed back. There, there.

Brilliant Game Design

Giant Bomb reports that Tekken 6 has finally gotten it right. The game will ship with all of the characters unlocked. Honestly, this is some of the best news that could have hit for a fighting game and I hope that other developers take up this and make it a trend. There’s no reason why players who just want to get playing online should have to spend hours completing menial tasks against the AI just to get access to the hidden players. Heck, if I didn’t bother with that I would never have unlocked Cammy, my Street Fighter IV main. I know there are legitimate reasons for doing this, namely to increase the longevity of the game that a consumer purchased, but how about making things like costumes or colors (the second of which is already a SFIV unlockable) the real secret content. Extra stages are also acceptable, since they have no real gameplay significance in, say SFIV. Either that or include an option, like in Rock Band 2, where you have all of the content unlocked, but achievements are disabled. This would be far preferential to the current methodology currently en vogue.

Get Rock Band 2!

Now the world will know about your phat lewt

I know what you’re thinking: I love to tweet and I love to play WoW, but goddammit, it’s far too difficult to do both at the same time. I have to Alt-Tab and everything! TweetCraft has got the solution for you, an in-game Twitter client. With Peggle already integrated within WoW, I’m starting to wonder what other apocalyptic life-distracting measures are going to be added in the future.

Sad Half Year for the Japanese Bottom Line

Gamasutra reports that the Japanese gaming market is down a scary 25% in the first half of the year so far. Dan reports that perhaps we’re prematurely worried? Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, as of 8 July, has sold some ungodly 3.5 million or so units in the country while this Saturday will see the monumental release of Dragon Quest IX on the Nintendo DS (forecasts say there are already 2 million pre-orders put down for the game), and the recent release of Wii Sports Resort has seen major success as well. I think it should be a healthy year for Japan, it’s just been stacked toward the second half.

L4D2…Kinda Sounds like a Droid, no?

In unsurprising news, Valve has announced that players who pre-order Left 4 Dead 2 will have early access to the demo. This is pretty much exactly what happened with Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2, so no surprises here.

Other neat news claims that players will have access to a cricket bat a la Shaun of the Dead.

Also reported was a rumor that L4D players might be able to interface in a meaningful way with L4D2 players, meaning a less fractured player base. I hope they get it worked out; online games live and die by their player base and dividing it is never wise.

Bonus Left 4 Dead Sackboy Images!

Get Left 4 Dead!

Look! A Three-Headed Monkey!

Ok, so it doesn’t include that game, but Lucasarts is releasing a classics collection via Steam that includes seminal adventure titles such as The Dig, LOOM, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. It’s great news to see that they’re finally capitalizing on their adventure game library and it, combined with the re-release of The Secret of Monkey Island, gives me some confidence that we might see other HD remakes. Day of the Tentacle remake, anyone?

Mega Awesome

Tired of adorable Mega Man videos? I’m not. Enjoy.

That kid’s little brother sure is a pain…reminds me of my childhood.

BONUS ATARI REMAKE MEGA MAN VIDEO:

Music Was Better in the Past

I’m not sure if there’s actually a re-release of the Chrono Trigger Soundtrack imminent in Japan, but this recent trailer sure seems to suggest something of the sort.

If it is being re-released, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out in September when I head over to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Get Chrono Trigger DS!

It’ll Soak Up Water!

I’m pretty sure you all know that I adore the folks over at Giant Bomb. Here’s their hilarious commercial for their iPhone app. I won’t be getting it (too much $$ for my tastes), but the commercial sure is funny.

Critical Much?

Says famed game designer Fumito Ueda regarding news that Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired by Shadow of the Colossus and built a level around that:

Yes I have played it, it was hard to not to since it was rumored that Miyamoto-san was inspired by me. But I had expected more, that segement {SIC], was like the rest of the game not so fun as it could had been. I think the fans made a big deal out of nothing when they said Miyamoto had stolen from me. The thing I am critical over isn’t that they didn’t borrow anything that isn’t unique for my game, but that they didn’t make more fun stages out of it.

To clarify, the level in question is the boss fight on the small planet where Mario must guide Bullet Bills to sensitive spots around a giant robot to defeat the boss. Way to be a jerk Ueda. I mean, your games are held to ridiculous artistic plateaus that Miyamoto’s have never been elevated to. It’s like comparing pop art to Picasso or something. I’m not saying that Miyamoto’s not a genius in his own right, but rather that the man doesn’t need to ape Ueda to make a fun game. The boss fight was a homage, not a direct attempt to bring Shadow of the Colossus to Super Mario Galaxy. There’s no need to get so pretentious!

Bonus Fact: Picasso’s full name is: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. I guess it makes sense that he only went with the first and last part, that would be hell to sign on all of his works.

Get Shadow of the Colossus!

Back Away From That Sun

Speaking of Miyamoto-san, he had this to say about all of the people clamoring for a new Kid Icarus sequel:

Wait, please.

There you have it. Chill out guys, it’s coming.

Nobody Likes a Guy Who Plays to Win

Professor David Myers, under the guise of science, played City of Heroes for a while to find out about the psychology of social groups. His account, published as Play and Punishment: The Sad and Curious Case of Twixt came to a predictable conclusion.

It seems that when Myers PvPed and fought with what are considered “cheap tactics” he was alienated and hated by everyone on the server, including people on his own faction. Myers stuck harshly to the rule set, but took the whole Heroes vs. Villains thing way too seriously for most, choosing not to adhere to social conventions within the game. To be fair, it’s pretty lame to have these accepted “Let’s not fight” zones in PvP areas. I mean, it reeks of grade school playground, doesn’t it? Anyway, it confirms what we already know about MMORPGs, the prevailing culture within the server trumps in-game rules and some things just become conventionally taboo. It’s the same with real life. For more interesting reading, check out Malcom Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker entitled How David Beats Goliath. It’s brilliant reading and conveys a lot of the same points without being a thinly veiled excuse to play City of Heroes for hours on end.

Whoops! Here’s More Work!

Back to Shigeru Miyamoto. It seems that he accidentally forced the Wii Sports Resort developers to include Golf within the game.

Says Takayuki Shimamura

“Right after getting back to Japan, he suddenly said: “You know we’re including golf now.” Apparently he’d stated in an interview that this time round golf shots would be determined by the backswing, even though at that time a golf game didn’t exist in any shape or form!”

How’s that for an origin story?

Houston…Well, I guess you can guess what comes next…

Battlefield 1943 came out this week! Kind of. The game is unplayable as of right now (as of when I write this). Servers are clogged and some users can’t even launch the game. Money well spent, I guess…

EDIT: It appears to be up and working properly now.
EDIT 2: Whoa, I’m wrong. Still wonky for the most part.

This is terrible news for a small, online arcade game like this. Games like these live and die by reputation and first week experiences, unless the Battlefield pedigree will carry it until they get it fixed.

Rhythm Heaven Review [Big N]
Jun 11th, 2009 by Dan

I’ve always harbored this delusion belief that I would be pretty good at music if I ever picked up an instrument. I have no evidence to back this up. Back in the fifth grade when I played the recorder I wasn’t an instant pro and I didn’t pick up the drums in Rock Band without some struggles (I still can’t play expert). I just know two things that give me this notion: 1. I can keep a beat down fairly well and 2. Other people don’t seem to be able to.

Logically, this isn’t what separates Jimi Hendrix from the average Joe who picks up a guitar or we’d have unbelievable musicians coming out of our ears, but it seems to me that the most essential skill behind successful musicianship, rhythm, is in short supply among people I know. It would be a gross oversimplification (that’s 144 times as much oversimplification for those keeping score at home) to even presume that skill on the Rock Band drums translates into real, musical talent, but on the other hand, I find it hard to believe that someone who can’t hold a moderately easy beat on easy or medium difficulty in that game has any musical ability at all.

So now we’re back to me and how I think that the only thing keeping me from being a rock star is actually picking up an instrument, a hypothesis based almost exclusively on my ability to play Rhythm Heaven, it seems. Does that mean that people who can’t manage to play the game can’t play music? I think I’m finding more and more flaws in my argument by the minute…

Former-roommate Min Chen tried his hand at some Rhythm Heaven not long after I picked up the game and the esoteric and heavily Japanese-influenced game seemed to mystify him. This is a man who plays the piano, and pretty well, mind you, who can rock pretty hard on the drums in Rock Band (expert difficulty, thank you very much), but he can’t manage to beat the very first level in Rhythm Heaven. It’s not really all that complicated: you hold the stylus on the bottom screen to cock back the bolt launcher and when the two nuts intersect, you flick the stylus to launch the bolt to connect the nuts. The rhythmic catch to this mini-game is that you’ve got to hit the nuts with precise timing. They come in from opposing ends of the screen playing a scale as they come in: Do Re Mi Fa So. You launch at So. Cake, right? I beat it my first attempt and I think I got a perfect on my third. Not one pass from Min. It makes absolutely no sense to me, because I thought he’d be great at the game.

There’s a reason it’s called Rhythm Heaven, you know. The game supplies visual cues all the time, but in 99% of the games you honestly could close your eyes and still play quite effectively. Some games are actually harder if you’re watching what’s going on just because of how trippy and strange the visuals are. The controls seem intuitive enough, you really only ever have three things to do with the stylus and they’re about as fundamental as can be. You either tap, flick, or hold. It seems like child’s play, but if my boy Min can’t do it, I’m almost reluctant to recommend the game to friends of mine who don’t fall squarely into the gaming category. You know what, I’m gonna just say that practice will help you move past most challenges, meaning that even the most unpracticed of gamers can manage to successfully play this game, with a little bit of practice.

Nintendo is actually really keen to this part of the audience. A quick look at the ad-campaign surrounding this game proves that they are actively targeting the novice gamer for this title. Beyoncé Knowles headlines one ad while 16-year old girls are the focus of one of the others. Here’s the hidden genius behind Nintendo’s design, there exists, within the game, a café that the player can enter at any time to “take a break.” Fail a song three times and you’ll see a little speech bubble hovering out of the café. The owner is beckoning you inside. He’s concerned and he doesn’t know how to say it without offending you, but are you having trouble with the song you keep failing? If you want, he can unlock the next one for you and you don’t have to keep bashing your head against the wall. It’s entirely up to you, of course.

The first time you see this, if you’re a long-time gamer with way too much pride, like I am, you’ll scoff and ignore it. Who does the café guy think he is to tell you that you suck at a game and give you a free pass? You go back to the main menu and attempt to tackle that game some more. You probably beat it. You’re quite happy with yourself for your accomplishment. Screw the café guy for thinking that you couldn’t do this on your own. Later on in the game you’ve failed the same game for a half hour. You’re tired of the garbage that they localized the soundtrack with. You realize that, hey, no one will know if you move onto the next one. It’s not like the game is going to call up your Halo-playing buddies to tell them that you needed help. Just like that, you take the free pass, move onto the next challenge, and you’re having fun again. Just. Like. That.

There’s some serious hypocrisy at play here for me. I’m the same guy who was so annoyed with the ease of Super Mario Galaxy that I wrote a whole blog post about how games were too easy. How can I justify, nay, laud a game for easing games through its challenges. I honestly don’t have a good answer to that question. There’s something about rhythm/music games that annoys me when it comes to failure. I admit that it’s mega-frustrating to play the same level ad infinitum until you can master a specific jump or get its timing just right. Just today I was playing Bubble Bobble Plus! with Eric and he clearly reached the limit to his patience when the remake’s ridiculous level design managed to stonewall us at level 72. He was about ready to quit. If I hadn’t looked up the solution online to the busted game mechanics, we wouldn’t have beat the game’s hundredth level and I would have remained a freakish, bubble-blowing dinosaur. It’s not the fate I wanted.

Digressions aside, imagine playing the same goddamn song over and over and over again. Play it some more to really get to where every note in that song makes you want to hurt someone. This is why I don’t mind easy progression in music games. The genre is about listening to new songs and mastering their challenges, but I think music reaches an annoying threshold a lot faster than missing a jump in Super Mario World. When your content revolves solely on progression to experience it, does it make sense to hold the player’s hand and help him along? I admit that this is a question of game design that far exceeds my expertise, but it is much appreciated in this case.

Well, we’ve hit about 1200 words and I haven’t even really explained the game at all, so I’d say we’re about due. Most websites will tell you that Rhythm Heaven features 50 unique mini-games for you to complete. This is something of a lie. There are actually 51 challenges, but only 24 are unique challenges, 10 are remixes composed of compilations of the other mini-games to different music, one is a playable credit sequence, and 15 are harder versions of past stages. Each unique stage has you using the stylus (and one button in one case) in unique ways to the music to earn a passing grade at the level. The remixes are brilliant combinations of the mini-games, the most fantastic of which sometimes interrupt you and transition to the next game with such fantastic flow that you’re already completing the next task. Some of the later ones will play upon this tendency and do the opposite to trick and cause mistakes.

The stages combine to make for the most fantastically random collection of characters and locations ever seen in a non-WarioWare game. One second you’ll be controlling a dog ninja slicing vegetables, bones, tires, and frying pans, the next you’ll be a DJ messing around with a turntable. Word on the nets is that some of the WarioWare folks were actually behind this game and the strength of their design, which allows randomness to mesh into a surprisingly cohesive experience, truly shines through.

When you’re tired of the rhythm games, there are other rhythm toys, basically ideas that didn’t make the cut, for you to mess around with and that’s about it. Most people’s biggest complaint with this game is just that, there’s not a whole lot of game there when you get right down to it. If you’re the type who wants more than ten hours of relatively shallow game from your portable collection, this isn’t the right title for you. If you love music, love intelligent design (not the kind that opposes evolution, the type that means a fine game), and love fun, well this is the game for you. It will have legs because you love the music or the quirky games and there’s always the pursuit of perfect scores to hold your attention.

There are some issues with the game that mostly revolve around its localization. I understand that you can’t really bring a game like this to the states without translating the Japanese, but for some reason the vocal localization seems way lacking in comparison. Uninspired lame English vocals just don’t hold a candle to the Japanese tracks. I’ve said it before, but the Japanese could totally suck too, but my lack of understanding would prevent me from realizing it sucked. Keep it in Japanese.

I can’t really emphasize how truly awesome this game is. It’s hard to think of a DS game I’ve had this much fun with in a long time. The combination of quirky strangeness and razor sharp mechanics make for a well-spent $30.

Late is Better Than Never [Embedded Reporter]
May 26th, 2009 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

I know it’s a day late, but yesterday was a holiday…and I totally forgot it was also a Monday…

So here we have more promotional material for Nintendo’s recent release Rhythm Heaven. There might be a little something different about it when you watch it.

EDIT: The embed code was giving me trouble, so I’m linking it above for now. I know that kind of kills the whole “embedded” part of this feature, but until I can figure it out, I don’t want this looking terrible.

That’s right, it’s catered to the womenfolk. Now, I have no problem with Nintendo’s strong push for catering to female gamers. These commercials with Beyoncé (for Rhythm Heaven), Lisa Kudrow, Nicole Kidman, or America Ferrera are genius in that they don’t pander to women and don’t try and talk down. This commercial is geared more toward teenage girls, I’d say, and it shows. I don’t think it’s sexist, I just don’t know how well it will play. Do you think it talks down in any way? Is it’s message sexist in nature? I don’t really think so, but I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable watching it when I think about the stance that any actual gaming girl I know would have toward it. For others, it seems about right. I guess you can’t please everyone, right?

BlazBlue, KoF, L4D, Pokemon, and Capcom [Game Overview]
May 8th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

If you’re trying to find the common thread that weaves all of these games together, don’t keep racking your brain, I’m just covering a ton of different stories and experiences.

Tangled Up in Blue

Street Fighter IV created within me something of a fighting game…well I hesitate to call it a renaissance, cause there was never a naissance, so to speak, but, should naissance actually be French for birth, it did birth in me the fighting spirit. I haven’t played the game in a while, mostly because I’m trying to save the world and attend high school (Persona 4) at the same time, but I figure I’ll get back to it soon, especially with that new tournament mode in.

The reason I even bring that up is because of the upcoming game BlazBlue has got a pretty sweet pre-order bundle set to launch alongside the game. Buying the game early, at no added cost, will yield soundtrack CDs and, my favorite feature, a DVD with top players going over the moves and strategies for each fighter.

Being the fighting game newb that I am, I find this kind of thing to be an invaluable help in creating strategies and managing opponents. I just hope it’s not too high level that I can’t understand or implement the things they’re doing. It should also help me to find the most bizarre, obscure character to master. I don’t always go for the strangest guy, but I definitely make an effort to try and choose lesser-used characters in fighting games mostly because I tire of seeing Ken all the time.

Source: Kotaku

Royally Screwed

Staying on track with fighting games, the two extra King of Fighters XII home version fighters were announced and they…don’t include Mai?! There’s still time to announce Mai in the game, but the release date is rapidly approaching. Why they didn’t have her in the arcade release baffles me in the first place, but why they’re not including the absolute fan favorite in the home version absolutely blows my mind. We’ll see how this continues to play out.

Oh yeah, the new fighters are Elizabeth and Mature. Stupid name on that second one, if you ask me.

Source: Kotaku

Stats 4 Me

If you know me decently well, then you know that I love stats. Very few things excite me more than seeing a nice, clean breakdown of how I did in certain aspects and how I fare against certain situations or match-ups, etc. It’s why I hate the stats section of SFIV (Why don’t they have stats for how I perform against each character as each character? Why don’t they have stats for each opponent I face?) and of SSBB (Actually, kind of the same things here.)

Leave it to Valve to satisfy my every craving with the detailed Left 4 Dead stats page that you can check for any player. Where else would you be able to see that I have 100% accuracy with an assault rifle or that my favorite Tier 2 weapon is the hunting rifle?

Can't say "screenshot or it didn't happen" now, can you?

Can’t say “Screenshot or it didn’t happen” anymore, can you?

Granted, these stats were collected a few weeks (months?) after the game came out, so I probably don’t really have 384 Assault Rifle kills or 100% accuracy, but you can bet I probably won’t pick up an assault rifle again for a long while until I’m sick of looking at that sweet 100% mark.

It’s interesting too that my Zoey count is so low (only 55%) considering that I always prefer to play as her. I blame quick games, where my character choice is not left up to me.

Oh yeah, here’s a link to my stats page.

Stats I will be working on:

-More Zoey!
-Increase revive:revived ratio (currently 1:2)
-Improve finales survived (sitting at 12.5% right now)
-Drop average damage to teammates (this one ballooned after I spent a whole game on easy shooting my partner for fun)
-The fact that I’ve only shot one cartridge with the pump shotgun makes me laugh. So long as I’m never Francis or Bill, I doubt that number will increase too much.
-Want to know why my hunting rifle headshot rate is only 5%? It’s not cause I suck zoomed in, it’s cause zombies die in one hit with the hunting rifle, so why aim for a small target? Don’t expect that to rise.
-More versus! The new maps are out. I need to play them. I need to have a more lopsided (in the wins direction) record.
-I should throw more rocks as the tank.
-More survival mode medals. I need more!
-More achievements

Darek’s got more friends playing, so I should be able to find people to continue to play with and keep improving. I’m excited.

Gotta Catch ‘Em Again

Nintendo announced today (but in the Japanese today, which is still going on, but at 2230 or so right now) that they would be re-releasing Pokémon Gold and Silver as Pokémon Heart Gold and Pokémon Soul Silver on the DS Generation IV engine. Exciting news for Pokémaniacs, since Gold and Silver were perhaps the longest, and neatest games. Not only did you go through the new region in those games, but your quest actually required you to return to the original region and collect all those badges too. With one fell swoop, the geniuses at Nintendo have managed to bring all of the regions, minus the Gen III region into the future. It’s an exciting time for someone who wants to catch ’em all, but we’re all wondering out here in the West when Nintendo is finally gonna get around to letting us import our Platinum dudes into Pokémon Ranch, much less our new Gold and Silver buddies.

Source: Bulbanews

“You must be a master of sales”

If you got the obscure and kind of lame Resident Evil reference there, go you. For everyone else, let’s move on.

Capcom has released a listing of its top-selling game franchises to give you an idea of how well its game series sell and are popular relative to each other. Here’s the list:

Resident Evil – 40 million (56)
Mega Man – 28 million (124!)
Street Fighter – 27 million (62)
Devil May Cry – 10 million (11)
Monster Hunter – 8.5 million (11)
Onimusha – 7.8 million (12)
Dino Crisis – 4.4 million (13)
Ghosts ‘N Goblins – 4.4 million (16)
Final Fight – 3.2 million (10)
Ace Attorney – 3.2 million (12)
Breath of Fire – 3 million (15)
Lost Planet – 2.7 million (7)
Commando – 1.2 million (2)
1942 – 1.2 million (3)
Sengoku BASARA – 1.2 million (10)

Note that there are numbers in parentheses. This is the number of games released in that series, which gives me a great idea. You see, this list, in and of itself, does not accurately represent how well each game performs on a per-game basis. It’s not really accurate to say “Wow, Mega Man is way better than Street Fighter” when Mega Man has had 124 releases to SF’s 62 and only outperforms it by one million. Here’s the adjusted list in sales per game:

Devil May Cry – 909091
Monster Hunter – 772727
Resident Evil – 714286
Onimusha – 650000
Commando – 600000
Street Fighter – 435484
1942 – 400000
Lost Planet – 385714
Dino Crisis – 338462
Final Fight – 320000
Ghosts N’ Goblins – 275000
Ace Attorney – 266667
Mega Man – 225806
Breath of Fire – 200000
Sengoku BASARA – 120000

What does my expert analysis show? Well the top three series are all more modern A-list Capcom games. Games have become far more serious business in recent years, so this makes sense. Expensive games plus the increased numbers of buyers make these franchises more successful. The most glaring change in this list is the move of Mega Man to the near bottom of the list. What else can you expect from a series that got its start on the NES and has released 124 (!) games, many of which are portable or spin-offs not meant to sell. In fact, the last real Mega Man release was Mega Man 9 and that was released digitally.

This list really doesn’t prove anything, but it’s at least fun to look at.

Source: Kotaku

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