Wherein I played a video game demo

Ever since the fall of the Xbox 360, I barely play game demos any more. Mostly because they just don’t seem to put out as many as before. Or maybe I’m just crazy. It seemed like every XBLA game had a demo, which I really miss now. Though if every indie game on Switch had a demo, and I played them all, I’d no longer have any time for full games. (The implication is that there are lots of indies on Switch)

I did download and play a demo for a new indie game on Switch last night, though. It’s called Nine Parchments, made by the same guys who did the Trine games. Which I never played. Anyway, I decided to give Nine Parchments a shot because it looked a whole lot like Gauntlet Legends. As you may or may not recall, Gauntlet Legends has a very special place in my heart and I am constantly on the lookout for more modern games that fill that same niche.

Sadly, I find myself stuck on the fence about whether or not Nine Parchments is for me. There are a lot of things about it that I like! But something about it doesn’t feel quite right, you know? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what, but I’ll circle back around to that later.

Starting up the demo was a hard first strike for the game. You’re given two character options, both of which are unattractive. You either pick doofy wizard boy, or wizard girl with a way-too-poofy cloak. I ended up going with the girl because her spell loadout seemed better. She got a Death Beam, a Lightning Blast, and a Healing Circle. I don’t know if those are the actual names, but I’m pretty sure my names at least make it clear what each one does.

After you pick a character, you also get to choose a hat and a staff. Being the demo, I wasn’t allowed to use any of either, but there are tons of options for each. I won’t lie, the idea of collecting them all got me a little hard. Then you have to go through a boring tutorial stage that is literally just walking forward for two minutes and hitting four targets with a magic spell. You can look at some books to make little tips appear, but meeeeeeh.

Once you get into the actual demo stage, things take a turn for the better. It’s a lush beach world with all sorts of vividly-coloured plants and corals, and it’s just beautiful. The character design may be off-putting, but the backgrounds are gorgeous. Being the demo, this stage is also pretty straightforward. You hop down a couple ledges, but mostly it’s just walking to the right as you kill off any monsters in your way. Apparently there were hidden treasures and baubles that I missed, so there are likely some well-hidden paths somewhere. Anyway, given that characters can jump and warp-dash, I’m expecting that later levels will have some more complex layouts and possibly even platforming challenges.

Following the main stage, you’re treated to a boss encounter, and I’ve got to say that it was a heck of a lot less annoying than the bosses in Gauntlet Legends. It was not overpowered, it didn’t have way too much HP, and I didn’t need a special item to hack off a third of its life. Actually, if anything, it was too easy. It alternated between two attacks, which were easy enough to dodge on their own, but made the field a little harder to navigate because their effects lingered for a while. So it was a pretty decent boss while I played solo, though it likely would have gone down in about five seconds flat with four players blasting it all at once.

What I don’t like about Nine Parchments is that its combat is entirely magic-based, and you have a mana limit for each spell. So instead of just attacking forever, you’ll attack until your mana is depleted, swap to your next spell, fire that off until it’s empty, and then repeat. Mana refills automatically, but it’s still a bit of an annoyance that you have attack limits. Especially since regular monsters seem to have about twice as much HP as they should. I should mention that your guy does have a weak little punch attack too, but it’s basically worthless.

Now, I think what really turns me off about the game, and it’s probably the most subjective part of this whole spiel, is the enemy distribution. What I liked about Gauntlet Legends is that you’re one man against screenfuls of monsters. You chop through them all in one or two hits, but there are so many, and they spawn forever until you find and explode the hole they’re pouring out of. It’s generally mindless, but I find that it’s a great way to kick back and have some good old-fashioned arcade-style fun. Nine Parchments, however, sees fit to just toss two or three monsters in at a time, each of them with the previously mentioned twice as much health as necessary. And by twice as much, I mean roughly seven seconds of a sustained Death Beam, whatever that equals out to. And that’s just the measly little goblin guys. Yeah, that problem will be mitigated by having even one other player, but it’s still just not as fun to blast your way through the monster hordes when said “horde” is three monsters at a time.

So I’m squarely on the fence about this one. Nine Parchments seems like a fine game, but it’s not quite what I’m looking for. I can see myself enjoying it, but on the other hand, Hammerwatch comes out on Switch tomorrow, and that game is exactly what I’m looking for. I think I enjoyed playing Hammerwatch on PC even more than I did the 2014 Gauntlet reboot. Nine Parchments is also a whopping $25 to Hammerwatch’s much more appealing $12, so. Maybe I’ll eventually give Nine Parchments a go, but it’s not going to be in 2017. Having people to play with would be nice too, but hey, we all know that I don’t really do the whole “friends” thing.

Always Sometimes Sickly

I’ve been sick for the last five days. It’s not fun. Just the good ol’ common cold, but I feel like that’s worse than anything because there’s nothing I can do about it but wait it out and hope it goes away before too long. I probably should have called in sick to work yesterday, but this is my busiest time of the year, so that wasn’t really an option. So it was a day of going to the bathroom every ten minutes to blow my nose and having even less focus than ever. I bought some cold relief meds at lunchtime, and they’ve definitely taken the edge off, but there’s still no telling how long this is going to last. Here’s hoping today goes better.

See, the thing is, I get this stupid cold at almost the exact same time every year. Sometimes it’s more intense than others, and the duration is always a huge question mark. I remember one year I was incredibly sick all through Christmas and New Year’s Day. So much so that I missed all the festivities because I couldn’t muster up the will to get out of bed. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m allergic to Christmas. I know it’s a ridiculous hypothesis, but the consistency in the timing has to be more than a crazy coincidence. You can say it’s the weather, but the weather has been all over the place over the last ten years. Sometimes it’s freezing cold, sometimes we still haven’t gotten any snow. It’s way too inconsistent to be the cause, so there’s got to be something else.

But I have no idea what the deal is, and that’s really enough mucus-fueled rambling for now.

-Ryan out (*coughs up a lung*)

Last Month in Movies – November 2017

Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! – Lots of words about this here.

Akira – It would be… generous to say that I actually watched this movie. The situation was more me struggling to stay awake while it was on in the background.

As such, I only sort of know what was going on. Being an 80’s anime I’m sure made it even harder to follow. From what I can tell, it was the story of a biker punk whose friend gets kidnapped by super-scientists, and develops some sort of powers as a result. I cannot tell you what those powers were supposed to be, but at the end he loses control and becomes a massive Cronenbergian horror, and it’s up to biker punk to save the day. Or not. I think some psychic children actually saved the day. With a psychic nuke. Anime!

Anyway, I feel like this film has a pretty strong following, Maybe because it was one of the rare anime movies that got localized in the 80’s? I did notice that the animation was excellent, but I was so half-asleep that the story didn’t really make an impression on me. By the end I was still having trouble identifying characters. I think I’ll have to give it a few weeks and then try watching it again. Hopefully to better results.

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – November 2017

Another course done, back to spending all my time playing video games, hurrah!

(And just in time, because Xenoblade Chronicles 2 comes out today.)

~ Game Over ~

DOOM (PS4) – I love this game. I try to limit use of the L word to describe my feelings for not-people, but holy mother of Hell, do I ever love this game! It is exactly what I want in an FPS.

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch) – The story mode is complete. Unlike Hyrule Warriors, it looks like I could actually finish this game’s secondary mode as well. But we will just have to see…

Yono and the Celestial Elephants (Switch) – It was a cute ride that I was able to conclude in an extended afternoon. Lots of existential monologues made it stand out from other Zelda-esqes.

Star Fox (SNES) – For all the time I’ve put into this game, apparently I’ve only ever played the Easy path. Because when I did a Normal run, every stage after Corneria was new to me!

Donkey Kong Country (SNES) – Rolled from start to finish in a single sitting. I didn’t literally roll the whole way, though. That’s a technique for speedrunners only.

Doki Doki Literature Club (PC) – A game that masquerades as a visual novel until… yeah, let’s not spoil it. It’s no Frog Fractions, but it does a nice job of twisting into something else.

Deep Space Waifu (PC) – A unique and interesting shoot-’em-up. Unfortunately, its defining mechanic is built around shooting the clothes off of giant anime girl stereotypes. So… yeah.

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A forking good show

Over the course of the weekend, I watched the entire first season of The Good Place. Normally I don’t like to binge-watch shows like that (I don’t even like having to use the term “binge-watch”), but I simply could not bear to have to wait any longer to see what was going to happen next. It’s not entirely unlike how I recently watched the entire second season of Attack on Titan in a single day. When there are mysteries to unravel, I just can’t leave them ravelled. I thirst for answers.

The difference between said shows is that I was left cold and disappointed by Attack on Titan, whereas the ending of The Good Place blew my mind and left me wanting more.

Let’s start from the start; in most realities, I haven’t and will never watch this show. In this particular universe, however, I heard an offhand comment about how it was good on a podcast. Interest piqued, I did a Google search. Okay, stars Ted Danson. I’m about 75% on board. I read the Wikipedia summary. It has a well-received twist ending. 100% on board. Checked Netflix, season one is available. Yep, I’m watching this now.

As much as I adore Ted Danson (and he is charming and wonderful here), the real star of the show is Kristen Bell. Now, the only thing I’ve ever watched where she has a starring role is Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And that didn’t leave much of an impression on me in any way. In The Good Place, however, she is so fantastic. In fact, all of the main characters are. Even the ones who are supposed to be a little more annoying come off as lovable in their own ways.

The premise of the show is that Kristen Bell died and has gone to The Good Place, which is essentially Heaven or whatever, with Ted Danson as the goofy administrator. Only in this universe, The Good Place only accepts the very best people, of which she is definitely not. So the first half of the season focuses on her trying not to get caught as a impostor and working to become a better person so that she can actually belong there. There’s a pretty significant shift about halfway through, and every episode ends on an insane cliffhanger, which practically forces you to keep watching if you’re streaming. It would have been an absolute nightmare to have to wait week-by-week for new episodes.

The ending, which I noted earlier was well-received, is in fact awesome. Not because of the twist itself, but because I imagine that it will completely shift the dynamic of the show’s second season. S2 is actually already halfway through, and I’m sitting here with bated breath, waiting desperately for it to end and get uploaded to Netflix. There are so many questions left unanswered, and I am so excited to see where they take it from here. Honestly, I get the same feelings from The Good Place that I did from the early seasons of LOST. And that’s great! The big difference is that The Good Place is firmly wrapped in comedy, with only minor splashes of drama thrown in to keep an even pace.

Obviously, I recommend giving this a chance. If you aren’t won over by the stellar cast and excellent range of jokes, the ending of the first episode should get you. It definitely makes a strong impression. I want to type a description of what happens because it’s unbelievable, but I think it’s best left as a surprise. You will not see it coming. And it really only gets better from there.

I watched the new Pokémon movie

Believe it or not, the Pokémon franchise is old enough to drink in all 50 States. 21 years is a pretty long time! The Pokémon anime has been on the air for 20 of those years, and is still going strong, which is a pretty impressive feat. Maybe even more impressive is that there has also been a Pokémon movie for every year since then. That’s twenty Pokémon movies! The only one of them that I’ve ever seen up until now was the very first one. In a theatre, to boot.

Creating a nice opposite bookend, my brother and I went to see Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! last weekend three weekends ago. It’s a special movie that was made to celebrate Pokémon’s 20th anniversary (which was last year…), and is partially a retelling of the anime storyline. I say partially because it goes wildly off-course after the first fifteen minutes and I have no idea if the movies/show will continue in this timeline or the original one. Though it really doesn’t matter to me, because I don’t follow this series at all.

Despite a couple misgivings, I really enjoyed this movie! We go through the classic rigmarole of Ash partnering with an unruly Pikachu as his starter and heading off on his grand Pokémon adventure, to be the very best like no-one ever was. Only this time, after the Spearow attack, it does the theme song and then jumps forward in time to Ash besting Erika (to get his third badge? Sequence break much?), after which the plot moves on to telling its own original tale, placed in some undefined wilderness.

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Pokémon Ultra Sun : Day One Impressions

Okay, so technically it’s Day Six, because the game launched on the 17th. But my copy only arrived last night! And even then I only had like an hour to play after class.

Those little issues aside, things are looking good for Pokémon Ultra Sun. Mostly because it’s Pokémon Sun again, but with a few tweaks here and there. If you don’t recall, I was really into Pokémon Sun.

I think the only real changes to the game in the first hour are how you get your first Pokémon, and that there are some new weirdos (the Ultra Recon Squad) bumbling around and speaking in vague, cryptic terms. So nothing that really makes any difference. I’m not going to lie, I’m fully aware that almost all of the new content is mashed into the post-game.

I have had two issues with the game so far. Firstly, it locked up as soon as I chose my starter. So that was a pain in the butt because I had to go through the intro sequence twice. Blah.

Secondly, you’re locked into certain times of day until you hit a certain plot trigger, regardless of what time of day it actually is (the in-game time reflects real-world time). This was only a pain because I wanted to catch a Spinarak right away, which only appears at night, and the game demanded it be daytime until X event happened. Not actually a problem, but annoying no less.

And that’s about it so far! Probably not even really worth writing about!

My Organ Harvesting Diary: Day Three

Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden continues to plod along. Only partly because the game itself is slow. I am also to blame because I’m not making an effort to make time to play it more. Though that does keep me from having to do these write-ups too often, so I suppose there’s a bit of a bright side there.

I don’t remember if it was the ending of chapter two or the beginning of chapter three when I was told about tree sap. It seems that on a quality tree, sap will sometimes appear and will have varying effects. It took damn near forever for a sap to actually show up. Pretty sure it was after my kidney tree hit level 30. Anyway, I saw a total of three saps that session, the first and third made all my trees bloom organs immediately, but the second one did the little raining sap animation and then… nothing. At least nothing that was perceptible at the time. Sap seems to be too rare and too unpredictable to be of any strategic use. Maybe just a nice bonus once in a while.

I also received a pickling pot, into which I can place organs to… pickle them. I think it had a more fantastical name, but I didn’t bother to learn it because “pickling pot” is just so much more fun to say. From a story perspective, the process of pickling magical organs removes the soul from them. So then you’re free to stuff multiple magical organs into the same thing without the problem of their souls clashing and tearing space-time to pieces. Or some nonsense like that.

After what felt like forever (even longer than finding a sap), i finally managed to grow an excellent heart. I think the problem was that the trees need to be a certain level to grow better organs. And then the creepy woman in black from chapter two came back and took it from me before I had a chance to turn in a quest for it and earn a fistful of worthless money. Easy come, easy go. *shrug*

Speaking of money, I also unlocked another animal. This time it’s butterflies, and they are crazy expensive. Like, even having turned in what felt like a million pointless “grow X number of Y organ” quests, I could only afford one. However, the butterflies apparently cause organs to ripen faster, which is nice in theory, but I think they only work on a single organ at a time, rather than affecting all organs on a tree. So, not sure if they’re actually all that helpful in the long run.

As far as story goes, the creepy doll returned, asking for more organs to be more human-like. So we pickled a stomach for her, because like I was saying before, apparently having more than one fresh magic organ in the same being is a major no-no. There was also a witch that came by, who revealed that we are growing “Seraphim Fruit” which is a pretty fitting name for magic organs, I’d say. Only then the shop owner admitted that we actually only grow fakes. Fake magic organs. What the heck is even supposed to be happening in this story. And that same witch bought a wheelbarrow full of mincemeat to craft homuncluli. This cannot end well.

The chapter ended on a scene of the shopkeeper and her friend (I cannot be bothered to remember their names) having a existential conversation about pets. The shopkeeper is a cat person and her friend a dog person. I’d like to switch employers, please.

When will I play this again next? Will anything start to make sense? Is this story and/or the gameplay actually going anywhere? I sure as heck don’t have any of the answers!

Last Month in Movies – October 2017

Coherence – I’m not sure about the best way to describe this movie. On one hand, it’s one of those films where if you know what’s going to happen, there’s no point in watching it. On the other hand, it’s really hard to say anything about it without giving away too much. Full-on spoiler mode it is, then!

A group of four couples gathers for a dinner party on the night that a  comet passes by the Earth. Phones spontaneously shatter and the power goes out… except for at one house down the street. After a short expedition, our heroes learn that the people in the house down the street is an alternate reality’s version of them, and everything spirals out of control from there. Eventually, the main girl leaves quietly, spurred by the group’s infighting, and travels to many other realities until she finds a version where all her friends are not fighting each other. She knocks out the alternate version of her to assume her place in that timeline, and then… END.

It’s a bit of a heady film, which I do appreciate, but it does drag on at multiple points, which really kills any re-watch potential. What I actually found most interesting is how it was made: there was no budget at all, and the actors were not given a script or even the whole plot, but only vague directions for each day of shooting, in an effort to make their conversations and reactions more genuine. And I think they succeeded! For the most part, the actors seem much more like real people than actors, the improvised dialogue more authentic than written lines, and I think that’s a big plus.

Pod – This movie opens, as so many do, with a man stumbling through the snowy woods, somewhat disoriented, with his gun and his dog. But then the dog gets away from him. We hear barking, barking, barking, WHINE, silence. The man finds a trail of blood that leads to the mangled carcass of the dog. The man starts shooting wildly. Suddenly, he stops. He has seen something. The camera begins to pan and then… black. Cut to opening credits.

Seriously, how many films open with some variation of that? It’s so tired. Be more creative, please. The rest doesn’t fare much better. It’s about a stuffy fella with way too much moustache and his burn-out sister going up to a secluded cabin to visit their mentally unfit, ex-military brother. Who has apparently captured some manner of synthetic government assassin monster.  Most of the film is about how Moustache does not believe Crazy Eddie, and Junkie doesn’t know what to believe and just freaks out for about an hour straight.

It all comes to a head, though, when Crazy Eddie slits his own throat, allowing Moustache to go into the basement to see what’s actually down there. Surprise! It really was a monster all along! Moustache battles the monster while Junkie goes to get help. A man named Smith shows up and kills them both, and then the movie ends on the clumsiest jumpscare ever committed to film. I’m thankful that this movie was only an hour and fifteen minutes, because it was very bland. Nearly all of it was the siblings all squabbling between themselves. There was no tension, no mystery, no suspense. You knew exactly what was going to happen at all times. At least since it was very dialogue-heavy, it was an alright movie to have on in the background as I played picross.

Happy Death Day – I had been hyped for this movie for several months before release, and I was sure that nobody I knew would have even the slightest interest in going with me. So this was the maiden voyage of USS Ryan Goes To A Movie Alone. I was happy to see my movie, but it was still a little weird. I don’t know if I’d do it again. Go to a movie alone, I mean. I would definitely watch Happy Death Day again.

If you aren’t aware of the conceit here, Happy Death Day is basically the horror version of Groundhog Day; a stuck-up college girl is forced to relive the same day over an over again, each time ending with her murder at the hands of a masked killer. There’s a quote right in the trailer “this is your chance to solve your own murder” which is pretty well spot-on. It starts out with the usual disbelief of what’s happening, followed by acceptance and a couple montages of failed attempts. You know, exactly what you’d expect.

Where it diverges from the slasher handbook (albeit a little later in the movie that I’d have liked) is that the twists were actually good. And the way that it messes with both main character and the viewer were a lot of fun. I would be remiss to omit the fact that this is a horror comedy. That’s basically what drew me to it in the first place. I knew of the film and had a vague interest, and then I saw the trailer and thought “man that’s probably going to be hilarious.” It’s maybe not quite as satirical as I would have liked, but I got a number of solid chuckles out of it, and that’s really all I ask for.

To recap: I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, and I believe that this was pretty much a perfect movie. For me. I’m sill confident that everyone I know would just turn their noses up and act like they’re above it. Oh well. That’s just how it goes in my lonely world.

Cult of Chucky – Speaking of movies that people would turn their noses up at and act like they’re too good for… this is the seventh installment in the Child’s Play series. That’s kinda nuts when you think about it. I never would have thought that this series, of all the 80’s slashers, would be the one to have the longest legs and maintain the highest level of quality. Well, there was that dip with Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky where the series had a bit of an identity crisis, but it shot right back up after those two!

Coming in five years after Curse of Chucky, this one follows the previous protagonist, Nica, who is now locked in an asylum after having been convicted for five murders. They go through the usual rigmarole of group therapy and the “Chucky was never real” business that I’m come to expect. And then, of course, Chucky actually shows up and starts killing off the patients and staff one-by-one, saving Nica for the very end. The first of two big twists here is that this time around, there are multiple Chuckys, explained away by Chucky having found a voodoo spell that allows him to split his soul and possess multiple hosts. This actually solves a lingering issue with the last film’s ending, but also raises the question of why he’s so focused on possessing Good Guy dolls if he can possess anything with “two legs and an arm to stab with.”

There is also a subplot where grown-up Andy Barclay (the protagonist from the first three movies) is trying to exonerate Nica and stop the other Chuckys, but it’s so separated from everything else that it feels like it was forced in. But they had that amazing post-credits scene in Curse and had to do something with it, right? Oh well. The main plot of the movie was perfectly good, and I don’t feel like Andy’s story really detracted from it, per se, it just didn’t feel quite natural. Didn’t flow right, or something like that.

Before watching Cult, I somehow got it in my head that it was going to be a big last hurrah for the series, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ending doesn’t just have a sequel hook, it slaps you across the face at screams “You’d best be ready for more of these!” And they’ve really opened Pandora’s Box with this one, now that there are at least five Chucky hosts and two Tiffanys on the loose. Personally, I can’t wait for the next one, but I do hope that they scale it back down somehow, because it’s getting uncomfortably close to self-parody again. Chuckys on a Plane might be too far off the rails even for me.

The Babysitter – Netflix original movie that I assumed would suck because Netflix original movies usually suck. It did not suck! Kind of reminded me of Tucker & Dale vs Evil. You know, I want to write more about it, because it’s worth the words, but this post is already stupid long. I spent way too many words on friggin’ Pod. Ah, one paragraph, I guess.

The Babysitter is about a young boy who stays up too late one night and discovers that his babysitter and her friends are a satanic cult, intent on using his blood as a sacrifice. Hilarity ensues. It’s kind of a cross between Home Alone and a slasher parody, with the kid (I cannot be bothered to remember his name) forced to defend himself from the murderous teens/twenty-somethings. As usual, I assume that everyone I know will think it’s bad and stupid, but I thought it was a lot of fun, and it made me laugh out loud quite a few times. Heartily recommended.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – Obviously not actually the final chapter. There are six more and a reboot and a crossover with Nightmare on Elm Street. No sir, Jason is not done yet.

Anyway, this is a fairly standard entry in the series. Jason comes back to life, kills a house full of sexy teens, and then is taken down just before everyone is dead. I suppose the one twist is that this one features a small child, who is ultimately the one who kills Jason. Otherwise, there’s no gimmick. No Jason fake-outs, no 3D effects, no psychic powers, no trips to the big city, no ridiculous demon slugs. Just… a very paint-by-numbers slasher.

In fact, it may be the most boring entry in the series. So why did I watch this one? It’s got the highest volume of bare tits.

I kid, I kid (though it does have the most nudity in the series). In truth, this is just the one that the Netflix app promoted to me. Turns out that they acquired the whole series like a week before Halloween, but this is the one that they felt was important to make sure that I knew about.

So long, Best Social Media

Miiverse is dead, long live… well, I guess that’s just the end of it.

Today, Nintendo shut down Miiverse forever. It was a wonderful little social media experiment that let Wii U and 3DS users share thoughts, drawings, and screenshots of games. Nintendo also used it for special promotional events, and it was a valuable avenue for communicating with smaller game developers.

Of course, Twitter does all that, and from your phone, so.

Miiverse wasn’t perfect, but it did add a lot to Nintendo and video games culture. It gave rise to many memes, like “Y Can’t Metroid Crawl?” It provided us with one of the best Twitter accounts ever, @BadMiivesePost. And of course, there were the completely mind-boggling things on there like the always delightful Miiverse Water Guy.

If you were so inclined,  Nintendo offered a download of all your Miiverse posts up until last night, but I didn’t opt in. I felt it was better to just let it all go, rather than have another meaningless file to stick in a folder somewhere and forget about. It’s not like I had any especially insightful or funny posts, anyhow.

Honestly, I think the memories of how exciting Miiverse was at first are more important than the actual posts. It was a cool new feature to a cool new game console (which ended up being a dud for most), and I’m sure that I’ve spent much more time scrolling through Miivese posts than I ever will spend with the Twitter app. Oh well! It was a fun ride, but nothing lasts forever.

I think most of all, I’ll miss all the dick drawings that pop up after a game in Nintendo Land.