Back in Business (Soon)

Good news, everyone! I’ve decided that I’m going to keep blogging after all!

I haven’t quite moved over to my new hosting space yet, but it’s happening. Eventually.

So get ready for a veritable tidal wave of posts that I’ve written and held off from publishing since, like, November.

The Future Remains Unclear

So you may have noticed a lack of posting lately, and also a lack of… this website, fairly often.

My host, Topclasshost, is winding down and closing up shop on March 10. So that means… well, something is going to happen to TE. I don’t know exactly what yet, but something. Will I move? Will I let it die?

I’ve been keeping this blog for sixteen years now. That’s half of my lifetime. Even if it doesn’t really amount to anything, that’s a tough legacy to let go of. I’ve got a backup saved, so it could be revived at any time, but… I just don’t know.

Probably what will happen is I’ll just find a new host. I have a couple options in mind already, but haven’t made the final call yet. Either way, I don’t think I’ll bother trying to post again until I have an update one way or the other. It’s a pain in the butt to have to keep checking if the database has come back online or not.

If you don’t hear from me again, it’s been fun!

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: January 2019

It’s time for a little revamp. No more two-line summaries/jokes. 2019 will be the year of more complete thoughts! At least for beaten games. I’m scaling back “Now Playing” to reduce repetition and tediousness.

~Game Over~

Mega Man X (SNES) – I play this game at least once a year. Usually I like to have it as the very first and/or very last game that I play in a year, just so I can have one nice, consistent bookend. In 2019, it would be the first, just like in 2018. I was also trying to finish it in under an hour, and I was on pace to be very close! But then I whiffed in the Wolf Sigma fight, got killed, and ended up taking about 1:10 instead. Boo.

Bomb Chicken (Switch) – I was pretty excited about this when it was first revealed, but opted to wait for a time when it was more financially feasible. For example, during the eShop holiday sale while I was swimming in eShop gift cards. As for the game itself, the best way I can describe it is “sideways Bomberman”. That’s not exactly right, but I feel like it gets the idea across: solve platforming puzzles and collect gems as a chicken whose only verb is to poop out bombs. It’s tight, challenging, pretty, and exactly the right length. Aside from the somewhat frustrating final boss, it was a very good way to start the new year.

Chasm (Switch) – You may have heard somewhere that I really like this game. In fact, it was the very last game I beat in 2018. Finishing your first run unlocks “classes” for replays, which changes how your character’s stats grow. I picked the mage class for my first replay, and that mostly just gave me a buttload of MP to incentivize me to use sub-weapons more often. I also played into it by equipping gear that boosted my magic power instead of defense. It made the run more difficult because I was so darn squishy, but also somewhat easier because my main attack method was spamming magical throwing knives. In the end, I shaved roughly two-and-a-half hours off my first run’s time, but still only got a silver medal.

Mega Man 11 (Switch) – There’s an achievement for finishing the game in under an hour, and… I just don’t know that I have the skill to accomplish such a feat. A cursory Googling shows that speedrunners have it down to about 40 minutes. My “practice run” took just under an hour-fifty, so I’m definitely going to need to bone up on some speed strats if I want to actually see this through. (But I probably won’t.)

Ninja Gaiden (NES) – I rented the sequels several times as a kid, but never played the first. It’s just as well, because I kind of hated it. Like Castlevania III, it’s impossibly difficult, but Ninja Gaiden has the added bonus of being broken all to heck. Like, how some enemies will only spawn as you’re in the middle of a jump (which admittedly is more cruel than broken), guaranteeing that you’ll be knocked into a pit. Or how enemy respawns are so sensitive that they’ll often just continue to roll out even if you don’t scroll the screen back. Or how the penultimate boss will usually not bother to take damage when you hit it. It’s a frustrating mess, and I hope to never have to play it again. Ninjas are cool, though.

Adventures of Lolo (NES) – A puzzle game that I read plenty about in Nintendo Power, but never actually played in my youth. It’s pretty darn good! The puzzles can get pretty complex, and some are truly devious, to the point where I actually looked up hints online. I have two complaints. One: There’s no reason to have lives in this game, and I think it’s stupid that resetting a stage kills you. Two: There’s no tutorial at all, and not all puzzle elements are intuitive. For example, I was halfway through the game before I realized that monsters couldn’t walk on grass. Otherwise, I had a great time, and would highly recommend this one.

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Arrival of the Fitness

As everyone who read my write-up of the demo likely expected, I did end up purchasing the full version of Fitness Boxing. I was on the fence all the way up until the night before release day, when I randomly noticed that the Government of Canada had graciously sent me a free $100 GST refund. What better way to spend it on than software for improving my physical well-being? (And also that way I can get around taking the cost out of my video game budget.)

Before I go any farther, I just want to take a second to express my disappointment that my stats from the demo didn’t carry over into the full game. It’s not really a big deal and not at all worth getting upset about, but I pouted about it for a little while anyway. End sidebar.

When I wrote about it last time, I mentioned that Fitness Boxing has a bit of a limited song selection. That’s definitely still an issue, but the sheer variety of other options almost makes up for it. The demo’s daily workout was always just one or two 5-minute routines, but the full game gives you many more options. You can choose the duration of your workout, what part of your body you’d like to focus on, if you’d like to do a guided stretch before and after, and whether you’re out to burn off extra calories or just maintain your current level of fitness. The daily routine has definitely been good for me so far; a 35ish-minute workout that mixes around routines and songs enough that even though I’m just shadow-boxing at my TV for half an hour every day, it hasn’t started to feel repetitive.

I haven’t really explored all of the other options, because one is just to choose a song and/or routine and then have at ‘er, and the rest is two-player stuff I’ll never touch. I have been swapping out trainers every day, though! They all have the exact same lines and basically just differ in physical appearance and voice, but I still haven’t been able to settle on one. I’m leaning toward just sticking with Lin, because all the other girls have larger breasts (or Lin is the only one who wears a proper sports bra) and their unusual jiggle physics weird me out. Can I take a moment to wonder why this exercise program even has boob jiggle to begin with? Was that particular omission going to be the thing that ruins players’ immersion? I guess there are a couple male trainers to choose from as well, but… no.

Something else that is proving to be an issue is that the game uses your weight to help track your progress, and by extension, customize your workouts. But it doesn’t support the Wii Balance Board and I don’t own any other scales. So I guess I actually do have to go buy an accessory to get the most out of Fitness Boxing. (That or boot up Wii Fit U once a week to weigh myself. Nah.) On the other hand, all the extra physical activity I’m getting is great for helping to expedite egg hatching in Pokémon GO, now that that game imports data from my phone’s activity tracker. I’m definitely punching my way to more kilometers “walked” than I’m getting from actual walking these days. I blame winter.

Yes, I still play Pokémon GO. Wanna fight about it?

One fun thing I noticed is that they mark unlockables on the calendar at the estimated date you’ll earn it, and each one is earned through a milestone number of punches. At the outset, I had rewards reaching all the way into 2020, but after two days of vigorous workouts, the game had recalculated my last unlock to be in June 2019. And that was before I upped my daily workout from 25 to 35 minutes. Regardless of how long it’ll take to earn everything, I like the idea that the game is always giving you that little incentive to keep going.

Overall, I’m having a great time with Fitness Boxing. I described it as “the best mini-game from Wii Fit, turned into a full game” before, but now I think that a better comparison might be “DDR, but with punching”. Sure, I’ve only had it for two weeks and it’s still got that new game smell, but I think I can stick with this one for a while. I know that eventually it’s going to get dropped by the wayside, but I hope to keep it up at least until winter goes away and I can start getting outside and running again.

If absolutely nothing else, it helps me feel better about myself and gives me another excuse to avoid going to an actual gym. And that makes it worth every dang penny.

Here’s to leaving your mark

Happy New Year! …A couple days ago!

2019 is going to be great, I just know it! Or maybe it’ll be mediocre, like this Pop-Tarts Review I posted recently. It’s been some time since I did one of these!

I know, I know, the sound levels are way off. I tried fixing it, but my video editing software crashed over and over every time I asked it to normalize the volume. So there was nothing left to do but post as-is. And start a search for a better program.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up : December 2018

~Game Over~

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! (Switch) – I don’t like the EXP distribution changes, because it makes trainer battles feel pointless, but other than that? Muah! *Italian chef kiss*

Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch) – Much like how the Switch is what the Wii U should have been, this game is exactly what Smash for Wii U should have been. It’s so good.

GRIS (Switch) – I’ve played pretentious indie platformers before, but never one anywhere near as pretty as GRIS. The beautiful, watercolor worlds are reason enough to give this one a go.

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A Fresh Fitness Fixation

Remember Wii Fit? Man, that was a pretty fun way to delude myself into believing that I was getting a reasonable amount of exercise. All those delightful little activities that gamified physical exertion, bound to the somewhat cumbersome but absolutely integral Wii Balance Board accessory. Which, I might add, doesn’t work properly on my condo’s carpet. I got really into Wii Fit three or four times, always quickly falling off the wagon, like you do when you’re as lazy and unmotivated as me.

My favourite exercise on Wii Fit was the Rhythm Boxing, where you’d use a combination of the balance board, wiimote, and nunchuk to simulate beating up a robotic punching bag. It wasn’t overly challenging, and was kind of slow since it was simon-esque, where your trainer would call out a sequence of moves which you’d then have to copy. I tried to put wrist weights on my arms to get more out of it, but that ended up somehow making my punches harder to read. Accelerometers! They’re weird!

Fast-forward to earlier this month when this demo for a game called Fitness Boxing shows up on the Switch eShop. In the summer months I likely would have ignored it completely, but now that we’re in the middle of winter where I’m getting little exercise and trying to avoid a never-ending tidal wave of holiday junk food, I decided to see what was up. Oh lordy-loo, was I ever in for a nice surprise!

Fitness Boxing, as it turns out, is a game developed by Imagineer and published by… Nintendo? This becomes very obvious when you see that the game’s menus are ripped almost directly from Wii Fit. The overall style and green-and-white theme were immediately familiar. I’m pretty sure that even the fonts are exactly the same. So that’s a good start. Clearly Nintendo had a hand in guiding this project along, so there’s likely going to be a good level of polish to it. What sets it apart the most, in non-gameplay terms anyhow, is that your trainer is no longer a pale mannequin. Despite the title screen’s featureless lady, there’s an actual character named Lin, who is animated quite poorly and has a noticeable Japanese accent. I find her surprisingly charming, but you can unlock five other trainers if she’s not doing it for you.

So the gameplay, it’s got a similar framework to Wii Fit, where you do a daily check-in exercise and are then free to play around as you want with the other modes. But this one’s all boxing, all the time! And also, the call-and-repeat format is axed in favour of a much more fast-paced system that plays just like any other rhythm game. You’ve got two scrolling tracks on the screen, and various symbols will scroll by. Your job is to deliver the correct type of punch with precise timing, all to the beat of the music. It’s a lot of fun! They also get your lower body moving by having you change up your stance once in a while, and encouraging you to bob back and forth to the beat. The best part is that the only accessories you need to play are the joy-cons; I’ll never have to pull out that awkward balance board again.

While the workouts are very fun on their own and high-score mechanic gives you something to strive for (besides better physical wellness), Fitness Boxing has another trick up its sleeve to keep you coming back for more: a constant stream of unlockables. From songs, to workout routines, to new clothing options for your trainer, it seems like there are a ton of things to unlock in this game. Some are gated behind good performance, and some are based on checking in for a certain number of days. I’m sure they won’t be a long-term draw, but just the idea of so many things to earn has me very invested in the idea of purchasing the full version. What can I say? I just love amassing collections of pointless virtual junk!

As for the music… that’s the one part where Fitness Boxing really falls flat. There are twenty popular songs to punch along to; I think that I genuinely like four of the tracks and despise roughly half of the list. The nice part is that they’re all vocal-free, electronic covers, so even the worst ones don’t grate on me as much as they could. Did I think I’d ever find myself getting fired up to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”? Not in a million years, but it happened! 20 songs also seems like a very limited selection; and I really hope that there are a few DLC songs in the pipeline, but don’t actually expect to see any. Maybe if the game gets really popular, but that seems unlikely.

If it wasn’t clear before, I’m pretty well sold on buying the full version of Fitness Boxing when it comes out in January. I’m not 100% on board yet, but it seems likely. The demo version has already run its course, since they give you a very limited number of plays (three daily workouts and ten “free play” sessions), so we’ll have to see if I’m still interested come next week, or if the excitement has already passed by then. But I sure had a heck of a lot of fun with the demo!

Merry Xmas!

And Happy Other Holidays from your good pal, Ryan.

As a Xmas gift to all my loyal reader, here’s a video game review that I wrote in November but didn’t ever get around to proofreading or posting. Enjoy!

Once October rolled around, my plan was to put any games I was currently playing aside and focus on more spooky fare. Then I continued to spend most of my gaming time on Picross games and Monster Hunter anyway. Because I am incorrigible.

I did manage to mash a few spooky games in anyway (see the Monthend Wrap-Up for deets), and one of those games was Hollow. This is a first-person shooter with a sci-fi horror theme, and if I had to review it in a single sentence, it would be this:

What if Dead Space was kinda crappy?

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The 24 Days of Gluttony : Day 24 – Sasquatch Stout

It’s here. Xmas Eve. And it came so much faster than it ever has before. Whether that’s because I’m old and jaded, or because I’ve been so damned busy, I don’t know for sure. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Whatever the case may be, thank the Buddha this friggin’ feature is over.

Sasquatch Stout is our final entry for Xmas 2018, and it’s a doozy. My youngest brother bought me a can of this gimmick beer for Xmas last year, and to get straight to the point, I hope I’ll never have to drink it ever again.

If you’ll take a close look at the bottom of the can, you’ll see that this is a beer with the flavours of “coffee, chocolate, and mystery.” I’ve never had a chocolate beer before, and based on Half Pints’ Stir Stick Stout I am of the opinion that coffee and beer are a terrible pairing. But then there’s the third part. Mystery. I don’t know if that’s them being cute because of sasquatch theme, or if it’s really saying that there’s some unlisted flavour going on here. It doesn’t really matter though, because this stuff is awful. As I said before, coffee-flavoured beer is gross alone, but the chocolate only exacerbates the poor flavour combo, and if that mystery is actually a flavour, it’s indecipherable and also does nothing to help.

Yet despite how disgusting I found it, apparently Sasquatch Stout was voted “Best Beer in Canada” back in 2014. So I guess I just have no sense of taste when it comes to beer.

On the other hand, I’m somewhat forced to adore this beer on account of it’s a sasquatch-themed beer. It’s such a tragedy that such a wonderful creature sould end up the namesake of such a crap-tastic beverage..Poor sasquatch. I still love you, big guy. Just not your beer.

The 24 Days of Gluttony : Day 23 – McDonald’s Peppermint Latte

I know, I know, just days ago I was bemoaning the sheer boringitude of the annual peppermint version of various places’ hot chocolates and lattles. But that’s not to say that I don’t like them! I think that I’ve established many times already that adding peppermint to something is basically a surefire way to sell it to me. I think it’s a great flavour, particularly when matched with coffee.

So today, I’ll take a minute to honour this timeless classic. I didn’t call it boring because I don’t like it, I called it boring because it’s so easy for companies to fall back on it instead of experimenting with other kinds of holiday variants. But it keeps coming back every year because it works. You can’t take chances any more in the corporate world. You might lose money that way! Just keep doing what you know the mindless consumers will eat up.

Whoops. This isn’t supposed to be a rant against capitalism…

Peppermint lattes! They’re tasty!