So I’ve played a lot of video games over the course of my life up until now. Only now, real life gets in the way a lot and I spend a lot more time longing for video games than actually playing them. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s the way she goes. I’ve decided that for fun, I’m going to make a small list of game accomplishments I’d like to make in the next year. Keeping in mind of course, that this is the abriged version. I could go on for days about games I want to play.

Another note of minor importance is that these aren’t in any specific order. I’m just noting them as they come to me. Putting them in order would likely be impossible. Oh, and none of these are games that I’m actively playing. Most have been set aside in favour of other games, and a handful I haven’t even started playing.

  • Final Fantasy XIII : Defeat Vercingetorix
  • Final Fantasy XII : Complete the story / acquire all Espers
  • Final Fantasy VI DS : Complete the story
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy : Earn “All characters at Lv50” accomplishment
  • Dissidia 012 : Start playing
  • Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together : Complete the story
  • Monster Hunter Freedom Unite : Complete offline quests
  • Monster Hunter Tri : Play it sometimes
  • Monster Hunter: Dynamic Hunting : Get all cheevos
  • Secret of Mana (iOS) : Complete the game
  • MadWorld : Complete the game
  • Little King’s Story : Complete the game
  • Epic Mickey : Complete the game
  • Earthbound : Play again
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 : Find all green stars (June 11/12)
  • Pokémon White : Complete Unova Pokédex (Oct 6/12)
  • LEGO Rock Band : All single-player cheevos
  • Catherine : Complete the game on Normal difficulty
  • Guitar Hero Van Halen : Complete tour mode (May 23/12)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D : Complete Master Quest
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker : Play again
  • Deadly Premonition : Start playing
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum : Start playing (Jan 2/12)
  • Fallout 3 : Complete the story (Jan 15/12)
  • Picross 3D : Complete all puzzles (May 14/12)
  • MegaMan Legends : play again (June 7/12)
  • Borderlands : Complete all story missions, all reasonable secondary missions
  • Luigi’s Mansion : Play again (Aug 29/12)
  • Pikmin 2 : Story mode full clear
  • Pikmin : Play again
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii : Complete World 9

So yeah. Ain’t nobody can say I’m not a goal-oriented person. The relevance of my goals is questionable, but I have them. Game developers really should stop making new ones so I can catch up though. Maybe just put a freeze on new games for 2012? Not that it really matters. Once Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Mario Kart 7 arrive, it’s all over anyway.

This is where we’re meant to be

My goodness, it’s been a while since I posted an image here. That big wall of text is all well and good, but best to make sure there’s some pretty pictures in there the keep the dumber visitors happy. How about one that I made all by myself?

I may not have mentioned it, I really can’t be bothered to remember, but there’s currently a weight loss contest going on in my workspace. It’s been so gracefully dubbed “Fattypalooza” and I’ve been more interested in funny situations that arise from it than actually getting the weight off. Remember the cheesecake I told you about two posts ago? That’s this one here.

Also, referencing Pokémon makes everything better.

Live the rebound

As you might have expected, I’ve been as busy as I can be with video games over the past few months, and honestly, I’ve been playing far more of them than I could have possibly kept up with when I was unemployed and single. So many have become one-week affairs, while others are destined to be played, dropped, and picked up again repeatedly, and others still I haven’t even booted up once. I’d kind of like to get things in order and start finishing a few of them, so I’m going to start a preliminary list of games I’ve been into lately that are fighting for my precious free time. And this list will cover only games that I’ve come in contact with for the first time over the last year. I have so many Gamecube and PS2 games I need to get around to playing, that this list would take forever if I counted all them too. Old stuff I’ll catch up on once the new stuff thins out.

Games I’m playing regularly

Despite all the games I’ve played once or twice and forgotten about, there are many that I continually find time to spend on. Pokémon White is the newest and most obvious example. I’ve been playing the shit out of this one over the month or so it’s been out, and I can’t get enough of it. Those little monsters always find a way to worm their way into my heart. Though admittedly, I would have been even happier with it had it excluded all of the old monsters in favor of the new ones. What are we at, 600 or something now? Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has been spinning a lot inside of my Xbox, despite the fact that I’ve likely gotten all of the achievements that I can and I’m playing it just for fun instead of progress at this point. Which, actually, is kind of the point, but whatever. I’ve 100%-ed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, but I still hold out hope that someday they will actually release the DLC we were originally promised to have in February. Being that it’s the only 3DS game I own, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is getting plenty of play, but I think this will end up being a once-in-a-while game once I get the “beat arcade with all characters” medal. Dissidia: Final Fantasy is far more fun that it should be, but really, I want to forget about it and go get the sequel. Good thing new games aren’t in my budget.

Games I play sometimes

I’ve begun working my way through Brutal Legend, and while I love it to pieces, it’s getting less play than SSFIV3D, and how does that make sense? Picross 3D, which would have benefited greatly by being held back for 3DS, is not as fun as regular picross. But I’ve been picking away at the puzzles since it came out and am almost finished! I’m sitting at about 350 completed. Final Fantasy IV DS is brutally difficult, and is definitely not the breezy, nostalgic joyride I assumed it would be. But I’m soldiering through it anyway, getting stuck, slowly power-leveling my way though, and then dropping it for weeks at a time. Shadow Complex I could quit anytime, but I only need the Level 50 achievement and sadly, that’s essentially just a time-eating cheevo dressed up in a deceptively fancy hat. Secret of Mana seemed like a great idea for an iPhone game, and it could have been, but I just cannot bear the touch controls. And Donkey Kong Country Returns is such a great game, but it’s soooooo hard. And not great for two-player. I don’t imagine I’ll ever finish Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology even though I pick it up and log a decent number of hours each summer.

Games I played for a week and forgot about

I really wanted to play more of Fallout 3, but it’s so huge! I’ll never finish that monster. Not without power-gaming it for about a month straight, anyway. Final Fantasy XII is the same way, but I do pick that one up for a week or two every few months in a vain effort to make a little progress. I wanted to say my goal was to finish all the mark hunts, but I think I’ll have to settle for all Espers after reading about Yiazmat (he has more than 50 Million HPs).Arc Rise Fantasia is a different story. It’s a fairly fresh JRPG, with a not-entirely-cliche story and a battle system that is both fun and speedy, but the voice acting is so, so awful. It’s not so much that I don’t want to ever finish the game, but it’s enough that I would be okay if I didn’t. Alone in the Dark, the 2008 one, is another mixed bag. It’s got a lot of neat ideas, but gameplay is pretty much balls. It seems like 100%ing the cheevos would be easy if I could struggle my way to the end. Crackdown 2 was fun at first, and I like the in-game help for finding all those orbs, but near the end I gave up because it really just wasn’t as fun as the original, no matter how hard I tried to pretend it was. With Epic Mickey, I knew I was playing more for the atmosphere than the gameplay, but it (the gameplay) was just so mediocre that I’m having trouble pulling myself back in for the good stuff (presentation). Little King’s Story, on the other hand, has fairly good gameplay and presentation, but I can’t play it because I’m at the point where the enemies are actually dangerous, and I can’t bear to send my beloved villagers to their dooms. They all have names! And families! I’m not a monster! And speaking of which, I was completely obsessed with Monster Hunter Tri and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite last summer, but they have dropped completely off my radar, despite the fact that I really want to set aside some time for even one of them.

Games I own but haven’t stared

Why haven’t I played Dead Rising 2 yet? Honestly, it’s because I loved the original so much, I’m afraid the sequel won’t be as good. Loved Case Zero though. Deadly Premonition I got because despite the fact that he said it was awful, Steve’s description of the game (and its easy cheevos) made it sound like a game I wanted to play. So did the Gamespite Quarterly 6 review. The Incredible Hulk (360) will sit on my shelf and collect dust forever. It was better off in the Wal-Mart bargain bin. Technically I’ve beaten New Play Control! Pikmin like a dozen times, but I suppose I should play it at least once to justify the $30 expense. And if you want to pick, I have played the first two levels of Dawn of Mana, but that was so long ago I can’t even remember the experience. Eternal Sonata I hear is not so great, but how can I resist a JRPG that co-stars Frédéric Chopin? By leaving it on the shelf next to The Incredible Hulk, I suppose.

Oh good gravy. And these are just the games that spring to mind. Even if I don’t write an article at all this year, I hope to make use of this webspace to help keep track of how I’m progressing through my backlog of games. I didn’t even consider WiiWare/virtual console games. Or PC games. Or Shantae: Risky’s Revenge! That one really deserves to be finished. Ugh. I’ll have to come up with some sort of system to keep track of what I’m playing and what I need to accomplish in each game. I tried using The Backloggery some time ago, but… I don’t know why I stopped updating it. Maybe because I play too many damn games. Oops.

Pokémon Article

Pokémon is not a regular occurrence in my life. Most of the time my interaction with the series will max out at thinking fondly of time spent playing the games, or choosing Lucario in Super Smash Bros Brawl. However, when the planets align and the fates conspire, I will take DS in hand and become one of the most indefinable gamer types in existence: The Pokémaniac.

There are many reasons that one might take up the task of being a Pokémon Master. Hell, some might not even care so much to be a master of the monsters, but rather just get in to enjoy a light-hearted RPG. I fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Me, I play Pokémon mostly because I’ve always played Pokémon. It’s more tradition than compulsion, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I take the game fairly lightly, mostly enjoying mastery of the two basic gameplay elements, battling and collecting. I don’t even properly understand what EV points are, nevermind how to make use of them and turn my monsters into fighting machines. I just like re-memorizing the different strengths and weaknesses of each Pokémon type every couple years, and then using that knowledge to lead my avatar (who is a 10-year-old girl) to victory over everyone else in my game card’s virtual world. It’s a very simple kind of satisfaction, but it’s one that I’ve yet to tire of.

The only qualm I have here is that while being able to drop all of my enemies in one hit is exciting for a while, eventually I always end up longing, for the, well, longer battles of other RPGs. Pokémon battles generally last about three minutes if it’s a full-on six-on-six fight, and that’s even when things aren’t going particularly well for either side. Wild battles and lesser trainers work perfectly fine with this formula, but when the gym leaders, rivals, and villain team leaders fall just as quickly, it feels fairly anticlimactic. This lends a much greater sense of importance to the Elite Four, who always put up a decent fight. I don’t want every fight to be a Tonberry King, but the battles that are supposed to be epic usually lose a lot of their punch because they’re over before you can really get into a groove.

There is of course an exception to this shortcoming, and it might be even more annoying: legendary Pokémon. I have fond memories of sitting in my room with my old gray brick Game Boy, hopelessly flinging Pokéballs at the legendary birds in the Blue version, entertaining myself with the thrill of the hunt, and that succulent joy of finally capturing the god-like avians. That thrill lingers no more in my soul, and legendary Pokémon now seem more of a chore to me than a enjoyable trial.

In SoulSilver, I’ve literally used two entire lunch breaks (and time away from work as well!) trying to catch the elusive Suicune, but the motherbuzzer simply will not be caught! I’ve spent thousands of Pokémon dollars on the finest Pokéballs money can buy and weeks amassing a collection of rare ball types, and yet none of them can hold the monster. I’ve engaged it in combat over a dozen times, the battles ending only because I ran out of capture devices, or more often because the beast killed itself because it ran out of attack moves and was forced to resort to the self-damaging Struggle move. Exasperated, I’ve moved on, and chose to come back only once I’ve found a way to acquire more Master Balls, which catch without fail.

All this trouble, and Suicune even stands still on the map, waiting for you to challenge it. It’s peers, Raikou and Entei are not so kind. They are equally ball-resistant, and to make matters worse, they travel randomly around the world map, making you play an awful game of cat-and-mouse until the game decides to take pity on you and you wind of in combat with one of them. At this point, you get a single move to make. Either you can throw a ball and hope for the best, or you can fire one attack off on the beast. After whatever happens (or perhaps even before, if your chosen fighter’s speed is low) the beastie will immediately run away, making you chase it around the world again. There are moves that can keep a Pokémon from running away in battle, but I don’t have the patience to not only find, but raise a monster for that sole task.

It gets progressively worse in that Game Freak has been doing this since the original Gold and Silver versions, and usually lets no less than three pocket monsters behave in this fashion. Which isn’t a whole lot when you consider that there are now a total of 493 of the little buggers. And that’s too many. Especially when you consider that a whole new generation will be unveiled by the end of the year. I was more than happy with 150. 250 wasn’t even that bad. I’d even feel less harassed by the sheer amount of monsters if Nintendo would allow just one version of the game in which you could actually catch them all. I know it flies in the face of everything the franchise stands for (NB: Making huge truckloads of money), but they could just make one special game card for me. I’m not saying it has to be an official release or anything. Having to trade between the two newest games isn’t a huge pain, but having to go back two handheld generations is a bit excessive. Moreso because even then there are a handful that can’t be obtained without cheating. Or the GTS.

And therein lies the greatest boon of the current Pokémon generation. The Global Trading System makes catching all those little bastards less of a tedious waste of time and more of a waiting game. Japanese kids will give you whatever you want so long as you’re willing to part with a monster that has an English name, and I have a lot of those. The Pokéwalker, the pedometer-esque device included with HeartGold and SoulSilver is another huge leap towards filling my Pokédex (bestiary, for the uninitiated). Not only does it let you catch new critters wherever you go without having to whip out your DS, but it also gives you access to a lot of Pokémon that you’d otherwise have to trade over from Diamond, Pearl, Sapphire or Ruby. And you get exercise at the same time! Everybody wins!

I’ll probably still never fill that Pokédex though. I’ve been making a sincere effort in SoulSilver, but I was very intent on doing it in Pearl too, and that petered out around the 300 mark. I even had a DS Action Replay to work with back then. If you could somehow play the game without ever getting the National Pokédex (which registers all monsters, the Johto Pokédex cuts out at 251) and pretend it didn’t exist, I probably would have done that. 251 is a much more reasonable goal. But I’m still going to go for it, because I’d like to do it even once, and better now than next year when I have roughly 100 more of the fuckers to catch.

After all this complaining, you might imagine that I’m not overly fond of the Pokémon franchise, but in reality I’d consider it my favourite RPG series. I know that all those Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests give you access to all the content in the game without making you buy several older installments in the series, but something about Pokémon really resonates with me. Strategy has a lot to do with it. Not many times in Pokémon will you just mash attack until everything is dead. I like that it makes you consider every move you make, and even though I’ll never actually finish a game, I do love the collecting aspect. I just like amassing large amounts of useless crap, and even better when it’s confined to the interior of a tiny little game card, and not cluttering up my living space.

So I’ll keep playing Pokémon. I’ll keep at SoulSilver until something shinier drags my attention away, and I’ll buy either the Black or White version when they come out next year, despite the fact that the last thing I want is another generation of new Pokémon. Next time you scoff at the “hook ’em while they’re young” marketing tactic, think about me and how much I love Pokémon despite all the things that annoy me about it.

The 23 Days of Materialism 2009

Hey kiddies! Unless it’s the far future and you’re new readers, you probably read most of this on the blog during December. But now it’s in article form! And backwards. I really can’t be arsed to switch them all around.

If you don’t know the history of this project, for every day in December up until the 24th (it tragically petered out on the 23rd this year) I write about one thing I think people should buy. To convey the true spirit of Christmas. Which, of course, is spending all your money buying too much shit for people who probably already have too much stuff. If you want to make it more positive, think of these as gift ideas. Aaaanyway…

Day Twenty-three – Phantasy Star

Phantasy Star is yet another game I received as a birthday gift which I hadn’t started playing until I decided to include it in this feature. Only this time, it was a gift from my youngest brother, as for every birthday and Christmas, he sends me a (seemingly) random Virtual Console or WiiWare game.

I’ll admit that at the time, I wasn’t overly thrilled that I got Phantasy Star over say, Excitebike or Ninja Gaiden, but a free game is a free game. I also wasn’t too thrilled that when I started playing the game, I dicovered I needed to save after every encounter because it’s brutal.

Over time, though, I learned to go heal after every second fight, and eventually made a little headway into the game. Admittedly, I don’t think I’m very far yet, as I’ve only assembled most of my party (one of those characters being nearly useless in combat), and haven’t even seen one boss yet. I really did want to finish the game by now, but other things got in the way (New Super Mario Bros., and RE: The Darkside Chronicles being the main culprits).

Anyway, Phantasy Star is a fairly decent RPG, if a little tough. But most RPGs of that era are, so that’s a little moot. It’s a lot quicker than Final Fantasy though, which is very good. The downside being that every enemy makes a terribly annoying buzzing noise when they attack. It’s definitely a game best played with the sound off and a CD/iPod on.

The really cool part is that the dungeons are all 3D-esque, a little like Etrian Odyssey, only you have to supply your own graph paper if you want to make maps. And the map-making aspect is my favourite part of the game. It’s what I loved about Etrian Odyssey (when I’d mapped every floor, I felt I was done with the game, grinding and FOEs be damned), and it’s a little less convenient in Phantasy Star, but still really fun. Also it makes each and every one look exactly the same, which is why it’s absolutely essential to keep maps.

So yeah, chances are good that I’ll never finish it (I’ll likely be playing Silent Hill: Shattered Memories over and over until the end of time if it’s as good as Tomm says), but I do quite like Phantasy Star. Maybe I’ll try to get back into it though. I really do like the urgency that the 3D dungeons create, making drawing maps into an essential gameplay element. But that’s probably the only reason I’ll go back. The gameplay otherwise is pretty dated, and despite the space travel element, the story hasn’t really captured my interest. Not the worst way to spend your five bucks though.

Day Twenty-two – GameSpite Quarterly Vol. 3

Look what came in the mail yesterday! YAAAAAY!

A few of the articles are online over at you-should-know-where-by-now and more are dribbling onto the site day by day, but I’ll have burned through this baby by the end of the year. End of the week if I’m really good.

Though I take issue with the sweet extra-money-costing hardcover deluxe edition bearing the Dragon Warrior cover. Not that I dislike Dragon Warrior or anything, but I think Mario should have graced the cover of the premium edition. Oh well. This is well and truly the first time in my life that the saying “You can’t jusdge a book by its cover” has applied to me literally.

Day Twenty-one – A Boy and His Blob

It probably was about a month ago that A Boy and His Blob was released on Virtual Console. It struck me as odd, because I remember that game being pretty popular back in the day, but maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe it was just one Nintendo Power article that I read over and over.

Anyway, since I’ve always wanted to really play the game, I downloaded the game right away, and only then did it hit me that I actually had played it already. I think. My memory normally isn’t so sketchy when it comes to whether I’ve played a game or not, but I can’t for the life of me remember if I’d actually rented the game once or again, if the Nintendo Power artcile is messing with my mind.

In any case, it turns out that A Boy and His Blob is quite difficult. I don’t imagine that I would have had as much trouble with it is a child, but in an age where we’re accustomed to having in-game maps or some sort of navigational help, I just can’t manage without any kind of reference as to where I’m going and where I’ve been. Also I have no tolerance for the limited and sluggish movement of our heroes.

The point remains, however, that it is a really neat game wherein you feed a white blob jellybeans to make it transform into objects that will help you navigate the world. And it’s quite possibly the first of its kind. Tons of games gave you a large inventory of tools to solve the puzzles that the world presented, but I can’t think of even one other that gives all of it to you at the beginning of the game and leaves you on your own to figure out what it is you need to do and how to do it.

Very luckily for me, however, that someone out there was thinking of me, and decided to give the formula a bit of a tune-up.

I picked up the new Wii version of A Boy and His Blob back in October, a week or two after its release, and I’m so so so so happy that I did. The idea is the same, gameplay-wise, but changes a couple key elements that simultaneously make it more approachable and enjoyable.

The most obvious change is that the world is no longer one big map to explore, but rather segmented into many normal-sized levels. Also, lives are gone and now the boy just respawns nearby when he’s viciously murdered or you drop him into a bottomless pit.

Another change that’s a little detrimental to the formula is that to go with the bite-sized levels, you’re only given a certain number of jellybeans in each stage. This makes the challenges the game presents you with much easier to solve, as at any time, you only have so many options, and you can never run out of jellybeans, so you never have to worry that you don’t have the right transformation for the job. While this does make the game a little friendlier to those who aren’t hardcore explorers, it doesn’t mean that the challenge is gone. No, in fact I think I’ve spent far more lives in this game than even in New Super Mario Bros Wii, and in that game, there are usually other players who make it their life’s goal to see me die.

The new A Boy and His Blob is quite a pleasant game, actually. The challenge level is just right (though some of the bonus levels are downright evil), and the only real complaint I can lobby against it is that there aren’t really any puzzles that have multiple solutions. I would very much like to see a sequel where you have more options and can make your own way rather than follow the path the developers paved. And while the new one is head and shoulders above it’s ancient predecessor, the original A Boy and His Blob still has its charms (even though it lacks a “hug” button). It’s just too damn hard though! I do intend to finish it one day, but there will be legions of lives lost and game overs suffered before that ever happens.

Day Twenty – Matthew Good : Live at Massey Hall

If I have to explain this one, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

Matthew Good. Live. Nuff’ said.

Day Nineteen – Scott Pilgrim

The internet has been abuzz about Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comics for years now, and I’ve kind of stayed outside the loop up until recently. See, I knew people loved them, but I didn’t know why (lack of research). But then I was reading about the upcoming movie adaptation and heard that there were all sorts of video game references. Guess which books I went out and bought as soon as I could?

Yeah, after I read a couple articles about the movie, I decided that it was definitely something I was, or at least should be, interested in. And because I’m impatient, I decided I needed to read the comics to get a really good feel for what I was getting into. It was a very good move on my part, because the internet is not wrong, Scott Pilgrim is awesome.

I only bought Scott Pilgrim 1 and 2 to start off with, and I read them both that day. It’s a perfect story for everyone, blending growing-up issues with romance and rock n roll and video games, and I was instantly hooked. Not hooked enough, mind you, to remember that I needed to buy the rest of them, but hooked enough that I’m making seeing the movie a very high priority.

I have been negligent in my duties of picking up and reading the remaining issues, but I am hoping to get at least one more for Christmas, and worst case scenario, I’ll just go out an buy them myself with the mall gift cards I’ll inevitably receive. Very much looking forward to how the story pans out, and all the gags and video game references that still await me. Huge mistake on my part for waiting so long to see what Scott Pilgrim was all about.

Day Eighteen – Resident Evil : The Darkside Chronicles

When Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was released near the beginning of the Wii’s lifespan, I picked it up with cautious optimism. Also I wanted something else to use my zapper on. It was so much more fun that I’d ever had with a rail shooter, and I’ll admit I was shocked. Turns out it was even super awesomer to play with someone else, and it even ended up being one of my girlfriend’s favourite games.

The only issue I had with it is that it was a re-telling of pre-RE4 games, but while it went through Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil, and Resident Evil 3 as well as a whole slew of new material, it never touched on my favourite game in the series, Resident Evil 2.

That’s where The Darkside Chronicles comes into play. When it was first announced, I only ever heard anything about RE2 being covered in it, so I was pretty ecstatic that the next shooter would be dedicated to my favourite classic RE game. And then as more news trickled out, nobody said anything else about RE2, but focused on the new announcement that Code: Veronica was now involved. I was a little sad that nobody was giving any attention to RE2, but whatever.

It all worked out alright though, because The Darkside Chronicles is even better than its predecessor! Mixing RE2, Code: Veronica and more new material. The new stuff shines a little light on Leon’s relation ship with Krauser (from RE4), and delves a little further into the effects of the Veronica virus. It’s a really good new story, very different from anything we’ve seen in Resident Evil up to this point.

The past games are represented pretty faithfully, too. The RE2 segments stick really close to the source material, outside of the fact that Leon and Claire are together the whole time. The fact that they made sure the licker flew by that first window in the police station is great, because for some reason that is the definitive moment of RE2 for me. I’ve never played through the entirety of Code: Veronica, but it seems fairly faithful to what I have seen of the game.

The most important thing to note about The Darkside Chronicles is that unlike its big brother, it’s more about the experience than the shooting. The camera moves around a lot more, as characters look around, and they seldomly stop for long to take out approaching enemies, opting instead to have someone shout “There’s no time!” or something of the like and press on, leaving more zombies alive than I’d usually like.

It’s still really fun though! If not for Super Mario Bros Wii and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories I would say that this was my most desired Wii game of 2009. Of course, I can’t rememeber what came out this year before October, so it’s kinda moot. Definitely recommended, and despite its relative brevity, I’ll be playing it for a long time to come.

Day Seventeen – Joe Satriani : Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock

So here’s another CD I’ve bought recently. It’s Joe Satriani, and that means that it’s gonna be harder to review than most albums because it’s (almost) entirely instrumental. That makes it hard because really, I’m no music scholar. I just know I love his stuff.

The strange part is that the sticker on the shrink wrap said that it included the new hit single “I Just Wanna Rock”, which is odd because I’ve never heard Joe played on any radio station ever, so how could he have a single? Then again, I only listen to local radio, so maybe there are (non-classical) stations out there who aren’t aftraid to play instrumental music.

Professor Satchafunkilus is a terrific album, containing the same kind of music you expect from Satch, music that rocks hard and really moves you. It’s deep without having to say a word, and I think that the poignancy of the music says a lot, because like I said before, I’ve never heard a completely instrumental piece on the radio in all my life, and the fact that there are still people out there who can express themselves without having to resort to lyrics is comforting in some way.

The big killer to this wholly positive post is that I still kinda prefer Super Colossal overall. On a track-by-track basis, “Asik Vaysel” and “Andalusia” blow my mind and I’d choose one them over any single song on Super Colossal, though. “Andalusia” in particular is amazing, starting with an arrangement I can only describe as “deserty” because it reminds me of the Gerudo Desert music from Ocarina of Time, and then blows up and rocks your face off. Easily my favourite track on the album.

It’s a great album though! Not enough people get the understated beauty of instrumental rock. They’re all worried about the stupid overused love song lyrics, and don’t think about the real soul of the song anymore. And with the current club music craze, true feeling in popular music is essentially nonexistent. Boo on that.

Hm. Guess I could write a full post about it. Who knew?

Day Sixteen – GameSpite Quarterly Vol. 2

Well you must have guessed that this one would be down the pipe somewhere, right? To be honest, I probably should have just put these two together in the same day, because there isn’t nearly as much to say for Quarterly 2 without repeating most of what I said for Q1.

Anyway, the theme of this second book is the greatest games of all time. That is to say, Parish asked everyone on Talking Time and these are the 48 games that got the most votes (40 if you cheaped out and bought the paperback). Of course, all the articles are available directly on GameSpite.net, but there’s something heartwarming about having a tangible version of something so wonderful.

Most of the games featured in this one will shock no-one, as the lion’s share are all quite high-profile titles. There are a few that surprised me, like Dragon Quarter and Civilization, and the order is sometimes a little unexpected, but the real attention grabber is that Final Fantasy VII is nowhere to be seen. And that’s a good thing. That means that the part of the internet I live in has taste. Yay!

Like Q1, this is a wonderful read, and I couldn’t recommend it more (you should definitely buy a copy to support the site and writers! don’t just read it online!). The problem is that it makes me want to play all the games within! I bought Dragon Quarter and Final Fantasy XII based on the articles contained in this book despite the fact that I most definitely do not have the time to play through two of the most time-consuming RPGs on the PS2. Yeah.

Day Fifteen – Garry’s Mod

Along with Zombie Shooter, Edwin had sent me Half-Life 2 and Garry’s Mod for my birthday earlier this year. Being the awful friend I am, I had barely thoughed either of them until just recently. Thank God I finally cracked open Garry’s Mod though, as it is so much fun. Did I use enough italics there to sell my excitement?

It’s one of those things that in retrospect, I had heard of but never realized just what it was. Garry’s Mod, or GMod, as I will herein refer to it, is some sort of modification of Valve’s Source engine, and is mostly just a big toybox. You’re given all the assets of either Half-Life 2 or whatever Source engine game you have installed to to screw around with, and create whatever your little heart desires.

There are tons and tons of options in this game, and I’ve just barely scraped the surface of what I can do with it. That’s probably mostly because I’ve just been creating ragdolls and attaching bunches of balloons to them to make them float up into the sky (note the balloon fetishism above). Other than that, I haven’t done much more than spawning legions of zombies and watching them tear through a bunch of civilians an Alyxes.

Really, the best thing about GMod isn’t that it’s a ton of fun, but rather that you can do almost anything you can dream of with it. Obviously the more complicated your plans are, the more you’ll have to figure out to actually make it work (I’m still working on building the basic crate/sawblade car from the tutorial), but the payoff is totally worth it. Seeing the towering monument of randomly welded-on crap that I made once was oddly satisfying. Far more than it should have been, actually. Attaching a baby to a pole with an elastic and slingshotting it back and forth? That definitely shouldn’t have been as entertaining as it was.

Obviously, I give GMod the big two thumbs up of approval. It’s absolutely worth every penny Valve is charging for it. Not that I was the one paid for it or anything. But you get what I mean. I think tonight I’ll make a pen for my zombie slaughter, so they can’t come after me once they’ve murdered all everyone else. Or maybe I’ll try to build a little shack! Who knows…

Day Fourteen – The Office season 5

So here’s some Office things. Um. I don’t know. I don’t feel like writing today. Getting tired of this stupid blog thing. Blah.

Anyway, The Office. It’s a TV show, and season 5 is the most recently released on DVD. We watch it pretty religiously. As soon as the DVDs come out, anyway. Far too busy to bother trying to remember when it’s on and if it’s a new episode or not. Whatever. We usually have a set done within the week we start watching.

It’s a really great show. Quite funny, but also a little uncomfortable at times. The main character, Steve Carrell’s character, is so oblivious and naive and at times incredibly racist (by accident). It’s almost painful to watch him make an ass out of himself sometimes, but still hilarious. The rest of the characters are pretty great too. I noted that this season that Pam was by far the most prominent secondary character, which is good because she’s sassy and likable and Jim’s schtick is getting old. Definitely need more Andy/Dwight craziness though.

All in all, though my apathy here might imply otherwise, I’m just not in the mood for writing. Season 5 of The Office has quite possibly been the best yet (I really loved the Michael Scott Paper Company episodes), and I can’t wait for 6. Yeah, I could try to watch it on TV, but bleh. Too much effort. I’ll just buy the DVD.

Day Thirteen – Rock Band Queen DLC

It’s been nearly two years since Rock Band was first released, and every week since then, Harminix has added new songs onto the various console shops to play in the game. For a long time, I would eagerly bounce out of bed every Tuesday morning, eager to see if they’d added anythign I would like to play, and for the most part, the early stuff was really good. Lately they’ve been branching out a little more, even adding country into the mix, and it’s not very oftne that I check the music store these days.

Only in early September, there was a humongous announcement that there would finally be a Queen track pack released for the game. Queen being my favourite band ever, I was giddy. I had two wait nearly two months until it hit, but damn was I pumped.

Then it came and I’ve literally played Rock Band three times since I downloaded it. All three to play said Queen tracks, but still. To be completely honest, I think I’ve finally lost my lust for pretend guitaring. I mean, yeah, I still really enjoy playing the games, but they’re very low on my to-do list. Below reading, if you can believe that.

Anyway, the Queen track pack is pretty awesome. It’s got ten tracks in all, and they’re obviously all the band’s biggest hits. “I Want it All” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” are pretty fun to play, but “One Vision” sits high at the top of my list. We’ve already played the Hell out of “Killer Queen” and “Under Pressure” in Guitar Hero, but they’re still great to come back to. A couple songs, “Another One Bites the Dust” in particular, are retarded easy to play on the guitar side of things, but at the very least, the solos are always fun and challenging. Maybe you didn’t notice, but it’s definitely more of a pack for those vocalists out there, because hey, Freddie Mercury.

The only qualms I have is that “Tie Your Mother Down” makes my hand hurt, and where the fuck is “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Seriously. Unless Harmonix is holding it back for Rock Band 3, it’s a pretty heavy omission. But hey, it’s still Queen in Rock Band, which is suuuuper awesome no matter which way you slice it.

Day Twelve – GameSpite Quarterly Vol. 1

This whole feature is really focusing quite a bit on video games, isn’t it? I guess I should have used the same media type schedule that I did last year to mix things up a little better. Oh well, live and learn, I guess. So let’s talk about a book today! It’s a book about video games, but whatever. Deal with it.

Gamespite Volume 1 is the first direct-to-print venture by the writers at GameSpite.net, quite possibly the only wesite I talk about with other people. I’ve been reading the site for years now, and obviously I jumped when Parish said he was contracting his writers to make an actual book (that isn’t just a collection of already-posted content, which I also bought), and hopped on that badwagon as soon as I could.

It helped that the first issue was dedicated to Game Boy, which was my object of affection for many, many years. Me and my many Game Boys have been through everything together, and I will always cherish my big grey brick, as well as it’s few cousins that still remain in my posession. It was a sad day for me, the day that the Game Boy brand died and was replaced with the soulless, mass-market appeal DS brand, but that’s the way she goes. DS and I still have a long way to before we forge a bond similar to what I had with Game Boy, but it’ll never be the same. You never forget your first love.

But anyway! The book! It’s not really a book per se, even thoguh it looks like a book, and feels like a book, and tastes like a book. It does not, however, read like a book. That is because, despite its hardcover appearance, Gamespite Quarterly is essentially a magazine. It is filled with little articles, rather than a single long story. Though to be fair, there is a little segue between each section of the book that details the life and times of Game Boy, so there is kind of an overarching plot. But that’s besides the point!

The book is mainly filled with articles about Game Boy’s best games. You know, the obvious ones like Tetris and Link’s Awakening and Donkey Kong ’94. There’s also a few articles about competing hadheld devices, and even a few that have nothing to do with Game Boy at all. It’s a rather large book, being that it’s a magazine with zero advertisements. Also, it’s awesome. The writers at GameSpite are incredibly talented; the best ill make you want to go out and play a game having barely said anything about the game at all. I think they’ve influenced my on writing a bit, and I kind of dream of eventually writing a piece for a future issue, but as it stands I don’t think I’ve got what it takes quite yet.

The best part, though, is that Parish always includes a teaser image at the end of each issue, hinting at the theme for the next, and I find the suspense very entertaining in and of itself. It’s a tiny thing, but yeah. Awesome book. Go get a copy and support the site.

Day Eleven – Dead Space : Extraction

When Stephanie and I play video games together, there’s usually three categories what we’re playing falls under: Mario games, Rock Band (occasionally Guitar Hero), and Wii rail shooters. The first two are pretty obvious, but I was quite shocked at how quickly she took to Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. I wasn’t one to complain about my girlfriend liking games, so I took it and ran with it, buying House of the Dead: Overkill and more recently, Dead Space: Extraction.

House of the Dead was fun, and really over-the-top, but wasn’t something that really stuck with us. Dead Space, on the other hand, was soooooo cool. It’s a little strange that in two player mode, both players are technically the same person, but lack of a P2 character is a trifle.

I’ve never played the original Dead Space (I bought it recently, but haven’t had a chance to play it yet), but I was very intrigued by the idea of “strategic dismemberment.” It was a real system shock, trying to get used to the fact that I wanted to shoot my enemies in the limbs and not the head. The drawback here though, is that there are only about five enemy types, so there isn’t really much strategy involved after level three or so. You’ve seen all there is to see, and all you’ve gotta do is focus on choppin’ those limbs off.

But! The game is still a ton of fun, especially in two player mode. The competition isn’t too fierce, but in every game we play together, I usually get hit once or twice a session for taking all the items because she hadn’t noticed them or was too slow. Blasting the crap out of monsters as a team is great though, and since it’s a horror-themed game, I really enjoy how every time an enemy pops out she screams and jumps while I proceed to explode its legs.

As much as I enjoy the game though, no one thing stands out for me as something I really love about it. Which is sad, because it’s hard to write a piece according to new games journalism standards without a feature to focus on. I guess maybe the unlockables are really great? Each level gives you a rank in stars, and when you get enough stars, your guy levels up. As far as I can tell, it’s only extra life, but still neat. Weapons have upgrades hidden throughout the game as well, but I never noticed any difference after picking them up…

oh! Wait, it doesn’t warrant a whole review, but the unlockable comics are really cool. All the panels are narrated, and they shead a lot of light on the backstory of the game, which in itself is a prequel, so… Goin’ really far back then. And yeah. Those are the things I like about Dead Space: Extraction. It’s not as perfect as the Resident Evil rail shooters on the Wii, but it’s still a good time.

Day Ten – Pontypool

Today’s entry continues down the zombie path. Well, sort of. We recently rented this movie called Pontypool, whose trailer had been advertised in theaters, but never actually made its way there. I was quite disappointed because I really wanted to see it. But it did eventually show up at the local Blockbuster, and I pounced!

Pontypool is not your everyday horror movie. The film centers around two main characters, and they are in the same room for a good 80% of the movie’s length. This makes most of the action take place over the radio, and it’s great.

The most prominent thing about Pontypool is that it plays up the suspense by never showing you exactly what’s going on. Up until about three quarters of the way through, I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next, and what the Hell was going on. This is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that has wrangled 100% of my attention and held onto it until the very end.

The only thing that I didn’t like is the last leg of the movie, wherein a new character was introduced and started explaining it all. It was just conjecture, but since it all sort of worked out, it was dumb because the scariest things are the things you can’t understand. Also the explaination was kinda stupid and nonsensical, but at the very least it was original. I would have preferred it if there had been about half the exposition, if it was absolutely necessary. It’s like how Silent Hill is such a wonderfully frightening series because you’re never told exactly what is going on.

While I was a bit disappointed with the ending, I still think Pontypool is a fantastic movie, and I fully intend to add it to my DVD collection after Christmas, unless by some miracle it appears under my Christmas Tree. I also hope to read the novel, in hopes that like most, it is superior to the film version.

Day Nine – Zombie Shooter

Waaaaay way back in September, Edwin sent me a few games over Steam for my birthday (what a swell chap!), and one of those games was called Zombie Shooter.

This game is exactly what it sounds like. You’re a little woman (or man) in an isometric world, and you run around blasting the shit out of hordes and hordes of zombies. And when I say hordes of zombies, I mean hordes. The fist thing you’ll notice about Zombie Shooter is that there are boat loads of zombies. I think it goes so far as to have around 100 zombies on the screen at a time, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was actually double or more. I never stopped to count them.

The second thing you will notice is that the bloody remains of your slain foes stays there. No matter how long you wait, no matter how many more corpses you explode, the mess will stay until you leave the level. Click on the screencap below for a bigger sample of the carnage left behind after a wave of undead have met their end.

The gameplay here is really simple, and I think that the reason I enjoyed it so much (besides the zombie motif, obviously) is because it reminds me of a game I only had the shareware version of way back in the day: Cyberdogs. I played that demo over and over and over, and all I ever wanted was the full version. Basically the game was about running through simple little levels, killing everything that moved, and collecting money to upgrade your character between levels. Yes, this formula is used for many other games on the market, but Cyberdogs was my first. I’ve downloaded it many times, but since it’s a DOS game and I’m far too lazy to install and figure out how to use DOSbox, it’ll never happen. Zombie Shooter fills that void though, and it’s even a little more refined. Also better graphics. But no multiplayer, which is boo.

Zombie Shooter is really fun though! And for the low, low price of $4.99, worth every penny! I’m even considering buying the sequel, which apparently has a lot more content and is only $10. They really need to add some multiplayer support if there ends up being a third though. That would make it really awesome. Also less (or at least less obvious) grammatical errors. I have complete this entry.

Day Eight – G.I. Joe : The Rise of Cobra

To continue my train of thought from yesterday, let’s chat about the recently-released live action G.I. Joe movie for a while!

I may have mentioned it briefly on the blog when it was new in theaters, but I was incredibly surprised at how G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra turned out. From the day I saw the first screencaps up until the day I went to see it, I was completely convinced that it would be an awful bludgeoning of a beloved childhood franchise. Surprise! It wasn’t!

I think the most poignant thing I can say about the movie is that it was undeniably better than 1986’s G.I. Joe The Movie, which was not bad overall, but has the most ridiculous story and plot twists ever. Not to say that The Rise of Cobra‘s plot is airtight or anything, but it beats the Hell out of taking over the world by turning everyone into mutants with funky alien spores.

The Rise of Cobra is not a groundbreaking film. It’s just another effects-bloated summer blockbuster. But it is really fun! And better than Transformers! You know the scene in the trailer when Duke and Ripcord are running down the street and dodging missiles in those super suit things? I thought that looked really stupid in the trailer, but the entire scene is actually really enjoyable.

Where the movie really shines though, is in the final battle scene, which I like to describe as “Star Wars under the sea”. It’s got a huge ship battle outside the base, a shocking relationship revelation, and a fight to the death between two ninja masters. How does that not resemble the makings of a great Star Wars film? Or a great film otherwise?

Yes, truly the only real downside to The Rise of Cobra is Channing Tatums’s stale acting. Hopefully the next movie mimics the progression of the cartoon and kind of gives Duke the backseat in favour of Flint. I mean, there are a lot of other things you could gripe about, but it’s a shallow Hollywood blockbuster. So just sit back and watch the fun action scenes.

Oh, also, it doesn’t have Shipwreck. Boo-urns. But that’s what sequels are for.

Day Seven – G.I. Joe : A Real American Hero

I never had too much opportunity to watch the G.I. Joe cartoon when I was young. I just never knew when it was on. Maybe we didn’t have the right channel. I’m not sure why. I know my brother once got a VHS with a single episode on it packed in with an action figure or something, and we watched that tape until it died. I loved G.I. Joe, not quite as much as my brother did, but I did have a ton of those little guys.

Of course, when television-producing comapnies learned that they could make bucketloads of money by showing their shows on DVDs, G.I. Joe, as the theme song goes, was there. The issue being that they were charging $100 (give or take) for half-season sets. So I skipped on those, despite that it was something that I was itching badly to have.

Finally though, Hasbro (or Shout Factory or whoever made the decision) has wisened up and re-released the show on new half-season sets that only run $25, which is not only acceptable, but awesome! Awesome because as it turns out, G.I. Joe is just as great as I had always imagined it was!

I’ve burned through the first half of season one at this point, and I’m truly loving it. A little miffed that Shipwreck isn’t the main character in every episode, but that’s really asking too much. Um, also the theme song is fantastic, if a little cheesy. Sticks in my head for days at a time.

The only thing that I’v found is that I liked the big, long 5-part miniseries episodes a lot longer than the singles. Maybe it’s because they allowed slightly more complicated stories, or more characters. Maybe it’s because they’re very video-gamey in the “collect X number of superweapon parts before the enemy” plots. I don’t know, but they were somehow noticably more satifying.

But seriously guys! The animation quality is really good for an 80’s kiddie cartoon, and it doesn’t rely on pop-culture to sell itself, so it hasn’t gotten all stale and crusty like the original Ninja Turtles cartoon. The voice acting isn’t always totally convincing, mostly in Duke’s case, but like any failings you might find with the series, Shipwreck alone makes up for it.

Case in point: Shipwreck is awesome. Especially when working with Snake Eyes. And I guess it’s pretty entertaining whenever Alpine and Bazooka get paired up too.

Day Six – Matthew Good : Vancouver

Did I mention Hospital Music last year? Because it was far and away the greatest album Matthew Good has ever ever released. It was so deep and full of love and emotion and it was completely eccentric and I loved every second of it. Even “Girl Wedged Under the Front of a Firebird” which was not so much a song, but the looped ramblings of a homeless man. Anyway!

Vancouver, sadly, cannot compete with the prior album’s brilliance. When judged by its own merits, however, it is truly fascinating. It’s like how Chase This Light was to Futures for Jimmy Eat World, if you need a comparison. Or anything Led Zeppelin releaed after IV.

Matthew Good, as you may have heard, is a very politically aware person. Which makes it easy to understand why he might write a concept album about his hometown of Vancouver. The songs reflect many social issues surrounding the city. Pretty much none of this comes through to me. I’ll admit, I live a life of luxurious bliss and tend to block out a lot of the unpleasant stuff that this album was made to make me more aware of.

While it hasn’t made me decide to go out and try to change the world for the better, I very much do respect the man for caring so much and writing about something that matters so strongly to him. This makes sense. Unlike deciding that from now on all your songs will be about Bush, which is just lame (ahem).

So yeah. The music is pretty sweet too. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Matthew Good: an album full of deep and wildly varied music. It’s all completely original sounding, but it sounds exactly like Mathew Good. After listening to his work for a while, you get to understand that he will try many different things, but in the end, it’s all immediately recognizable. His faster songs are catchy without being too sweet, and his slow songs will chill you right down to the bone.

I don’t know if I’ve said anything that would be at all useful to anyone trying to decide whether or not to buy the album, but just know that the bottom line is if you like Matthew Good, you’ll be in heaven. The man is a genius, and let’s all buy his music.

Day Five – New Super Mario Bros. Wii

So this one was inevitable, right? I mean, it’s Mario. On a console. In a side-scroller. Moving in two dimensions. Awesome

Um, anyway. New Super Mario Bros Wii is quite likely the most fun I’ve had in ever. See, Mario games are great and all, and this one is no exception, but one player really doesn’t even register once you’ve experienced the utter chaos of multiplayer Mario.

I’ve nearly finished the game 100% (SPOILER! I still have a few levels in the secret world to go), and while I did a little adventuring on my own, I had my girlfriend in tow playing as Luigi. It is a fucking riot. You cannot play Mario well with more than one person, but it is so so so so so much fun. You’ll be murdering each other left and right, stealing power-up and lives, and causing a huge headache for anyone who wants to play legitimately. We never got a third party in, but playing two players was pandemonium enough.

In this game, when you hit a power-up block, the game gives items according to how many players there are, so everyone has a chance to be more than regular-sized. Time after time, one of us would jump on top of a power-up block just as the other hit it from below, snagging both items in the process. There were even more instances of one player trying to make a jump, but then the other comes out of nowhere, and the first player hits them from below and is sent careening into a pit. But what’s worst is when somebody picks you up, and throws you into a bottomless hole. Or a goomba. Or lava. Or a giant studded death dong. It sounds more frustrating than anything, but everytime we played, I would end up with a hoarse throat from laughing so much.

The game itself is fantastic too. The propeller hat and penguin suit are great power-ups that offer plenty of versatility without breaking the game (see: cape). The levels are fairly long, and nearly every single one has some sort of gimmick. One might be a gauntlet of gigantic gears, or a boat that stops moving if too many bodies are on it, or physics-breaking free-floating water orbs. It’s vastly superior in every way to the DS New Super Mario Bros, and I thought that was pretty spiffy when it came out. Plus Koopa Kids apparently. I don’t know what the deal is with them, but they’re fan favourites I guess. Don’t see the appeal myself. The final boss is awesome in every way though, and nearly impossible to beat on multiplayer.

So, um, yeah. Game of the Year. It’s a totally sweet ride to play alone, but you should most definitely try to get at least one other person in there at all times. I’m willing to declare that it may even be too much fun.

Day Four – Pokémon Rumble (demo)

If there’s any one thing that Nintendo’s WiiWare service is sorely lacking, it’s that it doesn’t provide game demos for people who’d like to try before they buy. People have been complaining about that since Virtual Console, nd yet for some reason, only now has Nintendo begun to remerdy the situation. And even now, they’re only offering demos for a select handful of WiiWare titles. Even worse, they’re only going to be up there for a limited time.

On the upside, what they did put demos for is mostly great, and will likely spur some actual sales. The five demos are offer are for NyxQuest, World of Goo, Pokémon Rumble, FF Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord, and Bit.Trip Beat. I downloaded the first three (having already owned Darklord and no interest in Bit.Trip Beat), and two were definite winners.

NyxQuest seems like it has potential hidden in the latter parts of the game, but what’s in the demo is far too basic and slow for me to care about. World of Goo is really really cool, and seems like a pretty solid game, but it doesn’t seem like a $15 investment to me. If it were $10, I would own it.

Pokémon Rumble, on the other hand, I have frothing demand for. It’s a really simple 3D brawler, but for some reason, it makes my soul yearn for more. Probably because of the collection aspect.

The game is about toy Pokémon who battle each other in hopes of becoming the top Pokémon in the battle royale. But of course, it’s not just as easy as hopping in and beating the shit out of everyone else. The game starts you with only a pitifully weak Rattata, who stands no chance in teh Battle Royale (and in fact, only gets in because somebody didn’t close the door all the way).

From there, it’s a matter of wandering through a few levels and slaughtering millions of other Pokémon in an effort to recruit stronger monsters into your team. You can only play as one Pokémon at a time, but you have a huge roster (unlimited maybe? I haven’t hit a cap) from which you can swap out monsters whenever you like.

Each pocket monster has at least most of their personal attack repertoire, but can only know two attacks at a time. When recruited, they’ll have one set as a default, and then any additonal skills much be bought from a move roulette. And as you may have guessed, I used the word “roulette” because additonal moves are handed out at random. It’s a bit inconvenient, to tell the truth. Also a bit strange is that your toy Pokémon never level up or evolve. So if you want to buff up a certain monster, you’ll have to grind its level until you find one that meets your needs. Which is a little lame, but I’ll let it slide. This time.

I haven’t played the Battle Royale yet because the demo cuts out just before you’re allowed in, but playing levels is pretty repetitive, and really only enjoyable after about three levels because of the OCD of finding and collecting stronger monsters. Also because massacring hordes of Pokémon is unnervingly satisfying. I’m definitely getting the full version, but not soon because I’m trying to hint to my brother that i want him to gift it to me for Christmas. So until then, I’m stuck playing the demo over and over. Fortunately it’s fun!

Day Three – Paramore : Brand New Eyes

I know it’s not cool if you’re not a fourteen-year-old girl, but I like Paramore. Particularly their newest CD, Brand New Eyes. It’s really quite good! Don’t let “That’s What You Get” sour you on the idea of the band, because they’re really quite capable of much higher quality music. And this album would be the conclusive evidence to back up that claim.

Now, I liked Riot!. It isn’t the deepest album in my collection, but it’s a fun disc, and has a few stand-out tracks. Their first album, All We Know is Falling is worlds different, sounding very much like a first album from an alt-rock band, not relying on poppy hooks and saccharine lyrics to lure in the mindless radio drones. I was very worried, in fact, that since Paramore had gained a considerable amount of popularity after Riot! that Brand New Eyes would just be more of the same. My fears were completely unfounded, however, as the new album is much closer in spirit to their first.

This is awesome for many reasons. The one I like the most is because it shows that Paramore is not just another sellout fad that ends up playing the same music over and over because that’s what the radio stations want. Riot!, as far as I can tell, was a bit of a compromise. It seems like the album they made to get their name out there. And now, Brand New Eyesgoes back to their grittier, alternative sound, which makes music snobs like me very happy.

The lyrics on display are far more poetic, offering far more imagery and metaphor as opposed to most of the songs on Riot!, which are comparatively shallow and aren’t too far off from your dime-a-dozen “I wasn’t popular in high school so I’m going to write a million songs about it” band. They aren’t Matthew Good deep, but the writers evidently have a penchant for the craft and their ability is clearly maturing. The accompanying music doesn’t slouch either, and can easily be described as everywhere from energetic to experimental to haunting. Each track is undeniably individual, and most provide a wonderful range of riffs and melodies.

I bought this one for the woman because I was unsure of how it would turn out, but now that I know I can trust Paramore not be be a big pile of sellout, I’m most definitely going to be getting their next disc on day one.

Day Two – Turtles in Time : Re-Shelled

Ha ha! I told you we weren’t done with those Ninja Turtles yet! But we will be after this post, so just sit tight, okay?

Turtles in Time was a HUGE game. Not necessarily in scope, but in the fact that at the time, it was the number one most sought-out SNES brawler out there. Actually, that’s probably still the case. All the guys I worked with at Toys R Us who regularly play video games were pretty into this one, so I can only assume the rest of the world agrees. Take into account though, that the arcade version, while prettier, was not quite as well loved. It was shorter, had fewer bosses, and would eat up your small stack of quarters fairly quickly.

You can imagine how I was both excited and let down when I learned that there was a remake of the game to be released on Xbox Live Arcade, then.

The bad news is that it’s a port of the arcade version, which is balls, but it’s not a deal breaker. The music also suffers, like all the ports of TMNT arcade games, because the rights to that music appears to have vanished into the ether. So we get some bland upbeat poppy business. Oh well.

The good news is that the game is otherwise the same! Or better! The biggest (and only, as far as I can tell) gameplay change is that you can now attack in eight directions, rather than just left and right, making defending yourself a bit easier. Otherwise, it’s the same old “walk to the right and beat the shit out of everyhitng that moves” formula that made the original such a winner. Or was it the fact that it was Ninja Turtles? There are a huge number of games that are exactly the same but with different graphics that aren’t anywhere near as appealing, so it’s probably the license that sells it.

The graphics have also obviously been redone, and the Turtles’ voices have been updated to be the same as those from the 2000’s TV series. Which is good. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last few years is that people don’t love the surfer-talking TMNT nearly as much as they did 20 years ago. The graphics are really nice too, being almost perfectly true to the original spite-based game, but splashed up in fany-pants 3D. It’s every bit as colourful as the original, and all the personality stays intact as well.

Of course, what would all this mean if the game wasn’t fun? It is, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. You’ve played Turtles in Time. Everyone has. So grab a couple friends and a Microsoft points card, and go out and kick some shell already!

Day One – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up

I can hear everyone groaning already. Yeah, more Ninja Turtles, but deal with it, okay? (This isn’t the last time you’ll see them!) You may have heard of this one, as there was actually quite a bit of hype leading up to it. Which is both comforting and strange at the same time. Comforting, because it means at best, there are a few people out there besides me that still love the Turtles. Strange, because it’s a Ubisoft game, and as we well know, most of those are garbage.

But alas! Impressions were good going in, which helped the cause greatly, and also apprently most of the team that worked on Super Smash Brothers Brawl were behind this game, giving it a pretty stellar leg up. I think that without that team’s experience, Smash-Up might have suffered a much more disappointing fate, but that is not the case.

The most important thing I can say about Smash-Up is that like its older cousin, it is incredibly fun. As a party game, mind you. Single player is a bit light, and there isn’t anywhere near as much variety as in Brawl to keep a single person occupied for too long, but it serves well enough. Playing with others is a blast and a half though. The controls are fairly similar to Smash Bros, so vets of that game can get into the TMNT groove quickly, and that also means they’re simple enough for a novice to jump in and be able to hold their own.

Now the downside here is that immediately after release, a lot of fans were pissed. The character roster is minimalistic, and annoyingly padded with Ubisoft’s Rabbid characters (whose appeal had worn off after the second Rayman Raving Rabbids game), featuring only 13 TMNT characters and 3 Rabbid varieties. It’s not something that breaks the game, but Ubisoft made some promises about a more robust roster, and declined saying anything of the sort as soon as the game found its way to store shelves. I myself don’t particularly mind, as the only people I care to play as are Raphael and Shredder anyway. The stage selection is a bit short too, with only 14 arenas. All but one have at least one gimmick, and some take place over multiple screens. This I’m a little more uneasy about, because none of them click with me, and I really love having a huge stage variety. I know it’s really snobby of me, but even Brawl‘s massive selection of stages barely slakes my thirst for an endless variety of battlegrounds. Stage creator equals win, though. Sadly, Smash-Up offers no such feature.

You’ll notice that I’ve spent almost all my time here comparing Smash-Up to Brawl, and honestly, if you played both games for yourself, you’d have a hard time not doing the same. They are extremely similar in many, many ways. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Smash-Up is a slightly beefed-up reskinning of the first Smash Brothers. It’s lower on content than people expect these days, and it works ever-so-slightly differently, but really, both games are tons of fun to play with others. They’re also alike in that playing online sucks nuts. Local multiplayer is really the only way to go here. You’ve gotta have the other person/people in the room right there with you or it’s just not the same.

Look out!

Needless to say, it’s been kind of a busy month. I am pretty wizziped out right now, and should probably be catching up on sleep rather than blogging. But I haven’t blogged in weeks! One might say I haven’t had a good sleep in at least as long, but that’s besides the point. I’ve kind of let video games drop off my to-do list lately, barely able to find time to cram in games I’ve been working on for a while, much less new ones. So just so you know what I’m trying to play as of late, here are some impressions of said games.

Mario Kart Wii : Is there anything more frustrating than Mario Kart? The rubber-band AI is infuriating, but at the same time, when you win, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. And of course, multiplayer is a blast too. But I think this one’s even more broken than ever, because I earned gold trophies on every grand prix on every difficulty on Mario Kart DS, but I just barely struggled my way to victory in the 100cc class in this iteration. But like I said, multiplayer really makes up for it. I’ve yet to win a single online match, but I’ve enjoyed each and every race I’ve participated in.

Baroque : A roguelike, but not. The only difference is that it’s not turn-based. I’ve developed a really bad crush on roguelikes as of late (as I may have said before) and Baroque is sating my need nicely. The real-time thing makes it noticably easier than turn-based roguelikes, but that’s okay. After being completely destroyed over and over in Shiren the Wanderer and Izuna, I like having a place to go where I can make some notable progress. Although it’s hard to tell exactly when you’re making progress in Baroque, because it’s structured very differently from any game I’ve ever played, but still, goodness. The somewhat macabre aesthetic really helps keep me into it too.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time : Before we move off the topic of roguelikes, I might as well mention the pokémon entry. It’s probably the only roguelike that non-niche gamers will ever play, but in that, it’s a great way to draw in new fans to the genre. It’s not a (comparative) cakewalk like Baroque, but it’s cerainly not as brutal as Shiren. It stands to reason though, because the target demographic is between the 5- to 10-year-old age range, and I don’t recall children being overly fond of games that are as merciless as the common roguelike. But do I like the game? Uuuh, yeah. It’s Pokémon, come on. I actually skipped the first set of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, but I’m glad I broke down and picked one up this time around.

Crosswords DS : Hey fuck you. I love doing crossword puzzles, especially when they don’t reference pop culture and I’m able to solve them. But what’s better? The card is not only loaded with bajillions of crosswords; it’s got a vast expanse of word search puzzles too! Do you have any idea how many giant word search books I burned through in my childhood? Lots.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King : I am in love with this game. I’m seriously considering spending less time with my girlfriend so I can play this game more*. I even tried to write a comic about it. And I sort of described how much I like it there too, so just go there if you want to read that.

The World Ends With You : Oh, wait. I haven’t actually started playing this yet. But it looks so good! Well, not literally. I’m actually getting kind of tired of Tetsuya Nomura, but the gameplay aspect seems like it’s really fun. So yeah. Maybe I’ll be able start it by the end of the summer. I’ll let you know.

*I’m not actually considering that. I’m dumb, but not that dumb.

Remembering the Cottage: Part 1

My fondest memories can more or less be summed up in three categories: “Shopping at Toys ‘R’ Us”, “Holidays/Trips”, and “The Cottage”. The first two categories can still potentially be added to, but sadly, the third is now sealed away as only memories.

I’ve mentioned many a time on this website (most often in the blog) my many visits to my grandparents’ house, which just happened to be a sweet cottage out on the Winnipeg River. The thing is, I never described many events in detail, or took any pictures while I was out there. to nearly everyone, this mysterious cottage could have just as well been a well-constructed myth. To me though, it was very real, and it was the essence of my summers. I spent at least two weeks out there during the summer months for as long as I can remember, and there were quite often other trips out there for such events as Spring Break, Christmas, Thanksgiving, family reunions, long weekends, and many more. It was a great place, and while I may not have appreciated it quite as much in my older years, it was still a place I loved being very much.

Imagine my heartbreak when I first heard that my grandparents were thinking about selling. As if enough bad mojo wasn’t surrounding me in the year 2007, but now my beloved cottage was going to be taken away? Yeah, it sucks balls. The place was actually sold right at the end of August, and on my last weekend out there, I decided I would take a few pictures so I could put them on a webpage laced with wonderful stories of the time I’d spent there. This is that page, and it’s definitely more for my own sake than for anyone else to read, but feel free to sift through it. There are a lot of memories and strong emotions here, so don’t expect even an attempt at humour.

The TV Room

Overview: Ah, the TV room. I probably spent more hours here than anywhere else, but there are a couple catches that help to make that seem less like I was glued to the TV for all the time I was at the cottage. The most obvious one would be that for a couple years I used one of the couches as my bed, so that racks up the hours pretty quickly. If I regret anything in my lifetime, it’s that I didn’t spend nearly enough time out on the balcony that extends from this room. Don’t know why, but it just never seemed like the place I should be hanging out.

Atari: I guess the earliest thing I can remember this room for is that it’s where we had out Atari. Long before I got hooked on video games, my dad left his Atari system out here, only to be dug up many years later so he could show me the kind of games that were around before the NES. I spent many many hours playing Kangaroo, Pitfall, and Pac-Man. Even back when I was only but a wee lad, I could recognize that ET was the worst game ever made. The biggest mystery about the whole thing though, was that we had a manual for Donkey Kong, but there was nary a cartridge to go with it. Oh, how I burned to play Donkey Kong.

Simpsons & Bonding time: My younger cousin would often come in to visit at the same time we did in the summers, and it worked out well because he’s very much like me, so myself and The Youngest One would often spend a lot of time hanging out in here with him and playing whatever handheld game was in at the time. Or just whatever the most recent Pokémon game was. Those two are even more into Pokémon than I am, and I would always get into it when we came out to the cottage, because the young ones just wouldn’t shut up about it, and that would drag me into it. The Tall One and I were also deeply entrenched in the MegaMan Battle Network series, and it was pretty much a summertime tradition to buy the games just before we went out the cottage and simply play the Hell out of them while we were there. Both series of games brought me not only the regular pleasure of playing video games, but also a lot of valuable bonding time with my brothers and cousin. Sure, I can still play with them at home, but it’s just not the same. Also, my grandparents got satellite TV a few years back, and it seemed like that on any given evening that we were there, the Simpsons would always be on at least one channel, so we generally always had that on in the background. Good times, they were. Good times.

Movie night: Back in the day, my grandpa would often borrow a bunch of movies from a neighbour so we had something to watch while we were out there (this was before the satellite, and we were restricted to like three fuzzy channels). This is notable because it’s the first place I ever saw Kindergarten Cop, which remains my favourite Schwarzenegger film, and is near the top of my overall favourites. Many other times, while my grandparents were staying in the city, my family would come out for the weekend and basically binge on junk food and watch movies. Most of them were stinkers like RV and Epic Movie (to name some of the most recent), but it was still cherished time spent with my family and many, many cookies.

Random thoughts: It was a great place to hang out, and of course we often brought more in the way of video games than handhelds, as Atari was fun, but never quite enough. We fought over which console we would bring each time almost as much as we fought over who got to sit in that big reclining chair you can see in the second picture. I played a lot of Donkey Kong 64 out here, and that particular week at the cottage remains one of the most memorable for many reasons. I’ll always carry in my heart the memories of the first time I caught all the legendary birds in Pokémon Blue, as they were all while I was out at the cottage. I spent many subsequent trips out there playing through the game again and again, always reliving my triumphs over Zapdos, Articuno and Moltres with a smile on my face, often in the middle of the night when I should have been long asleep.

Guest Bedrooms

Overview: Only one is pictures, but there were actually two bedrooms upstairs. While I suppose they weren’t technically guest bedrooms, nobody used them but guests, so there you have it. Until the shed outside was turned into a mini-cottage of sorts (more on that later), we would often sleep in these rooms. For a handful of years I slept in the TV Room, as I mentioned before, but these were where we stayed the majority of the time.

Bedtime: The room you see pictured is actually the final phase of that room’s series of redecorations. Initially it had two huge beds lined against the window wall and the wall opposite the shelving. And when I say huge, I mean huge enough to play underneath with plenty of room to spare. I guess they were more high up than anything else, but while they were in there, I was still small enough to think they were gigantic. Until The Youngest One was born, the older two and I would sleep in this room together, a crib or mattress was placed in the empty floor when needed, and I moved onto the second bedroom room when The Youngest One came along and three beds weren’t enough to satisfy the four of us. But until that time, we spent many nights staying up “late” (back when 10:30 was late) and telling stories and jokes in the dark. Being all boys, there was plenty of roughhousing after bedtime too, and I really miss those times.

Bedtime 2: Eventually, when I moved onto the second upstairs bedroom, I was on my own and free to do whatever I pleased instead of sleeping. Obviously, I used that time alone to play GameBoy, listen to music, and read (most memorably the Final Fantasy VIII strategy guide, because that was another completely kickass summer) all through the night. Once the boys started sleeping outside (in the aforementioned shed) I took over the original room for myself again, and at that point it had been rearranged into the room you see in the picture above.

Comics: You can see the shelving in the picture, but hidden behind the pile of assorted sheets and whatnot is a huge collection of comics. They consisted mostly of Archie, Alf, Heathcliff, and Richie Rich. While those aren’t exactly my first choices in comics nowadays, I was pleased as punch to spend countless afternoons leafing through them. And though it took me a couple years to get the job done, I did eventually read through them all. Taking note of my love of comics, my grandpa started saving me the Sunday comics from the Free Press every week, and every time I went out to the cottage he’d always have a stack of funnies for me to peruse. He still saves them for me to this day, and I haven’t put any time aside to read through them for a while now, so I’ve got a rather large pile in my closet just waiting to be read or thrown out.

Horsin’ Around: Back when we were young, and the huge beds were still in the room, my brothers and I spent a lot of time playing in there, often concluding in someone being injured, however slightly. The number one game would be “Lava Monster”, which I know is not exclusive to us, because I’ve seen characters on TV playing it. But in case you have no idea, basically one person would be the Lava Monster and have to stay on the floor, and anyone else would be trying to stay on the beds while the Lava Monster tried to pull them down “into the lava”. The limited playfield may seem like an issue when I describe it, but it was more than enough when we were just lil’ guys. Plus, we’d always get any other visiting children to join in too, so sometimes the Lava Monsters would amount to more than one, depending on rules (either “Tag” or “Last Man Standing”).

Random Thoughts: Now that I think about it, I guess probably the thing I miss most about the cottage (and childhood in general) was playing with the older two of my brothers. While we still hang out and play video games together now and then, we don’t spend nearly as much time together as we did when we went to the cottage. Back when we were kids, we fought a lot (like, seriously, a lot) at home, but as soon as we got to the cottage, we were like best friends. It’s weird to say because I still see them every day, but I kinda miss my brothers. The Youngest One, I still find plenty of time to hang out with though, so at least I’ve got that. For now.

The Kitchen / Dining Room

Overview: Honestly, the living room, dining room, and kitchen are pretty much all the same room. But that’s hardly the point here. Being the glutton that I am, this area of the house holds just as many lovely memories for me as any other room. My grandma is a wonderful cook, and even the simplest dishes meant a lot, just because. I’ll certainly miss the couple weeks each year where I was guaranteed to have three square meals a day.

Breakfast time: Where to start? I suppose breakfast would be the obvious one. I’m not a big breakfast eater. I adore the meal, but very rarely to I have enough motivation or time to partake. The nice thing about the cottage is that breakfast was always a sure thing (with the exception of the later years where I would stay up too late and sleep right through breakfast time). Most of the time it would be a simple cereal/toast/fruit affair, but that was okay. My grandpa would always have the paper completely read by the time I got up, so when I was eating breakfast, he’d have the comics and puzzles pulled out and ready for me. Eating cereal is twice as awesome when you’ve got a crossword laid out for you and someone to chat with. On the best mornings, my grandma would make pancakes. Oh, those were mornings to really treasure. Until later on when grandma didn’t feel like making tons of them, my brothers and I would always compete to see who could scarf down the most. Good times were had by everyone, but our bellies were probably the happiest of all. Lazy mornings are probably my absolute most favourite thing in the world, and at the cottage, they were all that much better.

Lunch: I never looked quite as forward to lunch as much as I did breakfast, but I still like to revel in the nostalgia of noon-related meals. Most of all, would be when I was between eight and twelve or so, and we would often get the boat out and go fishing with my grandpa in the mornings. We’d always get bored pretty quickly and just resort to fooling around on the boat, but going home was a payoff in more than just getting back on dry land. My grandma would generally have lunch ready by that time, and it was awesome. Coming home to a big plate of sandwiches, veggies, cheese, cookies, and all sorts of etc was just superb after a long morning of fishing. Of course, lunch was great on other days, but those are the ones I remember the most. Looking back on this, I guess maybe it all sounds a bit mundane, but you really had to be there. Being pre-adolescent would help too.

Dinner: This is where grandma’s cooking really comes into play. You’re not going to do anything too fancy for lunch, but dinner is a different story. Grandpa often joked that he ate like a king whenever we were over, and I suppose maybe it’s not too far from the truth. I’m a notoriously picky eater, so I would often pick at some things, but most of the time I ate really well. Hams were especially common, and my family seems to be imbued with the power of making wicked awesome mashed potatoes. Going to the cottage on special occasions was great too, because that meant my grandma would make an extra huge and extra delicious dinner, which was always something to look forward to, even for one with as particular eating habits as me. In fact, I actually wrote about one particularly wonderful Easter dinner on the blog. Turns out it would be the last Easter diner we ever ate there….


Overview: While it’s true that being at the cottage was in itself the high point of going to the cottage, there were plenty of other cool places nearby to spend time. Most were great for adventuring while we were little, and some offered more than a simple thrill of an excursion into the unknown. All of them though, played a vital role in making trips to the cottage as memorable as the were.

Town: The cottage was about a five minute drive from the nearest town, Lac du Bonnet. I never cared too much for it while younger, but as I grew, I started to realize that it was more than just a grocery store and a beach. Annual Canada Day parades, while officially boring as Hell, would become an important family tradition, and the fireworks afterward only seem to get better each year. It was also home to the only dollar store where I’d ever seen the infamous Nintendo Surprise. It has since closed down and moved to a much larger building, and the goods within have become only slightly less magical. When Subway moved in, it was all we talked about for ages. The only chain restaurant that had been in the town until then was Chicken Chef, and that’s not the kind of place you just go on a whim. Nope, after Subway moved in, I don’t think there was one trip to the cottage where we didn’t partake.

Town 2: Pinawa is a little farther away, and we visited less often, but always for good reason. Firstly, I would like to mention that if it weren’t for my need to shop compulsively for various electronic media, this is exactly the kind of place I would like to live in. It’s small, but not tiny, and most if not all of the houses are quite nice. I’ve always entertained the thought of living in a small town, and Pinawa has always romanticized that idea. Anyhow, the main attraction here is The Burger Boat & Ice Cream Barge. It’s not the best ice cream place I’ve ever gone, but there’s something special about getting your ice cream from a boat. Always a special occasion, going to The Burger Boat was something to really get excited about. Seriously! On a boat! Turns out they even have their own web page. Neat!

The Boat Launch: A short hike away from the cottage, there’s a boat launch that I’ve never seen anyone use for boats. We’d go swimming or fishing off it, but never any boats. Probably because nearly everyone with a boat in the area has their own boat launch, but that’s besides the point. In any case, over the years, it became more of a point just for me to travel out to just to get some alone/thinking time. There were better spots for such things, but they were all farther away, and I’m lazy. The hike there was worth mentioning too, as there was always a bunch of stuff on the way. Mostly bodies of water to skip rocks in and bales of hay to climb on, but they meant a lot back in the day.

The Rocks: Along Tower Road was, that’s right, a tower. To this day I’m not sure exactly what kind of tower it was. Maybe a broadcasting tower of some sort? No idea, but that’s not what we ventured over there for. All around the mysterious tower were what seemed like endless miles of rocks perfectly fit for climbing. Heading out there at least once per summer, we’d make entire days of climbing around, searching for something, but not quite knowing what that something was. Maybe we were looking for anything at all? To me, it always seemed like the formations had changed, but I guess that’s dumb to say. I know they couldn’t have, but I guess my mental mapping skills weren’t entirely developed by then. We did, on occasion, find a small pile of rocks that signified that someone else had been wandering around there too, and we’d often set up our own little rock piles, with the intent of showing both other people and ourselves that we’d been there already. I haven’t been out there since I was about fifteen, and many times I’ve considered just making a trip out there to visit both Lac du Bonnet and Pinawa, and to spend the rest of the day climbing around on the rocks I so loved as a young’un. Maybe I’ll get around to it one of these summers.

More!: Yeah. There’s still more here. Hell, I could go on nearly forever with stories of my youth in any of these categories. It just so happens that the ones that take place outside sound infinitely less boring to everyone else. There were a lot of other places we’d head out to see what we could see, often against our wills. The Pinawa Dam was close enough that we didn’t mind going, but there still wasn’t much of interest. Point Du Bois was much farther away, and while it held a bunch of great memories for my grandparents and dad, there’s like nothing there that’s even remotely interesting to anyone who never lived/spent summers there. There were all sorts of other landmarks that my grandparents liked to take us to, like a big ol’ suspension bridge, and yet another dam. All were pretty boring and mosquito-filled, but in the end, I appreciate them taking us, because as lackluster as they are, they still count as good memories.

Woof. Considering that I haven’t tapped even half the pictures I took, this article could very well go on forever. We certainly don’t want that, now do we? No. So, keeping everyone’s best interest in mind, I’ll stop here for the moment and call it Part One. How many more will there be? Who knows! It’ll likely only be a two-parter, but if I’m as verbose with ther rest of the pictures as I’ve been with the ones I’ve posted so far, we’ll likely be seeing a Part Three as well. But that’ll be the absolute limit. Even if I tried, there’s no way I could justify doing this in a four-part series. I guess you can’t really put a limit on your memories, but the honest truth is that most of the events that I found significant and still dream happily about would be viewed as horribly mundane by pretty much anyone else. So keep an eye out for number two. Given how long it took me to finish this one, we should be seeing it by the second half of 2011.

Behind the lens

While we’re throwing out curveballs here, I suppose I’ll take this opportunity to talk about Pokémon Snap. Not the most popular game to grace the Nintendo 64, I was immediately drawn in by the game, mostly because at the time I was at the peak of my Poké-fandom. I played it a lot, actualy, which is odd, because I ended up thinking very little of the game. I guess I got a lot of entertainment out of it, but the conclusion I drew at the end was that it wasn’t a very good game.

I guess I must have missed something though. A while ago, I was listening to the Pokémon episode of Retronauts, and while they only briefly touched on it, I got the impression that the cast generally enjoyed the game. And then it was announced for Virtual Console a couple weeks ago, and bloggers everywhere rejoiced. I was curious as to what exactly was going on. Did the world outside me and my circle of friends like Pokémon Snap? Seems so, as a modicum of research has proven that the game received pretty respectable review scores back when it was originally released.

This entire story culminates in the game being released today on the Wii’s Virtual Console service. Swept up in the mania leading up to it’s release, I downloaded it myself, and played for about an hour tonight. Somewhat surprised, I actually got into the game again! Dunno how, but while Snap is short and doesn’t provide a ton of substance, it’s actually pretty interesting while it lasts. It isn’t one of the games I was really hoping for, but in the end, I’m of the opinion that this should have been on the VC long ago.

See, the thing about Pokémon Snap is that it is a textbook example of the kind of game Nintendo is trying to associate with the Wii. It’s a totally casual game about taking pictures. There’s virtually no pace at all, making it a pretty relaxing experience. You can take up the camera and play for a short while, but still walk away feeling like you’ve spent your time well, assuming you got some decent shots. People with literally no game-playing experience could pick it up and play so easily, becoming Poké-photography masters in little to no time. Again, it’s short, but technically so is Space Invaders, and people have been known to spend hours with that. Pokémon Snap is not about getting to the end or completing Oak’s Report, it’s about getting unique and high-scoring pictures. A beefed-up sequel would be an excellent Wii title.

All of this, and it heralds a new age for the Virtual Console as well! Pokémon Snap is the first Virtual Console game with added Wii functionality, something Nintendo commonly talked about when the Wii was still known as the Revolution. In the VC edition of Snap, players can choose one picture a day to export to their Wii message board and send to friends. It’s not much, but it’s a sign that Nintendo is finally adding things to their classics. Hopefully something a little more significant is in the works (Leaderboards? Online multiplayer?), but for now let’s rejoice that they’re actually working a little something new in here and there. This may be even better than when they started doling out import games, depending on where it leads.

In the end, buying Pokémon Snap again for $10 isn’t too bad. I think I’ll get my money’s worth from the game a second time, and possibly even moreso now that I can flood people’s Wii message boards with pictures of Bulbasaur. Again, I think a sequel would be a great idea. It could be essentially the exact same game, but with more levels and all four billion Pokémon. Hell, it could even make a decent WiiWare title once that service launches. Probably just a pipe dream, but I’m certain it would sell more than the hugely disappointing Pokémon Battle Revolution.

In through the out hole

You know what? I was going to discuss the annual Lac du Bonnet Canada Day parade, but to be frank, it wasn’t really overly noteworthy. I guess you really can’t expect too much from a small town parade though. Also, the window of me caring has long since past. To tell the truth, the whole weekend lacked anything worth mentioning. I think that the most important things that I accomplished last weekend were hitting the 400 mark in Pokémon and catching up on a couple episodes of Retronauts. Yeah. My life may not sound exciting (and it’s not), but that’s the way I likes it.

I don’t really have anywhere to go with this then… Just thought I’d make my intentions (or lack thereof) clear. Also, the episode of Futurama where Planet Express Ship falls in love with Bender is on, and my attention can only be devoted to one thing at a time. Needless to say, Futurama wins over blogging.

We both get carried away

Obviously, I picked up Pokémon Pearl when it came out on Sunday. I loves me some Pokémons, so obviously I’m enjoying it. Haven’t sunk a ton of time into it, as I’m trying to concentrate on finishing up Super Paper Mario (or at least the story) for the time being. One really cool thing about the game though, (aside from the WiFi battling and trading) is that there are parts where a computer-controlled character will team up and battle with you for a short time. I’m only so far in that I’ve seen it happen twice (and one was only for a single scripted encounter), but I’m sure it’ll happen again. I’ve always been a fan of double battles, which is probably why I hold Pokémon Colosseum in such high esteem, and it’s nice to see the formula play into the game more than it did in Ruby and Sapphire. The 3D maps never fail to impress me either. Don’t know why, but they do.

As far as Super Paper Mario goes, I’ve been making semi-steady progress. Trying to balance it with Pokémon, Dead Rising, and drawing comics has been a nightmare, but it’s getting done. Nearly finished the story (which just keeps getting better), and it would appear that there are boatloads of things to do once you’ve finished the game. Remember the “Pit of 100 Trials” from The Thousand-Year Door? The one I failed on floor 100? Yeah. There are two of them here. And word on the street is that you’ve gotta finish the second one twice. Passing the first one was a time-consuming breeze, but I got owned on floor 55 of the second. I may actually finish filling out the recipe book in this one, and collecting all the enemy/character cards will be the most expensive task in a video game ever, next to getting the Post Office Model in Animal Crossing. And those are just a couple things that are going to need completing. Let’s just forget about the treasure maps and Sammer Guys for now. Brrrrr. There’s a lot to complete in that damn game.

It’s a good thing I’ve got next week off. I have a lot of games that need finishing (starting in some cases). To list a few: Super Paper Mario, Pokémon Pearl, Guitar Hero II 360, Dead Rising, Yoshi’s Island DS, Puzzle Quest, Magical Starsign, Children of Mana, TMNT(Wii), Beyond Oasis, God of War, Baten Kaitos, Baten Kaitos Origins, Tales of Eternia, LEGO Star Wars II, Me & My Katamari, Okami, Tales of the Abyss, Stubbs the Zombie, Pikmin II and truckloads more. Thank God there aren’t any games I want coming out in the forseeable future, aside from Guitar Hero 80’s Edition (and that’s in June!). My wallet’s happy about that too!