Thursday, September 27, 2007

No article tonight ***UPDATE***

There will be no article tonight. The wireless adapter on my PC is no longer working, and I'm typing this from my sister's PC. My computer is much too far away from the modem for a LAN cable, so I will not be able to post any articles again until I get a new wireless adapter.

I'm very, very sorry about this whole thing. I'll try my best to have a new adapter ready for next week. Thank you all for understanding.

***UPDATE***


Articles will commence on their regular schedule starting Monday, October the 8th. Kicking off the revival will be a The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass review. Y'all ready for this? DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN DUN.

END SONG AND DANCE MODE

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The greatest secondary game peripherals ever

Games have been around for many, many years, and additional peripherals have been around for just about as long. But which of these add-ons are the best of the best? Which of them deserve to be immortalized in gaming history? Here are a few secondary game peripherals I really think are the best of the best.

The Wii Zapper
Debut: November 2007

When people first saw the Wii remote, many immediately thought "Wow! I can't wait to play a first-person shooter on that baby!". And since November 2006, plenty of FPS games have been released, but few felt like what the gaming public had imagined.

Then along comes the Wii Zapper. Built for comfort and immersion, Nintendo's upcoming gun shell for the Wii remote has been built to draw the players into the game like never before. Gripping the stock with one hand and the barrel with the other, we'll soon be able to fire away at zombies, Nazis and Moblins in a way we could previously only dream of. With many upcoming game releases incorporating Zapper support, this is one peripheral that's quite unlikely to simply fizzle out. Come November 19th, you can bet your Nunchuks I'll be happily shooting away in Link's Crossbow Training with the brand new Wii Zapper.

DK Bongos


Debut: December 2003

Whoever thought that such a simple concept could become such an engrossing experience? The premise is simple: Just hit the bongos with the beat of the music to build up combos. The experience, however, is frantic and insanely fun! With beats coming at you like bats outta hell and randomly having to clap (Recognizable by the Bongos' built-in microphone), this is one of those games that are simple to grasp, hard to master.

There's actually one other title that makes use of the Bongos beyond simply playing music. Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is a side-scrolling platformer based not on defeating enemies, but stringing together combos and gathering bananas. Sure, you'll stomp on a Klaptrap or two every now and then, but the real point of the game is to accumulate as many points as possible by the end of the stage. An incredibly unique game for an incredibly unique peripheral!

The dance pad

Debut: October 1998

Perhaps the most popular of all secondary game peripherals, the dance pad has revolutionized the rhytym-based game world. Think of it as the DK Bongos, but add two buttons, subract the microphone and substitute hands for feet. That's right, feet. The dance pad is placed on the floor and, as hinted by the name, is danced on. Players must step on each arrow as it reaches a certain point on the TV screen, building up points and possibly combos. If a player misses too many steps, it's game over.

Just like the DK Bongos, this is a game that's easy to grasp, yet very hard to master. In some situations you'll be stamping, hopping, jumping and stumbling in a frantic effort to hit all the steps. Needless to say, this is extremely fun to play, as well as watch.

As an added bonus, the dance pad is compatible with most every video game on the system it was made for. So go ahead, play some Final Fantasy on that baby! Good luck getting past the first hour without falling down.

So then, those are some secondary peripherals I really felt stood out from the rest. An honorable mention is the NES Zapper, but I felt that was pretty much covered by the Wii Zapper. So, what secondary peripherals can't you get enough of?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The underappreciated media that is box art

Let's just forget NintenConspiracy ever happened...



Far too many people simply toss away their game boxes once they get their new software home. What is that saying to the artists who put so much effort into designing that box art? I consider it an insult to simply discard or tuck away the boxes of games. Here are a few box arts I really feel deserve to be on anybody's game shelf.

Contact


Suda 51 is notorious for making some of the most insane, rule breaking games out there, and Contact is no different. They took it one step further this time, and allowed the insanity to seep into the box art itself. The results? Fantastic.

Just look at that back panel! "Things you WON'T find in Contact: A dull moment. Normalcy. A guy with spikey hair and/or amnesia. Dramatic monologues. The same battles you've been fighting since the 16-bit era." "Things you WILL find in Contact: Monkeys. Cosmic terrorists. Powerful attack stickers. Fishing. Cooking. Humor. Fun with Nintendo Wi-Fi. Deeper meaning in life*. Costumes that increase your power and make you more fun to be around."

"*Results may vary"

What's more, there's the little professor dude up in the top left corner yelling "Psst! Buy the game - I need your help!" They turned the packaging from a mere case to part of the game itself. Masterful, truly masterful.


Battalion Wars 2



Just look at the action! Tanks, planes and boats, oh my! And just look at the detail on the vehicles! The treads on the tank, the rings inside the gun barrels, the reflections... It's all so amazingly well done and action-packed to the bursting point!

Also, gotta love that logo! BWii is the most clever shortform for a game's title that I've heard in a long, long time! And the metalic look of the letters and such in the logo are an incredibly nice touch.

Finally, look at how all the vehicles seem to be coming out from behind the logo, as if everything on the box was thrust forward by the explosion. There are no individual elements on this box. Everything has been drawn and placed as one huge object. This isn't a box art, this is an action-packed scene.

Super Mario Galaxy



This is probably the best box art for a Mario game since Super Mario 64. In fact, it seems to borrow quite a bit from Mario's premiere 3D outing. The flying towards the foreground, the levels in the background... Nintendo made a good decision taking some cues from Super Mario 64!

To elaborate on the levels in the background, the stages visible are some of the most memorable revealed thus far. The capsule-shaped world, the fire octopus battle, the flat planet, the mushroom-shaped world, and even a black hole! And if you look closely, I do believe that is the giant Snifit robot far off in the distance. The attention to detail and the sheer scope of it all help give an incredibly large feel to this game's territory.

Also, look how happy Mario is! That really helps further the whimsical feel of the game. And the little chubby star next to him is just too darn cute! This is an amazing box art, and I can't wait to add it to my collection!

Animal Crossing: Wild World



Now this is a game that's been eating up a LOT of my time lately! It's inventive, unique and just plain charming! Fittingly enough, so is the box art!

First of all, the large amount of houses, stores and buildings is a great way to convey how crazily vast this game's world is. Adding to that factor are all the villagers and such dotting the landscape.

The spherical design of the box art helps greatly to express the world-wide actions in this game. After all, without the ability to visit friends over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, I highly doubt this game would have been as incredibly successful. This box art does an amazing job of saying pretty much everything about this game.

So, those are a few box arts I really thought were top-notch. Which box arts do you really like?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, September 24, 2007

NintenConspiracy part 2: The big picture

The second and final part of NintenConspiracy. Enjoy.



In the first edition of NintenConspiracy, I focused only on the closing of the NSider forums. But this tangled path of mystery goes even further, right on up to the very top of the company. The question I'm asking? Is Nintendo secretly falling apart? Here are a few events and such that, when added together, seem to indicate just that.

Nintendo Power no longer being headed by Nintendo themselves

As everybody likely knows by now, Nintendo has decided to no longer publish Nintendo Power personally. They have instead decided to enlist the publisher Future US to handle all things Nintendo Power from here on out. Why did they do this? Nintendo has been publishing this magazine for 20 years! Why change things now? Everything seems to be going just fine with Nintendo Power! I still have my subscription, even though all the news I could ever need is right here at my fingertips online. All is well, and there's no apparent reason why Nintendo should ever do what they've just done.

Is money too tight for the gaming giant? Does Nintendo no longer posses the funds necessary to producing a monthly magazine? Sure, Future US is going to deliver an extra holiday magazine every year, as well as get Nintendo Power on more newstands than ever before, but Nintendo could have easily done the same, and with far less trouble! It seems that something is wrong down at Nintendo of America, and they're not telling us what...

The move to San Francisco

Nintendo's marketing and sales division will be largely relocating to San Francisco soon. When asked why, Nintendo merely states that they just are. Uh, okay then. There has to be some good reason for moving half of your company so far away!

Some of the marketing and sales people not going to San Francisco will instead be off to New York(!). Again, why?

There's also the slightly older news of Nintendo selling some land in their hometown of Redmond, Washington to competitor Microsoft. Having trouble paying the bills, Nintendo?

Closing the European Nintendo forums

This event in particular happened mere hours ago. Following suit after last week's closing of the NSider Forums, Nintendo has decided to also close down the European Forums. Sure, they've been locked up for ages, but now they're gone, kaput, pushing up daisies. This could be another indicator of any of the bizarre theories outlined in NintenConspiracy part one, but it's pretty unlikely.

So what is happening, then? Is the Wii not doing as well as Nintendo says? Are profits down? Is something rotten in the state of Washington? Just look at it, folks: Selling land to Microsoft, moving all over the country, closing the forums, outsourcing Nintendo Power... Is this all some sort of bizarre series of consequences, or is something genuinely wrong at Nintendo HQ?

Loss of profits?

Poor management?

An end to Nintendo's 118 year-long legacy?

What's happening to our beloved Nintendo?


The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #9: "Which consoles made by companies other than Nintendo do you own?" results

So then, this poll was the first ever that allowed voters to select more than one option. That being said, the following results will need to be interpreted a little differently.

Playstation 3 0 votes (0%)
XBox 360 1 vote (2%)
Playstation 2 12 votes (35%)
XBox 3 votes (8%)
Dreamcast 2 votes (5%)
Playstation 8 votes (23%)
Playstation Portable 6 votes (17%)
Other 8 votes (23%)
I only own Nintendo consoles. 12 votes (35%)

Number of voters: 32

Now then, that means out of 32 voters, 12 at least have a Playstation 2. Expected, really. After all, the PS2 has one of the best libraries in the history of gaming.

What surprises me is that 12 people ONLY own Nintendo consoles. Nintendo is great and all, but I feel that you really miss out by only buying consoles from nobody but them. I only hope that at least some of these 12 people have decent, gaming-quality PCs as well...

So then, make sure to vote on this week's poll, "Do you feel that the Wii's graphics aren't good enough?"! This oughta get some interesting results...

Finally, this week's banner is yet again by me. Remember, you can always submit a banner to the blog via my e-mail address listed in the sidebar. The banners must be exactly 760 pixels wide, and no taller than 300 pixels. Of course, they should be related to either Nintendo or the blog itself.

NintenConspiracy part 2 will be up later tonight!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NintenConspiracy part 1: Why was NSider shut down?

This article is going to be AT LEAST a two-parter. Part two will most likely NOT be up tomorrow night, as I will likely be too tired from an all-day excursion to write it. It WILL be up on Monday, if not sooner.



As you are all most likely aware of by now, the Nintendo NSider Forums closed down on September 17th, 2007. As of this Monday, they will forever be removed from public view. The thing is, barely anybody was informed of this until it had already happened. I was posting there in the morning, and when I came back in the afternoon, I was "greeted" with this:

Nintendo NSider Forums Update

Nintendo is working on a major overhaul to Nintendo.com to support the continued success of Nintendo DS and Wii. As we prepare for this huge site update, Nintendo must unfortunately close the Nintendo NSider Forums message boards indefinitely beginning Sept. 17, 2007.

For more than four years, these NSider Forums have fostered engaging, robust debates, a strong community and friendships. While their future remains uncertain, in the interim we invite our fans to build on the spirit of community by starting their own Nintendo discussion sites. Remember also that the unique features available with Nintendo DS and Wii give Nintendo the opportunity to communicate directly with fans, while also enabling fans and friends around the world to communicate with each other.

Nintendo has the greatest fans in the world, and it is because of their support and passion that Nintendo DS and Wii have become so hugely successful around the world. We hope that the faithful Nintendo community members will look forward to the future games and website updates that will enhance Nintendo's global community of Wii and Nintendo DS owners.

Starting Sept. 17, existing NSider Forums will be available in Read Only format for one week. Private Messages will be disabled. On Monday, Sept. 24, the forums will be removed from public view.


Well, isn't that just dandy? And without a moment's notice! Why did this happen? Why weren't we informed? Is it really just going down for maintenance, or is it something more? Here are all the possible situations I have come up with (Some are elaborations on ideas overheard at the Nintendo Pipeline Forum).

Possibility #1: Their explanation

Let's say that Nintendo really is telling the truth here, and the forums really have been taken down for a massive overhaul. There's a bit of a problem with this.

They say the forums have been taken down "indefinitely". Dictionary.Reference.com defines "indefinite" as "not clearly defined or determined; not precise or exact: an indefinite boundary; an indefinite date in the future.". If this were a planned update, then wouldn't they know when the forums would be back up and running? "Indefinitely" implies that they have no idea when the forums will return. Doesn't this make it seem like Nintendo was somewhat caught off guard by the need to take down NSider? Peculiar, because you'd assume a company would know of their own forum's status.

Also, why would the forums need to be removed before the rest of the website? If this truly is little more than a massive overhaul, shouldn't it have all gone down at once? There's just too much answered in this measly press release...

There's a few more problems with Nintendo's explanation of this event, and they will be touched upon in the upcoming possibilities.

Possibility #2: Getting rid of the core audience

This is one of the less pleasant theories that's been floating around. Some believe that Nintendo is doing this to get rid of the core gamer in order to more focus their resources on the casual crowd. After all, look at how many casual titles are being released these days, and look at how amazingly well they're selling. In Japan, Wii Sports has been on the top selling lists ever since the Wii came out 10 months ago. Take a look at this weekly sales chart. See what's up there at #10? Wii Sports, with 13,255 units sold in seven days. A total cash-making machine.

If Nintendo didn't have us core gamers begging for Mario and Zelda and Metroid, they could focus on developing more titles like Wii Sports and Wii Fit. It's probably the most radical of all these theories, but it does make a lot of sense. Nintendo could be trying to ditch the main crowd. After all, look at this line from the message on the NSider forums:

While [the forum's] future remains uncertain, in the interim we invite our fans to build on the spirit of community by starting their own Nintendo discussion sites.


Bluntly put: Go somewhere else, bud.

Possibility #3: NSider reborn on the Wii and DS

Take a look at these two lines from the NSider announcement:

Remember also that the unique features available with Nintendo DS and Wii give Nintendo the opportunity to communicate directly with fans, while also enabling fans and friends around the world to communicate with each other.


We hope that the faithful Nintendo community members will look forward to the future games and website updates that will enhance Nintendo's global community of Wii and Nintendo DS owners.


"Future games and website updates"... Doesn't that sound a little odd to you? To me it seems to suggest that NSider will indeed return, but will instead become integrated in some sort of Wii update and/or DS download.

This is probably the most exciting of all the possibilities listed here. Just imagine, the Nintendo forums and more, all right there at your fingertips. Just boot up your DS or Wii, and you've got instant community. This would correlate well with the site being taken down. Perhaps the whole thing is being revamped for Wii and DS compatibility! Nintendo's website would no longer be confined to computers and web browsers. It could be integrated into every Nintendo product! There's no website, just one huge network of interconnected Wii and DS systems! It seems all too fantastic to be a reality, and thusly, I doubt this will happen. But it still could happen, as it is still within the realm of plausibility. Everything is in place, Nintendo merely needs to set it in motion.

So is NSider gone because of anything I said above? Or is it something different? Something terrible? Something virtually unthinkable? All this and more will be discussed in NintenConspiracy part 2: The big picture.

The Duck Has Spoken.

No article tonight... Sorry!!

Very, very, VERY sorry about this, folks, but there will be no article tonight. I have a great idea, but not the mental ability to write it as of now. Too tired...

I've really gotta adjust my sleep schedule, and fast... Sorry again!!!

The Duck Is Sorry. Really!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Minor site update

Just wanted to give you the heads up that you can now subscribe to One Duck's Opinions' RSS feed via Feedburner!

If you're too LAZY to scroll down to the below the Vote For My Site section, here ya go:

 Subscribe in a reader



Enjoy. Gonna go write now...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Games that deserve a sequel: Part 3

Welcome to yet another edition of "Games that deserve a sequel"! For all previous entries, click on the words "Games that deserve a sequel" in the labels section below the article.

Excite Truck
Platform of original game: Wii
Preferred platform of sequel: Wii


As you most likely know from my recent review of Excite Truck, I greatly enjoyed this spiritual successor to the Excitebike games. It's for that reason that I truly believe that this game deserves a sequel!

Excite Truck was a great game, don't get me wrong, but it could have been quite a bit more. For starters, I really would have liked a better variety when it came to the racetracks. There was the heavily wooded Canada, the slightly less wooded Scotland, the wooded and frozen Finland, the wooded and hilly China, the comparatively barren Mexico and the somewhat more exotic Fiji. There's also Nebula, but that only includes one track which is only playable on two difficulty levels.

What kinds of locales would I like to see in the sequel? How about urban or in the Rocky Mountains? Those could provide a welcome change of scenery for sure. Of course, the urban setting would be no ordinary city! There'd be huge hills, burning buildings, insane amounts of crushable traffic (Worth bonus points) and even some large traffic that could prove to be an obstacle. Exploding gasoline tankers, anyone? That'd be an interesting terrain morph!

Also, perhaps we could see some power-ups other than the POW block. Hey, keep the POW, I like it, but how about we throw some more into the mix? Perhaps a Mega Mushroom-type item which would expand your truck into gargantuan proportions, or even a way to temporarily manipulate gravity! Excite Truck has never set out to be a sane title, and with this added in, it's sequel would sure uphold the tradition!

Maybe a few more events could be added to Challenge mode? Maybe something along the lines of tree crushing or urban destruction! "Crush as many vehicles as possible!" Yeah! Sign me up! And maybe we could see a time trial mode too?

And please, let there be some online multiplayer, man! Excite Truck was in the clear, it came out before the Wi-Fi connection was available for the Wii. But Excite Truck 2 NEEDS to be online! And how about we throw in four-player local play too, hmm? The more the merrier!

And of course, all the obligatory additions like more trucks and such...

Look at that list! If even half of these things were integrated into Excite Truck 2, we'd have one hell of a racer on our hands! Excite Truck 1 was great, but the sequel has the potential to be even better! Now let's get crackin', Monster Games!

And that's all for tonight, folks. See ya'll tomorrow!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Excite Truck review

Not the review I was planning on writing tonight, but the other one I had pending required far more thought than my exhausted mind can handle as of now. Instead, here's something completely different.


Developer: Monster Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 19th 2006 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Mild Violence


Way, way way WAY back in the days of the NES, one of the greatest racing titles available was Excitebike. Nintendo followed up this amazing hit with Excitebike 64 for the Nintendo 64. Since then, there has been no other Excitebike. Instead, there has been only Excite Truck. Did Excite Truck hold up the amazing standard of it's franchise? Or did it bring nothing but shame to the legacy? The answers follow in my review.

Excite Truck wouldn't be much of an Excite-brand game without the series' trademark over-the-top gameplay. Realism? Bah! In Excite Truck, you're gonna be sending your 4X4 off cliffs, through trees and practically into the stratosphere. Twist and turn the controller to steer as you weave through crazily exaggerated locales such as Scotland, Mexico and Canada. Sound Excite-ing enough for you?

The controls in this game are really quite tight. Using only the Wii remote (No Nunchuk), you simply tilt your hands to steer. The Wii remote is held sideways in this game, with the D-pad on the left and the 1 and 2 buttons on the right. 2 is gas, 1 is break and the D-pad is used for the boost.

Be careful not to boost too often! Doing so will cause your engine to overheat! If your engine overheats, you start going very, very slow, and you cannot speed up or boost until your engine cools back down. Need to cool down quickly? Dipping into some shallow water will quench it immediately, and getting airborne will cool it much faster than sticking to the ground. The boost is also useful for getting a Turbo Jump. By tapping the D-pad just as you go airborne, you'll gain a huge boost and fly ahead by a great distance. Also, making all four wheels hit the ground at once gives you a little boost. Line up your wheels with the ground by tilting the controller, and try for the perfect landing!

Excite Truck is a weird game in that you don't have to cross the finish line first to win a race. Speed is important, but not as much as your score! Each level has a pre-determined point requirement which must be met in order to win the race. Stars (The game's point system) can be earned by smashing into other trucks, catching air, drifting, pulling off tricks and more. It's important to not take too long, though, as netting first place will get you 50 bonus stars. Placing anywhere from second to fifth also yields a star reward, but you get less depending on how far back you are. Also, coming in sixth does not get you any stars at all.

Don't go thinking "Hey, no problem! I'll just keep turning around near the finish line and pull off tricks until my score's high enough!". Each track has a strict time limit, and going over the limit will automatically disqualify you from the race. Also, doing any tricks while backtracking will not get you any points at all. The game's smarter than that, mister!

Tired of still, unmoving terrain? Well, grab a Terrain Morph and totally mess up the place! Driving your truck through an exclamation mark-shaped icon will cause the ground in front of you to raise and lower, often creating a ramp. Sometimes it will also set off a series of rings, which can be flown through for points. And in certain situations, instead of morphing the terrain, it will instead cause other forms of havoc, such as thunderstorms, forest fires and meteor showers.

Volcanoes are another form of nature's wrath you're
likely to incur.


Another icon you may see floating around bears a striking resemblance to the POW block from the original Mario Bros. Grabbing the POW icon will cause your truck to speed up greatly and become invincible. When affected by the POW power-up, you can plow through trees and opposing racers. But you will still crash if you hit a wall or fall into deep water, so be careful!

When you first start up Excite Truck, you'll have to work your way through a few training activities in order to familiarize yourself with the controls. Not exactly a necessity due to the game's simplistic nature, but it's nice to get an opportunity to further understand the Wii remote's abilities.

You'll also find that, upon your first play session, you'll have access to only three different trucks. Fear not, for winning races will unlock several new trucks, as well as different paint jobs for the truck you're racing in.

The game features three difficulty levels: Excite, Super Excite and Mirror. At first, only Excite will be accessible, but further play will unlock Super Excite, and then mirror. In Super Excite, the opponents are much better drivers, and you gain access to a new track, Nebula. In Mirror, the opponents are even better than in Super Excite, and all the tracks are mirrored (Like in Mario Kart). Star requirements also increase with each difficulty level.

Beyond normal racing, there's another single-player mode called Challenge. In this mode, you must fulfill difficult requirements. In Gate Challenge, you must steer your truck through many narrow gates. The gates get smaller and smaller as the race goes on, and taking too long between them will disqualify you. In Ring Challenge, the goal is to jump through several rings. These rings are incredibly difficult to reach, and missing one will decrease the point value of the following ring (To a minimum of 5). If you can't gather enough points by the end of the run, you lose the challenge. Then, there's the Crush Challenge, in which you must smash into all the opposing vehicles as hard as possible. The harder you smash into them, the more points you get. Again, like in Ring Challenge, if you don't get enough points, you lose. Challenge Mode also has two difficulty settings, Excite and Super Excite. In Super Excite, the challenges feature even higher requirements, and require extreme amounts of skill and precision to pass.

When it comes to graphics, Excite Truck is a fairly average title. While it looks somewhat better than most Gamecube games, it's nothing spectacular. Nonetheless, the Nebula stage really can take your breath away with it's crystalline beauty. The edges of the screen blur when you get going really fast, which is a nice little touch. Ultimately, however, Excite Truck only scores averagely in the looks department.

Excite Truck looks nice, but it sure isn't fantastic.


Excite Truck's score in the audio department may change depending on whether or not you have access to an SD card. Excite Truck is the first and (To my knowledge) only Wii title to allow users to put their own music into the game. So it pretty much goes without saying that if you have an SD card, the music's gonna get a perfect ten. It will be nothing but your favorite music, after all!

The common arguement of Excite Truck's soundtrack being comprised of little more than a single guitar riff is more than a slight exaggeration. Each country has it's own music, although it is the same song no matter which stage in that country you play. Still not a great selection, but more than most give it credit for.

The sound effects in the game are really worth noting. The engines sound great, and the whistling of nitrous shooting out your truck's tailpipe is quite realistic. And several sound effect, such as a puttering overheated engine and the chime of getting a point, are played through both the speakers of your TV as well as the speaker in the Wii remote. A nice touch, especially since so few games seem to be embracing this feature.

Of course, as anybody with even half a brain could guess, Excite Truck does have a multiplayer mode. Like in the standard single player races, the player with the highest amount of stars wins. The tracks have no star requirements, the competition is between the players alone.

A major problem with Excite Truck's multiplayer is that it only supports two players. Not four, like every Wii game should have, but two, and only two. This is an inexcusable shortcoming in my book.

Also, in multiplayer, it's very hard to see what's on your left or right due to the screen being split with a vertical line. Instead of the first player being up top and the second being below, the first is instead on the left with the second on the right. This does allow for far better sight of the road ahead than the standard screen-dividing style, but detecting objects on either side of you can be a pain. You may try to take a hard left only to crash into your opponent, mess up your turn and end up someplace completely different. Not exactly great for hectic races.

Oh, and online multiplayer? I hardly think that's an issue. Excite Truck was a launch title, and we all know very well that the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection only began supporting the Wii in North America this June. If Excite Truck were released today, yes, a lack of online would be terrible. But it wasn't, so this won't detract at all from the game's score.

What about this game's longevity? Well, Excite Truck sadly only features about 25 different tracks spread across three difficulty levels, so things may feel a little stale once you start your way through Super Excite mode. Multiplayer is pretty fun if you can get past it's problems, which is sure to add a bit to your overall playtime. It's really that kind of game where you'll play it, put it away for a while, then play it again. I've had it since January, and I still go for a race every now and then.

OVERALL


Gameplay: 9.0/10
The controls in Excite Truck are great. Doing an Air Spin can take a bit of practice, but once you get the idea, you barely even have to think about it when you pull it off. There's a decent variety of race locales, trucks and modes as well.

Graphics: 7.5/10
Excite Truck won't be winning any beauty contests nowadays, but it looks fairly impressive for a launch title. After all, it probably spent most of it's development time on a Gamecube development kit!

Audio: 8.0/10
The ability to import your own music into the game is great, and I hate that so few games (If any) have done the same so far. If you don't have access to a SD card and a PC, though, you may wanna knock about 1.5 off of this category's score.

Multiplayer: 5.0/10
The multiplayer in Excite Truck is a real disappointment. There's only support for two racers at a time, the screen being split vertically totally messes up side vision, and there's no CPU trucks on the track during multiplayer! Monster Games had better perform a major overhaul on this aspect if they ever make an Excite Truck 2.

Longevity: 8.0/10
Excite Truck will probably last you a while, but maybe not consecutively. It's kind of one of those games you play for a bit, put away, and play again. Still, beating Challenge mode and unlocking all the tracks in every difficulty level will take anybody quite some time.

OVERALL: 8.0/10
Excite Truck is a great racer, and a worthy successor to the Excite name. It's easily one of my favorite games on the system, and definitely one of the most underrated of all Wii games. Buy this game, or at least give it a rental. Perhaps if enough people get behind it, we can see a sequel less than two generations from now!

That's all for tonight, folks. Time for this duck to catch some "Z"s...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #9: "What do you think of Link's Crossbow Training?" results

Here's the results for Poll #9:

"It sounds great!" 10 votes (34%)
"Seems pretty cool" 9 votes (31%)
"Meh, it's okay" 5 votes (17%)
"I'm not too keen on it" 3 votes (10%)
"Stupid, stupid, stupid" 2 votes (6%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)
"I don't care either way" 0 votes (0%)

Well, opinions seem to be fairly positive regarding this new title. Really, it's more of an introductory title than anything else, it's not meant to be epic.

This week's banner is again brought to you by your's truly. Obviously, it's a Battalion Wars II themed banner this week. Again, if you wish to send me a banner, make sure it is 760 pixels wide and no taller than 300 pixels. You can e-mail it to me via my Yahoo! E-mail address listed in the contact info located in the side bar.

Make sure to vote in this week's poll, "Which consoles made by companies other than Nintendo do you own?"! Personally, a Playstation is the only non-Nintendo console I own. I'm not a fanboy, it's just that I already have access to a Playstation 2, so why should I bother buying one? The original XBox is pretty cool, and I want a 360 sooo badly! PS3? Meh...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Enter the lair of the duck

Okay, after much delay, it's here. Pictures of my humble abode!



Ever wonder where the faceless authors of the internet live? Ever find yourself imagining what the houses of the gamers you've never met are like? Well, here's one gamer you can cross off the list. Behold, for the first time ever, the lair of the duck!



First of all, the computer I'm writing from. Nothing really worth bragging about specs-wise, but hey, it gets the job done. Usually. On the shelf above the monitor, you can see a lamp, the case for the camera, my duck clock, two pictures of my cat Scat (R.I.P), two batteries and my MP3 player.

About the duck clock, it actually quacks when the alarm goes off. My sister saw this during her trip to Niagara Falls, and she couldn't help but grab it for me. I'd rather wake up to quacking than a beeping alarm clock any day!

In front of the computer, you can see my DS, a DS game case, a DS case with a TV remote on top of it, my wireless adapter, mouse and SD card reader. There's also a phone beside the monitor and a roll of toilet paper on top (For wiping my nose and such, cleaning cat barf, whatever).

Then we have the keyboard with the peeling veneer. Classy. Below that is a bunch of magazines (Nintendo Power, Reader's Digest, stuff like that), a couple of PC games and other random stuff. Oh, and a CPU, but it's not like I had to point that out.

Wondering about what's going on with the PC screen? It's my King of All Cosmos screen saver. He's saying "The King Has Spoken"! Next pic...



This here's my dresser. Got my TV, NES, N64 and PSX sitting up there. Also a VCR, alarm clock and a fan. The fan's the only thing on top of the TV that actually works, but oh well.

There's also a Brian Griffin doll and a bunch of gaming accessories. This is also the best look at the Odama poster out of all the pics taken, so enjoy. NEXT!



Here's my main game shelf. On it we have my DS games (32), GBA games (15), NES games (10) and my SNES game (1...). There's also my original GBA and a broken NES (For decoration).

On top of the GBA games are various booklets, such as a Big Brain Academy brochure, a Nintendogs flyer and French booklets for Phoenix Wright 2 and Resident Evil DS. On top of the NES is a Mario Kart toy (From Wendy's a few years ago), some coloured NES game cases, and boxes for Pokemon Pinball, Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver.

Underneath my original Game Boy Advance is an old steel DS case of mine. In it are all most of my GBA cartridges. Any GBA game that didn't fit went in the coloured cases to the right (And one in the GBA itself, for dust protection).

Those grey things in front of the NES are nine DS game cases, each of which holds three game cards. Pretty handy, and nearly full to boot.

Various other stuff includes receipts, N64 game boxes, old Wii Points Cards and a Japanese Wii remote box (The remote itself is downstairs with the Wii, of course). And for picture number four...



This is the shelf above the games (Duh). I call it my display shelf, and for good reason. On it are several game characters in figurine, plush and LEGO forms. My favorite doll would have to be the giant Knuckles on the right. Won that from a claw machine on my second try! Now I'm working on getting a Poliwhirl from a local bowling alley's claw machine... It will be mine!

Ahem, anyways, objects on the shelf include several Pokemon figures, a Kirby toy (From Wendy's), a Charizard plush (Also from a claw machine), a hard-to-find copy of NBA Slam 'n' Jam '98 in the classic PSX box style, a 3D foam puzzle phone booth and a Pokeball.

Now here's some posters!





Not gonna bother listing them all, although it's worth noting you can get a better look at the duck clock in the second photo. And in case you're wondering, most of the posters are from Nintendo Power. And I like Spongebob, so what, wanna fight about it?

And now for the cool free stuff I got from the Zellers...



Window decals! Those little sticky pictures that you see in the game display cases? Well, I have four of 'em! From top to bottom, there's Pokemon Diamond/Pearl, Touch Generations, Wi-Fi Connection and Tetris DS. Just about as cool as the other thing I got from the Zellers...



...a Big Brain Academy promo poster! I freaking love closing stores, man! Just ask nicely, and they'll let you take pretty much anything! I also got Donkey Konga there for $30 CDN, but that's not as exciting. Promo materials are far harder to come by!

So then, that's my SECRET LAIR! Were you curious about my abode? Well, now you're not!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No article tonight

Well, folks, I had a long, long day today. I got up at seven in the morning (After five hours of sleep), and since then, I've been to the local hospital (A doctor's appointment, nothing major), all over a going-out-of-business Zellers (At Malvern Mall, for any Torontonians in search of a bargain), and back home. That's five bus rides altogether!

I scored some good deals at the Zellers, but I won't say what. I may post an article tomorrow with pics of the goods. As for now, I'm exhausted. I think I'll screw around in Contact for a while, then hit the sack.

Sorry about nothing today, but as I said, there is a possibility of a short article tomorrow. Now, sleep...

Goodnight!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wii Zapper VS third-party gun shells

Starting this one early!



When the Wii Zapper was initially unveiled at E3 2006, it bared a striking resemblance to a standard shotgun. The Wii remote was housed in the barrel, and locked into the shell via an expansion port. The Zapper shell itself sported an analog stick and shoulder button, effectively replacing the Nunchuk. People loved it.

Then, at E3 2007, the final model was revealed, and opinions soon soured. The new Zapper shell (Pictured above) resembled a two-handled machine gun, with the Wii remote positioned over a plastic trigger. This additional trigger is in no way electronic, as it merely acts as an expansion to the Wii remote's existing B trigger. The back of the unit features a section for slipping the Nunchuk into, supposedly with a channel in which the cord is placed. This was certainly different from what we saw the year before.

People reacted angrily. Some attacked the Wii remote's odd positioning, while others expressed their dislike at the overall look of the product. Needless to say, when third-parties started showing off gun shells similar in design to that of the original Zapper prototype, many rejoiced. But are they any better than Nintendo's design?

First, I'll judge the official Wii Zapper. The new design may not resemble a real gun as much as some of the competition, but it does seem to be far more comfortable than most other shells. The two grips likely add a lot to stability and precision as well. Also, as I said before, there seems to be a little groove in which the Nunchuk cord can be tucked into, preventing it from getting in your way. I base this assumption on how the cord is positioned in the picture above.

Overall, the Zapper sports a pretty solid design. It looks pretty comfortable to hold, as well as lightweight. The trigger is placed in an easily reached position, and the buttons on the top of the Wii remote look fairly accessible. The only downside is that it doesn't closely resemble any common gun design. An easily excused fact, as Nintendo would likely want to keep the shell as unrealistic as possible, so as to not be associated with any gun violence. Definitely worth the $20 US, especially considering it comes with a free copy of Link's Crossbow Training.

2 in 1 combined light gun


Here's the most recently revealed gun shell, Brando's 2 in 1 combined light gun. This shell features a unique design quirk, in that the stock of the gun (Where the Nunchuk is) can be easily removed from the barrel (Where the Wii remote is) on the fly. Pretty neat idea, huh? One problem with this, however, is the fact that while the two halves are connected, the cord will be simply dangling there. This is obviously something Brando doesn't want you to know about, considering how it is conveniently avoided in the above photo. Also, due to the slightly larger distance between the plastic trigger and the Wii remote, it would be much harder to manipulate both the B button and the top controls of the Wii remote compared to the Zapper.

Overall, while the easy snap-apart design is somewhat convenient, Brando's latest effort leaves me unimpressed. The cord is sure to get tangled up in something (Most likely my cats) and the buttons on top of the Wii remote are near inaccessible. Not a bad design, but not as good as the official Zapper shell. Nowhere near worth the $18 US.

Sharp Shooter


Up next is Joytech's Sharp Shooter. This shell is pretty similar to Brando's 2 in 1, minus the detachable sections. Again, the cord looks like it will simply dangle there as you play, getting tangled in who knows what. Also, the trigger looks just about as far from the Wii remote as Brando's 2 in 1, but it's hard to tell for sure. It's likely still too far away for quick and comfortable access to the buttons located on top of the Wii remote.

Overall, the Joytech Sharp Shooter isn't that great of a shell. It has all the same problems as the Brando 2 in 1, but without the pull-apart functionality. Whatever this things costs, it's probably too much.

Wii Blaster


Hey, look at that! Another shell from Brando! This time around, it's the Wii Blaster. Again, it seems to have a terrible case of dangling cord syndrome. At least the Wii remote's face buttons are accessible in this model! Like Brando's 2 in 1, this also sports a unique feature, although it seems far less useful.

For some reason, Brando's Wii Blaster has the ability to split open, as seen in the picture on the left. What this could possibly be useful for is beyond me.

Overall, Brando's Wii Blaster seems just as useless as the rest. It looks clunky to hold, the cord just dangles, and the hinged design is just useless. Definitely not worth the $17 US.

So in the end, while the Wii Zapper may not be perfect, it's surely better than any other gun shell out there. Besides, it comes with Link's Crossbow Training, which sounds better every time I think about it. The Zapper wins this competition hands down.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Below the radar: Volume 2

Another late start, huh? I gotta work on turning this trend around...



The Wii is popular, there's no doubt about that. Due to this insane popularity, more and more developers are moving resources over to this cultural phenomenon. It pretty much goes without saying that a few great titles are going to get lost in the shuffle. Here is a game I believe isn't getting the attention it deserves.

King Story


King Story (Previously known as "Project O") has so much amazing potential behind it, I honestly find it incredibly hard to believe how little recognition it's getting. In King Story, you play as a boy by the name of Corobo Bread (Bread? Seriously? Anyways...). Corobo is inflicted with some sort of illness, and while stumbling around aimlessly one day, he finds a magical crown that turns him into a king. This crown gives Corobo a sense of authority, and thusly other villagers will follow his commands.

As the game begins, the town consists of nothing more than your house and a bunch of fields. Using your newfound authority, you can direct villagers to build houses, stores, roads and more. At certain points in your city's growth, you may gain the ability to build new types of buildings (A developer even hinted at the possibility of "specialty stores").

You may be thinking "Well, that's sounds pretty boring!" or "What's so great about it?". I can see why you'd think such things. However, there is still more to this game! In addition to town building, you will also come across various types of monsters. Some monsters are small and weak, while others may be absolutely huge and incredibly tough. When encountering such a beast, you can command your followers to attack the creature. Casualties may be gained, and this is where another interesting aspect comes into play: The villagers all have distinct personalities and families.

Say a woman's son dies in battle. She'll be sad for a while, and possibly retreat to her home and not emerge again for quite some time. There may be a funeral or something to that effect, causing the morale of the entire town to drop. Your villagers are more than mere pawns in this game. They act and behave like real, living beings. They also have unique routines and responsibilities. One villager could be a farmer, and another could work at a store. Unlike many games, characters don't simply live at their occupations. They have private lives, secrets and emotions. I'm completely amazed at how much detail is being put into this title!

The only thing that amazes me more is how little attention it's getting. Do you have any idea who's working on this game? Key contributors to games such as Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy XII, Harvest Moon, and even Super Mario RPG are lending their immense talent to this title. It's completely mind-boggling that a development team with such amazing credentials is getting ignored like this. King Story has the potential to be one of the greatest titles ever on the Wii!

Nitrobike


Nitrobike is another prime example of brilliant developers not getting the recognition they deserve. The developer behind this game, Left Field Productions, is the company responsible for the amazing piece of work that is Excitebike 64. If that's not star power, well... Okay, they aren't famous, but dammit, they're talented!

Think of Nitrobike as Excite Truck, but with BIKES. That's, uh, pretty much it, really. You hold the controller the same way, you do tricks, and you race. But unlike Excite Truck, Nitrobike is sporting one very important mode: Online multiplayer. If the developers and online don't get you excited for this, you're pretty much a lost cause. It's like Excitebike, for the new millennium! Now then, Nintendo, let's see a little Excitebike 64 on the Virtual Console, hm?

Those are two games that really aren't getting the attention they so rightly deserve. Nitro Bike and King Story are surely going to be taking up a good chunk of my time at their respective releases! What are some games you think aren't getting the exposure they deserve?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not all games need online multiplayer!

Whoa, bit of a late start here! Better get goin' on this one...



Online play can be a great thing. Games such as Mario Kart DS and Pokemon Diamond just wouldn't have been the same without their respective online functions. But that doesn't mean all games need to have online multiplayer. Every time a game is announced, at least one person says "It needs online!" or "No online, no sale!". But they are not always right. There are certain games that have been made especially for local multiplayer. Here are two such games that just wouldn't feel right online.

Wii Sports

Ah, here's one of the most popularly talked about games regarding online play. Why anybody thinks this needs online, though, is beyond me. Wii Sports was designed as a game for getting people together and having fun socially. Online multiplayer would totally destroy this effort. Where's the fun in boxing someone halfway across the world? I don't see it. Thrusting your fists to attack gives a great sense of realism, but not actually being face-to-face with your opponent completely defeats this purpose. After all, what good are your punches going to do against some guy sitting in Japan? Sure, you'll mess up his character a bit, but there's really not much you can do to show off beyond stringing together combos. Actually bouncing up and down on your heels and jabbing with a left, then a right, then an uppercut... None of these fancy moves are noticed by the opponent if they're in an entirely different continent!

What's that you say? A webcam? Well, please be so kind as to explain how you'd possibly keep an eye on both the on-screen action and the camera feed in the corner? You can't, really. A webcam in this situation would be little more than a novelty. Don't even get me started on Nintendo's safe approach to online interaction!

And that's just the boxing! The same reasons all apply to golf, tennis, bowling and baseball! Putting that degree of separation between each player ruins the entire realistic experience.

Mario Party

Here's another commonly discussed series. Again, I have no idea why anyone thinks this should be online. Have you ever had a party over the internet? I sure haven't.

Boardgames have always been a social experience. Sitting around a table with your friends and family and having a nice session of Monopoly or The Game of Life is one of the greatest things that can be done as a group. Mario Party is also a boardgame, albeit virtual. Thusly, playing it online against a group of faceless opponents really defeats the entire purpose of the game.

As for the webcam arguement? Well, that has some validity here. Besides the minigames, Mario Party can hardly be considered "hectic". Webcams would actually be a pretty good fit for the franchise. But just because something could work, doesn't mean it should happen. Sure, with a webcam you can see all your opponents, but there's still the separation of not actually being with the rest of the players. There's no way to pat a pal on the back after an exceptionally well played minigame! Parties are supposed to be an interactive and social experience, and all possible levels of interaction are essential to such an event! Mario Party should never go online, plain and simple.

Don't get me wrong here, folks. Online can be a great addition to many games. But certain titles just don't work this way. I'll take Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii online any day of the week, but when it comes to games like Wii Sports and Mario Party, I prefer a more direct experience.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day! review

Okay, time to get crackin' on this review then! I can hear Contact and Brothers in Arms calling my name... "Play us, PsychoDuck... Play us..."



Before the release of Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, I doubt many people could even imagine a game that did so much to improve your mind! But now, two years and 8.61 million copies sold later, the Brain Age name has become a worldwide phenomenon. What better way to follow up such an amazing title than with a sequel? Nintendo has done just that, in the form of Brain Age: More Training in Minutes a Day! Despite being released half a year later, Brain Age 2 has already sold more than half as many copies as it's predecessor! Since being released in Japan late 2005, more than 5.3 million copies of the software have flown off of shelves. Is Brain Age 2 really worth 5.3 million sales? Can it possibly measure up to the ground-breaking original title?

In a word: Yes.

The premise of Brain Age 2 alone is brilliant. Under the guidance of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima's disembodied head (Don't stare, he can smell fear), users go through several tests designed to activate long-forgotten parts of your brain, primarily the frontal lobe. Activities range from keeping track of who's in what position in a race to giving change during a sale to playing a virtual piano.

In the aforementioned race-themed game (Titled "Memory Sprint"),you have to keep track of the black racer in a marathon. He will be repeatedly passed by grey characters. Every now and then, he'll break into a sprint and pass several racers. Then, he'll drop back again, then sprint, fall behind, and so forth. During this hectic marathon, you have to keep track of exactly what position the black racer is in. He always starts in first, but he could wind up anywhere from second to twelfth at the finish line. It's far, far harder than it sounds. It's where I personally need the most improvement!

Memory Sprint

In the change-giving activity (Titled "Change Maker"), you play the role of a salesperson, repeatedly carrying out transactions at breakneck speed. The goal is to give the customer the exact change for their purchase as quickly as possible. My saleswoman sister is sure to totally wreck me in this game...

Change Maker

The virtual piano game (Titled, quite simply, "Piano Player") doesn't at all require any musical prowess. All you have to do is hit the keys in time with the sheet music scrolling by on the opposite screen. The main beat is automatic, you merely have to hit the prominent notes.

Piano Player


As you can see from the above screenshots, the DS is held sideways when playing Brain Age 2. This way, the touchscreen is easily available for your writing hand to interface with. Don't worry, lefty support is included. Although, there is a slight problem with the southpaw control scheme. I myself am a lefty, and each time the game loads up, it defaults to the right-handed setting. In the original version, it would default to the handedness of the most recent player, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Little more than a minor annoyance, but still, it's something that shouldn't be an issue at all. I mean come on, Shigeru Miyamoto himself is a lefty! Nonetheless, there are no other issues with the lefty control scheme (Except all the screenshots online are from righties, but oh well).

That isn't to say there are no problems with the control scheme overall, though. Quite often, the game will misinterpret handwriting input. For example, if in Sudoku you input a 6, it will sometimes misunderstand and register it as a 0, which doesn't end up doing anything at all. And in some other activities which require writing, it can be pretty finicky with the "E"s and "G"s. Once you learn the quirks of the handwriting recognition, you can figure out how to get around them. But, like the lefty problem, this shouldn't even be an issue at all. I think the handwriting recognition was actually better in the first game!

As for the more frivolous things such as graphics and sound, it's never anything great at all. The graphics take the word "simplistic" to a whole new level, and the only music is the same stuff you hear in elevators and automated phone services. But, none of this is really necessary in a title such as Brain Age. Polygons and 3D effects mean nothing in a game meant to beef up your brain. Although Dr. Kawashima is rendered pretty well, nothing else audible or visual is really worth talking about.

Speaking of the doctor himself, Ryuta will respond to many things said to him on the main menu. Try saying "Cilantro" and watch him cringe! It's also very easy to amuse, it seems, since I see his laughing response more than anything else. A nice little touch, really.

But, despite the graphics, audio and slight handwriting recognition issues, Brain Age 2 is still a great, solid, and above all, fun, piece of software. Beating your records in any game gives a great sense of accomplishment, and the Sudoku serves as a pleasant distraction whenever you grow tired of brain testing. A great title, and definitely worth both your twenty dollars and your "Minutes a Day"!

OVERALL: 8.0/10

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #8: "Which classic Nintendo franchise do you most want to see return someday?" results

Okay, here are the results for One Duck's Opinion Poll #8!

"Balloon Fight" 4 votes (4%)
"Dr. Mario" 2 votes (2%)
"Duck Hunt" 5 votes (5%)
"Ice Climber" 7 votes (7%)
"Kid Icarus" 43 votes (48%)
"Mach Rider" 1 votes (1%)
"Punch Out!" 19 votes (21%)
"Other" 3 votes (3%)
"I don't want ANY old franchises returning at all" 1 vote (1%)
"I don't care" 4 votes (4%)

Can't say I'm surprised. After all, Kid Icarus holds some great potential, especially if it were to hit the Wii. And Punch Out! is really a no-brainer. I'm a little disappointed with the votes for Mach Rider and Dr. Mario, but oh well. It's not as if these results will influence Nintendo either way, right? Right?

Make sure to vote in this week's poll, "What do you think of Link's Crossbow Training?"! For more information on the title, click here. Personally, I think it seems pretty cool. A great introduction to the Wii Zapper, just like Wii Play was an intro for the remote, and Wii Fit will be a starter for the Balance Board.

Brain Age 2 review will be up in a little bit!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day! impressions

Okay then, article number two it is! My mom was kind enough to grab Brain Age 2 for me on her way home from work today, so here are some impressions!



Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day was all about making your mind sharper and faster with simple puzzles and games. Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day carries the same idea, but in a slightly different package.

It's blue.

Well, okay, there's more of a difference than that, but the purpose remains the same. The infamous "BLUE!!!" Stroop Test is gone, and in it's place is a seemingly more similar Rock, Paper, Scissors activity. The twist? In some cases, it will want you to lose, and sometimes it'll want you to win. Whatever the bizarre requirement is, you let your choice be known by speaking into the DS' microphone.

This is but one of the 12+ brain training activities tucked into this blue little package. And who better to guide you through all the steps than the main man himself, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima (This guy)! His friendly little disembodied accompanies you throughout most of the experience, giving you tips and cheering you on. Neat!

Okay, the most important part here, though, is how well does the "game" play? Well, so far, the handwriting recognition seems a little less polished than it was in the original, but maybe that's just because I've been typing far to much lately. The voice recognition seems improved, and the game selection looks to be larger than that of the previous version. I can see myself using this for "Minutes a Day" for quite some time to come!

Full review will be up either Monday or Tuesday. Until then, keep on gamin', amigos!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney review

Okay, folks, here's article number one of today's double-post extravaganza! The second article will be up later tonight!


Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: October 11, 2005 (North America)
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Notes: Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence


Before 2001, nobody ever fathomed that a lawyer game would ever be any fun at all. But that was before the world heard the words "Gyakuten Saiban"! The game was a smash-hit, spawning two more sequels on the Game Boy Advance. Then, in 2004, the Nintendo DS was released. Capcom, realizing the potential, quickly ported the series to the new handheld. Noting the extremely positive Japanese reception, Capcom took a little risk and localized the game in North America under the name of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. They expected low sales. They were wrong. Phoenix Wright was a Nation-wide hit, with copies flying off the shelves as soon as they were shipped. Were these amazing sales justified? Was Phoenix Wright really that great? Read on to find out.

The storyline, or rather, the narrative, of Phoenix Wright, is possibly the most important part of the entire game. You play as a lawyer, and thusly, every little phrase spoken needs to be interpreted carefully. Needless to say, this requires some very good storytelling on the game's part.

Each case in the game pretty much follows it's own little storyline. In each case, somebody is accused of murder, and it's up to you, Phoenix Wright, to prove them innocent. Every case is full of lies, secrets, twists and turns, all of which are expertly written.

The writers also have an evidently great sense of humour, as is proven by some of the character's names (An elderly woman is named "Wendy Oldbag", and there's a detective by the name "Dick Gumshoe"). Add to that the endlessly clueless judge and wacky side characters, and you've got a game significantly funnier than anything you've ever seen on Law & Order.

Your eyes aren't deceiving you. Her
name actually is "Lotta Hart".


There is also a main storyline weaving it's way through all four of the game's main cases (The fifth case was added in the move from GBA to DS, and is merely "bonus"). Phoenix Wright is a 25 year-old defense attorney fresh out of law school, working at the Fey & Co. law offices run by his mentor, Mia Fey. In the second case Phoenix takes, he meets a legendary prosecutor by the name of Miles Edgeworth. In all his years of being a lawyer, Edgeworth has not lost a single case. His success is clouded by rumours of fabricated evidence, bribes and fixed testimonies. But there seems to be more to this man than that...

And that's where the gameplay comes in! Unlike actual attorneys in real life, Phoenix Wright is tasked with defending his client as well as investigating the crime scenes and interrogating the witnesses. First, the investigation! While visiting a crime scene, your main objective is to collect evidence useful for proving your clients innocence. This often requires visiting many different places, such as the victim's house, workplace and even the scene of the murder itself. On any such screen, you can poke and prod at various objects in the area with the stylus, often resulting in Phoenix describing the object or location to himself, with whoever is nearby usually offering their take on the situation. If the object is significant, it will be taken into evidence.

Another important thing to be done when investigating a crime is interrogating witnesses and talking with detectives. This often yields information about the victims and suspects, as well as sometimes telling you places to check out. On some rare occasions, witnesses may give you evidence or some other item for use later on in your investigation and in the trial itself.

Meeting people also adds their picture and a brief biography to an evidence sub-section called "Profiles". This is useful for keeping track of the many witnesses and such you're bound to meet in any case.

An example of a profile

And now for the game's most important part, the court scenes! Legal suits run much quicker in these courts than they do in real life. This is due to the fact that the game takes place in the year 2015, a time when crime is high and court scheduling is tight. By law, no case may last longer than three days in court. After that, the case is taken to a higher court for sentencing (Something that the player will never see).

In every case, there's a victim, a suspect (Your client), a prosecutor, and several witnesses. The witnesses' testimonies are were the gameplay comes in. After each testimony, you have the chance to perform a cross-examination in search of contradictions. It's these contradictions that lead to the witness slipping up and telling you more about what really happened.

In order to find these contradictions, you must carefully examine every word the witness says, as well as look for some different signals. Did the prosecutor just hush the witness? Did the witness just change the subject? Does the testimony line up with the evidence? Finding these signs and exploiting them by presenting evidence or pressing the witness for more information are key to winning any case.

Sometimes if you present evidence in court, the judge or the prosecutor will ask you what in particular is contradictory about the item. This most often requires pointing out a certain line in an autopsy report or calling attention to a certain part of a photograph. Selecting what sentence or part of a picture to present as contradictory takes a lot of careful consideration.

What happens if you present something irrelevant or incorrect? You are swiftly penalized by the judge, and you lose one of five exclamation points representing your "health". If you lose all of five of these, the judge will immediately cease all proceedings and declare your client guilty due to you messing up too many times. After all, if a lawyer can't even present decisive evidence, it pretty much screams that their client is guilty.

See those exclamation marks in the
top-right corner? Those represent health, and
if you lose all of them, it's game over, man.
GAME OVER!



But don't worry too much about losing your health. Every time the judge declares a recess or dismisses proceedings for the day, you fully recover all five points of health. I doubt I'd ever be able to beat the game without this!

There are a few new gameplay elements introduced in the fifth chapter, considering it was built specifically for the DS. I won't spoil anything for you, but basically, if you've ever watched an episode of CSI, you've seen this stuff.

If you like smooth animation and anime-quality movement, you most likely wont like the graphics in Phoenix Wright. But, that being said, there is a real charm to how the characters act. The way each person is drawn in all of their poses gives a sense of personality rivaled in clarity only by the storytelling. Things like Phoenix's nervous sweating and Larry Butz's twitchy and hyperactive expressions really do give an amazingly realistic feel to the characters, regardless of how clunky their animation is.

And besides, this is a direct port of a Game Boy Advance game, a system with less than half of the Nintendo DS' graphical capabilities. Adding in smoother animation or different sprites altogether would violate the original game's classic feel. There are some more complex animations in the DS-exclusive chapter, but you can't help but notice how out of place some of them seem. In the end, the animation, while hardly smooth, is still great at portraying emotion and drama.

The audio in this game is amazing. But you probably already knew that, because of Phoenix Wright's presence in this recent music-related article. The music in this game is tense, light-hearted and eerie in all the right places. I could listen to the interrogation and Steel Samurai music for hours on end and feel very little boredom. Memorable and high-quality music all around!

The sound effects in this game are also hardly worth sneezing at. From the smashing gavel to the desk pounding, it's all incredibly realistic and crystal-clear. Some of the characters even have small amounts of audible speech! Almost every important interjection in court is voiced. "Objection!", "Hold it!" and "Take that!" are all said with great emotion and clarity.

Despite what many people say, I think this game boasts some great longevity indeed. Completing Phoenix Wright for the first time is bound to take upwards of 20 hours. And there is, in fact, some replay value to this game. By the time you burn through the whole thing and finish the last chapter, chances are you've forgotten so much about the earlier cases that they feel brand new again. That being said, this game has nearly infinite replayability.

OVERALL


Storyline: 9.5/10
The mini-storylines of each case are all written very well, and the main story helps tie it all together very well. However, the fifth chapter does feel a little tacked on, due to it being added in the porting process. The humour definitely makes up for any shortcomings in this department, though!

Gameplay: 9.5/10
Playing Phoenix Wright is an experience unmatched thus far by any other video game. The overall level of immersion is amazing, and presenting the correct evidence to win a case feels extremely rewarding. Amazingly fun to play.

Graphics: 8.5/10
Every character's animations exude great emotion and character, but the actual movement is somewhat clunky. Nonetheless, the art style is amazing. Some of the 3D aspects of the fifth chapter feel a little out of place, though.

Audio: 8.5/10
As I've said in the Best game music ever article, the soundtrack to this game is amazingly high quality. The tension and atmosphere created by the music in this game is amazing. The sound effects and partial voice acting are pretty great, too. A little more voice acting would be nice, though.

Longevity: 9.0/10
Beating this game the first time around is sure to take even the best of gamers more than 20 hours, 15 at the least. Once that's done, going back and replaying the semi-forgotten first cases is still quite fun. After a few runs, though, I could see this game getting a little stale. When this happens, shelve it, wait a few months, and play it again!

OVERALL: 9.0/10
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a masterpiece of a game. Capcom took one of the most boring occupations in the world and turned it into a virtual thrill ride of lies, secrets and plot twists. However, this game is definitely not for everyone. Beating any case takes some extreme patience and perception, so the hyper and action-loving need not apply here.

Tonight's second article will be up later, folks!

The Duck Has Spoken.