Thursday, December 25, 2008

The One Duck's Opinion 2008 Holiday Greeting Card



That's all for 2008, folks! Normal posting resumes on January 5th, with a brand new poll and banner. From my family to yours, I wish you all the best this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The 2008 Golden Duck Awards

401st post: Slightly less notable than the 400th. Also, this article consists only of this year's games that I played, so if there's another game out there with a title more reflective of flatulence I sure haven't played it (Although I kinda wish I did).


As the year comes to a close, it's time to take a look back at all the games of 2008 and figure out which ones are worthy of mentioning once again in all sorts of feeble, irrelevant little categories. Feeble and irrelevant... Yep, that's One Duck's Opinion, alright!

Best Game With a Title That Sounds Like a Kids' Movie

I can imagine walking into some shady flea market in the depths of China and seeing Professor Layton and the Curious Village sticking out of a pile of bootleg DVDs. Of course, there'd be one hell of a garbled Engrish description on the back... "Open movie, Professor Layton and his young assistant Luke driving the request of the town of St. mysterious widow of the late Baron Lady Dahlia Reinhold. Baron has remained in his last will, who solved the mystery of the Golden Apple will inherit the fate of Baron, some people attempt and failures."

Come to think of it, Professor Layton and the Curious Village would make a good animated film. The art's fantastic, the storyline is solid, and all of its amazing puzzles would translate well to on-screen head-scratchers. Nothing can compare to how it is as a game, though, with its many mind-bending puzzles, exploration elements and investigative segments. Professor Layton is surely a great game all around, even if it the title does make it sound like it belongs in a Chinese flea market bargain bin.

Best Nintendo Game That Europe Actually Got Before North America

Nintendo's well-known for frequently giving the shaft to our European friends. Star Fox 64, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and even the DS Lite all launched in Europe last out of all three major regions, and these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. It's no surprise that everyone was amazed at Europe receiving Mario Kart Wii only one day after Japan, and nearly two weeks before North America. This may not sound like such a big deal, but ask any European how they felt about waiting for Brawl and prepare to see the tears flow.

Now the tables turn and Europe begins to lord it over us for a good thirteen days. They had every right to do so, what with Mario Kart Wii's amazing track design, so-far-unmatched-on-the-Wii online play, and perfect motion controls. I suppose we had it coming after how loudly we loved Brawl...

Best Sequel With a Change of Main Character

Every Ace Attorney fan had already come to love the story of Phoenix Wright, the rookie defense lawyer who always claimed victory over even the most unfair odds. So when it was announced that Mr. Wright wouldn't be wearing the title of attorney in the fourth game people were understandably upset. Despite all our feelings of dread and our reluctance to love the new lead character, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney still managed to make a big splash in the realm of law-based gaming.

One place Apollo Justice really managed to shine was in the graphics department. With the DS being so many times stronger than the Game Boy Advance, far more advanced sprite animations, backgrounds, and even 3D imagery became possible here. Like the bonus fifth chapter in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, all of Apollo Justice took advantage of the DS' unique abilities to further enhance the gameplay experience, using the touchscreen for everything from taking fingerprints to pouring plaster to copy a footprint in the mud. And of course, there's no forgetting using the microphone to shout "Objection!". However, unlike many witness testimonies in the game, I have no objections to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.

Best Reminder That Life Could Be Worse

First you drop your morning latte, then you step in a mud puddle, and then you barely miss the bus on your way home. You're life couldn't be any worse, right? Well, imagine you instead drop your handgun, got splattered by Boomer bile, then barely miss the helicopter out of this hellhole. Sure sounds a lot worse, huh? This moment of putting life into perspective was brought to you by Left 4 Dead.

From Valve, the company quickly becoming my favourite developer in the business, Left 4 Dead is a new take on zombie games: It's all co-op. The "4" in the title refers to the player's squad, a group of four survivors of the zombie apocalypse. Only by working together can these four survive the seemingly endless waves of zombies of all shapes, sizes and abilities, from the common "horde" zombie, all the way up to the bone-chilling Witch. With rapid-fire clouds of zombies always pouring in from every direction, and each game being different due to the innovative AI Director, Left 4 Dead isn't just a reminder that life could be worse; It's also one hell of a game.

Best Way to Beat the Crap Out of Your Friends Without Getting the Police Involved

Fireballs, bombs, flying jump-kicks, magical blades, and many other objects that defy definition are just some of the weapons available in your Super Smash Bros. Brawl arsenal. Thanks to this game, now you can ignite, blow up, mangle, and altogether destroy your friends without those pesky police getting in the way.

After many months of waiting, wishing and speculating, the world finally got its hands on Super Smash Bros. Brawl this year. With by far the biggest roster yet, an insane amount of different stages and the conversion of just about every former mode into a mini-game made Brawl into one of this year's most amazing titles. Okay, so the online aspect blew massive chunks, but I still hold that Smash Bros. (Like many other games) is best played with your friends in the same room. When it comes to beating the crap out of your friends with the help of the Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is second only to clonking them over the head with the console itself.

Best Indicator That the Apocalypse Might Be Kinda Cool

Whenever I envision a post-apocalyptic world, it usually looks a lot like End of Evangelion, with a red-coloured skies, seas of nothing, and rubble from former proud structures. Usually one figure stands along among it all, speechless at what they're seeing. It's quite the bleak, saddening image. However, that's not the case in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin! Sure, meteors blotted out the sun, but there's tanks and explosions and stuff! Hooray apocalypse!

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin takes the happy-go-lucky attitude of the first three Advance Wars games and thrusts it into the far-flung future of Armageddon. 90% of the world's population has been wiped out, and the remaining few struggle to survive with limited resources. Of course, just about every last shred of the world's law died with those who upheld it, and now anarchy reins. War is everywhere, and the game follows the story of one troop as he joins a brigade and begins trying to bring the world back to normal. The same award-winning gameplay from the rest of the series returns, bringing with it a few more units and a selection of new gameplay elements. If I had a choice as to how the world would end, I'd surely pick the Days of Ruin version. I'll take tanks and bombers over puddles of people any day!

Best Reason to Get Your Rabies Shot

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Time to head on down to the clinic and get my inoculations up to date! I mean, seriously, if I lived in a town with a raccoon shopkeeper, a dog hairstylist and a hedgehog seamstress, I'd probably get the heck out of there before finding out which of the squirrels is rabid. In the happy, care-free land of Animal Crossing, though, we need not worry about booster shots. Good thing, too, or else I'd have more puncture wounds than Hellraiser.

In Animal Crossing: City Folk, there is no real point or goal. The player can just do things as they want, when they want, living a nice, calming secondary life with friendly humanoid animals. Buying furniture, upgrading the house, competing in fishing tournaments... Okay, so it's the exact same thing as the other two games. Same or not, though, get your rabies shots just to be sure. I don't trust the look in K.K. Slider's eye...

Best Game With a Title Reminiscent of Flatulence

No more really needs to be said here.

LostWinds is a unique game in that the player controls two characters at once: A young boy, Toku, and the wind spirit, Enril. The two work in tandem, with Toku being controlled by the analog stick, and Enril taking the role of the Wii remote's pointer. Simply point, click and drag, and a gust of wind will blow along the line you drew. Wind is key to solving just about every puzzle in the game, from fanning coals into a fire to kick-starting a windmill. LostWinds is certainly a great game, even if its name does remind me of methane clouds.

And so end the first ever Golden Duck Awards, giving useless, fictitious trophies to random video games I played. Can you think of some inane and utterly pointless awards you'd like to give to some of this year's video games? Feel free to let your ideas be heard in either the comment section, or this forum thread.

Snowed in? Game on!

Hey, 400th post. How about that.


The wind howls, the snow gathers, the temperature plummets... It's Winter, alright. So what's there to do when the windrows are taller than you and it's nigh on impossible to leave the house? Game, of course! Here's a selection of games sure to make the time fly as the snow falls.

Picross DS
I play some Picross every night before I go to bed, and it's led to me staying up far too late on more than once occasion. Five minutes turns to twenty, one more puzzle turns into three, and before you know it, the sun's coming up. It's also a great game to escape from the cold of Winter, doing puzzles that turn out to be pictures of sunny beaches, fairy tales, or sporting events. If there's ever been a more pleasant way to escape to another world via a puzzle game I sure haven't played it.

Team Fortress 2

I'm sure you're all well aware of my Team Fortress 2 addiction, but even casual players of this game have to agree that this, too, is a great escape from the cold bite of Winter. Like Picross DS, one round quickly turns to several, and the minutes begin to fly just as fast as the bullets. Furthermore, almost every official Team Fortress 2 map is in a scorching-hot desert scene, quite the opposite of the frigid, icy reality outside your window. Team Fortress 2 is fantastic for escaping the cold, blustery truth of Winter, even more so when a Pyro sets you on fire. I think for the remainder of the season I'll secretly be a little thankful to every enemy Pyro I encounter. There's no warmer moment in Team Fortress 2 than being engulfed in flame!

Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart Wii, with its many modes and easy-to-connect online play, is a surefire way to while away those dull Winter afternoons. At first you sign up for just a few races, but then you're sucked into playing a veritable grand prix against people you've never met. Mario Kart Wii also serves as an excellent escape from the cold and snow drifts of Winter, with many tracks on sunny beaches, as well as more than a few surrounded by lava. I doubt there's anything hotter than sitting next to a pit of molten rock!

...okay, nothing except being in said pit. But then you'd die, and that's hardly ideal at this time of year... Or any other time of year. Anyways, just be sure to stay away from circuits like Sherbet Land and DK Summit, and you'll be fine.

Portal

While Portal's story may be only two hours long, the challenges and large selection of player-made maps do wonders to keep you busy while the windrows build up on the sidewalks. Not only that, the story mode and all its hilarious quotes are well worth experiencing many times over, instantly turning your two hour time investment into four or more. Also, there's one significantly warm part of Portal towards the end that I dare not spoil for those yet to play, but I think the words "4000 degrees Kelvin" should clue in veterans as to just what I'm talking about. Nothing like a "victory candescence" to take your mind off the twenty-below temperatures outside!

So then, there you have it: Four games great for whiling away the cold Winter months, as well as escaping the freezing-cold temperatures out there at this time of year. Let the days darken and let the snow fall, we'll stay inside and play!

What do you think of my choices? Also, what are some games you think are great for passing the time and going somewhere warmer? Feel free to let the world know in the comment section, and/or this forum thread. That's right, I said "and/or". Do both... If you think you're crazy enough.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poll #70: "What do you think of the games of 2008?" results, banner, news

"Fantastic!" 9 votes (56%)
"Okay" 6 votes (37%)
"Awful!" 0 votes (0%)
"No opinion" 1 votes (6%)

It's kinda hard to analyze poll results when so few people respond... I guess it's time to take out some ad space again. Anyways, from the above, it appears people weren't quite as upset about this year's releases as it would seem. I guess we're all just let down after the awesomeness that was 2007.

The theme of this week's banner is, of course, the holiday season. Made in Garry's Mod by yours truly, this somewhat bizarre banner turns Half-Life 2 characters Father Grigori and Dr. Breen into Santa Claus and a reindeer, respectively. Hey, after all the crap he pulled in Half-Life 2, I'd say Breen had it coming. Now, as for why there's only Christmas-related imagery in the banner, here's the same explanation I posted last year:

"As you can see, I only included Christmas-related images. I didn't do this to exclude other religions, it's just I don't know much about Hanukkah or the other events occurring around this time. So rather than offend somebody by misusing an image in an inappropriate way, I stuck to what I knew."


I used the all-inclusive "Season's Greetings", as well, since I wish all of you a great time regardless of your religion. Now that all the explaining is through, here's the actual banner! Man this time of year's stressful...


And now for some important news: Starting this Wednesday (Christmas Eve) I will not be writing again until January 5th. It's the holiday season, and I'd like to spend as much of it as possible with my family. Due to the holidays, there will be no new poll until the regular schedule resumes, and the above banner will remain up until then as well.

One final note: There will be a little something special going up on Christmas Day, but that's all I'll tell you as of now. You'll just have to wait and see!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Club Nintendo's out: Does it deliver?


After much time hoping, dreaming, and wishing, Club Nintendo has finally gone live in North America. After the stellar service available in Japan and the somewhat lackluster equivalent in Europe, nobody knew what to expect here in North America. Is Club Nintendo the answer to our freebie-wanting dreams, or is it an over-expensive, underwhelming insult of a program?

First off, any good service has to be quick and easy to set up and use. As of today, Club Nintendo is not one of those services. While the process itself is simple, the website takes forever to load and commonly logs out users within a handful of minutes. Due to this, I had to fill out a survey more times than you could imagine because I kept getting logged out halfway through it. I have 27 games registered, but I swear I filled out over 40 surveys. I really hope these are just a few hiccups due to the service just launching, or else Nintendo's got some esplainin' to do.

Registering for Club Nintendo is fairly easy, especially if you have an old My Nintendo account kicking around. My Nintendo members simply enter their old username and password, add in a bit more info, and off they go. If you're not a My Nintendo member, you just have to add in your mailing information in addition, nothing more. Either way, it's a fairly fast and simple sign up process.

Registering a game is quite simple as well. Just copy the code off of a piece of paper included inside the game case (Lost the paper? Sorry, pal, you're outta luck!) and type it in. If the game's eligible (See below), the survey automatically pops up (If it doesn't for one reason or another, it's easily accessed later on). As for the surveys themselves, it's pretty generic stuff. "Where did you hear about this game", "What made you want this game", "Where did you buy this game", etc. If only I didn't have to fill out some of them 3+ times...

Club Nintendo uses coins as its virtual currency, with Wii and DS games worth 50 and 30 coins respectively, and all WiiWare and Virtual Console games being worth 10 coins (The only exception to the above is Wii Fit, which is worth 80 coins). Of course, only Nintendo-published titles are valid, and even then some not released within the last little while may not be worth anything. Furthermore, you can get bonus coins for registering a game close after its release, marking a game as "Intend To Buy" and then buying it later on, and completing a "Post-Play Survey" soon after a game's launch to give feedback on the title.

When it comes to buying things, the currently available rewards cost between 300 and 800 coins. After registering 27 games and filling out all the surveys for them, I gathered a total of 1010 coins. It took exactly 20 registrations to get 800 points, and that's a combination of both Wii and DS games. The absolute least amount of games you'd have to register for an 800 coin reward would be 16, all Wii games, and, as I said before, all valid first- or second-party titles.

Redeeming coins for a reward is, yet again, a simple process. Just choose the reward you want, confirm that you want it, and BAM! It's on its way. Now, I've run into one small problem here regarding my "Reward Order Inquiry". The problem, specifically, is that I haven't received it yet. The order page says it should be available within 30 minutes, but here I am, many hours later, and nothing. Nothing in my inbox, nothing on the homepage. The only proof I've even paid for the Game & Watch Collection is the deduction on my transaction history page. I can understand some minor stuff not working right, but something as important as a virtual receipt? That's pretty severe, Nintendo.

The only proof I have as of now that I actually cashed in my coins

As for the rewards themselves, I'd place them somewhere between Europe's Stars program and Japan's Club Nintendo on the "Awesome-O-Meter". There are currently 11 different rewards available, all of which can be seen here. Just look at those two 800 coin rewards: Game & Watch Collection and genuine, old-school-style Hanafuda card. If those aren't awesome, I don't know what is. One more step down are the 600 coin rewards: A game case containing seven styli with room for nine DS cards, a white DS game card case and a Club Nintendo Mario hat-shaped DS game rack. Those DS card/styli cases are sleek and stylish, the white DS game case looks protective and comfortable to hold, and that DS game case rack is three kinds of awesome. Next up (Or down) are two decks of playing cards, one Mario Party-themed, and the other Animal Crossing. As if Animal Crossing didn't take up enough of my life before, along comes this deck of cards... Oh, if only I had 290 more coins! And the last two rewards are a DS Lite case and a Wii remote/Nunchuk holder, costing 400 and 300 coins respectively. While the DS Lite case looks stylish and comfortable, the Wii remote/Nunchuk holder just screams "useless". I know I'm not the only one who sees that case holding a cold drink.

The North American Club Nintendo is, as of now, somewhat better than the European equivalent that charges crazy amounts of Stars for cell phone backgrounds and computer wallpapers, while most everything worthwhile costs way too much and is pretty much constantly sold-out. Nothing, though, can beat the incredible Japanese Club Nintendo, with its many different exclusive DS games such as Exclamation Warriors and Tingle's Balloon Fight, SNES-shaped Classic Controllers, a Wii remote that works on your TV, and several game soundtrack CDs. You just can't follow an act like that! So despite it falling far short of the astounding Japanese Club Nintendo, the North American version has a great selection of rewards. And what's more, they're all physical objects instead of the myriad of wallpapers and ringtones the European Stars Catalogue has.

Overall, I'd say I'm satisfied with the North American Club Nintendo, even with the constantly bugging-out website. I just hope I get that Reward Order Inquiry soon, or else I may have to dip into hell on Earth... Automated customer service.

EDIT: My Reward Order Inquiry has finally showed up in my inbox. It only took it, oh... 26 1/2 hours longer than it should have to get here. Not too happy about that...

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NOTE: Partway through writing this article, I attempted to log into Club Nintendo and received the message "Due to high traffic volumes, the sign in function may not be working properly." While it's fine and good that Nintendo put this little message in, really, shouldn't they have anticipated this traffic? You think they'd know better than to be caught off guard by now...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Poll #69: "Which of the following do you most often play games on?" results, banner, what to expect this week

"Wii" 14 votes (43%)
"DS" 8 votes (25%)
"XBox 360" 4 votes (12%)
"Playstation 3" 2 votes (6%)
"Playstation Portable" 0 votes (0%)
"Computer" 2 votes (6%)
"Cell phone" 0 votes (0%)
"Other" 2 votes (6%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)

Major ouch to the PSP there. Perhaps it would have gotten a vote or two if I left the "play games" part out of the question...

This week's banner comes to us from Psychogoose, and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Hey, who says they can't celebrate the holiday in ancient Persia? Nobody, that's who! Also, the way he holds the ornament = Awesome. Great work, Mr. Goose.



This week's poll is "What do you think of the games of 2008?". A lot of people are saying that this year was kinda meh overall, but what do you think? And this is concerning all platforms, from Wii to PS3 to computer.

About this week, there will be no update tonight, and likely nothing tomorrow, either. We're getting new furniture and there's a heck of a lot of work to be done around the house, and I just have no time at all for writing as of now. Wednesday's looking good, though, as everything will probably be settled and rearranged by then.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A crazy idea I've had for a while


Every console this generation has its own rumbling, force-feedback controller, each offering a little extra to the level of immersion we feel when we play. All this time, though, I don't think I've ever seen anything of the sort even thought of for computer mice. Of course, there's the obvious idea of adding rumble, but I've got one other idea that will take things that one step further...


Above you see a mess of black dots scattered about the borders of a faint image of a mouse. Every one of those dots is a ball bearing that will move freely with the movement, able to roll in any direction. This would allow the mouse to respond to in-game situations, rolling backwards and forwards, left and right, and even rotating in place.


In the above image I added five red dots. These represent five different powered ball-like wheels that work much like an old trackball mouse in reverse: Instead of the rolling mouse ball spinning the wheels inside for input, the wheels inside this force-feedback mouse spin by way of small motors, causing the drive wheels to spin and move the mouse as a form of output. The ball bearings will roll smoothly in whatever direction the powered balls go. When no force-feedback is being applied, the drive wheels for the powered balls will unlock and allow the mouse to move smoothly so as to not interfere with the player's input.

So, this is great and all, but what are the applications? One example is in the game Half-Life 2. Enemies can pistol whip the player, causing their viewing angle to tilt up as recoil. With my force-feedback mouse, though, instead of the game automatically tilting the viewing angle up, the mouse would instead slide down on the mouse pad as recoil. If the player sees the pistol whipping coming, they can lock their hand in place to simulate bracing themselves. Then, when the butt of the gun connects, they'll be able to prevent the mouse from wheeling backwards too far.

Another example would be to physically lock the mouse in place when the player is stuck, paralyzed, or otherwise immobile. This would help break the divide between player and fantasy a bit during locked-camera scenes, making it so that the player is just as immobile as their character. Being able to move your mouse at a time when it has no effect just breaks the illusion for me.

As for those four corner balls, they can be used for rotating the mouse in place. This could come in handy if the player is being spun around or something, although for practicality's sake it wouldn't spin more than, say, 45 degrees. Sending the mouse into an uncontrollable spin would probably be a bad idea, especially if said mouse isn't wireless.

Well, that's my drastically-different-from-when-I-first-thought-it-up idea for a force feedback mouse, which I'm sure could have rumble incorporated as an addition. What do you think? Is this too drastic, or maybe not drastic enough? Let your thoughts be heard in the comments section, or this forum thread.

Friday, December 12, 2008

PC vs console gaming


Like I said back in May, I'm currently both a PC and a console gamer. I'm in a unique situation now, you see, as many PC gamers consider their choice superior to that of console gamers. Of course, the console gamers feel quite to the contrary. While I don't hope to once and for all end this argument, I will lay the facts down right here and now and decide whether one choice truly has any sort of advantage over the other.

Round 1: Price

When it comes to a good, gaming quality PC, you're quite often going to be spending big bucks just to make par, so to speak. Most every gaming-level PC out there is going to cost you upwards of $1000, and that's just for the CPU. Add in a $300-$400 high-quality monitor, a keyboard, mouse and speakers and the price is sure to be at least $1500. Going PC when it comes to gaming is never cheap unless you have some major connections and the know-how to put together your own computer from scratch.

Consoles, on the other hand, currently cost between $280 and $400 plus tax here in Canada. At those prices, you'd be able to get one of each consoles and a few games for less than a fully-loaded gaming PC. Of course, there's the addition of peripherals and, in the case of the XBox 360, online subscription fees, but even factoring in these would at most overshoot the PC price point by no more than $100 or so. Still, you'd be getting three game consoles, peripherals, games and subscriptions for the price of a computer, monitor and accessories. I feel that's reason enough to conclude that round 1 goes to the consoles.

Round 2: Game Selection

The PC gets a relatively mixed-bag of games. Many major console games eventually see release on the PC, sometimes simultaneously, especially games otherwise exclusive to the XBox 360. Mass Effect, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Grand Theft Auto IV and BioShock are all good examples of this. The PC's library of exclusive games is somewhat lacking, though, with only a few significant titles coming to mind, some of which are many years old. Finally, due to how open the world of PC game development is, the amount of shovelware clogging up the shelves rivals that of the Wii and DS combined. Back on the bright side of things, the PC has a game library going back about twenty years, with many classic games such as Fallout, RollerCoaster Tycoon, SimCity, and so much more available for little or nothing. No console in history can match the shear size of the PC's library.

As for the console scene, there tends to be far more exclusives than on the PC. If you were to add up all the exclusive titles available out there for the 360, Wii and PS3 you'd surely come up with a number many, many times that of what you'd find doing the same with the PC. Heck, the AAA exclusives for the Wii alone over the last two years probably outnumber those of the PC. Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii, Metroid Prime 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Paper Mario, No More Heroes, Wario Land: Shake It, Battalion Wars II... The list keeps going! However, as I said before, even counting services like the Virtual Console and XBox Live Arcade, no console can even come close to the gargantuan amount of classic games available for the PC. Round 2 ends in a tie.

Round 3: The Social Factor

Even the most die-hard PC fan would have to admit that there's just no matching having a bunch of friends all crowded around a single TV wailing on game controllers in a frantic race to outdo each other. Unless you have a dedicated circle of PC-playing friends with easily-transported rigs, you just can't match the same-room mayhem of consoles.

When it comes to being a social gaming experience, the PC isn't entirely behind the consoles. Like the 360, PS3, and soon to be the Wii, the PC also has live voice chat during games. That being said, although this does help close the gap a little, the consoles still claim round 3.

Round 4: Compatibility

When you bring home a new XBox 360 game, do you have to check what version of the console you have, or what your processing power is? Nope, you just pop in the disc and get playing. This isn't the case with PC gaming, though, as I nervously approach any new game and carefully read the requirements on the back to check if I can run it on my mid-range PC. Even if I can run it, it probably won't be at full graphical quality. This is where price comes back into play, as PC gamers have to continually upgrade their rigs in order to keep up with the ever-changing standard of processors and graphics cards. Console gamers? We just buy the successor every five years, sit back, and relax. Without a doubt, consoles claim victory this round.

Round 5: Controls

If you're reading this article on a computer, look right in front of you and see one of the greatest controllers ever made: The keyboard and mouse. With the keyboard's nearly infinite possibilities for customization and the mouse's pinpoint accuracy, the PC can adapt to just about anyone's preferences. Heck, if you don't like to use a keyboard and mouse, you can even hook up an XBox 360 controller and play with that instead!

In the consoles' corner, the only controller that comes close to matching the precision of a keyboard and mouse is the Wii remote. With its infra-red pointer, the Wii remote is every bit as accurate as the mouse, if not more so. Of course, the Wii remote, along with the Dualshock 3, have motion sensing, something no PC input device I've heard of can match. This round is too close to call, with motion sensing on one hand, and customization on the other, I'm going to have to call this a tie.

Round 6: Multitasking

The latest round of consoles come complete with many features other than playing video games, from web browsers to weather updates to virtual stores for customizing. However, no amount of additional features on a game console can match the insane multitasking abilities of a PC. After all, PCs are generally computers first, game consoles second. Just about every PC out there has word processing, web browsing, photo editing, movie making, music playback, a DVD player, and so much more. Without a doubt, round 6 goes to the PC.

VERDICT


With each victory counting for a full point, and each tie counting for a half-point, the consoles win the round with a 4 over the PC's respectable 2. Don't go thinking that a PC isn't worth your time for gaming, though, as these are just numbers. While the consoles may have won when it comes to the score, the PC isn't entirely inferior. It's a complicated sort of battle, really, and it's the kind that really never will have any sort of clear winner in the end. However, based on the above facts alone, the consoles do beat out the PC. Just remember that preference is the one true deciding factor, since that's all that really matters.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No more Wi-Fi Connection website, so why not a Wii Channel?

Finally, there's some snow on the ground... I think that alone helped clear my mind a bit.


Sometime last month, Nintendo removed the American and Canadian versions of the Wi-Fi Connection website, with the URL now redirecting us to a stripped-down version of the former website. Of course, it's not as if the website had updated any time recently, with the latest news bulletin being from mid-2007. Still, though, we now have no access to any sort of stats tracking or leaderboards. Personally, I found the website to be a little clunky and disconnected from the games, but I'm still a little miffed at the fact that we don't have anything at all now.

Where does that leave us? Now we have nowhere to go for our stats or anything unless such features are built into the game. All of these problems could be solved quite easily with the addition of a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Channel. Imagine all the stats-tracking and leaderboards from the former website at our fingertips, waiting for us on the Wii Menu. The Wi-Fi Connection Channel would instantly log all records of Wii games being played online, unlike the sometimes day-long delay the old website gave us. Leaderboards would now be available for games that didn't have them previously, and those that did would have the stats mirrored on the new channel.

As for DS, players would be able to link their systems to the new hub much like before. Players would change the DS nickname to the series of letters and numbers the Wi-Fi Channel gives them, then connect to register the system. Then, just like with the Wii, leaderboards and stats tracking would be available for every online DS game.

When it comes to the DSi, the Wi-Fi Connection Channel could become available on the DSi Shop, removing the need to register the system with a Wii. Of course, since the DSi is portable, chances are it won't have access to the internet 24/7 like the Wii. Thus, when the DSi is unable to connect to the main server, the data would be saved to the internal memory and uploaded at the next opportunity.

Now, what would this channel cost? Personally, I believe such a service should be available for free. After all, the Wi-Fi Connection itself is free, and so should be the Wi-Fi Connection Channel! Also, if it weren't free, people would have to pay twice if they wanted it on both their Wii and DSi, and that's just not right.

Of course, I'm not exactly expecting such a channel to ever come to be. Nintendo just doesn't seem to ever make services like this available. Heck, I was surprised they even gave that clunky old website to us! Of course, you never can tell for sure with Nintendo, so we'll just have to wait and see... And pray like hell!

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New posting "schedule"

Pay attention to this, folks, for it is quite important. I'm changing the way things are done around here. No more schedule. New articles will come whenever I have a good one thought up. Posts may become less frequent, but without a deadline floating over my head I'm sure I'll have higher quality posts for you all to read. I've been thinking about this ever since Friday night, so I assure you this decision was not made hastily. I suppose you should expect at least two articles a week now, perhaps more if I get bitten by the writing bug.

Now, I have an article partly done. I'm hoping to have it completed sometime tomorrow. Look out for it then. That is all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Poll #68: "Who's your favourite Nintendo princess?" results, banner

"Peach" 3 votes (11%)
"Daisy" 4 votes (15%)
"Zelda" 15 votes (57%)
"No preference" 4 votes (15%)

Wow... That's quite a bit more of a landslide victory that I was expecting! Peach and Daisy should just be happy that Samus doesn't qualify as a princess, or else they'd be lucky to receive even half as many votes!

This week's banner comes to us from ryanrab1, and the theme is Left 4 Dead. I thought I loved this game before, but now that there's zombie ducks involved... I think I may begin to cry.

And finally we have this week's poll: "Which of the following do you most often play games on?" For me, it's easily the computer. The Orange Box and Garry's Mod still keep me coming back even after all this time!

Today's article will be up later on. For reals this time.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

No update tonight

I'd say sorry right now, but really, it wouldn't matter all that much. I've said that word so many times here that it's pretty much lost all meaning. I just don't get it... Writing is just about the only thing I do, and most of the time I can't even get that going a measly three times a week. I thought I'd hit a good patch, too, with two, decent-length articles published back to back. I thought Hey, this week's going pretty well. And then... This. I've hit a slump. It's the time of year, I think. Around now I'm not allowed to buy games for myself due to Christmas coming up, so I don't have many new gaming experiences to write about. Sure, there's Animal Crossing: City Folk, and even the copy of Race Driver: GRID (DS) I picked up yesterday, but... I don't know. I just can't think of anything substantial to write. Still not ready to review City Folk, and doing an impressions article on a game released four months ago just feels like a total cop-out. I just don't know what to do, really. I always feel like a total jerk whenever I fail to update.

...whatever. Sitting here and whining about it all isn't going to make it any better. I'm gonna go to bed now. I've got stuff to do in the morning, and I'd like to be rested for it. Monday? I'm not even going to think about it right now. I'll just leave Monday until Monday, and that's that. This weekend... I ain't gonna think about anything. I'm gonna do some crap tomorrow morning, put up the Christmas tree on Sunday, and do absolutely nothing else the rest of the time. Sounds like a good plan to me...

Well, you guys just ignore me over here as I have an epic battle with emotion and writer's block. Sleep now...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"By this time next year..." revisited!



On November 2nd, 2007, I wrote "By this time next year...", an article containing predictions about what would happen in the gaming industry between then and November 2nd, 2008. Let's take a look at how well my predictions fared...

"...Star Fox Wii will have been announced for an early 2009 release." = WRONG

Augh, not off to a good start, am I? Star Fox Wii hasn't even been hinted at yet, much less announced for early next year. On the bright side, though, we did get confirmation on the development of Pikmin 3...

"...Animal Crossing Wii will have launched in all major markets." = WRONG

Oh, and I was so close, too! Sadly, it was a little less than two weeks after the deadline that City Folk was released in any region, so that's another prediction that bites the dust.

"...a new design of the Nintendo DS will be announced." = Correct!

A-ha, finally, I strike back! And not only has the DSi been announced, it's even launched in Japan! If only the rest of the world didn't have to wait so long...

"...at least two more game systems will be added to the Virtual Console." = Correct!

Score another one for me! In the last year, both the Neo Geo and SEGA Master System were added to the North American Virtual Console catalog. Furthermore, the European store has seen the addition of the Commodore 64 to its ranks.

"...the obligatory third Pokemon game of the generation will be released." = Correct!

Pokémon Platinum was released in Japan in September 2008, adding one more game to the pile, and one more point to my score!

"...over 20 million Wii systems will have been sold worldwide." = Correct!

Oh, if only I knew how right I was! The Wii's almost doubled that number, reaching roughly 35 1/2 million units sold worldwide as of September 2008! For all we know, the Wii could have already reached 40 million by now. I'm sure Nintendo will be all too happy to alert us when the landmark is reached.

"...Duke Nukem Forever will remain unreleased." = Correct!

I believe I'll let Professor Obvious field this one:


Thank you, professor.

So then, that's five right, and two wrong. I'd say that's a pretty darned good ratio right there! Now then, time for a new round of predictions! Annual tradition? You betcha! So then, by this time next year...

...at least one more console will be added to the North American Virtual Console
...Star Fox Wii will have been announced for an early 2010 release (I'm not giving up on this!)
...the true successor to the DS line of handhelds will have been announced
...Nintendo still won't have released a true solution to the Wii storage problem
...Wii sales will surpass 60 million worldwide
...the combined sales of the Nintendo DS, DS Lite and DSi will overtake the Playstation 2's record sales of 140 million+
...Mother 3 will still be landlocked in Japan, without any sort of announcements made for a release outside of its homeland
...at least two more Pokémon games will have been released (Main series and/or spin-offs)

The least likely of all the above would probably have to be the DS sales outdoing the PS2, with everything else hovering around the 70% range for probability. Will my predictions turn out true? The only way to find out is to wait for December 3rd, 2009...

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A type of game we need more of

There's this one type of game I've always liked... It has no real name, actually, as it's more of a different way of making any genre of game. In RPGs your stats improve as you level up. Think of the game I'm talking about as the anti-RPG. You never level up, you never get new and improved stats. The only factor that improves... Is you.

Athletes and soldiers don't level up in our world, so why should they in games? Why should stats improve after playing a while? In my opinion, the only factor that should determine the player's powers and abilities is the player itself. Let me try and put this in a simple manner... In Wii Sports, your ball doesn't get faster in bowling, your punches don't become stronger in boxing, and your bat doesn't suddenly strike more accurately in baseball. The only thing that improves is you. You get better at throwing, punching and swinging, not the game. The Wii is perfectly suited to this kind of game, as instead of pressing a button (Which has only one input possibility), you can swing, shake or thrust the remote (With varying degrees of speed, angular accuracy and orientation control). Now then, let's see how some of the seemingly-incompatible genres would fare on the Wii with this game design philosophy in place:

Role-playing game (RPG): I know I said that this type of game design is like the anti-RPG, but there's a way the two could live in harmony. Imagine that you start out like in any other RPG, but instead of being, say, level 1, you're just you. Now, let's say that you take up magic as your specialty in-game. The strength of the spells would be determined by your accuracy with pointing, hand motions, and (With the addition of the WiiSpeak) incantation pronunciation. If you totally fudge up these physical and verbal commands, the spell would backfire, causing one of many undesirable results (Setting yourself on fire, killing a team mate, etc.). Also, how closely you replicate the motions would determine the accuracy of the spell. One errant twitch, and KABLOOIE!

Imagine building houses in My Life as a King with your hands and voice. Make one mistake, and whoops! Your bathtub's on the roof.

Now, say you take up the profession of swordsman. The main thing here would be how well you would handle the blade (Or rather, Wii remote). Making sure it's angled just right, so the cutting edge hits the foe (No good bonking him with the side of your sword), adjusting the strength of your swing to fit the enemy's strength, and even weaving the sword through the opponent's defenses for greater accuracy. Adding this game design would dramatically change the face of RPGs, and I really hope at least one developer out there is thinking of a game like this. One thing to add is, of course, you'd still reach "landmarks" and gain the ability to learn new spells and moves, but your stats would be all you. The day I can cast spells with my voice and weave my blade through tattered armour in a video game is the day I can truly die a happy gamer.

First-person shooter (FPS): In most FPS games, reloading is as easy as hitting a button, shaking the controller, or shooting outside the screen. With this design style in place, though, it wouldn't be so simple. First, you'd press or hold a button to initiate the reloading sequence (Just so the game wouldn't accidentally think you were reloading when you aren't). Then, you'd make a motion with your hands like pulling out the magazine, popping out the empty shells, or whatever motion goes with the gun you're holding. Then, you'd reach down with your hand to simulate grabbing more ammo, then place it in the "gun" in your other hand. Depending on your skill, reloading could be a lot faster or slower, meaning those who've practiced more will have an edge over the less experienced.

Another action that would be affected by your skill would be pistol whipping. Hold down a different button to enter "pistol whipping mode", then jerk the controller forwards to smash the gun into whatever's in front of you (Jammed door, opponent's groin, etc.). The strength and angle of your motion would determine the power of the hit. I'm just imagining how some of my current favourite shooters would change with this new design style, and I gotta say, I like what I'm seeing. Would it be harder? Yes. Would it be more tiring than usual? Yes. Would it be a whole whackload of fun? Definitely.

Platformer: Mario stars in a lot of great platforming games, but I've never been able to shake the feeling of being disconnected from the chubby little guy. This method of play would fix everything. When it comes to punching enemies like in Super Mario 64, you'd thrust the controller forward, and as with pistol whipping in an FPS, the strength of your movement would determine the damage done. What about launching fireballs with the Power Flower? Quite simple, actually: Just hold a button, swing the remote as if you were throwing something, and let go at just the right time, like pitching in Wii Sports: Baseball. The strength of your throw would determine the speed of the fire ball, and the angle would determine how it flies out of Mario's hand, moving forward, off to either side, or even straight up or right into the ground.

Warning: Performing the "Galaxy spin" may cause severe bodily harm, nausea, and property damage

Now, Mario's more of a game for everyone, and younger kids may not be patient enough to learn and master these moves. For this reason (And a few others), these advanced motion controls would not be necessary. If you're tired, disabled, or just plain lazy, you could just switch it to "automatic" mode. The speed, strength and accuracy of your moves would just be stuck around the average mark. Think of it like playing a racing game with either automatic or manual transmission. You can use manual if you want a more challenging, faster ride, or automatic if you'd rather concentrate on the road and nothing else. Sure, you'll be slower, but you'll also be using up less of your attention on a little gauge in the corner of the screen. This is exactly how the above motions would be translated into in "automatic" mode. And of course, all other games would be like this too... Well, in a perfect world, at least...

It also should go without saying that some genres just wouldn't work in this way. Puzzle and real time strategy (RTS) games just wouldn't be compatible. But, if it's a game where you play as one, on-screen character at a time, this style of play would fit perfectly.

I really wish more games took this approach. I love the sense of immersion I get from some games, but when it comes to the fact that I have no real input over the strength or accuracy of my attacks, it really shatters the illusion. Perhaps with the release of the Wii MotionPlus we'll see a game or two like this... Well, I can dream, at least.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Poll #67: "Based on looks alone, which DS model do you like best?" results, banner

Minor note: This is the 200th article published this year. Not bad, huh? Anyways, poll result time:

The original DS 5 votes (13%)
DS Lite 12 votes (31%)
DSi 16 votes (42%)
I like them all 4 votes (10%)
I don't like any of them 0 votes (0%)
I don't know 1 vote (2%)

Can't say I'm too surprised here. Nintendo really has been stepping things up with each new model. Still, the shoulder buttons sort of bug me on the DSi, so I had to stick with the DS Lite. Seems like I'm not the only one! And wow, I didn't think the original would get five votes. Two or three, maybe, but five? Perhaps I underestimated the little clam shell that resembled a car hood.

This week's banner comes to us from camieman10, who, with the help of ryanrab1, has monopolized the banner-making business 'round these parts. The theme for this week is Princess Zelda, probably the most awesome of all the Nintendo princesses. Daisy's pretty close, though, but seriously, Zelda has a SWORD. No arguing with steel.


...you know, that gives me an idea for this week's poll: "Who's your favourite Nintendo princess?" It's a battle of the girls! You already know who I'm voting for, so now it's time for the masses to speak out!

Tonight's article will be up in a bit, 'kay? 'Kay.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A small assortment of Team Fortress 2 rants


I've been playing Team Fortress 2 a lot lately. And by a lot, I mean way more than I should be. During this time, while I've had a whole lot of fun, I've also run into quite a few annoyances. No, not any sorts of glitches or faults of the developer. I've run into a lot of problems with the other players. People being stupid, being jerks, or otherwise just not being fun to play with at all. The following article goes out to all these people.

First of all, y'all gotta stop pushing people off the teleporters. If someone gets to the teleporter before you do, leave them. They got to it first. It's their right to use it. You can darn well wait a few seconds for it to recharge, or just walk to the battle, okay?

Relating to the above, if you're a scout, for the love of all things good, don't use the freaking teleporters! For crying out loud, you're the fastest class by far! Leave the other, slower players to the teleporters, and hoof it! In the time it takes you to run there, the person who got the teleporter will already be there, doubling the fighting power at that moment. If you steal it, all that happens is one measly little scout gets there, while some other player waits and waits for the teleporter to recharge because it would take to long to walk. Not only is it a pain in the ass to have a teleporter meant for you used by a scout, it also hurts the team. So don't do it.

And would it kill you not to use such disgusting sprays in game? Good god, I've seen some stuff on the walls of pl_goldrush I wouldn't even show to my worst enemy. Keep your sick, twisted sense of "humour" to yourself and play the freaking game instead of disturbing all of your teammates.

If you're a spy, don't disguise as a scout. Ever. You move slower than a scout, you can't double-jump like a scout, and you can't use the bat like every other scout does. It's the worst disguise ever. Stop doing it.

A microphone can be a great tool in battle, allowing you to quickly pass information onto other players; and if you want to say something funny, go ahead, we all love a good laugh. But come on, people; Stop being racist, sexist, crass jerks. Stop screaming into your microphones. Stop blasting crappy music over them. And for crying out loud, if your microphone sucks, stop freaking using it. I don't need static and garbled speech blasting into my ears, thanks. Yes, I realize I can mute you with a few clicks, but I'd rather focus on fighting than pause and fiddle around just to stop some pre-pubescent idiot from swearing at me.

We've all heard of sore losers, but there's also such a thing as a sore winner. Yeah, your team won three rounds in a row; That's no reason to act as if everyone on the other team is the worst freaking player in history. And if someone kills you, don't scream obscenities at them. You died in a video game. You'll respawn. Calm down, man. Oh, and if your team is kicking ass, don't go "YEAH WE ROCK" if you're not even in the top ten on a twelve person team. You're hardly helping, pal, don't steal all the credit. Seriously, I've seen people with two points acting as if they're carrying the whole freaking team on their back.

Finally, quit using aim-enhancing programs. You aren't kidding anyone when you use one. You suck at Team Fortress 2 and you need a program to make you any good. It annoys everybody, enemy and ally alike. Turn off the bot, get some practice, and darn well play like you should. Can't get a kill like that? Practice some more. Believe me, it's a whole lot better than sitting back and letting the computer do all the work.

If you're reading this and any of the above applies to you, please take my words into consideration next time you play. We'd all appreciate it.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm through making excuses for the Wii's online shortcomings



I was talking about Animal Crossing: City Folk with a friend online a few minutes ago, and he said he sent me something in-game. He asked if I got it yet, and I said no. Here's how some of the conversation went:

Him: Did you receive my gift on City Folk?
Me: Gift?
Him: Yes, gift.
Me: I, uh... Got money and an apple last week... Was one of those you?
Him: Nope
Me: When did you send it?
Him: Just this morning. Perhaps it takes 24 hours. Who knows, anyways...
Me: Yeah, I'll probably have it tomorrow. Instant mailing would be better, but... Eh, it's the Wii. We just have to make do.

When I said this, I realized... I'm making an excuse for the console. "Yeah, that sucks, but it's just the Wii". Doesn't that seem wrong to you? I know I'm not the only one who does it, either. Heck, the guy I was talking to agreed with me, then said that we just deal with it "Same as we do with [Friend Codes]". We shouldn't have to make excuses or "just deal" with the shortcomings of the Wii. Owners of the other consoles don't seem to do it. It's not as if you hear "Oh, Halo 3 would be better with motion controls, but since this is the 360 I'll forgive it". Why? It's because the other consoles don't have such glaring insufficiencies. Sure, you can say the PS3 is kinda ugly-looking, or that the 360 lacks any sort of motion-sensing, but that doesn't hit as hard as the comparatively pathetic online capabilities of the Wii. After all, consoles have been online since last generation, with even a couple major portables joining in, but the Wii just can't get with the program.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the Wii, but I'm getting really tired of constantly making excuses for its shortcomings. That's just about all I have to say, really. Low-end graphics? Say what you will, but the Wii's still pretty darn powerful. Weak third-party support? That's not even the Wii's fault. But when it comes to the undeniable fact that its online abilities are severely gimped, well, I can't just say "Whatever, it's the Wii. Deal." I'm tired of making excuses, and I'm tired of just dealing with it. Nintendo, I love your products, but please step things up with the Wii 2 (Or whatever crazy name you give it). If things aren't at least as good as the XBox was last generation... Well, you don't want to know what a legion of angry Nintendo fans can do. Lets just say it involves a large monkey wrench and a certain plumber's "drain pipe".

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New poll and banner time

I don't know how I managed to do this, but I actually forgot to make a new poll. Um... Whoops? So yeah, new poll: "Based on looks alone, which DS model do you like best?" To be honest, I don't think the DSi looks quite as good as the Lite. That big camera on top is just an eyesore on the white model, and I don't like how much the shoulder buttons stick out. Still, though, I'm anticipating it for its abilities more than its looks, but that's not the point of this poll. So let's see how y'all feel!

As for the banner, ryanrab1 saw the lack of newness up top and decided to submit the following Midna-themed banner. Why Midna? 'Cause she's flipping awesome! Definitely one of the better new characters this generation.


Th-th-th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Poll #66: "What do you think of the Animal Crossing series?" results, banner, news

"It's all fantastic!" 7 votes (25%)
"I like it" 7 votes (25%)
"So-so" 6 votes (22%)
"It stinks, it stinks, it stinks" 1 vote (3%)
"It needs a major revamp" 4 votes (14%)
"No comment" 2 votes (7%)

While I sort of agree that the series could use a bit of an overhaul, I'm fairly happy with it overall. Judging by the above votes, I'm not alone.

This week's banner? Nothing new. In fact, it's practically nothing at all. Just the sad little logo sitting up there all alone. The only two submitted banners have a few problems with them, so I'm letting the artists touch-up and resubmit their work.

And hey, about tonight's post... Yeah, yeah, you know what's coming. It ain't happening tonight. I unexpectedly have to go all the way to the other side of the city tomorrow in the morning, and I need to be rested. Toronto? Yeah, not a small city, and the buses aren't exactly stellar (Though they've apparently improved recently, I still don't like 'em). At least I'll be taking the subway partway... Maybe I'll catch up on my sleep then.

Well, that's that. (Insert usual string of "SORRY"s right here)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Post delay until tomorrow *UPDATE*

Sorry about this, folks and folkettes, but I gotta delay tonight's article until tomorrow. I've got some things to do in the morning, so I'd better get to sleep and such. Rest assured, though, that I will have your regularly scheduled article up tomorrow!

...you know, just in case someone out there still gives half a crap.

*UPDATE*: I have the worst freaking case of writer's block EVER. I know exactly what I want to write, but it just won't come out right. Augh, I'm going nuts over here! Sorry, but this'll have to wait until Monday...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wii's year two report card



While the first year is an important twelve months for any console, the second year can still break the momentum even if it was previously doing well. Did the Wii manage to keep things going strong over the last year, or was its stellar performance in 2007 all for naught? Following the same formula I used last year, here's the Wii's report card for its second year on the market.

The Software

This time last year, we had so many of the Wii's key franchises in our hands already. Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid were all there, firmly establishing the Wii as a worthwhile console. Has the flow of games kept up over the Wii's second year?

When it comes to Nintendo's big franchises, they sure delivered. Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Animal Crossing: City Folk are now in millions of Wii consoles all over the world, bringing three more beloved Nintendo franchises to the current generation. Nintendo also introduced two more entries in the "Wii" series of games with the release of Wii Fit and Wii Music, and even published Endless Ocean by Arika, the diving game that challenged the definition of what a game had to be. Nintendo certainly did their part over these last twelve months.

The third parties also did their job for the most part, hitting us with amazing titles like de Blob, Guitar Hero: World Tour, No More Heroes, Okami and Boom Blox. Many of these developers greatly outdid themselves here, all the while helping to ensure that the Wii continue to be great.

Nintendo also added a new way for us to purchase games with the introduction of WiiWare. Since the introduction of this new service in May we've seen many great games come down the digital pipeline, including Dr. Mario Online Rx, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, LostWinds, Mega Man 9 and Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. Nintendo is working well with third parties to make sure that WiiWare is as great as it can possibly be, and their effort certainly isn't going unnoticed.

However, not all is sunshine and lollipops in the world of Wii software. The frequency of shovelware has increased to the point of being sickening, with even some of the most well-known and respected developers resorting to cheap cash-ins when it comes to Wii development. Coupled with the fact that most third parties still can't grasp the abilities of the Wii remote, the software only earns a...

C

Online Gaming

Last year the online gaming section of the report card only earned a measly C- due to lazy third parties, laggy play, and a worrying suggestion that we only play with people on the same continent. Have things improved, or gotten worse?

When it comes to Nintendo providing more games to play online, they've certainly stepped things up. Endless Ocean, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii, Dr. Mario Online Rx and Animal Crossing: City Folk are all online-enabled and published by Nintendo, showing that the Big N is finally starting to take online play seriously. For some reason, though, Nintendo didn't think Mario Super Sluggers was right for online play, but that's just one game out of many.

The third parties aren't doing any better than they were last year, though. Doing a quick mental scan of all major games released this past year, the only two I can think of that had online play are Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2. Although these games did handle online very well, it doesn't make up for the fact that many third party games that should have had online didn't.

Of the games that are online, most of them are fairly quick to connect and boast relatively lag-free play. However, not all is good in the land of the Nintendo WiFi Connection, as Super Smash Bros. Brawl suffered from incredible amounts of lag and made players wait large amounts of time for two minute battles.

In the end, while Nintendo has been supporting online play a lot more than last year, third parties are still dropping the ball big-time. The online gaming scene is doing slightly better than last year, earning a respectable...

C+

Wii Channels


In the Wii's first year, we got the News, Forecast, Internet, Check Mii Out and Everybody Votes Channels, as well as the Metroid Prime 3: Corruption preview channel. The first year was impressive, but how about the second?

When the Wii was first released, rumours ran rampant of some sort of "DS Demo Channel", some sort of mystical piece of software that acted like the DS Download Stations from malls and GameStops all over North America. The rumours finally came true in the form of the Nintendo Channel, providing DS demos and informative videos detailing many upcoming and already-released Wii and DS titles. Finally, we have a Download Station at our fingertips!

Over the last year, Japan has also seen two channels released that no other region has received. First of all is the "Television Friend Channel", which is basically a TV guide built into the Wii. Since most cable and satellite providers around here have upcoming programs listed as a basic feature, I somehow doubt we'll ever get (Or need) this one. Still, it's sure to be great for those in Japan who apparently don't enjoy such features.

Another channel so far exclusive to Japan is the "Digicam Print Channel", allowing users to take SD card images from their camera and make photo books and business cards, which will be printed and delivered for a small fee. This channel is currently scheduled to launch in all other regions at an unknown time in the future. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind a few Mii business cards to keep in my wallet!

Two more channels also hit the Wii this past year, but they weren't distributed through the Shop Channel. Instead, they were pre-loaded onto Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit game discs, from which they can be installed onto the Wii Menu. These channels tracked user performance and could be accessed even when the corresponding disc isn't in the Wii. Both channels (To my knowledge) are accessible directly on the game disc without installation, so while they're kind of neat to have, it's not exactly worth taking up the precious little memory the Wii has.

Overall, Nintendo kept the flow of channels going quite steady these past twelve months, and for that I award them a...

B+

Keeping Promises

In the Wii's first year Nintendo dealt a painful one-two punch of unfulfilled promises, with the delay of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the not-so-automatic downloading of new Wii firmware via WiiConnect24. Did Nintendo manage to keep their word better this time around?

Not if you consider the fact that, despite constant reassuring, Nintendo has still failed to announce any sort of adequate solution to the Wii storage issue. Their revelation of a supposed solution a little while back is most likely a way of avoiding the real problem, as it only allows us to download WiiWare and Virtual Console games straight to the SD card, but still requires them to be in the Wii's internal memory to be played. Come on, Nintendo. Stop dicking around already and give us a real solution.

One other minor promise they broke was the one month delay of Super Smash Bros. Brawl earlier in the year. Just as we thought they'd laid the final delay on us, they jump out and say that it'll be out in March, not February. Sure, this isn't huge, but it's still a promise broken.

Otherwise, though, Nintendo really didn't make any other promises, and with a lack of promises, what's there to break? That being said, in the category of keeping promises, the verdict is...

B

Overall

The Wii has had somewhat of an average second year. Nothing spectacularly awesome happened, but neither did anything catastrophically bad. In the end, I suppose the last year deserves a...

B-


...and the future?
There's a good amount of promising software on the way for the Wii, with a new Punch-Out!, an Endless Ocean sequel, Wii Sports: Resort, and even a new Sin & Punishment on the way. It's not all about sequels, though, as SEGA is hitting us with two brand new games, MadWorld and The Conduit. It's hard to say anything about the future, especially when the time frame is an entire year, but I feel that the Wii will have a respectable showing over the next twelve months.

Now then, Nintendo, about that storage solution...

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Animal Crossing: City Folk impressions



After waiting since City Folk's announcement back in July, gamers all over North America finally have the latest Animal Crossing in their hands. I actually managed to grab a copy on Saturday, beating the street date by a whole day. Sure, not as drastic as some peoples' experiences, but it was still pretty notable. Anywho, I've played this game for many, many hours so far (Over three hours today alone), and while I'm not quite ready to write up the review, I can certainly give my impressions.

The main place where I've noticed some change is with the fish. First off, they're no longer 2D sprites moving around under the water, but full, 3D models that wiggle around far more realistically than in any previous Animal Crossing. Fish seem a little more rare, though, and catching them seems to have become more difficult somehow.

Related to the fishes being graphically upgraded, everything in game is now a 3D model instead of a 2D image. While it's a minor touch, it does add a new level of polish to the game. The fact that the flowers actually have some depth to them also makes it a little tougher to find a bug sitting on top, which is pretty cool.

Of course, the most notable addition to City Folk is, well, the city. Accessible by bus, the city is basically a collection of many visitors from the previous games. Crazy Redd, Katrina, and Dr. Shrunk all call the city home, and even Shampoodle (The hair salon that was set up in Nookingtons in Wild World) has moved towards the bright lights of downtown. There are also a few exclusive features to the city, such as a fancy (And incredibly expensive) store run by fashionista Gracie, the Happy Room Association (Or HRA) headquarters, and even an auction house that uses WiiConnect24 for friend-to-friend bidding and selling. While the city isn't all that it could have been, it's still nice to have.

Also added to City Folk is the ability to take your own screenshots at any time. Conveniently mapped to the 1 button, you can take a screenshot just about whenever you want, even in the middle of a conversation. Below is an example:


While there's a slight quality drop in the conversion (Some jaggies and JPEG "artifacts" are common), it's still an amazing tool to have at your disposal. The photos can be saved directly to the SD card, making it very easy to share them online (As I am right now).

As for new items and furniture, the aforementioned high-class store in the city sells two new furniture sets, but they're certainly not for the faint-of-wallet. I've also caught a couple lobsters in my few days playing (As well as had a friend come over and steal one...), and they're 100% new. Pretty sure the bagworm is, too, but I'm not sure.

I've gone online a couple times so far, visiting two towns and having my town visited once. I've experienced no lag at all (Even when visiting a town in Saskatchewan), and had a generally good time messing around with a couple online buddies.

Overall, I'm enjoying City Folk so far. No, it's not drastically improved or significantly different from Wild World, but so far I'd say it's worth the buy for any Animal Crossing fan out there looking for something with a little more. Tune in later this week for the full review, complete with WiiSpeak notes, thoughts on the motion controls, and more in-depth information on everything mentioned in these impressions.

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Poll #65: "What is your primary gaming system?" results, banner

"Wii" 15 votes (38%)
"Playstation 3" 5 votes (12%)
"XBox 360" 3 votes (7%)
"Nintendo DS" 4 votes (10%)
"PSP" 0 votes (0%)
"PC/Mac" 3 votes (7%)
"Other" 0 votes (0%)
"I play multiple systems evenly" 9 votes (23%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)
"I don't play games" 0 votes (0%)

It's probably just due to the demographic I tend to attract, but it's surprising to see so many people consider the Wii their primary gaming console. I mean, I love the Wii and many of its games, but I just can't see it being my main console. I don't feel many of the developers are treating it enough like a primary console, and it's due to the comparatively lower level of quality software on the Wii that I'm stuck to the PC. Again, I love the Wii, but it's just not primary console material for me.

This week's banner comes from forum member camieman10, and the theme is Bowser Jr. Why? Because he's fantastic, okay? I don't believe any further explanation is needed.



The subject of this week's poll is "What do you think of the Animal Crossing series?" A lot of people have been saying that City Folk didn't change enough from the previous games, so I'm curious as to what you guys think. Personally, I didn't really want much change, so I'm happy with this. That's just me, though.

New article will be up shortly, and this time, I mean it!