Friday, May 30, 2008

Wii and PC: Why they're my systems of choice this generation

Decided not to put "Mini-Article" in the title, because I'd rather the article's name not be nearly as long as the article itself. It's in the tags, though...


Every generation, most people who game a lot choose two systems. Perhaps you're a Wii and 360 guy, or someone more for the PS3 and PC. I, for one, have chosen the Wii and PC this generation, and here's why.

When it comes to the Wii, I chose it because it plays host to some of my favourite franchises, such as Zelda, Metroid, Pokémon and Mario. Also, I love the new controller and the many new opportunities it presents. On a somewhat lesser note, it's also the cheapest, and I'm generally low on cash, so that works out nicely.

As for the PC, I chose it because it generally makes for a good selection of multi-platform titles. Also, the backlog of PC games is far larger than that of any known console, as well as incredibly affordable. SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition? $25. Need for Speed: Most Wanted? $10. Roller Coaster Tycoon: Deluxe Edition? $5. Saving tonnes of money? Priceless (I couldn't help it). Also, the PC has Valve developing for it, which is awesome. Half-Life 2 and Portal forever!

Now, it's only logical that I explain why I didn't choose the other systems. First, let's start with the popular-to-taunt PS3. Mainly, I'd have to say it's the library that's the problem for me. So little of the PS3's game interest me. KillZone? God of War? MotorStorm? Just not me. Also, there's the matter of how much it costs... I'm sure we're all familiar with Kaz Hirai's famous yelling of the console's initial price tag, so let's move on...

As for the XBox 360, well, this has been an ongoing mental debate for me. One day I might want it, the next I'll completely hate it, and after that I just don't know what to think. Today is one of those third days. On the one side, I do want it for games like Dead Rising, Viva Pinata and (Maybe) Grand Theft Auto IV, but on the other hand, I really, really don't want to pay for online. I suppose it's just best I don't bother and accidentally pay a few hundred bucks for something I'm not sure I want... And besides, most 360 games come out for the PC sooner or later, so I'm pretty much covered in that category.

So yeah, that's the basic reasoning behind my system choices this generation. You may think it's kind of odd for me to write this sort of thing out, but I think quite the contrary. It'd really be interesting to see just why every gamer choose the console they did. Feel like sharing your reasoning for buying whichever system(s) you bought? I'd really like to hear it. You can tell your story in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thoughts on Wii Pay and Play

Make sure to check the post below this for a huge announcement!


See that little image up there? That's the logo for Wii Pay and Play, a new service recently introduced to Wii owners. Basically, using Wii Pay and Play, players can enhance their gaming experiences by paying Wii Points in exchange for additional features. This holds some great potential for sure. Sadly, it hasn't yet come anywhere near to utilizing this new ability to it's fullest extent.

As of now, one title supports Pay and Play: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King. The extent of it's Pay and Play support? Purchasing additional dungeons, races, buildings and clothes. The dungeons help extent the life of the product, and the new clothes are kinda fun to check out. The buildings and races, however, don't add to the experience so much as they act as purchasable advantages.

Allow me to explain. As of now, there exist two new buildings for download: A huge house and a temple. The huge house, as you would assume, supports more citizens than any other building, thusly earning a higher number of taxes and more thoroughly lining the king's pockets. As for the temple, the king can pray to it to enhance the stats of all adventurers in the fields.

The new races are also advantageous. Every time the king recruits an adventurer from one of the three downloadable races, their class is pre-determined, and their stats perfectly conditioned to the needs of that particular class. And... That's it.

Each of these downloads requires the player to clear a special dungeon before the new features can be used. This adds to the length of the game. However, everything else about these downloads is nothing but a payed advantage. It's almost as if Square-Enix is saying "Hey, pay us more, and we'll make the game easier!". Kind of unfair, and hardly good use of Pay to Play's potential.

Look at all those great Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) out there. For example, World of Warcraft. In addition to buying the game, players also have to pay a subscription fee in order to support the Blizzard and allow them to keep the servers running. Now, why can't the same be done with a Wii game*? We buy the game and, using Pay and Play, pay for the online experience as we go. And that's about all there is to it. Why can't Pay to Play be used for something like this?

*Yes, I understand that in order for the Wii to have an MMO, it would need additional memory in the form of a hard drive. But, for the sake of argument, let's pretend that such a peripheral exists, okay? It's sure to happen sooner or later, anyway.

On a less grandiose scale, lets look at the deplorable state of Super Smash Bros. Brawl online play. Would you be willing to pay a few bucks a month if it meant Nintendo would make this more reliable? Personally, I'd be all over it. This would be a perfect way to take advantage of Pay to Play.

And what of Animal Crossing Wii, the yet-to-be-formally-announced wonder of online interaction? Looking at how Wii online has been so far, the original hintings of visiting friends while they're not even playing seem like nothing but a dream. But, with the announcement of Pay and Play, these dreams started to look more like reality. Perhaps, with our digitized money flowing through their fingers, Nintendo would consider enabling these features to those paying the bills. They could have a special dedicated server for this sort of thing, giving players the once-impossible ability to visit their pal's town when their friend isn't even playing at the moment. The other player's town data could be temporarily downloaded to a server, and the visitor would interact with it as if it were running on an actual Wii. And then, if the other player does go online while someone is visiting their town, they could jump right on in, running about in the server-based duplicate of their town. It would be their Wii Points keeping this going, thusly adding to, enhancing and lengthening the experience, just like Pay to Play should.

But, I don't really know much about how this kind of thing works. For all I know, this is entirely impossible or terribly impractical. If anyone out there does have a handle on this sort of thing, please do give me your thoughts on it in the comments section. Still, even if it isn't possible, I'll be damned if it isn't a cool idea!

You could also tell me about the feasibility on the forum thread for this article (Non-technological geniuses are also welcome!)

The Duck Has Spoken.

One Duck's Opinion's one year anniversary!!!



It was exactly one year ago today that I first wrote an article for this blog. Technically, the site was opened on May 1st, 2007, but there was never any real articles posted until the 28th. I have set this post to appear at 7:35 PM, exactly the same time when I started writing the blog's first ever article, my Pokémon Diamond review. Reading that first article really takes me back. My writing style has evolved so much since then (I can't believe I used to turn out an article every single day!), but, at the same time, it's still so very much the same.

In this last year, much as happened. 41 polls, 279 posts, 514 comments, 40 users on the forum, writing a total of over 5400 posts... It's been a big year.

And at the beginning of 2008, I received what is probably the biggest surprise of all: THQ (via M80) started sending me games in the mail for reviewing! I never saw this coming, especially not so soon. I still can't get over how amazing this is!

Most of all, though, the best thing that's happened this whole year is seeing so many different people reading and enjoying my articles. I never dreamed that I'd be seeing over 100 unique hits a day! Sure, that may sound puny compared to what some sites get, but this is but a humble opinions blog on Blogspot.

All in all, this was a great first year for One Duck's Opinion. I thank you all for giving me a reason to keep this going for so long. I hope to see this blog have many more anniversaries! And who knows? Perhaps, by the time the blog's next birthday rolls around, it may even have it's own domain name! There's no telling what can happen in this next year, so all we can do is sit back, relax, and see how things go.

It's been a great ride, folks. But it's only getting started. Again, thank you all for keeping this blog going. I really wouldn't still be writing had it not been for you readers. Thank you so very, very much.

Come celebrate on the forums!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The ups and downs of digital distribution

I've been waiting ages for an excuse to use this image again...



WiiWare, Playstation Store, XBox Live Marketplace, Steam... It seems like every time you turn around, a new form of digital distribution makes the scene. If so many people are jumping behind this idea, it's got to be good, right? Well, yes and no. Just like everything else, digital distribution has it's fair share of ups and downs.

Ups

-Downloading games directly is often cheaper than the traditional method. After all, there's no packaging, disc or booklet that needs to be manufactured. All you're getting is a package of data, and that's all you pay for.

-It's more ecologically friendly. As I said above, digital distribution merely involves downloading data straight to your computer or console. Thusly, packaging doesn't have to be made, saving our precious natural resources and cutting down on pollution.

-You never have to worry about it being in stock. It's not as if an direct download site can entirely sell out of virtual content. There's no reason to worry whether or not they still have a game in stock, because there is no stock at all!

-One installed, digitally distributed software generally loads faster than a disc-based game. Instead of having to go from the disc, through your disc drive and then into your computer or console, the data's already right there for the playing. Skips the middleman completely!

-You can download anything right from the comfort of your home. It's not like traditional game-buying where you have to go to a store. All you have to do is boot up your computer or console, hit the downloading service, and you're there.


Downs

-Most downloads are restricted to the machine they were first downloaded onto. There's generally no way to transfer your games to another computer or console. Furthermore, you can't even borrow games from friends, unless you take their whole system!

-Games may be cheap, but storage can be expensive. A decently-sized hard drive can cost upwards of a hundred dollars these days, even more if you go for the high-end models. On the bright side, though, you do only have to buy storage once for several games. Still somewhat large of an investment to make, though.

-No 'net, no shopping. If your internet is down, there's no way to buy a game via digital distribution. All you can do is wait for it to get fixed. Or, you know, go to a real store.

-Downloading a game can take ages. Going to the store and buying one off the shelf, however, may be as quick as a few minutes, depending on how close your local game store is.

-Running out of memory is bound to happen sooner or later. And when it does, it's time to clean out the fridge. Of course, with a certain console that shall remain nameless, I find myself clearing out the memory very, very often.

Really, how much any of the above points counts as is entirely up to one's opinion. For example, I don't mind going to the store, so not having to leave the house isn't too big a deal for me. As it stands now, I'm not really sure if digital distribution has earned the fanfare it's getting. It's good, but there's undoubtedly some downfalls. But really, no form of distribution is perfect, so I suppose it's pretty decent. For now, that is.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #41: "Which of the following great third-party Wii games have you bought?" results, banner

"Okami" 7 votes (16%)
"Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure" 15 votes (34%)
"Boom Blox" 3 votes (6%)
"No More Heroes" 13 votes (30%)
"Other" 21 votes (48%)
"I only buy Wii games by Nintendo" 6 votes (13%)
"I don't have a Wii" 3 votes (6%)

As of yesterday, I joined the ranks of the proud few owners of Boom Blox. Message to Spielburg: Keep up the awesome.

As or this week's banner, it once again comes courtesy of camieman10. He amps up the awesome even further this week with his Pikmin-themed banner. Pikmin 3, Nintendo! Make it happen, and soon!



So then, now we have this week's poll. The subject: "Which Wii Channel do you use the least?". A lot of people seem to question the usefulness of many of the channels, so here's a way for you to say which one is the most useless to you. Personally, it's a three-way tie between News, Forecast and Check Mii Out. I'm voting Forecast, though, due to it being so unreliable and scarcely updated. I haven't touched the Nintendo Channel in a while, but that's only because I had to delete it for WiiWare. Hurry up with the memory solution, Nintendo! (I'm not including the Mario Kart Wii or Wii Fit Channels, as they're somewhat different from the others)

Today's article will likely be up sometime later in the evening. Probably soon, though, since there's a thunderstorm scheduled for tonight, and I really don't like using my computer during one of those. Even though there's about three surge protectors guarding my PC, I can never be to careful. This comp's not even a year old yet!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Letters to the industry

I'll be out tomorrow night, so here's something today instead.

To: Nintendo
Subject: My fridge is full

Hey, Nintendo. The whole Wii refrigerator approach to the storage problem works to an extent, but it's not a real fix. What we need now is support for USB storage. No dilly-dallying and no excuses. Even if it's just a downloadable update that allows us to use our own USB pen drive or whatever, that would be great. Just do something other than dance around the issue.

Also, how about finally showing us Animal Crossing Wii? Enough teasing and hinting already, just give us a little something more substantial. A screenshot, some official renders, anything! We know you're making it, so just give us a peek already!


To: Microsoft
Subject: Mind waiting until the next generation first?

It's recently been heavily implied that a Mii-like caricature service will soon become available on the XBox 360. Even more suspected is the supposed Wii-like controller to be debuting sometime late this year or early 2009. I'm not writing to throw around accusations of stealing ideas or anything, as that's already been said more than enough times. What I'm writing about is that this seems like too much of a change to make partway through a generation. If the caricatures and motion-sensing were there at launch, I'd be okay with it. But surely you know that peripherals introduced anywhere but at the console's launch rarely catch on as well as they would if they were there from the start. This has bad idea written all over it.


To:Electronic Arts
Subject: You're not Pac-Man, stop eating everything.

As I'm sure everyone knows, competition is key to advancement in any industry. If nobody opposes you, why bother moving forward at all? Why take risks if you're the consumer's only choice? While this may work fine at first, it can only go downhill from there.

If you keep absorbing companies like you are now, so much of the competitive spirit will be sucked out of the gaming industry. You've taken BioWare and Pandemic already, and I think that's enough for now. Leave Take-Two alone, you don't need them. Things are fine as is. Competition keeps an industry healthy, not excessive mergers.


To: Data Design Interactive
Subject: You got your crap in my peanut butter

Surely you can't believe that any of the games you ever release are anywhere near adequate. Ninjabread Man? London Taxi: Rush Hour? Elvis: Rock and Roll Adventures?!?! Are you even trying? It's developers like you that really make the Wii's library look like a pile of crap. You weren't welcome on the PS2, and your ports sure as hell aren't welcome on the Wii. Either start putting some effort into your products or quit. Just no more Ninjabread Man!


To: Readers
Subject: Discuss this article on the forums

The comment section works, too.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King review

Okay, the final WiiWare review of the first batch. After this, I hope to take a teeny break from reviews. I've done so many of them lately!

...unless I suddenly get Boom Blox, in which case I'll make an exception...


Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: May 12th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes


Square-Enix is probably best known for the incredibly famous Final Fantasy series. With more than twenty games in just about as many years, it's no doubt that Final Fantasy is a force to be reckoned with.

Each entry in the franchise tends to follow a traditional RPG formula, and that's why people were so surprised at the battle-less Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King. How could this possibly be fun? You never fight, you never see the battles, you just send people out to do your bidding. What?! Could this game, against all odds, really be fit for a king, or is it an insult to even the lowliest peasant?

This incredibly unorthodox Final Fantasy starts directly after the first Crystal Chronicles game for the Gamecube. The monster-spawning Miasma has cleared, but it left nothing but destruction in it's wake. A young king, his chancellor, Chime, and a knight, Hugh Yurg, find their castle town entirely in ruins, except for the palace itself. In the middle of the town lies a giant blue crystal. It bestows upon the king the power of Architek. Using this magical power, the king can create buildings seemingly out of nothing but memories. Former townsfolk even get transported directly into their new homes from wherever they are. But the little king soon learns that in order to keep building, he'll need Elementite, a material that's fairly common, but little remains in town. In order to get more to build a larger town, the king must commission adventurers to go to dungeons and bring back Elementite. All goes well, until his adventurers stumble upon organized groups of monsters. What would make them assemble like this? Is someone leading them along? And just what did happen to the young king's father after the Miasma cleared?

I build this town on rock and roll.

When it comes to sending out adventurers to dungeons, players have to issue behests on the town's lone bulletin board (Another can be added later on). When adventurers show up at the bulletin board, you can send them out if you think they're up to the task. If not, you can tell them to go train, or if they don't feel like fighting, you can order them to take a day off. In addition to using Architek, that's the extent of My Life as a King's gameplay. Post behests, build stuff, hit the sack, repeat.

"The word".

To go further into detail on the building aspect, creating structures with Architek requires not only Elementite, but detailed memories of a similar structure. Since the king spent most of his time within the castle walls, he really only knows what a house is like, which is all that can be built at first. In order to construct different buildings, the king needs someone to describe them to him. A local Moogle can help out with this, drawing detailed pictures of new buildings for the king to use instead of memories. And don't ask where the Moogles' arms went, they don't like to talk about it.

"I have no arms, yet I draw, Kupo!"

Strangely, though, new buildings can also be unlocked by defeating dungeon bosses. How does that give the king an image of a new building? Does killing a monster suddenly make the king remember what a tavern looks like? It doesn't quite match up.

All buildings also have a set limit as to how many can exist at once in your town. For example, I'm currently at a point where I can't build any more than thirty houses, regardless of how much Elementite or space I have (Which is a lot). However, this limit can generally be raised by just defeating certain bosses. But why exactly is there a limit? Defeating a boss doesn't exactly change anything about your town's infrastructure... But I'm probably just nitpicking.

As for behests, they can be posted once a day. Only one may be posted per behest board, so at first one's all you can send adventurers on in a day (I've so far gotten it to a maximum of two). Behests consist of either exploration, boss battling, gathering supplies, gaining experience or changing classes (More on that later). Simply hover your cursor over an icon on the map, select a behest, and confirm.

Each area has it's own difficulty level, which allows you to check if an adventurer is ready for it. Don't want to accidentally send your level one adventurer to a level twenty-two dungeon! Usually, though, adventurers who are substantially below the dungeon's difficulty level don't bother showing up at the behest board.

Speaking of not showing up at the behest board, lately one of my characters, Karl, has stopped showing up at behest boards every day. I usually end up hearing that he's off in the middle of nowhere, doing something completely unrelated to either of my posted behests. Perhaps it's because he's incredibly high-leveled or something, I don't know. No matter what the reason, it's a real pain when a bunch of my adventurers get wiped out just because Karl decided to do whatever he wanted.

I used the word "wiped out" just now on purpose, because adventurers can never actually die in My Life as a King. If they lose a battle, a message appears saying "Wilbur was wiped out" (This happens quite often with him), and he slowly walks back to the town, wallowing in self-pity. The next day, the fallen adventurer will retreat to his or her house for rest, effectively going out of action for the day. If you don't visit their house, they'll take longer to recover, possibly remaining indisposed for one or two more days. Talk to them, though, and they return to normal the next day. The king's voice obviously has some sort of magical healing property. Or it's a way to keep you busy. That could be it.

As I said earlier, adventurers can change their class. Each recruit starts off as a Warrior (Unless they're one of the downloadable species, whom have their classes automatically assigned when hired based on their race's specialty), and they can either stay a Warrior, or become a Black Mage, White Mage or Thief. As long as you have the appropriate building (Black Mage Academy for Black Mages, Gaming Hall for Thieves, etc.) Just as stated above, this is done by posting a behest. If you think that one of your Warriors would be better off as a Black Mage, post a behest and hope they reply. When or if they do, confirm that you want them to change, and they'll be a Black Mage the next day.

Robbers and mages and sovereigns, oh my!

You can find out what class an adventurer is most suited for by checking their stats. High Willpower is great for White Mages, Intellect for Black Mages, Dexterity for Thieves and Strength for Warriors. There's also one additional stat: Toughness. This determines a characters defense, and it's a good idea to load up a Warrior with plenty of it.

To make an adventurer gain stats in a particular field, you must reward them medals upon completing behests. Problem is, it's very rare for a weak adventurer to complete a behest, so you'll often find them having to manage their stats on their own. A real bugger if you want to really pump up a low-leveled Thief's Dexterity. You can also give funding to armor, weapon and item shops to increase the quality of equipment available to your adventurers.

Getting new skills for your adventurers requires giving additional funds to their respective schools. In order to obtain these funds, you must collect money from your townspeople. At the end of each day you gain Gil in the form of tithes (Taxes, basically). How much you get depends on how many houses you have and how many people live in them. Gil is entirely separate from Elementite, so having a whole whackload of it won't do you any good if you're trying to build a bakery.

There's one more collectible-like aspect to My Life as a King, and that's Morale. Gaining Morale is really as simple as just talking to your villagers. When you fill a Morale meter, it turns into a Morale Sphere. You can cash in Morale Spheres to raise the stats of your adventurers temporarily, or even improve the relationships of your townsfolk. Just talk to them while the magic is taking effect, and that's that.

You can also use Morale Spheres to upgrade your town. Talking to Chime at the castle brings up this option, then just deposit as many Moral Spheres as you please. At first you can give one at a time, but soon you need to give two at a time, then three, and so on (I assume, that is, as I'm currently at three). The first upgrade has no apparent effect, but the second one allows you to declare a town-wide holiday (In exchange for quite a bit of Gil). On a holiday, adventurers stay home, and Morale increases at double the rate. It's really does a whole lot to relax your subjects, and your adventurers surely enjoy the time off.

Now, that's certainly an extensive list of things to do. But really, does any of it sound fun to you? Looking at it as I write it really makes me wonder just what it is about this game that's fun. I don't know why, but I have a blast playing this. I just get incredibly sucked in, often playing for several in-game days in a row. Something about this game is very, very entertaining to me, but I really don't know why. It's the kind of game that looks very, very boring on paper, but is just too darn fun when you play it. While every single thing seems to point in the opposite direction as fun, I love it. It's really quite perplexing.

There are a few minor control problems, one regarding the camera controls. It's not that it's hard to move the camera with the Wii remote's D-Pad (It's actually quite easy), but the camera does quite often get stuck behind buildings. It eventually snaps back to the king, but it still bugs me. A bigger problem, though, is that the camera often freaks out if changed while running through a narrow area. It usually ends up reversing entirely, making you accidentally run in the wrong direction until you figure out what the heck just happened. A big problem, really, considering how incredibly short each day is (Speaking of day length, it does get a little longer later. My game seems to have glitched out, though, sending me back to the shorter day. Hasn't happened to my sister. Just me. I must be lucky.).

The other control problem is summoning Chime to use Architek, raise Morale, etc. While pressing the minus button works just fine, you can also shake the Wii remote to call her. Problem is, it's a little sensitive. I was adjusting my couch cushion once, barely moving my hand, and she pulled a Lurch: "You rang?". No, no I didn't. Now go away.

To add to the game, players can also download new races, dungeons and more directly through the game, at a cost of anywhere from 100 to 800 Wii Points. So far I've only downloaded the three-race pack, adding Selkies, Lilties and Yukes to my town. Thing is, they act pretty much exactly like the game's default race, Clavats. They talk the same as Clavats, without even a single exclusive line of text (At least they add a bit of visual diversity!). The only real difference is they have to live in special houses, which, unfortunately, count towards the build limit. I had to tear down a few houses to make room (Homeless townspeople move into the castle, by the way), and that was a bit of a pain. If they had their separate limits of, say, five per house type, that would be a little more fair.

The only other minor difference is that their classes are pre-determined. Every Lilty will be a Warrior, every Selkie will be a thief, and every Yuke becomes a Black Mage. The upside, though, is that their stats are genetically geared towards the jobs they take. Each Lilty has a high Strength and Toughness, each Selkie is very dexterous, and Yuke's are quite intelligent.

As you can surely tell by the above screenshots, My Life as a King is an amazingly good looking game for WiiWare. Townsfolk even bow in your presence! Of course, it doesn't really take that much to make just one map look good, does it? Nonetheless, it looks really great, with just a few exceptions.

Firstly, all the characters look almost exactly the same. Each and every Clavat has almost the exact same face, and the other classes aren't very diverse in range of appearances, either. There are about three different character models each for Yukes, Selkies and Lilties.

They all. Look. The same.

Second, although somewhat related to what I said above, characters only ever have one facial expression: Moderately happy. "What's that? The monsters are organizing? That's so terrible! I can do nothing but smile!" A few additional face textures really wouldn't have been too much to ask. And how about mouths flapping while they talk? Even something as simple as the mouths present in Animal Crossing would be fine. I somehow doubt everyone's a ventriloquist in my town.

Finally, when creating large structures with Architek, there is often some graphical slowdown, and it's quite noticeable. So while making buildings is really cool to watch, it doesn't go without it's downsides.

The audio in My Life as a King is quite different from what you'd expect from most games. After all, there's no sword-clashing, no explosions, nothing like what would be present in a traditional Final Fantasy. The sound effects mostly consist of short sound bytes on menus and the almost musical string of sounds when using Architek. It is worth noting, though, that the bell ringing sound when summoning Chime is played through the Wii remote speaker. I always appreciate it when developers actually use that.

Unlike the sound effects, the music is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a Final Fantasy. Whimsical, medieval fare, with some more dramatic songs during the cinematics. It's all very nice, to put it simply.

I've been plugging away at My Life as a King for a few hours almost every day since last Monday, and I'm only now just before the final fight. Additional dungeons downloaded for a small fee will also add a bit to the longevity, of course, but I don't know if I'll be doing so myself. If I do find myself with a few spare Wii Points one day, though, I may go ahead and try it.

SUMMARY


Storyline: 9.0/10
A unique game with a unique story. A world emerging from chaos, monsters banding together, and a young king determined to make everything as it was before the destruction. A pretty solid storyline with a handful of twists to keep you coming back.

Gameplay: 9.0/10
I don't know what it is about My Life as a King that's so darn fun. It's just one of those games that is inexplicably entertaining. Add this to the list with Chibi-Robo and Animal Crossing.

Graphics: 9.25/10
There's no doubt at all that My Life as a King is one of the best looking titles available on the WiiWare service. If only there were a few more facial textures and a slightly more diverse character model set, it'd be perfect.

Audio: 9.0/10
It's somewhat hard to judge the sound effects in a game that has so few of them, but those that are there are of pretty good quality. The music is one of the only truly Final Fantasy-like parts of this game, and that's in no way a bad thing.

Longevity: 9.5/10
My Life as a King is not only one of the best looking WiiWare titles, it's also quite likely the longest. I estimate I've played for about twenty hours and I'm just now at the end of the game. I can also see myself playing again in order to optimize the layout of my town with my game-beaten knowledge.

OVERALL: 9.25/10
My Life as a King's surely not for everyone. The unique structure and incredibly un-Final Fantasy gameplay make it a hard game to recommend. If I had to take a guess, I'd say this is best suited to those who enjoy games such as Sim City and the like, but with a bit more of an adventurous feel. As for me, I enjoyed it greatly, and I look forward to more games like it. An in-store, disc-based sequel would be a dream come true for me.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Er, scratch that...

Sorry, but there won't be any article today. I'm having one of those days when I just can't concentrate on anything. Incredibly, deeply sorry for the cancellation.

Really, until now, I hadn't missed a single update all year (Delays not counted). Oh well, I suppose from January to May was a good run.

I will do my absolute best to have the review up tomorrow ASAP. Maybe I'll whip up a little something extra as an apology.

Until then, see ya around.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Review delayed until tomorrow

Sorry, folks, but I gotta put off the review until tomorrow. I've got it all ready to go, but it's past 2:30 AM here, so I'd better hit the sack. Sorry for the delay. It will certainly be up before tomorrow evening!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Poll #40: "Which DS model do you have?" results, banner

"Nintendo DS" 10 votes (23%)
"Nintendo DS Lite" 20 votes (47%)
"Both" 10 votes (23%)
"Neither" 2 votes (4%)

Boy, I really envy those of you lucky enough to have both models. I really wish I didn't have to sell my original DS to buy my Lite... Oh well, I guess it was worth it.

Next up is this week's banner. Again from camieman10 (He likes using Paint.NET, I take it), this one focuses on the character Dry Bones. Originally just another enemy in Super Mario Bros. 3, Dry Bones eventually rose up the ranks to become a kart racer, party goer, and even a pro baseball and soccer player. Not bad for a dead turtle!



And finally, there's this week's poll: "Which of the following great third-party Wii games have you bought?". Far too many great Wii games are ignored due to not being made by Nintendo. This really isn't fair to the developers, and I swear, if I had the cash, I'd be all over Okami and Boom Blox. If only I had the cash...

Tonight's article won't be up for a while yet. I just wanted to get this out of the way early!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, May 16, 2008

LostWinds review

Alright, WiiWare review number two. My Life as a King on Monday!

Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Release Date: May 12th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Mild Fantasy Violence


It seems that you just can't talk about WiiWare without LostWinds being mentioned. People have hailed it as the best title available for the service, and some have even called it better than many retail-release Wii games. Is LostWinds really all it's cracked up to be, or are reviewers just full of hot air?

LostWinds is chronologically preceded by quite the interesting little story. Back when the world of Mistralis was first created, there existed twelve powerful spirits that reigned over elements of the world (Fire, water, wind, light, etc). After their job was done, the spirits all retreated to The Great Tower, from whence they looked over their world and saw to it that all went well with its inhabitants. All but one of the spirits was content with being equal, and the odd one out was Balasar, the spirit of the Sun and the Moon. He felt he was superior to all the others, and he thought he should take over and rule as one supreme entity. When his plan was found out, the remaining eleven spirits created a special stone in which to confine Balasar for all eternity. Balasar was cornered, but when the noble spirits seemed to gain an advantage, Balasar began to fight back. The wind spirit, Enril, sacrificed herself to seal away Balasar, using a gigantic tornado to capture both her and the evil one inside the stone.

During his time in the virtually impenetrable prison, Balasar transformed into a creature of pure hate. Upon finding a weak point in the stone, he used his claws to etch away at it. After centuries of chiseling, Balasar finally shattered the stone, freeing himself. Enril, however, was not so lucky. She remained trapped in each of the seven pieces of the stone, the remains of which scattered across the globe. And so she lay in wait, dreaming of the day someone would find her and help stop Balasar.

And this is where the game begins. Toku, a young boy from a nearby village, is roused by the wind powers of Enril. She leads him to her, and, enlisting his help, finally starts on the path to fighting back against and defeating the evil Balasar.

Toku: The one young boy who, when partnered with Enril, can stop the evil Balasar.


Well, LostWinds certainly has quite the back story! But how does it play? In short, LostWinds is like Okami meets Kirby Canvas Curse. Players take control of both Enril and Toku, controlling the wind spirit with the Wii remote and the young boy with the Nunchuk. Enril takes the role of the cursor in LostWinds, and players utilize her wind powers by pressing A and drawing lines across the screen. This creates a quick gust, blowing around anything from enemies to rocks to Toku himself. Her wind powers can even manipulate fire and water, causing them to sweep across the land, burning or quenching anything they touch. While Enril takes care of the magical wind manipulation, Toku handles all the jobs that require a physical touch; weighing down switches, talking to villagers and carrying Enril's stone container.

Controlling both characters at once never gets confusing. In fact, I often forget that Toku and Enril are, indeed, separate creatures. Taking control of them both at the same time feels so natural.

Enril's wind powers serve as the tool in solving the game's many (Rather easy) puzzles. Some puzzles may require Toku to get a rock from one place, have Enril bring it somewhere and then smash something with it, while others involve using wind to ignite hot coals and use the new source of fire to burn down an obstruction. Really, it's pretty hard to get across what these puzzles are like in words. They're really a whole lot more exciting than they sound. Sadly, for the most part, they're also fairly simple. I got caught on maybe two puzzles in the whole game, three if you count the boss battle.

Above is one part of what is one of the few puzzles to pose much of a challenge to me


I suppose one thing that makes the game a little bit harder is that Toku has only four health points. He can be injured by falling, getting hit by rocks or being attacked by the little blobby enemies that are oh-so-common in this game (Just whip 'em in the air, thrust them back down and watch them go splat). Toku's health can be recovered by eating a scarcely-available fruit, and if his health runs out, Enril can revive him provided she has the power to do so. Enril can store enough energy for three revives, and more energy can be gained by gathering little blue sprites that appear when enemies die. However, I had to revive Toku no more than three times throughout the entire game. It was never that easy to get hurt, and I rarely got hit four times before I found more restorative fruit. So LostWinds is a pretty easy game, but still very, very fun. Just don't expect anything incredibly challenging.

If there's one other problem with LostWinds, it's that it only takes about three hours from start to finish. I suppose I can forgive this due to it being a downloaded title crammed onto the Wii's puny 512 MB of memory, and even if such restrictions didn't exist, I still may have preferred it as short as it is. It's one of those games that manages to do quite a bit in a small period of time. For comparison, take last year's Portal (PC, XBox 360, PS3). It took only two or so hours to get to the end of this game, but it probably wouldn't have benefited at all from being longer. Like LostWinds, I feel it's the kind of game that accomplished all that needed to be accomplished in the small time it's there for. Sure, both end with somewhat of a cliffhanger, but that's no real big deal. Three hours may not seem like much, but LostWinds does a lot in such little time.

Enlarged to show texture


As you can tell by the above screenshot, LostWinds is one heck of a great looking game. Everything is so vibrant and alive. Just drifting your cursor across a tree or bush causes the leaves to ruffle, and the people in the background even respond if you hit them with a gust. The whole game feels like a window to another living, breathing world.

LostWinds is also very pleasing to the ears. The game's main theme is amazingly well orchestrated, and even manages to sound spiritual and windy somehow. And you gotta love the little "Ulp" noises the blob enemies make when you whip them around. I almost don't want to kill them just so I can hear it over and over! Even the villagers make little noises of surprise when you blow them over, just making everything feel even more alive. I know I've tossed that word around a lot, but dammit, if there's one word that can accurately describe LostWinds, it's "alive".

As I said before, LostWinds really is a fairly short title. But still, three hours seems like the perfect length for it. Like great movies, it took as much or as little time as it needed. In this case, it only needed three hours, and that's just fine with me. Better to end before it's welcome is overstayed. Any new game mechanic or plot twist just wouldn't have meshed well with the game's progression, either. If they need to make a sequel to finish, I'm cool with that.

And if you really want to get all there is to get out of LostWinds, you could always go back and try to collect all twenty four golden statues hidden throughout the land. I got about eighteen or so of them, and I think another run for completion's sake would be fun.

SUMMARY


Storyline: 9.5/10
I love a good story in my video games, and LostWinds certainly didn't disappoint in this category. The story of the twelve spirits creating the world and Balasar's betrayal is certainly a creative tale.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
LostWinds takes a unique idea and pulls it off very, very well. The controls are amazing, and I often found myself lifting Toku in the air with Enril's powers just for the heck of it. The puzzles are really easy on the most part, though, making the game a breeze in more ways than one.

Graphics: 10/10
Really, LostWinds is an amazingly beautiful game. From the tree leaves to the shrubs, it's all so very lively and colourful. Even the dank caves have a lively look to them. LostWinds certainly outdoes a lot of the games released on both WiiWare and on store shelves. If only all developers cared as much about how their product looked...

Audio: 9.5/10
Every time I hear that theme start up when I start up LostWinds, I just get so sucked in. I don't know what it is about that melody, but something about it is just so calming and adventurous at the same time. The sounds of the enemies and villagers are also really nice, making the world of Mistralis feel even more alive.

Longevity: 7.75/10
No matter how justified it may be, LostWinds is still a short game, clocking in at about three or so hours from start to finish. A little more playtime can be squeezed out by collecting all the golden statues scattered about, but that's the kind of thing that gets boring after the first time. Still, three hours is pretty decent for a downloaded game.

OVERALL: 9.25/10
LostWinds deserves to be downloaded by anyone with cash, a Wii and an internet connection. Seriously, if you don't have this yet, find a way to get it and make it so. LostWinds, though short, is still an amazing experience, and everyone needs to live it. Definitely worth the meager 1000 Wii Points.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Defend Your Castle review

Here comes the first of the three WiiWare reviews. LostWinds is scheduled for Friday, and My Life As A King's review will be ready on Monday.

Developer: XGen Studios
Publisher: XGen Studios
Release Date: May 12th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Cartoon Violence


For the last five years, Defend Your Castle has enjoyed massive success online as a mega-popular Flash game. And now, with the launch of WiiWare, Defend Your Castle aims to emulate this success on the Wii. Is the formula still fresh, or have these castle walls begun to crumble?

This is, without a doubt, one of the most hectic games I have ever played. The premise is simple: Defend your castle from the incoming barbarian hordes. In order to do this, just pick up an invader with your cursor and toss him in the air. Gravity takes care of the rest. There are four types of enemies you need to repel from your fortress: Normal, weaponless barbarians, battering ram-wielding foes, bomb-using psychos and humongous monsters. Each of these can be dealt with using the above tactics (Just touching the bomb guys kills them and anything nearby), with the only exception being the giants. These guys are too big to be picked up, but they are anything but invincible. You can employ one of several tactics to take these guys out, and every last one of them relies on the Pit of Conversion.

Using the Pit of Conversion is simple. Drop a foe in, wait a minute, and out pops an ally. Allies can become one of four things: Archers, explosives experts, stone masons and wizards. While an archer's abilities may seem obvious, the other three classes deserve some explanations.

The explosives experts, when triggered, will run out onto the field, rolling a bomb in front of them. When you're ready to "set them up the bomb", just poke him to detonate. Yes, it's a suicide mission, but sacrifices must be made to save the castle!

Wizards gather in a tower, ready to cast spells at your command. At first, only one spell will be available: Erase. It does just what you think, too. Aim it at an enemy, press down on the D-Pad, and he's gone. More spells can be unlocked when more wizards are assigned, such as incantations similar to the explosives expert's bombs and the Pit of Conversion's abilities.

The stone masons are the ones you're most likely to forget about. They simply wait around for your walls to get damaged, and do their best to repair it. Basically, your health will keep increasing until it's full up again. Only a few stone masons will work at a snail's pace, but get a couple dozen in there and their effects will be far more apparent.

So then, that's four classes, three of which can take out a giant with one move. The explosives experts and wizards can blow him up, wizards can also erase him, and your archers just might take him out automatically with a well-shot arrow.

Ve haff vays of making you 'splode.


If there's one problem with Defend Your Castle's gameplay, it's that it's a little boring at the beginning. From about level 1 to 15, you just get a few enemies wandering towards you every few seconds. But when the enemies start coming faster and the giants join in on the fight, things get insane.

As of my point at about level thirty, I still haven't run into any real danger of losing. Things are getting harder, though, so I expect I'll be seeing a whole lot of trouble soon enough. Or I could just try "Heroic" mode and risk dying in the first five levels.

Probably the biggest change from Defend Your Castle's original release is how it looks. Instead of the old, cartoony look, the art direction now more reflects the craft table in a kindergarten classroom. All enemies have bodies made of what look like pencil lines, normal people have buttons for heads (Giants have bottle caps with googly eyes), your cursor is a bread bag clip, and the entirety of the landscape resembles construction paper. Cardboard cut-out clouds even go by on string! I just love it to death. I really appreciate a unique art style, and Defend Your Castle certainly fits the bill. Just watch out for those Popsicle stick battering rams and cap gun ammunition!

The music is almost non-existent in Defend Your Castle. There's a small byte of music at the beginning of each stage, and a small piece at the main menu, but that's it. It's really the sound effects that are going to get your ears' attention here.

When barbarians hit the ground, they make a nice crunching sound and let out a little yelp. Alone this really isn't anything to mention at all, but when you've got five enemies falling every second, the chorus of screams is often hilarious. YELP! YAGH! YELP! It's raining men! And when it comes to the explosions and the sound of battering rams hitting your castle, it all sounds like someone vocalizing sound effects. This is actually kind of humourous, and it goes very well with the game's minimalistic art and music, giving a great "I made this in my garage" sort of feel. It really brings a whole new meaning to the term "homebrew"!

The other thing added to the WiiWare version is the inclusion of two to four player multiplayer. At any time, someone else can pick up a Wiimote and join in on the defending. Having trouble? Call a friend! However, if you're on one of the easier levels, the game doesn't seem to ramp up the enemy frequency at all to account for more people on defense. Get to the thirtieth or so level, though, and there should be plenty for you both to do.

This game could very easily last a player many, many weeks. It's addictive, and I often find myself saying "Okay, one more round, and I'm done", only to play several more levels in a row. This game just might have an infinite amount of levels, and even if it doesn't, multiplayer and "Heroic" difficulty ought to make up for it. Definitely an addictive title.

SUMMARY


Gameplay: 8.5/10
Defend Your Castle is a great example of simplicity making something great. That being said, though, one or two more classes of enemies would have been nice. Perhaps a mounted unit, or a club-wielding barbarian? Just to add a bit more variety and unpredictability. Nonetheless, it's a fun game, and the simple controls can be easily understood by anyone.

Graphics: 9.0/10
I'm absolutely in love with this art style. I love it when people try something truly different, and XGen Studios sure thought outside the box here. Cardboard cut-out clouds, construction paper landscape and button-headed people? That's just crazy enough to work!

Audio: 8.5/10
While music is largely absent, not having it seems to me to have been a good choice. After all, if there was a tense battle-ready score playing all the time, I wouldn't be able to hear the yelps of the barbarians! The vocalized crashes and explosions are just the icing on the audible cake.

Multiplayer: 8.0/10
The multiplayer in Defend Your Castle meshes so well with the single player that it's virtually indiscernible in looks, the only difference being additional bread clips on the screen. Competing against your pals for high scores can be fun, but the lack of foes in the early levels really don't work well with four people in on the action. If it's hardly challenging alone, having your friend help out just makes it boring.

Longevity: 8.5/10
I am addicted to Defend Your Castle. It's just such a simple yet fun concept, and it sucks me in every time I click its Channel. And seriously, is there a never-ending amount of levels in this? I can see the level count going well into the hundreds. Even if it does eventually end, there's still Heroic mode and multiplayer to keep players busy.

OVERALL: 8.5/10
Going for only 500 Wii Points, Defend Your Castle is a steal. It's simple gameplay is easy enough for anyone to understand, but the later levels are sure to keep the attention of even the fastest player. Sure, it may not be the deepest of the experiences available on WiiWare, but it's addictive and a great time-waster. Just make sure you don't accidentally play for too long and end up late for an appointment!

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Triple WiiWare impressions: My Life As A King, Defend Your Castle and LostWinds!



Today Nintendo finally launched the brand-new WiiWare service. Using the Wii Shop Channel, we can now download exclusive games straight to our Wii consoles. With six titles to choose from, you may be wondering which one is worth your hard-earned Wii Points. Of course, there's no way I would have been able to afford all six of these, so I narrowed down my choices to three: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King, LostWinds and Defend Your Castle. Here's how they're shaping up so far.



First up is LostWinds by Frontier Developments. The first thing you'll notice about LostWinds is how amazingly vibrant and lively it is (The above logo should give you a basic idea). Even the leaves and shrubbery in the background react to the cursor when you wave it past. A lot of effort was put into making this game look stunning, and it came across every bit as amazing as expected.

LostWinds follows the story of Toku, a young boy from a small village. When walking about one day, he stumbles upon a small stone containing a wind spirit. Named Enril, this spirit needs Toku's help to stop the evil elemental monster Balasar from destroying his homeland.

Controlling both Toku and Enril (Who takes the role of the game's cursor), players will use the powers of wind to guide the young adventurer through vast caves and fields. Every now and then a monster will appear, with Toku's only defense being Enril's wind powers. Whipping about the enemy with a gust of wind, Enril can slam it into the ground to finish it off. An interesting way to fight for sure.

The controls are very smooth, and guiding both Toku and Enril works just fine and never gets confusing. The puzzles take little more than a moment of thinking to figure out, but I'm sure things will get harder later on. Accompanying you on this somewhat linear adventure is a soft and calming soundtrack that quickly grows tense when an enemy approaches. It's an incredibly unique title, and so far seems well worth my 1000 Wii Points. If you get the chance, I suggest checking this one out.



If you like playing Flash games online, chances are you've dabbled in Defend Your Castle. The classic action-strategy game by XGen Studios has been a hit on many websites all around the internet, and today it made its debut on WiiWare for 500 Wii Points. Is it worth paying for a Wii version of a free Flash game? So far, I'd have to say yes.

For those of you not familiar with Defend Your Castle, here's the basics. The player takes the role of a cursor floating around the field. When an enemy roams into the field, players can pick them up and whip them into the air, killing them on impact. If picking them up doesn't work, players can also employ their own units to do the job, from archers to magicians to explosives experts. Upgrades can be purchased with points after each round, and then the next level starts.

First of all, there's no need to worry about having to learn a whole new control scheme. If you can pick up a Wiimote, you can play this. Just point at a baddy, press A to grab him, lift him in the air and release A to drop him. In fact, pointing and the A button are pretty much the only controls in this game. Very, very easy to understand.

Second, Defend Your Castle actually takes some strategy in addition to fast reflexes. Figuring out how to properly distribute your troops is key to surviving. Should you make more archers, get another magician, hire a stone mason, or just keep someone on hand to become an explosives expert? There's a surprising amount of thinking involved here.

Finally, this game is just a pleasure to both play and watch. Tossing several enemies in the air and watching them all plummet to the ground at random intervals in hilarious. It's raining men! And the animation style brings a whole new meaning to "homebrewed games". With Popsicle stick battering rams, bread clip cursors and construction paper castles, this is certainly a unique looking game.

Defend You Castle on WiiWare is certainly a step above the original Flash game. If you're a fan of the original, or you're looking for something unique, this is for you.



And finally we have the highest-profile of all the WiiWare games, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King. By mega-company Square-Enix, My Life As A King takes place after the first Crystal Chronicles game (Gamecube).

One thing's for sure, My Life As A King is one of the best looking WiiWare games we've seen. With a huge draw distance and lush environments, it's certainly a beauty of a game. Of course, all this graphical prowess is directly related to what sets this game apart from any other Final Fantasy: You can never leave the town. You play as a king, and it's your job to help rebuild the town that was destroyed in the events of the previous game. In order to build, you need material. This is where your warriors come into play.

You can send warriors to caves and dungeons near your town, and they'll spend the whole day fighting monsters and exploring, bringing home money and materials to build more houses and stores. And that's the basic extent of gameplay as far as I know. Really, I haven't had much time at all with this one, as I only downloaded it about four hours ago. All I can say for sure is that it starts off slow, but starts to pick up after a few in-game days.

The music and sound effects scream Final Fantasy. It's just so very fitting! And the characters certainly reflect the creativity of Square-Enix as well. Talking penguins? Hey, sure, why not?

If there's one apparent shortcoming thus far, it's that the characters have the same facial expression permanently glued to their head. Everyone is slightly happy all day long, no matter how amazing or terrible an event is. Would it have been that hard to add in a few more facial textures to show emotion?

Aside from this one problem, everything seems to be going great so far. The storyline is beginning to show itself, and my curiousity has definitely been piqued. I eagerly await more on just what exactly is going on! My Life As A King looks to be a major time-eater for me these next few days.

To make an early judgment, LostWinds, Defend Your Castle and My Life As A King are all pretty darn fun. They're certainly a unique bunch of games, and I honestly can't get enough of any of them. I'll be playing all three of these for quite some time to come. Probably the best $30 I've ever spent!

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #39: "Would you be interested in a hard drive for the Wii?" results, banner

"Yes, and I don't care how much it costs" 17 votes (36%)
"Yes, but only if it's reasonably priced" 22 votes (47%)
"Maybe." 3 votes (6%)
"No, I have no reason to buy a hard drive for my Wii." 3 votes (6%)
"I don't know." 1 vote (2%)

I'm definitely in need of a hard drive... I had to wipe so much stuff off my Wii memory to make room for just three WiiWare games! Oy...

This week's banner is once again from forum member Camieman10. This banner sets out to say that just because a game is old doesn't make it any less amazing, and it succeeds in stating this for sure. Nothing like a golden oldie!



For this week's poll, the question is "Which DS model do you have?". Personally, I'm using a DS Lite right now. I had to sell my old DS to my sister to afford it... I really hate doing that.

So then, the next article will be up really soon!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Animal Crossing Wii ideas 5: Still no end in sight



I feel it's about time I re-visit one of the staples of this blog, my Animal Crossing Wii ideas series! Every month I do these, always hoping that by the next update I could stop guessing and finally see the real thing. Yet, once again, a month goes by without a whisper, so here we are. Time for round five of Animal Crossing Wii ideas!

The return of tents and igloos

In the first Animal Crossing, randomly throughout Summer and Winter, you'd see tents and igloos, respectively. Inside was a villager eager to play a game against you. A game that usually ended up with you paying a whole whackload for a piece of crap. And that was it. Sure, you could go back again and pay another 3000 bells for yet another Kiddy Carpet, but really, isn't there something you'd rather be doing?

However, there was too much potential in these little refuges to leave them behind, so I think they should come back in Animal Crossing Wii. What could be done to make these better? I was thinking maybe a traveler would be the one to set up camp, and they'd talk about their journey, where they've been, where they're going... Maybe they've even been to one of your friends' towns! Then they'd give you a gift to remember them by, and the next day, they'd be gone. Really adds a bit more of a point to the tents and igloos, doesn't it?

Expanding on multiplayer

As we are all well aware of, Nintendo has long stressed that Animal Crossing Wii will feature interaction on a level not yet seen in any other game in the series. With friends sending you letters via WiiConnect24 and perhaps even visiting while you're not playing, there's going to be so much more to do with all your pals online. Here are a few minor ideas I have.

First, there would be a huge amount of friends allowed in any town at any time. I was thinking maybe twelve maximum, but I'd settle for anything above Wild World's four. This would make for some insane online treasure hunting (More details in Volume 2), and perhaps even organized hide-and-seek. With twelve people, who knows?

Second, several people could play at once on the same Wii. Anybody with an existing resident could simply hop in, and those who are simply dropping by for a visit could use one of two guest characters (One male, one female). You could even go online while someone else is playing with you, working in a way similar to Mario Kart Wii's two VS world multiplayer. Of course, one limitation would be if one person went to another town, everyone would have to go with them. Rendering two (Or more) separate towns at once would surely cause the Wii to burst into flames.

Random toys and objects lying around

Back in Animal Crossing for the Gamecube, you could randomly find balls lying around town. You could just kick them around for fun, and sometimes a villager may ask for one to play with. You deliver it, they're happy, mission complete. However, like the tents and igloos, this was sadly absent from Animal Crossing: Wild World. But I want to see it return!

To add to the original selection of just balls, there could also be sticks and such lying around. These could be sold for a couple bells at Tom Nook's shop, or maybe they'd just randomly fall from trees, tripping anyone not careful enough to watch for them. Perhaps you'd even see some other kind of outdoor toy, like a Frisbee or a pogo-stick. You never really know! And of course, you may see garbage tossed on the ground by some inconsiderate villager from time to time. Why, the nerve of some people!

Villagers being able to visit a friend's town

In Animal Crossing Wii, perhaps a villager may seem to disappear from time to time. Where'd they go? Ask one of your friends if they're in their town! I think it'd be really cool if villagers could freely visit your friends' towns whenever they want. After all, who says only humans can leave town? What makes us so special? You know, besides thumbs.

If a villager really likes it in your friend's town, they could even decide to move there. But don't worry, you can still visit them! They'd retain all their memories of you, the other villagers and the town itself. And who knows, they may move back. Or they could even move to yet another town from there, ending up in who-knows-where! Villagers need to go out on their own, too, don't you think?

Give a gift to any villager, any time

Talking to any villager for more than a few minutes usually spurs them to give you something like a carpet or a crappy chair. But what if we wish to give them something? Usually the only time we can is when they ask, but I think it'd be nice if we could give something to one of our village buddies whenever we want. Generosity's always nice!

Oh, and don't think giving them something they just gave you will work. They don't appreciate re-gifting, especially without even one degree of separation.

This concludes our broadcast week. We'll be back for more this Monday evening.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mini-Article: A new genre of gaming

Every time an appropriate movie comes out, a game developer makes a video game adaption of it. In fact, sometimes the movie doesn't even have to be a good fit for a game conversion and it'll still be made (See: Alvin and the Chipmunks). But what if we were to take a different look at movie games? What if, instead of your standard platformer or FPS adaptions, we instead had...


...interactive movies? I know, you're probably thinking "This is the same as a normal movie game!". But hear me out. For this example, I'll be using the movie Cloverfield (As seen above). This movie follows the story of a group of young twenty-somethings as a horrific monster attacks their home town of New York. We follow them throughout their insane ordeal had when trying to escape from this unknown threat.

What if, in the interactive movie, we didn't follow them, but instead became them? We would take on the role of Rob, the movie's unofficial star, as he runs through the streets of Manhattan. And that's it, really. Other than that, this would be exactly like the movie, but we're the main character. Every second of gameplay would be through his eyes. We'd control him, of course, but there'd be no additional fight scenes or anything like that. Everything that happened in the movie happens here, and nothing more.

Sure, you're thinking "Well, why not just buy the DVD?". Well, really, there's no reason to buy either one over the other. It's all based on preference. People can watch the story unfold, or take part in it. It would be exactly as I said: An interactive movie.

Actually, that's not entirely true. There would be a few minor changes. For one, we could walk around and inspect things that in the movie was never even glanced at. We could talk to the other terrified people of New York, seeing if we can get any idea about what this monster is. We could even run off course a bit and scout out the area. But mostly, things would be exactly as they were in the film.

Okay, this may sound a little boring and unappealing to the masses, but hey, didn't Brain Age sound the same way at first? That's because this wouldn't exactly be aimed at us core gamers. It would be more for those who want to get a little more out of their movies without doing too much work or learning too many things. It would also be for those who want to feel the thrill of running from some unknown being, something I'd love to experience (Not for real, of course!).

I guess it's somewhat difficult to express my ideas in words. Just imagine any old movie, but instead of watching it, you're in it. But it's different from a traditional game adaption. But it's sort of the same! AUGH! This is so hard to explain... I hope you get the basic idea.

Discuss this brain-fart on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pokémon: Why it needs to go back to go forward



I love the Pokémon series of games. Ever since I first got Pokémon Yellow way back in 1999, I've been hooked. I pick up each new game in the main series as soon as possible, even buying Gold Version and Diamond Version on their release dates. I have just about as much fun now as I did all those years ago, but something is starting to feel different about the series. It's not quite like the game I got for Christmas almost a decade ago. I really feel that, in some ways, Pokémon needs to go back to go forward.

First of all, I really hate how nice the rivals are now. I remember back in Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow, how Gary Oak use to say "Smell ya later, gramps!" and "You stinker! I took it easy on you!". He was a jerk, and you really wanted to put him in his place. But now, the rivals are nice. You don't want to fight them. They're good sports, they encourage you to get better, hell, they're mostly childhood friends! I wish we could go back to the way things were in the first two generations, with jerks like Gary Oak and the mysterious red-haired kid.

Unlike Dawn and Lucas, the jerky crook in the second generation
was a rival you really wanted to beat the crap out of.


And what's the deal with how complicated the Pokémon contests have gotten? In Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, it was as simple as entering and using appropriate moves to wow the judges. But in Diamond and Pearl, that hardly even seems like the focus of the contest any more. First, you have to dress up your Pokémon (What?). This is a really weird and somewhat abstract step, as your asked to dress them according to such bizarre themes as "The Alive", or some crap like that. They don't even tell you what class each accessory falls under, just to go ahead and slap some crap on your Pokémon.

And then there's the dance competition, which is just plain odd, and incredibly easy. For the first three turns, you mimic the moves of the lead dancer Pokémon, and on the fourth turn you perform your own dance. Except they aren't really dances, but more like timed button taps on the lower screen corresponding to one of four colours/directions. These just take away from what should be the main focus of the Pokémon contests, which is the actual competition stage.

One more thing that's really changed for the worst over the last three generations is the slot machine mini-game. In the original games, they were as easy as lining up the right symbols to win credits. But now there's things like bonus time and weird countdowns and stuff... What happened to the actual slot machine part? Other than the timed button-presses to stop each individual reel, there's almost nothing in the current slot machines like that in the originals. My dad always used to ask to play around in the slot machines in Yellow, but I think that all these changes and complications would only turn him away from them now. In fact, they're even turning me away. I've barely spent any time at all in the Game Corner in Diamond. Can't slot machines just be slot machines again?

And what's with all these weird and somewhat useless HMs? What the heck is with Defog? There's only one, maybe two places in the entirety of Pokémon Diamond where there's fog to disperse, and it just seems like an excuse to make up a new move. Not only that, but Defog is practically useless in battle. All it did was take up space in my Empoleon's moveset. I think they could have done well without the thick fog, and thusly without this useless HM. They could have easily gone with a light fog and gotten the same atmospheric effect, but without the annoying space-waster that is Defog.

Defog's not the only problem with the current HMs. What's the point of Rock Climb? It just serves as an annoyance to me. These climbing sections could have easily been replaced with, say, a staircase or ladder. As for serving as a way to impede progress until later on in the game, I'm sure something else could have been worked out. Anything to avoid the uninspired Rock Climb HM.

In fact, what if we just went back to how it was in the beginning, with five HMs? Cut, Fly, Surf, Strength and Flash were all good enough for me. I wouldn't mind if they added in one or two of the newer HMs like Waterfall or Rock Smash, just for a bit of variety. Just no "clone" HMs, like Defog and Rock Climb are. After all, they're just variations on Flash and Waterfall, respectively.

While the core gameplay of Pokémon has gotten nothing but better, there are so many parts of it that have done little but get worse. Making things complicated isn't always how you move forward with a franchise. Quite often, it's just the opposite. In Pokémon's case, I sincerely think that going back is the only way to move forward.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #38: "Would you buy a new DS model if it were released this year?" results, banner

"Definitely." 6 votes (20%)
"Most likely" 3 votes (10%)
"I'm not sure. I'd have to see it first." 11 votes (36%)
"No, I'm happy with my current handheld" 8 votes (26%)
"I have no idea." 2 votes (6%)

So, it seems that how people feel about a redesign is somewhat split down the middle. I was thinking that maybe things to lean a little more in the direction of "Definitely", but this is still pretty much what I expected. Also, am I the only one who thinks the number of voters has been dropping lately? It's odd, because site traffic seems about the same... Oh well.

This week's banner comes to us from forum member camieman10. As you most likely know, I've been a pretty big supporter of getting a Luigi's Mansion 2. camieman10 decided it would make a good subject for a banner, and I quite like the result. I hope you all enjoy it, too!



Remember, if you ever want to submit a banner to One Duck's Opinion, you can do it in one of two ways. First, you can e-mail it to me via the address listed in the sidebar. Just give the message a name like "One Duck's Opinion Banner" so I don't think it's spam, and attach the file to it. Second, you could just post it in the Banner Submission Thread in the forums if you're a member (If not, feel free to join!).

Whichever submission method you choose, make sure the banner fits the specifications listed in the above thread. So then, I hope so see some new submissions soon!

And finally, we have this week's poll: "Would you be interested in a hard drive for the Wii?". I'm sure more than one of you out there is having troubles with the small amount of space available on the Wii's current 512MB of memory. With WiiWare just around the corner, it seems that problems will just become even more common. So if Nintendo released a hard drive for the Wii with, say, 20GB of memory, would you get it? I think I'd go for it, as long as it doesn't cost too much. I'm not made of money, after all!

Tonight's article will be up in a little while.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mario Kart Wii review

I like writing reviews, and I love getting more games to review. But damn, I've done so many reviews lately, I think I'll stick to the opinions and such next week.


Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 27th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Comic Mischief


Mario Kart is a unique sort of franchise. A new installment is released only once for each console, and nobody ever asks for a sequel before the next system comes out. Mario Kart games just have insane staying power, and players will be satisfied with any one release for years on end. I still play Mario Kart DS every now and then. In fact, I don't think it's gone too far from my DS ever since I got it in 2005! With Mario Kart Wii, the game finally makes the jump to Nintendo's revolutionary new console. Do things keep moving well, or has this kart finally run out of gas?

When it comes to gameplay, this kart still rides as if it just rolled off the lot, but a few parts are a little rusty. Mario Kart Wii sports 32 tracks to race on, 16 of which are brand-spanking new. The other 16 are a selection of Mario Kart's excellent history of circuit design, featuring gems such as Bowser's Castle from the Nintendo 64, Yoshi Falls from the Nintendo DS, and Peach Beach from the Gamecube. Players can also select from a massive group of racers, with a grand total of 25 playable characters (Although I question why some racers are present. Baby Peach? Diddy Kong?). To go with that, there's 24 different vehicles to choose from, eight for each weight class. Needless to say, there's a lot of choices in Mario Kart Wii, so there's bound to be the right vehicle and character for everyone.

Speaking of vehicles, Mario Kart Wii adds a new class of machine to it's roads: Motorcycles. Players can make the swap from four wheels to two, adding the ability to do wheelies. While doing a wheelie, players get a slight speed boost, but sacrifice some maneuverability and can lose their balance in a collision. Kart racers cannot do wheelies, but they do enjoy higher acceleration when performing a mini-boost. So really, it all depends on which you like best.

Also new to Mario Kart Wii are a vast assortment of items. There's all the old standbys like Lightning, Koopa Shells and Mushrooms, as well as a few new items such as the Mega Mushroom, POW Block and Lightning Cloud. While most of these items are fair, a few seem a little cheap. The Spiny Shell, for example, always takes out the lead racer, and with 11 people behind you, being in first place can be quite dangerous. This can be really bad if it hits you while jumping over a chasm or right before passing the finish line, letting the guy in second take the gold. However, there is one other item that bugs me even more than the infamous Spiny Shell, and that's the POW Block, one of the newcomers. Not only does this cause every player in front of the user spin-out, it also shakes all their items away, leaving you helpless in the middle of the road. It's such an incredible pain to see that block appear above my head, because then it's only a matter of seconds until I'm spinning out and dropping my precious items. Thankfully, the POW Block cannot reach me in mid-air. But that does little to reduce my hate for this item. It's cheap, unfair, and incredibly frustrating to be on the receiving end of. Oh, and there's no more Boo item. That reeeeeeeally sucks.

I hate you so much, POW Block. So. Very. Much.


So, you may be wondering what the controls for this game are like. Well, Cowboy Jed says "Get behind the wheel!", and he seems like a pretty okay fellow. Really, the controls are just that simple. Wanna turn left? Turn the Wii Wheel left. Acceleration? 2 button. Brake? 1 or B, take your pick. Items? Press up on the D-pad to toss 'em forward, down to drop them behind you, and hold left to equip and drag the item until you're ready to use it. The controls couldn't get much more easy to understand.

As for how accurate the motion sensing is, I think it's pretty great. Turn the wheel a little and Yoshi starts a shallow turn. Turn it a lot and that dinosaur's careening around corners. You can take even the sharpest of turns by drifting into them. Besides allowing players to take sharp turns at high speeds, drifting also brings another benefit: The afore-mentioned mini-turbo. Drift long enough and sparks will fly from your back tires. Stop drifting and your vehicle will get a nice boost. Drift long enough and you'll get an even bigger boost. No need to rock back and forth with the controls to mini-boost like in previous games, just wait for it to happen. In addition to making things a little easier, this gets rid of the pesky snaking problem that plagued Mario Kart DS. So no need to worry about that anymore. If you were a snaker, well, I guess you're out of luck.

When it comes to the Gamecube Controller, Classic Controller and Nunchuk Style control schemes, I really can't say how well they perform. I just haven't had any time to try them out! I usually sit down and play Mario Kart Wii, meaning to try out the other control schemes, but I just get too caught up to think about it. Before I know it, two hours are passed, and I need to go do something. The addictiveness of the game is almost too much to bear! I'm just too used to and comfortable with the Wii Wheel controls. They just really work for me. Plus, I don't want to lose my golden Wii Wheel icon...

To say this game is hectic would be an understatement. You'll often go from first place to twelfth and back to first again. Definitely not for those who are expecting a perfect run every race. Even in first place, you're anything but safe.

Speaking of being in first place, I've heard a lot of people say that it's a very bad idea to be in first place for the entirety of a 150cc race, the highest of the difficulties. They complain about being bombarded with Spiky and Red shells left and right. Strangely, I haven't been beaten around anywhere near as much as these guys, even when playing in the same situation. It seems they're exaggerating to me. Or maybe I'm just incredibly freaking lucky.

As for how the game looks, I'm pretty happy with it. Everything's good and cartoony, with vibrant colours and some decent smoke effects. On paper it's not quite as impressive as Super Mario Galaxy or Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it's still a pretty damn good looking game. Some of the character models are a little under whelming (I'm looking at you, Donkey Kong), but almost everything else looks great. Even the little shells and bananas you see for less than a split second look pretty great. A good looking game with a few rough bits here and there.

Mario Kart Wii, like every other game in the franchise, carries with it an amazing selection of music. Each track has it's own catchy tune to go with it, from the spaced-out Rainbow Road theme to the dark and fast-paced Bowser's Castle song. The music even adapts to the situation, becoming strained and freaky-sounding when your character's been squished or shrunk. And as always, it plays at double-speed in the final lap, making you just want to go even faster.

Now, the following has been getting on some people's nerves. All the characters are really talkative in this one, from Baby Peach's high-pitched rambling to King Boo's bizarre screeches. It doesn't really get to me that much, but those with a low tolerance to repetitive and random jabbering might want to take caution.

Some sound effects play through both the Wii remote and the TV speakers, which I think is pretty neat. It can also come in handy if you're engaged in local multiplayer, making it more clear just who has a red shell headed for their ass. Every little collision plays through the Wii remote speaker as well, which, when paired with the rumble, adds a good bit of immersion.

One of the most talked-about features of Mario Kart Wii would have to be it's "awesome-yet-at-the-same-time-a-major-let-down" multiplayer, specifically online. When it comes to the awesome part, lag is virtually non-existent, even if your opponent lives on an entirely different continent. Plus, every mode supports up to 12 players at once, making for some insane online gaming.

If you have a pal visiting your house, you can even let him grab a controller and join you online using the same console. It plays just like normal online play, except it's all viewed in split-screen. However, there are a few minor problems. To start, only the first player can select a map to play on, with the second player's choice always mimicking that of the first. Not only is this kind of a rip-off to your pal, but now you pretty much get two votes in this draw, making things kind of unfair for those playing solo.

And what if your pal wants to join in on a race you're already playing? Well, he can't. You have to disconnect from the Wi-Fi Connection, select two-player online, reconnect, reselect your character and vehicle, and wait for the game to find another match for you to join. It's not exactly seamless. And what if the second player has a Mario Kart Wii profile on your Wii? Well, they can't earn any points, even if they choose to play as the Mii assigned to their save file. Kind of a raw deal.

As for where it falls short, every battle mode is now team-based, with no way to opt for free-for-all. This, quite frankly, sucks the big one. I loved going all out against my friends back in the day on the Nintendo 64, and now that's all gone. It seems it was implemented as a way to give casual players more of a fighting chance, as the team with the most points wins, and not the best racer. I'm really not opposed to the concept of team battle mode, but it's a problem when all-out, every-man-for-himself gameplay is sacrificed for it. And they got rid of Block Fort! Come on, man, that was the best battle arena!

Speaking of arena issues, I find that every single map is far too big to be a good battlefield. I often find myself driving around aimlessly for ages waiting to find an opponent, stumbling across nothing but empty space and allies. It makes sense for the map to be so big to account for 12 players, but if those players are divided up into teams of six, the arena just seems too big. I miss the hectic battles from Double Dash and Mario Kart DS...

Another problem with battle mode arises in the Balloon Battles. Each player starts with three balloons, and it's their goal to shoot out the balloons of the opposing team by attacking their karts. It used to be that when you lost all three of your balloons, you had to either watch everyone else play, or you got to roll around as a bomb and attack people. But in Mario Kart Wii, losing your balloons doesn't seem to have any consequence except for the lost points. You just reappear on the map with a fresh set of three balloons, and you set off to play again. Was elimination play too much to ask for?

There's another mode for battles, and that's Coin Runners. Basically, each team competes to collect more coins scattered about the course than their opponents. You can beat the coins out of other players with items, and you can lose them by getting hit or falling out of the stadium. That's really all their is to it, but it's fun.

Every mode of online play is also available in offline multiplayer using one Wii console, and Battle Mode is available in single-player mode, although it's against computer-controlled characters. Still a good way to practice when you don't have any friends with you to play.

Mario Kart Wii does one thing that only one other Wii game so far has done, and that is it brings it's own channel with it! Right on the disc lies the Mario Kart Channel, a portal for online tournaments (Such as globally-ranked time trials), Ghost Races (Compete against the "ghost" of someone else and try to beat their time), and check to see which of your registered friends are online (Yes, it uses Friend Codes. Get used to it, pal). The channel can be installed onto the Wii Menu from the disc, meaning you can access it even when the Mario Kart Wii disc isn't in the Wii. Of course, you'll need to put in the disc if your want to take part in any of the events linked to from the channel.

As for the previously-mentioned tournaments, the currently-running tourney is a time trial on Mario Circuit with one minor change: Chain Chomps run wild on the track, causing destruction everywhere they go. Also, it's not quite a time trial like in the you're used to, as you also have to deal with CPU opponents while pushing for a record. While this is kind of fun, it would be nice if future tournaments did something more than just pit our best time trials against other players. Being able to actually race other players from around the world in a big competition would be wicked. Also, will their be prizes for the winners of these tournaments? A special graphic for their vehicle or something like that would suffice. Just something to show that "Hey, I'm one of the best Kart players in the world!", you know?

Now, it should go without saying that this game is going to last players a long, long time. With so many characters to unlock and uncountable amounts of opponents available online, there's plenty here to keep anyone coming back for more. And it's always fun to try and beat your best time on a certain track. Maybe you'll make it to the top of a tournament! Like all the Mario Karts before it, Mario Kart Wii is going to be a staple in my gaming diet for quite some time.


SUMMARY

Gameplay: 9.0/10
As with every installment, Mario Kart Wii delivers great gameplay in bulk. The Wii Wheel controls are great, and the track design is excellent. And with so many characters to choose from, you could go ages before finding the one that's right for you. But the POW Block and lack of Boo item really irk me. And seriously, who invited Diddy Kong?

Graphics: 8.75/10
The environments, items and karts all look great. There's some pretty neat lighting effects, too, making everything look even better. However, the character models are a little lacking. Still, everything has a great cartoony look to it, and it's very nice to look at.

Audio: 9.25/10
I love the music in Mario Kart Wii. It's all so darn catchy and upbeat. The way the music changes when things happens is really great, too. Some of the characters are a little annoying sounding, though, so beware.

Multiplayer: 7.8/10
Mario Kart Wii is still a great multiplayer game like all the other installments, but the battle modes are severely underwhelming. Mandatory team battles are a real pain, and the arenas are way too large for two teams of six. Some of the older stages even seem to be magnified from their original format!

Longevity: 9.25/10
As is the case with every game in the series, Mario Kart Wii is one of those special games that people play throughout a whole generation and never seem to complain about their infrequency. Even after unlocking all the characters and getting gold trophies in all the races, you'll still be coming back for the multiplayer. You'll probably stick to the basic racing, though, and avoid the battles on the most part.

OVERALL: 8.75/10
While Mario Kart Wii isn't perfect, I still see myself playing this one for years on end. Sure, the team-based battles are a little disappointing, but the twelve player races online are insanely fun. And plus, it's just one of those games people seem to come back to over and over. Any Wii owner who likes to race and has a fondness for something a little crazy needs to get Mario Kart Wii.

So then, that's that! See y'all Monday.

Discuss this article on the Forums.

The Duck Has Spoken.