Monday, June 30, 2008

Canada's contributions to gaming

So, as most of you are likely unaware, tomorrow, July 1st, is Canada Day. In recognition of this, I'm writing an article detailing the notable contributions Canadian developers have made to gaming.


Canada has given much to gaming over the years, but chances are, you haven't noticed. So, with July 1st being Canada Day, I figured this would be as good a time as any to point out some of the great developers that are based in Canada, as well as naming some of the great games they have given us.


To start things off with a bang, we have one of Electronic Arts' two big Canadian development houses: EA Canada. Ever heard of a little series called Need For Speed? Ever since Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, EA Black Box (Part of EA Canada in Vancouver) has been the primary developer of almost every Need for Speed game. All those vast downtown scenes and industrial park-based cinematics in Most Wanted? Pure Vancouver goodness right there. As of now, EA Canada is hard at work at Skate It, a spin-off of the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 smash-hit Skate. They're also behind countless EA Sports titles, such as NBA Live 2003-08, NHL 2006-08, and FIFA 07-08. To top things of, EA Canada is was also the developer for several SSX snowboarding games. Quite the busy little Canuck company, huh?


EA Montreal

Way on the other side of our vast country is the Quebec development studio EA Montreal. Several years younger than the larger EA Canada, Montreal's library is somewhat smaller, but still quite impressive. First, they're assisting EA Canada with the aforementioned Skate It, scheduled for release on the Wii sometime this holiday season. Speaking of Wii, they're also behind the amazingly fun SSX Blur, a game I really should get around to playing again. Of course, no development company is perfect. EA Montreal is also responsible for the quite badly-received Boogie games for both the Wii and DS, as well as the mixed-bag that was Army of Two (PS3 and XBox 360). Still, they've proven themselves to be a more than adequate developer, and I wish them success on their future endeavors.


Rockstar Toronto and Rockstar Vancouver

From almost entirely opposite sides of the country, Rockstar Toronto and Rockstar Vancouver make up the Canadian extension of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games. While the newer Vancouver studio so far only has the Playstation 2 game Bully under its belt, the Toronto counterpart has developed the moderately well-received Oni (PS2, PC, Mac), the PS2 version of Max Payne, The Warriors, the Wii version of Manhunt 2, and even Bully: Scholarship Edition, the Wii update to Vancouver's first release under the Rockstar name. So far the two developers have done fairly well for themselves, and I really can't wait to see more from the Vancouver office. Here's hoping Rockstar throws them a bone sometime soon, because Bully is the only game they've made since being purchased by the developer in 2002. Good luck to them!



Of course, we can't talk about Canadian developers without mentioning the greatness that is BioWare. Developer of such amazing franchises as Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Mass Effect, BioWare is certainly competing on the global scale here. BioWare was even behind the massively successful Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. You can hardly even mention Star Wars games without someone bringing up that one! As of now, BioWare is currently hard at work on Mass Effect 2 (360, PC) and the blue hedgehogs first RPG adventure, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (DS), among a few other titles. Of all the game developers on this list, BioWare is by far the most recognizable by name. Definitely someone to be keeping an eye on.



And finally, we have ATI. You may not recognize them by name, but ATI developed the GPUs for the Gamecube, XBox 360, and Wii. Without them, none of these consoles would be quite the same. Sitting in several million houses across the globe right this moment is pure Canadian ingenuity, powering some of the best game experiences we've ever seen. The Gamecube's Flipper gave us the vast ocean of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the XBox 360's Xenos has allowed us to experience warfare like never before in Halo 3, and the Wii's Hollywood has thrown us into deep space with the world's favourite plumber in Super Mario Galaxy. ATI is definitely an important developer in the gaming industry, even though they haven't published a single game. So while they're now owned by AMD, ATI is still, at heart, a Canadian company.

I hope this article has informed you on just how important Canada is to the game industry. So remember, next time you play a game or use a product from one of the above developers, that you're holding a piece of Canadian ingenuity in your hands. As for me, I'm going to spend my Canada Day enjoying the fruits of my country's labour, playing Wii and watching some good old Canadian television. Happy Canada Day to all the Canadians out there. Everyone else, have a great Tuesday.

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The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #46: "If you lived in the Pokémon world, what would you be?" results, banner, 300th post


So, the time has finally come. What you are reading right now is the 300th post to be published on One Duck's Opinion. Sure, about 50 of those are probably me whining about not having anything to write, but shush. The point is, I have published 300 posts here, which is a lot. Somewhat of a pity this didn't happen back when the "SPARTA!" joke was more relevant, but oh well. I got to graft Psyduck's head onto the body of Leonidas, and that's gotta count for something.

Back to business, then...

"A Pokémon trainer" 18 votes (69%)
"A Pokémon breeder" 1 vote (3%)
"A Pokémon contest competitor" 0 votes (0%)
"A Pokémon doctor" 1 vote (3%)
"I'd be a Pokémon" 2 votes (7%)
"A normal person" 2 votes (7%)
"Other" 1 vote (3%)
"I don't know" 1 vote (3%)

Really, is anyone surprised at these results? Being a Pokémon trainer is just too amazing an opportunity to pass up. Well, unless you're one of the people who voted otherwise. I suppose I can see the interest in the other choices, but dammit, I want a Bulbasaur!

This week's banner comes to us from forum member Camieman10. The subject? Luigi! Why? Because he's awesome! Moving on...



Alrighty, that just leaves the matter of this week's poll: "Who's your favourite female Nintendo character?" I just gotta go with Samus on this one. After all, she's just about the only one who doesn't end up getting captured in every single game. Super Princess Peach? ...nope, never heard of it.

Alrighty, then. New article will be up in a little while.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time review

As the back of the game case says, "The contents of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness are almost the same.". Thus, this review applies to both. But, since I bought Explorers of Time, the review will be labeled as such.

Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 20th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Mild Cartoon Violence


Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team was the 100th game to be added to my collection. It was more than a milestone, though. It was also a damn good game. Over a year later, sequels are released in the forms of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness. Do the new games measure up to the old? Or is it a case of a sequel falling short of the source material's excellence?

When it comes to the majority of Pokémon game releases, storyline isn't usually a strong point. It's often just "Be the best and catch 'em all!", and little more. The Mystery Dungeon games, however, have comparatively deep and interesting plots. Note the word "comparatively". This isn't exactly Dostoevsky, but it is a step above the challenge to be a Pokémon Master. It all begins with the you washing ashore on a beach. When you awake, you have no absolutely no memory of anything whatsoever, save for two things: Your name, and the fact that you're a human. Or rather, that you were a human, because for some unknown reason, you're now a Pokémon! So there you are, a person with almost no memories, in a land you don't know, in the body of a Pokémon. How can you get back? Why are you a Pokémon? Who will feed your cat while you're away? The answers to most of these questions are answered throughout the storyline (I guess Fluffy just ate your couch or something), accompanied with a few slightly predictable twists here and there. Over all, though, a good story, and the last little bit almost made me cry a teeny bit (But then again, I'm a real sap).

"Oh, no, I'm fine... Mind passing me my tibia? I think it landed over there..."

The personification of the Pokémon was something that really impressed me. Just imagine any Pokémon out there, try and picture what it's personality would be like... And that's exactly how it is in Explorers of Time. Bidoof's just as stupid and useless as you'd assume, and Sunflora is such a stereotypical early-teens girl that it's almost scary. Really, even the Pokémon who's personalities I'd never even considered smack me in the face with how accurate they are. I'll meet a new Pokémon, watch it talk for a while, and just get this feeling like "Yes. This is how this Pokémon would act if it could speak.". Some really amazing stuff.

The Pokémon you become at the beginning of the game isn't predetermined or random. The game starts with a personality test of sorts. You're hit with a random selection of ten or so questions, and the game determines which Pokémon most accurately reflects your personality. Apparently, I'm a Pikachu. Never saw that coming. Still, pretty cool.

The core gameplay mechanic of the Mystery Dungeon games is quite different from your standard Pokémon title. It still has RPG elements, sure, but it's a dungeon crawler. See, when you wash up on that beach, you're greeted by an exploration team hopeful. He (Or she) gets you to join up with him (Or her) and form your very own exploration team (Which you can name, by the way). From then on, you can take on jobs posted on bulletin boards, and then off you go to the dungeon. A mystery dungeon, as it's called, changes every time you enter it. It will always have the same amount of floors, but each one will change completely if you leave and come back. Furthermore, if you perish within a mystery dungeon, you will be returned to the surface minus several items and all your money. You can save yourself the loss by getting someone to come to your aid, and I'll talk more about that later. Of course, if you want to get to that quickly, you can just hit Ctrl+F, bash in "multiplayer", and click down to the next result. See ya there, Mr. Impatient.

The gameplay is simple, yet fun.


While spelunking, you'll run into many different Pokémon, and almost all of them are hostile. What else can you do but take 'em down? Well, besides run like a disgraceful little exploration team reject, that is. There are three conventional ways of attacking: Throwing at item at an enemy, directly attacking them, or use a special attack. What differentiates a normal attack from a special one? Well, normal attacks are weak, basic little moves that have no special effects whatsoever. Your opponent is damaged, and that's it. The special attacks, however, are just like those you know from the main Pokémon series. Thundershock, Tackle, Water Gun, and many more. The one downside to special attacks is, like in the main games, they can only be used a limited number of times before exhausting all of their Power Points (PP). When all of a move's PP are gone, it's useless until you either get a Max Elixer, die and get revived with a Reviver Seed, or leave the dungeon. Basically, there's some strategy involved, and not only in choosing which move to use. There's also the same four attack limit from the main series, so deciding if increased strength is worth the decreased PP is an important decision to make.

Speaking of attack strength, there really isn't any way to determine if one attack is stronger than the other. There's no strength value or anything assigned to a move like in the main series. Really, the only way to judge how good a move is by its additional effects. Thunderbolt affects all enemies within one tile of the user, while Thundershock only affects one enemy. Okay, so Thunderbolt's better. But if two moves both have the same effects, there's really no way to decide which is better without taking the plunge and trying the new move. And then, if the new move sucks, you gotta pay 500 Pokébucks (Or whatever the currency's called) to get the old move back. I'd kill for a number value telling me if Quick Attack is better than Slam. Well, not really kill... Although maiming is a possibility.

If you're anything like me, you probably have the type alignment table memorized by now. Electric attacks can't harm Rock Pokémon, Normal attacks can't hit Ghost Pokémon, etc... Well, you can forget a few of those, because some changes have been made. There is no longer any such thing as a type resistance that causes an attack to do nothing. So yes, you can Thunderbolt a Graveler and Tackle a Misdreavus. Of course, these attacks are incredibly weak in this situation, but still, they do hurt the formerly impervious foes. They also hurt my brain with the inconsistency... Or maybe that's because it's 3:30 AM and I'm still writing.

Of course, you can always get other members of your exploration team to take over if you come across a type disadvantage. Or rather, you should be able to, but the partner AI in this is borderline brain dead. The standard tactic you can assign to a partner, "Let's go together", makes it so they stick with you as you explore a dungeon. That's nice, but if an Ursaring and three of his buddies start pounding on you, don't expect your team to help you out. See, the problem with the "Let's go together" tactic is that your partners take it a little too strictly. Even if your face is being pounded in, they just stand there until an enemy comes into striking distance. They won't advance on your assailants at all. But that's just the one tactic. They can't all possibly be flawed, can they?

Sadly, they are. Well, some of them are. Out of all the tactics, the only ones you really ever need to use are "Let's go together", "Go after enemies", "Stay here", and "Get out of here!". All the other ones are so useless I can't even remember what they're called. The latter two I just listed work fine, but it's the first two that are the problems. I already went over the masochistic nature of "Let's go together", so I suppose I should describe just what is so terribly wrong with "Go after enemies". Like "Let's go together", this tactic is taken far too seriously by your partners. They will track an enemy until they get close enough to strike, even if it means running all the way to the other side of the floor you're on. And then, when they finally meet and defeat this foe, they just wander around stupidly until you find them again. Looking at the map while this happens is painful, really. The little yellow dot representing your lost partner just dashes around, flying through corridors and screaming through the level's more open areas. Unless you can somehow manage to get in the same room as them or run into your disconnected pal head-on in a corridor, he'll continue to run in circles like a Torchic with its head cut off. Telling it to "Stay here" works, I'm sure, but it's a whole lot of effort to go through just to stop your Kabuto from bolting about like an idiot.

It can be so hard to find good help these days...

The actual missions you take on in these mystery dungeons are varied, yet the same. Sometimes you have to deliver an item, other times you have to find a stranded explorer, and other times you have to take down a wanted criminal. No matter what the mission, though, fulfilling it is basically the same: Go into the dungeon, keep going up/down until you reach the right floor, find target, save/deliver item to/defeat target, leave. There are some story-centric missions that manage to change things up a bit, but other than that, it's just a series of "get there" missions.

But, for some reason, I really don't seem to care. I can keep going to all these different dungeons for days, see the same things in different sprite sets, yet still have fun. It's the thrill of exploring the unknown. The rush of taking on unknown dangers. The fulfillment of saving a lost comrade. And, of course, the pursuit of the rest of the story. So yeah, it's repetitive, but it's fun. If you don't mind a bit of routine, you should be good to go.

Explorers of Time is a rare example of a modern, sprite-based game that actually looks pretty damn good. Each Pokémon has a vast array of poses and animations, from getting hit to charging up to walking. That may not sound by much, but multiply that by 491 and it becomes quite the different story (I say 491 and not 493 because Arceus and Shaymin are absent). Plus, each Pokémon has at least one "portrait" assigned to it. A portrait is what appears when a conversation is taking place, indicating who is talking. In some cases, if the Pokémon talking is startled, happy, mad, or otherwise expressing emotion, the portrait will change to reflect this. So really, there's quite a few graphics for each of the Pokémon in the game. Including sprites and portraits, I'd say there's easily over 5000 graphics for the characters alone.

The main hub town is very colourful and varied in appearance, from the Western extreme of Sharpedo Bluff to the North-Eastern, cliff-side exploration team guild. In contrast to the bright and brilliant hub town is the relatively dark and dismal array of mystery dungeons. There are maybe 20 different sprite sets that the dungeons are crafted from, from beach to cave to forest. I suppose I can't fault it too much, though. The sprite sets do have to be relatively simple for a random dungeon creator, after all.

A few cinematics help tell Explorers of Time's story, often taking advantage of both the DS' screens (As seen both below and in this review's topmost screenshot). To top things off, the Pokémon "portraits" mentioned before are all drawn by Ken Sugimori, primary designer of nearly every one of the first 251 Pokémon. He even illustrated the box cover and the booklet! Yes, I'm a bit of a fan of his, and I'm not afraid to admit it. He's seriously the best of the official Pokémon artists, and having him working on Explorers of Time is icing on this delicious graphical cake.

Still no takers on this beautiful seaside property. I wonder what's turning them away...?

So on the whole, Explorers of Time is a pretty visually pleasing game. A whole whackload of sprites are crammed into that cartridge, and while it may not look much better than the first installment, it's still pretty darn nice-looking.

The audio in Explorers of Time is pretty, well... Basic. There's no Pokémon cries, and I'm pretty sure all the Electric attacks use the same sound of crackling electricity. Actually, it's not so much the sound of crackling electricity as it is kind of a buzz followed by a sort of crashing sound.

The music helps make up for the shortcomings of the sound effects. I commonly get the town music caught in my head, and the tune from in a few of the dungeons pops in every now and then, too. Of course, it happens more often if I'm not pumping K.K. Slider into my ears, but you get the point.

And now, on to the multiplayer aspect... Oh, hello there, Mr. Impatient! Sorry to keep you waiting. Now then, there isn't any actual "direct" multiplayer in Explorers of Time. As I said earlier, if you perish while exploring, you can avoid losing your loot by sending out a call for help. You can try to find a friend locally, or take it online. When online, you can try to track down a registered friend directly, post your distress message on the game's server, or copy down a password. Except for the second method, local is exactly the same but, you know, local. The direct contact and "bulletin board" methods are self-explanatory, but the password version does need a bit of explanation. When using password, you get a long code you can copy down onto a piece of paper or post on a message board. Someone else copies it down, punches it into their game, and goes to rescue you. When they're done, they give you another password which you can enter into your game, and you're saved. It's even possible to thank people with gifts and such if you wish so. Really, this is a pretty cool system they've set up here. I've already found a neat little community that acts just like the exploration team guild in the game. Post your code, they help you out, and it's done. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a dozen or more additional groups just like this dedicated to helping out the less skilled players out there. It's so cool, I almost want to go mess up and die just to get rescued again. Almost.

I can see Explorers of Time lasting me for quite a while. As of now, my team is still in the range of level 45, so I've got quite some ways to go still. Even though the story line does end, the game keeps going for quite some time. I'll keep playing until the end, I'm sure. Because...

I wanna be the very best... That no one ever was...

SUMMARY


Storyline: 8.4/10
Sure, it's not the deepest of storylines, but the plot in Explorers of Time is probably the closest we'll get to something truly epic in a Pokémon game. I still can't get over how perfectly they nailed the personality of all the Pokémon... Insanely accurate.

Gameplay: 8.8/10
Explorers of Time may be a little repetitive, but it deals with it in the best of ways. Still, though, not being able to determine the strength of special attacks is a real bugger, and the breaking of the type alignment kind of irks me. But still, good fun.

Graphics: 8.7/10
The graphics may be simple, but they're by no means underwhelming. I love how bright and cheery that things can be, making the contrast of the more serious moments even more noticeable. And come on, it's got Ken Sugimori all over it! Just can't go wrong when Sugimori's involved.

Audio: 7.0/10
The audio is probably the closest thing Explorers of Time has to a low point. the lack of Pokémon cries is pretty disappointing, and the sound bytes used for some attacks are incredibly generic and often reused elsewhere in the game. But damned if that music isn't catchy!

Multiplayer: 9.8/10
I absolutely love what they did with the multiplayer here. Posting S.O.S messages and coming to the rescue of others makes me feel like I'm actually part of the game. It's just too darn cool.

Longevity: 8.9/10
I can see Explorers of Time keeping me busy for a while. I've still got a lot of leveling up to do, and there's at least 400 more Pokémon for me to track down. I'd better get to work.

OVERALL: 8.8/10
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time is a real gem of a game, especially for a spin-off. It's certainly not for everyone, though. Some big sites may give it a 6.5, but really, these guys just aren't the ones the game is made for. If you like exploring, Pokémon and slightly repetitive (Yet fun) dungeon crawling, this game is for you. Just don't be surprised if you end up turning into a Pikachu in the process.

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The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pokémon Trozei review

Writing about this recently made me want to play it again. And so, a review is born.

Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: March 2006
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone


When Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were announced in 2004, I doubt anyone expected they'd be waiting over two years to play it. In order to whet the Poké-appetites of the gamers, several other Pokémon games were released in the meantime: Ranger, Mystery Dungeon, Dash and Trozei. I have had a chance to play all but Ranger, and generally, I've had fun. Was Trozei one of the games that caught my attention, or was it the runt of the litter?

Unlike many puzzle games, Pokémon Trozei actually has a plot. The story follows SOL (Secret Operation League) agent Lucy Fleetfoot as she fights to retrieve countless Pokémon stolen by the Phobos Battalion. Why they have stolen all these Pokémon is unknown at first, but you can bet it's for an evil plan of some sort. It's always an evil plan.

Using the Trozei Beamer, Lucy can get a look at what Pokémon are inside the Pokéballs stockpiled in Phobos Battalion warehouses. Each ball emits a signal unique to the type of Pokémon within, giving us a graphical representation of what Pokémon we're dealing with. In order for the Beamer to work properly and send the captured Pokémon to safety, the signal must be intensified. To do this, players need to line up four or more of the same Pokémon. With the signal adequately strengthened, the Pokémon are teleported to SOL headquarters and returned to their rightful owners.

As you can probably assume, this is where the puzzle part comes into play. In order to line up Pokémon, players use the stylus to drag the lines left & right, and up & down. After the first line is finished (Called a "Trozei", of course), players receive a Trozei Chance. The next set can be completed with only three Pokémon, and the next with only two. Move quick enough, and it's entirely possible to clear an entire screen with one Trozei Chance. To help things along, making a Trozei using more Pokémon than necessary will earn a Ditto which acts as, you guessed it, a wild card. It'll go with any Pokémon out of the 386 in the game.

All 386 of these Pokémon are very distinct in their representation. Each Pokémon is easily identified, from Abra to Zubat. It's all so very colourful and happy, just like a Pokémon game should be (Well, mostly, anyways.). The game also sports some animated cinematics, although they're not exactly stunning. Mostly sliding pictures and backgrounds, but there is a cool animation of a silhouetted Lucy jumping and landing. Nothing particularly spectacular in the graphics department, but hey, it's a puzzle game. Since when have they been much more than simple sprites and minor effects?

No trouble identifying any of the Pokémon in
this screenshot. And so colourful, too.


The music in Trozei is pretty catchy at times, sometimes even sticking with me as I go about my daily routine (Ha, that's a laugh. Me with a routine). The sound effects, however, are pretty basic. Aside from a few chimes, it's really nothing special. But, as is the case with graphics, puzzle games are usually pretty basic when it comes to the sound effects. At least we got some nice tunes.

As is expected of a puzzle game, Pokémon Trozei features multiplayer. The player-to-player interaction is comparable to that of Tetris or Dr. Mario. Each significant Trozei is like an attack, tossing immovable rocks onto the opponents screen. This goes back and forth until one player runs out of space on the screens, declaring the other player the winner. Also, Trozei supports Single-Card Download Play, so you only need one copy to play with your pal. Yeah, I said pal. Sadly, Trozei is only a 1-2 player game no matter how you look at it. Four player would have been great. All hectic, all the time.

Trozei also includes one of Nintendo's early attempts at passive multiplayer. Similar to Bark Mode in Nintendogs, Trozei's Espionage encourages the player to close the DS and stick in in their pocket. While the DS sits there in Sleep Mode, it sees out other players using Espionage. The two games exchange "Agent Cards", which include both the player's name and the key to unlocking more Pokémon. I always thought passive multiplayer to be an interesting idea, but really, I never found anyone this way unless it was deliberately set up. Back when I first got Nintendogs, I left my DS in Bark Mode for about thirty minutes, walked all around a local park, and got nothing. Did the same thing in different places several times, and nothing. It was a novel idea, but it didn't really work all that well. Can't blame a company for trying something new, though.

Pokémon Trozei can last a long time if you really get hooked on it. I remember playing it constantly for about two months back when I first got it, and I do believe the same shall happen again now that I've rediscovered it. Puzzle games are great for that kind of thing. If the gameplay formula is good, the game will last you ages. Just look at Tetris and its billion rereleases.

SUMMARY

Storyline: 8.0/10
I like that Genius Sonority decided to get away from the traditional Pokémon story here. Aside from the Pokémon themselves, there's not a single character in this game that has appeared in any other title ever released. Yeah, it's cheesy, but darn it, I like cheesy.

Gameplay: 9.0/10
Genius Sonority struck gold with this gameplay design. Trozei is really addictive, and lining up a big combo is just so darned fulfilling. Definitely a puzzle game in need of a sequel, if just to fill out a little shallowness here and there.

Graphics: 8.3/10
Every one of the 386 Pokémon present are clearly identifiable, each of them just as colourful as the last. Get a good four or five different types on screen, and you almost don't want to advance, lest destroying the beauty. The cinematics drag this category down a bit, though. Sliding backgrounds don't quite cut it anymore.

Audio: 7.5/10
You know, I find it hard to rate the audio on most games unless it's mind-blowing or terrible. Anywhere in between, I'm stumped. I suppose 7.5 best fits Trozei because of the catchy tunes mixed with somewhat underwhelming sound effects.

Multiplayer: 8.3/10
Any puzzle game is great with pals, and Single-Card Download Play just makes it even easier to have fun. I really would have liked some sort of 4+ player mode, though, in addition to the existing 1-on-1.

Longevity: 9.0/10
It's a puzzle game. Seriously, what more needs to be said? As long as a puzzle game is fun, it's pretty much guaranteed to be addictive. I almost wish I hadn't rediscovered Trozei, as now my next few weeks are sure to be little else but sliding Pokémon back and forth. Not quite worth a 10, though. Just doesn't cause the same level of addiction as some of the greats like Tetris and Dr. Mario.

OVERALL: 8.9/10
Pokémon Trozei is a great puzzle game no matter how you look at it. A simple formula is always the best way to go about making an amazing puzzler, and Trozei truly achieved greatness through simplicity. And now, I want a sequel. 493 Pokémon, four-player multiplayer and online mode are just begging to meet with Genius Sonority's DS brainchild.

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The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A few more animals not yet made into Pokémon

Pokémon Week is go!



By racking my brain I have come up with yet another small selection of animals so that have so far avoided the Pokégrip of Game Freak. These few species should enjoy their freedom as it lasts, since the next generation is surely already being developed...

Koala


This adorable little specimen from Australia would make a good normal-type Pokémon. It would probably have attacks like Scratch, Defense Curl, Pound and Body Slam, and be about the same size as a real koala. It could even evolve into a bigger, meaner koala, with huge arms and a large body. The Koala Pokémon would probably have high health and defense, average attack, and low speed.

And what could this Pokémon be called? I was thinking maybe Kobear, due to the animal commonly being called a "koala bear". Of course, that's just one idea from a guy that's really bad at thinking up names.

Goat


I'm actually a little surprised to have not seen a goat Pokémon yet. It's a sturdy, well-known animal that would be great as another normal-type. Stomp, Take Down, Horn Attack and Rage would definitely be present in its moveset. It would likely have a high attack and speed, average defense, and low health. So, basically, it's a Tauros with different stats.

As for a name, I suppose Ramgoat or something like that would show up. But, as I said before, I really suck with names. It's a darn good thing that you don't often have to make up names when giving one to a child, or else any kid I may have in the future would have a really stupid name. In fact, for the sake of the child's sanity, I'd leave naming to the mother.

Goose


A goose Pokémon would make a great addition to the Pokémon world in my opinion. An excellent candidate for the next water and flying creature, it would have high defense and health, with medium attack and speed. Moves like Water Gun, Peck, Roost and Mist would be perfect for this fixture of Canadian landscape.

As for a name? How about Psychogoose? For some reason, that name rings a bell... And while we're talking about Canada's bird, what of America's?

Eagle


The majestic eagle has surprisingly avoided the eye of Game Freak for all these many years. How much longer until this flying/normal type pops up on our DS screens? My guess is, not much longer at all. With possible attacks like Aerial Ace, Sky Attack, Drill Peck and Wing Attack, this surefire heavy-hitter is a shoo in for generation five. High attack and speed with average defense and health, the eagle really is a perfect fit for a Pokémon.

Now, what to name this one... Sky + Eagle = Skeagle, perhaps? Boy am I bad at this...

Prairie Dog


The noble prairie dog would fit in well with all the other rodent-like Pokémon already present in the game. I suppose it would be best suited as a ground type, since it lives in burrows in the real world. It wouldn't be that outstanding of a Pokémon, though, as it would probably only have a high speed stat, with everything else being average. Possible attacks for this Pokémon would be Dig, Earthquake, Slash and, of course, Glare.

And a name... How about Prairdog? No? Yeah, I didn't think so either.

Lemur


This little guy already seems like a tailor-made Pokémon. Bizarre proportions, insanely cute, and very, very hyperactive. Back away, folks! This is a Pokémon waiting to happen! The lemur Pokémon would probably have good attack and speed stats, with average defense and health. Attacks would likely be centered on tail-based moves, such as Tail Whip, Iron Tail, and so on.

Murtail? Tailmur? Lemurwhozawhatzit? Yeah, I'll just stop trying now.

So, there you have it. A whopping six animals that still evade Game Freak. If the last two editions of this are any indication, I should expect a whole wave of comments tomorrow telling me I'm wrong on at least one of them. Just one of the things I need to get used to, it seems.

Discuss This Article on the Forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #45: "Which upcoming Wii game are you most looking forward to?" results, banner, Pokémon Week

"The Conduit" 10 votes (28%)
"Spore" 13 votes (37%)
"Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers" 2 votes (5%)
"Sonic Unleashed" 1 votes (2%)
"I'm still waiting for Brawl, dammit!" 4 votes (11%)
"Other" 3 votes (8%)
"I don't know" 2 votes (5%)

I can't say I'm surprised to see those two games taking the top spots. After all, Spore comes from the brilliant mind of Will Wright, and The Conduit looks to be the best Wii shooter this side of Metroid Prime 3! Although I must say that this list is a little disappointing. If these are the only big titles in store for us, we may be in trouble. E3 had better bring a whole bunch of awesome news with it!

With this week's banner comes a special little announcement: Starting today and lasting until Friday's update is Pokémon Week! I recently had a flood of ideas for Pokémon-related articles, so hey, why not? This week will include at least one Pokémon game review (Although I'm hoping for two), so it's going to be an interesting five days. As for the banner itself, here ya go:

I tried to cram in as many Pokémon as I possibly could, and I think I did a fairly decent job. I tried to make one letter look like it was a transformed Ditto, but it didn't really work out as I hoped. Oh well, at least there's the obligatory Voltorb "O". And yeah, I just noticed that Tentacool is almost entirely covering the "K" in "Duck's". Oh well, I assume everyone will still know where they are without that letter being entirely visible. If they don't, I have no idea how they managed to live this long.

This week's poll shall also be Pokémon-related, with the question being "If you lived in the Pokémon world, what would you be?". I'd really have to go with trainer here. I wouldn't be able to resist getting my very own Bulbasaur.

Alrighty, Pokémon Week's first article will be up in an hour or two!

...or three... I'm terrible at keeping on track.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Games that deserve a sequel: Part 4

It's been quite a while since I touched on this series of articles. The last update was September 19th, 2007! For all the other "Games that deserve a sequel" articles, click here.

Mario & Luigi (Series)
Platforms of original games: Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS
Preferred platform of sequel: Nintendo DS

The story of the Mario & Luigi series is a strange one. When talking of Mario RPGs, it's commonly excluded. People don't seem to remember or even talk about this great pair of games. This is unacceptable in my opinion, as they're two of the finest RPGs I have ever played. Sure, they're somewhat basic compared to the likes of Final Fantasy, but that doesn't mean they aren't fun. The writing is hilarious, the characters are memorable, and the in-game worlds are riddled with secrets. Both games are great additions to any gamer's library. So why not a sequel?

Of course, I want this series to stick to the handheld consoles. I just don't think it would work well on the big screen, personally. I think a co-op mode would be amazing. Having the player control both Mario and Luigi is cool, but imagine the possibilities if two people could get in on the action. Instead of either moving them together or one at a time, Mario and Luigi could now move about simultaneously in all different directions. The possibilities for new puzzles and fight mechanics are staggering! Obviously, the co-op mode would be in addition to the existing single player, but it would still be completely awesome.

Other than that, I really don't know what significant additions or changes Nintendo could make, aside from the obvious (New items, enemies, etc.). No matter how things are changed up and expanded upon in this hoped-for sequel, I'm sure it'll be amazing. Now all I have to do is sit back and wait...

Pokémon Trozei
Platform of original game: Nintendo DS
Preferred platform of sequel: Nintendo DS or WiiWare


In the earlier days of the DS, a few Pokémon games were released in hopes of tiding over Pokémaniacs until Diamond and Pearl came out. In early 2006, one such title was released in the form of Pokémon Trozei. The third in the series of Pokémon puzzle games, Trozei was substantially different from its predecessors. Unlike the Puzzle League-like gameplay of the first two, Trozei had more of a Yoshi's Cookie feel. Every level takes up both the top and bottom screens of the DS. Each round starts with a pile of Pokémon faces on the screen, and the goal is generally to clear a set amount of Pokémon before time runs out. Pokémon constantly fall from the top of the top screen as the game goes on, and only by lining up four of the same type can the player chip away at the wall. That's the basic idea of how the game works.

How do I propose this be added onto for a sequel? Well, there's really not too much one can do to alter a puzzle game without changing it entirely, so I say leave that aspect fairly intact (Although all 493 Pokémon and an online mode would be welcome additions). I would definitely like to see more of the story. Unlike most puzzle games, Pokémon Trozei has a plot to it, although a fairly bizarre one. The basic story is as follows: A group by the name of the Phobos Battalion is stealing every Pokémon they can to serve some unknown purpose, and it's up to SOL (Secret Operation League) to retrieve all the stolen Pokéballs. The players take the role of Lucy Fleetfoot, stealing back all the Pokéballs from the Phobos Battalion's stockpiles. Using the Trozei Beamer, Lucy can peer into the piles of Pokéballs to see who's inside (Thus explaining the piles of Pokémon faces). I thought this was a neat little story, and seeing it somehow being expanded on would be nice.

So those are two more games I think deserve sequels. That brings the current total to seven games, and still not even a peep on a sequel for any of them. Oh well, I suppose I'll just have to keep waiting.

What games do you want to see sequels to? Let your thoughts be heard in either the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Bad headache now, article tomorrow

The title says it all. As for now, I need sleep. Sorry, I guess. I will try for something tomorrow, I promise.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The worst final bosses

Think of this as "The greatest final boss battles of all time"'s evil little brother.

Generally a game's story leads up to a huge, amazing battle at the end. Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are all fine examples of this. After so much adventuring and fighting, players finally reach the final boss. Really, at this point, we gamers deserve to be treated to an amazing spectacle of game design and storytelling. We want the last part of this game to be the best. Sadly, some games just can't pull it off, leaving us with a disappointing final battle hardly fit for the adventure we just completed.


Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon

Of course, there are some cases where the battle's mediocrity is rivaled only by the rest of the game it's in. Thus is the story of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon. The resulting bastardization of an ill-fated Nintendo/Phillips partnership, these two games are widely regarded as some of the worst ever made. The final boss battles did nothing to make up for the terrible quality and design of the games themselves. After all this time, all this suffering, you want to really have it out with Ganon. You want to rip his Face of Evil off of him for forcing you to experience this crap pile of a game. And how does the battle go?

"...or else you will DIE!"

One hit, he's down. No, really. In Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon, Ganon is defeated either by throwing some book at him, or tossing the Wand of Gamelon into his piggy face. I suppose it's only fitting, though. A crappy end to a crappy game. Alright, enough dwelling on this pustule on the ass of game design.


Super Mario Sunshine

Ah, Sunshine. It's amazing how many people have sad so many bad things about your gameplay, but hardly a peep about your terribly disappointing final boss battle. I'd hardly even consider it to be a battle, come to think of it. What does it entail? Breaking Bowser's hot tub to send him plummeting into some sort of abyss. Yup. Mario basically pushed aside all formalities and caught the man while his pants were down. A classy guy, that Mario.

"Dammit, Mario! This is my 'Me Time'!"

Anyways, throughout the entire "battle", Bowser toasts you with his flame breath as Bullet Bills constantly rain down on you. Is there anyway to hit Bowser? Nope. You don't even get to touch the bugger once in the whole darned battle. A boss battle where you don't even make contact with the enemy can be an interesting design choice if done right, but the thing is, this wasn't done right. Instead of an amazing final battle, we get to see Bowser taking a bath while Mario tears up his floating hot tub. Doesn't this go against some sort of Plumber's Code?


Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl

The final battle against Cynthia, the Elite Four Champion, is a bad boss fight for a somewhat different reason than the others on this list. The real reason this is here is because of the fact that players have to fight Cynthia. Cynthia, the person we know next to nothing about. Cynthia, the person who appeared about three times previously in the game. Cynthia, who doesn't even seem to matter at all until the time we fight her. Seriously, why her? Couldn't something else have been worked out? I mean, it was a good fight, sure, but I hardly would consider Cynthia a proper final battle. Someone we know a little better would have been nice. Perhaps even a person we thought wasn't even that strong a trainer. Imagine if it turned out to be the starter player we didn't choose. Players who chose to play as Lucas would face Dawn, and vice versa. I would have liked almost anything more than to fight this woman we knew almost nothing about.

Cynthia...? Seriously?

But, maybe I'm just nitpicking here. After all, if Pokémon were to adhere to real-world logic and probability, the chances of the Elite Four Champion being someone you know personally would be insanely low. But after facing Gary, Lance and Steven, I had expected someone more important to the story to be my opponent. Heck, facing off against Professor Oak would have been better. Actually, that's not a bad idea... Game Freak, get working on it!


Final Fantasy


That's right, I'm calling out one of the all-time classics. Well, technically I'm calling out it's Game Boy Advance remake, but close enough. Anyways, Chaos was way too easy. I was in no way overly leveled up or loaded with the best weapons available. I took him on thinking I'd be thoroughly wiped out, but emerged victorious without even breaking a sweat.

Small picture, small threat.

I've heard that the Dawn of Souls remake is far easier than the original title, but still, it's no excuse for a 100% underwhelming and not-at-all-challenging final boss battle. I want it to feel like I'm practically dead as I deliver the final blow, not standing there yawning while swiping my sword at him. Chaos was no challenge at all. He was more intimidating as Garland. "I, Garland, will knock you all down!" Seriously, this is far more cool than anything Chaos ever said or did. Garland should have quit when he was ahead. Or behind. However time travel works.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Games that have been eating my life as of late

Games are carnivorous, it would seem.

PS: I reset the poll at about midnight Toronto time. Forgot to add a couple obvious choices to the list. Please re-vote if you did so before the reset. Sorry for the trouble, if any.




If you're reading this, chances are you've played a game or two today. While some games we pick up and fool around with casually, others seem to suck us in and won't let go. They wrench our very life force from our mortal bodies and devour our lives in the most pleasant way possible. As of now, I'm dealing with three such games, giving me quite the handful to pay attention to.

Garry's Mod


Now, as you can see above, Eli Vance is about to eat everything. No, this isn't a scene that was cut out of Half-Life 2. It's the result of insane tomfoolery in Garry's Mod, a unique program that allows unskilled players to mess around with the advanced physics engine in the Source engine, leading to monstrosities such as the scene you see above. Basically, you can take anything you want from any Source engine game on your computer and screw around with it in pretty much every conceivable manner. The amount of abilities given to the player is insane. Wheels, thrusters, rope, buttons, vehicles, rag dolls, and so very much more. This is paradise for a those with over-creative minds, making it a perfect fit for your's truly.

So over the last little while, I've been obsessed with building planes out of monorail cars, buildings out of shipping containers and jet-powered vehicles out of whatever I can get my virtual hands on. Playing it online is the best part for me. Getting to see some of the things the pros think up is amazing. I've seen advanced elevators, cars built from scratch and functional nuclear bombs in my time online, and I just know there's so much more to experience. Now, if I could just figure out how to work those darned proximity sensors...

Animal Crossing: Wild World


Now, just in case you can't tell, I love Animal Crossing. Thusly, Wild World has been devouring my life as of late. I recently got back into it, picking up on the same town I've had since December 25th, 2005. Picking through all the weeds was worth it, though.

It had been so long since I last played it, I forgot how amazing the game was. I really feel like I know my neighbours, and it really sucks when they move out or get sick. Thusly, I must stick around to keep things in order! Walker needs medicine? I'm on it! Right after that, I'll dig up the fossils, pick the coconuts, talk to everyone, check out the Able Sister's shop, go fishing...

I don't know why Animal Crossing is so darned addictive. Maybe it's the feeling that if you aren't there, it'll all go wrong. But it somehow manages to make this obligation entertaining. I don't know what Nintendo did or how they did it, I just hope they do it all again very soon!

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time


'Allo, what's all this, then? Well, in case you missed that little part of the latest poll results, I picked this up on Friday. Unlike the critics, I really enjoyed the first entry in the series, and I was more than willing to give the next installment a go. With 108 more Pokémon, a brand-new world and online features, I had a feeling I'd be in for a treat. And whaddya know, I was right.

Sure, it's a bit of a slow game, but that's okay with me. And yeah, it strays from the established Pokémon type advantage table slightly, but hey, it's all for a good reason. Finally, I won't deny the cheese-factor of the storyline (Nor will I ignore how similar it is to the last). But still, it's fun, and I always feel like going back for more. Even as I type this I'm getting the urge to go and try to take down the next dungeon. If only I'd stop getting slaughtered by those "monster house" rooms, perhaps I'd stand a chance... Oh well, I suppose practice makes perfect. Granted, this practice will involve a lot of dying...

So, those are the three games currently feasting on my livelihood. What titles are eating up your time as of now, if any? Feel free to say what game you've been glued to in the comments section, or in the forum thread for this article.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #44: "How much do you want an Animal Crossing Wii?" results, banner

"I want it, and I want it NOW" 18 (56%)
"Sure, why not?" 11 (34%)
"I don't know" 0 (0%)
"I don't really think I want one" 2 (6%)
"No. No more darn Animal Crossing." 0 (0%)
"What's Animal Crossing?" 1 (3%)

Hooray, I'm not alone! If it weren't for the fact I picked up Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time on Friday, I'd surely have played Wild World all weekend. Nook has to make it to the Wii! There's so many Bells in that market!

This week's banner is somewhat random. I got ready to do the poll results, noticed there wasn't a single banner lined up, and whipped one up real quick. So, here it is, in all it's 8 bit glory. I've yet to get Dr. Mario Online RX, but I really should. Maybe I'll pick up a Wii Points Card this weekend.


As for the new poll, the topic is "Which upcoming Wii game are you most looking forward to?". Now, I'll be leaving Animal Crossing Wii off the list due to a minor technicality: We know nothing about it. Oh well, we can always hope E3 will solve this little problem.

Tonight's article should be up in a little bit. Might be a little short due to an unexpected delay (Darned internet).

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gaming's biggest let-downs

Haven't used this image since September! Also, I thought this up way before MSNBC's similarly-titled "Top 5 biggest video-game letdowns" hit the 'net, although I admit it reminded me of this long-forgotten (And never fully-fleshed out until now) idea.



Games usually have some amazing goal completely separate from the main adventure. Some sort of holy grail that truly completes the game. But quite often, getting to this point in the game is all the fun there is. After that, rarely anything special happens. No awesome cinematics, no secret unlockables, nothing. Sure, you can say to people that you achieved an amazing feat, but there's rarely anywhere to go from there but hit reset. I've seen this sort of thing so many times, and it never becomes any less of a let-down. Here are four such occasions where a little more fanfare would have been very welcome.

Getting a Brain Age of 20

In both of the Brain Age games, a perfect score is a brain age of 20. It's an indicator of extremely quick thinking and problem solving. But what happens when you finally achieve this lofty goal? Dr. Kawashima congratulates you, and it's over. Nothing else. Nada. You don't get any sort of medal or anything. Sure, it's cool to be able to say that you managed a brain age of 20, but really, I was hoping for something a little more to commemorate my accomplishment.

Mirage Island

If you look to your left, you'll see Mirage Island. Not very interesting, is it? It would have been nice if I'd known that before driving myself nuts to get there.

To get to Mirage Island in Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, the player has to present a Pokémon to a certain man in the town of Pacifidlog. If the Pokémon has the correct secret numerical value assigned to it, the man exclaims that he can see Mirage Island. So basically, just keep trying over and over and over until it happens. There's no way to know which Pokémon will do the trick. Now, after finally doing all this running around, you'd expect something amazing in return. Sadly, Game Freak had something else in mind...

On Mirage Island, there is but one patch of grass, in which but one Pokémon can be caught: Wynaut. Not only is Wynaut completely uninteresting on it's own, but players can easily obtain him through other means. The only other point of interest on Mirage Island is a lone berry tree bearing one Liechi Berry. Now, while this Berry can't be found anywhere else, and it makes a very good Pokéblock, it's still somewhat underwhelming. I was hoping for something amazing, like a legendary Pokémon or a secret dungeon. But no, it's nothing but a bunch of Wynaut and a berry. Yippee.

We Love Katamari's 1,000,000 roses

After finishing every other challenge in We Love Katamari, one final test is unlocked: The 1,000,000 rose collection level. As you'd assume, to finish this game, you need to roll up 1,000,000 roses. Doesn't sound too bad, except I can, at best, get about 2,000 in ten minutes. Oh boy, only 998,000 to go! Thankfully, you can do this level in stages. Do a few thousand here and there, save, and continue later on. If you ever manage to gather 1,000,000 roses, the King of All Cosmos says a few things, tosses the ball of roses into the sky, and that's about it. Don't believe me? Watch this:




See? All that work, and the King acts like nothing spectacular just occurred. And what do you unlock? A few new doodads and graphics for the level select screen. That's it. Because giving us a never-ending level in return for all our toil would be a crazy idea. It's not as if millions of Katamari fans have been waiting for it. Nope.

Finally catching 'em all


Ah, the Pokédex... It's been by every Pokémon trainer's side ever since 1995. And what was one of the first things Professor Oak told us to do with it all those many years ago? Fill it up with information on every Pokémon there is. We went out there, Pokéballs in hand, and did our darnedest to catch 'em all. Finally, after many, many hours of toiling in caves and tall grass, surfing on the high seas and trading with our buddies, it was complete. And what happens? Oak basically says "Congratulations, you did it!", and nothing else happens. Go talk to the game programmers in Celadon City, and they give you a diploma saying you caught 'em all. Does it do anything? Nope. Do you get any sort of special badge or anything? Nope. You get a "Good for you!", a digital scrap of paper, and that's it. Hooray, I feel so fulfilled.

Of course, there's far too many similar let-downs to cram into one single article. I'm sure there are many, many more in my game collection, let alone the entirety of gaming history. I may revisit this sometime down the line, but for now, I think I've vented enough disappointment.

And how about you guys? Have you ever been let-down by a game? Ever been severely underwhelmed by the celebrations after doing the near-impossible? Feel free to scream about it in the comment section, or in this article's thread on the forum.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brain dead... Again...

Ugh, I just can't think of anything good tonight. I actually started writing something and was about ready to wrap it up, then I realized it sucked. So yeah, things just aren't working tonight...

Oh, and that article I keep blabbing about and delaying? Yeah, that'll just happen when it happens. I have a writer's block about three miles thick right now. I'm going to spend tomorrow doing as little as possible, and hopefully I'll be able to think enough to write something on Friday.

Wow, the blog's second year is starting off sooo well...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yet another dose of Animal Crossing Wii ideas

So, yeah, not quite the article I've been meaning to get done, but I suppose it'll do for now. When should you expect the uber-delayed article? I'll try and shoot for Wednesday.



So then, yet another month has passed, and we still got nothing along the lines of Animal Crossing Wii news. So then, in absence of news, we have speculation! On with the show and such.

Rotting fruit

Either the peaches in my village are made of edible steel, or there seems to be something rotten in the town of Scarboro. Or rather, not rotten at all. No matter how long a fruit sits in the hot sun, it will not rot, degrade or in any way be changed. Yet turnips die after a week. What?

I think that the next Animal Crossing should add in rotting fruit. Not only would this add to realism, but it would also make catching those pesky flies a lot easier, as well as affordable. I think it should take about a week for a fruit to become rancid, and three more days for it to go away altogether. Yes, it's a minor update, but I'm really beginning to get scared of all these fruits just sitting there FOREVER.

New town "types"

No matter how many towns you visit in Animal Crossing, they're all basically the same: A small town with North, West and East bordered by cliffs, and South meeting the sea. What about a little variety? I've thought of two new town types, and here's what they'd be.

First, there'd be a town situated on a hill. A slope would lead down from the North, East or West side, easing down into the sea on the opposite end. The town entrance would always be at the top of the hill, with fences or cliffs cutting off the other two walls. The border at the bottom of the hill would meet with the sea like always, with a river flowing down from the top of the hill into the bay. To make the town on par with the others, there would also be a plateau at some point on the hill, featuring a lake for certain holidays and fish.

The other idea I have is a valley town. There'd be two gently sloping hills on either the North and South sides or the East and West sides, both meeting at a river in the middle of town. One end of the river would lead to the sea, while the other would end in a lake. The end of the river not ending at the sea would be bordered by a cliff, with a waterfall feeding the lake. One of the remaining sides would end at the town gate, while the other could meet with a fence or cliff. The river wouldn't necessarily flow through the town in a straight line, and there would of course be two or more bridges crossing the stream.

All of these town layouts would be equal in every way, each one sharing the same bug and fish catching opportunities. This would make sure that everyone, online or not, could still fill their collections. It would also make traveling much more interesting, never knowing what kind of town you'll end up in. Oh, and the original town layout would be present as well. Of course, there's many more layouts to be brainstormed, but I'm sure you get the point.

Online HRA contests

In the Animal Crossing series, one of the things every player strives for is a high-scoring Happy Rooms Academy (HRA) ranking. In order to get higher scores, players can arrange furniture in special ways, collect sets of furniture, even arrange things according to feng shui. Getting the best score with the HRA is one of Animal Crossing's holy grails. Of course, once you achieve this, there's really no more to do then look at it or try to somehow improve upon perfection. That's why I propose online house competitions!

It would be quite simple, really. Each week, players could submit their houses to an online panel. They could be sorted into categories such as high tech, country living, outdoors, etc. The rooms would then be judged by the best judges there are: Players from around the world! Each player could choose a random house, look it over, give it a rating out of 10, and then move on to the next candidate. Not only would players now have to please the HRA, but they'd also have to appeal to the masses!

There would be a few limitations, of course. First, players could only upload one copy of their house once per judging period. No replacing your entry with a new one later in the week. Once it's submitted, there's no going back. Second, if a player places in the top 15, they would be unable to compete for the next two weeks. It's only fair to give someone else a chance! Finally, players would be forbidden from voting on their own creations. Even a different profile would be disallowed this ability. It's all in the name of fairness!

The top 15 rooms would each win a trophy, and then the next judging period would begin. As if Animal Crossing weren't already addictive enough!

Further character customization

I'm sure a lot of African Americans were somewhat disappointed in their characters appearing white so far in the Animal Crossing series. However, this would change in Animal Crossing Wii! Players would be given complete control over their character's appearance, from their skin colour right down to their freckles. Or, all this could be bypassed with Mii integration!

Now, I've said before that Miis mesh well with almost any art style. Note the "almost". I don't think that Miis would look right in an Animal Crossing. Sure, it's cartoony meets cartoony, but they're just so different. It's one thing to stand a Mii up next to Mario, but it's quite another to make one stand next to an intelligent, 5 foot-tall squirrel. So, I suggest adapting the Mii attributes to the Animal Crossing art style. Allow me to explain myself.

Imagine the Mii code like a checklist. Each Mii has a check next to one face shape, one hairstyle, one set of eyes, etc. Now, imagine if these check marks were placed on another code set, featuring the same face shapes, hairstyles and eyes, but in Animal Crossing art. Your Mii would still look like you, but it would be in a different art style. One thing, though, is that height and weight would have no effect. Everybody's a fit-looking kid in Animal Crossing Wii! Ah, the glory days...

More interesting holidays

In Animal Crossing on the Gamecube, there were so many interesting holidays. The mushroom growing season, the Harvest Moon Festival, Founder's Day, and so on. But in Animal Crossing: Wild World, the magic seemed to disappear. Almost all of the Gamecube game's holidays were scrapped, replaced with alternatives such as Yay Day and La-Di-Day. These holidays are kind of fun, but they're nothing compared to the awesome stuff packed in the original game. I propose we bring back all the good stuff!

In addition, I think a few holidays should be altered. The generic Fire Works Day, for example, should be changed to mirror the country of the player. If an American plays Animal Crossing Wii, Fire Works Day would become Independence Day, while a Canadian would experience Canada Day three days earlier on July 1st. Other countries would all have their own equivalent, of course, with China celebrating Chinese New Year and such. This would be really interesting to anyone with a lot of foreign friends, as you'd be able to experience all the different holidays included in the game. Of course, the North American release would only include Independence Day, Canada Day and... Whatever the Mexican equivalent is, if any. Sure, this would be a bit of a problem for importers, but it would help free up some space on the disc for other things.

So then, another month, another list of Animal Crossing Wii ideas. I just hope that E3 will put an end to all the speculation... Maybe I'll break the rules a little and post the next one a few days early, as one last hurrah before the real thing is (Hopefully) unveiled.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #43: "Which generation of Pokémon was your favourite?" results, banner

Holy CRAP it's raining hard out there! Oh, yes, poll results...

"1st Gen: Red, Blue and Yellow" 12 (26%)
"2nd Gen: Gold, Silver and Crystal" 17 (37%)
"3rd Gen: Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald" 4 (8%)
"4th Gen: Diamond and Pearl" 7 (15%)
"I can't choose" 3 (6%)
"I don't know" 1 (2%)
"I don't like Pokémon" 1 (2%)

I can't say I'm surprised. Almost everyone I ask seems to like the second generation more than any other series. Personally, I thought it was good, but something just didn't feel right to me...

So then, this week's banner comes to us from forum member ryanrab1. The theme: SEGA's uber-violent MadWorld. Take a little bit of Gears of War (Chainsaws), toss in some No More Heroes (Blood geysers), and add a cup of Sin City (Black and white design), and you get MadWorld. Definitely looks interesting, and a welcome departure from the typically kid-friendly Wii library.



And now we have this week's poll. The topic is: "How much do you want an Animal Crossing Wii?". I do believe you already know where my vote will be going.

Tonight's article may not be the big one I've been pondering, but it will be happening. Don't you worry!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another delay, but for a different reason

I actually felt really good about writing tonight, but it's just too damn hot for me to concentrate. It was about 32 degrees Celsius earlier (About 90 Fahrenheit for you Americans out there), and the humidity is only making it worse. Adding even more to the situation is my very low heat tolerance. Let's just say I'm a Winter kinda guy...

Now, it's looking to be a little cooler on Monday. I'll do my very best to have things back to normal then. As for now, I'm going to go back downstairs into the air conditioned goodness of my living room.

Sorry for this, folks, but it's really not my fault this time. If I could, I would, but I can't, so I won't. Again, very sorry. Will be back on Monday.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gaming Oddities Episode IV: All Hope Lost


Tortimer says: "Heh heh horff, that's not a real movie!"




So then, my brain is fried and thereby unable to comprehend tonight's intended article. Thusly, we have Gaming Oddities Episode IV: All Hope Lost (Good thing George Lucas won't ever see this).

Item shop, weapon shop, armor shop... Is there a grocery store in this town?

Play any RPG, and you're sure to encounter the following: Every town has plenty of stores for your warriors to peruse, but nowhere for the townspeople to buy food, clothing, or anything else. Since there doesn't seem to be all that much farm land in Castle Corneria, I suppose everyone just sucks in nutrients from the air. Or maybe everyone but us has access to a secret grocery store hidden deep beneath the Earth's crust? They must save a bundle on their electricity bills down there, what with natural heating and all.

"Drink this potion! It'll magically reattach your retinas!"

It seems that no matter how injured a character gets, one simple potion will save them. Knife to the face? Have a potion. Sword in the gut? Take one and call me in the morning. Skull bashed in? There's a Visine for that. If only this were true of real life. Legs crushed by a tractor trailer? You know the drill.

All cash works at any store anywhere at any time

So, you just flew in from Midgar, and boy are your arms tired! You need a place to rest for the night. But wait! This is a bizarre and unknown land half-way around the globe! Surely they won't accept your foreign currency here... Right? Well, it would appear that everyone on Gaia has agreed to use Gil as their primary form of cash. If only it were so easy on Earth... I could go down to the States and spend freely without worrying about exchange rates or paying duty... Finally, a way to legally escape our exorbitant taxes!

I suppose "English as a Second Language" doesn't appear on Hyrule report cards

No matter where you go or who you talk to, almost every single person you meet will speak perfectly fluent and understandable English. It doesn't matter if you travel five or five thousand miles, chances are, the people there will speak English. Heck, in some games, aliens and non-human species even have a grasp of our native tongue! Leave it to gaming to completely dissolve the language barrier. Just imagine if this were true of our world... We'd actually hear Miyamoto talking, and not his pesky little translator!

"Your car can survive falling 30,000 feet? How much you want for it?"

Half-Life 2, Need for Speed, Driver, Halo... Almost any game that involves driving cars usually ends up involving said car falling a billion feet and driving away unscathed. Last I checked, cars don't fare all that well when plummeting from dizzying heights. I have honestly never encountered a game with cars where this hasn't been true. From Halo's mighty Warthog to Half-Life 2's slapped-together buggy, it seems no force of gravity can bring your car to a halt. I really need to figure out who makes these cars and buy some stocks.

Stuck on an alien planet? Need ammunition? No problem.

it seems that no matter where you go in an FPS, there will always be somewhere to replenish your ammunition stocks. Covenant dropship in Halo? I gotcha covered. Deep, dark caverns in Half-Life? No problem. Far-flung planet in the distant Alimbic solar system? The ammo's right over there, Ms. Aran. Either our heroes (And heroines) have access to insanely adaptable weapons, or someone likes to drop ammunition wherever they please, be it cavern, alien vessel or far-off planet. Damned litterbugs.

So ends yet another edition of Gaming Oddities. Feel free to discuss this in the comment section, or this forum thread. Or both, if you're feeling adventurous. I'll see you all again on Friday.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Delays, delays...

Okay, as I'm sure you should be aware, I'm always really sorry to miss an update, and tonight is no exception. Well, I didn't so much as miss an update as I just delayed it... But anyways, I really think that this article will benefit from me working on it while more properly rested. I've got all the notes jotted down, and I even have the first few paragraphs written. The rest should come together fairly easy tomorrow, hopefully sometime in the afternoon.

Until then, I apologize as always... I assure you, though, that this article will be worth the wait.

The Duck Has Spoken.