Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Picross DS review

No real structure to this review. I feel that works best for casual games and training software.

Developer: Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: July 30th, 2007
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Other Info: Rumble Pak compatible

Picross started it's videogame life back in 1995 on as Mario Picross on the Game Boy. It was a huge hit in Japan, spawning several sequels. However, it failed terribly elsewhere, and never saw a sequel. That is, not until Picross DS!

Picross DS can be compared to a picture-based crossword puzzle (Hence the name. Picture Crossword, or Picross). Based on the genre of pencil puzzles known as nonograms, each puzzle is placed on a grid of varying dimensions. Early levels are on mere 5x5 fields, while the really hard puzzles can take place on grids of up to 15x15.

An example of a 10x10 puzzle

Each line has a series of numbers next to it. The numbers indicate how many blocks must be filled in a row. For example, if there's a number five next to a row, then that means that, somewhere in that row, there will be five filled blocks in a row. Many lines have more than one number. If that's the case, each series of filled blocks must be separated from each other by at least one square. If you know that there's a block which cannot be filled no matter what, you can mark it with an X. That way you won't forget about it later on and accidentally fill it in.

Each and every block you fill serves as a clue for the next line. If you fill in a square that shouldn't be filled, you will be penalized. Every such error adds two or more minutes to your time, depending on how many errors had been made before it. If your time exceeds 60 minutes (With or without penalties), it's considered a failure. However, you can still play beyond the point of failing, but you won't receive a nifty animation in the end. And really, that's the only downside. It would be nice if there was more of a penalty for screwing up so many times.

There is also one other way to play, and that is without error notification. In "Free Mode", as it's called, filling in a wrong block will not screw up your time. In fact, there is no timer at all! It's just like playing on good ol' paper. Except prettier and with less ink-stained hands.

Picross' graphics are quite simplistic, but still pretty good looking Early on, all you'll be seeing are blue blocks and blank squares. However, in later levels, groups of puzzles will be presented in themes, such as nature, flowers, fruits and more. Each theme puts a new spin on the graphical style. In the nature variant (Pictured below), instead of filling in squares, you instead cut grass. The flower theme features bloomed roses instead of filled blocks. The fruit theme looks like a giant stack of apples, with each filled block turning into a half-apple cross section. No shortness of creativity here!

A grassy field is one of the many colour
variants available.

Each theme also has an accompanying set of sound effects. The nature one makes cutting sounds with each square filled, and the fruit theme makes a crunching sound whenever an apple-block is broken. There's also four different music settings: Jazz, Reggae, Bossa Nova and silence. No matter what song you choose, it's neither impressive or distracting. And really, that's standard when it comes to puzzle games, isn't it?

There's no need to worry about having finished all the puzzles. Just hop onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and download some classic puzzles from Mario's Picross! You can also trade custom designs with your pals and challenge people to finish a puzzle before them. That Wi-Fi logo was on the box for a reason, you know!

In the end, Picross DS is an amazingly addictive little puzzle game. Sure, it won't win any awards for musical score or graphics, but the formula is solid and the game is almost unending. I'm gonna be pouring my attention into this little beauty for weeks to come! Well, at least until I get my hands on Galaxy, that is.

SCORE: 9.3/10

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #14: "How do you feel about Super Smash Bros. Brawl being delayed?" results, banner, news

Sorry for it being a day late! Anywho, the poll results are in!

"NOOOO!!!" 4 votes (13%)
"Darn..." 4 votes (13%)
"Meh, I don't really care" 1 vote (3%)
"Whatever it takes to make Brawl great is fine by me" 20 votes (66%)
"It was delayed?" 1 vote (3%)

I'm glad so many people think so. Added time is just what's needed to make this game great. Without this delay, I doubt we'd be seeing much of an level editor in the final product, if at all!

This week's banner is by... Well, whaddya know, it's by me! Behind Smash, Mario Kart is probably my most anticipated title of 2008! Wanna submit a banner? Send it to my e-mail listed in the sidebar! Just make sure it's EXACTLY 760 pixels wide, and no taller than 300 pixels! And please, make sure it's appropriate.

There will be no article tomorrow. It's Halloween, and I'll be too busy snarfing down candy and watching movies to write. Back on Thursday!

Finally, make sure to vote in this week's poll, "How would you rate the Wii's current software library out of ten?"! Personally, I'd say it's an eight. There's a lot of great titles out there, but it's not amazing, yet. And some of the multi-platform games hitting the Wii are just pitiful... Hopefully third parties will clean up their act next year!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nothing tonight, folks

I've just got a lot on my mind right now... I need to sit it out tonight... Can't even concentrate enough right now to...

Damn, I can't even finish that sentence... Just... Wait until tomorrow, okay guys?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mini-article: Duck to the Future

Sorry, cheesy title. I couldn't resist! Also, this will be all for tonight. Gotta hit the sack soon...

Also, article #150! Yay!

I've done a lot of predicting in the past. A LOT of it. Of course, many of my predictions have been, well, WRONG (Star Fox Wii at E3 2007? Nope!). But I have been right a few times. Here are some instances when I managed to see the future (Not really).

Ike's presence in Brawl

Way back on the first of June, I wrote an article called "My thoughts on new Smash Bros. characters". In it, I predicted the presence of none other than Ike from Fire Emblem. And two months later, Ike joins the Brawl. Pretty cool, huh? Okay, so I really just overheard somebody else suggest Ike, but hey, I ran with it! To whomever I overheard: Good call, dude.

Mario Kart Wii to be shown at E3 2007

Okay, I totally hit the nail on the head with this one! Withing 24 hours of E3 2007's beginning, I predicted that Mario Kart Wii would be shown at the conference. And guess what? I was right, baby! Okay, so I was wrong about everything else in that article, but hey! I predicted Mario Kart Wii perfectly!

Also, I just noticed that Mario and Luigi are driving invisible karts in that picture posted above. How cool is that? Neato.

Dedede's presence in Brawl

Okay, I'll admit I was a little bit off with this one. I predicted that Dedede would be a boss, not a playable character. Close enough! He's in Brawl, so I nearly saw this one coming. I was this close, man! Also, this was all my idea. No help, no overhearing, no consultation firm of highly imaginative business men. All me!

So then, I can kind of predict things maybe! Sure, my accuracy is about 8%*, but still, it's something! Have you ever guessed something would happen, only to find your prediction come true? Let's hear some stories from you seers and clairvoyants, hmm?

*An entirely made up number. Math is totally lost on me!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Remakes: How much change is too much?

Remakes can be wonderful things. Enhanced re-releases of classic titles allow new generations of gamers to enjoy the classic games of the past. They also allow veteran gamers to see their old favorites in a new light. Of course, in order to be called a remake, a game must be different from it's original version. Otherwise, it's merely a port. But how much can be changed while still preserving the original product? Here are a few remakes I've played over the years. Let's see which ones served as loyal recreations and which ones went over the line.

First, let's take a look at the game pictured above: Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3. As is evident from the title, this is a remake of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES. Was it a faithful remake, or an insult to a classic?

First, let's look at the content. Every single world, level and power-up from the original game has been preserved. From World 1 to World 8, everything is exactly the way it was back in 1990. Purists need not worry here!

In addition to all the original content, several new aspects were added into the mix. First of all, the original Mario Bros. was added. Not Super Mario Bros., but the original Mario Bros. arcade game, where players could compete to defeat each other, or work together to annihilate the Spinies, crabs and Buzzy Beetles running throughout the level. In Super Mario Advance 4, link cable support was added so two players on two separate Game Boy Advances could play together.

The original Mario Bros. returns in Super Mario Advance 4

Also added to the mix was support for the new e-Reader peripheral. Players could now unlock new levels within the game by swiping cards through the scanner. Although use of the e-Reader was clunky and the peripheral short-lived, it was still a great addition to the series.

So in the end, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 was a faithful recreation of the classic NES title. Everything was retained from the original version, and the added features made the overall package even better. And to top it all off, the entire game was reproduced in glorious 32-bit graphics. This is a great example of how to properly pull off a remake.

Few game series are more popular or well known than Pokemon. The massive RPG franchise has been draining wallets and stealing time ever since 1995, and in 2004 it received it's first remakes in the form of Pokemon Firered and Pokemon Leafgreen (Pictured). These two games are remakes of the original two Pokemon games, Red and Blue (Pocket Monsters Aka and Pocket Monsters Midori in Japan).

As was the case with Super Mario Advance 4, Pokemon Leafgreen and Firered retain all original aspects of the source material. Every trainer, city, character and gym are presented exactly as they were over a decade ago. There is a slight change from the American version of the original trilogy, as the Unknown Dungeon replicates the layout from Aka and Midori. The cave had been altered for Pokemon Ao, a game similar to Aka and Midori, except for updated graphics, relocated Pokemon, and the aforementioned change to the Unknown Dungeon. The Ao version of the cave was used in Red, Blue and Yellow.

In addition to all the original content, several features such as new islands and areas were added. After defeating Blaine at the Cinnabar gym, players are able to venture to the new Sevii Islands. These islands feature mini-games, additional Team Rocket hide-outs, a Battle Tower and several new Pokemon from the later versions of the series.

A map of the Sevii Islands

Something that really bugged me about Pokemon Firered and Leafgreen was how incredibly newbie-friendly it was. All throughout the game it holds you hand, giving you far more tips and pointers than before. Every time the game is started up, it shows you the last few things you did, just in case you forgot. This would be nice, except it shows you mundane things such as "Left Rock Tunnel", "Bought Pokeballs" and "Healed Pokemon". Also, your hand is held somewhat further into the game than before. The game had been compromised to appeal to a wider audience, which sadly repelled me.

As expected, the entire game has been revamped to take advantage of the Game Boy Advance's significant increase in horsepower over the original Game Boy. Better graphics and sound are welcome additions.

When it comes to remakes, Firered and Leafgreen are somewhat decent. The dumbed-down nature of it really gets on my nerves, though. Personally, it's my least favorite game of the main series. Still, it's pretty fun. Just don't hold it to as high a standard as the original games.

Resident Evil is really the big name when it comes to horror videogames. It all started back on the Playstation in 1996. Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is a remake of that ground-breaking title.

Released in 2005, Deadly Silence includes every single aspect of the original Resident Evil in a near-untouched state. A few minor changes include slightly updated graphics, the addition of a knife button (L trigger), the 180 degree quick-turn, a constant map (On the top screen) and real-time reloading. A few of the more intense scenes had been cut, such as footage of half-eaten corpses and Joseph being mauled by a dog. However, this was true of all later releases of Resident Evil, so it's no big deal.

In addition to "Classic" mode, Deadly Silence also included a "Rebirth" mode. Rebirth followed the same general storyline as the original game, but also added in slight narrative variations and, most notably, additional gameplay sequences using the DS' unique abilities. For example, at one point you'll have to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by blowing into the microphone. Also added was a random first-person knife-wielding sequence. Occasionally when opening doors, the camera will switch to a first-person view, and enemies will begin walking straight towards you. Your only means of defense is to tap and slash with the stylus to attack the monsters with your knife.

The first-person knife-fighting sequences are sure
to keep players on their toes.

Rebirth mode was far more combat-oriented than Classic mode, but still stuck to the same basic strategies and storyline. I felt it incredibly welcome to be able to play an old game in a new way.

Instead of being a purely single-player affair, Resident Evil: Deadly Silence also adds multiplayer to the mix. There's a co-operative mode, in which all players must work together in order to escape the mansion alive. There's also a competitive mode, in which the players fight to get the most points by killing the most monsters. The big downside? No single-card download play...

Also left intact is the game's infamous B-movie grade voice acting. "You were almost a Jill Sandwich!" "Just a moment!" "It's not just a poisonous snake, it's a MONSTER!" Every last terrible bit of it is back!

Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is an incredibly faithful remake of an amazing horror title. From the cheesy dialog to the head-scratching puzzles, it's all there, as well as several additions to help spice things up. Deadly Silence, like Super Mario Advance 4, is a great example of how to do a remake right.

Super Mario 64 was the flagship title for the Nintendo 64 back in 1996. It was a major departure for the series, as it was the first to ever take Mario into the realm of 3D. It pulled off this feat amazingly, and has gone on to be considered one of the greatest videogames ever created. In 2004, Super Mario 64 DS was released alongside the brand-new Nintendo DS.

Unlike any other game in this article, 64 DS drastically deviates from the source material. Instead of being able to play as Mario throughout the entire game, players first start off playing as Yoshi. Even once Mario is unlocked, he cannot access all the abilities he had in the original game. He cannot become Metal Mario or Invisible Mario. He can, however, become Flying Mario. Added to 64 DS was the ability for Mario to inflate himself and float, similar to his aerial abilities in Super Mario World.

All other abilities were instead available only to the other characters. Luigi gained the ability to become invisible, and Wario can now turn into metal. Yoshi gains an all-new ability: Breathing fire. Yoshi also has one other unique skill, and that's the ability to turn into any one of the other three characters. By picking up hats scattered throughout the levels, Yoshi can take on the abilities and appearance of Mario, Luigi or Wario. Beyond this, Yoshi can then gain the ability to fly, float, become metal or become invisible. However, getting hurt while taking on the form of another character will knock the hat off of him and return him to his regular state.

All the added characters only seemed to complicate the experience.

In addition to the added characters and changes to abilities, several levels have been altered to a degree. In some cases enemies have been added or removed, and sometimes there may be an additional platform here and there.

Beyond the core game, mini-games have been added. At first only eight mini-games are available, but players can unlock more by locating and capturing bunnies scattered throughout the main game.

Also added is a multiplayer mode. Up to four players can compete to gather the most stars by the time runs out. Players can attack their foes to knock the stars out of their grasp. Everybody starts off as a Yoshi, but finding hats scattered about can turn them into the other three characters, just like in the main game.

The original audio is all retained from the original game, as well as new sound effects and voice acting for new characters. The graphics are slightly enhanced from the Nintendo 64 version.

In the end, I feel that Super Mario 64 DS is a pretty crappy remake. Far too much was changed in my opinion. Characters were added, stages were changed, entire levels were added and some boss battles were altered. As a standalone title, it's pretty good. As a remake, however, it's atrocious.

Remakes are great. They help keep the classics alive. However, just because it's a classic doesn't mean it'll be great as a remake. If too much is changed, added, or taken away, the game becomes too far separated from it's source material. Super Mario 64 is a great example of what not to do when creating a remake. I hope more developers take a Super Mario Advance 4 approach to remakes in the future.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wii controls done right

One of the most important part of any Wii game is the controls. The game could have the best ever graphics, music, storyline and gameplay, but if those controls aren't just right, it's pretty much doomed. Some games get it right and some get it wrong. Personally, I've found plenty of Wii games to have exceptional control schemes. Here's a few games that really managed to pull me in with their amazing controls.

Wii Sports

Of course, it goes without saying that the game packaged with the Wii itself is going to get a mention here. Wii Sports was packed-in with the Wii to help demonstrate the powers and abilities of the Wii remote, and it did so beautifully. Taking the versatility of the controller and integrating it into five different sports was a brilliant idea, and the results are little short of spectacular.

First of all, there's America's favorite pastime, baseball. As you'd expect, the Wii remote becomes the baseball bat, as well as the pitcher's hand. The amount of control is amazing, and the bat follows your every move. The speed of a thrown ball seems random sometimes, but it's often right where it should be. Batter up!

Next there's golf. Again, the Wii remote has filled the predictable role as the club. The amount of control in golf is actually better than that in baseball. Unless you hold your hands perfectly straight during your swing, the ball will slice off to the left or right. Keep your arms straight, knees bent, and remember to follow through! And sorry, no tossing your clubs if you plunk one in a water hazard.

Every nuance of your swing is calculated in Wii Sports Golf.

And now we have bowling. Like golf, every twist of your throw is interpreted and translated into the game to create an incredibly lifelike bowling experience. If you naturally throw a curveball in real-life bowling, then you'll do the same here. The only difference is not having to lift twelve pounds each turn!

Tennis actually isn't that great when it comes to controls. No matter how you flick or wave the controller, the ball just goes the same way. The only factors here are timing and angle. It's kind of cool that the Wii can sense when you're going for a backswing (Your Mii moves the racket to his/her other side), but there's really not that much control here. But, then again, real tennis is more about timing than much else, so I suppose Wii Sports captured it fairly well, then.

And finally, there's boxing, the only Wii Sports game that requires the Nunchuk. Holding the Wii remote in your right hand and the Nunchuk in the left, you simply thrust your fists forward to punch. Hold your hands up to your face to block, and swing horizontally to hit them in the side. You can even dodge by tilting your body to the left or right! Boxing wasn't too well received by many critics, but I find it actually uses the Wii controls extremely well.

Wii Sports is a great example of how to do controls right. Nintendo made a great choice packing this in with the console.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Retro Studios really outdid themselves when it came to the controls in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Here are a few aspects of the game that really use the motion controls beautifully.

The grapple beam is probably the best example of how to use the Nunchuk I've seen yet. If something can be grappled, you can take a hold of it by simply targeting it and jerking the Nunchuk forward. Then, to remove or pull whatever it is you've grabbed, jerk the Nunchuk back! This becomes an incredibly important part of the game early on, and ripping the jetpacks off of robots and watching them spin out and explode never gets old!


Interacting with your environment in this game is freaking amazing! Instead of hitting "A" whenever you see a switch or whatever, you can actually take control of Samus' hand and pull levers, spin dials and press buttons. It's really great, and incredibly interactive. Almost nothing in this game was relegated to a simple button push, and it payed off big time.

The Godfather: Blackhand Edition

Of course, how could I write a motion-controls article without mentioning this? The Godfather: Blackhand Edition employs some of the finest motion controls this side of Brooklyn! Things are gonna get kinda messy here, folks. May wanna shoo your little sister out of the room.

Wanna choke somebody? Well, grab 'em, swing your arms as if grabbing his throat, and shake the controller to wrestle the no-good thug to the ground until he croaks like a bullfrog. Howzabout punching the crap outta some goombah? Just target the mobster and thrust your fists at him to give him a nice knuckle sandwhich for lunch. Got a guy in your grasp, but don't have any weapons on hand? Throw the sucker off a roof! Walk him over to the ledge, and push your hands forward to shove him down to street level.

See, this is why you should never make fun of a mobster's vest.

Wanna make sure you've got a full clip in your magnum before starting a fire fight? Just equip the gun and shake the Nunchuk to top it off. Wondering what to do with the thug on his knees in front of you? Well, you could always equip a baseball bat and pull both hands towards you to snap the fool's neck like a stale loaf of bread! Make the don proud, kid!

These are just three great games made even better with the well-placed addition of motion controls. There's plenty more titles, such as Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, Rayman Raving Rabbids and Excite Truck that also do a fine job of utilizing the Wii remote and Nunchuk. Let's just hope Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy, and all the other titles pull off their controls just as well, if not better. Here's to the Wii remote!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Guess what?

Nothing tonight. I'm tired, it's one in the morning, and I couldn't think up an article subject to save my life. Just so BLARGH!

Sorry, guys. Something tomorrow, I promise...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Licensed titles: The good, the bad, and the terrible

Licensed titles are on the receiving end of many a gamer's insults, and quite often rightfully so. Many games based on TV shows, movies, books or whatever are often little more than cash-grabs, quality be damned. However, every once in a while, a truly decent and sometimes even worthwhile licensed title will come along. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show, as I go over Licensed titles: The good, the bad, and the terrible.

The Good

Despite popular belief, there is such a thing as a genuinely good licensed title. Look through any review archive and you're sure to stumble across one or two such games with ratings in the neighborhood of 9/10. Here are two licensed titles that I believe deserve a spot in the "Good" category.

If you've been reading One Duck's Opinion for a while, you likely remember my review of The Godfather: Blackhand Edition. Based on the amazing Godfather movie released in 1972, Blackhand Edition is an adventure set in on the streets of New York in the year 1945. You play as one of the many faceless henchmen working for the Corleone crime family. Along with fulfilling missions and tasks presented in the movie and book, your main task is to eventually take over all of New York in the name of the Corleone family, and, one day, become don of the entire city.

If it wasn't the storyline of this game that made it worthwhile, then it was the controls. Instead of merely pressing buttons to beat the crap out of rival mobsters, Blackhand Edition allowed you to take the fight into your own hands using the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii remote. Swing the controller sideways to punch the enemy in the side, and thrust it forward to plant one right in the face. Grab a man by the collar of his jacket and toss him about by letting go while thrusting the Wii remote and Nunchuk simultaneously. You can even strangle a man to death by making a circular motion with both hands to simulate grabbing his throat, then wiggle the controllers to wrestle him to the ground. The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is one hell of a game, especially for a licensed title.

Now on to our next piece of software. Yes, it's a Spongebob game. Wipe the foam from your mouth, then continue reading. So, I like Spongebob, is it a crime? Anyways, I played a Battle For Bikini Bottom demo on my cousin's XBox, and it was pretty fun. About a year or so later, I saw it sitting on a shelf in my local video rental shop, so I grabbed it for a week. Hey, what the heck, it was seven bucks.

So then, Battle for Bikini Bottom accomplishes many things that you would probably assume impossible for a licensed title. Most surprising is the fact that it's incredibly fun. The premise is that the evil entrepreneur Plankton built a machine that constantly spits out robots. The Duplicatotron 3000, as the machine is called, stops obeying Plankton and begins making rebellious robots that are beyond his control. And who better to save the day than Spongebob Squarepants?

Battle for Bikini Bottom is nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking. It's a basic little platformer that manages to be quite entertaining. All standard platformer standbys are present: Jumping, running, attacking, etc. Battle for Bikini Bottom also allows players to take control of Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks in addition to the game's titular sponge. Each character has one or two unique skills, which helps shake things up a bit. Also recognizable from the smash-hit TV show are the supporting characters (Most of which have their original voice-actors), the familiar locales (From the Krusty Krab to Rock Bottom, it's all here) and the same clever humour. The familiar gameplay, amazing voice acting, hilarious jokes and cartoony animation all come together to make one heck of a game. Sure, it won't win any prizes for originality or anything like that, but it's a fun game, plain and simple.

The Bad

And here we have the most common category of licensed titles, "The Bad". Look at any game shelf in any electronics department, and you'll easily find more than ten titles that would be a perfect fit here. A "Bad" game is something that should be ignored when seen, but still has a few redeeming qualities to it. It's the kind of game that can be somewhat enjoyed, but hardly worth retail price. Here is one such example of a "Bad" licensed title.

(First of all, let me apologize for how small this picture is. It's honestly the best one I could find!) Aladdin for the Game Boy is based on the Disney film of the same name. The movie was witty, action-packed, and had a great story behind it. The game, however, was bland, slow-paced and featured only shreds of narrative. You played as Aladdin (Of course), fighting your way through Agrabah streets and across rooftops for some reason. Instead of using that big old machete at your side, you can merely throw apples at your opponents. Yeah, apples. At some random point in the first or second level (It changes, I swear!), you gain the use of your sword, but it's actually no better than the apples. Except for the fact that the machete doesn't really rely on any ammo, you'd really be better off pelting royal guards with a sack of Granny Smiths. After all, at least the apples have range!

A tougher decision than you'd think, really.

Okay, fruits VS swords aside, there's not that much to this game worth talking about. Besides the tiny bits of storyline, the Aladdin sprites and the digitized tune of "A Whole New World" playing in the background, there's really no reason for this to even be an Aladdin title. The use of license is very poor, and it's nearly impossible to make out what you're looking at due to how thin the lines are.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm only talking about the Game Boy version here. All other versions of this game that I've played were great, especially the one on the SEGA Genesis. But comparing this tripe to that amazing piece of software is like comparing apples and mache-, er, oranges.

The Terrible

And here we have the lowest of lows, "The Terrible". These are the games that should be burned on sight. Actually, burning them would be bad, because then their crappiness would permeate our atmosphere and mess up the planet even worse than it already is. There is nothing at all good about any "Terrible" game. Nothing. At. All. These titles are among the worst on Earth. I wonder where they rank on Krypton, the home planet of the following game's star character...

Yes, I think we ALL saw this one coming. E.T. on the Atari 2600? Ha! That's a ten out of ten compared to this piece of crap! Superman 64 is almost definitely the worst game ever created. Thankfully, I have never had the displeasure of "playing" this "game". If I had, I can guarantee you I would have burned my hands off by now. I've suffered through watching many clips and reviews of this steaming pile of Kryptonian crap. I think my pain is only surpassed by those poor souls who've actually laid their hands on this vile botch of game design.

Before we go on to how terrible Superman 64 was, let's look at how great it COULD have been. Just imagine, playing as the strongest man on Earth. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, outrun speeding locomotives and all that jazz. The possibilities are endless! Tossing buildings, crushing machinery, vaporizing enemies with laser vision... Superman is really the dream character for a video game!

Now, forget all the amazing things I just said, as Superman 64 has none of it. Instead of displaying your amazing feats of strength, your instead forced to beat up thugs, bash up cars and fly through rings. Yes, much of Superman 64 is spent flying through "mazes" of rings set up by your arch-enemy, Lex Luthor. Apparently, if you don't fly through these rings, your friends will die or something. I really don't even care. This "game" is hardly worth the wear and tear on my keyboard. I think I can actually feel my fingertips melting.

Superman 64 was a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE piece of work, and I hope to never hear of it again. Someone give me a block of Kryptonite, it's time to put this abomination out of it's misery.

Licensed titles have great potential for good, but even greater potential to be bad. It all depends on what happens behind the scenes. Don't let games like Superman 64 and E.T. cloud your judgment, there are good licensed titles out there such as The Godfather: Blackhand Edition and Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. Sometimes your just gotta look a little harder and squint through the darkness, but they do exist.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #13: "Which of the Mario Bros. do you like best?" results, banner news

So then, the brothers have both fought valiantly, but there can be only one winner! The results are in...

"Mario" 15 votes (34%)
"Luigi" 22 votes (50%)
"They both rock" 6 votes (13%)
"They both suck" 0 votes (0%)
"Uh... Who?" 1 vote (2%)

...and Luigi wins with half of the total votes! I guess people love an underdog, huh? Can't blame 'em, I voted Luigi as well! The green dude's much better than he gets credit for!

And I can only hope that whoever voted "Uh... Who?" was joking. Otherwise, that is one very sad existence that they live*.

Sorry, folks, but it seems there will be no new banner this week. Nobody sent me one, and I've still yet to install Photoshop on my new PC. Remember, you can always shoot me a banner via my e-mail address listed in the sidebar. Just make sure it's 760 pixels wide and no taller than 300 pixels!

Finally, make sure to vote on this week's poll, "How do you feel about Super Smash Bros. Brawl being delayed?"! Personally, I don't care how long it takes, so long as the added development time can make it as great as it can possibly be.

*Just joking. Kinda.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What other games should get the Okami treatment?

Nothing big tonight. Still kinda stressed about my cat, even though she's fine. I mean, cash is gonna be tight for a while, so things are going to be rough for me. But I would pay even more just to have my cat safe, so I'm really not that upset. Troubled, maybe, but still happy that she's alright.

It was recently announced that last year's critically acclaimed PS2 title, Okami, will be making it's way to the Wii in Spring 2008. This got me thinking, what other games could benefit from a Wii makeover? If Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition was any sort of indication, Wii revisions of games can go very, very well. Here are two last-generation games I really think are perfect fits for the Wii.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

While many people would beg to differ, I found the game's titular item, the Wind Waker, to be quite the nifty little tool. While not quite an Ocarina, the Wind Waker was a somewhat musical instrument used for manipulating the direction of the wind to benefit sailing. Using a strange sort of metronome, players must point the Wind Waker in the proper direction with the rhythm to summon the gods and affect the wind, as well as perform some other manipulative functions. Imagine how much easier the Wii remote would make this! The Wind Waker would be in your very hands, and instead of pushing the analog stick in whichever direction, simply point the Wii remote at the edges of the screen! Sure, minor, but still pretty nifty, and far more engrossing.

Using the Wind Waker would become so much more natural
with the Wii remote.

Many of the weapons could also receive Twilight Princess-style upgrades. The Hero's Bow, the boomerang, the grappling hook, all of it would be controlled exclusively by the Wii remote. They could also add in a few Wii-remote specific puzzles and mini-games, as well as enable the Tingle Tuner to be used with a DS instead of a GBA.

Add a few new levels and a value price to that, and we've got a monster of a port on our hands!

Super Mario Sunshine

The eco-friendly Super Mario Sunshine would also be a great fit for the Wii's unique controller. As expected, the Wii remote would control Mario's water-spraying backpack, F.L.U.D.D. Instead of how things were in the original version of the game, the freedom of the Wii remote would allow players to both move and use F.L.U.D.D at the same time. Before you had to stop moving in order to aim, but that would be no more on the Wii!

F.L.U.D.D would work great with the Wii remote.

The only problem is, camera control would have to take a back seat. Camera manipulation would primarily be handled by the game itself, rotating and panning to fit the situation. If the players ever feel the need for a more direct touch, a button would be held, and the Wii remote's functions would switch from F.L.U.D.D to camera manipulation.

Of course, as with any good port, there'd be the addition of new puzzles, secrets and areas. And all at a budget price! Who could argue with that?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, October 19, 2007

No article tonight *UPDATE*

I know, I know, twice in one week. It's pathetic... But, I have a lot on my mind right now. One of my cats is sick, and she needs to have surgery. This procedure is going to cost upwards of $1100, but that's not what really worries me. What worries me is she's an old cat, and there's no guarantee she'll survive the surgery. Understandably, I'm not exactly myself right now.

I fairly confident she'll pull through just fine, but that nagging doubt is always there in the back of my mind. It's impossible to be 100% sure what condition she'll be in after this, so I'm worried.

Sorry again for no article, folks. I just can't concentrate on writing. Tomorrow, when all is well, there will be an article. Thanks for understanding.


She pulled through the surgery just fine! Every single problem has been removed, and she's recovering as I write this. She'll likely stay at the vet overnight, and come back home tomorrow. I'm just so glad she's okay...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More ideas for Smash Bros. characters

Sequel to this article. Yeah, it's another sequel. I go with what works, alright? Also, the first two characters are entirely serious. The third? Yeah... Not so much...

As it stands now, there are two different third party characters in Brawl, each from a different developer. Konami brought us Solid Snake and SEGA gave us the long-awaited Sonic the Hedgehog. What other companies will be lending their characters to the Brawl? What other fighters can we expect come February 10th? Here are a few I've been pondering.

Capcom has given Nintendo many an amazing game, from Phoenix Wright to Resident Evil 4 to Mega man. I already covered the anime lawyer in the first volume of this article, rumblings of Leon Kennedy and such are already too common, and people just won't shut up about the Blue Bomber, so I've thought up one other possible newcomer.

This is such an obvious choice, it's a wonder that nobody else has mentioned it: Street Fighter's Ryu. Having originated in a fighting game, Ryu's attacks would be really quite natural. Punch, kick, jump, whatever, it's all there, and it's all so fitting for the Brawl. He would go well with other more realistic characters such as Solid Snake and Ike, and the contrast with more cartoony fighters such as Pikachu and Sonic is bound to be hilarious! His trademark stage could resemble that of a typical Street Fighter level, and as for his Final Smash? One word: HADOKEN!!! Ryu is a natural fit for Brawl, and I'm very excited at the possibilities! If he makes it in, I'll be one hell of a happy duck!

I touched on the possibility of a Square-Enix character back in the first iteration of my character articles. But now, I've thought up another!

Okay, maybe some other people have mentioned this as a possibility. In fact, I'd be surprised if they haven't! But I personally have never heard anything of the sort, so this idea is ALL MINE!! Anyways, Sora would also work very well in Brawl. Also, having appeared in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, he's eligible to appear in Brawl since he's been on a Nintendo system before. Sora would, of course, fight using his Keyblade and some low-level magic. His fighting style would be comparable to that of Roy from Melee, making a good replacement for the unlikely-to-return veteran. His Final Smash would probably involve a sort of "Friendship" move with Donald and Goofy, possibly summoning iconic Disney characters such as Simba, Genie and Stitch. Yeah, licensed material isn't exactly welcomed in the Smash universe, but hey, about a year and a half ago, neither were third-party characters, so who knows what might happen?

The name Atlus has become synonymous with import titles as of late. From Luminous Arc to Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja to Contact, Atlus has localized many games in North America. A console which seems to get a lot of their games is the Nintendo DS, and the Wii is starting to see the same trend. Thusly, there's a distinct possibility of an Atlus character making it into Brawl! Here's one you may or may not have thought of...

"Paging doctor Stiles! You're requested in Smash Bros. Brawl STAT!" Derek Stiles would certainly be one hell of a unique character! Instead of fighting with fists or kicks, he'd use exaggerated and over-sized medical tools to do his bidding! Scalpels, surgical lasers, forceps... In the hospital these tools are for saving lives, but in Brawl their purpose would be to send victims to the emergency room! I can just imagine Dr. Stiles taking a run at Link wielding and waving around a giant syringe like a raving mad man! The hilarity writes itself! And as for his Final Smash? Well, it's only natural that it be the Healing Touch! Despite it's name, the Healing Touch really slows down time to a near stop, allowing Derek to perform delicate and precise procedures in the blink of an eye. In Brawl? I'm seeing the Healing Touch freezing all who stand on the battlefield, and Derek going into an uncontrolled rage, heavily damaging all who get in his way! And you thought doctors were supposed to be level-headed! Ha! Not this one! He's got a PHD in PAIN!!!

So there you have it, three characters who would be sure to really mix things up in Brawl! Now, I'm not asking that all of these characters be added, of course. That would take away from the greatness that is Nintendo character beating the crap out of each other! But hey, a little Ryu here, a touch of Dr. Stiles there, and WHAM! Things get even more out of control than ever before!

What do you think of my choices? Also, who would you like to see join the Brawl?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Classic Obsessions: Vol. 2

Sequel to this article. ENJOY THEM BOTH!

Some games never get old, no matter how many times you play them and no matter how long ago they were released. Very few games can stand this harsh test of time, but those that do become some of the greatest pieces of software in history. Here are a few games I just can't get enough of.


Originally created by Alexey Pajitnov back in 1985, Tetris has since evolved to be the most widespread of all puzzle games. Having been released on almost every game console ever made, you'd be hard pressed to find even one person who has not played this gem of a puzzler.

Tetris is one of those games that's simple to understand, but incredibly difficult to master. The premise is basic: Simply place blocks (Or "Tetriminoes") in a solid horizontal row to destroy the line, earning points. Every tenth line destroyed gets you to the next level of the game, causing the pieces to fall even faster than before. If the stack of Tetriminoes reaches the top of the screen, rendering you unable to proceed, the game ends. Again, simple to understand, incredibly difficult to master!

Recently I've been playing Tetris on one of my two original Game Boys, and I just can't get enough of it! Left, right, rotate, drop, rotate, rotate, drop, right, right, drop... It's all so hypnotically engrossing! If I were better at it, I could play for hours on end. As it stands now, I still have yet to pass level 4... Oh well, guess I'd better practice some more!

Super Mario Bros.

What can be said about this game that hasn't already been said many times before? It's simply a brilliant piece of gaming history, and undoubtedly the greatest cartridge ever released for the NES.

The simplicity of it all only adds to it's charm. Jump, run, duck, power-up, run, fire! I love it all so much! It's definitely worth the two and a half hours of smacking, blowing and praying needed to get the ol' NES up and running! The Virtual Console works, too, but it can't beat the feeling of firing up that grand old 8-bit console of yore!

No more words are needed here.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Really, is there any question? This is undoubtedly one of the best games I have ever played. Heck, it very well might be THE best game I have ever played!

Ocarina of Time successfully brought the Zelda franchise into the three-dimensional realm. It completely enhanced all that made the previous Zelda games great by such a large degree, it's widely considered to be the greatest game of all time. Not only does it hold that honour, I truly believe this game to be one of the most timeless adventures ever created. I've played it so many times, much of the game has been etched into my mind permanently! I still remember how to get through the Lost Woods, how to avoid the Hyrule guards, and how to play nearly every song on the ocarina!

Starting off as an unpopular, unloved village child and becoming the greatest hero in history is the greatest success story ever written! The Hero of Time's exploits echo throughout the ages, and have been referenced in nearly every Zelda game since. Wind Waker, Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, all of them make reference in at least one way to the greatness of the Hero of Time.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time is a game that I could literally play over and over, end to end, uninterrupted, for hours upon hours!

So those are three more games I just can't ever play enough times! What games do you find yourself constantly revisiting, no matter how many times you've played it?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Surprise! No article tonight...

Yeah, nothin' tonight... I ARE TIRED AND BRAINDEAD. Something tomorrow! Until then, stare at the following:

Man, this game can't get here soon enough...

Sorry for the lack of update!!!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #12: "What's your favorite Nintendo console so far?" results, new banner

Poll results!

"Wii" 17 votes (41%)
"Gamecube" 1 vote (2%)
"Nintendo 64" 2 votes (4%)
"Super Nintendo" 8 votes (19%)
"Nintendo Entertainment System" 1 vote (2%)
"Nintendo DS/DS Lite" 5 votes (12%)
"Game Boy Advance/SP/Micro" 1 vote (2%)
"Game Boy/Pocket/Color" 0 votes (0%)
"Other" 1 vote (2%)
"I can't choose!" 5 votes (12%)

Wow, didn't expect these results! I thought for sure the SNES would sweep the competition, but it seems people are really loving the revolutionary console that is the Wii!

This week's amazing banner is yet again from WildWorld. I really got quite the chuckle out of this when I first saw it, and I hope you enjoy it, too! Wii Fit, ahoy!

To submit a banner, send it to me via my e-mail address listed in the sidebar. It must be EXACTLY 760 pixels wide, and no taller than 300 pixels. Humour is a plus!

Finally, make sure to vote in this week's poll, "Which of the Mario Bros. do you like best?"! It's the battle of the century, folks! Personally, I'm a Luigi man. I'm so gonna name my son that one day...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mini-article: Why the Brawl delay is a good thing

As every gamer on the face of the Earth now knows, Super Smash Bros. Brawl has been delayed in both North America and Japan until early 2008. I'm really not all that concerned. In fact, I'm glad Brawl was delayed.

Now, before you go calling me a madman, hear me out. First of all, look at Holiday 2007. Between now and the end of the year, we'll see the release of Super Mario Galaxy, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, Battalion Wars 2, Zack & Wiki, Trauma Center: New Blood, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. And that's just for Wii! Don't you think there's enough on the way these next two months?

Second of all, and undoubtedly most important, this extra time will let Nintendo makes Brawl the absolute best it could be. More development time means more characters, more items, more stages and more modes, as well as an overall increase in quality of the whole package.

So then, would you rather have Brawl this December, or would you rather wait a while and get it when it's bigger, better and badder than ever before? I feel the answer is quite obvious.

Mini-article: Nintendo is about more than just videogames

Heya, this is a mini-article. Just something I had to say. I might make up a longer article later, and I might not, so don't freak if this is all you get, okay? I need to get my sleep for bowling tomorrow!

PS: Never thought you'd see pre-article comments again? WELL YOU WERE WRONG.

So today I went out to run a little errand. Needed to go reserve Super Mario Galaxy before it was too late, and I wasn't doing much, so hey, what the heck. Anyways, after the pre-order, I decided to go to the Wal-Mart next to the EBGames to browse around a bit. Once finishing my usual combing of the electronics section, I went over to the toy department for a minute. And that's when it hit me: Nintendo isn't just about games any more.

Merchandising! Everywhere! Big Brain Academy board game, Pokemon plush dolls, Mario Kart racetracks! Nintendo isn't just a game company, it's a cultural phenomenon! Two or three years ago, you'd at most see a plush doll or action figure of your favorite game character. Nowadays, you can hardly go down a toy aisle without seeing at least three different products!

The Mario Kart racing set that had so taken my attention

Nintendo's nearly cornered the gaming market. Their next goal? NintenToys!!!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Was Halo DS ever real?

Way, way back, nearly one year ago, Matt Casamassina of IGN claimed to have played a very early version of a proposed Halo DS title. Not too many people believed him. The general opinion was "no screens, no videos, no game". In other words, if Matt played it, why doesn't he show us it?

In Matt's own words, that blog "has haunted (him) since (he) posted it". So on the second of October, he posted this blog on his IGN page, attesting to the reality of Halo DS' existence. Within this article are videos and screenshots of the game, as well as more from Matt insisting that the game is real. Almost everyone is now believing that Halo DS did once exist, but there's still a select group of people who hold by their belief that it's no more than a hoax. Who's right and who's wrong? Did Halo DS ever actually exist?

Evidence attesting to it's existence

Matt's word as a member of the press
Matt Casamassina is a member of the press. Being in such a line of work requires integrity and honesty. Would he really just turn around after all these years of being a reporter just to boast about playing a game that never existed?

Craig Harris backing up Matt
Another reporter for IGN, Craig Harris, stands by Matt's word that he actually did play Halo DS. Like Matt, Craig is a member of the press, and should thusly share the same principles of honesty. Would Craig really risk his job to back up a liar?

Screenshots and footage
Of course, there's the screenshots and footage there to back up his claim as well. These screens look fairly legit, as does the footage. Craig attests to Matt's ineptitude regarding programming things (He apparently can't even program a coffee pot time), so Matt couldn't have whipped this up. And why would anybody else whip it up for him?

Matt and Mark playing Halo DS on video
One of the videos Matt posted is footage of him and Mark playing Halo DS against each other. Thusly, they have actually played it at least once. With the camera moving around constantly throughout the video, it would be extremely difficult to sync everything up just right. If done improperly, the screen wouldn't move properly when the camera angle changes. It would take a highly talented computer graphics team to have faked this footage. Halo was on those DS systems.

Evidence against it's existence

The "Halo DS is just a re-skinned Goldeneye" theory

There are many out there who believe that somebody grabbed a copy of Goldeneye: Rogue Agent (DS), hacked it to look like Halo, and that's what Matt used. Apparently the gameplay for both is so incredibly identical that it's hard to deny. I, however, have never played Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, so I cannot personally back up or deny this claim. However, I did watch so footage of Goldeneye on IGN, and it does bear a striking resemblance to Halo DS. Did somebody out there re-skin Goldeneye to resemble Halo?

Why did Matt take so long to prove it to us?
If Matt actually had played Halo way back when, why not just show us in the first place? At that point, the game was canned, and the leaked copy was in his possession. He could have taken all the pictures and footage he wanted, but apparently did nothing of the sort. If he did, he didn't post it, which is odd if he really wanted to confirm his claim to the masses. Could Matt have used this time to get a fake Halo DS made?

But how could compu-tarded Matt pull off such a feat?
An easy answer to this question would be, quite simply, he didn't. Who did? One such possibility is Matt BOZON. That's right, the brother of Mark Bozon, another editor on IGN. Matt B. doesn't work for IGN. He works for Wayforward Technologies as the director of the upcoming Contra 4 DS. Thusly, he would have access to talented graphical artists. Matt C. could have easily requested a short demo of a Halo DS just to shut up naysayers. Maybe even Mark asked it as a favour from his brother! Did Matt Bozon make a fake Halo?

Some problems with the video

There are a few problems with the footage of their multiplayer session. The following errors were pointed out by F@NB0Y$ author/artist Scott DeWitt (Typos have been corrected. I'm a stickler for that kind of thing!):

* Your scores never went up
* The time never changed
* You shot right handed guns with left bumper.
* there was no waiting time for you to host a multiplayer session
* Inaccurate ammo counts for the plasma rifle. Anyone who plays Halo can tell you it doesn't exceed 100 shots.
* The signal meter was non existent. It was there, but never showed any signs of being used.
* Slots for other joined players were empty when you were obviously "playing" against a human opponent. (this along with the no load times are the biggest flaws in the video)
* At the end the camera moved upwards when you were moving the stylus left and right (read: not up at all)
* I like how it cuts off right before the nice warthog physics could have kicked in.

All pretty valid points, really. Of course, several could be answered by the fact that this was (Supposedly) merely an Alpha build of the game, which would be subject to errors such as those pointed out above. Still, if the score display and wireless meter weren't working, why bother showing them until they were perfected? It seems like something a developer would rather hide than show, even in an Alpha build.

In the end, all this evidence is subjective, as there's no solid proof either way. There's plenty of things pointing in either direction in this argument, and I suppose we'll really ever know until one of the following things happens:

1: The developer of the Alpha build steps up and claims ownership, or
2: Matt fesses up to it being fake, or
3: Halo DS is revived and released, and contains the level shown in the IGN footage

Unless one of the three happens, I doubt we'll ever know for sure. What's your opinion on this whole deal?

The Duck Has Spoken.

No article tonight

I know, you guys are starting to really hate hearing that, but I can't come up with anything. I tried writing something Smash-related, but it died after about two paragraphs... Sorry! Really sorry! I MEAN IT! I PROMISE there will be something tomorrow. FOR SURE!!!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What will Wii get next year?

Many people are concerned that Nintendo is releasing too many of their big guns all at once. By the end of this year, we'll have Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Smash Bros., Pokemon and Battalion Wars on the Wii. What does that leave for 2008? What could Nintendo possibly whip up to fill an entire year? Besides the already announced Mario Kart and Wii Fit, what will Wii get next year? (All games listed below are guesses and are in no way confirmed)

Animal Crossing

We all know it's coming, and we've known this for over a year now. It only makes sense that Animal Crossing Wii will hit next year. First hinted at back in E3 2006, Animal Crossing Wii has been constantly popping up in interviews and such ever since. Nintendo even confirmed that the game was indeed in production earlier this year. If I had to guess, I'd peg Animal Crossing Wii as a third- or fourth-quarter 2008 release, at the latest early 2009.


As of yet, Nintendo has not spoken a single word of Pikmin 3. For all we know, it may not exist at all. The one thing that keeps me hoping for a Pikmin 3 is the fact that the man himself, Shigeru Miyamoto, called the Wii control scheme a perfect fit to the Pikmin gameplay. I really can't place any concrete guesses here in regards to a release date, but I'll bet on it hitting in the second half of 2008.

Kid Icarus

The existence of this game is even more doubted than Pikmin 3. There hasn't even been the slightest hint of this game ever being pitched. But still, would Nintendo bring back Pit in the world of Smash Bros. without some sort of plan for the future? Why bring back a long loved and dearly missed character in a spin-off title, and not in his own true sequel? I can say with very little doubt that there is a Kid Icarus game being worked on right this minute in some shape or form, and we just don't know about it yet. Again, since there's so little information regarding this title, I can only place it happening sometime next year, likely in the latter half.

Star Fox

There's been a Star Fox game on nearly every Nintendo system released since the days of the Super Nintendo, and I suspect the Wii shall too get some Arwing-flavoured action soon enough. As I've said before, Star Fox would be a great fit for the Wii. I'm nearly positive that it is in production right now. I'm pegging this one for a second- or third-quarter 2008 release.

And that's all I can think up, but I'm sure Nintendo has plenty more tricks up their sleeves. We'll just have to sit back and enjoy the show until then!

PS: Houston, we have a Dr. Mario! Dr. Mario has been announced for WiiWare! Excuse me while I party.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Poll #11: "Do you feel that the Wii's graphics aren't good enough?" results, new banner

Sorry for the delay!

"No, I think they're great" 3 votes (9%)
"No, they're good enough" 16 votes (51%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)
"Yes, they should be better than this" 7 votes (22%)
"Definitely, they're terrible" 1 vote (3%)
"It's too early to judge" 4 votes (12%)
"I have no opinion on the matter" 0 votes (0%)

I'm glad so many people voted that they're good enough. Really, I feel graphics don't need to be much better at all. Look at Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3! Do we really need much more power than this? I honestly don't think I need to see beads of sweat rolling down a soldier's back, thank you very much.

Gentlemen, behold! It's our first ever guest banner here on One Duck's Opinion! This was sent to me by WildWorld, and, as you can tell, the theme is Super Smash Bros. Good job! Remember, if you ever want to send me a banner, simply attach it to an e-mail and send it to the address listed in the sidebar. It must be exactly 760 pixels wide and no taller than 300 pixels. Keep those banners comin', folks!

Make sure to vote on this week's poll, "What's your favorite Nintendo console so far?". This is a tough one, so I'm gonna have to go with "I can't decide!"! All of them are so great! Well, except maybe the Virtual Boy...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass review

Okay, folks, sorry for the unexpected hiatus there. Some things just can't be avoided, I suppose! Anyways, now I'm back, and with me return the articles. On with the show!

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: October 1st, 2007 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Fantasy Violence

Back in March of 2003, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released in North America. Since it's unveiling, many people balked at the games incredibly different animation style. Instead of the realistic, mature theme of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, Wind Waker sported a newer, more cartoony look. It also took place on the open seas instead of on Hyrule Field, perhaps making it the most unique of any Zelda released to date. Nonetheless, Wind Waker was an amazing game, and received incredibly high scores from many review outlets, including a 40/40 from the immensely popular Japanese magazine Famitsu. And now, four years later, this incredible game receives it's sequel in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

Phantom Hourglass' story picks up right where Wind Waker left off. Link and Ze- er, Tetra, are sailing off to find new lands. Their boat soon pulls up alongside the infamous Ghost Ship. Tetra jumps aboard the spectral craft, ignoring the cautioning cries of shiphand Nico. Moments later, an ear-splitting cry fills the air as the lady pirate vanishes on board the Ghost Ship. Slowly, the ghastly schooner begins to pull away from the pirate's ship. Thinking fast, Link quickly sprints to the edge of the deck and leaps for the railing of the fleeing ship. But it's too late, and Link barely misses, plunging deep into the waters below.

"Hey! Hey! Hey, get up! Hey!" A bizarre voice beckons at Link to awaken, and he comes to on an unfamiliar beach. The voice belongs to a fairy named Ciela, who lives with her "grandfather" in the island's village. After many conversations, scuffles and briefings, Link leaves the island with the ship captain Linebeck, to search for his lost friend, Tetra.

Now on to what usually proves to be the longest section of any review, the gameplay. The variation of play in Phantom Hourglass is astounding to say the least. Of course, there's your basic running around and killing enemies gameplay. The controls are what sets this apart from any previous game in the series! Instead of using the D-pad and face buttons to control Link, every single control has been mapped to the DS' touchscreen. Running, slashing, talking and rolling can all now be accomplished by simply tapping or drawing on the touchscreen. The accuracy and responsiveness of it all is amazing! After about ten or fifteen minutes, you'll be adventuring like a pro.

Wondering how precision weapons such as the bow, boomerang and Bombchu function in Phantom Hourglass? It's all in the wrist! With the bow, merely ready your arrow and point where you want to fire. When it comes to the boomerang, you draw a path for it on the touchscreen. And with the Bombchu, you draw it's path on the map and let 'er rip! All very accurate and intuitive.

Touchscreen-aiming ensures you always hit
your mark.

Tired of losing track of treasure chests and such in dungeons? Have no fear, scribble technology is here! By simply pressing the B button or Down on the D-pad, the map is switched to the bottom screen. You can then jot down notes, treasure locations and puzzle solutions for future reference. Short term memory loss has been thwarted!

The ability to write on your map ensures you'll never forget anything important
ever again. Well, in the game, anyways.

Remember those long hours spent at sea in Wind Waker? They've been all but eliminated in Phantom Hourglass. Instead of 49 sections of ocean, there is now only four, with a total of 16 islands. This new version of the sea chart allows for a more realistic placing of islands, as well as significantly shorter travel times.

As with everything else, sailing is handled with touchscreen input. However, it's somewhat more indirect than when running or attacking. Before going anywhere, you must draw a path for your ship on the sea chart using the stylus. To do so, simply tap the "Sea Chart" button on the menu, and draw a line between your ship and your destination, whether you're headed to an island, another ship, or even a random spot in the middle of the ocean (Hey, why the heck not?). Your path can be as direct or sidetrack-filled as you wish, just make sure to avoid the rocks!

Rocky outcroppings aren't the only obstacle you'll be running into on the high seas. You'll also encounter various enemies and traps! As a tip, you'll want to avoid monsters until you can get a cannon for you ship. Once outfitted with your aquatic weaponry, you can simply tap any foe that comes your way to blast them out of the sky.

As for traps, you're bound to run into a few dozen hurdles along the way. Literally, spiky hurdles. They'll randomly pop out of the ocean, and you'll have to carefully time a jump to protect you ship from harm. How your ship jumps, however, is beyond me. Go ask Satoru Iwata.

Your ship can only sustain so much damage, so be sure to dock at a port every now and then so Linebeck can repair the little boat that could. There is one part of your ship Linebeck is not qualified to repair, and that's the Salvage Arm. This robotic claw is used to pull up treasure from the ocean's depths. Instead of merely letting 'er rip in the right location like in Wind Waker, the Salvage Arm in Phantom Hourglass requires some more precise controls. Link must maneuver the arm around rocky outcroppings and Octomines using a slider at the bottom of the touchscreen. The arm can be sped up or slowed down, but I suggest letting it go along at it's normal pace to avoid accidents. Once you reach the treasure, the claw grabs a hold of it and begins hoisting it up. Once again, it's your duty to keep the Salvage Arm from busting up on the Octomines and rocks. If successful, the loot is dropped on deck and becomes yours for good.

Central to Phantom Hourglass is the Temple of the Ocean King. You'll be returning there several times throughout the game in order to obtain new Sea Charts and eventually reach the final boss. However, merely entering the temple drains the life right out of you. The only way to combat this deadly condition is by using the game's namesake, the Phantom Hourglass. As long as sand remains in the top half of the hourglass, your are protected from the temple's detrimental effects. There is also one other way to avoid harm within the dungeon, and that's by entering one of the many "safe zones" scattered across each floor. While in a safe zone, your health will never decrease, and sand will cease to fall from the upper half of the hourglass. In other words, you could stick around in a safe zone for as long as you want, and you'd never run out of time. This is great for awaiting the passing of the dungeon's most notorious foes, the Phantoms.

The Phantoms are large, powerful and nearly invincible creatures which patrol the corridors of the temple. One taste of their blade and even the best of warriors is immediately vanquished. There are a few ways to distract, dispose of and temporarily incapacitate these hulking beings. One of the most basic methods is to trigger a trap that opens up the floor beneath them, plunging them into a never ending pit from which nothing can ever return. One arrow to the back will stun any phantom for a short time, allowing you to easily sneak past them without worry. A loud explosion or clashing of a sword will draw their attention, allowing you to go beyond their post while they're inspecting the disturbance. Whatever you do, do not underestimate a Phantom.

And as always, there's sidequests, secrets and mini-games galore! When it comes to variety, Phantom Hourglass does not disappoint.

As is evident from the screenshots and character art above, Phantom Hourglass' graphics carry the same cartoony style pioneered in The Wind Waker. The cel-shaded design carries over very well onto the comparatively weak Nintendo DS. If it weren't for the higher level of pixelation, the difference between the two games would be nearly unnoticeable!

Phantom Hourglass' graphics are really quite impressive.

Also, as you surely already know, the game mostly takes place in a birds-eye view perspective. However, in certain events and while talking to other characters, the camera will pan-down to a more third-person perspective, usually right down at eye-level with the boy in green. This creates a very nice effect during dramatic scenes and tense situations.

As with the graphics, the audio in Phantom Hourglass does not disappoint. Link screams, yells and grunts with all the liveliness of his big-screen cousins. The swords clanging and bombs exploding all sound just as good as they did back in The Wind Waker! Well, that's probably because they're the same recycled sound bytes, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

The musical score is completely new, and it all sounds great played through the DS' speakers. From dramatic battle music to calming island melodies, it's all masterfully done and applied.

Surprised to see a multiplayer section in a Zelda review? Phantom Hourglass is the fourth Zelda game to ever incorporate a multiplayer mode. It's the first, however, to take the festivities online.

Multiplayer in Phantom Hourglass is played like a cat-and-mouse game between Link and the Phantoms of the Temple of the Ocean King. Each player gets three turns each as both Link and the Phantoms. When playing as Link, it's your goal to get as many Force Gems into your base as possible without being caught by a Phantom. You can utilize various power-ups and shortcuts to outwit the Phantoms, and you can even duck into a safe zone when things get a little too hectic for your liking.

When playing as the Phantoms, you draw paths for the knights on the touch screen. You command three Phantoms at once in this mode, so make sure to use them all to their fullest extent. Your goal, of course, is to capture Link as soon as possible. You can use some of the same power-ups as the elven hero, as well as walk through fierce gusts which are impassable to anybody else. Either turn ends whenever time runs out or Link is defeated. The player who finishes with the most Force Gems in their possession wins.

Playing online is generally fairly lag-free, but you're bound to run into your share of disconnectors. If random strangers always leaving mid-game starts to get on to your nerves, you can always just play against your pals using Friend Codes.

This game boasts some fairly decent longevity, especially for a DS game. My first run through it took me roughly 25-30 hours, with a few sidequests completed. Beyond that, there's still many minigames for me to master and tonnes of treasure for me to find.


Story: 9.0/10
Phantom Hourglass carries on The Wind Waker's storyline very well. The writing is clever, and the random humour is tasteful and well placed. It sure could have used a few more twists, though.

Gameplay: 9.5/10
The touch controls work amazingly well for such an action-packed title. Sailing no longer feels like such a chore, and even the mundane tasks such as trawling for treasure have renewed excitement. Having to constantly return to the Temple of the Ocean King can be a bit of a pain, though.

Graphics: 9.5/10
Phantom Hourglass is a beauty of a DS game. The cell-shaded graphics of The Wind Waker carried over so well onto the DS, it's as if they planned it as a portable title before a Gamecube game. The dramatic camera angles during many scenes adds a great touch, and it all moves smoother than silk.

Audio: 8.0/10
Link's grunts, yells and screams all sound great when played through the DS' little speakers, although they are all plainly recycled from The Wind Waker. The music is all new, and it always fits the occasion perfectly. No really memorable tunes, though.

Multiplayer: 9.5/10
Playing cat and mouse with Link and the Phantoms is surprisingly fun. It can get incredibly tense, and plotting your moves ahead of time is really engrossing. All the while you must observe your opponents every move, waiting for your chance to strike. The addition of online is very welcome indeed. Some rule customization would have been nice, though.

Longevity: 9.0/10
Phantom Hourglass is decently long as a Zelda title, and incredibly lengthy for a DS game. The adventure will last you about 20 or so hours, with sidequests and collecting possibly adding another 10 hours to that. It's very impressive what they managed to cram onto that little card!

OVERALL: 9.5/10
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is one heck of an adventure. It's more than a worthy successor to Wind Waker, and it's probably even better than the critically acclaimed Twilight Princess. The multiplayer is a total blast, and the storyline really ties into the prequel beautifully. Everything about this game is great, and this is a real candidate for Game of the Year in my books.

The Duck Has Spoken.