Thursday, February 28, 2008

Apologies and explanations

You probably noticed that there was no new article last night. Well, there's a very good reason for this, and that reason is that I haven't been sleeping well lately. Because of my severely messed-up sleep schedule and quality, I haven't been feeling like myself as of late, nor have I been able to concentrate very well.

I was up until 5:00 AM last night, trying to write an article. I had the subject down, I'd done all the research, I was good to go, but I couldn't think. So I sat at my PC for about five hours, staring at the screen, listening to music and flipping around online. I'm still doing just that as I write this, flipping between this page, Go Nintendo, the forums, and a whole bunch of webcomics I know haven't been updated, but I keep going back because... Well, I don't know.

So I'm just going to have to take a little break. I will not be writing a replacement article for last night's absence, and I likely won't be writing anything tomorrow, either. I'm just going to take a little while to let my brain relax, so I don't have to worry about deadlines, subjects or anything, really. I will be back on Monday, with a new article, poll, banner, and all that jazz. But as for this week, it's over. I'm very sorry, readers, but I just need to take some time. I hope you understand. Thank you for reading this.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

They can put a man on the moon...

No debating about whether or not the moon landing was faked. It happened, get over it, article now.

Ever notice that gaming technology has come so incredibly far, yet problems from the early days still exist? I mean, seriously, they can put a man on the moon, but...

...they can't give FPS characters feet?

Ever play a first-person-shooter (FPS) and look directly down? What do you see? Most likely, you see nothing but floor. Where the hell are my feet? Not only is this a little odd (Am I just a floating arm with a gun?), but it can often lead to disorientation when standing near a cliff or edge.

Here's a little experiment for you: Fire up your favourite FPS (Halo, Half-Life 2, heck, even Portal will work). Walk up to a ledge and look down. Continue to move forward until the cliff takes up about %50 of the screen, while the other half is the ground below. Stand up, turn 180 degrees, and look down again. Voila, you're floating!

Nothing strange here...

I can flyyyyyyyy!!!!

Can FPS characters please grow some legs already?

...they can't stop clothes from clipping through stuff?

Anybody who has played a 3D Zelda game for more than five minutes knows exactly what I'm talking about here. Just in case, here's a screenshot showing off the problem:

Look closely at the circled area. Notice something? How about the fact that Link's sword is sticking THROUGH his hat? The screenshot above is just one minor example of this.

Textures and character models get better and better, but clothes still manage to phase through junk! Would it be so hard to assign some sort of physical mesh to the hat, leading it to be treated like a real-life object? Use whatever technology that keeps people from walking through walls and falling through floors and use it on the hat! If we're going to be staring at it for hours on end, at least make it look good!

...they still can't eliminate load times?

Back in the early days, things were good. You popped a game in the NES, turned it on and started playing. But with the advent of disc-based games, load times reared their ugly heads.

The Playstation (The first commercially-successful, disc-based game console) launched way back in 1994, 14 years ago. And in this time, loading has still remained a huge problem. Developers seem to improve so many things when making new consoles, but load times don't seem to be one of those things. It seems that the only way to fight load times is to keep games (And consoles) simple.

Modern gamers are all too familiar with the above words

Maybe, one day, all games will be on computer chips or something like that. Perhaps then would load times finally cease to exist...

...they still can't find good voice actors?

Fire up almost any game with voice acting, and you'll soon find yourself reaching for the mute button on your remote. From Elebits to Sonic and the Secret Rings, far too many games feature utterly talentless voice actors. The voice over in the latter was so bad, I switched it over to Japanese voices, only to hear the same terrible acting in a different language. I don't even know Japanese, but I could tell it was terrible.

So where are all the good voice actors? It seems you can't find a good one unless you're playing a licensed title. There's the occasional exception, but mostly every game has terrible acting. I've racked my brain, and I can barely come up with a handful of examples of good voice over in a game.

Somebody, please keep the cast of Elebits away from here!

I've mentioned a game or two in the past that I believed would benefit from voice-acting. I stand by this, but with the minor caveat that they be good actors providing the voices.

Technology has come so far, yet some simple little problems persist. Can you think of anything else gaming-related you expected to see solved by now? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #28: "Do you like voice chat in online games?" results, banner

"I love it" 7 (16%)
"It has it's ups and downs" 6 (13%)
"No, never. It's terrible." 2 (4%)
"Only if there's an "off" switch" 12 (27%)
"If it's friends only, count me in" 12 (27%)
"I don't know." 4 (9%)

So, it seems most people are okay with voice chat, as long as there's a few restrictions in place. I tell ya, chatting with random strangers can be a real "experience".

This week's banner isn't quite what I had hoped for. Originally it was supposed to be an animated GIF, but my GIF-making program has size restrictions, making it impossible for me to whip up a properly-sized banner. So, instead, here's a frame of the GIF that never was. As you can no undoubtedly tell, the theme is Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the recently-released successor to the Phoenix Wright series of games.

(PS: If you really wanna see the GIF version, you can check it out on the forums)

Alright, that just leaves this week's poll: "Wii Pay to Play: What do you think?". I'm seriously interested to see the results on this one.

New article should be up in a bit!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gaming pet peeves

I love games a whole lot, but there are just some things about them that really annoy me. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like this. Here are a few things that really tend to peeve me off with games.

Showing off moves/abilities unavailable to the player

I really hate it when trailers, cutscenes or promotional art pieces show off the main character doing things the player cannot do. For example, there are scenes in many of the Legend of Zelda games in which Link takes a running jump, but the player cannot spur such interactions.

And what about that promotional art? I was just playing a bit of Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure. I've learned that angering the local savages is never a good idea, as it always leads to Zack instantly being captured, and thusly ending the level. After I had enough of the game for the night, I flipped through the manual and saw art of Zack running from a savage while holding a treasure chest; Two things impossible to do in the game!

The trailers and commercials are often the worst, though. Ever see the latest commercial for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune? Nathan Drake (The main character) is sneaking up on a group of enemies when his walkie-talky goes off, alerting the foes. He looks at the device, glances up at the opposition and says "Think it's for you!". He tosses the walkie-talky at an enemy, whips out his gun and shoots them while they're reeling. As far as I know, there's no possible way to do this. I've never played the game, admittedly, but after some brief research I saw absolutely no mention of any such unique tactics. Maybe this happens in a cutscene, which is somewhat more forgivable than false advertising, but still a real annoyance for me. And this doesn't apply to just Uncharted, I'm just using it as an example.

Somewhat related to the above, it also really peeves me off when game commercials consist almost entirely (Or 100%) of cutscenes and pre-rendered clips. That really bugs me to no end. At least label the scenes as either actual game footage or not, like in the latest Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games DS commercial.

Invisible walls

I remember when I first got the Wing Cap in Super Mario 64. I was flying around, having a grand old time... And then I hit an invisible wall, and plummeted to the ground. Ever since then, I have hated these see-through barriers relentlessly. I prefer it when the developers take a more unique approach to fencing off the player. In Half-Life 2, straying too far from land results in you being attacked by ravenous fish. Swimming too far from shore in Jak 3 triggers an attack from a bizarre squid-like monster. In Battlefield 1942, leaving the mission area causes your player (Or vehicle) to lose health rapidly after a ten-second warning. More games need to instigate such measures, instead of resorting to the annoying and overdone invisible walls.

Rubber band technology

Ever get a huge lead in Mario Kart 64? Well, it didn't last for long, did it? Instead of letting you enjoy your massively advantageous position, the game juices up the speed of all the racers behind you, causing them to catch up in no time at all. I remember pulling off a huge shortcut at the beginning of Rainbow Road that cuts about a minute off my overall time, only to have my opponents catch up by the end of the lap.

It doesn't bug me much when the lead racer gets crappy items, leaving all the good stuff to those in lower positions. That's just fair, really. But dang it, speeding them up far beyond their usual threshold just isn't right.

Peripheral-dependent games being sold without said peripheral

You wouldn't believe how many times I've seen used copies of Odama sitting on the shelf at my local Rogers Video, only to notice that they don't even have the necessary microphone bundled in with them. Same deal with Mario Party 6 and 7. I know this is hardly the fault of the developer. It's the re-sellers' fault. But dammit, it still really boils my spuds.

Lack of checkpoints

I really, really, REALLY hate it when I get reeeeally far in a level of a game, only to die and restart back at the beginning of the stage. That just annoys me to no end. Working so hard, getting so close, only to fail at the last moment and end up back at square one. You know what would solve this? Checkpoints, people! Like in the old Sonic games from the Genesis/MegaDrive, little markers during the stage acting as restart points. That way if you die, you don't have to restart the whole level.

Another problem is when there's too few checkpoints too far apart. Recently I was playing Half-Life 2: Episode One, at a point where I had to make a timed jump, sprint past a hazard, gun down some enemies and reach a point beyond them, all without dying. Now, I think that's a bit much. In my opinion, there should have been a checkpoint after the hazard. It wouldn't have been quite as bad if I had a chance to heal in between (Thus lowering my chances of losing the gunfight), but that sadly wasn't a possibility.

Then again, there shouldn't be too many checkpoints, either... It's probably a hard balance to strike.

So then, I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the gaming-related pet peeves I have. Now it's your turn: What are some of your gaming pet peeves? Feel free to voice off in the comments section or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Random Babbling 2

Time for me to just rattle off a bunch of weird junk again. Whatever my 2AM brain thinks up goes down here.

What does THQ stand for? Seriously, no matter where I look, I just can't find any information on what it's an abbreviation for. Perhaps it was named after the founder of the company's initials. I'm sure Thadeus Hornblatt Quintessential is proud of his company's success.

Maybe I've been playing too much Wii, but I keep rotating my mouse in Half-Life 2, somehow hoping it'll rotate the item I'm holding. Of course, it doesn't work, but damned if it wouldn't be great. It's a real pain orienting whatever you're holding otherwise...

Speaking of motion controls, I sometimes shake my left hand when I need to reload in an FPS, no matter what console I'm playing it on. I need to remember that my keyboard doesn't have a gyroscope... Nor does a PS2 controller.

I was getting myself a bowl of in-the-shell peanuts yesterday, and I pulled a stick out of the bag. I feel like calling customer service just to freak out the quality control dudes. Oh to be a fly on the wall.

I was surfing around randomly earlier today, and I stumbled across instructions for a do-it-yourself long-range listening device. I sometimes worry about how resourceful humans can be.

I sometimes wonder who greenlights some of these movie games. Since when was something like Napoleon Dynamite worth making into a game? Almost nothing applicable to entertainment software was found in the original movie, but, lo and behold, it's sitting on store shelves as I write this. As long as it stays sitting there and doesn't actually sell, I'm fine.

Am I the only person who's noticed that snowflakes look a heck of a lot like dandruff? Whenever it starts snowing outside my window I almost feel like checking to make sure my upstairs neighbour isn't scratching her head out a third floor window. You just never know with neighbours.

I don't really care all that much about what features the next DS has, so long as one of them is a crack-proof hinge. That little fracture mocks me day and night. If they just re-released the DS Lite with a new hinge guaranteed never to crack, I'd buy three of them. One to play, one to keep, and one to deliberately abuse, just to see how crack-proof the hinge really is.

I just can't find a good set of speakers. The ones I had before crackled, and so do the new pair. They don't even have to be hooked up to the PC. If they're turned on, they crackle. I must have angered the speaker gods when I accidentally broke that audio port on my PC. It was an accident, dammit!

Speaking of computers, I don't think a reliable wireless internet connection even exists. No matter what I do, I can almost never get a steady connection with anything. DS Lite, Wii, USB wireless internet adapter... None of it works for more than a few minutes. I feel like burning my wireless router. Destroying things solves all.

Rumour has it Mewtwo and Roy will be downloadable characters for Brawl. Rumour or not, I'll hold onto any hope to have Mewtwo playable again. Lucario just isn't the same... And besides, everything's better with more Pokémon!

The tricks in Mario Kart Wii worry me somewhat. I don't know about you, but they seem to be diluting the experience. Let's hope they're far less prevalent than the promos lead us to believe. I want Mario Kart Wii, not Mario's Pro Skater.

Neither my N64 or my NES seem to work anymore. Maybe I angered the gaming gods when I dropped my DS to test the NERF case... I really need to stop pissing off fictitious deities.

Discuss This Article on the Forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Even more unquestioned gaming oddities

A sequel to "The never-questioned and omnipresent video game oddities".

For as long as games exist, there shall be a never-ending stream of oddities. Here is but another small selection of the crazy stuff that happens in games.

Free anti-gravity boots to every game star

Perhaps the craziest of all video game super abilities would have to be the infamous double-jump. First you jump, then (In mid-air), you jump again, launching off of nothing. Somebody wanna explain this to me?

A few games offer reasons as to how these feat is possible. For example, in some Metroid games players are unable to double-jump until acquiring a special set of space boots. But in other games such as, say, nearly every platformer ever made, there's no reason given at all. People just do what they please, it seems, laws of physics be damned.

Side effects include: Visions of floating coins

While we're on the subject of gravity-defying anomalies, what is up with all the floating items in games? From hovering coins to a cache of arrows levitating in the middle of nowhere, things just have a tendency to float in the magical world of video games.

Please discard all weapons at the front door

Why is it in many Zelda games that you can't use any weapons indoors? With a few exceptions such as mini-game houses, you can never whip out your sword or bow and arrow inside a building. Even some towns prevent the use of weapons (Hyrule Castle Town in Twilight Princess, for example). I guess they don't want you accidentally mutilating an innocent bystander, but with the frequent use of "Can't touch this" (As described in the last installment), what does it matter?

Let's not burn bridges... Because we can't physically do so

What is it with some wood being burnable in games, but other wood being fire-proof? If the characters in the game somehow managed to make a bridge incapable of catching fire, why not just make it out of stone instead? It'd probably be a lot easier than conjuring permanently moist cedar.

And what's with unbreakable wooden doors or whatever? Link can slice and dice monsters like they're ripe onions, but he's somehow foiled by a wooden door? It's not as if he can't kick it down or whatever. Link has bombs, too, but they don't do squat. Go figure.

Black holes make excellent space-savers

Black holes. There can be no other explanation for Cloud Strife holding so many items in a seemingly bottomless (Not to mention invisible) inventory. Too often to game characters have far too many items in far too small a space. Am I expected to believe that a Pokémon trainer's backpack can hold 99 of several different kinds of Pokéballs, a huge stock of berries and a bicycle? How about the gargantuan Biggoron's Sword simply disappearing when Link isn't using it? Where the hell does it go?

The answer is black holes. I cannot accept any other explanation.

This urgent mission can wait while you stock up on items

I can't count how many times a game has given me an urgent mission. And just about as numerous are the times I blew off this dire quest to go stock up on items or perform a side quest. "What's that? Team Magma is stealing a submarine? Gimme a minute, I gotta go participate in a Pokémon contest first.". You can run around for days doing whatever you please, and come back to find that Team Magma's still in the process of stealing the sub.

Time waits for no man. Unless that man is a main character in a game, in which case it'll wait up.

All Goombas come with complimentary invisible spikes

For some reason, merely touching many enemies can inflict sometimes fatal damage on your character. It usually doesn't even matter where you touch the foe, either. Just tapping a Blooper's dorsal fin knocks a chunk out of Mario's health. They must have some sort of damaging forcefield installed or something.

And this hardly seems fair, doesn't it? I say Mario should be able to kill his foes from touching them. I guess I'll just have to settle for the Starman until that day comes...

The above is but one more drop in the giant bucket of bizarre gaming happenings. Look at pretty much any game and you'll be staring an oddity right in the face. Whether it's an indestructible wooden door or an endlessly huge inventory, I can pretty much guarantee a game will have at least one physical impossibility within. But, if games were totally realistic, I don't suppose they'd be any fun, would they? Games are fiction, not fact. But still, a little less spitting in science's face would be nice.

Discuss This Article on the Forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #27: "What is your least favourite Nintendo franchise?" results, banner, news

"Mario" 2 (2%)
"The Legend of Zelda" 2 (2%)
"Pokemon" 6 (8%)
"Star Fox" 14 (19%)
"Kirby" 10 (13%)
"Animal Crossing" 12 (16%)
"Metroid" 4 (5%)
"Other" 14 (19%)
"I can't choose" 8 (11%)

So it's a tie between Star Fox and Other. Not sure what to say here, other than a big "ouch" to Fox and crew. And I can't believe anybody said they liked Zelda least. That just boggles my mind.

This week's banner is just something I whipped up real quick. And I mean really, incredibly quick. It's nothing special, just some Mario Kart Wii art over a Super Mario Kart screenshot. Added a sepia tone and some film grain for a classic sort of look, and slapped a logo and the site name onto it. I might replace it later with something better, but not now.

As you can tell from this post's time stamp, there won't be a new article tonight. I'd make some sort of excuse about today being a holiday and stuff, but to tell the truth, I was playing Half-Life 2. Sorry! I know, that's a pretty lame reason... To make it up, I'll write something up tomorrow ASAP. I promise!

As for this week's poll, the topic is "Do you like voice chat in online games?". A popular complaint among Wii owners is the lack of voice chat in any online Wii game so far. But I don't really think talking to some random person on the other side of the planet is all that great, especially considering all the unnecessary profanity I often encounter. Hey, maybe you think different. That's what voting's for!

So then, new article tomorrow, and possibly a better banner as well. And now I sleep.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

NERF DS Case product review

First ever product review! Watch out, folks...

NERF was first created back in 1969 as a safe-for-indoors softball for kids to play with. The soft, rubbery ball was hard enough to be thrown and grabbed, but light and soft enough so as to not damage anything it hits.

But what if NERF were used to protect what was within it, and not what's outside of it? Pelican Accessories has answered this question with their NERF case for the DS Lite. As seen above, the case does a pretty good job of covering up the entire unit. The bottom is a solid layer of the foam-like substance, as seen below.

The bottom of the case

A GBA cartridge does protrude slightly from the protective range of the casing, but not by enough to really cause any trouble. But just to be safe, I recommend sticking with the filler cartridge when you aren't playing.

Removing the stylus from its slot is pretty easy, thanks to a large cut-out of foam surrounding the hole. I have big fingers, and I can still reach in and pull out the stylus easily. Ejecting the DS cards and swapping GBA games works smoothly as well.

The front of the case

As you can see above, the volume slider and headphone/microphone jack are both easily accessible, but only when the DS is open. When it's closed it's a little too small a space.

The back of the case

The hinges of the case match up perfectly with those of the DS, making opening and closing the case incredibly smooth. It's so well aligned that it feels like it was always there, as if installed on the DS in a factory. But it's just a snap-on case!

Actually, the snap-on part is where things go a little down hill... It's real easy to get the case on to the DS, but taking it off is a somewhat different story. First, you have to pop the hinges on the case, separating the top and bottom halves. The upper half of the case should fall off. Then pop the DS out of the bottom half by pressing up through the stylus or cartridge holes.

It's not too hard once you figure it out. But that's just it: You have to figure it out on your own. There's no instructions on how to remove it from the case. Nothing in the package but the case and a piece of cardboard with ads printed on it. I was afraid to crack off the top half of the case, but there didn't seem to be any other way.

Removing the DS from the case is almost a puzzle

I repeated the process of removing and replacing the DS a few times, and there didn't seem to be any problems. So while it's a little awkward to remove the DS from the case, once you figure it out it's no big deal. It just would've been nice if they included instructions of some sort to prevent users from accidentally damaging their DS or the case.

Well, now for the most important part: How well does it protect the DS? Well, I've dropped it onto tiles and thin carpet from a foot or two in the air with no troubles. I dropped it from about four feet once, and the only thing that happened was the game card shifted outwards a bit. No biggie. The DS itself remained unharmed through all the testing, no matter on what angle it was dropped.

The NERF does, of course, make the overall package bulkier, with about an inch or more of padding covering almost the entirety of the DS. It's not quite as pocket-friendly this way, and it won't fit in any standard console case. It looks like it would be great if you keep your DS in a backpack or something like that.

One more thing it ads is a bit of comfort. The squishiness of the NERF feels pretty good when you're gripping the DS, and it ads some padding so you won't have any corners digging into your hands. The added size also makes it more suitable for big-handed folks, but the extra bulk may be too much for those with smaller hands (For example, young children).

The last problem I could find is the added bulk to the upper half of the DS can cause some problems with how precise you can angle the top screen. If it's too close to the "click"* of the hinge, it tends to drop down to the widest angle (Without passing the click). Here's a video I recorded to demonstrate this problem (No sound):

As you can see, this sort of make the hinge a little less accurate when it comes to getting the angle just right. This isn't much of a problem for me, as I always keep the DS angled at the click. But if you prefer having the screen at a 135 degree or so angle, well, you'll have a problem with this.

*The "click" is the point at which the hinge makes a clicking sound. Passing this point is not recommended as it may damage the hinge.


Ease of use: 8.0/10
Getting the case onto the DS is no real problem, but getting it off can be a bit of trouble. It really would have been nice if they told us how to do it.

Appearance: 7.5/10
The NERF case looks pretty good on the DS Lite, although it does take away greatly from the sleekness the bare unit has. The traditional NERF design helps a bit with balancing this out, though.

Performance: 9.5/10
The NERF case does an excellent job of protecting the DS from drops. It absorbs the shock almost entirely, with minimal effect on the DS itself. All the buttons and plugs on the DS are perfectly accessible through the casing.

Value: 8.0/10
You can find the NERF Case at many game stores and electronic sections around the country, and it'll never cost you any more than $15. It's a fair price, but any more and it wouldn't be worth it.

OVERALL: 8.25/10
The NERF DS case looks and feels great, plus it does an excellent job of protecting the console. Removing the case is a little clunky, and it does mess a little with the hinge, but otherwise it works perfectly. Definitely worth the buy for any gamer on the go.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Post delay until tomorrow

Sorry, folks, but I need to get some sleep pronto. I already have all the research and planning for the article done, so I can write it up tomorrow no problem.

Sorry for the delay!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Info on new ad blocks

As you have probably noticed, there is a new ad box at both the top and bottom of the site. These ads are by the great people at Project Wonderful, who's ads I've always found to be both affective and unobtrusive.

I have added these ads in order to hopefully generate enough income to one day afford an independent domain for the blog. This day may not come for quite some time, but it's never too early to think of the future. These ads were not added in hopes of personal profit, but instead to ensure that this blog can one day become something truly great, with it's own URL, exclusive promotions and more. This was all done in hopes of providing better service to you, the readers.

I promise that ads will never become obtrusive or annoying. No pop-ups, no talking ads, and never any click-through commercials. It annoys me to no end when I see things like this on other websites, and I sure as heck don't want it to happen here. I'd rather lose money than deal with such annoying and distracting advertisements.

Also, I assure you that each pending bid for an ad here on One Duck's Opinion will be researched thoroughly before approval, to avoid any inappropriate content being linked to here on the site.

Thank you for reading One Duck's Opinion. Here's to an even greater blog down the road!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Perfection through simplicity

There's something special about the Mona Lisa. It doesn't really look very special. It's just a picture of some lady with a weird smile. But look at it now: It's the most famous and valuable painting ever made! The simplicity of this painting is it's greatest asset. It seems that some game developers have caught onto this phenomenon, and have begun taking the simple approach themselves.

For example, look at Steven Spielburg's upcoming Wii title, Boom Blox. You really can't get much more simple than square characters with painted-on details. On paper this sounds positively terrible. A bunch of cuboid freaks prancing around? Really, sounds pretty lame. But once you get a good look at it, you can't believe how amazing it really is.

Boom Blox's art style is both basic and brilliant all at once

Go ahead, look it up on Youtube or IGN. See that there? That's both the epitome of simplicity and unique charm. It's art styles like this that can really boost a game to blockbuster status. Don't believe me? Take a look at another hugely famous franchise with an incredibly simple-yet-brilliant art style.

The Katamari series of games is one of legend. What Namco originally thought would do poorly on the American market exploded into a national phenomenon. The quirky gameplay, story and soundtrack all contributed to this final product, but the simplistic art style is what really made this title stand out in the public eye. Everywhere you turn there's fan art of the king, the prince, and even the blocky citizens of the game world. People love the art style just as much as (If not more than) the gameplay! And can you really blame them?

Of course, we can't have an article about artistic simplicity without mentioning the Ace Attorney series of games. The simple animations with few enough frames to count on one hand has a certain charm to it that is nearly as iconic as the art style in Katamari. The distinctively clunky animation become somewhat of a fad in all the corners of the internet, resulting in parody videos galore.

No objections to this brilliantly simplistic art style

Of course, simplicity doesn't have to apply to just the art style. There's also the games that use the most basic of all graphic styles: Sprites. Even in an age when all the currently produced consoles and handhelds can render games entirely in 3D, developers still go back to the good ol' fashioned two-dimensional graphics of the olden days. The simplistic format of sprites can often lead to great benefits for many aspects of the game in that it saves much space, but it can also lead to some amazingly beautiful level and character designs. Children of Mana was probably the most stunning sprite-based game I've ever seen, with it's incredibly bright colours and super-smooth animation.

It may look nice in screenshots, but it's even
better in motion

The vast improvement of technology over the years is great, but sometimes it's nice to get away from graphical wonders like Super Mario Galaxy and Crysis and enjoy the greatness that is artistic simplicity. After all, perfection need not be restricted to the complex.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mini-Article: Random Wii improvement ideas

These are just a few ideas I thought up that would improve the Wii. I guess some of them have been thought of before, but at least I can give my own spin on things to change it up.

Virtual Console additions notification
Sure, you and I have e-mail alerts and Go Nintendo to keep us on top of the new Virtual Console releases, but not everyone subscribes to Nintendo or keeps up with the news sites. Just the other day my brother-in-law asked me when F-Zero (SNES) would be hitting the Virtual Console. He had no idea it was already released!

Sure, a recent firmware upgrade makes it so new releases scroll by on the Shop Channel icon, but the preview images are so tiny, and it only shows a small selection of the recent releases. I think Nintendo should send you e-mails every Monday (Or whatever day they're released in your region) telling you what games were just released. It wouldn't take much work to arrange, and it would surely pay off if users knew what games were available.

USB hard drive support
I know I'm nowhere near the first person to suggest this, but dang it, this is really becoming a problem! I've already filled up about half of my Wii's memory with channels, saves and Virtual Console games, and it's only been 15 months!

I've heard the whole "Wii refrigerator" side of things, but that's not exactly the greatest alternative. Deleting and re-downloading games is a real pain, especially if your wireless network isn't exactly Mr. Reliable. I just think that hard drive support should be there as an option for the people who like having a well-stocked fridge.

Actually use WiiConnect24 for something
Remember all the talk we heard before the Wii came out? Talk of instant downloads and automatic updates? Well, either my Wii is broken, or this never happened. Will any of these promises come true in the future? Or will Animal Crossing Wii lack the option to visit towns when your pal's not there? This was a big example of WiiConnect24's power, and considering how things have been going so far, well, I'm not so sure it can happen anymore.

Would it be so hard to actually have a Wii online all the time? Is it so crazy to have a Wii automatically update itself? Maybe they're just afraid we'll overflow our fridges...

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Poll #26: "Which two characters make gaming's greatest couple?" results, banner

Here we go, then, with the poll results!

"Mario and Princess Peach" 15 (28%)
"Link and Zelda" 16 (30%)
"Sonic and Amy Rose" 6 (11%)
"Fox and Krystal" 0 (0%)
"Luigi and Daisy" 4 (7%)
"Other" 5 (9%)
"I don't know" 0 (0%)
"I don't care" 7 (13%)

So Link and Zelda barely manage to steal the win from Mario and Peach. Not too surprised that these two couples were neck-in-neck. They are the two most famous of Nintendo games.

As for this week's banner, it's a real treat this time around. Using the characters in last week's poll, forum member NaomiLoon made the banner you see above. All the characters are having a nice little Valentine's Day picnic. Well, except maybe Luigi and Daisy...

And as always, there's this week's new poll: "What is your least favourite Nintendo franchise?". I thought this would be an interesting one. I'm not sure where my vote's going just yet...

Okay then, the article will be up in a bit. Until then, feel free to enjoy the new banner!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Big franchises, big missteps

Whether you're a big-name CEO, a multi-billionaire or a humble fainting goat, you're never immune to a misstep. This truth carries over to the world of gaming, where a franchise may be absolutely perfect one minute and utterly abysmal the next. No series is immune, as this article will show.

(Note: This is the Final Fantasy II originally released on the Famicom in 1988. Not to be confused with the Final Fantasy II released on the Super Nintendo in 1991.)

Systems: Famicom, Playstation, Game Boy Advance, Playstation Portable, WonderSwan Color, mobile phones

Final Fantasy is one of the biggest game franchises in existence, with twelve numbered installments released, as well as several sequels and spin-offs. Of course, with so many games, there's gotta be a dud somewhere. It didn't take long for this franchise to find it's first mistake, though, as it fell flat on it's face with the release of Final Fantasy II.

Where to start, where to start... Well, first off, your attacks very rarely even manage to hit your opponents. You start off with the accuracy of a blind, armless sniper wearing a football helmet backwards, and you don't improve until after you kill somebody. Unless you suddenly get attacked by a "Broad-Side-Of-A-Barn" monster, you'll be groping in the dark for a while there.

When you finally manage to find the hilt on your sword and actually kill something, you're hit by the incredibly bland storyline. The first battle takes place between four enemies and your party (Featuring characters who are two-dimensional in more ways than one). It's an impossible battle to win, even if you somehow manage to hit your opponent. You all get knocked out, with the leader (American name: Firion. Wow.) awakening in a bizarre, empty room. He yells out the names of his comrades (Maria, Leon and... Guy? Am I reading this right?), but receives no response. "Flareon" leaves the room, wanders around and ends up in yet another room, where he is re-united with Guy and Maria.

Blah blah blah, you talk with a queen or something, they yammer about a resistance of some sort, blah blah blah... Hey, look! Another team member! Can we go kill things now, or do you have some more boring and clichéd storyline to lay on me?

Suffice to say, the storyline is incredibly dull, and unbelievably stupid on more than one occasion (Is Guy talking to a race of gigantic, intelligent beavers? Yes, I do believe he is). The battles are slow, even when you manage to figure out that punching hurts your enemies, and the characters have absolutely no personality whatsoever. Almost makes me wish that the first game actually was the Final Fantasy.

System: Nintendo DS

Metroid is significant for many reasons. It has a huge story branching several games and it's a first-person game with a gun that doesn't revolve around mindlessly killing mutants/aliens/gangsters/whatever. Metroid Prime Hunters went back on all of that, ditching the continuing storyline and revolving almost entirely around blasting things to bits.

As for the entirely disposable story (Seriously, this game could have never happened, and nothing would be affected in the overall timeline), the Galactic Federation intercepts a message telling of an "ultimate power" within the Alimbic solar system. Samus is dispatched to either capture or destroy this mysterious weapon. Of course, other people find out, leading to six more bounty hunters fighting for the prize.

When Samus arrives at the Alimbic solar system, she finds that the Almibic race has been exterminated by a beast dubbed Gorea. The monster emerged from a meteor that impacted on the peaceful society, and then proceeded to attack everyone and everything that got in it's way. The monster was highly adaptable, able to take on the form of the Alimbics themselves, and even mimic their advanced weapon technology.

With no other choice, the Alimbics sealed away the beast using the last of their telepathic energy. The monster was confined to a "Seal Sphere" and set aboard a star ship, which was then thrust into another dimension.

Samus goes around collecting mysterious objects called Octoliths, as they seem linked to the "ultimate power" spoken of in the transmission. Realizing the connection, the other bounty hunters fight Samus for the Octoliths in order to claim the power for themselves.

As for the gameplay, it's very far from standard Metroid fare. It's focused almost entirely on shooting things, with little focus placed on puzzles. The basic flow of the game is jump, shoot, run, shoot shoot shoot, jump, open a door, shoot some more, then jump again, followed by more shooting. Oh, and you also get to shoot things!

The boss battles are pretty boring. There's eight bosses throughout the game, but only four of them are original. The other four are just revamped versions of the first bosses. Same method of killing, just more health.

On it's own, Metroid Prime Hunters isn't that bad of a game. Heck, online, this is a great shooter! But when it comes to the type of game the Metroid series is known for, it's a huge disappointment. The puzzles are almost gone, the storyline is disposable, and there's eight boss battles with only four bosses.

Originally delayed a year to add online play, it should have been delayed another year beyond that to actually be more than a shooter, and become a true Metroid title.

System: Nintendo 64

The Legend of Zelda is a franchise known by almost everyone, and it deserves this fame. It always delivers amazing adventure, brilliant puzzles and memorable characters. Actually, Majora's Mask does all these things, too. Sadly, it brings one more aspect into the mix: The dreaded three-day time limit.

Using the in-game clock, once three game-days pass, the moon crashes into the planet and kills everything. Which isn't good. And this is all happening because one Skullkid got his hands on the mystical Majora's Mask. Damn butter-fingered mask salesman! So at the end of each cycle, Link needs to use the Ocarina of Time to reverse the clock back to the first day. (Why not turn time back to before the Skullkid took the mask? Sometimes the simplest answers are overlooked...)

So, that's basically the whole story right there. And so begins the list of this game's shortcomings...

The aforementioned three-day time limit seems somewhat selective when it comes to what is affected by the time travel. Any rupees you have on hand are lost, as are certain mission items. But your weapons and key items remain intact. I guess they're all magic or something...

Also, nothing can stop this clock from ticking. Entering dungeons, talking to people, nothing. The pause menu is your only refuge from the passage of time. This is a real pain if you get really close to something, only to have time run out. And now everybody's a pancake. Darn.

In addition to the time-traveling, Majora's Mask's major gimmick is, well, masks. Throughout Link's adventure he'll obtain many masks from many places. Some will cause him to run faster or explode (No, really), and others transform him into other creatures such as Zoras, Gorons and Deku Scrubs.

Also, this game has talking beavers, too. Don't ask why. I think the guys who made Final Fantasy II sneaked into the development one day and added that for kicks (Those bastards!).

Ocarina of Time was a hard act to follow. Add to that the fact that Majora's Mask isn't stellar on it's own, and you have a case of major letdown.

System: Gamecube

Like Majora's Mask, Super Mario Sunshine also was next in line after the previous installment became one of the greatest games ever made. And again, like Majora's Mask, it wasn't even a terribly awesome game on it's own. Unlike Majora's Mask, however, there are no talking beavers. Now we can all sleep at night.

The story begins on a private jet headed off to beautiful Isle Delfino. Peach is sitting in her seat, eagerly awaiting her vacation (As if she has work to escape). When they get there, however, the locals are somewhat out of sorts. It seems that someone fitting Mario's description was seen defacing public property with oozing graffiti. Mario's immediately taken into custody and, after a completely one-sided trial, is sentenced. His burden? To clean up all he allegedly did.

When it comes to Mario's doppelganger, people seem to have not noticed one thing: It's blue and partially see-through. Yep, looks exactly like Mario, don't it? It's because he's Italian, isn't it?!

Peach is soon kidnapped by the vaguely resemblant fiend, and Mario gives chase. After a few missions, it is revealed that Mario's impostor is actually Bowser Jr. in disguise. And for some reason, he seems convinced that Peach is his mom (Wowza, that must've been some night). He escapes with the princess, and the chase continues on.

Super Mario Sunshine's main gimmick is F.L.U.D.D, a back-mounted water cannon. F.L.U.D.D can be used to hover, jump and, mainly, clean up the mess Bowser Jr. made. Cleaning up the mess is good and all, but eventually, Mario's going to have to face his enemy directly. In order to do this, Mario must collect the Shine Sprites scattered about the island. These powerful tokens once brought sunlight and happiness to the island of Delfino, but after being scattered, the island falls dark and grim. By collecting enough Sprites, Mario can finally enter the island's volcano and challenge Bowser Jr. and his dad face-to-face.

Like Metroid Prime Hunters, Super Mario Sunshine wasn't that bad of a game. However, as a Mario title, it was no good at all. F.L.U.D.D was completely out of place in the game, and added too much complexity to the usually simple Mario formula. The game that was beginner-friendly became somewhat inaccessible to less experienced gamers.

Sunshine was a fun game, but it was a bad Mario title. Luckily for the plumber, Galaxy redeemed the franchise. But he'd better not let it happen again, lest Nintendo of America find a flaming paper bag of "justice" on their front step.

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The funniest games you'll ever play

I like games for many different reasons. They're fun to play, great ways to relax, and they let me explore new worlds. There's another factor, too, and that is many games are just downright hilarious. And who doesn't love to laugh?

Easily one of my favourite games from 2007, Portal is an incredible puzzle/platformer experience. And to top it all off, it's amazingly funny! GLaDOS (The criminally insane AI that guides you through the game's many bizarre tests) is the big source of humour here, with her insane and sometimes violent rambling being expressed with a perfectly calm computer voice.

Throughout the game, GlaDOS keeps things moving with a constant stream of darkly humourous lines. Some of her finest quotes are as follows:

"Please note, we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. Good luck."

"Momentum, a function of mass and velocity, is conserved between portals. In layman's terms, 'Speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out'."

"The device has been modified so that it can manufacture two linked portals at once. As part of an optional test protocol, we are pleased to present an amusing fact. The device is now more valuable than the organs and combined income of everyone in (SUBJECT HOME TOWN HERE)."

"The Enrichment Center promises to always provide safe testing environments. In dangerous testing environments, the Enrichment Center promises to always provide useful advice. For instance, the floor here will kill you. Try to avoid it."

The way she treats death as a minor inconvenience is just brilliant. This is easily the funniest game of all 2008, no question. After all, who could forget the game's incredibly hilarious ending credits song, "Still Alive"? That was the icing on the cake.

Note: The cake is a lie.

There are many sources of humour in Jak II. From Torn's dry insults to Pecker's entire existence ("I am Pecker! Yes, I know. My mother, she was... Very vindictive"), there's no shortage of funny in this game. However, these two are nothing compared to the comedy dynamo that is Daxter.

The small, fuzzy, once-human Ottsel spends most of the game situated on Jak's shoulder, spitting out witty retorts and observations at rapid-fire speed. Following are some of Daxter's best lines:

"'d better keep us alive or I will never speak to you again...obviously"

If I had the Precursor Stone with all the power... I'd use it to build a giant palace. With the biggest harem of women the world has ever known! And there'd be a swimming pool, filled to the brim with chocolate! ...slightly minty."

"Hugs for everyone!"

"Ding ding! Third floor! Body chains, roach food, torture devices!"

And of course, Daxter's always a laugh riot when he's drunk. You just can't get any more funny than an intoxicated Ottsel!

The legendary series known as Ace Attorney brings plenty of drama, action and mystery to the table, as well as a big heaping bowl of comedy. From the bumbling Dick Gumshoe to the often insane witnesses, this courtroom is bursting at the seams with hilarity. The laughs come from many people in Ace Attorney, and here is but a small sampling of the comedic genius they often make use of:

"If you wish to hang yourself, Mr. Wright, you're welcome to, but not inside my courtroom."

"I object! That was... objectionable!"

"The witness will refrain from wonton winking!"

"Old windbag sure has balls! Or... well, you know what I mean."

Whether it's an innocent misspoken phrase or a strangely humourous quip, the comedy in this game is always worth writing home about. When it comes to how funny this game is, I have no Objection!

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Chat Box has been removed

Due to recent problems with spammers and a few internal glitches, I have had to remove the CBox from the sidebar. I apologize for this inconvenience. If you wish to keep in contact with your friends from the CBox, feel free to join the forums and meet up with them there. Many of the CBox regulars already frequent the forums, so you're sure to run into someone you know.

Sorry again for this inconvenience.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Even more ways to improve on Animal Crossing

I seriously have Animal Crossing on my mind. The movie, the banner, the game... It's driving me nuts! In the best way, mind you. But still...

Also, you can read the first Animal Crossing Wii ideas article here.

Animal Crossing Wii is bound to be one monster of a game when it comes out. If Super Smash Bros. Brawl is any indication, Nintendo can sure cram a whole lot onto those Wii DVDs. And now for even more data to be crammed!

More elaborate birthday celebrations

In Animal Crossing, the game always knows when it's your birthday. When you first start up the game on your birthday, you are greeted at your door with a random neighbour. They wish you the best, and give you a special item: Cake. From then on, nobody really says anything about it being your birthday. No more gifts, no parties, nothing. How about some action? How about all your best friends from the neighbourhood show up in the morning, each one bearing gifts and a single cake between them. Then there could be a party, mini-games and more. What used to be a minor event could become a day-long party in Animal Crossing Wii!

Frozen ponds and rivers lead to hidden areas

Imagine that it's the middle of Winter, and the temperature is sub-zero. All the small bodies of water would freeze over, allowing your character to traverse the once impassable ponds and rivers. In addition to making it easier to get around town, walking across certain frozen areas could lead to secret parts of the village. A tiny island hidden in the middle of the lake, or maybe a secret path up to the top of the town's border-marking cliffs. The possibilities are pretty staggering!

To further add to this idea, players and villagers would gain the ability to skate around on the town's major pond, and there could even be a skating competition with prizes. There's so much potential in this!

Of course, ocean bordering the town would be impervious to freezing. Perhaps small sections of the shallower parts would freeze, but the majority of the ocean would still be liquid. Can't have you running off to Alaska now, can we?

More to do while visiting friends online

In Animal Crossing: Wild World, online interaction was limited to talking and a few little games made up by the players. You could compete to catch the most fish or bugs in the least amount of time or race across town, but it was all pretty shallow and it got boring quickly. How about we kick it up a notch? Bam!

First of all, a non-playable character (NPC) such as a villager could organize a treasure hunt. The players would all get their clues from the villager, and head off to find their prize. Each player would get slightly different clues, to prevent people from just following their competitors around and stealing the prize. All players would take different paths, but everybody's hunt will end with the same treasure. Whoever gets there first wins and gets to keep the booty!

This is just one idea to help flesh-out the online aspect of the game. I'm sure Nintendo will think up many more games and activities far more interesting than mine!

A more customizable house

In both of the Animal Crossing games released so far, you can upgrade your house in only on significant way, and that's to make it bigger. Your pal/tyrannical overlord Tom Nook upgrades your house in return for you paying him exorbitant amounts of mortgage debt. This is all fine and dandy, but I wish there were more ways to improve on your home. After all, this is one of the game's most important parts!

So in what other ways could the house be upgraded? I'm thinking a fenced-in garden (To keep out any flower-trampling neighbours), a balcony, a fireplace, and maybe even a rooftop patio!

Also, it would be nice if we could change more of the house's colours than just the roof. Players could choose what colour the bricks are, and maybe even choose entirely different walls altogether! Aluminum siding, a log cabin... The possibilities are mind-boggling!

What do you think could be done to improve Animal Crossing for the next installment? Feel free to post your ideas in the comment section or in this article's forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Poll #25: "About how many hours of gaming do you get each week?" results, banner

"0 to 3 hours" 5 (11%)
"3 to 10 hours" 16 (37%)
"10 to 20 hours" 10 (23%)
"20 to 50 hours" 5 (11%)
"50 or more hours" 4 (9%)
"I don't know" 3 (6%)

It seems everybody gets their fair share of gaming every week. Isn't it great how easy it is to squeeze in a few minutes now and then, even with the busiest of schedules? You sure can't say the same for movies.

Now then, this week's banner is by your's truly! The theme is a mix of both Animal Crossing and Winter. Two great things that go great together! Why Animal Crossing? Why not! And I have been watching the subbed movie on Youtube...

Remember, you can always submit banners via this thread, or by sending it to my e-mail listed in the sidebar. Either way, I hope to see your creations!

Finally, make sure to vote on this week's poll: "Which two characters make gaming's greatest couple?". You can think of it as an early Valentine's Day sort of poll if you want to.

New article is on the way!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What jobs would game characters take in real life?

This article popped into my head during the week, and I couldn't resist all the great Photoshopping opportunities!

For many years, game characters have worked tirelessly to provide us with entertainment. But where would they be if it weren't for video games? What if these characters had instead devoted their time to becoming active contributors to society? Here's where I think they'd be if they never found their place in games.

What better line of work could there be for Princess Peach than fashion? The pink heiress would make a great model, and perhaps even design her own line of clothes! Pink and frilly with a dash of Mushroom Kingdom flair could really turn the fashion world upside-down.

There's something about Ganondorf that just screams "leadership", and that's why I think he'd be perfect as a CEO of a large firm of some sort. The mean looking Gerudo just exudes a sense of authority, and I doubt any workers beneath him would question his methods. The devious mind of this villain would certainly lead to many a corporate takeover, and his company would certainly rise through the ranks of the commercial world. Could Ganondorf become the next Donald Trump?

Like Ganondorf, Bowser also has a certain flair for leadership. However, he's often more hands-on than other game villains, so I think that a job as a foreman would be the perfect fit. With his rough attitude and imposing figure, he'd be great at ordering around the workers. And with his immense strength, he could lift girders and construction materials with ease. Imagine all the money he'd save on heavy machinery!

With a smile like that, Zack's a perfect model for toothpaste commercials. His unique look and show-stealing personality would most likely catch the attention of talent agents all over. From there, he could easily move on to bigger things, such as guest spots on television shows, a leading role in a sitcom, and perhaps even a part in a major motion picture! This kid's gonna go places, I tell ya!

And of course, what other job could there be for Mario but plumber? His skills with tools is matched by few, and with his brother Luigi, they could start a hugely successful plumbing business. Mario Bros. Plumbing... Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.