Monday, September 29, 2008

My thoughts on this rumoured new DS

Yes, I know that's not actually the new DS below. I'm just using it as an example.

Every Nintendo fan site, news source, forum and blog is going crazy, and it's all because of an article posted by the Japanese media outlet Nikkei. And when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE! IGN, Go Nintendo, Wired... It's all over the place!

So, let's look at the supposed features and details of this new DS:

-A digital camera: Now, this is an interesting idea. Imagine taking pictures of real-life objects and having them affect your game. You could put pictures you've taken into picture frames in Animal Crossing, edit them in a new Mario Paint, or even send them to a friend over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Of course, this camera could also be used in a similar manner to the PS2's Eye Toy, tracking motion and interpreting your movements, then translating them into the game as input. Certainly a tantalizing concept.

-Music playback: This is somewhat of a weird one. Of all the things I thought would be in the next DS, music playback was one of the features I thought least likely to appear. After all, Nintendo is pretty firmly planted in the idea that gaming consoles are for gaming. Of course, that's somewhat contradicted by the Photo, News and Forecast Channels on the Wii, so who knows? It would certainly help prevent the DS from losing ground to the likes of the PSP or iPod.

-Connecting to terminals for information: I don't really see why this has to be part of the new DS exclusively. I mean, the original series has been doing this for a while now. Sports fans have been able to order food and drinks with their handhelds at Safeco Field since at least last year. Maybe this new DS will be able to connect to such terminals in a way far more advanced than our current model? Only time will tell...

-A larger screen: This is something that's really got me hyped. Playing our DS games on even bigger screens is an amazing thought! A bigger screen means more space for virtual buttons, meaning more complex on-screen menus. Also, this means a larger resolution, resulting in a higher-quality display at our fingertips. Man, I'm almost drooling now!

Supposedly, the upper screen is from a DS Lite, while the
lower is from the new model. Enough of a difference for you?

-Launching in Japan this year for just under $200: So soon? This has me a little surprised. Then again, Nintendo did announce the DS Lite in February and launch it in March, so it's possible. Where does this leave the rest of the world? Well, using the DS Lite launch as an example, there was a space of about three months between the console's debut in Japan and the time it began to see release around the world. So then, that means it could come out in November overseas, then launch around the world starting in February. Let's hope Nintendo shortens the delay by at least a month this time around; I'm not sure I can wait that long! As for the price of just under $200, it's pretty much the expected range. After all, the original DS premiered for $199.99, so it would only make sense for its true successor to do the same. Personally, I think $200 is just about the limit on how much a handheld should cost, so if this turns out true, I'll gladly pay up.

-Exchange data between the Wii and... SD cards?: So wait, does this mean that the DS has an SD card slot? That's odd, considering how anti-piracy Nintendo is these days... My guess is, if this is true, there will be some sort of strict restriction on programs only running from the game card slot, and only allowing music, pictures and save files to work off the SD card. As for sharing data with the Wii, that's not all too new. However, imagine the new ways in which it could be used. Trading save data between compatible titles, downloading and saving portable versions of Wii games on our DS... Perhaps we could even take Virtual Console titles and send them to our handhelds, for some good ol' classic gaming on the go! Now that would be amazing.

Now that I've gone over the different aspects of this rumoured new model, that leaves but one thing to consider: The probability of this being real. Now, as you can probably assume from the above, I'm pretty excited for this. I'm not one to get excited about things I consider to be bogus. I suppose you know where I'm headed with this...

I think this is 100% real. Looking over all the features of this potential DS 2, I can honestly say that they all fit in quite well with Nintendo's business model. First, it has the innovation: The digital camera can do wonders for portable gaming, allowing for motion capture and real world image integration. Second, it has the broad appeal: The digital camera and music playback are two features everyone has a use for, from the most serious gamer to the person who has never gamed once in their entire life. And finally, it has the accessibility: Bigger screens for those with poorer vision, and a good, affordable price point. Add in the reliable reputation of Nikkei, and we've practically got a confirmation on our hands. This is almost certainly going to be the next generation of DS, and I can't wait to get a look at it. Hurry up, Thursday! Stop being so far away!

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Poll #59: "Mega Man 9's 8-bit art style: Lazy, or awesome?" results, banner

"Awesome!" 24 votes (77%)
"Lazy!" 3 votes (9%)
"I don't know" 4 votes (12%)

I'm glad to see most people feel this way. I honestly don't even understand where the "Lazy!" voters are coming from when they say that. I mean, if they were just being lazy, I doubt they'd have gone so far as reduce the game to 8-bit graphics. Seriously, people. This was a design choice, and I'm incredibly happy that Capcom took this bold step forward with a big step back.

This week's banner is all about Disaster: Day of Crisis, which finally saw a release in Japan last week. Now then, Nintendo, how about a North American release date, hmm? And I don't care what anyone says, Disaster still looks like a load of fun. Maybe not amazing, but fun nonetheless.

Now then, that just leaves this week's poll: "Are you ready for a new DS?" Rumours have been running rampant that a new DS will be unveiled soon, and I want to know if you guys feel if this is too soon. Personally, I think it's just the right timing. The DS first came out in 2004, almost four years ago. Handheld technology has gotten exceptionally better since then, and a new DS is sure to be leaps and bounds above what we've been playing with these past 46 months. Also, my DS Lite is broken, so I was in the market for a new one, anyways. But hey, that's not the case for everyone. Let your voice be heard, people!

Tonight's article will be up in a little while! Chance of it being related to the rumoured new DS: 99.9% There, take that as a preview or somethin'.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mega Man 9 review

Remember, this review is using the new rating system outlined here. I don't want to confuse anyone!

Developers: Inti Creates, Capcom Japan
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: September 22nd
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Mild Cartoon Violence

After many years of waiting, Mega Man 8 finally gets its sequel in the form of Mega Man 9 for WiiWare, Playstation Network and XBox Live Arcade. Saying Mega Man 9 goes back to basics would be an understatement, as it features 8-bit graphics, NES-style music, and incredibly linear gameplay. With nostalgia coming out the wazoo and a higher difficulty than most of today's video games, Mega Man 9 is a title for the retro gamer in all of us.

As Mega Man begins, Dr. Wily is once again admitting defeat to Dr. Light's robot warrior. Shortly after, though, Dr. Light's robots all start going insane, blowing things up and attacking the populace. Dr. Wily claims that this is all Dr. Light's doing, even going so far as to present a recording of Light speaking of taking over the world. Of course, we all know this can't possibly be true, and it's up to Mega Man to defeat all the robots and prove Dr. Light's innocence.

In order to do this, Mega Man must defeat eight of Dr. Light's 'Bots gone wild, and then track down both Dr. Wily and the truth. The levels and bosses all have their own themes, from water to fire to bees. Yes, bees. I'm not sure why either. Anyways, with each level comes a theme, and with each theme comes new hazards. Magma Man's stage is full of lava and flamethrower-wielding robots, Hornet Man's level is fraught with heat-seeking flower missiles, and Jewel Man's mine-themed stage is packed full of robot mine carts. To fight back against these bosses and their themed terrors, Mega Man must rely on his trusty Mega Buster. After defeating a boss, however, Mega Man gains the ability to mimic their weapon. Unlike the Mega Buster, though, these special weapons have limited ammunition, and must be used sparingly. Certain weapons are significantly more effective against certain bosses. For example, Splash Woman's Laser Trident is very strong against Magma Man. After all, water puts out fire.

Of course, Mega Man 9 isn't only about defeating the robot masters and their minions. A large amount of getting to the bosses involves skillful timing and jumps, as well as quite a bit of patience. Waiting for the right moment to jump is crucial in many of the levels, and knowing where all the hidden traps are is key to success. This somewhat makes Mega Man 9 largely about trial and error, in that players will often be killed by an obstacle before learning of its existance. For example, Galaxy Man's stage is filled with robots that drop from the sky, grab Mega Man, and drag him into walls of spikes. Learning where all these robots lurk is key, as just touching a spike wall is curtains for the Blue Bomber. A good memory is a great tool to have when playing Mega Man 9.

Those grabby buggers are a real pain in the robotic ass.

If things get really hard, players can also purchase items such as Energy Tanks, ally "calls" and extra lives using the bolts collected throughout play as currency. This helps tone down the difficulty a tiny bit, but it's just so much more satisfying to beat the crap out of a robot master without any help.

One not-quite-classic feature included in Mega Man 9 is an XBox Live-like achievement system. Achievement requirements range from beating 500 enemies to defeating a boss in under ten seconds. While I can never hope to obtain these achievements for myself, they'll certainly keep me coming back, trying in vain, until my Wii remote snaps in half. Considering how sturdy Nintendo products are, I'll probably be at it for a while.

Sometimes a gamer will call a game "retro" because of its simplistic art style and 2D presentation. Well, it's time for those guys to find a new word, because Mega Man 9 is the one true example of a new game being retro. Mega Man 9 looks just like an NES game from the glory days, right down to the three-frame running animation. Some people think that this art style is a cop-out, a way for Capcom to save money and get the game out the door sooner. Well, those people are, quite frankly, nuts. Mega Man 9 is a return to the good ol' days, and the art style followed suit. Only thing is, now we don't have to blow into the console to get it to work.

Keeping in the theme of NES-style presentation, Mega Man 9 also features a beautifully electronic set of sound effects and background music. A short, looped song on the stage select screen just furthers the incredible retro feel of Mega Man 9. Also making a return are the simple blips and bloops of firing the Mega Buster and jumping around. It's simply amazing how far Capcom went to make this game retro in every way. I'm definitely impressed.

I know I'll be playing Mega Man 9 for a while yet. Two robot masters down, six to go! At this rate, I won't be done until it's nearly Halloween!


Mega Man 9 is a throwback to the days of the NES. Back when men were mega, when bros. were super, when there was action in elevators. Mega Man 9 is a true retro game released in the days of high-definition and surround sound. It brings back all the great, challenging gameplay of the NES, and somehow makes it feel like new all over again. Finally, the true sequel to Mega Man 8 has arrived, and it certainly hasn't disappointed. Without a doubt, Mega Man 9 earns a big fat...

Anyone who loves Mega Man, classic gaming, or a good challenge needs to download Mega Man 9 ASAP. Fire up your console of choice, launch this game, and enjoy the nostalgic goodness. Mega Man 9 is a mega good time.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

No post tonight

Sorry, folks, but I'm not quite ready to write up that Mega Man 9 review just yet. I want to get some hands-on experience with a few more of the bosses first, in order to judge the variety of their design and weapons. Rather than give you a half-assed, uninformed review now, I think it's best I wait until Friday. Sorry for the delay, but it'll be worth it in the end.

Until then, keep on gaming, folks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mega Man 9: Two complaints

Mega Man 9 review most likely coming your way on Wednesday. For now, listen to me whine for a minute or two.

So far, I'm enjoying Mega Man 9. Sure, it's brutally difficult and I've yet to even get close to one of Wily's eight robot masters, but it's still a great game. In fact, I've got nothing against the game itself. However, I do object to two little aspects of how Capcom decided to handle the title.

First, the in-game manual is hardly existent. Sure, you can hit the Home button and view a button summary, but in order to see the whole thing, you have to go to the Wii Shop Channel. What the heck, Capcom? Would it have been so hard to include the manual with the download? The title only take up 66 blocks of memory, so there's plenty of space to fit in a more comprehensive digital booklet. I wouldn't have minded waiting two seconds more to finish the download if it meant not having to jump through a bunch of hoops to read the manual.

Second, I'm pretty upset with how Capcom is handling downloadable content (Or DLC) for this game. Okay, I can understand having a new character as DLC. It would have worked well as an unlockable, sure, but that's kind of reaching outside the limitations of the NES. Then again, so is DLC, but whatever. Bottom line is, Proto Man being DLC is A-OK with me.

What I'm not alright with, though, is all the other DLC for Mega Man 9. Two of them, Hero Mode and Superhero Mode, are just additional difficulty levels. Personally, I think that's bullcrap. Does anyone else here remember NES games having selectable difficulty levels? I do. These should have been included with the game, for the same base price of 1000 Wii Points.

Another download, Endless Mode is a new way to play, with players competing to get as far as possible without dying. Uh, isn't that what the rest of the game is about, too? You know, fighting towards the end and all? Maybe I'm missing something here...

The final download is the Special Stage, and it actually sounds decent. Basically, it's a whole new level in a Time Attack format. Get through it as fast as possible, and compete to set records. Along with Proto Man Mode, this is one of two worth-your-money downloads as far as I'm concerned. The rest of it should have just been in the game to start with. Gouging consumers for additional difficulty levels is ridiculous, and the Endless Mode just sounds like more of the same.

While Mega Man 9 is a great game, Capcom made some mistakes in distributing it. I'll probably just do the smart thing and vote with my wallet here. Unless you're a hardcore Mega Man fan that absolutely must play the game in every way possible, I suggest you do the same.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Poll #58: "Do you have a working NES?" results, banner

"Yes" 10 votes (32%)
"It works sometimes" 2 votes (6%)
"No" 18 votes (58%)
"It might work, but I'm not sure" 1 votes (3%)

Finally, someone else voted "It works sometimes"! I was afraid I was the only one with a temperamental NES for a while there.

As for this week's banner... I think I outdid myself. Now, when I made the site logo last week, the idea for this week's banner popped into my head. I though "Yeah! That's awesome!", but then decided I wouldn't be able to do it right. Well, it seems I was wrong:

Gentlemen, behold! It's the Duck Signal! I just had to do this. What's more, that's a Torontonian skyline. What better city to have my special spotlight but my hometown of Toronto? Man, if only I could pull this off for real. Sure, I'd never get to see it due to how far from downtown I am, but dang... It would be fantastic. News coverage for sure! Maybe some day...

Now then, this week's poll is "Mega Man 9's 8-bit art style: Lazy, or awesome?" People seem to be pretty divided on what they think of this bold new look, or rather, this bold old look. Personally, I think it's awesome. It's like a brand new NES game nobody's played yet! I love it!

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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gaming pet peeves 2: The Peevening

I know that "Peevening" isn't a word, but bleh. Anywho, this is a sequel to February's Gaming Pet Peeves. Oh, and the image below? Pilfered from here. Remember, kids, stealing is cool!*

Ever find something in a game that just peeves you off? Something that just makes you ask "Why?"? Well, you aren't alone. I've seen many a thing that gets on my nerves during my gaming experience, and here are just a few more to expand on part one of this series.

Terrible voice acting

A game can have amazing dialog, but it's all ruined if the developers sprung for the cheaper voice actors in the agency. The worst offender I've seen in recent memory would have to be Elebits. Just... Watch this trailer. Do you hear that man? His patronizing, "You're an idiot" kind of talking? Well, the voice acting in the actual game is even worse. How much worse? Take how bad that trailer was, roll it up in manure and moldy old carpet, then multiply that by 73. That's how bad the voice acting in Elebits is. I'm just thankful that the cinematics can be skipped after hearing them once, but even a single time can be enough to forever stain one's eardrums.

Sadly, it seems that Disaster: Day of Crisis is going down the same ear bleed-inducing path. If you manage to get to the end of this video without cringing, you're a better man than I. "Their name is... STORM. They kidnapped... HER." God, it's like William Shatner, but without the awesome. Also, Ray's voice doesn't suit him at all. The game could sound a lot better, and I mean that in almost every meaning of the phrase.


If there's one thing that really bugs me about most Need For Speed games, it's the apparent invincibility of the player's car. No matter how many high-speed cartwheels, roadblock smashes and dizzying aerial maneuvers you pull off, your car will always emerge with no more than superficial damage. That sounds fine at first, but after destroying the thirtieth or so police cruiser, it begins to seem incredibly unfair. It's just way to easy to escape when your car seems to be made of solid diamond! Making this invincibility somewhat odd, however, is the fact that you car is quite often destroyed during a drag race. Hit an object too fast and you wipe out. Overheat your engine and you grind to a halt. Seriously now, selective invincibility? That's just bizarre. Also, your tires are susceptible to spike strips. Oh, so you can make a car out of invincible material, but you can't get tires that won't be shredded by spikes? Come on.

Need For Speed isn't the only offender, though. Halo's trademark Warthog is also a god's vehicle, impervious to explosions, falling from great heights, and even being submerged in water. All this technology protecting a jeep, and the gargantuan Pillar of Autumn gets taken down by a few dozen Covenant ships? Sorry, but you've lost me now.

Inevitable catastrophes

If there's one thing that just breaks my heart each time I play Half-Life 2, it's the poor, innocent people I see gunned down in front of my eyes. But, there's nothing I can do. The shooter is hidden behind a wall or other obstruction at the time, and there's no way I can possibly get in the way of the bullet before it hits the victim. So, no matter what, my trips through City 17 are always littered with the bodies of those that died metres in front of me because their assailant was just out of my range. It's heartbreaking. Damn you, Valve! Damn you and your awesome way of making me feel sympathy for virtual characters I've just seconds earlier made eye contact with! Gah, I'm such a sap.

Another inevitable catastrophe that really bugs me is a certain point in The Godfather: Blackhand Edition. I won't lay down any specifics, but I'll say that there's this one point where I know someone is going to die, but I can't do anything. I can't stop them from going where he/she is going, I can't prevent the goons from capturing him/her, and I can never get to his/her murder scene quick enough to save their life. It's terrible, too, since I got to know the person so well in the game beforehand. Every time I play through the game, I stall at that point. I go around and do odd jobs, constantly avoiding the one mission that will trigger this inevitable catastrophe. No matter what, though, the game cannot progress without this scene. They have to die for the story to advance, and it always hurts to see them go and their family grieve. Dammit, I really am a sap.

That's all for this edition of Gaming Pet Peeves. Feel free to discuss these pet peeves and more in either the comment section, or this forum thread.

*One Duck's Opinion does not in any way condone theft of any kind. Just joking around. Take a load off, Mr. Serious.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lawn mower, fridge, toaster, washing machine, fan... What else could Rotom be?

Another short one. Oh well. Hopefully Friday will be better.

So, it was revealed recently that the Pokémon Rotom would be getting new forms in Pokémon Platinum. That's cool, until you hear this: The forms are all appliances. That's right, not only do we get to control freaked-up animals and mystical creatures, now we get to pick up our Maytag washing machines and let them do our bidding. What's next?

Perhaps we'll to take our laptops into battle soon? Or how about driving a car onto the battlefield? That'd be something. Oh, and I can just imagine how it would look if we got the ability to bring TVs into the equation. Battles would be endlessly delayed in wait of a commercial break for sure.

Would it faint, or get the Blue Screen of Death?

Hey, why let it stop here? How about we just plain old make brand new Pokémon out of machinery and appliances! A Ground-type bulldozer, a Water-type boat, heck, let's go for an Electric-type Nintendo DS while we're at it! Those dual screens could do a whole lot of damage!

After this electronic revolution, who knows what could be next? How about a Pokémon made out of food? "Wild Donut appeared! Go, Torterra! Use 'Eat'!" Next thing you know, it'll turn out that the Silph Co. building was a sleeping Pokémon all along. Nobody will see that one coming!

I may be a dedicated fan of Pokémon, but even I can see that ideas are starting to run out at Game Freak. I'll tolerate the Rotom forms, but if it goes any further, I do believe I'll be spending my cash elsewhere. Nobody needs to see a wild sandwich appear.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Ironically, piracy control has itself gotten out of control

Not a long article, I know. Wednesday may bring something more substantial.

I just don't see what Electronic Arts was thinking. I can understand that a company would want to protect sales of their software by adding layers upon layers of anti-piracy measurements, but this recent implementation of Digital Rights Management is hurting everybody but the pirates.

For those who don't know, digital rights management (DRM for short) is a new security feature integrated into Will Wright's brainchild Spore. Basically, DRM limits how many times a particular copy of a game can be installed to three. That may work fine for some people, but imagine you have a habit of uninstalling software when you're done with it, then re-installing it later to play it over again. Well, Spore and DRM are here to throw a wrench into those plans. In order to install it a fourth time, you'll have to contact Electronic Arts directly, verify that you bought the game (That should be fun), and then get a new verification code in order to once again play a game you've already payed for. All this messing around with the enjoyment of honest, paying customers just to stop some pirates.

Well, it isn't working. In fact, Spore is ironically becoming the most pirated game in history. People are so upset with this whole DRM fiasco that, instead of going through all the legal channels, are just downloading the game illegally. It's easier, it's faster, and it's more reliable. Of course, I want you all to know I in no way condone piracy. On the other hand, though, I don't at all support what Electronic Arts is doing, either. It's wrong on both ends of the spectrum.

Since DRM seems to be doing nothing but increasing piracy, I have a shocking idea on how to fight back: Go back to the good ol' CD keys, and nothing more. That way everyone can legally enjoy the game easily and quickly. Sure, it won't stop piracy, but it will surely light up the Pirate Bay servers a whole lot less. Besides, I'd like to play my games, not endlessly fuss about registering them. Thanks.

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Poll #57: "Do you know someone with a pet named after a video game character?" results, banner, and a logo for One Duck's Opinion

"Yes! In fact, it's my pet!" 5 votes (13%)
"Yes" 9 votes (25%)
"I don't think so" so 5 votes (13%)
"No" 13 votes (36%)
"I'm not sure" 4 votes (11%)

It's interesting to see just how much video games have affected our mindsets, even to the point of us naming living creatures after their characters. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

For this week's banner, I decided to do something new. Behold, everyone: The One Duck's Opinion logo! It seems like as good a time as any to get a logo for the blog, so here it is. Of course, this is nothing compared to the things some truly artistically talented people can do. Just something to replace the boring text that plagued every banner!

So then, that brings us to this week's poll: "Do you have a working NES?" Looking over at my game console-covered dresser and seeing my two NES (One works sometimes, the other never works), it made me wonder how many of you guys have functioning NES consoles. If only mine were more reliable, I'd actually be able to finish Dragon Warrior...

Well, tonight's article should be up later. Should be. I'm not sure, we'll just have to see.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Portal review

Remember, this review will be using the new review scoring system as outlined in this post. Let's take this baby for a spin!

Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release Date: October 9th, 2007
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Notes: Blood, Mild Violence

Around the time of holiday 2007, all anyone would talk about was Portal. They'd go on about the Companion Cube and "the cake is a lie", focusing mainly on the dark humour of the game. What they often didn't talk about, though, is the quality of the game itself. Personally, I think Portal is a fantastic game. Here's why.

First off, the narrative in Portal is just amazing. As the game starts, the player awakes in some sort of holding cell, with no explanation given as to why they are there. That's pretty much how the rest of the game goes, with your only source of information coming from the booming voice of the computer program GLaDOS. As it turns out, you're a test subject in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, and you must work your way through the facility's many puzzles to test their new invention: The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Commonly referred to as the "Portal Gun").

The Portal Gun is a truly amazing piece of technology. It has the ability to create portals on any flat, non-metallic surface. Up to two portals can be created at once: One blue, and one orange. The blue portal will always lead to the orange one, and vice versa. The speed of whatever enters a portal is transferred over to the exit speed, meaning something going in at 50 miles an hour will exit at 50 miles an hour as well. Or, as GLaDOS put it, "In layman's terms, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out".

Orange leads to blue, and blue leads to orange: A two-way ticket!

As the game progresses, the tests get more difficult, as well as quite dangerous. Moving platforms over pools of deadly liquid, balls of energy that vaporize victims on impact, and even small sentry guns that fire live rounds (As well as speak to the player, assuring them upon their deactivation that they "don't hate you"). As the game gets more difficult, GLaDOS starts to seem a little less benevolent than before. She seems to care little about your well-being and survival, making light of all fatal hazards in the trials. Looking closer, things get even more scary as you notice there's nobody in the observation rooms watching your progress. Also, GLaDOS starts glitching out, the lights begin flickering, and equipment malfunctions. What's going on here? Where is everyone? Is GLaDOS insane? Is there any cake? I won't say, but the way things turn out is expertly written, and definitely leaves the story wide-open for a sequel (Which, apparently, is already under way).

Like all other titles originally released in the Orange Box, Portal is a real treat both visually and audibly. The special effects of the portals and the lighting are just amazing, though I should expect no less from Valve. They've always managed to turn out amazingly beautiful titles in the past, and Portal is no different. From the models to the animations, Portal is nearly flawless in appearance.

Nothing about this screenshot is anything less than amazing.

Yes, that's right: Nearly. There are quite a few textures with writing on them that, even with the graphics turned up full, are virtually impossible to read. I had to back up quite a few paces to read the word "WARNING" splashed across the Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator. Perhaps I shouldn't have been standing on top of it...

As for the audio in Portal, I need say only two words to express how awesome it is: "Still Alive". This amazing original song plays during the ending sequence, and serves as somewhat of an epilogue to the game. It's funny and has a great beat, and I just can't stop listening to it! As of now, I have heard it over 200 times according to Windows Media Player. Yeah, it's that good.

Also serving to make Portal as much a treat for the ears as the eyes is the excellent voice acting given to GLaDOS and the turrets. GLaDOS manages to say even the darkest things in such a happy voice, that I just can't help but laugh at times. As for the turrets, the way they say "There you are" and "Hello" is so haunting and creepy, yet strangely funny. Definitely a success in this category.

As you've probably noticed, this review is turning out to be quite short. This is mainly due to the fact that Portal is a short game. Between 7:55 PM and now (10:49 PM), I've had enough time to write this review and play through Portal one time. It's not a long game by any means, but it sure packs a lot into a few hours. To help extend the live of the game a bit, Portal also includes a selection of "Challenge Chambers". These challenges are basically levels taken from the actual game and made more difficult in some way. For example, one level has almost the entire floor replaced by a pool of lethal fluid, requiring nothing less than the utmost in precision to complete it. Finish these levels, and you'll be considered no less than a master of Portal.


What can I say about Portal that hasn't been said already? It's just an amazing game up, down, left and right. The game's dark humour just can't be missed, and the main gameplay mechanic is the most unique idea in a very, very long time. Without a doubt, Portal deserves all those awards it's received, as well as one more: The first ever...

So then, what do you guys think of the new rating system in action? Let me know in the comment section or in this forum thread!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Defining the "perfect 10", and a big change for One Duck's Opinion

Four. That's how many perfect 10s I've handed out in the history of One Duck's Opinion. Pretty much every time I've done it, people have gotten a little angry. "A perfect 10?! But this was wrong, and that part was bad, and such-and-such could have been better!" I don't disagree with these comments at all. In fact, I think they're right on the money. The thing is, to me, no game is perfect. It's impossible to even fathom such a thing. However, I can see a game being perfect in the way that it is fun 100% of the way. It could as be ugly as sin with a terrible soundtrack, but if it plays well and the gameplay is solid, it's a hit. Why is this? It's because games are about one thing, and one thing only: Having fun.

So if in the past I said a game deserved a 10/10, I meant it was just amazingly fun. For a good example of what I mean, let's take a look at my Super Mario Galaxy review. Of all the individual aspects to the game, graphics was the only category in which the game scored a perfect 10, with gameplay receiving a 9.8/10. In the end, though, I gave Super Mario Galaxy the prestigious award of 10/10. Why? Because the game was incredibly fun. The only reason gameplay didn't get a perfect score was because the camera control was crappy at times. Otherwise, it was fun, fun, fun all the time.

And the same goes for Team Fortress 2, Metroid Prime 3 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I experienced nothing but fun while playing all of these games, with the only notable exception being Brawl's online issues. To be honest, I thought at the time that those issues were based in my then-iffy internet connection. I now know this isn't so, and Brawl probably wouldn't have scored as high had my internet been up to par at the time. Still, I felt at the time that the game was nothing but fun, so it received its 10/10. I stand by all four of my "perfect" reviews.

As I sat down today to write another review, I began to think that this whole numbers system was flawed. It doesn't matter what I think a 10/10 is, since the hundreds of people who view my blog probably all have their own understanding of the ratings system. After considering this, I came to a conclusion: Numbers have got to go. So, from now on, there will be only three possible ratings on One Duck's Opinion: "YAY", "MEH" and "NAY"

These new ratings allow me to more easily get across my feelings about a game without having to assign some arbitrary number to it. If a game is fun, it gets a "YAY". If it isn't, it gets a "NAY". And if it's somewhere it the middle, it gets a "MEH". These three new ratings are a key step in making reviews more easily interpreted.

What about the summary, you may ask? Well, it's basically going to be scrapped. The only remaining part of it will be the "OVERALL" section, which will be followed up with one of the new ratings images.

The standard number system served me well for a while, but now it's time to move along. Even a plain old "9.2/10", as simple as it may seem, really is a complex and open-to-interpretation way of expressing how fun a game is. Also, looking at some other publications and review outlets, I see they all have their own scales for what number identifies a good game, and what number indicates a game is crappy. What EDGE Magazine considers to be a 7.5 is usually what IGN would consider a 8.5-9.0. As for me, I'm not sure where I'd fit in. The point is, interpreting a numerical score changes from person to person, yet everyone can understand that the word "YAY" on a green background means "This game is fun", that the word "NAY" on a red background means "This game sucks", and that the word "MEH" on a yellow background means "This game is okay".

The only exceptions to the new rating system will be product reviews. After all, I'd hardly consider a NERF DS case to be "fun". Well, unless that "fun" was just part of the word "functional", in which case it would work. Whatever. Product reviews will retain the old rating system, at least until I think of something better (If that ever happens).

So, that's all for tonight. There will be a review posted on Friday to demonstrate the new ratings system. Until then, you guys have fun.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No update ton- er, this morning

Yeah, so... No article tonight. It's past 2:00 AM, I'm tired, and my brain is, well... Fried. I think it's best I just don't try to write something tonight rather than write something incredibly bad. Well, I suppose you can giggle at the above image for a while, then ponder how incredibly accurate it is. Or you can make up your own here and laugh it up a bit. Laughing's nice. So's sleep. So... Goodnight. Something good on Wednesday, I assure you. I've got it thought out, but too tired for it tonight. So, uh... Stay tuned or something.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Poll #56: "Wii Music: Great, okay, or bad?" results, banner

"Great!" 6 votes (23%)
"Okay" 7 votes (26%)
"Bad!" 9 votes (34%)
"I don't know" 4 votes (15%)

People seem to be mostly mixed on this one, slightly leaning towards the negative side of things. I've already made my feelings on the subject known, and it's good to see I'm not the only one who's actually looking forward to Wii Music. For example, check out this post I just found on I've Never Liked Your Spinach Puffs (Which, by the way, is the best Emperor's New Groove reference ever). Give it a read, it's pretty well done. Man, that was a lot of linking going on just there...

So then, next up is this week's banner. Yes, it's a Team Fortress 2 banner again, but look closely... See how great the graphics are? I found myself an e-GeForce 8500 GT graphics card for just $40 yesterday, and it works like a charm. All my games run beautifully at fully cranked graphics, and man is it awesome. Anyways, the Heavy in that screenshot was actually killed by someone else, but the pose was so awesome I had to take a pic. Then I noticed how perfectly he was looking up, so I figured I'd put the logo up there, as if he was distracted by its awesomeness and killed at the same time. Always watch your backs, people!

Also, I can now personally confirm just how beautiful Team Fortress 2 is. That perfect 10 I gave it was not at all an exaggeration. Absolutely amazing game in every way.

So then, that just leaves the matter of this week's poll: "Do you know someone with a pet named after a video game character?" Yeah, it's kind of weird, but I personally know two of them. I know a golden Labrador named Rikku, and a black cat named Lulu, both characters from Final Fantasy X. Just wondering if anyone else has come across such a thing. (Also, I almost named one of my cats "Mario" due to the "M" shape on his forehead. His name is Pepper now)

Alrighty then, tonight's article will be up later tonight. See ya then!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Microsoft games on Wii: Why it very well could happen

Early start!

In the last few years, quite a few Microsoft brands have made appearances on the DS. MechAssault and Zoo Tycoon are two such games, and there are many more I'm sure to be forgetting. Also, Rare (A Microsoft-owned company) has even developed a few titles for Nintendo's little handheld, such as Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise and Diddy Kong Racing DS. Microsoft does this because the DS is no threat to them. They have no portable platform to compete with it, so making games for the DS is nothing but beneficial to their profits.

Recently, members of the Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise crew were interviewed by SPOnG. There were a few interesting tidbits in this review, the most notable being the following:

SPOnG: So, we’ll never be seeing Viva Piñata on the Wii then?

Gary Richards: (Grins). I’m not saying.

While this is interesting, it doesn't mean that much on its own. After all, both the Wii and XBox 360 are in the same general market, so Microsoft would never consider developing for Nintendo's console... Right?

Wrong. Remember, business is all about the money. Rivalry means nothing if there's cash to be made. Let's look at where Microsoft is in the console war right now. They're losing big-time to the Wii, and the Playstation 3 is starting to creep up on them. So, they dropped the price on all 360 SKUs. When this happened, Microsoft had the following to say:

I’m not at a point where I can say we’re going to beat Nintendo. We will sell more consoles this generation than Sony.

Basically, this is admitting that Microsoft will never catch up to the Wii. Really, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. It's also fairly simple to figure this out: The Wii is far ahead of the 360. The install base for Nintendo's console is already past at 30 million. A large install base means a large audience, and thus a large market. Also, Viva Piñata is a family-friendly, open-ended game starring cute characters. Sounds like a perfect fit for the Wii to me! It's games like Viva Piñata that tend to really sell well on the Wii, and I'm sure Microsoft has realized this.

Now, Microsoft is surely not shy about expanding the title to new platforms. It's already hit the PC and the DS. Have these changes affected the 360's market share? As far as I can tell, moving the game to these platforms hasn't even made a dent in the 360's sales numbers. What difference would it make taking the series over on to the Wii? Look at the Wii's target audience, and compare it to that of the 360. They're completely different, with Viva Piñata actually seeming like a better fit for Nintendo's platform than its original console.

Like I said, it all comes down to one thing: Money. Making a Viva Piñata game for the Wii would only make sense. Of course, that's not to say it absolutely will happen. There's no way I can say such a thing as this with 100% certainty. The possibility is there, though. And if Viva Piñata does make the jump, what's stopping other Microsoft properties from doing the same? I'm seeing Microsoft and Nintendo being quite close in the future, and both of them are sure to benefit.

I'm ready for some piñata-farming fun on the Wii. How about you?

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Electroplankton review

Electroplankton is like a precursor to Wii Music, so what better time to review it than now? Well, okay, reviewing it back at the release date would have been better but... Moving along.

Oh dear... The summary's gone! Well, that just works better here. So blah.

Developer: Indies Zero
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: January 9th, 2006
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

With all this talk of Wii Music, one game has come to mind. A game that went ignored by the public, and loved by the few who bought it. That game is Electroplankton. Like Wii Music, it exists only for one purpose: To play around with different "instruments" and make music. The difference is, in Electroplankton, those instruments are bizarre musical plankton. These little critters come in ten different species, all of which sport different musical abilities. The different plankton are:

Tracy: Tracy follow the lines the player draws on the touchscreen, making musical notes as they go. Six plankton are on screen at once, each of which can follow its own unique path drawn by the player. Each Tracy has its own unique "voice", with piano-like sounds, chimes and xylophone-like sounds playing as they follow their path. The tempo can be adjusted with the D-pad, and all plankton can be stopped at once by pressing Select. One problem: Sometimes if five or so Tracy are going at once, starting to draw a new line will cancel out the path of a currently moving plankton, causing it to travel along the new line even though another plankton is sitting there doing nothing. Kind of a pain.

Hanenbow: Hanenbow fly off of a leaf in the corner of the screen, flying towards a small leaf-covered branch. As each plankton hits a leaf, it makes a sound, and bounces off. The angles of all the leaves on the screen can be adjusted, including the launching leaf. Hitting a leaf enough in a short amount of time turns it red, and if all leaves turn red, a flower appears at the end of the branch. However, it's just for show, and in no way affects the Hanenbow. Many Hanenbow can be on screen at once, bouncing from leaf to leaf until they fall into the water below. Messing with the D-pad affects the "rate of fire", while pressing A makes the angles of all the leaves appear written on screen (Handy if you want to replicate a tune later on). Pressing Select cycles through the four different leaf configurations, allowing for many more tunes to be made.

Luminara: Four different plankton appear on a field of arrows. Each arrow can be manipulated by the player, with each tap by the stylus rotating the arrow 45 degrees clockwise. As the Luminara hit the arrows, they will play a note and turn go in the direction the arrow points. Each Luminara has its own sound and speed, with the hyper-fast red plankton sounding like a piano, while the slow blue plankton makes a high-pitched, crystalline dinging sound. The location of the arrow determines the pitch of the sound, with higher-pitches in the bottom right, and higher notes in the top left. Pressing left and right on the D-pad rotate all the arrows counter-clockwise and clockwise, respectively. Pressing up or down cycles through all the preset patterns of arrows, and as usual, Select resets everything. I only have two small problems with the Luminara: First, there's no way to stop just one of them. Second, not being able to change the direction the Luminara starts off in is a pain. If only there were some way to rotate the arrow they're sitting on...

A look at Electroplankton's Luminara

Sun-Animalcule: A blank field stares back at the player when starting the Sun-Animalcule program. Tapping anywhere on screen plants an egg, which slowly grows and plays notes every few seconds. Where the egg is placed determines the pitch and sound the plankton will emit (They can later be moved by dragging them around with the stylus). The simulation slowly moves from day to night, and placing an egg at either time will affect its shape. Eggs placed during the day are round, while night eggs are moon-shaped. After a while, the plankton disappear, although it's possible to destroy them by tapping. Also, pressing Select will remove all plankton on screen.

Rec-Rec: These plankton swim across the screen over and over as a beat plays in the background. Tapping a Rec-Rec allows the player to record a few short seconds of audio, and the plankton will play it every time it swims by. There are four Rec-Rec in all, and thus four recordings can be made at once. Sing, beatbox, clap, snap your fingers, it doesn't matter. Record whatever you want. Pressing the D-pad up or down cycles through the selection of background beats, while pressing left or right increases and decreases the tempo. Select, as usual, deletes all the sound recorded on all four Rec-Rec. Which brings me to one minor gripe: What if I want to delete the sound on just one plankton? Nope, ain't gonna happen. Bugger.

Nanocarp: Appearing in groups of sixteen, these plankton lazily drift about on the screen. It's impossible to arrange them directly: Instead, players must make noises in the microphone to shuffle them about. Different sounds make different formations. For example, two quick claps make a circle, while blowing into the microphone for a few seconds makes a heart shape. However, they don't hold formation for long, slowly drifting off into an unorganized mess. Tapping the screen can send ripples flowing around, causing the Nanocarp to make their little chime-like noises. Players can also send waves across the screen heading left, right, up or down by messing around with the D-pad. Also, in addition to the previously listed methods of bringing the Nanocarp into formation, pressing Select also cycles through the pre-determined shapes.

Lumiloop: Five circular plankton appear on screen, and spinning them makes a slowly growing sound similar in nature to that of the famous THX "Deep Note". Each of the five Lumiloop present make different tones when spun, each ramping up in a similar fashion. As each plankton spins, they slowly begin to glow a a color unique to themselves, such as red, purple, orange and green. Pressing Select changes the selection and coloration of the plankton, allowing for different notes to be played. Holding the stylus still on a Lumiloop stops it quickly, although they will eventually grind to a halt on their own. Without a doubt, they are the simplest of all the Electroplankton. Very calming, though.

The slowly growing sound of a spinning Lumiloop is quite calming

Marine-Snow: These snowflake-shaped plankton all sit still on the screen. That is, until they're tapped. Tapping a Marine-Snow will swap it with the previously tapped plankton, meaning they'll start to shuffle around the screen as you play. The original location determines the tone of the sound emitted, so once they're all shuffled up, it's nearly impossible to determine which note is where. Marine-Snow is definitely more about messing around than making music. Pressing Select will cycle the Marine-Snow between three different formations: The default set-up of a seven by five grid, a set of two circles (One inside the other), and one large circle.

Beatnes: Five different snake-like plankton sit on the screen, wiggling back and forth. The music from an NES game plays in the background (Select can be used to choose which game music plays), and tapping the head or bottom of each Beatnes emits a sound effect from the selected game. Touching any of the Beatnes' individual body sections plays a note, allowing the player to jam along with their favourite classic game theme. Each note played is "remembered" by the Beatnes, and is later played back a total of five times before it is forgotten. It's a little hard to describe this in words, so here's a video for you to check out. Hopefully this explains what I mean by the notes later being "played back". The big downside to Beatnes, though, is the aforementioned limit of your beats being played back only five times. If only it endlessly looped the beats you input, with the ability to erase the memory of any Beatnes at will. Otherwise, this is my favourite of all the Electroplankton.

Volvoice: Volvoice isn't so much an instrument as it is a voice recorder. Basically, you tap the plankton to initiate the recording process, with the ability to record about five or so seconds of audio. After this, the Volvoice will continuously repeat your recording. As it does this, you can select one of the many different shapes available for the Volvoice. Each shape repeats the audio in its own unique way, such as very slow, backwards, with lots of reverb, or just normally. Just tap a shape and it seamlessly begins "speaking" in the new way. A really fun little toy to fool around with.

Yes, that's right. Electroplankton is a "toy" much in the same way Wii Music will be. Hey, it's fun, so that's what matters.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Electroplankton is the fact that the game cannot record any of your songs. So, you made a really neat little tune? Too bad, it's gone forever. I've made some amazing compositions in Beatnes, but now they're long gone. This really hurts Electroplankton big time.

In addition to the basic mode of play, there's an additional "Audience" mode. Basically, it's just like normal play, but the game does all the work for you. So you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. If that gets boring, you can add your own touch to the music as if playing the game normally. A really nice and relaxing mode. Seriously, I almost fell asleep in Audience mode once. Very calming.

Although I really don't think the graphics even matter in this game, I need to review them, so here goes: They're basic, but charming. The plankton are strangely cute, but everything is too darn simple to be amazing. Okay? Moving along.

Electroplankton is cute, but it's no Final Fantasy III in the horsepower department

Of course, the audio is the star in Electroplankton. After all, it's a music game! I love all the different notes and such at my disposal, with the only problem ever being figuring out where to start!

Electroplankton is probably the only game where multiplayer isn't built in, but is entirely possible. Just get another friend with Electroplankton and a DS, and start jamming out the tunes! Just... Good luck finding someone else with this game. It sure didn't burn up the sales charts, and Nintendo doesn't even make it anymore. It's becoming quite the hot commodity, so anyone who wants it had better act soon.

Overall, Electroplankton is a great toy. Not a game, but a toy. It's soothing, it's addictive, and overall, it's fun. However, the lack of a recording feature is a real pain in the ass, so Electroplankton only earns a score of...


While the lack of a recording function was a major factor in Electroplankton losing some points, it wasn't the only thing holding it back. Like I said, the game isn't exactly stunning to look at, and some of the plankton are a little less fun than others. Still, if you like music with a heavy dosage of quirky, Electroplankton is for you. It's a great little piece of software, and the lack of sales it garnered is practically criminal. So go ahead and pick it up! Hurry, before it makes Chrono Trigger's eBay prices look like chump change!

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Captain Rainbow: Longing for a US release and an ESRB rating

This article was actually written at about 2:00 AM Saturday morning. Greetings from the past!

As of late, plenty of news has been pouring in about Captain Rainbow. From the makers of Chibi-Robo, Captain Rainbow is bringing back several old Nintendo characters to the frontlines, with cameos ranging from Punch-Out's Little Mac to the guy from Golf (NES). Another thing the game is bringing, though, is a lot of risque content. Birdo has a "vibrating and buzzing" device, while the aforementioned guy from Golf scratches his "balls" in another scene. It should go without saying that this will be a hard sell to Nintendo of America. Is there even the slightest chance Captain Rainbow will make his way over to our NTSC Wii disc drives?

Well, in my opinion, it just might happen. As far as I know, the two previous scenes are the only real problems with the game, with the only other problems (Exhibit A and Exhibit B) being fairly easy to "fix" for the North American audience. So, how can these two offenders be brought to order? Here's my thoughts.

As for Birdo's "vibrating" device used to prove her femininity, I think it could be easily replaced by something as innocent as a electric lady shaver. They both vibrate, except one is used for shaving legs, and the other is for... Something else. Other than that, I don't see any other steps needed to be taken. Sure, you and I may thing a lady shaver is in no way proof that someone's female, but hey, robot cops are gullible. Also, it's a videogame, so give it a little slack.

As for Mr. Golf's itchy "balls", the fix is quite simple. Have him sitting there scratching himself just like in the Japanese game, with the bulges and all, but simply manipulate the text to have nothing to do with it. Just make the scratching this something Mr. Golf just does, like a quirk. And really, that's all that has to be done there.

Now then, what about an ESRB rating for Captain Rainbow? I think that if the previous steps are taken, Captain Rainbow could easily pass as a E10+. Not quite a T, but certainly too much to be an E.

Still, though, the biggest problem remains if this game is suitable for a North American audience. If past track records are any indication, Skip and Nintendo probably won't take the risk. Both of the Chibi-Robo games (Also by Skip and Nintendo) sported similarly bizarre stories and concepts, neither of which selling very well at all despite the generally positive critical reception. I think that no matter what tweaks are made to the more risque portions of Captain Rainbow, it just won't make it to North America. The title is just too bizarre for the general audience here. A real pity, too, considering the game looks like a blast.

Well, at least this way I won't have to look at Birdo's... Nose.

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Poll #55: "One Duck's Opinion now features PC-related articles. What do you think?" results, banner

"Sounds great!" 8 votes (27%)
"Hey, why the hell not?" 17 votes (58%)
"I'm not too happy" 1 vote (3%)
"No! Go back to how it was!" 2 votes (6%)
"Um... Wait, there's PC stuff now?" votes 1 vote (3%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)

It's good to see that most of you are cool with this. As for the guy that said "Um... Wait, there's PC stuff now?", I suppose I can understand that. After all, I've only written one PC article so far. That should change either this week or next, though, as I've got another review planned.

As for this week's banner... I literally made it in about a minute. I was just tired of seeing the same Team Fortress 2 banner for two weeks! So, here ya go for now.

And finally, there's this week's poll: "Wii Music: Great, okay, or bad?" A lot of people disagreed with Friday's article, so I figured I'd make a poll out of it. The results should prove interesting!

As for tonight's article, it's already done! I wrote it right after the Wii Music article, and I've had it sitting around ever since. It'll be up in a few minutes!