Friday, October 31, 2008

The three scariest enemies ever to touch a Nintendo system

In the spirit of Halloween, here's something a little spookier than usual. Feel free to enjoy this while chowing down on copious amount of candy. It would only make sense, as that's what I'm doing while writing this. Long live Halloween! Also, I know my Photoshopping sucks. Can't blame me for trying... Right?

Games on Nintendo consoles are often known for their bright palettes, colourful characters and happy, lighthearted narrative. But that's not always how things go. Sometimes, someone deep in the dev team goes mad. They end up making something so terrifying, so vile, so... Not Nintendo. Now little kids lie awake at night, quivering at the thought of what they just saw deep in their favourite, happy, E-rated video game. Having been raised on Nintendo, I've witnessed some of these moments personally, and they've forever scarred my fragile little mind. The following three creatures are the most terrifying I've ever seen in all my time playing Nintendo consoles.

Bowser in Luigi's Mansion

In his oh-so-predictable little way, Bowser almost always manages to make an appearance in every Mario game, and he quite often proves to be a formidable foe. However, in Luigi's Mansion, Bowser's different. He's big, spiky, shelled, hairy-Wait, that's normal. The real kicker is this: He's dead. King Boo gutted and possessed Bowser's corpse, using it as some sort of vile flesh Gundam in the final battle in Luigi's premiere leading role. Lumbering about the rooftop, these reanimated remains of Bowser seem like just another cheesy boss with a slightly morbid twist. That's when things start to get crazy.

After wailing on this poor corpse for a while, the head comes off and just... Floats there. Yeah, yeah, King Boo, I'll get to killing you in a minute, but... This is just disgusting. His head is just floating there with the look of death on its face. Wait... Oh god. Oh god no! He's back on his body... BACKWARDS. Now he's stumbling around the roof, grabbing at his head in vain to put it back on right. Seriously, WOW.

Now, some may argue that this isn't really Bowser, and that King Boo is just using some sort of Bowser robot suit. To them I ask: Where, then, did he get this suit of robotic terror? Plausible answer: None. This is no animatronic suit of reptilian doom. No, this is the honest-to-goodness corpse of Bowser, king of the Koopas. Heck, he dies so often, I wouldn't be surprised is King Boo has a closet full of those things. He had to land somewhere after he was killed in Super Mario Bros. 3!

Never thought you'd see such a gruesome moment in a Mario game, did you? Well, you were sure proven wrong! You can have your Boos, Bouldergeists and haunted merry-go-rounds. I'm gonna stay over here with the true reigning king of scary Mario monsters: The decapitated corpse of Bowser.

...actually, on second though, I'll come stand with you. MAN that's a creepy boss.

Dead Hand

Ah, Ocarina of Time. What a wonderful game you were. I remember much of you fondly. Hyrule Field, Volvagia, the Zora Domain... However, there's one part that I have less fond memories of... The Kakariko Well. Undoubtedly the scariest part of any Zelda game, the Kakariko Well is full of so many terrifying things. However, not even 30 ReDeads, Phantom Ganon and Richard Simmons all rolled into one could compare to the abject terror stricken into my heart whenever I go up against Kakariko Well's Dead Hand.

Resembling a pale, bloated corpse, Dead Hand's primary section lumbers about the arena, slowly coming towards terrified little Young Link. Once within range, it slowly lowers its hideous head, bare its long, disgusting teeth, and prepare to attack. Of course, this is the point where you strike. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Dead Hand's name comes from the fact that there are, quite literally, arms sticking out of the ground all over the arena. These arms can reach up, grab Link, and hold him still until the lumbering mass that is Dead Hand's body can lurch over, lower its head, and attack. You can fight to escape the hands, or even attack them while free to even the odds a bit. Still, these pale limbs lurk all over the room, slowly moving about, constantly coming towards you. Dead Hand's hungry, and he's feeling like some Hylian food today.

It gets even more terrifying when you consider this: Just what is Dead Hand? Is he true to his appearance, consisting of the limbs of the dead, all controlled by one large, bloated, legless corpse? Is he the embodiment of Ganondorf's insanity? Or is he a severely mutated villager from Kakariko, forever warped and morphed by some bizarre magic? We may never know for sure, and I consider that to be the scariest part of all. When a developer leaves an enemy's origin to the player's imagination... Things can get really, really messed-up.

Dead Hand rarely shows up in discussions about scary Zelda monsters, and I have no idea why. He's far scarier than Phantom Ganon, and leagues above the face-humping hoards of ReDeads. Dead Hand is hands-down (Hurr, pun) the scariest Zelda enemy in history, and if you don't agree, I suggest you revisit Ocarina of Time. Go ahead, get grabbed by his limp, pale hand. Be victim to his ferocious, close-up, tooth-baring attack. Then walk away, change into a clean pair of pants, and tell me ReDeads are scarier.

I'd say "let's give a big hand to Dead Hand", but I'm sure he has enough as is.

Dr. Salvador

Resident Evil 4, on the whole, is likely the scariest game I've ever played. Bloody tendrils sprouting from the backs of dogs, Wolverine-like claws flying at my face, Las Plagas parasites shooting from the necks of angry villagers... It's certainly something that should be played with the lights on. The one enemy in Resident Evil 4 that really takes the cake, though, would have to be Dr. Salvador. With his burlap sack mask, flailing chainsaw, and more longevity than an Energizer battery, this doctor always has an opening for new patients... And his patients always leave with a few extra openings themselves.

The true horror begins before he even comes into your line of sight. You're walking through the village, keeping an eye out for zombies, when, all of a sudden, you hear the revving of a chainsaw. This is when you know you're truly in deep trouble. Suddenly he comes running out of nowhere, charging at you with his chainsaw above his head. One second he's nowhere to be seen, and the next he's lowering his deadly weapon upon your neck. You know how in a lot of commercials it says "4 out of 5 doctors recommend it"? Dr. Salvador's that one who doesn't recommend it, as all of his remedies involve chainsaws and jugular veins.

A really creepy part of Dr. Salvador's bloody campaign is how many times he keeps getting up. You gun him down, you think he's dead, but fifteen minutes later, he's back in a brand new setting to cut you up into bite-sized pieces. You gotta hand it to the doc, he's persistent!

I know that this article is otherwise consisted of terrifying enemies in happy games, but dammit, I just couldn't leave this one out. Dr. Salvador is one terrifying, messed-up son of a Plagas. Or is he? This is where things become interesting. We never find out for sure if Dr. Salvador actually is infected. For all we know, he's just some maniac with a chainsaw who loves his job a little too much. Just imagine if he could talk... "Dammit, Leon, I'm a doctor, not a murderer! Well, actually I'm a murderer too, but I needed a hobby, so here we are. Now, it's jugular time!" That was so poorly written and unfunny it's almost scary!

So then, there you have it: The three most terrifying enemies I have ever seen on a Nintendo console. Do you agree with what I said? Did I miss one? Do you disagree with one of my choices? Or do you just want to whine a little? Well, look no further than the comment section, or this forum thread. Hurry, before Dr. Salvador makes you fun size!

Edit: November 2nd, 2008 at 1:37 AM: One thing I want to add here: I know that there are many, many Resident Evil monsters far scarier than Dead Hand and Luigi's Mansion Bowser. Thing is, I didn't want to put more than one creature on here per franchise. Otherwise, it'd be nothing but Dr. Salvador, the machine gun guy and the zombie dogs. I tried to keep some variety going here, as I wanted it to be an "overall" sort of article, not a "this franchise is scary, man, look at these" article. This way we have a better variety, instead of just three guys from the same game. Heck, if I went for the other approach, I probably would have just scrapped this article altogether. That's how much it would have sucked, to be perfectly honest. Oh, and I don't claim to have played every single scary game to grace a Nintendo console. I'm sure there were some pretty tense and shocking moments in Manhunt 2 poised to make me shed my skin in a most unpleasant manner.

So yeah, that's the story of this article. I actually originally intended to include a version of the above paragraph in the post, but I forgot, so... Now I need to make a big, ugly edit instead. Oh well, live and learn. You guys all have a great Sunday, and I'll see you on Monday (Or 2:00 AM Tuesday; I procrastinate a lot).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nintendo needs to let third parties make Wii Channels

This just popped into my head, and I had to write it down.

Looking at the current state of the Wii Menu and its available channels, I'm pleased, but not near satisfied yet. I know a lot more could be done with this unique interface, and yet we've so far seen it used for nothing truly amazing. We keep asking for Nintendo to add this and that to the Wii Channels, make it so we can do this, and so on. Then I realized, why must Nintendo do all this? Why can't third parties get in on the action?

I can imagine a whole slew of new applications hitting the Wii Channels section in the Shop Channel. From a small DVD-playing application to a music channel of sorts, I can see third parties bringing a lot of new ideas and features to the Wii. Why won't Nintendo allow this?

I see no logic at all in Nintendo making all the channels themselves. It would be just like the way WiiWare works. Third parties make their software, submit it to Nintendo for approval, and they add it to the Shop Channel whenever they see fit. There's really nothing else to it.

I'm imagining a Wii menu filled with third party channels, and it's an amazing thing. Podcast channels, e-book channels, image board channels (For posting Photo Channel doodles), plus the two channels mentioned above... It'd be awesome! What's more, these channels are just from me thinking for two minutes; Imagine what a group of developers could think up! The possibilities are fantastic!

Come on, Nintendo. Why so uptight? Letting third parties in on the action would be a brilliant move, and it would in no way negatively effect you! Working with Opera on the Internet Channel doesn't count, Nintendo. You gotta let the third parties loose on making Wii Channels, and watch the awesome ideas just roll on in. You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain! After all, those channels won't be free...

Discuss This Article On The Forums

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Orange Box: PC vs console

One Duck's Opinion: Back in business!

No matter what console you get it for, The Orange Box is an amazing deal, filled with five amazing games for the price of one. Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. These five games are unarguably amazing, and the fact that they can all be yours for the price of one game is just mind-blowing. However, while all versions of the package are spectacular, the PC Orange Box differs somewhat from the bundle available for the XBox 360 and Playstation 3.

First off, the most obvious point is the console versions lack the pin-point accuracy of the good ol' computer mouse. I played Half-Life 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 on the 360 on Thursday, and I found myself constantly nudging the right analog stick ever so slightly in order to aim just where I wanted. I can only imagine how insanely difficult playing as a sniper in Team Fortress 2 must be. Of course, I'd likely become more accustomed to the analog control after some time, but it would still never match the amazing precision of our friend the mouse.

Next, the console versions also suffer from comparatively sparse update support, most notably being the absolute absence of any class specific updates in Team Fortress 2. While PC players are munching on Sandviches and chucking people around with the flamethrower's compressed air blast, 360 and PS3 owners are stuck with the same exact game they got on day one. Not all hope is lost, though, as Valve has announced they plan to release the updates for the 360 once they're all released. However, unlike the PC version, these updates will not be free due to a minor issue with Microsoft's distribution methods. It's still better than the PS3 version, though, which so far has no announced updates whatsoever.

"What was that, sandwich? PC only? Good idea! AH HA HA HA HA HA"

The PC version also benefits from an extensive amount of user-created content, such as amazing new "skins" for characters and objects, brand new maps, and creative new game modes. The chances of any of these user-made features hitting the consoles are pretty much nil, as it would be almost impossible to reach an agreement with every single map-maker out there. The PC wins once more!

There's even somewhat of a conflict between the two console versions. While the 360 version plays just as smoothly as its PC counterpart, the Playstation 3 Orange Box suffers from frequent lag, extended load times and unexplained internet-based delays in Team Fortress 2. Of course, the PS3 version isn't entirely inferior to its 360 cousin, as it features anti-aliasing otherwise available only in the PC package.

To be honest, I can think of no single advantage to the console versions that would apply to every gamer out there. For example, if you have a bunch of friends on XBox Live, it would probably be best to get the 360 package, and if you don't have a decent PC, it would only make sense to go with one of the console offerings if you can. In the end, though, every version of The Orange Box is more than worth adding to your collection, but it would be best to weigh the pros and cons of each package before making the choice of which one to buy. From a glance, I'd say that the PC version is best, followed by the 360, and then the PS3. I suggest you make your decision with this in mind. No matter what your choice, though, you're sure to enjoy your time with The Orange Box, whether you're fighting the Combine, escaping from the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, or simply teaching some RED team ladies how to break spines.

Discuss This Article On The Forums

Poll #62: "Do you think Rare will make any more games for the DS?" results, banner, last week recap

"Yes" 8 votes (28%)
"Maybe" 9 votes (32%)
"No" 1 votes (3%)
"I have no idea" 10 votes (35%)

I've so far found that Rare puts a good amount of effort into their DS games, and I'm very excited at the thought of more coming down the line. Come on, Rare, let's see some more DS goodness! Can I hear a "yes" on Banjo Kazooie DS remakes?

This week's banner is from forum member ryanrab1, and it's in celebration of Grand Theft Auto IV's upcoming PC release. I had an absolute BLAST playing this game on my cousin's 360, and I can't wait to pop it into my PC!

Now, about last week. As you can tell from my previous post, it was set to be a pretty insane five days. It certainly met my expectations, to say the least. Monday and Tuesday were full of cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning, and Wednesday was just about as life-derailing as having someone cleaning out your cupboards can be (Which, actually, wasn't that much). Thursday was the craziest day of the bunch, but actually quite far from the worst. Besides the hectic nature of shuffling the cats about, Thursday was actually quite fun! We spent the whole day at my cousin's house, playing various games on his 360 and having a generally good time. Not bad at all! As for Friday, it was pretty uneventful besides the cat's appointment. She actually didn't do too badly at the vet, but she's probably still going to be put down sometime this week. Not an easy thing to go through, but it's for the best...

Alright, enough of my personal blathering, let's get back to business here. This week's poll is appropriately Halloween themed, with the question being "Have you ever gone Trick or Treating as a video game character?" I kinda went as Ash Ketchum once waaaaaay back, but that's as close as I ever got. So... No, I never did. I should have, though! How about you?

Alrighty, new article will be up in a little bit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No posts, no banner, no nothing this week

This upcoming week is going to be one of the most hectic in my entire life. On Wednesday a company is going to come into my apartment and "clean" it (We're still not sure what that means). Then, on Thursday, another company is going to come in and fumigate the place. That means me and everyone else in the house has to stay out of the house for six hours following the spraying. So we've gotta send all the cats to a kennel (Yes, even the sick one), and find a place to hang out while everything cools off.

Now, in order for all this to go down, we have to get rid of a lot of the clutter in our house. That means cleaning out EVERYTHING. Today I filled two and a half garbage bags with junk from my bedroom alone, and I still have two more stuffed drawers to go through (And the closet... Haven't opened that in years). So yeah, that'll take up all of tomorrow.

Oh, and Friday? It's basically judgment day for the sick cat. It's the day when we decide whether or not to put her down this weekend. She's going to the vet, and after her appointment, the doc will tell us what they think. She has a tumor in her head, as well as a possible second tumor in her foot. And where there's a few, there's usually more. So it's not looking good.

Also, my mom's out on business now, and won't be back until Wednesday evening, leaving my sister, her fiance and I to fend for ourselves. Chores usually divided among four people are now divided among three, meaning more dishes, garbage runs, cat litter-cleaning and cooking for all of us.

Basically, my schedule this week is:

Monday: Clean, do tonnes of chores
Tuesday: Clean, do tonnes of chores
Wednesday: Let the company clean, do tonnes of chores
Thursday: Get the heck out of here
Friday: Weep

As you can see, I have a lot of stuff to deal with this week, and I just can't concentrate on writing, nor can I play a game enough to even make up a review in my head. Everything's happening this week. At least it's already partway over... But the worst is yet to come.

I hope you all understand and respect my situation, and decide not to charge at me with torches and pitchforks like last time.

So no posts, no banner, no nothing. I'm just going to extend the poll deadline, and that's it. Otherwise, this week in One Duck's Opinion history is already over. I guess I'll be back on the 27th...

...if I'm lucky.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Another batch of animals not quite yet Pokémon

The planned article will have to wait yet again. It's a Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise review, and I haven't had as much time to play it as I expected. My cat's still sick, and I've been having a hard time concentrating on anything, really. So instead of a review, here's something a little light-hearted. Also, here are the links to parts one, two and three of this series of articles.

Ask anyone if they know what Pokémon is, and they'll probably say yes. The series has continued to succeed for 13 years now, and a large part of this success is the character design. With Pokémon modeled after rabbits, turtles, frogs, and snakes, it's evident that the folks at Game Freak draw a lot of inspiration from nature's creatures. I wouldn't be surprised if they just thumb through an animal encyclopedia when looking for new designs! If that's the case, here are a few more Pokémon they must have missed while skimming the ol' Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Electric Eel

Now this is the ultimate in no-brainers. They have eel Pokémon in the forms of Gorebyss and Huntail, and they have Electric/Water combos in the forms of Chinchou and Lanturn. Why not put the two together and make an electric eel? I can totally see such a Pokémon in my mind right now, with Bubblebeam, Thunderbolt, Charge and Dive. A blue eel Pokémon with a jagged yellow stripe down the side, and a lightning bolt symbol on its forehead. With lightning-fast speed and a high special attack, this new Pokémon would make a great addition to just about any team.

Now then, it just needs a name... I was thinking Eelectric, but hey, I'm a punny kind of guy.


While some may argue we already have enough bird Pokémon, I feel that a couple more in the next batch certainly couldn't hurt. That being said, I propose the flamingo make the jump from nature's best to Game Freak's finest. A bright-pink Flying/Water type, this Pokémon would use attacks like Peck, Wing Attack, Water Gun and Low Kick (Just look at those mean legs!). It would likely be a fast critter, with a decent attack and special attack. Defense, however, would be low, as would special defense.

Now then, a Flying/Water flamingo... How's Doused-O? Because it used to be a flaming-o? Huh? Get it? Ah, phooey.

Polar Bear

Polar creatures are no stranger to the Pokémon universe, what with Spheal, Sealeo, Walrein, Seel and Dewgong all being from colder climates. So why not an Ice-type polar bear? Using attacks like Blizzard, Stomp, Ice Beam and Body Slam to get the job done, this frigid beast would certainly be a force to be reckoned with! Off-setting its high defense and attack, though, would be fairly average special attack and special defense, as well as a low speed. Still, it would certainly be up there with Blissey when it comes to stalling for time.

So, what's in a name for this polar fighter? I was thinking something along the lines of Northpaw. You know, it's like Southpaw, but from the North pole, but it's right-handed, and... Okay, I really suck at name-making.


With so many Bug-type Pokémon like Caterpie, Ariados and Pinsir, it's incredibly surprising to me that there's not one creature modeled after an ant. This insanely common insect would most likely be a Bug/Ground-type, using attacks like Dig, Bug Bite, X-scissor and Earthquake. The ant Pokémon would be fast and have high attack, but average-to-low numbers for all other stats.

Now, what name to give to this crawly insect? I'd like to think one up, but I've been playing Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise so much lately, the only thing that comes to mind is Raisant. CURSE YOU RARE!


We've seen ferrets and weasels, so why not a badger? With its stocky build and interesting facial pattern, a badger would make a fantastic Normal-type Pokémon! As for attacks, I'd say Body Slam, Mega Punch, Rest and Defense Curl are all right up its alley. I'm seeing this prospective Pokémon sporting high defense, special defense and attack, with most other stats being fairly below average.

What to name a badger Pokémon... Well, it's a mean-looking mammal that strikes me as a real fighter, so how about... Meanboxermammal? No? Didn't think so. I'll leave the naming to Game Freak...

Discuss This Article On The Forums

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Was the DSi rushed?

The article originally scheduled for today will have to wait until Friday. Until then, here's a little something else. And when I say "little", I mean it. At least I don't end up rambling... Again...

I've been looking at the impending launch of the DSi, and I'm starting to think that Nintendo wasn't quite ready to release it just yet. No, it's not because of any obvious flaw with the console or anything. It's because of the lack of something any new handheld should have:

New games.

It's been said that the DSi will use the cameras in specially designed software, but so far we've heard of no such games. No word on a Mario Paint with image-importing abilities, no word on any new sort of crazy innovative game, no nothing. In fact, as of now, I think the only game they've shown that seems to be DSi-exclusive is the new WarioWare, mainly due to the amount of space it may take up to save user-created stages (Complete with custom art, rules and layout, these may grow to quite substantial sizes). My guess is that WarioWare will rely on the DSi's internal memory for such functions, making it the only currently-known DSi title.

I think that the complete lack of any software exclusive to the DSi is a huge sign that Nintendo rushed the DSi out. I think the hardware was finalized and tucked away, but Nintendo wasn't expecting DS Lite sales to drop so quickly, causing them to release the DSi sooner than expected. Thus, no enhanced games are going to be available for the DSi at launch. That is, unless a game we already have has some sort of hidden DSi content, but I doubt that.

If I had to guess what Nintendo's actual expected DSi release date would have been, I'm going to have to say mid to late 2009. After all, that's the current North American release date, and their handhelds tend to launch around the same time globally. So, maybe it won't be such a bad thing waiting until late next year for the DSi. Maybe we'll at least get some new games with it. Hey, it can't hurt to hope!

What do you think? Was the DSi rushed, or did Nintendo always plan on releasing it now, with enhanced games being considered an afterthought? Speak your mind in the comment section, or this forum thread.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Poll #61: "What do you think of the DSi?" results, banner

"It's fantastic!" 11 votes (39%)
"It's cool" 8 votes (28%)
"It's okay" 4 votes (14%)
"I don't like it" 2 votes (7%)
"It's terrible!" 1 vote (3%)
"I don't know" 2 votes (7%)

To be honest, I'm somewhat surprised with these results. I saw so much criticism of the DSi, and I was really expecting to see a negative trend in the results. But, here we are, and people seem to generally be happy with it. I guess those that have nothing to complain about just don't bother talking!

As for this week's banner, its theme is Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise. Now, of course, the screenshot up there is far better-looking than the actual game. It's from the 360 version, and I chose it for two reasons: First, it looks great, and two, it has ducks in it. DUCKS! Perfect.

Now, then, comes this week's poll: "Do you think Rare will make any more games for the DS?" I think it's miraculous enough that we got Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise and Diddy Kong Racing DS, but the thought of more Rare goodness does make some sense. Still, though, we've heard nothing at all that even hints at Rare making more games for the the DS. What do you guys think? Personally, I'm right in the middle. Can't say yes, can't say no.

Alright, the regular schedule will resume on Wednesday. As I said on Friday, today is Canadian Thanksgiving, and I purposely didn't think of writing for even a second today! Holidays rock. So, I shall return on "Hump Day", likely with an article that makes the new banner feel less out of place.

See ya then!


Due to a typo, I had to reset the poll on Tuesday, October 14th at about 6:00 PM. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sorry, no post tonight (Or Monday, but that's different)

I'm really sorry about this, but I've been unable to think properly today. I just learned that one of my cats has an infection in her foot that may require surgery. Now, she's an older cat, and she already has a brain tumor and diabetes. She's already really sick, and if it turns out that her foot will require partial amputation... We're going to have her put down. We don't want her to suffer through surgery and recovery in her old age. It's hard, but it's the choice we've made.

We're hoping that the infection will go away, but there's always the possibility that it won't. This news is really getting to me, and I just can't concentrate on anything serious right now. Thinking about an article and putting it together just isn't happening tonight.

Now, I may be feeling more like myself tomorrow. If so, I'll write a little something then. If not, I won't be seeing you until Wednesday. Why Wednesday? Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving, and I'll be spending the day with my family, relaxing and eating copious amounts of turkey, potatoes and other stuff.

Again, sorry about not updating tonight, but you can see why I've decided this. If all goes well, I should have a good, lengthy review for you on Wednesday. Thanks for understanding, folks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tracks that should have been in Mario Kart Wii

I loved Mario Kart Wii. That's no secret. However, after looking back at some of the previous Mario Kart games, I've noticed a few great tracks ending up AWOL. Also, a lot of tracks that did make the cut weren't that great (Yoshi Falls? Seriously? And why so many plain 2D tracks?). If it were up to me, these are the classic tracks that would have been in Mario Kart Wii.

Yoshi Valley
Game: Mario Kart 64

Yoshi Valley is one of the craziest tracks ever in Mario Kart history. Insanely twisted up and full of holes to fall into, it's a miracle Yoshi even wants to be associated with such a tangled mess! Despite being so incredibly disorderly and confusing, Yoshi Valley was one of my favourite tracks in all of Mario Kart 64. The fact that it's never been remade in any Mario Kart game so far is a travesty.

Lakeside Park
Game: Mario Kart: Super Circuit

Probably the only 2D track I like, Lakeside Park is full of sharp turns, deadly water and even features falling volcanic rocks from the second lap onwards. Hitting one of these spins the kart out of control, usually resulting in the player spinning off into a lake, wall, or large patch of grass. One thing I really like about Lakeside Park is the section in the lower part of the above image. Joining the ranks of only one other 2D track to do so, Lakeside Park incorporates a jump across an earlier section of the track. Mess up this jump, and you're dropped a significant distance behind. My kinda track. Like Yoshi Valley, though, I'm fairly sure Lakeside Park has never seen the light of day since its original release. Seriously unfair.

Royal Raceway
Game: Mario Kart 64

Some of my fondest memories of gaming are the days I spent playing Mario Kart 64, and a big part of that was Royal Raceway. Zigzagging next to a lake, flying through the air and even driving right up to the castle's front door was great fun, even if that last one usually involved losing the race. This want for a Royal Raceway revival isn't based solely on nostalgia, though. Royal Raceway was a very fun track with many twists, hills and jumps. It really showed off what the Nintendo 64 could do, and I loved every minute of it. Finding out this track wasn't in Mario Kart Wii really, really sucked.

Toad's Turnpike, Shroom Ridge and Mushroom City
Games: Mario Kart: Double Dash, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart DS

Each of these levels is amazing in their own way, but they ultimately fall into the same basic category of "Public Road" tracks. They're called this because of the fact that drivers share the road with other, life-sized vehicles such as trucks, cars, Bob-omb karts, and even Wiggler trucks. These vehicles make for unique obstacles, as they move around the course constantly throughout the race. It's rarely possible to take a guess as to where a vehicle will be at any given time, making each turn incredibly risky. Who knows what dangers lie around the bend? The tracks were always a complete blast to play, and they are more than deserving of a revival in Mario Kart Wii.

Waluigi Pinball
Game: Mario Kart DS

Very few tracks compare to how incredibly surreal Waluigi Pinball is. Instead of racing on a track, players are thrown into a gigantic, active pinball machine. Before Mario Kart DS, I never would have expected a pinball would become an obstacle in any game ever. Yet, here I am driving about a gigantic pinball table, fleeing Indiana Jones-style from huge, steel ball bearings of death. Sharing the road with a pinball requires the player to pay attention to very many things at once, demanding a greater level of concentration than most tracks. When the race finally gets down to the paddles, it really gets insane. Balls flying all over the place, bumpers bouncing players in every which direction, and the paddles themselves throwing racers to the top of the track section. Not a track for the faint of heart. Maybe that's why it didn't make it into the more family-friendly Mario Kart Wii?

These are but a few of the great tracks time seems to have forgotten. I managed to trim it down to the selection you see here, but I assure you, many other tracks were deserving of a Mario Kart Wii re-release. Really, almost any track would have been preferable to the myriad of crappy, two-dimensional tracks that made it in from the Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance. Man I hate those flat, uninteresting tracks. There's a reason for games having three dimensions nowadays!

But, I'm just ranting now. What do you guys think of my choices? Also, what classic tracks would you like to see return in a future Mario Kart game? Please, feel free to speak your mind in either the comment section, or this forum thread.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In-depth thoughts on the DSi

The DSi was announced early in the morning last Thursday, meaning I've had much time to consider everything we know so far about the successor to the DS Lite. After looking at pretty much every available image of the console and reading all there is to know about it, I'm ready to give my in-depth thoughts on the DSi.

First, the look. I like that they didn't do anything overly drastic with the new design. I've been looking at many DS 2 mock-ups over the years, and most of the time, I felt the artist took things a little too far in the creativity department. If the DSi were revealed to look like this, I'd be pretty upset. It's just too drastic a change. Sticking to the basic design of the DS Lite and tweaking things here and there was a good choice, and I'm happy with how it turned out.

Of course, in order to make the DSi as small and sleek as it is, Nintendo had to axe the Game Boy Advance support. Personally, I think this is both a good and a bad thing. I mean, the GBA has been obsolete for almost four years now. I'm pretty sure most of us have played all the Pokémon Ruby and Drill Dozer we need by now. If we do want to go back to those days, we can always just whip out our older DS models, or heck, even dig out the old GBA! Losing the ability to play GBA games on the DSi is no big deal to me.

However, losing some functionality in a few DS games is worth making note of. With the DSi, we'll no longer be able to transfer Pokémon from our GBA games to Diamond, Pearl or Platinum. We won't be able to play Guitar Hero: On Tour anymore, since there will be nowhere to plug in the guitar grip. Metroid Prime: Pinball will be a lot less involving, since we won't be able to use the Rumble Pak. Many DS games will suffer from decreased capabilities because of the GBA slot being ditched.

Countering the loss of GBA compatibility will be the addition of a music player and camera functions. First off, the music player sounds like a real stinker. I mean, AAC format only? That's a load of crap as far as I'm concerned. Everyone listens to MP3s, Nintendo. The only people who listen to AACs download their songs from iTunes, and they generally already have a music player in the form of an iPod. If I ever want to use this player, I'm going to have to dig up some format converter online, then swap all my MP3s into being AACs. Boy, that sounds like a lot of fun. For the love of god, Nintendo, just pay the extra licensing fee and make everyone's lives easier.

As for the cameras, I'm still not sure what their actual resolution is. Some say 0.3 megapixel, others say 3.0, and yet more say that one camera will be 0.3, and the other, 3.1. Whatever the case, chances are we'll be somewhat underwhelmed with the final products clarity. So yeah, the DSi will stink as a digital camera. Why don't I care?

I don't care because the DSi cameras have the potential to add so much to our games. Now, I know this is generally "taboo", but I'm going to reference... The Gizmondo. Now then, this famously terrible console that went down in a mafia-entangled ball of flames (This "ball of flames" more accurately described as "Ferrari getting sheared in half") actually had an interesting aspect to it: A digital camera. Interestingly, this camera could be used to take pictures of real-life objects and have them translated and utilized in the game. I remember hearing a while back of a game that required the player to draw a symbol on a piece of paper and take a picture of it. The game then interpreted the image to make sure it matched the symbol, then allowed the play to continue. Yes, I know, mega-lame utilization. But just imagine what the camera could be used for...

Remember Monster Rancher? You know, that sort of reverse-Pokémon franchise that involved freeing creatures from discs and fighting alongside them? Back in the days of the Playstation, a trademark mechanic of the game was to remove the disc at a certain point, then place a music CD or another game in the Playstation. If the correct disc was inserted, the player would "free the monster" from it, unlocking the creature to be used in his team. Now, imagine the same basic idea, but with, say, bar codes instead of discs. Players take pictures of bar codes, the game analyzes them, and matching codes unlock a hidden feature of the game. Yeah, so my idea kinda stinks, but I'm sure a variation on it could be imagined! If Monster Rancher were to make a return in a form similar to this, I would be a very happy gamer. Dang it, I liked Monster Rancher!

So yeah, while the DSi may suck as a digital camera, it'll rock for revolutionizing the way the real world influences the game world. The day I get to paste my own face on my Pokémon character's head is the day I can die happy.

Another big addition being made to the DSi is the DSi Store. Similar to the Wii's Shop Channel, the DSi Store will enable users to download software straight from the internet onto the handheld's internal memory, for a fee ranging from gratis to eight bucks. Seriously, this is awesome. With so-far-announced titles such as a notebook application with short animation-making abilities and a handheld Opera internet browser, the DSi Store has the potential to make the DSi the only handheld electronic we need.

Oh my, what's this? Is it an SD card slot I see? Why yes, it is! Just in case the so-far unknown storage capabilities of the DSi aren't adequate, we can just plug in an SD card and add gigs of storage space at ease! Now, let's just hope Nintendo doesn't totally mess it up like they did with the Wii's gimped SD card slot. The day they announce a storage solution for the Wii that actually helps is the day birds start flying upside down (And it won't be because of liquor this time).

Overall, the DSi seems like a worthy successor to the DS Lite. Sure, it's not perfect, and it may even be somewhat flawed, but it's certainly worthy. Not quite awesome enough to warrant every DS Lite owner to rush out and buy it, but certainly worth looking into if you haven't yet made the jump to the DS Lite (Or if your DS Lite is broken). Oh, and if you're one of those crazies still holding on to your original model DS... Just upgrade already. Your cramped wrists, strained retinas and stretched pockets will thank you.

So yeah, I'll pick up the DSi on day one. My old Lite's failing on me, and hey, I'm a sucker for the new-and-shiny. Okay, so the DSi is actually less shiny than the DS Lite, but you know what I mean. It's purdy. Now then, if only I didn't have to wait at least six months to get my hands on it... Curse you region-locking!

Discuss This Article On The Forums

Poll #60: "Are you ready for a new DS?" results, banner

"Yes! Gimme gimme!" 16 votes (48%)
"Sounds cool, I guess" 5 votes (15%)
"I don't know..." 1 vote (3%)
"Too soon!" 5 votes (15%)
"I just got a DS Lite, for crying out loud!" 6 votes (18%)

Well, it seems most people are ready to make the jump to a new system. Good thing, too, considering Nintendo confirmed the rumours by announcing the DSi!

Speaking of which, this week's banner features three of the biggest announcements to come out of last week's conference: The DSi, Punch-Out!, and Sin and Punishment 2. I had to use some Brawl trophy renders for them, though, considering no official art has been released yet. So Little Mac's hair is black and Saki's all low-poly. Nothing I can do!

That just leaves this week's banner: "What do you think of the DSi?" Personally, I'm pretty happy with it, but not 100% blown-away. What about you folks?

Alrighty, tonight's article will be up soon... I guess.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Press conference thoughts, opinions and prediction accuracy

So, Nintendo's press conference has come and gone. The DSi is revealed, we get a few new games, and everyone generally comes out happier than when they went in. Do I agree with these happy folks, or am I angry and disappointed? Hey, you know what to do: Read on and find out!

First off, the conference began with the announcement of the DSi. Taking several cues from the design of the DS Lite, the DSi adds larger screens, music playback, SD card support, a built-in web browser, and, most notably, two digital cameras. Looking at that, you really couldn't ask for more, right? Well, there's a catch: The music-playing features and digital camera functions are fairly low-end as far as we know. In a recent interview, Reggie Fils-Aime pretty much admitted that the music playback is nothing too special (Not to mention the fact it only supports AAC format, no MP3s). As for the cameras, there's a lot of conflicting information running about. Some say the cameras have 3 megapixel resolutions, while others say it's only 0.3 megapixel. I've seen more outlets referring to it as 0.3, so that's what I'll consider it to be for now. Anyways, as you can probably tell, 0.3 is pretty low-quality. Again, Nintendo admits this. Why bother put these in when they're so insufficient?

Well, these applications aren't meant to replace digital cameras or MP3 players. These features are here to give the DS a little more in the way of entertainment, and little more. Also, consider how the camera could come be implemented in actual gameplay. Here's a paragraph I wrote on Monday concerning cameras in the new DS:

"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."

A tantalizing concept indeed. See, these cameras don't have to be used in the traditional sense of merely taking pictures. They can also be used to evolve and enhance gameplay experiences. Take off the horse blinders and look into the abstract use for these new additions. Putting your own songs into the next Elite Beat Agents, or even using your own face to represent yourself in an online game. These new features aren't part of some multimedia device: They're part of a gaming console, and Nintendo definitely won't forget this.

I love the black DSi. How 'bout you?

Also added to the DSi is a brand new DSi Store, similar to its console brother's Wii Shop Channel. We'll be able to download brand new software onto our handhelds for no more than $8 each, with the possibilities for applications ranging from the mundane (Calculators, day planners) to the amazing (Complete games or a handheld Virtual Console). Even better, we can store all this and (Hopefully) use it directly from the SD card slot located in the side, making the DSi the most flexible Nintendo handheld yet.

Of course, no console is without its downsides. The DSi, in interest of preventing piracy, lowering costs and making a small handheld even smaller, has lost all Game Boy Advance support. Not only that, DS peripherals such as the Rumble Pak, slide controller, Guitar Hero grip and Tony Hawk motion sensor will now become entirely obsolete. Personally, I'm not too miffed. I hardly play GBA games any more, and if I do, I can just whip out my DS Lite. As for the peripherals, the only one I own is the Rumble Pak, and it gets so little use out of me it may as well not be there (Although it did make Metroid Prime Pinball AWESOME).

Another low point, as I stated earlier, is the complete lack of MP3 support in the music player. I understand there's a heavier licensing fee on MP3 than there is on AAC, but come on, Nintendo; Walk into any electronics store. What do you see: MP3 players, or AAC players? People don't listen to AACs all that much, unless they have an iPod, in which case music playback means nothing to them.

Finally, the DSi has a slightly lower battery life than the DS Lite, with only 3-4 hours at full screen-brightness, opposed to the DS Lite's 5-8. Then again, these battery readings depend on what the DSi is being used for: If you're taking pictures constantly, the flash is sure to drain your battery like mad. If playing a game, though, I'm sure the battery life is more comparable. Also, who's to say the DSi's maximum brightness isn't brighter than the DS Lite's? It's sure a possibility.

Other than those three downsides, the DSi is pretty damn-near perfect. When I first heard this new DS was to have all these features, I was excited, but skeptical. I'm happy to say that now, though, I'm incredibly pleased with what I see. If only us North Americans didn't have to wait so long!

All these features and more, right at your fingertips!

Of course, what good's a hardware revisions if we don't get any new games? Like a pro, Nintendo revealed a slew of new games yesterday for the DS, some of my favourites being Mario & Luigi 3, a new WarioWare, and a new Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Three heavy hitters sure to be joining my game collection next year!

And how could Nintendo forget about the Wii? An even more astounding line-up was announced for the little white and blue box, with some favourites being Endless Ocean 2, Punch-Out!, Trace Memory/Another Code 2 and Sin & Punishment 2. I could hardly ask for more, especially considering the long-awaited Punch-Out! sequel is part of this barrage of excellence! Finally, Little Mac is back, baby!

Speaking of bringing back titles from the past, Nintendo will also be re-releasing several Gamecube titles on the Wii. So far, known titles are Pikmin, Chibi-Robo, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Sadly, for no apparent reason, Jungle Beat doesn't seem to have bongo support as far as I can tell. What's the big idea, Nintendo? Are my bongos to simply fade into obscurity? Oh well. At least these re-releases may convince Nintendo to go back to the bongos and Chibi-Robo. Chibi-Robo Wii? Sign me up!

Also announced was the Wii Speak Channel, a brand-new application for the Wii free with every Wii Speak (Each unit comes with a code that can be entered for the channel download). Now we can use our Wii consoles like conference-calling phones, chatting with up to four rooms full of people across the world. After all, the Wii Speak is out in the open for all to speak into, making the virtual family reunion a reality! Wait, virtual family reunion... Hey, that's not a bad idea! No stealing it! It's MIIIINE.

You're probably tired of seeing all these new channels and WiiWare games announced, huh? After all, we still have the whole Wii Fridge problem to deal with. Well, have no fear, as Nintendo has come to save the day with... An upgrade that doesn't really solve anything. Starting next Spring (Why so far away?), we'll be able to download software directly from the Wii Shop Channel onto an SD card. That's great, right? Wrong. While we can download straight to the SD card, we still can't play straight from it. That's right: Instead of solving the problem, Nintendo gave us something that's no help at all. Gee, thanks.

If only the Wii Fridge were so spacious...

As for the American conference, it was all basically the same stuff in English, but with one difference: The announcement that Club Nintendo is coming to North America! The Nintendo rewards program made famous for its exclusive giveaways will finally launch here by the end of 2008, meaning we'll be able to use those darn registration codes in our games for something! Finally, we'll be able to get something for nothing like everyone else. Of course, if the European program is any indication, we shouldn't get too excited. We might just get little puzzles for insane amounts of registrations and discontinued Game Boy Advance games. Well, it's still better than nothing, I guess.

And now we come to the final section of the article: My prediction accuracy. Let's make a checklist, and cross out any that I got wrong:

-The conference will start with sales talk
-New DS will be shown
-Franchise revival possibilities: PilotWings, Punch-Out or Kid Icarus
-Wii storage solution (Not solved, just avoided)
-New Wii Channel (The Wii Speak Channel)
-A sequel to a current franchise (Endless Ocean 2, Trace Memory/Another Code 2)
-American conference will basically be the same, but in English (Club Nintendo in North America announcement)

5 out of 7! Hey, I didn't do bad at all! Also, when I said "Kid Icarus, Punch Out!, and Pilotwings" on Wednesday, I meant "Kid Icarus, Punch Out!, or Pilotwings". Just clearing that up.

So, all in all, I think it was a pretty good show! We got a new DS, a bunch of new games, and assurance that Nintendo does indeed still care about us hardcore fans. A success all around!

Discuss This Article On The Forums

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Press conference predictions

Well, the press conference starts in a little more than two hours. It's almost here, folks! We know a few things are pretty much sure to happen, but what about the specifics? We know that there's likely to be a franchise revival, but what could it be? Here's my thoughts on all this and more.

First off, as everyone can expect, Nintendo will likely blather on for a bit about sales or whatever. Hey, it's only natural. They are a business, after all. After this, though, I expect the real interesting stuff to begin (Listed in no particular order).

I'm nearly positive we'll see that new DS in some form, even if it's as minor as Nintendo saying that the rumoured functions are true. They may not show off glamour shots of it, but I'm fairly sure they'll mention it in some way.

As for the franchise revival we're all expecting, I'm leaning towards three series: Kid Icarus, Punch Out!, and Pilotwings. First of all, I'm saying Kid Icarus because rumours have been going nuts about it ever since the Wii was first released. Second, I'm naming Punch Out! because of the fact that the controls are downright perfect for a revival, and Wii Sports: Boxing proved this. Nintendo would be foolish to not recognize the potential in a Punch Out! Wii. Finally, Pilotwings is getting a mention because of the Wii Sports: Airplane demo shown waaaay back in 2006. This game looked chock-full of potential, and I have a fairly good feeling Nintendo's been working on this in the shadows, on and off, ever since then. Also, it's just about as casual-friendly as you can get. What's stopping them from cashing in?

Another thing I'm seeing happening is some sort of solution to the infamous Wii Fridge issue. Hard drive, announcing SD card direct-play, or even that crazy holographic storage are likely to show up tonight. Let's just hope it happens, because I'm sick of cleaning out the fridge on a weekly basis.

Next up, I'm expecting Nintendo to announce some new Wii Channel. What could it be? Heck if I know. A music-playing channel? Some sort of new software to interact with the next DS? Or maybe they'll finally address all the requests for folders in which to sort channels into?

How about another game announcement or two? Not necessarily a "revival", but a sequel to a currently-ongoing franchise. New Star Fox, anyone? Personally, I could go for another dose of Luigi's Mansion. A new Pokémon Snap would really hit the spot, too!

Of course, I'm not expecting all of this to happen. However, I'm fairly sure at least half will go down tonight. The only way to know for sure, though, is to wait!

As for tomorrow's conference in California, I'm seeing what is basically a rehash of tonight's conference, all in English, with any announced release dates being adjusted for North America. No more. It wouldn't make sense to have it any other way, though, would it?

Discuss This Article On The Forums