Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 2009 Golden Duck Awards

Just in case you forgot (Or completely missed) last year's Golden Duck Awards, here's a link to refresh (Or supplement) your memory.

Welcome, one and all, to the 2009 Golden Duck Awards! We don't have any special guests or musical performances... We don't really have much, actually. What we do have, though, are 11 all-new awards given to 11 different games in 11 different (And completely irrelevant) categories. Why 11? Because I like to go one step beyond. Now then, for this year's 2009 Golden Duck Awards!

Best Reason to Load Up on Target-Brand Ibuprofen
"I know one thing... I'm grabbin' pills."

There are many reasons to reach for a bottle of ibuprofen. Headaches, joint pains, zombie claw marks, the list goes on. Well, that last one appears to be exclusive to the Target-branded variety of the drug, at least according to Left 4 Dead 2. Also listed under the added effects exclusive to this brand: Blood stain removal, bone mending and temporary improvement of vital signs, all in an attractive bullet-proof bottle with a zombie-safe cap. Now if only they could increase the concentration. It sure is inconvenient that it takes a whole bottle for any effect to occur. Must be excellent for sales, though.

I think I'll forgive the drug's fictional shortcomings, though. It's not exactly the most pressing issue in the world of Left 4 Dead 2, with hundreds of thousands of zombies pouring out of every door, hallway and sewer. Luckily players have a few good friends on their side, fighting back against the hordes with over a dozen different weapons, including chainsaws, shotguns, assault rifles, katanas, sniper rifles, and Molotov cocktails. With five ever-changing campaigns and some of the finest enemy AI ever crafted, Left 4 Dead 2 is one hell of a zombie-killing good time. Just remember to pack your Target-brand ibuprofen, folks. It's going to be a rough trip.

Best Game With a Robotic Turtle Speed Demon on the Box
"Herf Hoorf this isn't an actual award!"

There have been many great vehicles in the history of gaming. From go-karts to jalopies, hovercrafts to biplanes, there's no shortage of vehicles in which to tear up the track, dirt, skies or sea with. It was beginning to seem as if the possibilities had been all but exhausted... Until the debut of the greatest vehicle of them all, the robotic turtle speed demon, which shall henceforth be referred to as the Tortimer Mk. II. Featuring four wheels, a grappling arm, a sandwich bar and optional passenger-side tambourine, the Tortimer Mk. II has everything you could possibly want in a vehicle... Except perhaps for seating. That may be an issue. Good thing it appears to be remote-controlled, allowing drivers to experience the action from the comfort (And safety) of their living rooms.

We should be glad that Excitebots is merely a video game, for there is no pause button in real life. You see, unlike most racers, Excitebots must occasionally be paused for the purpose of laughing at how uproariously absurd it is. Blazing down the road at over a hundred miles an hour, users will spin up poles, catapult themselves into the air, and assemble sandwiches in ways man never thought possible. Taking the tried-and-true formula of Excite Truck and cranking every aspect to 11 turned Excitebots into what is undoubtedly one of the year's craziest, strangest, and all-out best racers. All thanks in no small part to the Tortimer Mk. II. Godspeed, you magnificent robotic turtle speed demon.

Most Entertaining Method of Punching the Pineapples Out of Someone
"Are you ready? 'Cause I'm gonna put on a show."

There seem to be as many "*Blank* the *Blank* out of someone" phrases as there are people. My personal favourite, however, would have to be "Beat the pineapples out of someone". It's very difficult to do in real life (Especially living so far from pineapple-growing conditions), making me very thankful for the man(?) known as King Hippo. With a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh tropical pineapples stored in his cranium, King Hippo is like a pineapple-lover's dream come true. Me? Oh, no, I don't like to eat pineapples. Just beating them out of people.

Pineapples are but one of the many different things that can be coaxed out of people's heads in Punch-Out!!. Croissants, feathers, fish, birds, roses and much more are all contained within the skulls of opponents in Punch-Out!!, and it takes but a single uppercut to enjoy them. It's getting to that uppercut that's the hard part. Less like a fighting game and more like a puzzler, Punch-Out!!'s fights center around fast reactions and a keen eye. Each opponent has his own strengths, weaknesses and hints. Strike at the wrong time and get showered in a barrage of counter-punches, but strike at the right time and you're rewarded with a cascade of pineapples. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is!

Best Game Based on Wildlife Loose in Downtown Toronto
"A wild doe has invaded downtown Toronto and is terrorizing people!"

It was a quiet, ordinary day in downtown Toronto, when suddenly, chaos struck! Chaos in the form of... A harmless doe. A deer. A female deer. It was perhaps the city's strangest news story of the year (Tied, perhaps, with the mayor's ineptitude at ending a garbage strike. It's a long story. A long, painful story.). So what is the internet to do? Make a Flash game based on it, of course!

DEERTASE is a classically-styled RPG encapsulating the thrilling life-or-death battle faced that day. A fight of man against deer, technology against nature, human against... not-human. With naught but the standard-issue Toronto police officer equipment available, you must somehow overcome the serious, city-threatening menace that is a doe. Can you possibly succeed? And if you do emerge victorious, another challenge awaits... DEERTASE is a thrilling new saga of Flash-based entertainment, just begging to be experienced by all. Are you a bad enough dude to save the city?

Best Glorification of a Boring Factory Job
"[BOX]Life is like a box of chocolates"

I've never worked in a factory, but I imagine it's not all that fun. A week of 9-to-5 shifts of the same exact thing over and over and over. One of the most mundane of these jobs would have to be manual box assembly. Just thinking about the endless hours of folding makes me drowsy. Now, if perhaps there were some sort of challenge involved. Say, an infinitely-long sheet of paper with a grid pattern printed on it, which could be cut, folded and turned into boxes like some sort of puzzle game. If only there were such a game... something I highly doubt anyone ever thought in the history of mankind. That didn't stop the fine folks at Skip Ltd. from making that very game, though, and they called it BOXLIFE. With gameplay consisting of everything I said above and nothing more, BOXLIFE is not exactly a complex game. What it is, though, is incredibly fun, and inexplicably addictive. I don't know what it is, but somewhere in this insanely skimpy design is a golden nugget of infinite replayability. Come to think of it, I don't even care what it is. All I know is that this is the best 500 points I've spent on DSiWare so far.

Best Adventure Within the Bowels of a Gigantic Turtle

One of the oldest standbys of cartoons is the classic "inside the body" episode. It always begins with some cheesy method of the characters shrinking down and entering the body of another character, where they have a whole bunch of wacky adventures or learn biology or some crap like that. Whatever the case, it's tired and overdone, with every cartoon from The Magic School Bus to Spongebob Squarepants having done it. Trust Nintendo to look at this tired old story and make the one game we've all secretly desired our entire lives: A game primarily staged within the body of Bowser himself. Truly it is the game to end all games.

Joking aside, Bowser's Inside Story really is a fantastic platformer/RPG hybrid, featuring the greatest parts of the two genres of which it is composed. Classic Nintendo platforming perfected over the last two decades years and the vast and exciting world of role-playing games come together to create the greatest Mario & Luigi series game so far. The writing, battles, storyline and animation are better than ever before, which, compared to the amazing quality of the franchise up to this point, is saying quite a lot. Not only that, but the main boss of the game is probably the best one out of all bosses I've fought this year, whether or not he is, indeed, "beefless".

Best (Hopefully) Fictional Portrayal of Life in 2077
"War. War never changes."

I like to think my later years will be ones of peace, sitting on some lakeside dock and watching the boats go by. I don't like to think of them taking place in times of war, with military jets flying by, troops patrolling the streets, and warships flooding the waters. Thankfully at least one possible timeline leading to this situation is an impossibility, with events causing it having never taken place. For those of us interested in such a timeline, though, there exists the Fallout series. This alteration of history sees 2077 being a time or great strife for the world, with one of the main conflicts centered upon China's invasion of Anchorage, Alaska. This (hopefully) fictional war serves as the premise for Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage.

Upon the discovery of a virtual reality device in the post-war ruins of Washington D.C. (Do keep in mind that this is merely a fictional situation), the group that made the discovery searches long and hard for a person equipped to tackle the brutal game-within-a-game. This person, of course, if the player. What kind of game would it be if it wasn't? The simulation is no mere virtual reality adventure, though, with death having real-world consequences. That's right, folks; "If you die in the game, YOU DIE FOR REAL!". This program is a recreation of the war at Anchorage, and only by fighting their way through this historically-significant battle can the player escape it. Operation: Anchorage is a nice twist on the usual Fallout 3 formula, and it certainly helps add more to the already huge overarching storyline of the franchise. Let's just hope this particular story remains in fiction.

Best Use of Fireworks

Fireworks are always one of the best parts of any major celebration. The bright lights, the vibrant colours, and of course, the loud crack of the explosions. It's bright, pretty and ear-splittingly loud. There's something in it for everybody... Well, except for the shoot 'em up fans, that is. Fireworks are nice, but they lack the action and excitement of games like Xevious, Nanostray and Gradius. And while games like Xevious, Nanostray and Gradius are nice, they lack the Summertime thrills of fireworks. Fireworks are just begging to be put into a shoot 'em up. Begging I say!

Well, the Roman candles need beg no longer, thanks to a little game known as Big Bang Mini. It's the same basic shoot 'em up we've all been playing for years, but with an explosive twist. Forget about rockets and missiles and Photon torpedoes. Nah, the real firepower's in a firecracker. It's all the greatness of classic shoot 'em ups with the wonders of fireworks. Seriously, what more could you want?

Best Game Featuring a Rooster Hat in a Leading Role
"Buck buck bu-gawk!"

Hats are only recently getting the attention they so dearly deserve. Mario's been wearing a hat since day one, but nobody truly appreciates it. Valve noticed the lack of love for hats, and added them to Team Fortress 2 earlier this year. While it was a good step, there just wasn't a rooster hat. They were on the right track with the Pyro's Respectless Rubber Glove, but they stopped just short of paying respect to the hat that deserves it most. It wasn't until Scribblenauts debuted two months later that the rooster hat finally got its break-out role. Simple, elegant, presumably floppy. Clearly it is the hat of the gods!

Also of the gods is the core concept of Scribblenauts. The game's tagline is "Write Anything, Solve Everything", and it just about delivers on both accounts. Not everything can be written (What, no Dromiceiomimus? Well, crap, there goes my Dinosaur Comics reunion!), and some puzzles are so punishingly hard they may as well be impossible, but the game does, in general, pull off what it was advertised to do... If the crummy controls don't result in that marvelous rooster hat plummeting off a cliff. So sure, it's not a perfect game, but dammit, it finally gives the lord of all hats the exposure it deserves!

Best Head-On Collisions
"Vroom vroom, quack quack"

People love car crashes. It's some sort of morbid fascination built into the human mind that, whenever there's a car accident, we just have to go look at it. Just yesterday I saw a white car halfway through the front wall of a dental office while I was riding the bus, and everyone else turned to look. There's just something within a human that makes them need to see these things. What could be better than seeing a car wreck? How about playing a video game where one of the main objectives is to create them? That's exactly what some developers thought years ago, and lo, the Burnout franchise was born.

2008 brought us Burnout Paradise and a few expansions, with 2009 bringing all of those goodies wrapped up in one nice little package. The best package. The Ultimate Box, you could call it. It's all the car-wrecking goodness wrapped up in one convenient disc! With an extensive online mode, a huge virtual city to drive in and more cars than any dealership I've seen, there's no end to the various ways, places and vehicles in which you can get your crunch on. Pack your roll cages and fasten your seatbelts, folks. It's going to be bumpy ride.

Most Wanton Wontons
"Hello, City Wok, may I take your order please?"

Next time you order Chinese food from your local Chinese restaurant, look that delivery man a little closer in the eye. Look out for anything suspicious, because you never know. You local Wok On The Wild Side could very well be a front for the mafia. If that turns out to be the case, what will you do? You could call the police, notify the FBI or, if it comes to it... Order pizza instead. It's a last resort, but sometimes it just has to be done!

In Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the situation above is a reality, but it's okay, because you're on the side with the guns and explosions! Far better than the cold chicken balls and lumpy fried rice, believe me. Chinatown Wars brings the winning Grand Theft Auto formula to the DS for the first time ever, meshing together the gigantic world of Grand Theft Auto IV with the birds-eye view perspective of the original game. It's truly amazing how much they managed to squeeze onto that little game card, and it's a huge shame that so few people got to enjoy it. Come on, people! There's a mission where you play as one of those big Chinese dragons you see in parades. If that's not worth the $20 sticker price, nothing is!

And so ends this year's 11 all-new Golden Duck Awards... But wait, there's more! Notice I said there were 11 new categories... I never said there couldn't be an oldie coming back for one more go! And so, without further delay...

Best Way to Beat the Crap Out of Your Friends Without Getting the Police Involved
"Let's-a go!"

Super Smash Bros. Brawl now hands the legal assault-granting torch to this year's Nintendo masterpiece, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Four-player Mario platforming... Even someone completely unfamiliar with the game should know what kind of chaos such a concept can bring. Oh, the satisfaction of tossing your whiny sibling into a never ending pit. The joys of leaving that annoying family friend to die in the fires of Bowser's castle. And the best part is that it's perfectly legal! If this isn't the best Wii game of the year, nothing is!

...well, I suppose I can't say that just yet. I'll admit, I've only played the first couple worlds of this game, but what I did play was fantastic... And frantic. I still can't decide if it was a good idea for my initial exposure to this game to be in four-person multiplayer. Whatever the case, it was a complete blast, and I'm very much hoping to find it beneath the Christmas tree tomorrow. And if I don't... IF I DON'T GET THIS GAME FOR CHRISTMAS I'LL... I'LL... Eh, I guess I'll play something else.

So ends this year's Golden Duck Awards... For real this time. Another 12 useless, meaningless, overly-specific trophies have been handed out to another 12 more-than-worthy games. That makes 20 total Golden Duck Award recipients. Quite the exclusive group, don't you think? Not a very prestigious group, but certainly exclusive. Do you have any random, pointless awards to bestow upon 2009's finest games? Feel free to have your own merry little awards ceremony in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A bit of news *UPDATE*

The Golden Duck Awards may be a little late this year due to unforeseen delays arising from holiday preparations and the like. The article is currently a little more than half-written, and due to go up tomorrow night. Usually this wouldn't be a problem, but I am going to be very busy tomorrow, and I'm unsure if I'll be able to finish them on time. I will, of course, do my best to do so, but I cannot promise anything.

I'd also like to apologize for the lack of updates so far this month. As I said (And you are no doubt aware of), the holidays are approaching, as well as all the associated work and anticipation associated with them. On the bright side, in addition to this year's Golden Duck Awards, another article is on the way, and should be out by the end of the year.

That being said, it's time for me to get some sleep. I must be off in the morning, and I'd like to be rested for tomorrow's trip. Heck, I'll probably end up sleeping on the subway anyways. Anyways, goodnight, folks. I hope to see y'all later tomorrow.

*UPDATE*: I'm so sorry, but I am just too tired out from the trip to finish the Golden Duck Awards tonight. I'll probably have an hour or so of free time available tomorrow, and I'll do my best to finish things up within that time. Again, I apologize, but continuing to write while barely being able to keep my eyes open just wouldn't make for a very good article, would it? It's generally a better idea to be conscious while writing, I find.

Friday, December 4, 2009

By This Time Next Year: Volume 3

This is but the first of two annual traditions taking place this month. Tune in on the 23rd for the second annual Golden Duck Awards!

Beginning in November 2007 and continued in December 2008, "By This Time Next Year" (Now properly capitalized!) comes back for its third iteration, with past predictions reviewed and a whole new set crafted for the upcoming year. First up, as usual, revisiting those predictions made on December 3rd, 2009!

" least one more console will be added to the North American Virtual Console" = Correct!

Released the same day it was announced, Virtual Console Arcade was added during the 2009 Game Developer's Conference this March, bringing classic arcade games to the living room, bedroom, or wherever the heck you stuck that console!

...Star Fox Wii will have been announced for an early 2010 release (I'm not giving up on this!) = WRONG

I've been posting this one for two years now, and it still hasn't happened. Eh, I give up... Which, of course, means it will now happen.

...the true successor to the DS line of handhelds will have been announced = WRONG

You know, I'm honestly not sure what I was thinking here. It was preposterous to imagine Nintendo doing such a thing. The system's still flying off the shelf like mad, and it would be stupid to stem sales by pushing out a successor. They did release the DSi XL, though, which makes my prediction slightly less inaccurate... Slighty.

...Nintendo still won't have released a true solution to the Wii storage problem = WRONG

This one requires a little backstory for anyone either new to the site or prioritized enough to not bother remembering the ramblings of a random internet weirdo. At the time the previous edition of "By This Time Next Year" was written, Nintendo had announced a solution to the Wii's greatly-limited storage space, but the wording was so cryptic that it sounded as if it solved no problems at all. In reality, though, it appears to have been lost in translation, as the solution did indeed arrive in March 2009 (Same day as Virtual Console Arcade), and it sure did deliver. In short: I misinterpreted a cryptic Japanese press release and made an ass of myself. Next!

...Wii sales will surpass 60 million worldwide = WRONG

Oh, but I was so close! The Wii didn't quite reach that landmark, stopping just short of the predicted number with... Oh, this is painful... 58.37 million, according to (Which I find to be quite accurate, thank you very much). Now this is just crazy. Well... I was close!

...the combined sales of the Nintendo DS, DS Lite and DSi will overtake the Playstation 2's record sales of 140 million+ = WRONG, however, I was slightly less accurate. The DS, DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL (Man there's a lot of them!) came up 23.53 million short at 116.47 million. My predictions aren't faring so well this year, are they?

...Mother 3 will still be landlocked in Japan, without any sort of announcements made for a release outside of its homeland = Correct!

Okay, I admit, this was a bit of a "Well, duh!" prediction, following in the painfully-obvious footsteps of 2007's prediction of "Duke Nukem Forever will remain unreleased." Sadly, Professor Obvious couldn't be here today to cover this prediction, as he's having a stick of chalk removed from... Uh, on second thought, you don't want to know. least two more Pokémon games will have been released (Main series and/or spin-offs) = Correct!

In fact, four have been released since then (Seven if you count the slightly different versions some games were released in)! Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon (WiiWare), and Pokémon Rumble have all seen release since this prediction was made. Oh, that Nintendo and its Pokémon!


And this year's overall prediction accuracy is... Five wrong, three correct. Heck, that's almost the exact opposite of last year's results! Well, perhaps these new predictions will fare better:

...Pikmin 3 will have been formally announced
...Half-Life 2: Episode 3 will have gone another year without any sort of official announcement
...a long-standing, long-since-forgotten Nintendo franchise will make its triumphant return
...Project Natal will have been delayed until 2011
...people will still be erroneously calling the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 "next-generation"
...Mario Party 9 will have been released
...Zelda Wii will have been confirmed for a Summer 2011 release
...yet another same-as-before Call of Duty game will have been released, and people will still be yet to tire of it
...a brand-new Nintendo IP will have been announced
...SEGA will once again bring shame to the Sonic brand

And thus ends the list of predictions for the year of 2010. Hmm... Ten predictions, tenth year of the century... COINCIDENCE?!

...okay, yeah, it's a coincidence. Neat, though. Well then, what do you think of my predictions? Good? Bad? HORRENDOUS? Let your opinion be heard (And maybe even make a few predictions of your own) in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A look at in-game advertising

It used to be that an ad on television would be seen by nearly everyone in a household, but with the emerging popularity of video games, less people are seeing these commercials. Advertisers need to reach their target audience in new ways, and one of these ways is via in-game advertising. By cleverly inserting products and logos into the in-game world, companies can reach a whole new demographic, perhaps even subconsciously. Of course, that is if it's done properly...

As with product placement in television and movies, if done well, I actually like it. It adds more authenticity to the world. I'd rather see a can of Coca-Cola on-screen than a can of "Crazy Cola". There's also brand-name parody (Nuka Cola in the Fallout series, for example), but that's a different story. The point is, if done properly, product placement can increase the believability of a fictional world. If done improperly, though, it just gets annoying.

Two games in my collection stand out most when I think of in-game advertising: Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Far Cry 2. I love both of these games, but I can't deny that the product placement within is a little ridiculous. To start we'll take a look at Most Wanted, which is, in my opinion, the best game so far in the Need for Speed Series.

Infamous among players of Need for Speed: Underground 2 was the Burger King. There was only one, but you were forced to drive by it repeatedly. Just about every race in that part of the city had a stretch of track driving by it, force-fed advertising made even worse if the race had multiple laps. I was relieved to read in an EGM that we could expect "way fewer Burger Kings" in Most Wanted, and I couldn't wait to go out and-

...uh, as I was saying, I cou-


...well, they said we could "expect" fewer Burger Kings... We can also expect to win the lottery. Now, to the game's credit, it's not as if Burger King is dominating the city. There are other products and services advertised in-game (Axe body spray, AutoZone, Cingular, and a few other brands), keeping things somewhat in balance. Burger King does seem to be a little more visible than the other brands, but perhaps I just notice it more due to past experience with Underground 2.

In the end, I suppose it isn't too unrealistic. Companies advertise, stores are built, and products are visible, all in places where they should be. Nothing is pushed in your face, and it feels fairly organic. Of course, there's more brand variety in real life, but Electronic Arts couldn't very well get rights to every product on Earth. I'd say Most Wanted is a moderately-good example of how product placement should be implemented in a game. A bit more subtlety and it'd be perfect.

Next up is Far Cry 2, and this time around the brand in question is Jeep. Randomly spawned along with many other generic-looking trucks and cars are two Jeep vehicles: The Liberty and the Wrangler.

I first saw the Wrangler about two or three hours into the game, and I thought it was pretty neat. Eventually, as a bit of a personal joke, I took to driving the Wrangler exclusively, only driving a different model of car between one Wrangler breaking down and finding another (Yeah, I'm a little weird). It's inclusion made sense to me. It's a rugged vehicle, well-suited to the rough terrain of the nameless African country in which the game takes place. Its abundance was a little questionable, considering the country is also ear-deep in a civil war with little or no planes (And thus, car shipments) landing on local soil. Maybe there's a factory hidden somewhere, and I haven't just found it yet. Probably tucked behind a zebra or something.

As for the Jeep Liberty, it's somewhat more scarce... In the first act of the game. Get into that second act and the associated new world map, though, and the place is freaking CRAWLING with them. One town has a Liberty on practically every corner, and every last one is in near-mint condition. The Liberty is also a more expensive and fancy vehicle than the Wrangler, and I doubt the warring factions care much about how plush the seats are when there's bullets and rocket-propelled grenades whizzing by. It doesn't really seem to fit.

Hey man, did you know this Jeep has a 3.8L V6 engine? Yeah, me either.

Remember towards the beginning of the article when I said that, if done properly, product placement could contribute to the realism of the fictional universe? This isn't an example of this. The Jeeps barely make any sense at all in this setting, and makes a big rift in the believability for me. What are the odds that mint-condition, current-model Jeeps would be so prevalent in a war-torn African country with naught but the most flimsy connections to the outside world? It just doesn't fit at all.

It's kind of funny, really. Ubisoft Montreal worked so hard to craft an incredibly realistic world. They succeeded in many ways, with realistic fire-spreading technology, destructible plant life, weapon degradation and truly impressive graphics. Then along came a sponsor... Yes, I understand, bills need to be paid, and sponsorship can help ease production costs, I just find it funny that they put all this effort into realism, then dump a cargo ship full of brand-new Jeeps into a poor, war-ravaged African country of no title. It also doesn't help that all the enemies are about as smart as a flat tire, but that's another article altogether.

I consider Far Cry 2 to be a poor example of effective and believable product placement. The Jeeps are entirely out of place, and ridiculously common in the second part of the game. Perhaps if they were a little rarer and banged-up it would feel more real, but hey, I don't know what kind of exposure Jeep paid for. In fact, I'm just helping further advertise the product by writing this article. You win this round, Jeep!

With developers focusing more and more on realism these days, it's disappointing to see such poor or non-existent examples of product placement in video games. If a game is to be truly realistic, real products must be present in believable locations and quantities. Without this, games will never truly achieve realism in my eyes. You can have your photo-realistic graphics and destructible environments, but the second that flawlessly-animated background character reaches for a Crazy Cola the whole things comes crashing down.

EDIT: Thanks to Kalava for reminding me of Pikmin 2's product placement, a perfect example of how to do in-game advertising right. The game takes place on Earth, and there are Earth brands in places they belong. Tonnes of them, in fact. Duracell, Carmex, 7UP, Vlasic, Skippy, Snapple, Nintendo and more are inserted into the game world. Some may have sales pitch-like names, such as "Quenching Emblem", but that's the case for all the items found in Pikmin 2, as the eventual intention is to sell them on Olimar's home planet.

There really is nothing wrong to be found in Pikmin 2's implementation of product placement. It's perfectly believable, and done in a way that isn't blatantly screaming "BUY THIS PRODUCT". There's also the likely-unintended humour factor that comes from seeing such things in a Nintendo game. No matter how hard I try, I just can't keep from cracking a smile every time my Pikmin dig up something with a real-world logo on it. It's just so out of the ordinary that it becomes funny somehow.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

My thoughts on the DSi revamp

Sorry for the gap in updates there... Things should be a little better from this point onward.

It was announced earlier today, quite out of nowhere, that there will be yet another DSi model released by the end of this year. Reading the details, I was, at first, feeling a little cheated. I'd just bought my DSi in April, and here they are announcing another one with far bigger screens retailing for the exact same price. I'd be holding my DSi-Mini while other people are walking about with their Mega-DSi systems and enjoying the extra 0.75" of screen (It doesn't sound like much, but it really is). Seems unfair to the millions of DSi owners out there, doesn't it?

Perhaps not. Let's look at the reasoning for this update. As was said ages ago, Nintendo would be using bigger screens in upcoming handhelds to accommodate the poorer eyesight of the elderly. The new DSi's 4.0" screens are sure to be far easier on elderly eyes than that screens of previous systems. There's nothing wrong with this, and in fact, I support it. The more people who get to enjoy gaming, the better.

Another reason given is a little unclear at this point. It's been said that these larger screens will help "expand use for the system to movies and digital books". This is all fine and good, but... The wording makes it seem like this won't be available for the original run of the DSi. Of course, this is coming from a Japanese newspaper, so for all we know, something was lost in translation. Still, it's a little odd that the original article wasn't more specific.

Could these new, bigger screens play host to software incompatible with the older DSi?

Also unclear at this point is whether or not this new model would come with any hardware upgrades. Technology advances at an alarming rate, and it's entirely possible that hardware superior to that included to the DSi would have dropped to an affordable price-point in the last year. Would Nintendo go through with it, though? Releasing DSi-exclusive software is already splitting the industry as is. Making software using the advanced-hardware of this upcoming model would just divide things up further. So while it's possible that this new DSi could sport some faster, more powerful innards, I don't see it as being very likely. Worry not, fellow DSi-owners!

One problem many have mentioned regarding these larger screens is the resolution. Making screens bigger is better, yes, but not if the resolution doesn't increase along with it. Allow me to simplify. The DSi's resolution is 256x192 pixels, spread across a 3.25" screen. If the new DSi's resolution stays the same, it will then be 256x192 pixels spread across a 4.0" screen. Basically, the same image will be stretched further, and it will appear to be of lower quality. Look at the below image for an example (View full-size).

The above image is merely to illustrate the difference. It's not an exact representation.

The screenshot on the left is the same size and resolution as what you'd find on a DSi screen. On the right is the same screenshot enlarged to the dimensions of the new DSi's screen, resulting in pixelation. It's bigger, but not exactly prettier. If Nintendo takes this path with the new DSi, their new customers will be getting bigger screens, but with poorer pictures. Upping the resolution won't change a thing, as DS software is made for 256x192 and nothing bigger. Future software may be adapted to this, providing a higher-resolution image on the new DSi, but the library would be limited, at least at first. So while the larger images would be easier on elderly eyes, younger, sharper-eyed players would notice the pixelation.

The bottom line is that this new DSi wasn't made with everyone in mind. It was made for the elderly. Less of a broad market, yes, but a valid market nonetheless. Chances are that this new DSi will be exactly like the ones in millions of hands around the world at this moment, but with larger, pixel-enlarging screens. Also, if they don't upgrade the hardware, there's no reason owners of the original DSi can't get in on the movie and digital book action, removing the possibility that owners of the new model will be receiving exclusive features. Rest easy, DSi owners, for it seems your recent handheld investment is safe. Even if it does turn out to be better, it will only be marginally so, and hardly worth worrying about. Those out there considering buying a DSi should put a hold on those plans for a bit to see how things play out, but everyone else can relax. Whatever the outcome, we'll still have one of the best damn handhelds ever made, and that's nothing to be sad about.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hello? Anyone there?

This break lasted a little longer than I intended... I really hit one hell of a writer's block back there. Right now I have, oh, five or so unfinished articles sitting around. I just couldn't figure out what to write. Well, until today, as there's a new article right below this one! Really! No, I'm not kidding! Look! It's alright, I'll wait!


See? Bizarre, huh? Yes, I know it's not the longest update, but more extensive articles are on the way.

Now then, as for future updates, I hope to have something posted every week, with the occasional "bonus" update once in a while. As I said in the last post before this break, upon their return, polls and banners won't be weekly. They'll just change about whenever a new topic comes along. Having to change it every week led to lackluster topics, and I really try to avoid anything that can be described as "lackluster". It's not a pretty word.

One last thing. If you look below the banner (Below the ads if you don't have AdBlock), you may see some new randomly-selected text floating about. I decided to add a few random non-sequiturs during the last two and a half months. See, I wasn't being completely useless! ...just mostly! Anyways, there's 29 of them now, with more being added whenever something occurs to me. Catch 'em all!

For those of you still here, I thank you! All two of you! For anyone who has left, I hope you return. And for anyone visiting for the first time... Read the archives while I get things back up to speed, okay?

One Duck's Opinion: Dead No More!

The worst jobs in gaming

Just about everyone has some sort of complaint about their job. Idiot co-workers, a boss that expects too much, insufficient pay, laughable health coverage... The list goes on. It just can't get any worse, can it? You'd think so, but then you look at some of the jobs some video game characters have to deal with. You're the lucky one. Chances are your job is nowhere near as bad as some of the stuff listed below. What better way to make yourself feel better than to look at what some other jerks have to do for a living, virtual or not? Sit back, relax, and read all about these poor souls who would gladly trade their profession of depression for a more calming career.

Gym Leader

As seen in: Pokémon
Why it sucks: You dedicate your whole life to becoming a powerful Pokémon trainer, leading to the day when you prove yourself to the Pokémon League and become a certified Gym Leader. After all this work, what awaits you?

Defeat. Constant, never-ending defeat. Due to some stupid Pokémon League rule, you're restricted to fighting with only one type of Pokémon. Being restricted to one type, and even being advertised as such, trainers know just what to bring to the battle to counter you. It's a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, except you can only ever pick Scissors, and your foes always choose Rock... Or Fire... Or Water... You know, depending on your "specialty".

What's more, Gym Leaders are very rarely permitted to even leave the building. Whether it's the afternoon on a Wednesday, midnight on a Sunday, or even frigging Christmas morning, you're pretty much stuck there for your whole life. Happy birthday, now get to work!

Stuck in a stinking building forever, constantly getting your ass-kicked by 11-year-olds... What could possibly be worse? Well, how about the fact that, after all your hard work to be powerful, you're stuck fighting with a team of three crappy, low-level Pokémon? Goodbye LV.85 Blastoise, hello LV.12 Geodude. If that isn't the biggest kick in the nuts since you learned you had to go by the pun-tastic moniker "Brock", nothing is.

Police Officer
As seen in: Grand Theft Auto and all games like it
Why it sucks: Police officers save lives, put criminals behind bars, and eat a whole whackload of donuts. It's a pretty sweet deal... In the real world. Take that cop in the video game world, though, and he'll be dead before you can say "Officer down!".

On the job hazards for Liberty City police officers are numerous to say the least. Shootings: Check. Explosions: Check. Traffic fatalities: Check A flaming car landing on you after falling from an overpass which then explodes (The car, not the overpass) and causes a chain-reaction of exploding vehicles all down the crowded avenue, all while being shot at: Check.

It's not as if the higher-ups have much faith in you, either. You're patrolling the streets of the most violent city in the country, and what equipment do you receive? A handgun, a flimsy patrol car, and minimal armour. This so isn't worth $15/hour. Further minimizing your importance to the police chief is how he seems to have the SWAT team on speed dial. It's as if he knows you're not going to be able to do it on your own. No matter, he'll be dead soon, too.

With all of this said, I can think of one upside to the job: You never have to worry about affording your retirement. I hear Cluckin' Bell is hiring...

As seen in: Pretty much every RPG ever
Why it sucks: Congratulations, mayor! The people made their choice, and it was you. Okay, party's over, now let's get to work. The roads are full of potholes, educational funding is abysmal, and a gigantic monster just ate the entire industrial sector. Would you like a coffee?

In pretty much every RPG known to man, some town gets destroyed, or at least heavily damaged. From Mideel in Final Fantasy VII to Trodain in Dragon Quest VIII, a city randomly gets completely screwed over. Causes vary, but it happens. Sometimes it's a monster, other times it's an explosion, and other times it's a curse of some sort. Whatever the case, you'll probably be wishing you didn't win that election.

On the off-chance that you survive the destruction, you'll probably get blamed for whatever caused it. Chances are you had no part in the catastrophe, nor were you at all capable of preventing it. Nonetheless, every mayor should make room in the funding for some body armour.

If you still want to be mayor, though, go ahead, I won't stop you. Just make sure to keep an eye out for any gigantic monsters on the horizon, always have your luggage ready to go, and keep a scapegoat in mind (I'm partial to the finance minister).

If, after reading this article, you still feel your job is crap, please get in contact with me. I've always wanted to meet Mike Rowe.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gee, I bet nobody saw this one coming

As if you hadn't noticed, nothing's happened here in over a month, save for some poll results (The latest of which are slapped on the end of this post) and crummy five-second banners. Not exactly activity-central around here.

Long story short, I've just had no will to write. Ideas? Oh, I have some ideas. I just can't freaking write them. Hell, I'm finding it hard enough to write this. Well, let's get it over with...

I'm taking a break. Yeah, I know, I've technically been "Taking a break" for the past month, but this is different. There will be no new polls or banners until further notice. Posts will commence... Well, they'll actually resume whenever I feel able to write. Could be as soon as this weekend and as far away as next month. I don't know. Things WILL resume, though. I am NOT abandoning this blog. I haven't been doing this for two years just to quit now.

Stepping back quickly to address the matter of banners, for now I've tossed up the basic logo as the banner. In fact, I think I'll leave it like this, at least until I think of a new "generic" banner to take its place. Not that anyone's really looking at it anyways...

So that's how things will be. Notice how I didn't once use that dirtiest of words... "Hiatus". I hate that word. It always ends up meaning "Yeah, it's basically over, you can leave now". That's not what's going to happen here. This is not a hiatus. This is a break. Similar? Yes. Precisely the same thing? Not in my eyes.

How will I be using this time, you may ask? I'll be catching up on my gaming. Hopefully, when I return, this will provide a nice wave of reviews to kick things off once again. As of now, I'm approaching the "review point" on about three different games, hopefully indicating a return sooner rather than later. Let's hope this proves true!

Finally, what will things be like when posting resumes? To be brief, they'll be sporadic. Some weeks there may be four posts, and others there may be nothing at all. It all depends on inspiration and presence/absence of a writer's block. Also, polls and banners are likely to remain absent for a while, since, to be quite honest, there's been nothing at all to make a banner/poll about. Maybe I'll turn to monthly banners and polls instead, sort of like what I've Never Liked Your SpinachPuffs did before it went on... *Shudders* Hiatus.

Well, that's it, I guess. I'll see you all later!

Oh, and here's those poll results in case you still feel like reading after all that.

Poll #97: "DS Lite or DSi: Which do you prefer?"

"DS Lite" 2 votes (14%)
"DSi" 8 votes (57%)
"I like them both equally" 2 votes (14%)
"I don't know" 2 votes (14%) know, this is somewhat ironic, but... Writing this has made me feel more like, well, writing. Looks like things may resume soon after all! Until then, folks!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poll #96: "What do you think of Wii MotionPlus so far?" results, no new banner, additional textual screen-filler

"It's amazing!" 2 votes (11%)
"I like it" 2 votes (11%)
"I don't like it" 0 votes (0%)
"It's terrible!" 1 votes (5%)
"I'm indifferent/don't know yet" 1 vote (5%)
"I haven't tried it yet" 11 votes (64%)

I'm surprised so many people haven't tried it out yet! Well, at least those who have tried it seem to enjoy it. Except for that one guy... What's his deal?

As for this week's banner... There isn't one! I figure almost nobody saw it last week anyways, so why replace it? Also, I'm tired.

Moving along to this week's poll, the question is "DS Lite or DSi: Which do you prefer?" Both systems have their advantages, but what's your preference? To be honest, I can't pick one. I hope most other voters are more decisive than me!

Now, about the utter lack of activity here... I'm feeling much better now, so things will certainly be picking up very soon. I will write something this week, no question about it. Just not now, because it's 2:32 AM. But soon!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Poll #95: "Do you prefer 2D or 3D platformers?" results, banner, a word on recent activity

"2D" 7 votes (36%)
"3D" 5 votes (26%)
"I can't decide" 7 votes (36%)
"I'm not into platformers" 0 votes (0%)

It seems that those who aren't indifferent tend to lean in the direction of 2D. I guess you just don't forget those early days of Super Mario Bros.!

This week's banner is based on that funky-fresh Zelda concept art the internet has been chewing on for the last month. Is she the living version of the Master Sword? Or is she maybe the queen of the fairies? Hell if I know... Or care. I just want the damn game!

For this week's poll, the question is "What do you think of Wii MotionPlus so far?" It's been out for a little while now, so those who've picked it up probably have quite a bit of play time to base an opinion off of. Personally, I'm waiting until Wii Sports Resort, so I can't really say. Perhaps you have had a chance to give it a go, and if you have, let everyone know how you feel! And if you'd like to elaborate on your choice, you can always drop a comment!

Now, you've no doubt noticed that preceding this poll results post is another poll results post... Preceded by another (Not counting that little paragraph in between). To put it briefly (And to spare you all the details), I've been unwell lately. I've been unable to concentrate on much the last little while, including my love of gaming. And when I'm not gaming, I'm not coming up with article ideas. I'm feeling somewhat better as of today, but I've got a little ways to go before I'm back to normal. Don't worry, folks, I wasn't in some sort of crippling car accident and I don't have cancer or anything. It's just a... Well, I suppose you could say it's a condition I have. Nothing deadly, nothing like that, relax. Just something I'll have to deal with over the next little while.

As I said, I've been feeling a little better, so I would expect I'll have something written and posted soon. Don't expect anything big, but it'll be something. Hopefully I can keep things running smoothly from there. Now, though, I'd better be getting my sleep. See you all again soon... Sort of. I really don't actually see any of you ever. Awkwaaaaaaaard...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poll #94: "What do you think of Chinatown Wars being ported to the PSP?" results, banner

"This is terrible news!" 1 votes (4%)
"I'm kinda miffed" 4 votes (19%)
"I don't really care" 11 votes (52%)
"Sounds good to me!" 2 votes (9%)
"About damn time!" 0 votes (0%)
"Wait, what?!" 3 votes (14%)

It seems the majority of voters didn't really care, and now that I think about it a week after the announcement, I suppose I don't really care, either. Also, not to sound fanboyish, but I think the DS version will end up the superior game in the end. Those touch-controlled mini-events really added so much to the experience, a feature I doubt a wider screen can replace.

This week's banner is based on the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. Wii for... Well, the Wii. I think the screenshot used in the banner perfectly shows what this game will be: Old-school platforming fun with three friends joining in on the action. And it looks glorious.

This week's poll is simple question of opinion: "Do you prefer 2D or 3D platformers?". I really can't decide, personally. I've had so much fun with both sides of the coin!

No idea when the next article will be up. I have a few ideas, I just don't know when I'll get the chance to write them. Thursday, perhaps?

New poll and banner tomorrow

Way too tired to do it tonight. Garry's Mod is eating my life again. This post will probably be deleted in a matter of hours, so if you see it, well, hooray for you, I guess.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Poll #93: "Which of the three motion controllers seems best to you?" results, banner

"Wii remote (With MotionPlus)" 7 votes (33%)
"Project Natal" 3 votes (14%)
"The PS3 motion controller" 4 votes (19%)
"They all seem great" 6 votes (28%)
"They all suck" 0 votes (0%)
"I don't know" 1 votes (4%)

Wii MotionPlus swept the competition, taking 33% of the votes. This win was no doubt partially helped by the MotionPlus being so much more "real" to us all, what with it already being in the market, and having tonnes of consumer and media reviews behind it. The competition's controllers look promising, of course, but they both still seem more like "proof of concept" than a real control style as of now. Like the flying car and man walking on Mars, it's something many will have to see before truly appreciating and believing. Or in this case, referring back to what Reggie Fils-Aime said in 2006, "Playing = Believing".

This week's banner is in celebration of The Conduit, High Voltage's Wii-exclusive shooter launching mere hours from now. With nearly every media outlet praising its name, it's hard not to get excited. I've already got tomorrow all planned out!

Finally, for this week's poll, the question concerns a recent bit of news. Apparently, Rockstar wasn't happy with how Chinatown Wars performed on the DS (Can't say I blame them), and decided to port it over to the PSP (Short for Playstation PORT-able, amirite?). While I can see why they decided to do this (GTA sells like mad on Playstation-brand systems), it still makes me a little mad. Just when I thought Rockstar was proving how much they cared about the Nintendo fanbase, they turn around not four months later and announce it's headed to the PSP. So much for the DS having its own little slice of the pie... I guess I'll write more about this later, but back to the poll, I now ask you: "What do you think of Chinatown Wars being ported to the PSP?", and don't be afraid to elaborate on your feelings in the comment section.

That's it for now, folks. I may get writing a bit more later tonight, so look out for that. Until then, keep on gamin'!

Friday, June 19, 2009

DSi firmware update ideas

The DSi is a great handheld for those willing to make the investment (More details in my review), but there are a few minor shortcomings noticeable in the system's built-in software. It used to be that, when a console shipped with problems like this, it was stuck that way for good. That's no longer the case, though, as the DSi's firmware can be updated much like the Wii's, allowing features to be added and existing software to be tweaked. As of yet, Nintendo hasn't even hinted at an upcoming firmware update for the DSi, but that hasn't stopped me from brainstorming the possibilities. Following are a few ideas I've thought up that would make the DSi that much more great.

SD card compatibility similar to that of the Wii since Wii Menu 4.0

I was really getting annoyed earlier this year. I had to keep deleting games off of my Wii's internal memory, redownloading ones I wanted to play again, and performing the mind-numbingly long task of shuffling others to the SD card and back. Finally, Nintendo delivered with Wii Menu 4.0, allowing lightning-fast play of WiiWare and Virtual Console games stored on the SD card. Since then, all's been good...

...but a similar problem may soon be arising with the DSi. It was recently found out that, if you've downloaded all the DSiWare software available, your DSi is officially full. Of course, much of what's on DSiWare right now is, well, crap, but that could surely change in the near future. In the last few weeks alone, Mighty Flip Champs and Mario VS Donkey Kong: Minis March Again have appeared on the DSiStore, and many more titles are on their way. Eventually we're going to run out of space for it all. Sadly, unlike the Wii, the DSi lacks the ability to directly run software off of an SD card... for now. Surely Nintendo could do the same thing on the DSi as they did on the Wii? Since I see no reason why not, yes, they can do it... And don't call me Shirley*.

Pause gameplay and access the main menu

You're sitting on a park bench, playing a good round of Fire Emblem, when all of a sudden you look up and see a hawk perched on the tree nearby. But you left your camera at home, and your cell phone's recharging! Well, you could just tap the power button and return to the main menu... But that would mean losing your progress in that round of Fire Emblem (And you were doing pretty damn well, too!). Well, it's either that, or miss an awesome picture of a hawk. Decisions!

This wouldn't be a problem, though, if you could just pause the game and jump back to the main menu. Like minimizing a program on a computer, you could duck out, take a pic, and jump right back in. The way I see this working out (Mind you, I'm no tech-expert, so stop me if this isn't feasible) is the game just pausing as usual while the picture's being taken. In fact, this may even be what Nintendo was planning all along. The DSi 16MB of RAM, four times as much as any previous DS model. RAM dictates how much a computer can do at once, and it's sure to be the same with the DSi. With 4MB being taken up by the game, that leaves 12MB to do whatever we want. Surely that's enough to handle taking a simple picture? Theoretically, yes, it is enough... And stop calling me Shirley*.

Now, the next question is, how would this function be accessed? Every button on the DSi is already taken... So why not make it replace the one-tap-to-the-menu function of the Power Button? Instead of a single tap taking you directly to the menu, a window would pop up asking what you want to do: Pause the game and access the menu; shut down the game, lose all progress and access the menu; or simply cancel and return to the game.

A final problem arises with upcoming, unknown software... Nintendo can't have put all that extra RAM just for the sake of this function. Upcoming, more hardware-intensive games are coming, and they'll be using higher amounts of the DSi's RAM. When it comes to this, my system outlined above won't be possible (That is, if it wasn't already rendered impossible by my lack of tech knowledge. Experts, feel free to chime in!). When games like these come along, I propose a new function: A quick-save feature built in to all software... And really, that's all there is to it. Just a quick-save feature. Why don't all handheld games have this already, anyway? It's a portable console, for crying out loud, we should be able to save and quit whenever we need! Pick-up-and-play, people!

MP3 support on DSi Sound, and a playlist feature for music

No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to get any AAC file loaded on an SD card to play on my DSi (Click here, hit Ctrl+F and punch in "Continuing along" for more). With so many hoops to jump through, there's probably somewhere along the way where I made a mistake. Why not just cut all the crap and put MP3 support in there? Post an updated DSi Sound Channel on the DSiStore, charge 200 points to cover the format licensing fee, and we're in business. That's all there is to it.

Sadly, I doubt this will happen. Nintendo seems to be running away from the MP3 format for no reason, straight into the land of AAC. Makes no sense. Whether or not this becomes a reality, though, I still want the following feature to be implemented: Playlists. As it is, audio files can only be played one by one, and in order to change to the next one, we have to fiddle about with the touchscreen. Doesn't exactly make for easy-playing of our music, does it? I know, DSi Sound is more meant for messing around with sounds and stuff than replacing a separate music player, but if the possibility for improvement is there, why not go for it? Toss in the MP3 format (Just do it, dammit), slap a 200 point price tag on it and label it "DSi Sound 2.0". Money in the bank!

Increased volume control sensitivity

I do a lot of my gaming at night when everyone else is asleep. When I was using my DS Lite, I usually had little trouble using the volume slider to find an appropriate volume level that was both loud enough for me to clearly hear yet quiet enough so as to not disturb my family. With the DSi, though, the slider is out, the buttons are in, and my ideal volume level is between two of the settings. The one below it is too quiet, the one above it is too loud, and I really don't like gaming with headphones (No idea why, I just don't). I've heard other people complain about the different volume levels, too, so I know I'm not alone on this. It can't be that hard to just make each press of the button adjust the volume less, so go on and do it, Nintendo!

Easier main-menu image viewing

I take a lot of pictures with my DSi, since I usually have it handy. When I want to go show off those pictures, though, it's a bit of a pain. After starting up the system, I then have to navigate to the DSi Camera channel, select the Album option, wait for the first image to load, then wait for the next image to load, and so on... When right on the main menu I can see one of my many photos. So why not just let me shuffle through them on the main menu?

I'm suggesting a button for the lower screen, maybe called "Random Image". Tap it, and the photo on the top screen would randomly switch to a different one. Of course, this would only select images you'd labeled to show on the upper screen, so that random picture you took of a door but forgot to delete won't be popping up. Surely this can't be very hard to implement (You should know where this is going by now)?

What do you think of my ideas? Are they great? Stupid? Technically impossible? All of the above (I don't doubt someone will find a way to make that possible)? Have your say in the comment section, or in this thread.

*You there. Watch Airplane. NOW.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Poll #92: "What did you think of E3 2009?" results, banner

"It was amazing!" 10 votes (37%)
"I thought it was good" 16 votes (59%)
"It wasn't good or bad" 0 votes (0%)
"I didn't like it much" 0 votes (0%)
"It was awful!" 1 vote (3%)
"I don't know" 0 votes (0%)

Good to see that the reactions were generally positive. For the person who said it was awful... What exactly was so bad about it? Was a lack of Zelda and Pikmin 3 info really that big of a deal to you? Well, I guess you really just can't please everyone.

As I said in my last post here, I'd be spending a lot of time chilling out by screwing around in Team Fortress 2. While screwing around, I happened upon an interesting killcam image, and decided to incorporate it into this week's banner. So then, I present to you some incredibly angry BLU Heavy, in all his glowing glory*.

Next up comes this week's poll. Announced at E3 two weeks ago were motion-based alternatives to the 360 and PS3 controllers, no doubt attempting to tap into the expanded audience the Wii remote brought in. Also showcased at E3 (And released the week after) was the Wii MotionPlus, a little device that grants an incredible amount of precision to the Wii remote's motion capabilities. The question is, "Which of the three motion controllers seems best to you?". Personally I think the MotionPlus sounds best, mainly from reactions coming from those who have used it (I've yet to pick up one for myself). What's your take on the situation?

Those two matters aside, we turn to the main part of this blog: Articles. When will a new one finally surface? I'm not making any promises, but I think I can get something written and posted within the next few days. It may not be an epic-length essay or anything like that, but rest assured I'll do my best to get something on the front page in the next few days. For now, though, I'd better get to sleep. Here's hoping my plan holds out!

*For anyone unfamiliar with Team Fortress 2, when invulnerable, a Heavy will sometimes say "Now is coward killing time!". The text in the banner is based on this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Well, so much for that.

Back on this blog's second "birthday", I said the following:

May those droughts be a thing of the past, and the one thing to be left behind in this new year!

As you can tell by the fact I haven't written anything other than poll results in over a week, I've failed utterly at leaving that behind. Not for a lack of trying, though, as I have seven article fragments sitting in wait, but I just can't figure out how to finish them. In short, I have author's constipation, or rather, writer's block (Take your pick). I suppose it could be worse, though. Chris Livingston hasn't updated in four weeks. Let's just pray I get over my writer's block in a more timely manner!

I won't make any promises as to when the words will start flowing again, but rest assured I'll be doing my best to restore activity... As I frag people in Team Fortress 2. While some people take showers to clear their minds, I'm the guy who's decloaking behind them and pulling out my knife. "PEEK-A-BOO!"

Friday, June 5, 2009

Poll replacement, new banner

Well, that poll was a bust, garnering only seven votes. It sure isn't easy making a poll referring to an event that will still work after said event. Instead of attempting to gauge overall thoughts based on seven votes this Monday, I'll just be replacing the poll with a new one, and letting it run straight through until the 15th. Now then, the question is "What did you think of E3 2009?" Simple, yes? Personally, I was pleased with what I saw. Nintendo fans got Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Metroid: Other M and the long-awaited Golden Sun DS. That's plenty enough for me to consider this a good week.

Now then, for this week's banner, the subject is Super Mario Galaxy 2, one of the games announced on Tuesday. The original Galaxy was an incredibly fun adventure that was downright beautiful to boot. If the image used in the banner is any indication, Galaxy 2 will be carrying on both traditions.

As with the poll, this banner will remain up until the 15th. Now then, with this taken care of, I'll get to work on a few article ideas I have floating about. Expect one (Or more!) to appear later today or over the weekend.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Super Mario Galaxy 2 logo: Slapped together in a hurry?

This is just a little something I had to toss out there. Make sure to check below for two other articles written today!

When randomly taking a look at the above logo (I do that sometimes), I noticed something strange. You can't really make it out in the above image due to Blogger having a size limit for uploaded pictures, so I've posted below a narrower scope of the image, allowing its full-quality to be uploaded.

Now, you're probably going to have to full-view this image to see what I see. Look at how clear and crisp the lines on the 2 are... Are how utterly blurry and low-res the letter above it is. It looks like someone just slapped a two on a slightly blown-up copy of the Galaxy logo.

Of course, I'm not suggesting any sort of conspiracy by this. It was on the stage, so it's real, no doubt. I'm just saying it seems that this was put together in a hurry. The only thing it could possibly indicate is that "Super Mario Galaxy 2" is merely a title-in-progress, and that the game will sport a name much more suiting of its pedigree in the end, because, let's face it, a "2" on the end of a game title is a pretty lame name for a sequel. Let's get some artistic flair in that bad boy! A game like this is deserving of so much more than a lame "2" to set it apart from its predecessor.

Discuss This Finding On The Forums

Nintendo's E3 2009 press conference: Recap, commentary and observations

Don't forget to check the article below this for a rundown of how my predictions fared!

After last year's E3, people had lost much of their faith in Nintendo. The script was pretty crummy, the announcements were sparse, and what was announced (Animal Crossing: City Folk) wound up being somewhat underwhelming when it landed in stores that November. Surely this E3 would have to be better than last year's event... Right?

The first game shown (After a brief bit of sales talk) is one we saw coming thanks to that loose-lipped Japanese newspaper; New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the name of this new side-scrolling adventure for the Wii. Stylistically very similar to the New Super Mario Bros. game on the DS, players can play as Mario, Luigi, or different-coloured Toads. Nothing was said on the subject of other playable characters, but I wouldn't be surprised to see more join in on the fun.

The multiplayer aspect of the game is seamlessly integrated with the single player, with people free to come and go as they please. This new mode is both competitive and cooperative, much like what you'd see in the Four Swords games in terms of player interaction. Whenever someone dies, a bubble appears on screen containing them. If other, living players are inclined to do so, they can pop the bubble and free their allies/foes and continue along. Although they didn't say, I'd assume that if all four die without freeing a bubble-encased player, the level ends. The same probably occurs when all players exhaust their supply of free lives. An additional way players can work together is picking eachother up on their shoulders and carrying them around. This comes into play with the following power-up...

One new ability was shown off in the demonstration, and that was the Propeller Suit. From what I could see, players can save themselves when falling by activating the propeller and whisking themselves to safety. It can also be used mid-jump to add a bit more height to a leap. If a player without a Propeller Suit grabs another play who has one, they can be flown around as a passenger. A neat little touch, gently forcing players to work together if need be.

In the official trailer, another new power-up is shown off: The Penguin Suit (Not an official name, just what I've dubbed it). Acting sort of like an Antarctic Hammer Bros. Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3, the Penguin Suit gives the wearer the ability to toss about snowballs at his or her enemies. So far, this and the Propeller Suit are the only known power-ups, but seeing more wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Not much else is known about New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but if the DS game was any indication, it's sure to be a classic side-scroller with enough content to keep people busy for a good while. New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be available worldwide this holiday season.

Directly following that was the announcement of the other game leaked by Nikkei: Wii Fit Plus. Despite its name, it doesn't seem to use the Wii MotionPlus at all. In fact, it still uses just the Balance Board and Wii remote, with no new peripheral or anything attached to it. Several new modes are the draw this time around, with different work outs designed to focus on different parts of the body.

Also new are 15 minigames, from a platformer-like distraction to what Cammie Dunaway referred to as "Brain Age for your behind". Yup. It's Butt Age (See below).

Wii Fit Plus doesn't look to bring a whole lot to the table in terms of new content, instead serving as more of a, well, a Wii Fit Plus. Anyone who has yet to get into the craze (Such as myself) should probably just wait for this to hit shelves this fall, sold in two packages: With a Balance Board (For newcomers like myself), or without (For Wii Fit owners looking for a little more).

After this, Reggie appeared on stage to show off the Wii MotionPlus (I know, I was expecting more sales talk, too). After talking a bit about how revolutionary and accurate the device is, he handed the show over to Bill Trinen, who proceeded to demonstrate for us a few parts of Wii Sports: Resort.

To begin, Bill Trinen started off at the first part of the game players will experience: Skydiving to the resort island. By twisting and turning the Wii remote (With MotionPlus) in the air, players can make their Mii do all sorts of moves, and even grab a hold of other sky divers and create formations in the air. This little beginning level is a perfect way to introduce the player to the abilities of the Wii MotionPlus, but like this is merely the start of the game, this is also merely the start of the new peripheral's abilities.

In the archery game, the Wii remote is held pointing up, with its back facing away from the player. The Nunchuk takes the role of the player's other hand (Which one depends on the player's hand dominance). Aiming is achieved by moving the Wii remote around, and this is where it gets cool. Even though the IR sensor is pointed straight at the ceiling, the Wii MotionPlus can still determine where on the screen the back of the remote is "pointed" at. Bill moved it around in space in front of him, and the way it was matched so perfectly on screen almost made me forget there's no IR camera on the bottom of the controller.

After this, Bill called Reggie back on stage to demonstrate the basketball free-throw game. By holding their hands above their head as if holding a basketball, with the Wii remote in the "throwing" hand, the two of them managed to have a nice, fun and challenging round of free-throws, with Reggie barely edging out Bill by sinking a "money ball" worth extra points. I'm no fan of basketball (And as such probably just used horrible terminology), but I must admit I'm excited for this part of the game. It looks challenging, yet fulfilling, and truly shows off the scope of the MotionPlus' abilities.

Wii Sports: Resort looks like an excellent sequel to the Wii game that started it all, and I'm quite looking forward to getting my hands on it on July 26th.

After this, a string of trailers for already-known games began to play. Final Fantasy: Crystal Bearers (With some pretty crummy voice actors, sadly), Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Mario & Luigi 3: Bowser's Inside Story (Excellent title) all went by, followed up by a trailer for something no feasible reach of the imagination could have possibly foretold...

Oh, people dreamed about it and people hoped for it, but I don't think anyone ever truly believed it would ever happen. Now, I never played the first two games personally, so I don't know a whole lot about the significance of any people shown in the trailer, but I can say that it featured some truly beautiful graphics. Screenshots really don't do it justice, so be sure to check out the trailer on Youtube.

A string of less-significant announcements followed, with stuff like Style Savvy (Localization of Girl's Mode), James Patterson Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion (Sort of an interactive novel based on the book) and C.O.P. The Recruit (An actually somewhat cool, GTA-style cop game from Ubisoft). Following this was a bit of shilling in the DSi's direction, and the announcement of Flipnote Studio (The localized name for Moving Memo Pad). Following this was the announcement of an all new game: Mario VS Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!

The third title in the Mario VS Donkey Kong series, Minis March Again! looks to consist entirely of user-created content shared over the Nintendo WiFi Connection. Going along with this is a level editor said to be even more robust than that of the previous game, giving the player an insane amount of space to work in and many additional tools and traps.

Now, what's the coolest part of this? Mario VS Donkey: Minis March Again! is exclusively for DSiWare. That's right; Nintendo is finally throwing their weight behind the fledgling DSiShop, and Mario VS Donkey: Minis March Again! will be debuting their on June 8th. Once again, you're not misreading this; This game is coming out next week! Sometimes digital distribution can be an amazing thing, huh? No price point has yet to be announced, but I'm expecting it to fall in the "800+" price range, possibly becoming the first game to actually be of a "+" price.

Following this are three more less-notable presentations; WarioWare: Made in Ore is to be called Wario Ware: DIY in North America, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is once again shown off (No new information), and they announce that we'll soon be able to upload our DSi pictures directly to Facebook.

After the above, Iwata appears on stage and begins to say how many people on Earth are playing games these days and how Nintendo has enlightened millions to the wonders of gaming. Basically sales talk in disguise. Iwata then turns to something new...

...another peripheral? But... I thought we were through with such things! Oh well, maybe it'll be something coo-What? It's a glorified heartrate monitor?

...I'm honestly speechless here. Apparently, so was Iwata, as he basically told us that it monitors our blood pressure as we play to gauge how we're reacting to it... Or something. He was being incredibly vague. My guess is this is still waaaaaay in the experimental stages, making it a mystery as to why they chose to show it off today.

At this point I'm pretty blown away by all the announcements (Excluding the previous one). Although I wasn't thinking it at the time, I'd probably have been alright with it if they decided that was enough for today and ended the conference. But they still had at least one more ace up their sleeve, and that was...

Super Mario Galaxy 2, a sequel to what is probably the Wii's greatest game yet. This was just crazy to me. After hearing of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I was sure that the major Mario-related news had wrapped up for the day. I was gladly shown otherwise. Although no story details explaining why have surfaced yet, Mario is once again taking off into space, but this time he's got a friend in the cold depths of nothingness: Yoshi, mashing together dinosaurs and intergalactic adventure in a way I never imagined could qualify as not cheesy. Dinosaurs in space: Only Nintendo could make that work.

Yoshi seems far-improved from his last 3D platforming appearance in Super Mario Sunshine, though, gaining a Super Mario World-style ability to eat fruit and take on new powers and colour schemes. When turned orange, Yoshi gains Sonic-like super-speed, and turning blue causes him to blow up like a balloon then deflate, floating into the air and taking Mario to new heights.

Many other enhancements seem to have been made to the formula from Mario's first space adventure, with actual planet-sized planets and a new drill item showing up in the trailer. Also appearing in the trailer was a Super Mario Bros. 3-style "giant" galaxy, featuring humongous Goombas and blimp-sized blocks. Now who says you can't build on perfection?

Nintendo is expanding upon a winning formula here, and I have every reason to believe that this will be an amazing addition to the Super Mario Galaxy universe (No pun intended). Super Mario Galaxy 2 is currently slated for a vague "2010" release.

Bringing us back to Earth after the previous announcement (Okay, pun intended that time), Nintendo turns to showcasing a few mature third-party Wii efforts; The Conduit, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles and Dead Space: Extraction all get their time on the big screen. I'm glad to see Nintendo pushing third-party Wii software. It's a lesson they've done well to learn after the N64 and Gamecube days!

After this, I thought, the show's bound to be over. A goodbye from Reggie, a final wave, and the lights go off. That's what I thought. That's not what happened. Instead, Nintendo announces that their partnership with Team Ninja has begun to pay off, and that the two have been working together on an established Nintendo franchise. First thought: Zelda. The trailer starts, and I see waves. Okay, so it's Wind Waker... Wait, that was just the Team Ninja signature. Whoops. So now we're in deep space, floating through a debris field. Oh my god, it's got to be Star Fox! Wait, who's this? Some woman in a space station? That's not Star Fox at all... Some commander-like guy asks her a question and OH MY GOD IT'S A NEW METROID.

Samus is back, but this isn't a first-person shooter. It's more of an action platformer, similar to Ninja Gaiden (A Team Ninja product). But in space, and with an arm cannon, so by default it's infinitely superior (Nerd alert). Freed from the restraints of first-person shooters, Samus now takes matters into her own hands... Literally. I mean, look below.

She has a freaking space lizard in a headlock. That's just plain badass. Samus is now able to punch the crap out of things, as well as shoot them. If that alone doesn't make this game awesome enough for you, watch this trailer and try not to smile. Go ahead, I'll wait...

...finished? Did you smile? Damn straight you smiled. And did you hear that at the end? She spoke. Samus talks now. She's probably the only silent protagonist I ever wanted to see go vocal (Except maybe Gordon Freeman, he's gotta have tonnes to say), and here it is. I really have to get my hands on that Metroid Prime Trilogy when it comes out and get back into the universe of Metroid. I've got to be ready for when it lands next year!

After this, Reggie takes the stage once more. What, he's announcing more? Stop, you're going to kill me! Well, I'm alive, so I guess that tells you no more announcements were made. And now, after all these surprises and revelations, the conference finally comes to a close. Looking back on it as a whole, I'd have to say this was definitely in the same league as the 2007 presentation, and nearly up there with the 2006 showing. If you honestly came away from this conference disappointed, I'm sorry, but I don't think you'll ever be satisfied. Nintendo delivered today, and they've shown that us gamers that have been with them for all these years still fit in with their plan. Thank you, Nintendo.

To summarize: Yes, it is better than last year's event. And don't call me Shirley.

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