Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Hard-Casual Paradox

Disclaimer: The following is entirely in jest. Everyone on this site should know I feel the terms "hardcore" and "casual" are quite meaningless. I was especially underwhelmed back when Brian Crecente of Kotaku coined the phrase "hard-casual" when faced with the sheer vacuousness of the terms. With that out of the way, here's an inner-dialogue I had with myself and a part of my brain that likes to say things in jest... enjoy!

So lately I've been playing Wii Sports Resort.

>WSR? Pft! That's so casual.

I've gotten especially obsessed with the Air Sports part of the game. So much so that I've visited every location and shot every balloon in the Day and Night stages. Still got a long way to go on the Evening stage.

>Whoa! That's pretty hardcore!

My wife has been playing along too. She helps me keep an eye out for white balloons.

>Playing with a girl/family member/wife? That must be casual.

Though at one point I got hungry and got some Cheetos.

>Hmm. Well that is the staple food choice of a hardcore gamer.

They were the baked kind.

>Whoa, baked?! Only a casual gamer would be such a health nut.

At one point I got really torn because I didn't want to get my controller all Cheeto-y so I put the controller on an ottoman and tilted it with my legs - keeping my hands free for a nice coat of orange deliciousness.

>Wow. I'm impressed. That kind of dedication to a game and laziness is completely hardcore.

Actually, though it was lazy in one sense, I actually gave my legs and abs a pretty good workout steering the plane like that.

>A workout from a game!? Eff that! ... frackin' casuals.

Friday, January 28, 2011

News and Notes

-New Kirby game announced for Wii! Rejoice! [link]

-Xenoblade still being listed on Nintendo's US release schedule.

-Last night I got my first Hole in One on Wii Sports Resort's frisbee golf!! (Classic course, second hole).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pokemon Problems

As some of you may know, I recently decided I was done with the main Pokemon games - perhaps indefinitely (see: link). I was OK with that decision. I just felt that what the Pokemon games had to offer was not quite what I wanted from them (more on that later).

Now, Pokemon Black & White are just around the corner. A lot of information on the game(s) has come my way lately. Some of it had me really excited. The interfaces, functionality and trading mechanics seem really refreshing and interesting. In fact, some of new details are so mind-boggling that... I can't say I fully understand them.

So this has me thinking: will I buy/play Pkmn Black and/or White? Was my hiatus from the world of Pkmn training really only going to be about three months!?

Well, I've been thinking about it a lot over the last few days. I feel this is a decision that requires a lot of thought since games aren't cheap, I have tons of backlogged games to play, and starting a Pokemon game is like willingly addicting yourself to crack.

So far, I've reach the following conclusion: I want to play and love Pkmn B&W ... but I do not believe I will do either.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that what I really want is a Pokemon MMO. It kind of boggles my mind why this hasn't happened yet. I know I've talked about it with friends and online friends many times over the last few years. It seems everyone wants it. There are even several fan-made Pokemon MMOs online (at least until Nintendo finds them, right? ^_^ ). Also, given Nintendo's experience and success with Animal Crossing, it seems like a forgone conclusion!

Think about it ... the single player Pkmn campaigns are basically designed to feel like an MMO. You set out on your journey towards mastery and along the way you battle, trade with and befriend other trainers who are also trying to become masters. Why should it be such a problem mixing NPCs with user-controlled players? Isn't the "community" aspect of Pkmn one of its biggest draws? Wouldn't an MMO enhance that aspect a hundred fold?

Now, Pkmn B&W takes steps in the right direction. Which is why I have been going back and forth about it. It seems that there is a local (read: Americans older than high school will never use it) wi-fi feature where players can visit each other's worlds and take on multi-player (read: not very important) missions together. It also seems that the trading features have been dramatically stream-lined so you can trade right from your box.

But, though I find these new features alluring, I still feel I will be left unsatisfied. It still will never feel like I'm training alongside anyone. It will feel how it's always felt... like many someone's are training in isolation and the only overlap in the experience are battles and trades that essentially exist in a vacuum.

I want to be able to say: "Hey, [your name], let's head to Shiny Shell Cove and hunt for some Flapadoodlers!" and then you'd say "Sure! Then you can help me grow some Shobble-berries and see if the Legendary Erktacoon is in the area this week!"
... and so on like that for a bajillion hours.

Alright, I think that's all I have to say on the subject for right now. What do you think? Do you want Pokemon to go in a more MMO direction or are you happier knowing everyone's world is their own? Do you think a Pokemon MMO will ever happen? If so, how would it be structured? Think they would charge a subscription or would we just buy a new "region" every year or so?

Friday, January 14, 2011

~~~NinTemple GOTY Awards 2010~~~

It surprises me that so many media outlets make these lists before 2010 actually ends. I know I played some of my best/worst games in December!

First and foremost, prominent games I did not play or did not play enough of to seriously consider for this list: Epic Mickey, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Sin & Punishment 2, Fragile Dreams, Prof Layton and the Unwound Future.

And now, on to the awards!!

Metroid: Other M
Did the choice of dialogue suck? Yes. Were some of the choices questionable? Absolutely. But no game in 2010 had me on the edge of my seat most wanting to know what happens next. For a gamer who places story above all else? That went a long way. Whether you think it succeeded or not, you have to admire a narrative that shows the evolution of characters across such vast spans of time. In addition, there were mysteries to figure out (I'm a sucker for a good mystery), plot twists and new character reveals! I dug it so much that I immediately watched "theatre mode" after beating the game.
Honorable Mentions: No More Heroes 2, Dragon Quest IX
NMH2 is another plot that kept me dying to know how it would all wrap up. The wacky ride concluded in such a way that provided a satisfying conclusion and left room for more future installments! That's ideal. DQ9? What can I say. It could have just rehashed tired RPG reliables, but it's on this list because of the creative guardian plot and the many, many, many colorful characters in the side-quests.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
It's not the yarn, it's how they used it. KEY constantly surprised me with the imaginative uses of material in a gaming environment. This extended beyond just the level design and into things like Kirby's transformations, the games side-quests, and, of course, the delightful plot that encompassed it all!
Honorable Mentions: Dragon Quest IX, Red Steel 2
DQ9 had me walking around the streets and subways of Manhattan with my DS in tag mode looking for maps that would lead me to more maps that would lead me to rare items. Let's just say that was a first! RS2 successfully pioneered the "first person brawler" genre. Nuff said.

Cave Story
After you beat the "final boss" you must find a hidden level and boss to get the true ending. I believe when you enter that level there is a sign that says "welcome to hell." I rest my case.
Honorable Mentions: Super Mario Galaxy 2, Dragon's Lair Trilogy
So, on the whole, SMG2 is not a hard game. But getting those green stars? There were more than a few white-knuckle moments there. And Dragon's Lair Trilogy? I used infinite lives, restart from same room, and on-screen hints and my palms still started to sweat towards the end of each chapter.

Metroid: Other M
It's not surprising that a game focused so heavily on a cinematic feel would have top-notch visuals. The quality of the cutscenes speak for themselves, but the in-game character models and environments put this game over the top. I still can't get over the fluid animations of Samus and those baddies during some of the more melee-heavy battles.
Honorable Mentions: Monster Hunter Tri, Dragon's Lair Trilogy
*clap clap* Congratulations, Capcom, you're a 3rd party who tried to put breathtaking visuals on the Wii and *gasp!* it worked! The environments in MH3 are undoubtedly what kept me enthralled for so many hours. Even after dozens of visits, you could still find something new to look at and think "wow... they took the time to do that!?... awesome." As far as Dragon's Lair Trilogy, this category is best visuals... not best polygons. I could watch Don Bluth animation all day. Give it some awesome characters and settings and you have a winner. Plus, that animation technically takes place in-game! Not too shabby.

Red Steel 2
Like many, I wasn't sure quite how the "first person brawler" experiment would work out. I'd never played the first Red Steel but I had heard bad things. There was also cause for concern since RS2 wanted to set the bar higher by asking you to pull off motion-based combos for maximum damage. Toss in the fact that this was my first outing with MotionPlus and you have a heaping helping of uncertainty. Needless to say, the experiment was a success. To my knowledge, RS2 did not sell that great. Which is a shame because even if Red Steel 3 was never going to be made, other companies could have seen what was possible on the Wii and built on that. Here's hoping someone does!
Honorable Mentions: The Sky Crawlers, Super Mario Galaxy 2
Sky Crawlers would have run away with this category if not for one major flaw. If you don't know, Sky Crawlers does what should have been a no-brainer from the start of the Wii and uses the wiimote/nunchuck like control sticks for a war machine. In this case, a fighter plane. The controls felt responsive and utterly bad-ass. Unfortunately, as you progress in the game, the dog fights become so demanding that the motion controls just couldn't keep up. I needed to go hard from one direction to the other and that just wasn't possible. Instead, the controls would smoothly transition from one direction to the other - at which point my target was lost. A+ for effort, but only a B+ for execution. For SMG2, it's 3D platforming perfection. That's not as easy as it should be in 2010 - but leave it to Nintendo to make it look easy.

Metroid: Other M
Some people were fine with it, but I could not deal with switching from sideways to pointer configurations with the controller. I think the idea is absolutely brilliant. But the execution was abysmal. Simple fix: add nunchuck support, have the "Z" button toggle between first and third person views. Problem: solved.
Honorable Mentions: Tatsunoko vs Capcom, GoldenEye 007
Capcom fighters need 6 attacks for me to feel comfortable. End of story. As for GoldenEye, I am not even close to finding a comfortable control setting. With the Conduit, I customized things for about 15 minutes and then it was point and shoot perfection. With GoldenEye, I've spent about 20% of my game time in the customize menu and I'm still either too fast or too slow with my movements. What gives?!

Monster Hunter Tri
MH3 provided the comradery, strategy, negotiation, unpredictability and co-operation of a top-tier MMO without relying on a combat system that plays like a math problem. Winner!
Honorable Mentions: Kirby's Epic Yarn, Dragon Quest IX
I actually never played KEY single player. My wife was always there and I gotta say it was like all the beneficial parts of NSMBW without the occasional frustrations. It just felt like a 2P game and it just worked so smoothly. DQ9 would not have been nearly as much fun if I didn't have a few friends who were playing through the campaign too. Trading maps, comparing party strategies and occasionally teaming up in others' battles was a great addition to the franchise.

9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors
"Did you just spend hours racking your brain replaying the same puzzles over and over just to find out the "true" conclusion to this thrilling visual novel? Well screw you cuz we didn't write a full ending!" ~Chunsoft
Honorable Mentions: GoldenEye 007, Tatsunoko vs Capcom
I bought GoldenEye because the single-player campaign looked unique and diverse. Control issues aside, I just have not been "hooked" by the atmosphere of the game. Perhaps once I get better at the game I'll be able to immerse myself more. TvC has such an outstanding line-up of characters, but the choice of stripped-down controls makes it very tough to enjoy for a long-time Capcom fighter like myself. Also, the online match-making is kind of ... horrible? not good.

===MOST "FUN"===
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Games are like any medium. You can enjoy something for its fine craftsmaship or its ability to simply entertain. So while most of this list recognizes overall quality, this award is purely about entertainment. SMG2 was, overall, the most "enjoyable" game. There were no hard decisions to make (MH3,DQ9), there was no distracting controversy (M:oM), and the controls were spot on (several).
Honorable Mentions: Dragon Quest IX, Kirby's Epic Yarn
DQ9 allowed me to romp here and there on a whim. What did I feel like doing? Leveling? Item hunting? Exploring? Advancing the plot? Side-quests? And how much time did I spend comparing fashion with my wife and co-worker? Yes, I'm a guy, and it was fun! In KEY, let's face it, you can't "die." All frustration was removed and you were just free to enjoy the experience. Want challenge? Then go for the beads and the 100% completion. Want to chill? Then decorate your house and snap some photos of it. Again, I'm a guy, and I enjoyed it!

Monster Hunter Tri
All I can think of is Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic when someone says "The answer is 'yes'" and he replies "well it has to be." My game of 2010 in Monster Hunter Tri and "it has to be." I can say with confidence that I have never been more obsessed with a game. I briefly touched on this before, but the beauty of MH3 was not simply its nuts and bolts quality. No, the beauty of MH3 was that even after 500 hours I was still seeing something new every time! Maybe it was something simple like noticing an unmarked area on the map. Maybe it was seeing someone thrown off Jhen's back and catch themselves on the side of the boat without falling in. Maybe it was learning a whole new way to approach a long-time weapon choice. MH3 is the type of game that I feel comes around once a generation. ... and now I want to play it s'more.
Honorable Mentions: Metroid: Other M, Super Mario Galaxy 2
To me, Other M was an attempt to bring the Metroid franchise up to a level that frankly scares a lot of people. Kratos and Solid Snake have always talked, they've always had overly dramatic plots - it's no big deal. But the in-game storytelling of the Metroid franchise has never really tried to parallel its rather deep backstory. In my opinion, Other M took a big risk and succeeded. Was it done perfect? No. Are parts cringe-worthy? Yes. But that's growing pains for you. And let me put it this way: The Legend of Zelda has an even deeper backstory, but I fear Nintendo will never take the risks with that franchise it did here. I fear Link will always be silent and the deepest plot we'll ever get is "Zelda was kidnapped because of _____." The games are still always top-notch, but I'd love to see the franchise bust through the wall it has been knocking against for a little while now. For SMG2, what more needs be said? It's one of the most complete and enjoyable platformers ever. Period.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

High Demolition #004 - War Buddies

Issue #004 of "High Demolition" is up!

It struck me how "A Boy and His Blob" and "Limbo" seem so similar yet so different. Think the protagonists have a lot in common? Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Site Chat Tonight!

... if you're into that sort of thing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Crystal Gazing

I'm thinking about Nintendo's future. But first, let's dissect Nintendo's 2010.

Nintendo made 2010 one of the best years in video game history.

... hm... that didn't take very long. Seriously though, odds are, as you're reading this, you are still knee-deep in awesome games from 2010 on Nintendo platforms. I don't need to list them, I'm sure you're all aware of the usual suspects. Currently, my wife and I are thoroughly enjoying DKCR. It's haaaaaard - and we're only on world two!!

So, with such a monumental 2010, can 2011 possibly stack up? I don't care! Since most Nintendo consoles are not DLC-based, I know that these awesome games don't have an expiration date. And I don't know about you, but I didn't have enough time to play every 2010 game I wanted to in 2010.

But really, what's up Nintendo's sleeve for 2011? Well, the obvious is the 3DS and Skyward Sword. Thoughts? My laptop recently died. And with it, my 3DS fund =\ SooOOOooo I might not be living in the third dimension for some time now. But that doesn't stop you! Will you be snapping up a 3DS when it's released? Which launch games are on your radar? What will you do with your DS at that time? Trade it in? Keep it for sentimental/collection purposes?

What's on your Wii radar? I know I don't expect Skyward Sword until the Fall myself. I'm currently having to fight my own rational thought to keep from buying Lost in Shadow even though I have half a dozen new games still to play. For the near future, I reeeeeeeeally hope we get some word on a Last Story localization.

Other than that? 2011 is alllll bonus as far as I'm concerned. These are good times, my gamers, soak it in!