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mariner Welcome to my blog. I'm sort of new to this whole blogging thing, so I haven't figured out how to update my custom greeting. That, or I am just lazy and don't really care. Either way, you're stuck looking at this stupid message and you know what? I don't care! That's right: I don't care! Otherwise, I'd obviously edit this out. But, uh... yeah. I didn't. Or did I?

Title: Mega Man 9 rocks
Posted: September 24, 2008 (03:16 PM)
So is anyone else playing the Game of the Century? Well, ok, maybe that's a little overboard, but GotY easily! Definitely worth the 10 bucks, and then some. Sure, I've only beaten 2 bosses so far (hey, I may be old school, but I still suck at videogames ), but I've at least seen all the levels, and I'm more than satisfied.

It's not just the oldschool graphics and square wave music. Sure, all that stuff is neat (although the slow text rolling at the store or cut scenes is annoying), but the game has the feel of older games. You're meant to replay the levels. You're meant to master the game thoroughly. And the challenge level has been designed to suit that. It's hard. It's very hard. But not insurmountable. And easy to master once you know how. And still enjoyable once you master it. Thankfully, Capcom remembered that you need more than just being in 3D. It's almost constant challenge, all the time. Constant motion. No collecting items. Very few puzzles. Just different dangers linked together for 5 minutes at a time.

And as far as I can tell, they hit all of that as close to perfectly as possible. Sure, this is based on only one day of playing, but I haven't seen a poorly designed level. I haven't had any complaints about the cheapness of a stage or a boring stretch or whatever.

I also haven't had any complaints about everything being stale, either, which was probably my biggest fear. After all, that was MM6's biggest problem, despite being a pretty decent game on its own. But it seems like the 15 year hiatus worked out well for them. The levels themselves are all varied. They all have some pretty neat stretches to them. They all work well. The uniqueness isn't limited to a gimmick like making one of the robots female or having Dr. Light be the decoy for Wily this time around. It's truly a unique and inspiring game on its own merits, based solely on the gameplay.

You hear that Nintendo? Time to put Zelda in stasis for 15 years!

Ahem, sorry for that So, anyway, my first impression is that this game is one of the best Mega Man games ever. We'll see if that still holds up after multiple playthroughs and seeing the Wily stages and seeing how the boss weapons work out throughout the game. But as it is, I can't see too many major complaints out of this.

Buy this game. Now.
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Title: Wait, what?
Posted: September 07, 2008 (06:05 PM)
A new review?

[P.R. Speak] Any similarities in the tagline of this review to storms hanging around the Gulf is purely coincidental. There was no intention to make light of any weather related tragedies in this review.

Or whatever. But anywho, Fire Emblem. Read it. Ignore it. Take your pick.
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Title: Wheeeee!
Posted: February 17, 2008 (06:43 PM)
So I finally got meself a Wii last week. And it only took 10 minutes of standing outside in the extraordinarily frigid whether... Of course, I don't have any games for it yet, but I guess that's what happens when the system is in such crazy shortage and Smash Bros comes out next month. I had to make sure I got it in time.

And, sad to say, I find myself liking Wii Sports much more than I thought I would. Don't get me wrong, I still wouldn't pay money for it. And I have no patience for most of it. But some of the games are pretty fun. And the wiimote works slightly better than I thought it would.

Anywho, Smash Bros (and Mercury Meltdown Revolution, which I plan on getting soon), here I come! Yay!
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Title: New review: Prince of Persia SoT (GC)
Posted: January 09, 2008 (04:05 PM)
Whoa!

Only 9 days into the new year and I already have half as many reviews as I wrote last year. Could this be a sign of things to come? I'm thinking... no.

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Title: Wii: One year review from someone who hasn't played it
Posted: December 21, 2007 (03:42 PM)
Before I begin, I must make it clear that I do not now nor ever owned a Wii. Or played one, for that matter. This isn't a knock on the Wii or anything; I'm not as much into videogames, or at least playing videogames, as my presence here might suggest (I didn't own a GC its first year either). But I realize people might not accept the opinions of someone in this position, even though for me personally I'm very good at recognizing what I like or dislike without playing it. But anyway, you can naturally take all my opinions with a grain of salt, or perhaps a few truckfulls of salt if you'd like.

When the philosophy behind the Wii, and particularly the wiimote, was unveiled, there were quite a few areas where I was most excited in its application.

"Tilting" games (a la Super Monkey Ball)
Aerial/ aerial combat games (Star Fox, Ace Combat, Pilotwings, etc)
Racing games, particularly F-Zero
Fighting games (yes, you heard me right)

So far, only the first one seems to be realizing its potential.

Tilting
On the GC, all I had was Monkey Ball, and it was one of my favorite games of last generation. Now, so far, there have been THREE tilting games released (4 if you count Dewy): Monkey Ball, Kororinpa, and Mercury. Even better, from what I can tell none of them are clones of each other. Kororinpa tries to emphasize the Monkey Ball simplicity in design but increases more player control with different marble options. SMB seems to be going in an almost platformer route, particularly by adding jumping. And MMR emphasizes complexity of levels and puzzle solving over straightforward levels. Options to choose from! Yay! It sounds like at least the latter two control well, too. It's very refreshing to see this new genre take off, and with any luck there will be more to see. Unfortunately, I doubt any of them sold very well. But then again, these games probably cost somewhere in the vicinity of 30 cents to develop, so hopefully they still made enough to influence other developers to try their hand. Long live old school design!

Personally, despite liking the philosophy behind it the least, I'm leaning toward MMR being one of if not my first Wii game when I get around to buying one next year. It's different enough from the two SMB games I already have, it seems to control well, and it has a lot of bang for the buck. Hopefully I'll still be able to find it...

Flight
It was a smart move by Nintendo to make Metroid into an example of how to do FPSs on the Wii. It is an absolute crying shame that a parallel development wasn't made with Star Fox or Pilotwings. This is one of the most obvious areas where tilt control would be an improvement over analog sticks, yet they've ignored it. This is despite the fact that their own flying simulator was one of the most celebrated demos at the 2006 E3! So far we got a low budget Hudson game and a bunch of mediocre PS2 ports. Yippee.

And there isn't even anything on the horizon. We've heard absolutely nothing of the possibility of Star Fox or pilotwings. I've never really cared about the franchise in the past, but the way Nintendo has thrown SF under the bus has been tragic. Give them a relatively big budget and talented team; don't pass it off to Namco and Rare again. Make it fully aerial; no diversity by adding ground based missions. If you want diversity, switch between on rails sections and free roaming, or between space based or land (flying over land, that is) missions. Focus first on making a fully intuitive an immersive control scheme, and build the missions up out of that. This is an obvious strength for the Wii, and Nintendo should take the lead in demonstrating how it can be done. It would also go a long way into giving the Wii some "hardcore" credentials. So where is it, Iwata?

Rogue Squadron was one of my favorite N64 games. Sure, the GC sequels kinda killed my enthusiasm for the franchise, but I still like the concept. Someone needs to get on this and give me a flight game. It doesn't even have to be combat based. Heck, Nights has flying in it, but that seemed to turn into a poor rush job. Figures. C'mon, someone step up to the plate here!

Racing
Excite Truck generated an awful lot of enthusiasm amongst some in the hardcore crowd. I'll definitely have to try it out at some point. So why didn't anyone expand on it yet? All we've got announced so far is Nitro Bike and the required new Mario Kart. I was rather dismayed to hear Miyamato state that F-Zero was a game that would work better with a classic control scheme. Excuse me? F-Zero is a game that requires absolute complete control over your car. You mean a tiny little analog stick has more precise control that tilting? If that be true, then this experiment is a failure. The Wii is supposed to enhance traditional gaming as well as provide these silly things like Wii Sports. And from what I hear, Excite Truck does it just fine. Is Miyamato wrong here?

It leads to a worrying theme that Nintendo in Japan is out of touch with America. Excite Truck is fine, but Miyamato says it won't work. And he's made other negative comments about that series. Considering the difference between what sells in Japan and America, I'm not even sure if we'll see F-Zero. Or Star Fox. It's disturbing. I was hoping the wiimote would breathe some new life into these genres. Instead, Nintendo seems content to let them die. Sigh. We'll always have GX, I guess. And maybe NoA can convince some Western third parties to carry the torch. If Excite Truck can do it, so can others.

Fighting Games
This was to be the ultimate test. This was the one genre the hardcore said would never work. This was one of the ones I wanted the most, since the Fighting genre is about the most ridiculously constrained genre there is. So far, only one attempt at hammering wii controls into an old game has been made so far, and needless to say it failed. When SC Legends was announced, I was very excited. I was hoping that this could be it (despite being in a different genre). Too bad all accounts seem to indicate it's a rushed game that was meant to capitalize on the Wii's success cheaply (and, to no one's surprise, it didn't). I'll still try it when it's dirt cheap, especially since I figure the hardcore crowd is exaggerating, but it's depressing nonetheless. Maybe they at least got the controls right.


Sure, this is pretty negative. I'd go into more than just these aspects, but I don't feel like it at the moment. Maybe later. In any case, this is part of the reason I haven't bought the system yet; nothing out there grabs me as a must buy. Sure, there are interesting games both great and small, but nothing I'm in a hurry for. Hopefully, now that the Wii has cemented its popularity, an explosion in creativity will soon follow. But given its poor software situation in Japan and its competition with the 360 in the US, I'm not entirely optimistic of its chances. When it comes down to it, I get the feeling I'll be remembering the Gamecube much more fondly than the Wii 10 years from now. Hopefully things will improve next year. And I can't complain too much, as there are still some worthy games on the system. And given my lack of playing time, it's enough of a backlog for me!
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Title: Prince of Persia: Metroid Edition
Posted: December 20, 2007 (04:02 PM)
I've only played PoP: Sands of Time, but for those that have played the other two games, does anyone know if they're more, y'know, nonlinear? Maybe a big overworld like Metroid or Zelda or something? Because as cool as all the environmental puzzles are in this game (and don't get me wrong, they are very cool), the one-dimensional aspect kinda kills all the excitement. Gee, how do I get out of here? I wonder if I should follow that line of flagpoles? It's not like there's any other possible way to go.

Still a pretty neat game though.

Speaking of which, as surprising as this may sound, expect a review on the game soon. And by soon, I mean next year. But still, a new review by me! That hasn't happened in ages!
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Title: Soul Calibur Legends!
Posted: May 09, 2007 (02:07 PM)
See 1UP if you're confused.

One of my first thoughts way back when the Wiimote was unveiled was about Soul Calibur. Although the general consensus among hardcore gamers was that fighting games were impossible with the new control scheme, I wasn't so sure. After all, they're hardcore gamers, what do they know? But anywho, fighting games always had some rather complex control schemes, what with quarter circles and tapping and all sorts of ridiculously long combos. Considering fighting game nuts have an entirely different language to speak about their moves than us lay people, it seemed to me that it would be an ideal genre for innovation. And since Soul Calibur was at least halfway there, relying more on timing and defense than massive combos and being a series that wimpy little newbies like myself could enjoy without being "good", it seemed an ideal testing ground for the new control scheme.

And now it seems that my hypothesis shall be tested, sort of. And now that it's announced, I can't really argue with the idea of an action/adventure game. That way, some of the more complex controls can be dumbed down while still maintaining the essence of at least intermediate level Soul Calibur fighting. The emphasis on timing and the like can still be present, combos and multiple moves can still be present, but one doesn't have to memorize 1000 different moves and stances and so forth. Assuming this is, in fact, how they will present it, it will be the perfect test on how a flick of the wrist will translate to fighting game moves. Since I've been expecting this for over a year now, I'm optimistic.

On the other hand, I don't exactly get along with 3D games very well. I pray the camera is very workable. Otherwise I may be screwed. One of these days I ought to play Prince of Persia or something just to get practice...

The announcement seems to suggest, but doesn't outright say it, that the Soul Calibur team themselves is behind this. Definitely a reason to be optimistic here. This would prevent a situation like that PS2 Tekken spinoff or Virtua Fighter Quest. It also means it'd be a team that A) has talent graphics-wise for all those visual-obsessed folks, B) can create complex AI and fighting moves, and C) should remain true to the styles of the fighters. Perhaps the closest parallel so far is Ninja Gaiden (although not a ripoff of DOA, both are made by the same team and I believe use the same engine). Since NG has quite a bit of respect, I'm hoping for a similar situation here. And since SC is 10000 times better than DOA, that should bode well for SC Legends, right?

For those worried that it might be "kiddified", no worries. IUP has some artwork, and it's definitely in the vein of the regular series. Again, a good sign.

1UP also says the story will focus on Siegfried but has multiple characters to play as. I'm a bit worried about this, to be honest. I have no desire to play as Siegfried at all. I'm hoping then that there aren't required characters at various points (or if there are, that it's a fairly small portion of the game), and that we have a wide variety of people to choose from. Personally, if I can play most of the game as Raphael, Xianghua, or Seung Mina, I'll be happy.

Another reason to be optimistic: it's exclusive and a spinoff of a popular GC game. In other words, it has the potential to be a popular new franchise for Namco, which means it would behoove them to pay attention to it and insure that it is of the finest quality. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. Still, one would imagine this game has a decent budget behind it, which is never a bad thing.

And for those who would rather have SC4, I say bah. I know I'm probably the only one who thinks this way, but I have SC2. Why would I need another one? Getting the same quality of play of Soul Calibur in a new setting and new situation though, that's something worth getting excited about. And I am. I honestly think this is my most hyped for Wii game at the moment. I can't wait to hear more about it.


Title: Chrono Trigger and why people fall in love with certain games
Posted: May 05, 2007 (09:02 AM)
[Don't blame me for this post. I was at a conference all week and am all out of whack. It probably doesn't make sense, but who cares?]

Chrono Trigger holds a very deep and special place in my heart. It sparked something within me, changing my life. I can still remember the first time I played it, all those years ago. Seeing all those scenes, playing this legendary game, I felt something new, something deep. And it can pretty much be summed up as...

What the bleep do people see in this stupid game?!?

OK, so before I get lynched, I just want to say that I'm not here to mindlessly bash it. I tried to enjoy the game. It's not like I had any prejudice going into it; if anything I was too excited for it (it's the game that rivals the great FF6, after all!) Nothing ever clicked. What lord-of-shadow called beautiful in simplicity, I only saw boring and cliche. What people see as depth of character, I see as cookie cutter and ham-handed. What people call a refreshing use of time travel, I see as simplistic and wasted potential. What people call great gameplay, I see as a few simple gimmicks that can't hide the sheer boredom that it's based on. That first paragraph I wrote is true, more or less. This was the game that first led me to realize what a waste of time RPGs were (although it wasn't until playing FF9 a couple years later that this belief was confirmed). After all, the game felt no different than any of the average RPGs I've played, and I still firmly believe that.

And with that out of the way, let me say that I enjoy reading why people love the game. It's interesting to see what people say, what really managed to connect. Of course, it's usually the music, which always makes me wonder. After all, there's a great deal of subjectivity in music, especially for those of us with little to no talent in it. But we all know how powerful music is, and how it attaches to us emotionally. So is it the music that makes us enjoy the game, or is it the game that we enjoy, and we like the music mostly because it reminds us of said game? For my part, when it comes to listing games that had a large, positive effect on me, Mario 3 is the only one that isn't also associated with awesome music in my mind (and that's also the only one on the list for purely gameplay reasons). Zelda, Metroid, FF6, Castlevania SotN, all are as impressive musically as they are to play. Why is that?

Part of the reason, of course, is that games with bigger budgets tend to be better games, and those games are the ones that get the most emphasis on their music. But it seems as if there's more to it. Music can be the glue that holds a game together. Listening to a theme could bring back memories of a character's personality traits. But does it really? I think back to my own incredibly fond memories of FF6, a game where at least some of the characters are as laughably pathetic as the Chrono Crew. But listening to Relm's theme changes everything. Yes, she's a 2D character with nothing actually special about her. But the music seems to capture her childhood, her innocence, her offbeat, artistic way. It makes her seem more alive than in any moment in the actual game or plot. It enriches her character, not through any inherent quality of her own, but in my connection with her. Could the same thing be happening here?

It makes you wonder what really makes these games great. People vaguely allude to it all coming together in some magical way, but without being able to explain precisely how. It seems clear to me that in most of these situations (including me with FF6), it is not necessarily what is in the game itself that makes people fall so deeply in love with it, but how the person responds to the game. Why is it I can see characters like Marle and Lucca being the most pathetically cardboard cutouts Square created since FF7's Cid (well, ok, so they came first, but whatever) while others seem to think they're brilliantly designed? Because people are inferring what is not there, emphasizing their own imaginations and thoughts above what the developers created. The 3rd or 4th time I played through FF6, I suddenly realized how little was actually there; how so many major plot events were much shorter than I remembered them. I had been so enraptured by, well, something my first time playing that I didn't quite catch how much was my own interpretation and how much was Square's. And of course, now when I play it doesn't matter, as I've built the game up so much in my mind that each of these simplistic plot points are so enriched, so full of meaning that their true simplicity doesn't actually matter anymore.

Or take Zelda as another example. The plot is childish, the various attempts to create a unified mythology are haphazardly put together. Quite frankly, any underlying themes and connections besides the obvious ones are more likely to be coincidence than any genius on Nintendo's part. Yet look how many people are enraptured in the overarching storyline and the Hylian mythos. I could talk for hours about Hylian religion, mythology, and legends, despite there really not being much there to the average observer.

So bringing this back to Chrono Trigger, it always makes me wonder what the bare minimum is to make these types of games connect. After all, when it comes to people becoming emotionally involved in a game, it's always these same few where it happens. So there's obviously something there. Is it just the aesthetics then? People have already testified how important they are to them with this game. Is something else needed? Do the characters need to at least be interesting stereotypes to make people ignore how poorly designed they are? Or do they just need one semi interesting character like Magus to hide the rest of them? Just how banal can the plot be before it becomes too banal? Or do you even need much of a plot at all? After all, FF6 doesn't have one for the entire second half of the game! Of course, I see it as a plus, but there are plenty of RPG afficianados out there who still enjoy that game while clinging to the pathetic belief that these videogames are actually telling good stories. Can people accurately define just what it is that Chrono Trigger ACTUALLY has that makes it so well loved?

For my part, the bare minimum includes at least semi-interesting gameplay, which completely rules CT out. Maybe if they had something even half as deep as FF6, I could have looked past all of its many faults and just enjoyed the music. As it stands though, I can get a better effect from popping in a Beatles CD and playing Solitaire.
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Title: Battalion Wars Review
Posted: April 17, 2007 (05:06 PM)
Battalion Wars (GC)

Yes, you saw that right. Two months in a row with reviews. It's like I'm on a roll or something. Will May continue the trend? Enh, probably not...

Anywho, I think this game ended up affecting me a bit more than I thought it would. I figured it would be a nice easy short review. And then I started writing it, and now it's 10kb. I really got to start thinking to myself that I'm gonna keep it short. It never happens.

Maybe I'll write a review for MM Anniversary Collection next, since I've been on a bit of a Mega Man kick lately. And I'm sure I'll be able to keep that one short!
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Title: Mega Man 2
Posted: March 20, 2007 (07:23 PM)
I suppose I should write a review about this game, but I'm lazy. So I'll just write here instead.

This game is horribly, horribly overrated. I'll have to replay MM4 and 5 again just to make sure, but I'm pretty sure this game ranks in the bottom half of the NES MM games. Yes, I said it.

The only thing it has going for it are the bosses. The eight robot masters here are probably the best group of any of the games. Their design, their skillsets, their variety, just all shades of awesome. But then there's the rest of the game.

The weapons are horribly unbalanced. Once you beat Metal Man, you will never use your arm cannon again. It's just too powerful, and is ridiculously plentiful as well. On the flip side, I only recently found out what Heat Man's weapon does. Despite playing this game multiple times, I've never used it before! Why bother when you have Metal Blades?

The game clearly bought off more than it can chew. Now admittedly, it's been a long time since I played this on the NES, but I believe the MM Anniversary Collection's emulation is perfect (it feels like it for MM3). And it's far too often that the screen will be flickering like crazy, and it will feel like you don't have control of MM. Mostly in Dr Wily's castle, but I think it happened a few other times too.

Speaking of Dr Wily's castle, it's terrible. The GutsTank stage is ridiculously short for no reason. There's a place in which a Sniper Joe stuck with no place to hide from his bullets. And then there's the bosses...

The crash bomb boss is stupid. If you don't have full crash bomb power beforehand, you lost. Reset the game. If you accidently blow up one of the barriers you don't need to, you lost. Reset the game. If you died in the middle of the battle, you lost. Reset the game. Lovely.

And if you do win, you are immediately transported to the boss rush, and then to Dr Wily. No time to refill any weapons (despite the fact that one of Wily's forms is vulnerable to crash bombs! Unless you die and continue, you will have no way of actually knowing this, since you'll never have crash bombs left!). And then you go to the final level. If you don't have enough Bubbles, you lost. Reset the game. If you die on the Wily Alien once after using some of your bubbles, you lost. Reset the game.

Stupid.

There's some technical problems too. The beginning of Bubble Man's stage is horribly ugly with that background. MM controls slightly worse than in MM3. And all the inbetween stuff like getting your weapons and seeing the password is excruciatingly slow. Bleh.

The levels are pretty lame too. But I don't feel like going into it.

Stupid overrated MM2. Mega Man 3 is far, far superior =)
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Title: Finally!
Posted: March 10, 2007 (04:19 PM)
Twilight Princess Review

It's about bloody time I wrote a new review. And only 3500 words, no less. And all without mentioning Midna, the wolf mechanics, or virtually nothing on the graphics, sound, and storyline. Why bother with the standard stuff when you can focus on irrelevent things? Wee!
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Title: Random videogame related thoughts
Posted: March 04, 2007 (08:11 PM)
I beat Batallion Wars today. Decent game. It's nothing spectacular, and certainly nothing that's worth $50 (heck, or even $20). It definitely has its problems. But I still enjoyed it for what it was. Pretty fun all around, even though I have little desire to go back and unlock the last two bonus missions. In any case, it was worth the $0 I payed for it. And it was worth my time. Here's hoping Kuju saw the problems with it and are fixing it for BWii. And no, I'm not talking about multiplayer. I want better AI, more incentive to actually command rather than doing everything yourself, and a better way to order your soldiers around. Actually, the Wii might be very helpful for that last part.

1Up had some info on Super Paper Mario awhile back that they then had to take down. Fortunately, I read it before it disappeared. Unfortunately, it contained two facts that made me sad. 1) No run button. 2) Game is about 27 hours long. Boo! It appears that we are dealing with the type of platformer we've been stuck with since the 16bit days, rather than harkening back to the awesomness of the NES era. I guess I'm not really surprised. And this doesn't necessarily mean the game will be worthless or anything. It's still the most interesting game that's coming to the Wii in this half of the year. But alas, it appears I will have to wait even longer for a true 2D platformer.

My Twilight Princess review is nearing completion. Yay! Looks like it'll end up being about 18 +/- 2 kb, so probably slightly longer than my OoT one. But definitely shorter than WW. It'll still be an insomnia cure though... In any case, I think I did a decent enough job of getting my point across, and hopefully it flows well with all of its rapidly shifting praise and criticism. Oh well, it was fun to write anyway. Kinda sad that this will likely be my last Zelda review (although I may still rewrite my MM one). So long Zelda; it was nice knowing you.

I'll probably do Batallion Wars next. It should be a reasonably short and standard review. It'd be cool if I could finish it before the end of March too. Whoa, two reviews in one month. Can it be possible?

I'm starting to realize that I'm running out of GC games. Oh sure, there's plenty of semi-interesting games out there. But I don't think there's any "must have" games I've yet to (at the very least) play. Maybe Fire Emblem, but I'm not an RPG person. I really ought to try Monkey Ball 2 one of these days to see if it's as bad as I fear. And I liked Pikmin, so I should probable buy it sometime. But what else? Could my collection be nearing an end? Is it time to put my favorite console to rest?

In a word, no, because I'm certainly not willing to buy a Wii yet. Maybe next year. But not yet, that's for sure.

But hey, speaking of the Wii, anyone else notice all the wildly varying reviews among professional sites for the traditional games with new controls (Excite Truck, Sonic, SSX, etc)? Seems no one's able to really get a handle on it, and some really like the controls while others hate them. So who's in these two crowds? Is it the crazy Nintendo faithful vs the unbiased folks who can see that they're terrible, or is it the schmucks who can't accept something new vs people who are open-minded enough to recognize a superior control scheme when they see it? Or is it not that simple? It sure makes it hard to judge these games though. And it makes you wonder whether or not you can trust these "professional" reviewers with their views, as you never know if its an honest opinion or if they're close minded. Then again, I never saw the need for professional reviewers in the first place...
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Title: And so it begins...
Posted: February 10, 2007 (12:41 PM)
I finally started to write my first review in several months. Yes, it's for Twilight Princess. No, I have no clue when it'll be done. No, I have no clue how long it will be (I'm leaning somewhere in between absurdly long and ridiculously long). No, I have no clue how good the review will be either. Obviously I'd like it to be more than a stream of random impressions of random parts of the game, but putting it all together in a theme will be tough. After all, the theme is "half OoT, half WW". How do you write that?

Hopefully it'll get me back in the reviewing spirit though. I still need to write my Castlevania SotN review. And then maybe my CV: Harmony of Dissonance review. And several others I could do...
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Title: It's easy to come up with titles when it's just: Twilight Princess: Third Impressions
Posted: January 07, 2007 (12:38 PM)
(Spoilers below, in case it's not obvious. Read at your own risk.)

21 hours in. Just past the 4th Dungeon/Temple/Whatever...

It's kind of surprising how much nostalgia Nintendo's trying to put into this game. It's almost like it's the Legend of Zelda: Greatest Hits version. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about all of it. Actually, I guess I kinda do. When it's done well, it's great. When it's not, it deserves an eye-rolling. And I think the key here is subtlety. Subtlety and not being gameplay related. The Master Sword sequence is a perfect example of both kinds. When I first entered the clearing, my jaw dropped. It was absolutely beautiful, a stunning scene. And I'm guessing I know where the artists got their inspiration: the LttP artwork. The scene was reminiscent of the artwork at the front of the instruction manual, and reminding me of it brought a smile to my face. Subtle. Effective. Good. And then I pulled the Master Sword. And the haze gave way to a bright sunny day. Oh puhleeze. Talk about a blatant copy of LttP. There wasn't anything subtle about it, and so it was bad. Well, not bad, but certainly enough to make me roll my eyes. Fortunately, so far it seems like there's more of the former than the latter. The howling stone songs. The photo of the fisherman with the loach. One of the statues of the goddesses back near the beginning of the game. I like that sort of stuff. And I'm not going to complain about this game being a "greatest hits" if there's more small stuff like that.

Level 4 was ok, but nowhere near as good as the Water Temple. I liked the individual rooms enough, but the overall design was just... ennh. Very, very linear (unlike the Water Temple). However, I loved the atmosphere. The bugs freaked me out immensely the first time I saw them. Great use of both your wolf and human form. And those mini-stalfos are just so cute! The spinner's pretty cool too. It doesn't feel very Zelda-ish but, well, neither did the hookshot back in LttP. So who's complaining? It made for a rather interesting boss fight, that's for sure. The one really large negative here was the blatant OoT Forest Temple ripoff. Remember when I said references are good if they're subtle and not gameplay related? Yeah... I don't think I even need to mention what I'm talking about. I'm sure everyone who's played through this point knows it. C'mon Nintendo, this is about as blatant as some of the ripoffs in Majora's Mask. Couldn't you find something new?

Overworld-wise, the game is really starting to open up. And I'm loving it. Indeed, it's starting to feel like a Zelda game. There are places I've been to that I can't figure out how to continue on. There are objects that I can't interact with. There are random things I notice that cause me to make detours. There are a ton of pieces of heart (I've got 14 so far!), and lotsa poes (I'm at 13, I think). There's actually stuff to spend your money on (considering your wallet is perpetually full, this is a good thing). There are minigames to play. There's more areas where you can simply relax and look around. I think it really hit me after Midna was healed by Zelda. I wasn't being pushed along anywhere. I can actually do what I want! It was such a massive breath of fresh air, a feeling akin to stepping out of Hyrule Castle Town the first time after becoming an adult. It was Zelda.

That, more than anything else, is important to me. And these past 7 hours or so are far, far more interesting than the first 7. It's still not Ocarina of Time. But it's a far, far cry from Wind Waker. Yay!

One other complaint though, even if it's only a minor issue and at only at one point. The puzzle right before the Master Sword was the most mind bogglingly stupid thing they could have done. Let's face it, Zelda relies on a certain amount of immersion, and this is often one of the defining moments in the game. Consider what happens immediately before and after you grab it in Ocarina of Time if you don't know what I'm talking about. Or Wind Waker for that matter, where even haters like me think it's an absolutely stunning part of the game. And here, the buildup is great. You get that wonderful cut scene just after the Water Temple, and another one after meeting Zelda. You reach a previously inaccessible area. You go through a somewhat eerie romp through the woods. You see the ruins of a statue. And then you... have a stupid puzzle? What?!? Talk about taking you out of rhythm. It's as if Nintendo's daring you to consider this as nothing more than a videogame, as opposed to a true immersive experience. It makes no sense plotwise and doesn't fit gameplay wise. It's just out there, absurdly placed, completely breaking the mood. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe Aonuma and Miyamato could make such a stupid, obvious mistake. It's just... absurd. Who thought that stupid idea up anyway?

Like I said, it doesn't affect the rest of the game, but it's still stupid.

And one other thing... remember what I wrote last time? "And when do I get to turn into a wolf at will? ...After I get the Master Sword? Which should be almost immediately after this Zora Temple. And if that's so, these games are getting far too predictable." Yeah...

But still, impressions are slowly getting more and more positive. Awesome.

(Heh, writing my review ought to be easy after this. All I need to do is cut and paste!)
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Title: Twilight Princess: Second Impressions
Posted: January 02, 2007 (03:12 PM)
Yeah, here's more, not that anyone's interested...

13.5 hours in (for those that care, that would put me halfway through the third dungeon (huh, almost called it labyrinth there, which they are DEFINITELY not. Not a good sign, if I'm already getting negative comparisons to the original and still the most awesome Zelda game...), which happens to be the water temple for those who care even more). And my opinions are still mixed. Not too surprising, really. Considering the feelings are mixed and not completely negative (like Wind Waker and practically every feeling about how Nintendo's taking Zelda these days), I guess that's a good sign.

For one, the game has significantly opened up since my last post (~6 hours in), which probably explains why I made so little progress in that time. As I predicted, I now have bombs (and more importantly, bomb arrows!) which helps a lot. Finding the first real city with actual stuff in it helped a lot too, even if it too seems to pale in comparison to the magnificent Clock Town. Then again, due to the nature of Majora's Mask, I doubt we'll ever reach that peak again. Still, I've found areas that require me to go back again to complete certain tasks or reach new areas. I've found more people to actually talk to. I've actually found pieces of heart. In other words, I've been playing a Zelda game. Yay!

I've also realized (after the lengthy Zora's Domain segment) that I'm not too fond of playing as a wolf. I knew I wasn't going to like going after all the bugs again, and to find them spread out all over the place was a bit of a chore (a boring chore at that). At least the last one and the ones you had to catch in flight were semi-neat, but still. I'm glad that's over with. Hopefully I'm not forced to turn into a wolf anymore. It's kinda fun in short doses, and wolf mode does have some neat moves, but it just ain't worth it for long stretches of time.

I am liking the Water Temple so far. Much better, design wise, than the Fire Temple. It's large and frustrating, but in a good way. And with that central room and all the water flowing everywhere, it's much more interestingly designed than the first two. Now if I can just figure out how to get that second wheel moving...

I want to go kill some poes now. It's a bit annoying that you can only attack them as a wolf (or at least that's what it seems like); I need to remember where they all are! Hopefully the rewards are worthwhile. I've been itching for a good skulltula style quest; let's see if this one holds up.

And when do I get to turn into a wolf at will? I figure it's got to happen at some point, due to the poes and the howling stones. After I get the Master Sword? Which should be almost immediately after this Zora Temple. And if that's so, these games are getting far too predictable. It's bad enough we're doing forest-fire-water yet again...
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