Super Mario Galaxy 1 vs 2

For a while since SMG2 came out, I've been reading forums, seeing how other people view this game and I've noticed that some people think the game isn't that great or that it's not as good as the first. That's all fine and dandy, as everyone is entitled to their opinions. Even I must admit, when I first played Galaxy 2, I felt underwhelmed. Perhaps it's because I saw so many videos that I already knew most of the levels, or perhaps it's because it's the second game in the series and it evokes a "done this, done that" kind of feel. But in regards to it being...just more galaxy, that's not entirely true, is it? After all, they added new power ups and each level has a specific and mostly new gimmick. In one level you're bouncing off fruit, in another you're shooting for combos and high scores, in another you're slipping down a slide, in another you're swimming through a dark cave...and it goes on and on, each level providing a fresh gameplay experience.
 
So what was the problem? Determined to understand my own thoughts and feelings on the game, I've been playing it and playing it on and off. I've gotten 241 on one save and I started another because I've been having trouble with that infernal perfect run. And I find that...like the original galaxy, the more I play it, the more I enjoy it.  However, unlike the original galaxy, I find that my enjoyment stems from an entirely different reason(s): Speed. Tricks. Shortcuts. Secrets.
 And, ultimately, I've made this discovery while playing through the green stars(post game content). This is a personal thing of course. But when I first played the game, I just played it without thinking. I went through the motions, never thinking outside the box. Every challenge they threw at me, I worked through them, taking it at face value. And I played through the game just as the designers initially intended...the open and simple path. But then I saw another intention behind it all.
 
I still remember the good old times of  playing through the original SMB. The secrets left a deep amazement in my mind.  Going up through the ceiling? Why would you do that? Logic dictates you walk on ground, not the roof. But it was intended as a secret. Same with SMB3 and flying. Flying up that fortress to get the whistle was so awesome. And this is the same for me. I don't know why, but I just love that aspect of the old Mario games. They still do have those secrets in the new Mario games, but sometimes...they are just too darn obvious nowadays that you don't get that surprise. You play through it, find the secrets and go, "Oh yeah, I totally expected that."
However, playing through Galaxy 2 has actually given me that surprise. And those green stars are really the realization of what Galaxy 2 has become for me, a curious exploration beyond the linear level.  What else can I cut across? Where else can I walk? How far can I skip past an area?

Now, I don't really see Galaxy 1 vs 2 being an issue. I take them as two parts of one game, each one enjoyable in its own right.
 
Here are some videos of awesome tricks that you might try the next time you play Galaxy 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbXPOTVpIBQ 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZpeDQBw3xg
 
But don't forget, the most enjoyable aspect is to find these things out on your own and see what might be possible that you've never considered before.

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Sakura Wars So long My Love

Began playing this a few weeks ago after I finally got my copy. It's pretty good. It's got that super cheesy anime feel.
I was kind of expecting the dialogue choices to be easy, but they do throw some curveballs and it's really based on the personality of each character.
And the mech battles are lengthy affairs, especially when you screw up. Overall, I'm enjoying it. Since the segments are a bit long though, I try to take the game in bitesizes.

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No one lives forever

So...I had this game lying around for many years and never really gave it a shot. No one lives forever. From first glance, I wasn't really interested. In fact, playing the first level of the game made me hate it. The writing isn't especially funny or interesting and I found myself getting somewhat bored by the cutscenes. However, after I learned about the quick save function, the game took a whole new life for me. It's a pretty solid FPS, albeit somewhat old. The graphics don't hold up well. Cate Archer looks all right. But Bruno was especially hideous. Texture work is good, but the models are super blocky. In terms of consoles I'd say the graphics are somewhere between n64 and ps2. I'll update my impressions later, but so far, it's pretty fun. But I'm not sold on the style.

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Spelunky

There comes a time when I get in a game searching phase and look for interesting new games to play...especially indie freeware games. And for this last phase, I am glad to have found this incredible gem called Spelunky. Seriously. This game is AMAZING. I'm surprised it's not talked about all that much on gaming forums in general. Spelunky is a combination of games like La Mulana and Nethack. Basically it's a platformer with Roguelike elements. I'll be frank. I'm not a fan of Roguelikes. They just seem all too complex for my feeble mind. However, Spelunky, on the other hand, is just the right mix that gives you the excitement of Roguelikes without all the complex details. This game is brutal, but in a way that's clear and easy to understand. Most things are avoidable, some things need skill, and everything needs experience. Sure, if you die, you go back to the beginning. But because every level is randomized, the experience is always different. There are shops, creepy altars, dangerous monsters, simple traps, damsels in distress and tricky platforming challenges. This game always keeps you on your toes and makes you think about the risk and rewards of every situation. Highly addictive and replayable...and FREE. It even works well with a gamepad. Plus the art and the music is sublime. I cannot recommend this game enough. Definitely one of the most interesting indie titles I've ever seen.
 
 http://www.spelunkyworld.com/

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Wii Broken

My Wii broke about a week or two ago. I'm going to send it to Nintendo for repair. So far, it hasn't reached the destination yet...and has me a bit worried (I don't really trust shipping companies) but hopefully I'll see some news by tomorrow.
The details:
the disc drive doesn't read discs anymore. I don't really get it. But it sucks. Good thing SMG2 hasn't been released yet. I'm hoping it'll get fixed and returned to me by then. If it doesn't, well it's not the end of the world. But I'm not sure what I'd do with all my wii games if for some reason my Wii disappears.

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Infantry and TF2

So I recently started thinking about why I love TF2.
I think online multiplayer games are fun. But even though I say that, I've never really been a huge fan of online FPS games. I think they can be fun for a little while, but soon enough, maybe after a week or two, I usually lose interest. But that's different with TF2 for me. And I think it stems for my love of another game from my youth, which is Infantry. Infantry is a 2D isometric shooter where you control a little guy and run around a large map, shooting people. My favorite mode/map in that game was Skirmish...which is similar to TF2. You have different classes and each class plays different and has a different role. And the goal is to capture certain areas in order to win. The battles used to be huge. I mean, it was like 25 v 25 (I think). Back then, I thought this was amazing. Because every encounter is different, and there is something inherently satisfying in working together as a team, and using your own skills to make a difference, all in order to win the match and overcome the constant power struggle between the two powers.  When I recently tried to play Infantry a while back, I discovered that it just isn't the same anymore. And I think that's in part due to TF2. TF2 has become that game that fills the void that had grown ever since I stopped playing Infantry. Sure, TF2 has fewer players in a match, but it can still get pretty crazy, and it has that special addictive just-one-more-game feeling to it.

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New Steam UI

Recently I decided to get back into some TF2. I hadn't played it in a while and thought I might as well, since my Wii is broken and needs repair. So I started playing it...and what do you know? I get some strange error in the middle of a game. After joining a server for five minutes, I would get kicked out with a message talking about how I can't connect to the VAC server. Every time I hopped in a game the same thing would happen. I checked the forums to see what the situation was...because I knew it wasn't a problem on my end (the game worked fine in the past), and discovered that the new Steam UI is causing issues for people with single core processors! Ridiculous. After playing around with the settings, I finally managed to get it to work. But it's still not perfect. While I have avoided the lame kick, it now crashes when I play for about two hours or so. Oh well. It's better than nothing. But it's kind of sad how such a thing, like an updated UI, can actually cause tons of problems...and Valve can't really fix it perfectly either.

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DRM

I saw that D2D is having a spring sale and there are some pretty good deals there. But I'm hesitant to try them. The one reason I love steam is that the DRM is simple. Hassle free, you log in and you can install/play any of your games. Apparently D2D is different. They just let every respective game handle the DRM. That makes me wary. While some may not even have DRM, others may have some the worst imaginable. And they don't really tell you right off the bat. I think I'll just stick with steam.

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Late-night Gaming Adventures

I got a pretty good haul on steam during the steam holiday sale and I've begun working toward it. To start with, I'm currently playing Trine , going through it nice and slow. It's pretty amazing actually. Really, really gorgeous and the music is so...nice and soothing. It really does play like a fairy-tale. Pretty simple overall and the different character types work well. I don't see this game working very well in co-op though. I feel like this game is definitely a single-player affair first and foremost. It's really a nice change of pace from the...somewhat punishing Braid.

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