I got a Nintendo DSi yesterday, which doesn't sound like much except I've used the first run, regular ass DS since the system came out. Size comparison videos aren't hard to come by, but when you see it for yourself and you're able to feel the difference it's still something else. The thing I'm most impressed about with the change from DS to DSi is the screen brightness. Holy shit, the colors are so much richer compared to the regular DS. It's funny to play something like Advance Wars: Dual Strike and finally be able to tell a clear difference from red and orange when selecting CO colors. I guess it's not a life changing deal, but the screen is damn near blinding compared to the DS.
Apparently this was taken care of as early as the DS Lite, but I didn't have a whole lot of reasons to spend money getting a smaller, lighter (easier to break as I've seen hinge cracks in action) version when my regular DS still worked just fine. Oh, and the upgraded Wi-Fi settings finally let me access the Wi-Fi in my house, which is delightful to see in action instead of error messages.
It's not all good though. Losing the GBA slot is a serious downside. To think it was taken out to make room for some camera technology is more than a little disappointing. I'm not a shutterbug. I don't have a phone with a camera. I'm not interested in taking poorly pixelated shots of [Slightly Interesting Thing A]. Opportunities to use the DSi camera will be few and far in-between. Considering how awesome the screen has become, I was interested to see how it would affect GBA games until I realized it couldn't play those anymore. Oh well.
I'm planning to get Shantae: Risky's Revenge from the DSi Store and review that later on. That game has a great look to it and it should be a solid platformer if the Gameboy Shantae game is anything to go by.
I've been playing Advance Wars games for a long time; ever since the first one came out in 2001 on the Game Boy Advance. Of course, Advance Wars has its roots in the Nintendo Wars series that has a long history in Japan on the Super Famicon and the Game Boy. It's a very entertaining turn based strategy game with a rock-paper-scissors style unit balance and battles fought on chessboard-like grids. One thing that helps its replay value is the always awesome map editor, allowing you to make your own maps and challenges. I love to make maps and I've made a decent amount of them. And I've got a bunch of them in handy image files so I can share them through Giant Bomb.
Of course, the downside is that this sharing process is fairly old school. You can't download them for games like Advance Wars 2 and Dual Strike. If you're interested enough, you'll have to eyeball it and copy them down to your own cart. It's not nearly as bad as it sounds, but it will take some time.
I've created Custom Map galleries for all the major Advance Wars games. You'll find them surrounded by gray borders, half-assed jokes, and weird fonts put together with the magic of Microsoft Paint (some of these are from a long time ago). I'll post a few of my favorite maps collections here to give you a visual example.
EDIT: For some weird reason the images aren't magnified to proper size here. They're easier to read if you magnify them in the image galleries.
City Slicking Series
These are a bunch of maps I based around lots of pipes, roads, and cities. Hence, city slicking... and the GTA Price Down font. They're not all that difficult with the exception of Rotor District, which is one of my all time favorite maps. If you ever see a Sturm and Crossbones box in the corner, that's just a way to make things harder and get some extra mileage out of the map. I played around with game sprites a lot at one point in my life and you'll see some of that here.
Kirby Archipelago Series
Here's a bunch of maps made to resemble characters from the Kirby franchise. Cause... why not, right? Gordo is my favorite and probably it's the closest I've ever gotten to making a map with the feel of the War Room mode from the games. I made Shotzo in Advance Wars 2 a long time before Dual Strike came out, and I had to delete a bunch of properties on the COM side because of the new AI.
Warfare Variety Series
Now, Days of Ruin has Wi-Fi map sharing... but the maps can't be larger than 10x10. That's really lame. However, I'm not too upset about it because I can't get my DS on Wi-Fi anyway. So I figured I'd just do it the old fashioned way. These maps are all about different objectives. You have a timed map, a map where you have to rout the enemy, and one map where you try and figure out how to crack the enemy's HQ.
If you happen to go to the Days of Ruin image gallery, I did test myself to make a bunch of maps 10x10... and it's not easy to keep them interesting. I was able to make a really hard map called Naval Rail where you fight Caulder armed with a battleship. That's about the only 10x10 map I'm happy with at the moment.
Lastly, some details. If you're curious how I made these, there's a bunch of online map editors you can download for the first three advance wars games and Days of Ruin. Google search will probably help you find the Dual Strike one (It's been awhile) but you can get the Days of Ruin one here if you're really into this stuff. I certainly have fun. Hopefully you will too.
I managed to beat StarCraft: Brood War for the first time today and completed my play through of the original StarCraft games. There's a big gap from the first game compared to this expansion pack in a lot of ways, most strikingly is the difficulty. I had never beaten Brood War for good reason until now, so I have a lot to say about this new and improved add on.
I feel the need to mention that there are spoilers in this post. I was surprised by the number of people who mentioned they were playing through StarCraft and Brood War for the first time in my last blog entry, so I kinda felt guilty dropping major plot points without thinking twice. So, if you somehow don't know what happens in Brood War and don't want it spoiled, I would recommend against reading further.
StarCraft: Brood War (Sarah Kerrigan vs. the Universe)
For the most part, Brood War is a much better (and more exciting) game compared to the first installment. Blizzard has a lot more fun with map triggers and in-game cut-scenes so missions are a lot more memorable. They're also pretty good about mixing things up and throwing a lot of crazy army configurations together (both with your forces and the computer's). I find the new characters are a lot more entertaining than the previous cast in some ways. And the things your player characters for each race get away with story wise is just awesome. To put it simply, you get a lot of stuff done in this game. Not to mention, each race gets some new units and a bunch of new upgrades to keep it fresh.
The trade off is that this game is much harder. I mean, it's god damnhard. Where StarCraft was nice enough to ease you into things, Brood War kicks off the training wheels and throws you down a cliff while Kerrigan laughs the entire time. The Computer AI has gotten a complete overhaul to make use of the new units and a lot of the old spell casting units from the first game. It's downright vicious. There is no better example of this than the Zerg Campaign. But I'll get to that eventually.
The first big change of Brood War is starting with the Protoss this time around. Since they're the first campaign, it's not as tough as the one from StarCraft. I had a much better time with these missions because of how varied they are. You'll still fight a lot of Zerg, but there's also some Terran engagements and you only spend one mission fighting Protoss (and no Stasis Lock spam!). It's great. Helping the entertainment value of the Protoss are the new units. The permanently cloaked Dark Templars are tons of fun as they ninja their way around the maps. And you can have a lot of stupid fun with the Brainwash abilities of the Dark Archon on the last mission. If you can snag a Zerg Drone, you can build a Zerg army with every unit and tech upgrade available to you. Mass produce Lurkers like they're going out of style.
Favorite Protoss Mission: Return to Char
Return to Char is one of my favorite missions in the game because of how weird it is. You get to control a full Protoss army and a decent, but limited, Zerg army. This leads to all sorts of crazy combos like a full Zergling rush followed up by Dragoons and Archons. Or a carrier fleet backed up by Mutalisks and Overlords. You could bring in a flock of queens to cover Zealots marching on a bunch of Ultralisks.
The number of ways to have fun in this mission only gets better where you can choose how to beat it. You can either navigate a canyon lined by a bazillion Spore Colonies or go visit an (new) old friend and wreck his shit. I think this was the first time I really had lots of fun playing Protoss in the story mode... and that's probably because I had the option to use Zerg to spice things up.
However, Blue Zerg is really, really ugly.
This is my favorite campaign in all of StarCraft. The Terran missions in Brood War are so much fun that I kinda regretted not starting with them in the first place. Basically, you play as the earth-based UED as they attempt to take control the Koprulu System. They run through major objectives like checking off items on a shopping list. Where Raynor and Mengsk took 10 missions to put down the Confederacy in StarCraft, the UED overthrow Mengsk and enslave the Overmind in 8. It helps that they're staffed by a bunch of badasses. I mean Admiral DuGalle is one "engage" away from being a Jean Luc Picard stand-in, and his No.2 is my favorite space Russian, Alexi Stukov. Working for these guys is great, and the only reason things end badly for them is because Kerrigan is simply more badass than they are.
Anyway, this campaign wastes no time getting to the good stuff. You get to hijack Battlecruisers in the second mission. By the fourth, you're launching nukes. For the fifth mission, you decide if you want to play counter-Nuclear Ops. or have epic Battlecruiser fleet showdowns. The game starts to get really hard by this point, but the missions are so well done that I didn't really mind the spike in difficulty. The last mission is particularly awesome considering you face off against the meanest Ultralisk ever. The Torrasque strikes unadulterated fear whenever I hear it coming for my base.
Favorite Terran Mission: The Emperor's Flight
The introduction to this mission has so much style that I really started to enjoy the way the UED operates. Basically, a bunch of Siege Tanks and Valkyries blitz a small Zerg colony to wipe it out. Next thing you know, an entire base is air lifted to your location. The rest involves competing with two Zerg forces and a Protoss army. They spend a bit of time fighting each other, so you can build up and destroy all of them however you want. I love the way this map is designed and the area you build your base leaves a lot of room to set up cliff-high bunkers and Siege Tanks with superior ground. You also get to play with the new Anti-air Valkyrie unit (that fires a shit ton of missiles).
What's probably my favorite aspect of this mission is the free-for-all atmosphere it runs on. I was never quite sure who would try to attack my base next. Not to mention, I absolutely love dropping EMP on Archons and killing them in two shots.
Zerg Campaign (It's Tough to Be the Villain -or- Those Goddamn Science Vessels!)
All the fun I had with the Terrans was quickly off-set in the Zerg Campaign where the game suddenly becomes brutally (nearly soul crushingly) hard. I mean, god damn. I'm reduced to profanity every time I think about it. It was probably made worse considering I'm not great with Zerg, so playing missions that demand flawless Zerg play is an exercise in extreme frustration. It seriously seems like someone at Blizzard had it out for anyone who skated by the final campaign from StarCraft and made sure that they would lose more than a few times trying to beat the game. The AI you go up against is loaded for bear, fully prepared to harass the hell out of you with every thing it can build or cast. Science Vessels with Irradiate are out in full force and comin' to get your Overlords! The last mission is so completely insane that... I'm not even sure how I managed to beat it. Holy Stukov, Admiral DuGalle, I used to think you were cool until you started shoving Battlecruisers up my ass!
However, the extreme difficulty of Brood War's last campaign made it clear to me that you play as the most badass Cerebrate the StarCraft universe has ever seen. Seriously, you play as the Chuck Norris of the Zerg. Kerrigan plays a pretty good boss casually making HUGE demands of your time on a regular basis... and you get out there and do it. It's like... Hey Cerebrate, retake Korhal from the UED all by yourself. "Not even a challenge." Hey Cerebrate, go kill two important story characters for me. "Got it, I'll be right back." Hey Cerebrate, go kill the UED's pet Overmind with a bunch of Dark Templars I scammed while you get hammered by waves of Siege Tanks, Guardians, Scourge and Battlecruisers. "Did it yesterday!" Hey Cerebrate, go fight everyone I ever pissed off ALL AT ONCE, COMPLETELY ALONE. "Wait... what? Hold on."
The Zerg Campaign is a far cry from fun, but beating it will give you a sense of accomplishment not found in the original StarCraft. And you get a pretty neat cinematic featuring old ass record players and lugers.
Favorite Zerg Mission: Reign of Fire
The Zerg Campaign gets so damn hard later on that it's only natural that my favorite mission is the second one. It's a fairly easy map where you have to destroy a certain building to win but the real draw is the ability to snag some advanced Zerg strains hanging around your starting area. It seems innocent enough, a few Hunter Killers (tougher Hydralisks) and a Devouring Ones (tougher Zerglings). But if you explore long enough you can eventually find one of the best surprises in the game.
You can find and command the fucking Torrasque.
The near unstoppable behemoth from the last Terran mission is now your near unstoppable behemoth. Once you get your hands on the Torrasque he can nearly destroy the entire enemy Terran base all by himself. Give the Torrasque some Hunter Killer and Devouring One back-up and you practically don't even need to build a single unit to win. This was the highlight of the Zerg Campaign for me, because the rest of it is downhill as it spirals into maddening territory.
Still, the Torrasque! How awesome is that? Totally awesome! Like, nuclear launch awesome!
Brood War feels much more complete than StarCraft, despite being an expansion pack with not as many missions. I suppose looking back, StarCraft can feel like a big tutorial at times where your only objective is "kill the other guys". The difficulty in Brood War can be insane by comparison, but it introduced some cool units and had a story where a lot of important things happened. The Bombcast mentioned how StarCraft II marginalized Brood War while recapping the story, and I guess I can understand why. There are a few weird things that occur like Zerg Cerebrates fusing to become a new Overmind by jumping in a big love pile. The Dark Templars go from being nomads to having a home world that can be accessed by a Warp Gate... but those feel like minor issues compared to all the other awesome things that happen in this game.
Favorite New Unit: The Zerg Lurker
Brood War added a bunch of new units for each race and as much as I play Terran, the Medic is kind of annoying to use and I can never justify spending money on the Valkyrie when I can just make Charon boosted Goliaths or Battlecruisers. So, my favorite new unit is the Zerg Lurker.
I love the Lurker because it feels a lot like a Siege Tank with shorter range. Considering how much I love Siege Tanks, finding out that the Zerg have a siege unit that can burrow underground was an easy sell. I love making a bunch of these guys and positioning them near choke points or running them into the middle of a base and letting loose. Through the Zerg Campaign, I was always impressed by their ability to cut up Zerglings like it was no big deal. Hydralisks don't fare much better and Lurkers are pretty good at discouraging Ultralisks.
I hear that Lurkers don't return in StarCraft II and that's a damn shame.
My laptop is about 4 years old and definitely can't run StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty no matter how badly I want to play it. It's tough to justify the purchase of a new computer to play one game (especially when I can play it on my friend's computer) so I did the next best thing I could manage and started playing through the original StarCraft and the expansion Brood War again. I've never been very good with computers, or had a computer that could run PC games faster than a slide show, but StarCraft has always run perfect on just about every computer I've ever had access to. Bonus points for being a game I love playing.
StarCraft (Serious Instruction Manual Detected)
The first time I had ever heard about this game was when my friend got it for my birthday. I wasn't really sure my PC back then could run it, so it sat on my dresser for a year before I eventually gave it a try. It was my first real-time strategy game. I remember that the missions took forever and it was god damn hard. But that was a long time ago. The last time I spent serious time playing StarCraft was in early high school so I've had plenty of time to reflect and I'm a lot better at grasping the concepts based around the three races. Back then I mined minerals with eight workers and never built more than one production facility for each unit type. It's no surprise that I could never beat the computer in Custom Games.
But that was back then. Playing through it again, it's not nearly as hard as I remember.
I love playing Terran (because they have the best toys) so I had a lot of fun with this campaign. Since it's built up as the first taste of the game for most players the computer takes eons before launching an attack and when it finally does, it's four or five guys. It gives you a lot of room to play around with the unit types without making a major mistake and getting overrun. A whole group of Science Vessels with Irradiate is hilarious when you drop in on the computer's mineral spot. You can also build a whole bunch of Siege Tanks and shell the crap out of everything in most cases. The only time things get tricky is the very last mission where you can get nuked without proper preparations. Oh yeah, and the shit load of Ghosts that use Lockdown if you so much as think about mechanical units. I need ComSat! STAT!
Favorite Terran Mission: The Big Push
The Terran campaign doesn't get much better than the Big Push. Sure, it kinda sucks because it forces you to destroy every enemy building on the map (even those Missile Turrets hidden on the very edges) but it doesn't matter because this mission introduces you to Ghosts and Nuclear Bombs. The landing zone has two free nuclear silos for your two Command Centers. Pretty much the first thing I did was build a bunch of Supply Depots, produce a nuke, and launch it on the cluster of bunkers right outside my base. Then I launched two more. At the same time.
I don't really care how unwieldly nukes are in the greater scheme of this game or how easy they are to counter. They're just fun. Ghosts are so badass Special Ops. the way they sneak in and out with a bang.
There's also Duke in a Battlecruiser... but I was having too much fun with nukes to pay attention to him even though he's nearly equipped to beat the entire map with a little backup.
Any time a game lets you play from the villain's perspective is a big plus in my book. The only hitch is that I can't quite get a handle on playing the Zerg, mostly because they operate on the buddy system to the Nth degree. Zerglings with Hydralisks. Or Mutalisks with Ultralisks. Or Guardians with Hydralisks. It also has something to do with how they have strength in numbers... and at a certain point I can't keep control of a huge army. They require a ton of management so your Zerglings aren't getting caught up on something as they rush forward, or your army is attacking all at once instead of a convenient kill line for your enemies. Still, hanging with the Overmind and fellow brain slug Cerebrates was a big switch from the Terrans. The thing I hated most about the Zerg Campaign (both way back then and now) is that you spend most of the time fighting Protoss- and they're so damn durable compared to your squishy forces. Broodling to the rescue!
Favorite Zerg Mission: The Culling
I'd like to think Blizzard spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out how a Zerg vs. Zerg mission would make sense in the context of the story. But no matter how they explain it, it's pretty awesome. Like any true new guy (Cerebrate), you get the shit job of wiping out a bunch of renegade Zerg after Cerebrate Zasz kicks the bucket. Sending Zerglings to fight Zerglings is a cool thing to watch as the little bastards tear each other up. This mission shows up after spending a bunch of annoying missions fighting Protoss, so the switch in enemies is greatly appreciated.
This is also the first mission where you can use Defilers. Even though I'm not great at using Defilers, I love them because they're so annoying. Flinging plague on buildings or a group of enemies is especially satisfying. They also make a lot of awesome noises and look like the meanest cockroach ever.
As the last campaign, this is really the only time the game starts to get a little difficult. I don't like it very much, because a lot of the later missions are spent fighting Protoss and the enemy AI is programmed to annoy the hell out of you with Arbiter Stasis Lock. I felt like I spent half this campaign waiting for my units to pop out of stupid frozen crystals. It also might have something to do with the way the Reaver (the Protoss Siege Weapon) is the slowest unit in the entire game. Getting Reavers from point-to-point without transport shuttles is an exercise in futility. Launching an attack with Reaver support takes forever and once your primary forces are on the move, they're quickly left behind. At least Archons are awesome. And Carriers. Lots of Carriers. Carrier has arrived. It's also pretty nice that you have a Terran army in the very last mission.
Favorite Protoss Mission: The Eye of the Storm
So there's like a billion minerals and vespine geysers on this map. The Protoss have a really, really crappy base and the Terrans are sitting high and dry on superior ground with Jimmy Raynor riding shotgun. What are you gonna do? I built Battlecruisers. Tons of Battlecruisers. I built enough to put the UED and the Terran Dominion to shame. The Protoss spent their time collecting gas for my awesome fleet even though it was their campaign. It also helps that this mission isn't very hard. Like, not at all. Trial of Tassadar was leagues tougher and the Zerg can't hit you with Stasis Lock.
Safe to say there's a lot of different ways you can play this mission. A lot of those ways probably involve awesome Battlecruiser and Carrier fleets... but you could also crank out Archons and Siege Tanks for terrible, terrible damage. I suppose a secondary objective involves finding a base for the Protoss that doesn't totally suck.
After playing through StarCraft and beating it, it's not a very hard game if you have the important concepts down. Granted, it took me a few years to squeeze the most out of my playstyle, but it's still fun. Multiplayer is okay, although I never spent much time on it except with friends. I'm not into high level StarCraft action. When I play this game, all I want to do is make a bunch of tanks, battlecruisers, and nukes. I'm not interested in actions per minute or builds or whatever. Not to say that there isn't enough room in the world for serious StarCraft action... just don't talk to me about it, because I can't really add anything. I can tell you that Arbiter Stasis lock is really, really annoying.
Next Time... Brood War
I'm also playing through Brood War, but I haven't beaten it yet. So far, I've gotten to the Zerg Campaign, and for the most part, the expansion steps up its game considerably. Some of these missions get damn hard compared to StarCraft. but that's for another time.
This weekend I took a trip to West Virginia to do some white water rafting. It was a lot of fun but it's not the point of this post. The campground that ran the river tours had a recreation room of sorts. Tables, chairs, air conditioning, and stuff like that. In the far back was a game room. It's a small area not much bigger than a walk in closet, but it had a whole bunch of interesting arcade machines and one lonely pinball machine. I wasn't exactly in the middle of nowhere (insert West Virginia jokes here), but I thought it was funny to see video games out in the middle of the woods.
None of them were on free play but I had a few quarters in my car I put to good use. I played a decent game of Mrs. Pac Man. The high score was 92000-something so I didn't even get close. Then I took a crack at the pinball machine. That was a short game. I haven't played a pinball machine in a long time but I still wanted to try because I had recently watched all of Giant Bomb's California Extreme footage. The best part was the fact it had a Johnny Mnemonic theme and re-enforces my idea that everything has a pinball machine based on it somewhere in the world no matter how obscure it is.
I didn't have a lot of money or time so I wasn't able to play the others. It's no big deal though, because I had played the other games in malls and stuff. Still, it was funny to get in a game of Ms. Pac Man while camping out in the woods.
Past expiration is my clever term for talking about a game that is way past its prime. In this case, a shake-em'-up from 1997 that came out on the N64. Topical!
Mischief Makers (Shake Shake: The Game)
Back in the late 90's, when video rental stores were still relevant, I rented quite a few games for the N64 when I was growing up. One of them happened to be a game called Mischief Makers. I remembered seeing a tiny article about it in a Nintendo Power but didn't know much else. The only reason I ended up giving it a chance was because all the good games were gone so it was practically my only choice. I didn't know what to expect but as I started playing it I got to know one of the craziest games ever released on the N64. I get the impression that this is one of the more obscure games, which is a damn shame considering how awesome it is. It comes from the insane people at Treasure where you play as a super powered robot maid named Marina Liteyears as she tries to save her creator Professor Theo over and over again.
Now, the most important thing to know is how crazy Mischief Makers is on all fronts. Unlike most games where you stomp, shoot, or shoryuken your way to victory- you grab, shake, and throw in this game. You can grab damn near anything from giant knuckles, missiles, or freaking laser beams. Part of the fun of this game is figuring out what you can grab and turn into an unconventional weapons. Most of this will involve shaking that will trigger Marina's catchphrase "shake, shake." There's also quite a bit of platforming which is navigated with Marina's rocket boosters she can use to dash and fly around. It's definitely not an easy game to adjust to. I had a very long warming up period to the play mechanics (especially the dash jump) but the pay off is the ability to enjoy plenty of crazy action. Especially boss battles.
The art style is a mix of 3D objects and sprites that gives it a rough appearance (even when the game first came out). Treasure has been known to play around with all sorts of perspectives like bosses in the background or objects that fly at the screen. Even with the graphics, things get pretty hectic and add a lot to the general insanity going on. The story is also nuts mostly because it plays on a lot of Japanese style and sensibilities. Characters have no respect for the fourth wall and will call out things like boss battles on a regular basis. Plot takes a backseat to the action and I guess it helps that the characters don't take it too seriously. I know games that are too Japanese can wear thin on some people, but I think it really helps with the oddball character design and pacing of challenges.
Levels, and the game itself, can be quite short. But in that small amount of time they try to get a lot done. There are standard "fight your way through all these dudes" but then there are stages where you ride a tricycle for no reason whatsoever. You'll fight a bee in a volcano, explore amusement parks, surf on a cruise missile, climb up a volcano shaft as it sways back and forth, and play punch out with a giant lizard creature by catching his fists and throwing them back in his face. The game does a good job of mixing things up from area to area. And it probably comes at no surprise that the boss battles in this game are amazing considering this game is made by Treasure.
For instance, one of my favorite boss battles involves riding a cat while battling a motorcycle that fires missiles. As you ride on the cat, you can jump on a missile and ride it around. While this is going on you can still grab and throw things back at the boss. It's pretty incredible to pull off. Another battle involves mercilessly body slamming a boss with his own giant mech. If any of this sounds like it could be tricky, you'd be right. For the most part these are not easy fights. Most of the challenge involves figuring out what you're supposed to grab and where you're supposed to throw it. The bosses will not make this easy as they fill up the screen with projectiles or constantly jump in your face to beat you senseless.
The downside of this game, as mentioned before, is the difficulty. If you're jumping in cold there's a lot to adjust to. Sometimes the way to beat a boss or overcome a challenge isn't immediately obvious. The game has a hint system in place, but it's not always helpful. When I first played through Mischief Makers, I was almost forever stuck at a part of the game where you suddenly participate in a Track and Field-esque mini-game collection. I could not beat a series of meter dash events no matter how hard I tried. The idea was simple enough to outrun your opponents using Marina's dash, but it never seemed enough. I just about wrote off Mischief Makers as a broken piece of garbage until accidentally figuring out how to win.
The trick was that the C-Buttons are mapped to Marina's dash. But you can also use the D-Pad to dash faster by double tapping it. Using the D-Pad, you can easily smoke the competition with enough button presses. It really pissed me off, but I'm glad I got past it because the upcoming boss battles were totally worth it. Apparently there's a hint in the very beginning of the game that outlines the D-Pad dash abilities. But the Track and Field events are two worlds later. Plenty of time to forget.
I think that Mischief Makers is absolutely awesome. If I had to compare it to a recent game, I'd probably say Bayonetta without the overt sexual themes. However, I can totally understand if someone has a problem with this game because it's certainly different. Unique can be awesome, but it can be hard to handle sometimes. This game is also pretty short if you're not going for 100 percent completion. The only way to see the full ending is by collecting gold gems scattered throughout every level. Getting them from bosses often involve beating them without getting hit. This can be insanely hard to pull off, especially on fights like Cerberus Alpha and Phoenix Gamma.
Still, I'm glad Mischief Makers got made. It's another one of those N64 games I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel on another console if just so I can shake, shake or grab lasers out of the air.
Over the July 4th weekend I was able to hang out with a friend and play some PS3. I don't own a PS3 so it was nice to have the opportunity to put in time with a bunch of games I haven't tried before. The two big ones would be Uncharted 2 and MAG, with a little Joe Danger on the side.
Joe Danger is a pretty sweet little game that looks simplistic at first. Of course, the longer I played it the harder it got to quit. It doesn't take long before all sorts of objectives are getting thrown at you. I'd say it's something like Excitebike and Trials rolled into a platforming stunt game. The best part I found is attempting to keep a combo going throughout the entire stage. It's not too difficult since you can pop a wheelie and save yourself at any time. The trick is not getting carried away and wrecking at a bad time. I have a problem of trying to pull off too many flips with not enough height and driving Joe Danger's skull into the ground.
The music can get a little annoying after playing for too long. There's probably a total of three actual songs that like to loop over and over again. And some of the stages get obnoxiously long. Like they keep going on forever and ever. Still, it's a damn solid game. One of the best parts of it was all the little nods to older games in level titles. One stage is called " The Klobb" for no reason whatsoever. Another stage is called " Green Shell" and there are a couple others too. I didn't get into the level editor but I can imagine all the insanity you could get into after playing around with it for awhile.
Unsurprisingly, this is a bad ass game. I played a little of the first Uncharted and though it was okay, but after trying the first two stages in Among Thieves I ended up playing through the whole game until I beat it. Nolan North and Claudia Black have never been so entertaining before. My favorite part of this game would be the train stages. This game has one of the best train levels I've ever played. It's a real Indiana Jones vibe jumping from car to car, fighting on top inside and making use of vehicles on flatbeds. The voice acting only makes it better especially with Drake's laughter after he scrapes by an insane set piece to fight another day. I was surprised to find that fist fights were fun instead of something you'd never rely on unless the game forces it on you.
One of the best parts is the optional stealth sections that pop up here and there. My friend told me about areas of the game where you can get by sneaking around and killing dudes ninja style without being seen. After he demonstrated, I was pretty set on playing through as Ninja Drake as much as I could. The animations for grabbing a guy Splinter Cell style and tossing him from moving trains, ruins, or buildings never got old. Choking a guy out or dragging him over a box to punch him stupid is as much fun as getting into a huge gun fight. It helps that this game does blind fire better than Gears of War did and you can actually kill a guy with enough spray in the right direction.
I've never seriously considered buying a PS3 until playing this game. I don't know if I ever will, but Uncharted 2 is a serious argument in favor of it.
The massive action game FPS where you sign up for a faction and do dirt across the world. I've probably put in way too much time with Modern Warfare 2 to ever get into this, but my friend was having a blast. The main draw seems to be leading squads against certain objectives with team chatter and so on and so forth. But that seems to be the main problem of MAG. Even when a dude was doing his CO thing and telling guys what to go after, all he got was a load of backtalk and crude one liners from the rest of the team. I don't think the majority of FPS players are mature enough to take advantage of the scale in this game, or understand that the guy who has played enough to get a leadership position probably knows more about what's going on than a fresh recruit.
My friend picked the Valor PMC to roll with. I'm not sure which faction I would have gone with. They're all okay I guess. Probably S.E.V.R. if I had to choose because I have a fondness for Russian weapons. The shooting is a lot to adjust to since it takes a lot more than a few shots to kill a guy. Even with a Light Machine Gun, you really have to dump bullets into a target to kill one. We rotated after two deaths, and the majority of my EXP gained was assists. I'd start killing someone, and someone else on the team would finish it. It seems like a really slow burn to gain enough EXP for points to get new guns and attachments... but that's probably because I didn't put in a lot of time with it and played pretty awful. I wish we could have played the game type where you hijack vehicles, that sounded interesting.
I've been working on a pair of games recently. Kirby: Canvas Curse and Call of Duty 4. They're pretty far apart in some respects but share one thing in common. They're god damn unforgiving.
Kirby: Paint Panic (feat. Canvas Curse)
Kirby: Canvas Curse was a fairly gimmicky launch title for the DS where Kirby is turned into a helpless ball that you have to guide by drawing lines with the stylus. It's not a terrible game and it's not your standard Kirby adventure, but the real draw for me is a mini-game called Paint Panic. It's basically connect-the-dots on speed (as my friend put it) where you face off against Paint Roller. There's a pattern of dots on the screen that he'll trace a line through that you have to match. Of course, Paint Roller's lines don't stay up so it's a memory game too. All while this is going on, Kirby is rolling through a pipe at the top of the screen. Each mistake you make brings a parade of walking bombs closer to Kirby. Screw up four times and it's game over.
Paint Panic has one of those dick scoring methods (like the Trauma Center series) where even if you do fairly well, you'll get the lowest score ever because you weren't absolutely flawless. The scoring on Paint Panic is brutal. To give you an idea, they have a G rank. Below F. The highest I ever got (on the easiest setting) was an AA rank probably because I managed to get through ten easy pictures without messing up but I can't be sure. Combine this with a medium and hard setting and Paint Panic becomes an epic quest for high scores. Each difficulty increases the number of pictures you have to beat, how complicated they are, and lowers the number of mistakes you can make before the bombs catch up with Kirby.
Paint Roller can be a real jerk and use pictures that have several phases to it, like you draw the body, then he adds a face, or an accessory. One of the hardest pictures I've never been able to beat is the last boss of Kirby's Adventure on the NES. There's like five goddamn steps to drawing it and they have tons of dots... Still, I want to see if I can swing an AA rank on medium or hard. Draw fast, draw pretty, draw to win.
I went crazy a few weeks ago and decided to play through Call of Duty 4 on Veteran. I had a lot of fun on Hardened and decided that I wasn't going to touch Veteran because of a few key levels that I couldn't imagine myself beating under any circumstances. Somehow all the Ferris Wheels and Nuclear Bombs in the world wasn't enough to keep me from giving it a try.
For starters, Veteran is not fun. Not in the traditional way. Every enemy in this mode is equipped with a Soap-detecting radar so they can shoot you at a thousand yards with a pistol through heavy brush and a broken window. There have been points in this game where I was literally shot halfway across the map by enemies I couldn't even see. And they're infinite too. They will keep coming unless you make suicidal charges to move up the front line. Very quickly, I learned that Veteran is about crouching every second of every fight, hugging corners and making full runs across open ground hoping that I wouldn't get shot to death. It does a good job of making you feel like the only reason you beat a level is because you got lucky instead of being a good player.
It's safe to say I totally chickened out on the "One Shot, One Kill" level and cowered in the corner of a building while MacMillan fended for himself. Of course, once the evac chopper arrives you still have to pick up your paraplegic CO and get on board. Still died a million times before I actually beat it. One time I was jumped by a dog for some reason. And it's a shame too, because "All Ghillied Up" is such a bad ass level that going out at that stupid Ferris Wheel is a crime. If Price doesn't have night terrors about carnivals and infinite angry Russians, he damn well should.
I'm almost done with the game on Veteran at this point. There are three or four levels left. Basically the nuclear silo. I don't expect those will be any more painful than "One Shot, One Kill" so it shouldn't take too long. I don't know about the Mile High Club plane mission because I've heard tons of awful stuff about that and it's an optional stage. The high point of Veteran so far has been the "Crew Expendable" cargo ship mission and the untouchable "Death From Above". I'm pretty sure that an AC-130 can save anything at this point. They make everything great.
Perks I'd bring from Modern Warfare 2 to Call of Duty 4's Veteran mode. - Marathon Pro - Danger Close Pro - SitRep Pro
Past Expiration is my clever term for talking about a game that is way past its prime. In this case, a whole game based around an escort mission that came out in 2001. Topical!
ICO (Escort Mission: The Game)
ICO is one of those games that I always heard about but never played. I had only played Shadow of the Colossus after my roommate bought it because he loved ICO and convinced me to try it out. A few weeks ago, one of my friends started talking about ICO (running high on anticipation for The Last Guardian) and decided that I should play through it to right the wrong in my life that I had not played it yet. I admit, I was a little uneasy. Even with the praise ICO gets... it's essentially an entire game based around escorting a helpless mystical princess through a castle full of puzzles and shadowy dudes trying to brush up on their kidnapping skills. I almost didn't finish it, but I'm glad that I did.
This game starts out pretty damned frustrating. It's really inconvenient if you're trying to play through in small bits. There are practically no checkpoints and save points are few and far in between. If you mess up on a series of complicated jumping puzzles you die and have to play from your last save. There are no halfway points. You do it right or you don't do it at all. I accidentally played a marathon to the finale of the game because I was desperately looking for a save point so I could stop playing. Next thing I know I was fighting the last boss. Leading up to that is a whole carnival of tough-as-nails jumping puzzles that I did not want to play through again. I considered the game couldn't possibly have such a long stretch without save points and maybe it was quick saving behind the scenes... but there's no way to tell.
Combat is rough too. I appreciate the idea that whacking shadows with a stick wouldn't do that much damage but these guys take a million goddamn hits. They usually operate in mobs and when you're done fighting them off, another wave spawns and you're back to hammering one button as they jump back to avoid you and waste your time. There is literally one area in the game where a bunch of shadows spawn that can't kill you, can't kidnap Yorda, have no bearing on the story, so they're only there to harass you. That's a dick move of the highest caliber. The little spider shadows have a few places in the game where they can stun lock you by repeatedly knocking you down as you try to get up.
All these problems are probably exacerbated with the fact that I didn't care about Yorda at all. To give you an idea, I pushed her off a ledge once because it was a whole lot faster than dragging her down a ladder and helping her up several platforms. I would leave her if I could but she opens up all the doors. She's a useless load and pretty damn particular when it comes to the assist moves. She has to line up in just the right way before she does anything like climbing or jumping or saving the damn game. I once sat on a save couch and watched as she stumbled around trying to sit next to me for five minutes. However, it's a lot of fun to grab her hand and drag her around. That was probably the best animation from the game. Dragging around Yorda is great to watch.
So this game has a rough start. Things got a little easier when I learned that opening Idol Doors nukes all the shadows in the area. It becomes the best policy just to ignore the shadow guys and run for it. Then you get the sword and combat becomes almost bearable. Then you get to this area under the castle and the game gets awesome.
The thing I like most about ICO is the level design. This game has some of the greatest level design I have ever seen. I love any game where they give you this big crazy place and you can see other areas you'll visit later. Or as you play through the game, see old areas from another angle just to remind you how far you've come. Under the castle you can see this crazy series of water wheels that looks really complicated and I was like "Dude, I'm totally going there". And I got there eventually, just not when I thought I would and that was great. While jumping around can be touchy at times I like most of the platforming puzzles. It seems totally natural that the game designers would come up with Shadow of Colossus like "What if you climbed something that was moving, and it didn't want you to climb it?"
Running around the castle is the greatest part of this game, and I wish that was the only thing you did. If they dropped the annoying combat with enemies that take eight billion hits to kill (and maybe drop Yorda too) ICO would be better off. I know that you're supposed to make some connection with Yorda as you try to escape but she speaks in a language you can't understand and causes the lions share of frustration. It's really hard to care for her. By the seventh time she's standing directly next to the dark pit the shadows are trying to suck her down, or bumping into a wall when I'm trying to help her up a ledge, she's more like a necessary evil. I suppose she gets hers at the end of the game. But the story is so vague that it allows a lot of interpretation. That's a good thing I think, so you can make of it what you want.
Glad I played ICO. It has it's fair share of rough spots but once you learn how things work it becomes an enjoyable adventure. Those shadow guys can die in a fire though.
The Avatar: Last Airbender series has so much potential to have some great (or bearable) games. The main attraction involves the use of various martial arts styles to manipulate the four elements in an East Asian inspired world with plenty of opportunities to invoke every kung fu trope in the book. However, with it aimed primarily at a younger audience (and airing on Nickelodeon), THQ wasted no time creating terrible games for a quick cash in on a popular animated series. Nothing quite shows a complete disinterest in a product like creating an X-Box game where you can get 1000 Gamer Points in the first level by putting together a combo with one goddamn button.
Instead of making terrible games that regurgitate the story of the animated series without any of the style or effort that makes it entertaining, or hammering out a movie game tie-in, I have a few ideas that might work pretty well at creating a solid experience.
Oh, but they all have easy as hell Gamer Points because it's tradition (and the only way anyone would ever play these games).
10. Sim Ba Sing Se
Oppressing the world's largest city ain't easy, and no one knows that better than the Grand Secretariat. You play as Long Feng (voiced by the ever awesome Clancy Brown) as you rule over the Earth Kingdom metropolis, Ba Sing Se, while the real king is too young and too stupid to exercise any real power. You'll have the command of the Dai Li secret police force and order kidnappings, extortion, and executions. Bribe the upper class! Drown the lower class in fear! Brainwash suspicious kid heroes! Running a fake utopia requires a lot of ruthlessness and cunning, but controlling everything behind the scenes is just too awesome to give up.
Achievement Points: Effective Villain (500g): As Long Feng, kill a teenager on-screen by causing fatal internal bleeding. Gloating is optional. Cool Hats (500g): Equip all agents of the Dai Li with some sweet-ass hats.
9. Tea Shop Panic!
You've might have played Diner Dash or Fast Food Panic!, but you've seen nothing until you played Tea Shop Panic! Make the finest hot leaf juice in the Earth Kingdom as you work your way from a cave in the wilderness to the finest tea shop in Ba Sing Se. You'll have to manage all kinds of techniques like sun tea and more as you try to win over every NPC who enters your shop. Higher levels require management skills as you hire greeters, tea servers, and try to control your crazy reckless nephew. Do well enough and you might find the cheat code that turns tea into alcohol. Good times!
Achievement Points: Sick of Breathing (1000g): Quit out of a game after starting it up.
8. Hybrid Animal Racing
You know a franchise has made it when they start cranking out cart racers. The Avatar: The Last Airbender series is no different, but instead of motorized go-karts, you'll race crazy hybrid mix-and-match animals. Flying Bison vs. Komodo Rhino! Platypus Bear vs. Ostrich Horse! Turtleduck vs. Wolfbat! You wish I just made those up off the top of my head. Race with friends on tons of circular tracks. Avoid poachers and traps as you try to reach the finish line. Winner eats all!
Achievement Points: Cabbages (1000g): Reference a running gag from the show by tearing through a cart full of cabbages.
7. Sociopath Princess Maker
Picking a random guy off the street to be your most valuable minion in a 100 year old war is always risky. Make a safe bet by using family, or in this case, your only daughter! Train her to be a ruthless emotionless killing machine that would kill her only brother just cause it's something to do. Isolate her from friends and family and teach her that fear is the only reliable way to interact with people. Nurture her natural skills with Firebending to make her a prodigy that can destroy anything she damn well sets her sights on. If you're lucky, she might even kill the series hero (for a little while anyway). Oh, but be sure to ditch her at the most convenient moment 'cause when she snaps it won't be pretty.
Achievements: Genre Savvy (500g): The princess is smart enough to shoot lightning at the main protagonist during a transformation sequence. Haircut (500g): The princess becomes crazy enough that she butchers her own hair to look even more insane than she already is.
6. Fire Nation Airship Simulator
If a series has elements of steampunk, the airship is not far behind. Why not get well acquainted with the inner and outer workings of the coolest way to travel through the air? Find out which levers does what as you gain air superiority and drop bombs on unsuspecting peasants. Gain altitude on valleys, ruins, and towns. Deploy soldiers on your catwalks so they can shoot fire at targets below. When you're tired of flying around you can attempt the holy grail of any simulator... landing without crashing! Or you can just crash. Whatever's cool.
Achievements: Birthday Party (1000g): Drop your entire crew out of the bomb bay during a birthday celebration.
5. Avatar: Bounty Hunter
Since the Avatar series has a bounty hunter character it's only natural that they get their own game. In this case, you play as June the Bounty Hunter who tracks her targets with a large fearsome animal known as a Shirshu. It's a cross between a star-nosed mole, a wolf, an anteater, and someone's nightmares. Oh, and its tongue paralyzes things. Roll open world style across the land tracking down all sorts of unsavory characters. Con artists, runaways, pirates, salesmen, blue spirits, Avatars, and more. Get hit on by a retired general three times your age as he watches over his jerkass nephew. All sorts of adventures wait in Avatar: Bounty Hunter!
Achievements: Monochrome (500g): June only wears black No Peripheral Vision (500g): June wears her hair over one eye and gets by just fine (somehow)
4. Pai Sho Deluxe
Play the ancient Avatar game Pai Sho in the style of however this game is played. It might be backgammon, or checkers, or a fictional East Asian version of chess. Your guess is as good as mine.
Achievements: Pai Sho Master (1000g): Figured out how to play Pai Sho and won
3. Advance Wars: The Last Airbender
Turn based cartoonish military combat gets an Avatar style in Advance Wars: The Last Airbender! Play as one of the four nations as you fight your way to total world domination. Will it be the homicidal industrial Fire Nation? The huge uncoordinated Earth Kingdom? The isolated Water Tribes? Or the pacifist Air Nomads? Actually, this game only has three playable armies, because no one wants to play as a pacifist. Get your grid combat on and command a wide arrange of units in tons of battles. Don't forget to activate your CO power and swing the balance in your favor!
Achievements: What's a Continent? (500g): Found the dumbest character in the game that the player is supposed to identify with. Genocide (500g): Played as the Air Nomads and got wiped out by the Fire Nation.
2. Steel Cog Substance (Tactical Ninja Action)
The stealth game comes to the Avatar series in Steel Cog Substance! You play as the ninja-like Blue Spirit (complete with awesome mask) to infiltrate a Fire Nation fortress in order to investigate rumors of a giant drill machine. Use twin Dao swords to take out guards and sneak your way to your next objective. You're pretty much a ninja in every way but name, so you know what you're in for. What starts out as a simple mission snowballs into conspiracy! Betrayal! Exposition! Quirky bosses! Tons of dialogue! It could only get sneakier if you were completely invisible.
Achievements: Bloodless Violence (500g): Tossed a dude from a tall height, never to be seen again. Ninja the Ninja (500g): Become so sneaky, enemies don't even know what to call you.
1. Street Bender II: Four Nations Tournament Edition
If your franchise features martial arts, it's a dead ringer for a fighting game. The fact that a fighting game hasn't come out for this series yet is beyond amazing, but this will fix that. In Street Bender II: Four Nations Tournament Edition, you'll go head to head with the greatest fighters from all over the world. Become the greatest bender in the tournament and fight a whole host of eighty year old masters. Age equals strength in this world, although there are plenty of young guns trying to make a name. Get your combos down. Hone your half circles. Cancel into Lightningbending. Defeat everyone!
Achievements: Only One Right Choice (1000g): Picked Toph Bei Fong because she's clearly the best character.
That wasn't so hard. Ten ideas that would probably make a better Avatar video game experience. Oh, also to cover the required quick time event...