Friday, September 22, 2006


Why I Quit a Position Reviewing Video Games for a Nintendo Fansite

Stop trusting professional reviewers. Their only purpose is to judge how well a video game fits into the homogenized expectations of the clueless masses and/or how popular the license associated with it is.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Date With a Wii

I never checked in with my opinion of the Wii launch date and price!

It's... good? I guess?!

I mean, I like the Wii Sports bundle idea. Classy with a capitol C. A lot of Nintendo fans are pretty pissed off that the whole console won't be free or something. I guess their only option is to get a Playstation 3.

Whatever. I'll get it when I get it.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Taking on the World

Online gaming is not as important as people make it out to be, at least not for the average video game enthusiast.

Online gaming connects you to players from across the world. Suddenly, you're not just competing with your household or your neighborhood for the highest score, you're competing with everyone on the planet who has that game. The average player simply isn't good enough to compete with that.

Let's compare that to, say, sports. Say there was only one baseball league, and every baseball team -- from gradeschool teams up to the professionals -- competed within that league. The best teams from the Little League would easily get creamed by the worst teams from the Major Leagues. It would be boring for the Major Leaguers and crushing for the Little Leaguers. The gulf in skill level is just too great to put everyone on the same playing field. That's why we have baseball leagues to begin with -- to give teams a chance to compete with other teams that are at roughly the same skill level.

As it stands right now, Internet skill matching could stand to get a real overhaul. The model I've encountered in Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service is you get matched with someone whose win/loss record resembles yours. The problem is, Little Leaguers (like me) get matched up against a lot of Major Leaguers on their way to finding people more to their skill level. After coming in fourth place by half a lap in a dozen Mario Kart matchups, the little guy starts to wonder what the point is of playing online. The easily discouraged drop out, leaving only the more skilled, which pushes up the difficulty of playing against the internet. Online play slowly becomes an exercise that only the elite can really enjoy. It takes a real masochist to keep playing Mario Kart online when the only way to compete anymore is to take advantage of a design flaw that allows players to slide-dash through the entire course.

It's one thing to watch speed run videos online and marvel at the talents that other people have. It's quite another to pit yourself against them in direct competition.

So, okay, competitive games may be a wash for the average gamer. What about cooperative games? MMORPGs?

Well, there's two problems with that, as I see it.

I played Phantasy Star Online back on the Dreamcast, when it was free. Even then, the novelty of inviting random strangers into my living room to play a dungeon hack with me quickly lost its appeal. In most RPGs, you're The Hero. In an online RPG, nobody is The Hero. You're all just a bunch of warriors running around slaying monsters together. And, in the end, you're competing for the rewards that come from slaying monsters -- items and money. Some people find a social appeal to online RPGs. Myself, I don't see how people find the time. My experiences with PSO were always "meet in the lobby, decide on a dungeon to clear, then the party breaks up because someone has to leave". Conversations, when they happened at all, were mostly about who was going to get which items. I didn't make a single friend through PSO; I find social interaction to be much better in chat rooms.

So ignoring the fact that it's just like playing the game alone except that there are people you don't know who show up on the screen with you, there's also the hackers. I stopped playing PSO when a hacker joined my game and wrecked my character data. When Animal Crossing came out for the DS, there were warnings about people who would come to your town and use a hack to turn your town gate into a museum, effectively ruining your save file.

The way I see it, you're opening yourself up to some pretty nasty dangers, and you're not getting a heck of a lot back in return.

But, of course, there's some good to online gaming. Most of the people I know who play video games are friends that I've met online. I do like the idea that I could get together with people that I don't get to see on a daily basis and play a video game with them.

If I could just convince them to get a DS.


Sunday, September 17, 2006


Cooking Mama

Cooking Mama is a game for the Nintendo DS where you prepare food and you're scored based on how well you do. And that's really all you need to know about it. If you like the concept, you'll enjoy the game. If you don't like the concept, you probably won't like the game. There. Now you're ready to make your purchasing decision. So let me ramble on about the game purely for my own amusement.

Warioware Cooking

You begin with fifteen different recipes, and you'll quickly unlock a grand total of 76. There are soups, stews, kebabs, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, hamburger dishes, seafood, and lots and lots of asian cuisine. Each recipe is presented as a series of mini-games that revolve around prepping, measuring, mixing, cooking, and arranging different meals. Some recipes call for only a couple different cooking events, others will call for a dozen steps or more. Some of the events have the simplicity of a Warioware game (chop an onion by smacking the screen repeatedly), others are more involved (prepare a stew by following the steps listed on the top screen within the time limit allowed). No matter how poorly you do at a mini-game, you go through each step in the process one after the other. (Mistakes are corrected by Mama between steps.) At the end of a recipe, your scores for the different events are averaged together, and you get an overall score and a bronze, silver, or gold medal to show how well you did.

Some recipes have variations. For example, once you've prepped all of the meat and vegetables for Beef Curry, you'll be asked if you'd like to make Beef Stew instead. If you take the fork in the road, the variation will become available as its own recipe. You can also earn new recipes simply by completing the recipes you already have available.

And that's about as involved as the game ever gets. There's really no overall plot or goal that ties the story together besides trying to get all of the recipes. You open the game up, pick a recipe, prepare it, and you're done. The closest this game comes to having a more involved play mode is in Let's Combine mode, where you basically just follow two recipes in a row and you're rewarded with a picture of the two dishes juxtaposed, often in an unnatural way.

It's not even very good as an arcade game -- there's a single perfect score that represents the best you can do at any given recipe, and most of them are pretty easy to earn with just a little practice. It's not at all like Warioware, where it's always possible to do just a little bit better the next time you play.

This game does only one thing, and it does it reasonably well -- it simulates the act of cooking and gives the player a respectably wide variety of foods with which to test his or her cooking prowess. And in that respect, it's fun and addictive. You get to chop and stew and deep-fry to your heart's content, and to hell with calories or leftovers or dishes.

And that's why I spelled it out at the top of the review -- if the idea of a cooking sim sounds cool, pick this one up. But if you're looking for anything else, you're in the wrong place.


Thursday, September 14, 2006


I am a Consumer Whore.

I've given in to temptation. My sturdy little platinum DS has fallen from my affection, replaced with a sexy, sexy white DS Lite.

Yes, I know they come in black now.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The Other Touch Generations

I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm in love with Nintendo's Touch Generations series. This comes as no great surprise to me -- I was a fan of, or interested in, every game that's received the Touch Generations branding even before Nintendo launched that whole marketing campaign, including Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Trauma Center: Under the Knife (which are only listed in the European Touch Generations website because Nintendo has the distribution rights to those games in Europe).

Intentionally or unintentionally, I think Nintendo's really tapped into something here. What's the attraction? Is there some sort of hormone that gets released into your bloodstream when you turn 27 that shortens your attention span for epic RPGs and makes you crave smaller, simpler games? Is it the fact that the market is so saturated with crap that's so tediously similar that us over-exposed gamers will welcome a change of pace no matter what form it comes in? Or is there an essential truth here that's been lost to the industry for some time, that a video game is meant to be a game, that play isn't play if there are too many rules and restrictions to follow?

I don't have the answers. I can't put my finger on what makes a Touch Generation game a Touch Generation game, but I can recognize it when I see it. And I have a pretty good feeling that, if Nintendo had published them, these would also be sold as Touch Generations:

Cooking Mama

Okay, so I haven't played the game yet. But the concept seems perfect for a TG title. You have to prepare, cook, and assemble food according to recipe, and you receive a score based on how well you do it.

Deep Labyrinth

This game was based on a cell phone game that was popular in Japan, so it's little wonder that it's a simple, addictive dungeon crawler. There's two complete games on the card, and the maze is deep and intriguing, stuffed with secret things to locate, magic spells, weapons, and lots and lots of monsters that need slaying. The settings are diverse and beautiful -- it's a nice low-investment adventure.

Zoo Keeper

Not, as you might think, a game about managing a zoo, but a clone of a very popular Flash game that goes by various names, including Bejeweled and Diamond Mine. It fits the DS's touch screen like a glove -- the object is to switch two adjacent animals to create a line of three or more, which eliminates them and causes more animals to rain down from above. You're fighting against a time limit, and the only way to restore it is to chain together a lot of combos. Fun stuff.

Break 'Em All

As I've mentioned, this one is a lot of good fun. Guide a paddle with a stylus, bounce a ball around the screen, and break all of the blocks.


The greatest puzzle game since Tetris. It does for puzzle games what Super Smash Brothers did for fighting games. Use the stylus to drag blocks around, line up three or more, and the pile takes off like a rocket. Line up three more before it sinks to the ground, and you'll launch the pile into space, where it arrives on your opponents' planets as garbage. With dozens of planets to play on, each with slightly different physics, colored block ratios, and well sizes, you can essentially create your own experience.


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